7 minutes reading time (1461 words)

Unconference about taking Joomla! Forward at J and Beyond 2011

Unconference about taking Joomla! Forward at J and Beyond 2011

I am no singer, nor a designer and definitely not a writer. That said I got the opportunity to write this article after the unconference at J! And Beyond 2011. It was requested by the audience that someone compile and contribute this article to the Joomla! Community Magazine, June issue.

So here we are! Joomla! has come a long way since it was forked from Mambo back in the good ol’ days. But today, you can not even say the word “Fork” in this community before people start to feel uncomfortable. This is most unfortunate, as forks are one of the things that keeps Open Source software evolving.

Most of us agree, that it is the Community around Joomla! that makes it great. That we have thousands of third-party developers out there that enhances the Joomla! core. That there is an estimation that over 20 Million+ sites using the Joomla! as their CMS.

So, we had this unconference session during JAndBeyond 2011 because many of us in the community are feeling frustrated that not enough is happening around the project. We are falling behind in the CMS-Innovation-race competing with other upcoming CMS-systems. The session included people from all over the world, ranging from normal site administrators to developers, and also members from the Board of Open Source Matters.

Finding common ground

During this session, and to keep the discussion from heading to a bad argument, I as the moderator decided to find common ground. The question was: “Why are we using Joomla!?” The answers were compiled in single sentences and the results were:

  • Because I could build a site in half a day!
  • Build a very powerful website without writing any code!
  • Package installer made my process quicker
  • I started using Joomla! because of the flexibility
  • I started to use Joomla! because of a German advertisement stating that Joomla! was the most simple CMS.
  • I started to use Mambo because you could easily teach others to use it.
  • Good division of responsibility, there is a task for everybody.
  • I started to use Joomla! because it was the most easy to learn.
  • I started to use Joomla! because it combines two features, CMS and the ability to extend.
  • I started to use Joomla! because my developer would not stop talking about it.
  • I started to use Joomla! because I could run my company without developers.
  • I started to use Joomla! because the silver-surfers find it easy to use.
  • I started to use Joomla! because it was very easy to install and it was a stable project.
  • I started to use Joomla! because of the number of extensions and the templates was easy to understand.
  • I started to use Joomla! because I wanted to get a job.

I found this very interesting, as almost all of the above has to do with simplifying the way to build a website, except the German advertisement of course... as well as the fact that you actually do not need any developers to build a Joomla! site. Or do you?

YES! Frustration!

After finding common ground between the members in the discussion it was time to find out what made them frustrated about the current situation. So I asked the question: “Why are you frustrated by Joomla!?” And the answers were, as before, limited to one sentence.

  • Features are being added that are needlessly complex (like JForm in 1.6!)
  • Because the leaders are too busy doing, rather then empowering the community to do the work.
  • Because there is a feature creep in every release
  • The CMS is no longer easy to use and to explain
  • There are too many things automatically included in the core package
  • It’s too difficult to get involved
  • Not able to encourage people to do new contributions
  • Compatibility between extensions is not good enough
  • Keeping it up to date is very complex
  • The points that I am frustrated about is solved very quickly OUTSIDE of the core
  • The Joomla! Framework and the CMS is too old
  • Don’t see any way of fixing the problems with the current leadership structure
  • We still have not adopted a code standard
  • The documentation is not good enough and there is not enough
  • The documentation is not well organized
  • There is not a public roadmap, and the releases take too long
  • The backwards-compatibility between 1.5 and 1.6 is not good enough
  • The Joomla! code did not evolve during the past 3.5 years
  • There are WAY too many accounts on Joomla.org (logins) website
  • Because I have to put a link in my footer on the website that I am not related to the project (Joomla! usergroup member)
  • Why are there not ANY core developers here? Talking to the community.
  • Because everybody else has the same frustrations that I have
  • Because we are not learning from other projects’ successes

Okay. The participants identified a number of opportunities for Joomla! to improve. Many things fall back on that Joomla! is starting to get too complex. What can we do about that? What are your suggestions? We need to come together to make this work. We need to show that we want to contribute. There are issues here that we need to sort out so please try to find somewhere that your talent is needed!

How to solve these issues

So, after finding common ground through why we started to use Joomla! and also why we are feeling frustrated, we brainstormed around how to solve the issues we are facing. As before it people were limited to a one sentence answer, the question was: “How do we solve these issues?”

  • Start the development of Joomla! 2.0 from scratch with a NEW, BIG team TODAY
  • Define easy to understand, transparent, objective processes
  • Start a mentorship with experienced developers helping other developers
  • Put the control over the code to a community process
  • Use the resources that we already have, like ideas.joomla.org
  • There should be a way to contribute ideas, code and architectures and ways to implement these ideas
  • Separate the idea-pool by developer requests and user requests
  • Restructure management so that decisions can be made
  • The community should propose a way to have accountability in the PLT/CLT
  • There should be separation between good leaders and good coders

There are some interesting approaches here, take a look at the “Mentorship” comment for instance, what if all our senior leading developers would step back into mentoring roles and try to teach others to develop good practice Joomla! PHP code!

I’m not saying it’s the approach to take, but I do think we need some fresh blood in the project. Also, people were arguing about the way to contribute ideas to both the framework and the CMS itself, and that we should have something like ideas.joomla.org that one could easily contribute ideas for both, even though one is not a developer. What do you think?

“We're all a part of one of the most dynamic, passionate, and popular open source communities in the world. We should always strive to find areas in which we can raise the bar of success, while also recognizing the success we've already created. Our diversity of ideas and backgrounds is both a strength and a challenge. I'm confident that in the long-run, vibrant discussions and initiatives like this can make us a stronger and more effective community.” -Ryan Ozimek, OSM President

This is just the beginning...

After finding out why we use Joomla!, why we are frustrated and what we might do about it we took the time to divide the gigantic session audience into five groups. These groups discussed five different topics, where four of them have notes which I would like to share with you all.

Before you read them, I would like to state that these notes are from the groups' brainstorming on how to solve issues that arise when such a large community are trying to work together. You should read them and engage in discussions on what YOU think is the proper way to go. Please do. I have made sure that each document has its own forum thread.

Thanks for reading, a big thank you to all who attended the un-conference and all who attended #jab11! It was totally awesome and I am so looking forward to #jab12.

Hagen Graf recorded the "Leadership discussion" on video, it's on Vimeo check that out!

Also, I took the liberty of asking Ryan Ozimek for the quote to this article as he is the one person flying all over the world to promote Joomla! in different forums. Ryan, you are awesome. Thank you.

Engage in discussions and read the notes!

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