Introducing the Joomla 5.1 Release Managers
What’s in store for Joomla 5.1? JCM meets Release Managers, Martina Scholz and Luca Rachetti. Let's find out a little more about who they are and what to expect…
First and foremost, thank you to you both for this interview. For those who may not know you, please give a little introduction.
Martina: I am Martina, meanwhile 37 years young and from Bavaria in Germany. My original profession is office clerk - the classic thing you learn as a young girl, so that you have learned something useful :-) Afterwards I completed my A-levels and studied business administration with a focus on marketing and controlling. During this time, I also created my first small website in an elective subject, while still using Nvu (KompoZer).
My father is a very experienced PLC programmer and a state-certified electrical engineer, so the following 10 years I was employed in our family business and did further training as an IT specialist (Betriebsinformatiker HWK). I now have a part-time job as a programmer at a company with an e-learning program based on Joomla and since the beginning of 2022, I have been freelancing and supporting website operators and agencies. In my daily work, I love the possibilities and stability Joomla offers me to support my clients in a wide variety of projects.
Luca: First of all, thank you to the whole community for this fantastic challenge, I am really happy to be part of this project!
My name is Luca, I'll be 36 in December and I'm from Italy (so pineapple-pizza doesn't exist for me!).
I started using Joomla with version 1.5 back in 2008 and have followed its growth and evolution over the years, becoming more and more passionate about it! This passion led me to study Computer Science at university, discovering a world far wider than just the web, but HTML, CSS, PHP and Databases have always stayed in my heart.
During the years of university, I started working as a freelancer creating websites and teaching classes on Joomla in voluntary associations and in JUG Milano Centro, of which I am still an active member.
Today, unfortunately, I no longer work with Joomla. I became a Data Governance and Data Quality Manager in an international consulting firm, but I still follow my favourite CMS, its evolution and the whole community, sharing my passion with the friends I met during the years.
Just to show how rounded you are as humans, can you share one hobby or interest that's totally unrelated to Joomla or websites?
Martina: I love nature and animals. When I'm not sitting in front of my computer, I'm out and about getting my hands dirty - I'm a horse girl, as we say in my country.
I have my own Connemara pony, so I don't have much time for other hobbies.
Every now and then I like to sit down in front of my sewing machine when time allows.
I like to go hiking with my partner or take a Sunday walk with the pony to enjoy nature.
Luca: Are you sure it is not a robot? Jokes aside, this question catches me unprepared, because when I am asked what my hobby is, my first answer is always Joomla!
But I also really like board games, cycling in nature and the world of internet of things (during COVID's lockdown I made a fun integration between Arduino and the first version of the Joomla Core API)
Can you tell us how you first came across Joomla?
Martina: I first came into contact with Joomla in 2013 during my employment. The company website had been created by a service provider a few years earlier and wasn't really maintained afterwards.
At that time, I had no real experience with creating websites and hardly knew anything about CMS. But one of my tasks at that time was programming interfaces in general and visualization and analysis interfaces in vb.net and so one thing led to another. The Joomla version 2.5 was already EOL and I thought to myself - it can't be that difficult.
I delved into the documentation and did a lot of googling and after a week, admittedly with a few night shifts, the website and template were migrated to Joomla 3.0.
Meanwhile, I realized how much Joomla still had to offer and my interest was piqued. I realised a few smaller projects in my spare time, one of my favourite being the digitalisation of a riding club that was organized only by volunteers. So we went from what was originally just a paper system to a comfortable solution for the members and the responsible persons with the help of Joomla.
My first direct contact with the community was only in 2022 in an online JUG (D-A-CH JUG Online). After that I joined Mattermost and I am very happy and grateful to be part of this great community.
Luca: The question should be "'how did Joomla save me from making websites in a really horrible way"?
All right, I'll tell you this horror story!
I made my first website as a teenager, without knowing anything about HTML, in powerpoint and then exported it to upload it to a free hosting. It came out slow, heavy and not at all user-friendly. From there I realized I had to study some HTML.
So I started to redo the website with Windows Notepad and with lots of frames and framesets. The site had a beautiful black background and the texts were in 4 colors: white, red, yellow and lime (color hexadecimal and IDEs were still unknown to me).
Proud of my new website I show it to a scout friend a little older than me. And he asked me "Why don't you try using Joomla?"
And that's when Pandora's box opened: a new world full of possibilities opened up and I re-made my website, using a CMS for the first time. One thing I really liked about Scout and that I also found in Joomla is the passion for sharing one's knowledge and experience, making everyone involved coming out richer from a meeting.
The Release Process…
What is the typical release process from planning to deployment?
Martina: I'll be honest, it's the first release that I'm directly involved with, so that's a very good question.
The first planning phase is primarily about discussing and evaluating existing issues and PRs, and of course suggestions from the community. And by that I don't mean evaluating the content of ideas. Our release dates have already been set and also Rome wasn't built in a day. So a realistic assessment is made together with the maintainers group. We also look at projects that have already started from previous GSOC phases that still need work to implement, talk about with the supervisors and look for volunteers who are interested in continuing to work on the projects. The next steps are the pre-release and then four alpha release phases.
At this point, all the features and improvements will be discussed, decisions taken and included in the code for the new Joomla version. Each of the alpha-release phases takes approximately one month. In the coming two beta phases, it’s feature freeze, that means no new features are implemented, and there is time for testing, debugging and improving the code and functions implemented in the previous phases.
It’s also the time for 3rd party developers to test their own extensions with the new version, report bugs and prepare for the new release. The beta phases are only two weeks. Finally, there is the Release Candidate phase only a couple of days, where it is very important that everyone in the community tests and reports bugs so that the final version can be a high quality and stable new Joomla version.
Luca: I am also on my first Joomla release! We are a first-time team in a very important role and full of responsibilities. But we are not alone, these days there are many people who help us understand how to move the steps within repositories, deadlines, PR and various problems. So, to explain a release process you need to think about the best way to release a reliable and secure product, which means going from collecting functionality and new features you want to add to the CMS to a second testing phase.
This is the most important part where you have to make sure that everything works, that Joomla 5.1 can run locally, on servers with different features, that the extensions install, that the languages allow you to use Joomla in your country, that both an upgrade and a new installation lead to the same result. In short, you need to make sure that the use of Joomla is not compromised and won't stop someone's business.
This very important phase passes through Alpha, Beta and Release Candidate, each with its own peculiarities as Martina explained.
And finally, once there are no longer any doubts that the latest RC is working properly, it's time to launch Joomla, to let it take off through the update channels and the various repositories so that everyone can use it.
Challenges and Solutions…
What are the most common challenges faced as a Release Manager?
Martina: I think the most important thing is to stay in constant contact with the maintainers and the community and to set realistic goals so that Joomla can continue to grow and remain as stable and reliable as we love it. Since everyone has different priorities, it can be a little difficult from time to time to make proper decisions and keep track of everything.
But we have an unbelievably great maintainer and testing team that we can rely on, and we also have a specialist here for almost everything, so fortunately we can discuss and make decisions collectively.
Luca: I agree with Martina, I also think the most important part is to remember and to remind everyone that we are a community!
Joomla is made of people, many and scattered in every corner of the globe. Release Managers are not to be seen as people locked in a tower making decisions, but they are to be seen as "Leaders" in the midst of the rest of the people who actively participate in the development of the core, whether they are developers, testers or simple users who have requested a feature.
We are and want to be among you, we want and need to lead the choices all together, remember that Joomla means "all together".
Is there anything the community could do to help the release process?
Martina: Sure, first and foremost, of course, testing. Anyone can do that, even without any special technical knowledge, and it helps us so much.
Developers who would like to see a feature in Joomla or see potential for improvement are more than welcome to contact us on Mattermost, pitch ideas and see if and how it fits on the roadmap or simply create an issue or pr in the public Github repository. If possible, we would also be happy to help you make contacts with others to give your ideas more drive.
Every new feature needs documentation to be useful. If you see a lack in documentation don't hesitate to write it down and share with the community.
There are many ways to help during the release process and we are very grateful for every little piece that comes into Joomla from the community. Personally, it is also important to me that we treat each other in an appreciative manner. The community is made up of many different personalities and not everyone will be able to identify with everyone, but what is completely beyond question is that everyone deserves respect for their commitment.
Luca: To help the release process the most important thing you can do is to TEST.
I think anyone can tell you this, but what I ask is that you make an extra effort: Understand who you are within the Joomla community. Are you a developer? Look at the requests for new functionalities and propose a solution on how to implement them.
Are you an avid user of the XYZ extension? Then check its functions on the new release, that it does not give problems and at the first abnormal behaviour report it to the developer, surely he will be happy to make it compatible with the new Joomla release or to report the problem in the Joomla core.
Are you a novice user or at l a basic level? Then what better opportunity to learn how to use Joomla before the new version is released (you can use the Alphas, Betas, RCs or if you feel more enterprising the Nightly Builds), report if you think something is not working clearly, the user experience is really important in Joomla!
So tell us what do you like most about Joomla 5 and what can we expect from Joomla 5.1?
Martina: I really like the clear structure, clean codebase and the speed improvements in Joomla 5. Also the increasing automated test coverage is extremely useful, especially for maintaining stability and ensuring the quality of Joomla.
The Schema.org implementation is also a very cool and useful new feature in Joomla 5 especially from the SEO perspective. The previous microdata implementation always depended on the template used, but from now on that no longer plays a role. So far, however, maintaining the Schema.org data is not as convenient as it could be. My plan for 5.1 is to make some improvements here.
Security improvements for the update process have been in preparation for some time and I would be very happy if we can also implement these in the 5.1 release. There will certainly be more improvements and features in version 5.1. But we are currently in the planning phase and the great thing about open source is that the fantastic community will certainly contribute many more ideas and implementations.
Luca: The feature I most appreciate in Joomla 5 is the introduction of Schema.org compatibility. For years there have been extensions or templates that integrate this feature but there was a lack of native integration in the core because they didn't always work properly or convey all the information contained in the articles. Personally I had to work a little harder when the article was about an event.
But surely that's not the only feature you'll love about Joomla 5, many performance improvements have been made and finally version changes won't involve as heavy migration as they did in the past.
Also in version 5.1 I would like to enhance the functionality of fields (or “custom fields” for those still loving the old name). I think they allow Joomla to be a "real" Content Management System and have content that is not just articles. Fields along with overrides really allow you to do some amazing things! This will involve asking some extension's developers for help, in fact if you have any suggestions on this I am quite happy to hear from you!
Thank you Martina and Luca for your valuable insights into the Joomla 5.1 release process. Your discussion illuminates the intricacies and collaborative efforts that drive the development of Joomla and the importance of community engagement in the release process.
So a huge thank you for all your hard work!
Want to volunteer, contribute and get involved? Check out the Volunteer Portal and the Contribute to Joomla page for more info.
J!5 add a nice feature but in fact it's quite painfull to use for the redactor because fields have to be fill two times and nobody want to do that. If we coul link fields 'core and customs) to schema.org fields it would mainly solve the issue.