Interview with Dutch Joomla Leader Sander Potjer
This month we had the opportunity to sit down with Sander Potjer. Sander's passion for Joomla! began back in 2005 when he designed and built a Joomla! web site for his rowing team. His involvement with the Joomla! community started in 2008 as co-founder of the local Dutch community www.joomlacommunity.eu.
Through this web site, a solid Joomla! community was quickly established in The Netherlands with an active team of volunteers. They also created the various Joomla User Groups in The Netherlands, (14 in a small country!) and the yearly Dutch Joomla!Days event.
At the moment, Sander is an active member of the Joomla! Community Leadership Team (CLT) and he is also chairman of 'Stichting Sympathy', a foundation that promotes and supports Joomla! in The Netherlands.
In addition to this Sander is the developer of ACL Manager, a Joomla extension to manage Joomla ACL easily, and working on a variety of Joomla! projects as freelancer.
What are you working on right now?
A lot of things! For the Joomla project I’m currently focusing on the Joomla Community Leadership Team (CLT) goals. We have set several goals for 2013, like major updates for community.joomla.org, extensions.joomla.org and resources.joomla.org. We’re also planning to launch two new sites this year: the Joomla Template Directory and the Joomla Volunteers Portal. A complete list of the CLT goals for 2013 can be found on the community website.
Luckily I don’t have to do all the work by myself, several great teams are working on specific goals. For example the Joomla Extensions Directory (JED) team is about to finalize the functional design for an entire new JED website that will be build from scratch. The team is doing a great job on this document which will be a rock-solid foundation for a entire new system that will solve a lot of frustrations for both the end users and the JED editors, which will also be usable for the other directory sites that we have. As the CLT liaison I try to make sure the Joomla project supports the teams where needed.
How did you become involved in Joomla?
My Joomla story started back in the summer of 2005. During my school holiday weeks I came across Mambo, which seems a very nice way to build websites. I used it to rebuild the Frontpage (sorry!) website for my rowing team, which was a very simple website and mainly my play-garden. At the time the website was finished, Mambo was forked into Joomla. I had no clue about forks, community and open source at that time, but simply followed the majority and converted the website into Joomla.
Slowly I started creating more websites, and became impressed by Joomla, the community, and the open source spirit. It was great to notice that people are helping out each other on the forums and that so many people from different countries and cultures are contributing their time, skills and knowledge to work all together on Joomla, used for millions of websites. Something that still amazes me every day again.
I started to contribute to the local Dutch community by helping out users on the forum and writing articles. In 2008 we had to fork the local community and started www.joomlacommunity.eu. That was the point I really got involved with the local community, launched the Joomla User Groups in The Netherlands and began helping out with organizing the Dutch JoomlaDays.
The community quickly became a big success and resulted in a huge increase of people contributing to the local community with a lot of activities. Nowadays we have 14 different Joomla Users Groups in our small country, and a big yearly JoomlaDay with over 350 people attending. Its a very strong local community and I really enjoy being part of it.
In August 2011 a new episode of my Joomla story started when I was invited to join the Joomla CLT. By joining the CLT I was able to use my experience with the local community on an international level.
Tell us about your work on the CLT?
The Joomla CLT is responsible for many of the Joomla websites, the discussion forum, Joomla User Groups, etc... Our main goal is to provide the structures and community management necessary to create an online community that is enjoyable and rewarding to participate in. Our team currently exist out of 7 members, from Australia, Chili, Ireland, The Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.
It is a big challenge to work with so many people in the community from all around the world, with different time-zones, different languages and mainly different cultures. But at the same time I also really enjoy finding ways to communicate with people with different cultural background, while moving forward with ideas for the Joomla project, learn about other cultures and making friend all around the world.
Attending Joomla events is really helpful in that. I have visited quite a lot of JoomlaDays in the past year and met many people which helped me to understand cultures, local communities and their needs better. For example, things that work very well in the local Dutch community might not work in Latin-America, and the other way around. I always try to inspire people to get involved with the local or international community and help them to find out what would work based on the local culture and community.
It also provides great insights in what the Joomla project can do better. I learned that a lot of people are willing to contribute to the project somehow, but don’t know where to start or how to get involved. At the other hand we have a lot of tasks that needs volunteers, but it is not always easy to find them. This resulted in the idea for the Joomla Volunteers Portal.
Can you tell us more about the Joomla Volunteers Portal?
The idea behind the Joomla Volunteers Portal is to create a kind of marketplace where we can match the available tasks with volunteers. A lot of community activity is currently taking place in Skype-chats, and in Google-documents. The downside of these tools is that you have to know your ways to get involved. It is also hard to keep track of the status of projects and tasks and who is working on what.
In the Volunteer Portal it should be easy to setup and get involved with groups. Discussions can still happen in Skype-chats, but tasks coming out of the discussions can be added to a group in the Volunteer Portal and people can sign up to fulfill a task.
Tasks will have to option to select the required skill and time needed for it, for example “Graphic Design, 2 hours”. All registered volunteers that added “Graphic Design” as a skill to their profile will receive a notification that a new tasks is available that they might be interested in to work on. At the other hand people can think “I do have 2 hours available right now, what can I do for Joomla?” and suggestions for tasks to work on will show up.
The profile of the volunteer also allows it to match people easier based on their experience. So if someone is planning to organize a JoomlaDay, they can easily find other local JoomlaDay organizers and ask for input or tips.
This not only allows the project to have a better overview what is going on in the community, it also allows to recognize the people volunteering their time to the Joomla project in all sorts of way.
During J and Beyond I will give a presentation about the general ideas and goals for this new portal and collect community feedback. I also hope to find a group of people interested in start working on it. After the event I will also publish a blog with a complete overview of the ideas for the portal, allowing the people that don’t attend J and Beyond to get involved as well.
I would really like to see the portal getting launched this year, it will open up many new possibilities in making it easier to contribute to Joomla and above all it should be even more fun to contribute to Joomla!
Tell us about the upcoming JandBeyond conference
For me the most important aspect of conferences like J and Beyond is to meet the people of the Joomla community. Besides the fact that it feels like meeting with some old friends it also allow you to discuss a lot of things in a short period of time, share ideas with others and get instant feedback, and find people interested in helping out in certain areas.
Another positive side-effect is that after meeting people in real life all online-communication afterwards is so much easier, which is really helpful in preventing miscommunications and frustrations.
In the past years I left the conference with a lot of new ideas, friends and a huge boost of fresh energy to work on all kind of things in the project. I expect the same for this years edition. We have such a great community, and events like J and Beyond make that really tangible.
You mentioned that your Joomla story started with your rowing team, but the rowing boats seems to be different than the ones we all know.
That is correct! The boats I’m rowing in are made from wood and offer a place for 8 one-oars rowers and a cox. We call the type of boat “whale-boats”. In The Netherlands we call the type of rowing “Sloeproeien” and we have a specific rowing competition for this type of rowing. My team is doing a great job this season so far, we’re currently holding the first position of our competition.
Races are normally between 15-30 kilometers, so that will take us about 1,5 - 3 hours of non-stop rowing. The races are at all kind of places, city canals (like Amsterdam), on lakes, or even on the sea, so it can be very tough. Next week our rowing team will go to Cork, Ireland to row the Ocean to City race over there, which is 15 nautical mile (28km). And of course, also here Joomla is just around the corner, the Ocean to City race is build on Joomla: http://www.oceantocity.com!