Interview with Mark Dexter About Joomla 3.1
This month we had the opportunity to sit down with Mark Dexter to talk about the exciting new launch of Joomla 3.1. We go into Mark's life, how he got started and what he's working on in 3.1.
Tell us a little about yourself!
I started writing software in the 1970s on punch cards and, for 28 years, co-owned and ran a company that develops software for construction companies. During this time, I did everything from design and development to support, training, and documentation.
After becoming the webmaster for a small non-profit organization, I discovered Joomla and started using version 1.5.2 in early 2008. I made the mistake of pressing the Help button and discovered that most of the help documentation hadn't been written yet. So I volunteered to write documentation and have continued to learn about Joomla and try to contribute to the project.
In the Joomla project, I am currently a Bug Squad Coordinator, a Development Coordinator, and the Administrator for the Joomla Student Outreach Program (JSOP). I have been a moderator on the forums, a member of the Documentation working group, and the Administrator for the 2009 Google Summer of Code program. I have also written four extensions.
I am very interested in the area of automated testing using PHPUnit and Selenium. Mark has found the Joomla community to be incredibly friendly and welcoming and is excited about helping to make Joomla even better.
Now, I'm retired from the work-a-day world, so I decided to work for free instead. Go figure!
Tell us about what you're doing with PLT and why it is a must for Joomla readers?
On the PLT, I am a co-coordinator (with Nick Savov) of the Bug Squad. I also work on the Joomla! Security Strike Force. I co-ordinate the new releases of Joomla.
How did you get started with Joomla?
After retiring in 2007, I decided to learn more about open source software. I got started by volunteering in 2008 to be the webmaster for a small neighborhood association. They had a static site and someone from my hosting company suggested I use a CMS. I said "That's great. What's a CMS?" They said to check out Joomla, which I did. I made the mistake of clicking the Help button and there wasn't any help screen. When I asked about it on the support forum, someone told me they hadn't been written yet and did I want to help. So I started writing help screens as a way to learn Joomla.
What are you most excited about with 3.1?
Tags. This is going to be a really cool feature that I think people will use and love.
As an Joomla expert, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I'm not really a "Joomla expert". There are many people around who know more about Joomla than I do. I just try to keep things moving and facilitate the work of others when I can.
As far as coding, I am not a great coder in the sense that I have never been able to write code that works well the first time. For example, I often don't remember the details of the various PHP commands. I have learned to compensate for this by testing literally each line of code as I write it. I use the PHP debugger extensively when I write code to make sure each line is doing what I expected it to do. I find this prevents many errors.
What did your time at your software company teach you that helps with Joomla?
I hope I have learned over the years how to work with a variety of people in a positive way.
How do you bring ideas to life?
By writing code. This has been a passion of mine through the years and something I truly enjoy!
What's one trend that really excites you in the industry?
I think moving Joomla toward a web-services based architecture will be quite valuable.
What is missing in the CMS Industry, how can we make it better?
One thing we can do to make Joomla better is to improve the coverage we have of automated testing. Most people think only of unit testing, but for a program like Joomla I actually think automated system testing is as or more important. System tests use Joomla exactly like a user does, by opening a browser and clicking on links and filling in forms. With system tests you can run any part of the program and make sure the results you get are what you expect. We have caught many programming errors with the limited system tests we have now. If we had a more complete set of system tests that worked the entire program, we would catch even more.