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Joomla Day USA Debriefing - Why everyone should attend next year!


So… where to start, what a whirlwind of an event. Joomla Day USA, Nashville Tennessee.  

I have attended events in the past, but only the UK events or the ones online.  And I’ve always enjoyed them and gained a lot of knowledge from them. Some of the talks are amazing. But what difference would it make as Brit to be in America at one of these events?

Well, I can tell you, a LOT!

It all starts with a thank you

I’m going to start off by saying thank you to Laura and the team for allowing me to speak at the event.  It’s a great privilege, and I hope that I, in some way, was able to give back to the Joomla community that has given so much to me.  

Thanks to Joomla as a whole!

Afterall, there’s a heck of a lot of people in teams, groups, on GitHub, on Mattermost, and everywhere else.  And they’re all unpaid.  And they make this amazing software, so I can have it for free and I run my business using it.  So let’s start with the gratitude for the entire Joomla Community.

Thanks to the Joomla Day USA team!

But let’s also give a big shout-out to Laura, Adam, Tennille, Todd, Pat, Josh, Robyn, Olivier and Mike Kritzer, who all made this event possible.  It makes an enormous difference to the community, and on a personal note, it made a huge difference to me.

Thanks to the sponsors who funded the event!

It would be remiss not to thank the sponsors, too. Without their support, we would have no way to run these events. Their sponsorship really does make a big difference to the community.  

Akeeba, Cloud Access, Grow Under, RS Joomla, Intergen, Djumla, OS Training, Hepta Technologies (Carlos Amara), JCE, Rytech Sites, Web 357, Weeblr, Tassos, and of course Open Source Matters.  For those who don’t know Open Source Matters is the legal entity that looks after Joomla.  

And the community sponsors: Joe Joomla, Simplify ur web, Web Design by Robin, Creative People Consulting, Effective Designs, Newline Web Design, Modern Designs, and PatVB Web.  

And since we’re giving gratitude, this event would also be nothing without the speakers and the attendees.  So thanks to all who spoke and thanks to all who attended whether in person or online.

So what was the main focus of JDay USA?

So I’m going to tell you things through my own lens.  I firmly believe others will have had a completely different experience.  And in some ways, that’s the beauty of these events!  You could attend and have a different experience based on who you met, what conversions you had, which talks you went to see or just about anything else.

The main focus of any Joomla Day, no matter the country, you could argue is Joomla.  Of course it is, that’s what the conference is about.  But I would argue there’s so much more to it than that.  For me, the main focus is learning new things.  But I get some huge peripheral benefits such as making new friends and building my network and the relationships within it.  I get so many benefits that I would not list as Joomla.  And most of all, I have FUN!

Granted, if you told me to go to an event because I would make new friends, I would probably think of that as not that valuable.  I talk to everyone.  I have far too many friends.  Worse still, most of the pretty girls I’ve talked to are friends.  It’s quite disappointing.  Maybe by this stage of my life I’ve started to consider Joomla a friend.  Or worse a girlfriend!  com_toDaddy?  Never mind, let's move on.

The Joomla Day USA 2024 attendees and speakers

What sort of people go to Joomla Days?

Despite the fact I'm the self, and rather modestly, proclaimed, most popular human in the galaxy, and I did not need any new friends... friends were made.  It’s inevitable, everyone who attends is nice, friendly and we all share a common interest...

We’re all working with Joomla and that’s the best part.  A small group of:

  • Experts,
  • Coders,
  • Designers,
  • Developers,
  • Marketers,
  • End users,
  • Business owners,
  • all sorts of people.  

People who all work with the same tool, but all know slightly different things.  Or want to learn different things.  Or can give you knowledge of different things!

As I said, this article is from my perspective. So let me tell you about the people I met. Well, first of all, from a non-Joomla perspective, I’m trying my darndest to learn Spanish on Duo Lingo. And I met a lot of people who could speak Spanish. Some Columbians, a Russian—it felt like at least 50% of America knew more Spanish than me. So I could practice, which I loved and needed!  

The great people I met at Joomla Day USA

I met Tiago from Portugal.  He has arrived with 2 of his developers.  Their English was impeccable.  His agency was bigger than mine, and they built client-facing sites, so they no longer built websites for typical clients.  This was an interesting conversation for me.  We talked about Agile Project Management, we talked about costs, we talked about processes.  He soon pulled open his Google Drive to show me all his processes and how they worked.  He was good enough to come to my talk too.  He even asked if I had read a book because he thought my knowledge was similar to that book (I hadn’t).  

Although this was in an informal setting (Adam Melcher had organised a BBQ at his house after the event), that didn’t stop us from geeking out and learning new business things that I found useful.  Tiago was so open about everything, he just opened his phone and started showing me things.  It was amazing!

I also met a Columbian couple who worked with Joomla regularly. We soon became friends, and when we decided to go to a shooting range - because we don’t have guns in the UK - they came too. They brought their own pistol and allowed me to shoot it. This is the sort of experience I would never get in the UK. It was fantastic.  

I met Ivan, a Russian who could speak Spanish, and that was unexpected.  And he had developed a really cool component for Joomla, called Custom Tables.  It was halfway to being a component creator.  Just think of the possibilities!  He fascinated me with his stories of how he got into Joomla, how much previous components/modules/plugins had been sold for, how he was doing now, and all of his experiences throughout life.  He ended up coming shooting with us too.  He decided to head off to Alaska after the event!

I met Elisa Foltyn again.  And my god, isn’t she just the best?  I sat next to her at lunch and mentioned that I wanted to achieve something in YooTheme.  I’d raised a ticket but had been told it was not possible.  She said “did you know you could do this?”.  And promptly solved my problem!  She then proceeded to show me some more things she seemingly found easy.  Things that I had never been able to find an answer for.  Honestly, these small interactions between sessions taught me so many quick fixes that would drastically speed up my design and development process.  And they led to other things too!

Josh was in earshot, and he chimed in with some more YooTheme information I hadn’t known.  He showed me the Zoolanders integration.  I had seen it, but I didn’t much see the point in being able to integrate with a database.  Joomla already had a database, what other site would I integrate with?  But Josh hadn’t done that, Josh had used the integration on the SAME database.  Wait I exclaimed.  Does this mean I could get data from J2Store or another e-commerce component?  Does this mean I could build e-commerce layouts using the YooTheme builder?  Or an events website?  My god, my mind was racing.  And of course… Josh had already done this stuff, so he showed me and talked me through the process, the things he had achieved and how.  Not only did he give me knowledge and explanation, but the excitement I had afterwards, I was inspired!  I had just made my life significantly easier and I could probably take on more complicated projects easily.  This was another game-changer!

So I guess the morale of this story, aside from making friends, is just how much I learned from people OUTSIDE of the talks.  I picked up bits of information and learnings in every conversation.  And I met more than just these few people.  

Were the speakers good?

I’ll be honest. As blunt as this may be and quite typical of my sometimes overly direct communication style, when I looked at the speakers and their proposed talks, I thought some talks might be okay, but I figured I already knew the stuff and might not learn that much.

Boy was I WRONG.  There’s a first time for everything 😊

You can find all of the sessions here, if you attended the event they are available immediately, if not. they will be published publicly in the future (check https://jdayusa.com/ for info).

Elisa was doing a YooTheme talk.  I spoke to her beforehand.  She said it would be less detailed than her last talk. That was a shame I LOVED her last talk - a YooTheme Workshop - it's still online and I highly recommend it if you're using YooTheme.  She said I probably wouldn’t enjoy it because it’s more aimed at beginners.  I figured I would skip it and to go the excellent Carlos Camara’s talk on creating Joomla Components in Joomla 5.  

I knew the structure of Joomla had changed.  I knew that Joomla 5 was on the way to migrating from the J3 and J4 way of doing things.  I knew there was a backwards compatibility plugin, but that wouldn’t last forever.  I needed to update my knowledge.

And I hadn’t built many components, so I figured it would be best to get my knowledge.

And Carlos delivered a brilliant talk.  He perfectly explained how to build a Joomla 5 component with web services in the Joomla Admin.  He built a pretty simple to-do list component.  But it gave enough knowledge that you could really see the possibilities of where it might go and how you could expand on it.  His talk was over two sessions and he was clearly an expert.  

He live coded a lot of the things, and he had some great banter in there too.  Once the talk finished I was buzzing.  I have started building a component since returning, and I have purchased his book Developing Extensions for Joomla! 5 to help with my development and also to show my appreciation for the fact he wrote the book in the first place.  You can find a book review right here on the magazine.  The community needs people like him to make those types of contributions!  Once his talk ended, we were all buzzing; you could feel the collaborative excitement in the air.

Carlos' talk had finished a little earlier than Elisa’s.  So we snuck in to catch the end of that talk.  And there she was, delivering her basic talk on YooTheme that was instantly teaching me new things that I had not known about.  I felt like a bit of a fool.  I wouldn’t have changed the topic I chose to watch, but I think it goes to show… you can always learn more from Elisa - who I affectionately call Hurricane.  

She came to England once and stayed with me, and attended Joomla London (which is now an online usergroup); it was during the Football World Cup.  I insisted she come to the pub to watch the match with me and my friends.  And of course… we were cheering on the mighty England.  In particular, we wanted Harry Kane to score.  

Lost in translation… after about an hour Elisa suddenly exclaimed “Oh HARRY Kane… this whole time I thought you have been talking about a hurricane”.  And that’s how she earned her nickname from me.

So what other talks were there?  

Well there was mine for a start, "Unlock the Secret: Landing £20k projects with high-end web design customers", that one was excellent.  I highly recommend it.  Especially if you are thinking about growing your business.  I’ve asked 100% of my female parents and I am assured that my talk was the best.

I was a moderator for Michael Melen’s talk – “10x your search marketing with ChatGPT” and Generative AI.  Now, my company offers SEO, so I moderated out of pure selfishness that I wanted to get to know the speaker and its topic.  I also use ChatGPT, but I probably don’t use it to the extent I should.  Michael’s talk was EXCELLENT.  Like all the other talks I’ve mentioned, you should definitely check it out.  You may have to forgive the fact I introduced him as a Joomla founder by accident after misunderstanding a social media post (whoops).

I took away some instantly implementable strategies.  One was to create a spreadsheet with all my ChatGPTs in it so I could easily find them again.  And so I could use the retained knowledge to continue to write things more easily and allow ChatGPT to do it’s thing.  After all, one of the benefits is that it remembers your previous inputs.  You won’t have to tell it about your client’s company, the owners, the staff, or when they started ever again.  This in itself improved my use of ChatGPT, but definitely check out the talk for the rest of the tips.  And what a great guy Michael is too!  Clearly smart as a button, with a great personality.  

I saw Shirat Goldstein’s “How to make a Joomla module”.  I met Shirat in London; she’s great, and her talk was fantastic talk.  She took us through making a module easily and showed us some great tips and tricks.  She coded along so I will definitely rewatch that video for all the things she taught me.  And that’s the great thing about the fact the sessions were recorded.  Especially for code along, we can watch them again and pause them!

The keynote speaker Freddy, was very inspiring.  He really didn’t talk about Joomla or developing at all.  But he talked about how to change your mindset, how to focus on what is important.  He is a really engaging speaker, funny, passionate, and he delivered a great talk.  He was a wonderful guy to be around, full of infectious positivity.

And then there was Adam Melchers talk - "Unlocking Joomla 5: Build your own template".  Adam is great; we are similar, we get along like a house on fire, and he’s always happy to tell me all the things he’s been up to.  Whilst staying with Adam, we had some great chats; he talked me through his talk, and he showed me the supporting website he had created and the self-documenting nature of it.  The way it’s built is a masterpiece in itself.  

He showed me that the template was available for free on GitHub.  Now anyone could build a bespoke template from scratch in a matter of minutes.  He showed me all the overrides he had created.  He had used core Joomla to do so many things.  All the different layouts and all the different sections were created using core Joomla.  And he even had a magic switch in the template to show people EXACTLY which file to edit!  Genius!  And not all the surprising given how smart Adam is, you can check out his previous talk too "Building High Level Ecommerce Websites" and you can hear his opinion on Ecommerce in Joomla on this podcast.

Those are the talks I went to, as I was often doing other things, making social media videos, talking to people, and helping to set up, but I would highly recommend you view the other talks, too.  It’s such great value, you learn at such a fast pace for that particular topic and pick up a tonne of best practices.  

Learn... but learn at an insanely fast speed

That might even be the greatest benefit of events like this.  The speed at which you learn.  A two-day conference compresses months and years of learning from the other person into an hour-long talk.  It’s learning on steroids.  Learning+.  Learning Pro.  

This is such a valuable contribution to the community, so take advantage of it!

So what’s next for me and for Joomla?

Annoyingly I’m back in sunny England.  I say sunny, it’s currently grey and miserable.  I’ve got the holiday blues for sure.  I stayed on for a couple of weeks after the conference.  So I really felt the blues.  But I’m excited to try out all my new learnings in my business and see where it can go.

Will I talk at another conference?  Will I attend another conference?  Do I recommend everyone else attends or talks?  


It was a fantastic event, I’ve already told Laura I would love to come again.  I hope to meet many of the same people again, and I hope we can grow the attendance even further in the future.  I put some effort into promoting the event this time, and I’m going to try and do the same thing in the future.  In-fact, I’ll be reaching out to some experts in event/summit preparation so I can get some top tips.  Afterall, if there’s something I learned at this event, it’s that asking people for help can take 5 minutes and solve a problem you’ve been working on for months.  

Where do you think the next Joomla USA Should be?  

Washington?  Nashville again?  New York?  Seattle?  Palo Alto (Silicon Valley)?  Jooma Day USA London?

Because I’d love to meet you there!  Please reach out through whatever channels if you want to talk to me, or ping me a contact through my website.... the best web design company in London, Square Balloon.  :)

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