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Interview with CMSExpo Founder John Coonen
I had the privilege to interview CMSExpo Founder John Coonen this month. We talked about everything from how he started CMSExpo to what the Joomla community really needs and how they are trying to bring them to life.
Tell us a little about yourself!
Linda (my wife) and I have been passionate fans of Joomla! since its launch. What an exciting trip it has been, helping Joomla users learn not only the skills-side of the CMS, but the business side as well.
Tell us about why CMSExpo is a must for Joomla readers?
The diversity of top caliber international talent is second to none at CMS Expo. Sure, we've got several sessions to explore Joomla, but beyond that (and where CMSX gets really interesting), getting outside the comfort zone of "Open Source" and "Joomla!" is an empowering perspective you won't get anywhere else. Nothing replaces the experience of knowledge-sharing with CMS pros at the top of their game on competing open source and proprietary CMSs.
How did CMSExpo Start?
Back in 2008, we figured a lot of other folks like us were interested in learning from end-users what works, and what doesn't. The proprietary CMSs of the past were spewing vendorspeak and jargon, which was pretty useless to businesses that needed to get up and going quickly, and on a budget. Frankly, back then, a lot of the CMSs and 3rd party developers were following that same old pattern: too much groupthink, way too much jargon and baloney (aka "BS"), and not enough thinking from the customer perspective.
We wanted to hear and share real-world experience from actual users, who could share practical advice in plain-spoken English. What works? What is a waste of time? That's how CMS Expo started, and that's what we focus on today.
What should Joomla readers expect to learn from the conference?
Beyond Joomla skills, CMS Expo focuses heavily on business skills. Think of CMS Expo as a 3-day MBA immersion program, bringing together Marketing, Strategy, E-commerce, SEO, Analytics, Social Networking, Business Networking and Start-ups, along with CMS-specific sessions. It's a great to learn more about what Joomla's capabilities are, but it's also enlightening and empowering to see other CMSs up close, and find out what they have under the hood too.
Who are you most excited to learn from this year, why?
Three years ago, Joomla's very own Rick Blalock, Jen Kramer and Justin Kerr were leading the charge, telling everyone at CMS Expo to "go mobile, get responsive, or go home." Less than two years later, thanks to the incredible work of a very talented team of contributors, Joomla unveiled a Bootstrapped 3.0, and 3rd party extension developers and template houses have innovated some of the best responsive work in the marketplace. We're huge believers in providing not only the thought leaders, who talk about future trends, but we also provide the hands-on training to show businesspeople and their teams of designers, developers and writers how to achieve the results.
This year, we've got several speakers who will be focused on responsive design, reactive technology and adaptive content - critically important elements for today's CMS Site owner to know and embrace so they can future proof their site, and keep it affordable, flexible, and capable of changing and adapting, depending on market conditions.
In other words, we're going to show folks how to build their sites using technology, content and practices which extend their shelf lives, and keep them from having to be dumped and re-built – a very expensive (and possibly disastrous) experience.
As an CMS expert, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I love volunteering to get at least one new site up and running a year for an important charitable cause. I love how that keeps me sharp on my technical skills, as well as my communication and business skills. I follow St. Francis' advice: "Evangelize often, use words when necessary."
How did your time at Oracle teach you to be a better Joomla CMS expert?
My experience as an Oracle partner taught me exactly how *not* to treat and train those closest to the project. The consultantspeak and jargon there caused me to turn gray early. I loved being able to jump in early on Joomla, and in plain-spoken manner, show people how to "do it yourself," using a truly 100% community-powered CMS. There is nothing like it on earth folks. Nobody owns it because everyone does, and that means YOU can do whatever you like with the code with your clothes on (just checking to see if you're still reading). ;)
How do you bring ideas to life?
After noodling them out and testing them out with friends, we get a good sense of whether the ideas will have a lifespan or not. If we like the ideas, we fight hard for them. Typically, "life" is defined as "not quitting" on the idea (at least, not too early). We've found some ideas get picked up quick, some even get ripped off, which is the greatest compliment. For the most part, it's really about persistence that wins the day though.
What's one trend that really excites you in the industry?
The speed at which CMSs and their entire communities & vendor ecosystems embraced mobility has been extremely encouraging. There's still work to be done on that end of course, but the momentum has been a huge benefit for CMS Site owners who need to be responsive to their customers. Their customers are mobile, so are the world's leading CMSs. Those which did not adapt, are dying on the vine. I look for this mobile and multi-device reactive technology trend to continue for the next couple years. In three years, when it comes to CMS-powered sites, nobody will need to differentiate between "mobile" or "workstation" or "tablet" any more; Responsive and Reactive will be the defacto standard.
On a sidebar, I'm personally excited that more and more creative folks are embracing CMSs. Designers were disappointingly slow at adopting CMS - stuck in Dreamweaver and static html - much to my chagrin (I'm a designer myself), so it's good to see designers finally grabbing hold of the trend.
Professionally, beyond the huge successes happening, I'm excited to see many of the CMSs doing a very good job at integrating tools for automated marketing, analytics, customer experience management and CRM.
What is missing in the CMS Industry, how can we make it better?
Funny you ask, I've been harping on this for a few years now: A WYSIWYG Editor that delivers anything close to what the acronym stands for. Let's get together at CMS Expo to figure out why it's not here yet, and how we can solve it. This puzzles me to no end. ;)