Leadership interviews: Brian Mitchell
After attending the Joomla World Conference at Harvard University in 2013, Brian began volunteering for Joomla. He was involved as a member and then team leader of the Joomla Resources Directory (JRD) until 2019.
In October 2019, Brian joined the OSM board as Treasurer. Brian was intensely involved in the Forum for the Future, in Spain, in January 2020. Since then, he has been actively involved with several of the streams and initiatives coming out of that event.
You were already on the Board as Treasurer, why did you decide to run for President?
There are so many amazing parts of the Joomla community, but there has always been this sense that everyone is working in their own area. There is a need to move beyond thinking about each part as its own separate thing and to continue to better understand how we truly can be working “all together”.
This is why I invested so much energy in focusing on the core values of Joomla during the election period. I think these values are what best brings us together as a community. They should be the focal point of how and why we share our efforts.
I feel as though the next 6 to 12 months are important for the project. I view the entire community as a collection of peers. The board exists to serve the needs of that community of peers and to help create an environment where they can contribute most effectively.
The role of the president seemed like a more effective platform to promote these ideas.
The FftF in January ended with many proposals and initiatives. Can you see progress, and are these initiatives having a positive impact on Joomla and the community?
I was fortunate to have participated most directly in the portion of the event that focused on volunteer engagement. As co-facilitator, Jaz Parkyn did a great job at the event and continues to provide follow-through in tracking the accountability made by various people within that conversation.
The volunteer engagement track set short-term (30 days) intermediate (60 days) goals with an eye toward implementing long-lasting improvements in volunteer engagement across the entire project. The group has hit all the targets set at the Forum for the Future and is beginning to realize unanticipated new opportunities from these efforts.
I know the Professionalism, Marketing, and Technology tracks are experiencing similar follow-through and results from their collective efforts following the event. Many of the goals set at the event required cutting across existing assumptions and boundaries. Existing teams and working groups have been impacted by recommendations and initiatives coming out of the Forum.
I have been really encouraged by how well groups have engaged those recommendations. When it is your team that is impacted, it can be a challenge working with new feedback about existing processes.
I think the new collaborations around different ways to approach things are the best take away from the event.
How will you use your presidency to move Joomla forward, and what do you want to achieve by the end of your term? And in the long run?
I know I have an obsession with our values. One of them strikes me as a little bit of an outlier - usability.
Our other values seem to focus on how we function as a community. There is some significant crossover into the actual CMS. Things like trust are a reflection of Joomla’s attention to issues of security. Transparency is a natural outgrowth of open source.
Usability is interesting in that it seems to be more about the code. There was some discussion about the content authoring experience that came out of the Forum. What are the pros and cons of a WYSIWYM editor in a world of Snapchat, Gutenberg, and Medium? What authoring experiences provide the best in usability?
In addition, to content authoring, I would love to take the same insights around usability to website creators and extension developers. Are we providing them with the best possible experiences? Are there insights to be gained from other solutions that did not even exist when Joomla launched?
Finally, I think usability is about the community. I remember finding it challenging to figure out how best to get involved when I first got started. I think this is still a challenge for newcomers.
What is your first goal as President? How can we all help you in achieving this goal?
Joomla does well at establishing tactical goals. We set milestones. We make improvements.
- We are working on the release of Joomla 4
- We are improving our marketing, technology, volunteer engagement, and professionalism.
- We have established the Joomla Foundation to reclaim 501(c)3 tax-exempt status.
We often do very well as a community focusing on what we should be doing. My first goal is to help us better focus collectively on how we should be doing these things and why.
Market share is not a reason for being, it is merely a measure of impact.
Why does Joomla exist?
We have a misconception that our board president lays out an agenda and has a community of volunteers that helps him or her achieve it. I think it is the community that has the agenda and the Board of Directors including the president helps create an environment where they can best achieve it.
What are the goals that we share as a community? What can I best do as president to help us achieve those goals? This is what I am looking most to accomplish.
In your manifesto, your emphasis was on values. What values does Joomla have, and why are they so important?
Any healthy organization has at its heart clear, well-stated, and celebrated core values. They are the organization's reason for being.
When you ask people about their “Joomla Story” or what they love most about the project you get many different kinds of answers. The one constant is that they almost always reflect some experience of Joomla living out the above ideas well.
When you ask people what frustrates them the most about Joomla, it is often the result of failing to live out the above ideas well.
Our values represent an ethos, a better way of being in the world. They happen to manifest in a pretty amazing Content Management System.
Joomla as a brand is incredibly consistent with our values. Our logo, the name of the project, the licensing, the focus on security, the multi-lingual and accessible nature of the software, they all speak to our values.
I realize in retrospect that it is the values that first caused me to feel so strongly about the project. I don’t mean that I read them and fell in love with Joomla. Rather, I experienced them in the CMS and in the people that create it. I still hear about them every time that I ask someone about their own Joomla story.
Is there anything we forgot to ask but should have asked you?
Yes, who are the Joomla volunteers that are doing great work and inspiring you?
I would encourage everyone to go to the reports at the Joomla volunteers portal and look at the individuals that are regularly capturing and posting meeting minutes. These minutes document and share the incredible work that is happening throughout the community. Often the individuals taking minutes are the same people that are recruiting volunteers for their teams, organizing the schedules, taking the minutes, and running the meetings.
If you are new to Joomla volunteering, one of the best ways to help out early on is to ask if you can help take minutes at the meetings. You will have a great excuse to make sure you are at all the meetings. It will provide a way to learn what is happening and you can ask questions so that your understanding and the minutes are clear. It will also be a big help to the team leaders.
So, I am inspired by our team leaders and our team secretaries. They help all of us create and share a more compelling Joomla story.
I also want to thank everyone that is working to reboot the Joomla Community Magazine. It is a significant undertaking and very important for the project as a whole. Thank you.