10 minutes reading time (2018 words)

Interview with Joomla’s President: six months in, how is it going?


It's been six months since Crystal Dionysopoulos started her term as President of Open Source Matters (the not-for-profit organization facilitating Joomla). Time for a mid-term evaluation: what's happening, and what's to expect in the coming months?

Thanks for joining us in this interview, Crystal! 

Always a pleasure :)

When you started, you told us that it looked like Joomla was in a good place to turn around and become a more proactive, well-prepared organization. How has this been going over the last six months, in general?

Honestly, I knew it would be a big job…and I haven't been disappointed yet.

We are slowly making progress. If you look at it from a high level perspective, it might not look like much is happening because there are just so many things to do in so many different areas. You have to get into the details in order to see the good things that are happening, but it adds up. Joomla is a large organization with a long history of "how things work", so any big shifts will take time.

We also had some curveballs with the Cyber Resilience Act in the EU, but that led to opportunities to collaborate with the leaders of other major content management systems that might not have happened otherwise. I still firmly believe that Joomla is in a good place and that we are headed in the right direction.

Since July, we have the Ask OSM Anything sessions. Could you tell us a bit more about those? What do we want to achieve with these sessions? And how is this working out?

On the first of every month, at 8am and 5pm (or 17:00) UTC, there is a call with at least one OSM board member present where anyone can join and, well, ask us anything.

The idea came about because there have often been complaints about the OSM board not being available / attentive / listening and so on, and it's true that when one gets caught up on the day to day tasks, it can be hard to feel as present in the community. The calls are one way that we're trying to close that gap.

So far, it's gone pretty well! We usually have up to four people join each call, and the topics range from difficult questions about the code of conduct and the community culture, to general ones about how people can get involved, and usually interspersed with some personal chatter about life and the weather. It's a safe and constructive environment to find out more about OSM, or just to get to know people better.

Will we see you on the next one? 🙂

We all want to see our volunteer base growing, with happy and contented volunteers. The OSM Board is working on that as well, right? What has happened in that area, and what is yet to come?

Yes! Your question has two facets, so let's split it up for clarity.

1: Growing the volunteer base

Some of what we're doing is related to outreach and encouraging new people to join by making our presence known at other events (like FOSDEM coming up). Some other efforts are around connecting with people who are already in the community but not volunteering, like those who attend local JUGs, Joomla Days, or global events like Pizza Bugs and Fun. There's also been discussions about having a regular marketing campaign encouraging people to join and contribute.

The question arises, though, if we are set up to handle an influx of new volunteers (because it's no fun to join a community and then have nothing to do). So we are also working on making sure our onboarding processes are thorough and welcoming. Which leads to the next facet of your question…

2: Making sure our volunteers are happy and contented

That's the recurring theme in Joomla, isn't it? Not everyone has a good experience. Sometimes it's because we are all spread really thin covering multiple time-intensive roles (and then someone comes along and asks you to do even more, what?). Sometimes it's because of conflict and hurtful communication. And, sometimes, it's because no one explains to you what's expected of you, which makes it impossible to meet expectations, and then you're frustrated and feel taken advantage of. Or all of the above.

I hope to make significant progress on this point because in my opinion it is the most important factor to secure the future of Joomla.

There is a project coming up which will begin to address this, but that deserves a post in and of itself. There will be an announcement coming within the next week about it, so keep your eyes open!

Transparency is also an important issue for you: you'd like to make relevant information easier to find for everyone, a clearer and more understandable decision making process, and more and better documentation for people in leadership. What's happening there?

Lots of different factors again, but in short, a lot of that is going to be addressed during the project I mentioned above. 

For leadership documentation, there is already an internal docs site where teams are beginning to write down their processes and must-dos. Having a set of Standard Operating Procedures sounds really boring, but it helps things get done consistently and on time, especially in a volunteer community where people move in and out of active roles.

In the meantime, transparency also means we're working on being better about communicating with the community about things that affect everyone, like when a website has downtime, or there are critical issues in a release, and so on. Sigrid Gramlinger (Production DC) and Louise Hawkins (Outreach DC) have both made great strides in defining processes for various situations, and the work is ongoing.

Let's move to fundraising. How's the money making going? What are the plans for that?

Right now, Joomla's main sources of income are ad revenue and global sponsorships.

You might notice some ads on various Joomla sites, like here on the magazine site. Most of them are Google ads. We're exploring alternative providers where we can, so we can better prioritize privacy there. Ultimately I would love to reduce our dependence on ad income, but we're not ready for that yet.

We also depend on global sponsorships and partnerships. However, this source of income has suffered recently. We are looking at making our sponsorship packages more interesting, and also need to be reaching out to potential sponsors (instead of depending on them to come to us). For this, we need people to join the capital team and help us out! Send me a message on Mattermost to get started.

There are other possibilities for income sources, but the ideas are really nebulous so far, and without people to make it happen… it won't. So if fundraising is something you find interesting, let me know! I'd love to have your help and hear your ideas.

You also want to support our team leaders, and help them grow. What happened in that area so far, and what ideas do you have for this?

We discussed the internal documentation above, and that's just the start of it. For the future, we also have plenty of other ideas!

I think it would be incredibly valuable to have a resource library for team leaders (or people who want to become team leaders) for some of the more difficult parts of the role. What do you do when there's a conflict? What's the difference between a team contributor and a team member? How do you get your all-volunteer team to engage and actually do things? When is it okay to ask a board member or your department coordinator for help? (Okay, that last one is easy, because the answer is "always".)

I'm always open to more ideas, so if you have some thoughts on this, send me a message! I'm on Mattermost every day and happy to talk through things with anyone.

And now the dry boring stuff. You wanted to review Joomla's dry legal documents and create plain language summaries. This would not be high on my fun list, but hey, it's your call. How is this going?

I find it fun. :) But this one has moved down my to-do list. It's absolutely an important task, but not a time-sensitive one. We may also need to update some of those documents in the near future, so it will make more sense to do plain language summaries at that time.

What challenges did you face during these first six months?

The biggest challenge was probably a personal one: finding balance. Being on the OSM board is a very time-consuming role, and I have my own family and work outside of that. During the first few months I would do well at two of those (pick any two! it rotated) and the third would suffer. I seem to have found a balance now, but it's a challenge to maintain as needs shift.

Otherwise, the challenges have been the classic ones associated with making big ideas into a reality. Often it's about resources and having enough people to do something, so ideas and plans and priorities shift. Being flexible and open minded has been really helpful.

And what pleasant surprises did you encounter?

People occasionally reach out to me and tell me I'm doing a good job. I really appreciate these messages, and they always come as a surprise because it's hard to know what kind of impact you are having day-to-day unless people tell you. 

I am also pleasantly surprised when people message me and tell me something I could be doing better. (Yes! This is a good thing!) I am human, I make mistakes, so feedback is always genuinely welcome. I'm really glad and grateful that people feel comfortable enough with me to do that. 

To both groups of people: thank you! Your involvement and interest means more than I can express.

Anything in particular that you are proud of?

The first thing that comes to mind is the collaboration with Drupal, TYPO3, and WordPress project leadership. First it was to address the CRA with a combined open letter, but now we are meeting regularly, hosting a DevRoom at FOSDEM together, and who knows what the future of this collaboration might bring!

What is the Board working on right now?

All of the above and more. We have a good rhythm in the board right now with lots of creative ideas and discussions; it would be hard to sum everything up in a short response here. Some parts of it can be found in other articles in the magazine this month, though!

What would you like to see happen for Joomla over the next six months of your presidency?

I'd like to see solid foundational work for the sustainability of the project in general. That goes for attracting and keeping volunteers, finances, and basically everything else we discussed above. If we can make sure Joomla is sustainable, we will have the freedom to do more and innovate with the project, community, and CMS.

And in the long term?

I want to see the community grow and thrive in a meaningful way. I want it to be a safe space for people to be creative and to contribute, and to learn and develop their own skills. I'd love to see Joomla as a CMS to be perceived by the web community the way I perceive it: an amazing and comprehensive tool to build websites, backed by an incredible community full of heart.

How can we all help make that happen?

Contribute, share your knowledge, grow your local community and connect with the global community. 

There are so, so many opportunities to get involved, and you don't have to be an expert in anything to make a difference. Every small contribution counts!

If you're not sure, please reach out! Join Mattermost, send me a message, or join the Ask OSM Anything I talked about earlier. We would all be happy to connect you with the right opportunity. Can't wait to see you there!

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