Meet a Joomler - Cliff Ford
Another Joomler that has been volunteering for a long time now but most people haven’t heard about is Cliff. The biggest chance to meet him is either on our forums or in the Joomla Documentation. Let’s meet this, for most people, unknown Joomler and get to know him a bit.
Hi Cliff, can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Cliff, formally [Dr] Clifford E Ford (you may see that in the Author tag in my Github code). I used to be an academic geologist but am now retired and widowed, which is why I have plenty of time for Joomla. I live in Edinburgh with my cat for company and family nearby. I started programming for academic research purposes with FORTRAN in 1968 and have since used many other languages (Algol, Assembly, Basic, Pascal, C, Python and most recently PHP). I have also used several operating systems: Unix/Linux, Windows and Mac OS X. I have to admit that I learned enough to do what I needed to do but was never an expert in anything. However, my friends and colleagues thought I was pretty good with IT and I authored our departmental web site using Zope, a Python based cms, in the days when Plone was still in its infancy. It was good for ten years.
And how did you get involved with Joomla and the J! Community?
After I retired I volunteered to help the local branch of an international volunteer organisation to manage its web site. Later I moved on to help the head office develop a new online placement system. That was about 2009. I evaluated several CMSs, including Joomla and Drupal and chose Joomla because I thought it would be easiest for non-specialist IT people to use. I was learning PHP at the same time as Joomla, then at the 1.5 release. The first edition of my custom component worked but the code was a bit messy! It went live at about the same time as the release of Joomla 1.6.
Since then I have upgraded through Joomla versions 2, 3 and 4, each time trying to use more Joomla standard coding conventions. I would like to claim a success story: Service Civil International represents 132 Organisations in 93 Countries and the online placement system uses 16 languages but not quite as you might expect (https://workcamps.sci.ngo). Since inception, we have had 129000 volunteer registrations and 51000 applications for 15400 camps (not all applications are online). Most of the placement work is done by volunteers in the branch offices, probably more than a thousand of them over the year, often on annual contracts.
After starting an upgrade of my component when Joomla 4 was at an early beta stage I realised that the Joomla documentation needed attention. That was when I became involved with the Joomla community. I revised many, perhaps all of the Help screens. When I struggled to understand how to do something I wrote a tutorial to explain it to others. I also started answering some questions in the Joomla 4 Forums. Doing these things taught me a lot more about Joomla than I learned by creating a single custom component, albeit a large one. Along the way I have done some testing and even contributed some minor improvements to the core.
What do you do for a day job, and if this includes Joomla, how?
Bliss! I don't have a day job! But, occasionally my volunteer work amounts to more than a full-time day job.
And do you use Joomla in other ways?
Are you involved in the Joomla community, apart from in your official position?
Not apart from documentation, answering questions in the Forums, and testing. And I don't have any official position.
How did Joomla change your life?
If it were not for Joomla I would be spending my twilight years doing a daily crossword or sudoku. Or possibly grappling with some less satisfying CMS. Learning new stuff and helping others has been fulfilling and I hope will keep my brain in good order for a few more years.
What did you learn and / or gain personally from being a J! Volunteer?
I was never a standard Joomla user in that I am not a blogger and do not write articles for Joomla or use any of the other Joomla features. For me it was just a platform. Testing, documentation and reading and answering questions in the Forum taught me a lot more about Joomla than I could have learned by ploughing my own furrow.
What is the biggest goal you have for the Joomla Documentation?
The Joomla documentation is a jungle! Once inside you can easily take a wrong path and find yourself going round in circles. Search for something and there is a good chance you will find the remains of some long-lost civilisation, such as an article or tutorial related to Joomla 1.5. Joomla needs a proper user manual rather than a collection of articles. I like the layout of the Bootstrap Docs: contents to the left, article text in the centre and article contents to the right. Several other IT systems use this layout. I have demonstrated how to do it at: https://jdocmanual.org/
That particular site is using a very cheap shared hosting service that also runs my family history site. So do not be surprised if it is slow to deliver when this article is published. The beauty of its approach is that all of the content is loaded dynamically from the Joomla Documentation site. So we keep the ability to translate anything into any jdoc supported language and the ability for anybody to contribute to the documentation. It just needs an index. I have created indexes for a Joomla 4 User Manual, Joomla 4 Help Screens, and a Joomla 4 Developer Manual (work in progress). The code could do with being taken on by a Joomla professional and mounted on a Joomla managed site.