Interview: Paul Orwig, Joomla! Community Magazine Lead Editor
The third evolution of the Joomla! Community Magazine has taken on a life much different than its ancestors. The approach that has been taken with the new JCM team has provided the community with a resource that is already becoming invaluable. We wanted to take a moment to sit down with Paul Orwig, the lead editor, to find out where this approach came from and what's in store for the future.
Paul, thanks for taking the time to spend a few moments with us. The Joomla! Community Magazine (JCM) is already a huge success and I’m sure you are very busy.
Where did the idea for a magazine for the Joomla! community come from?
I’m not sure where the original idea came from. I believe there have been two previous editions of a Joomla! Community Magazine, neither of which had too long of a run for various reasons. I believe that the first public discussion about what would eventually become the current edition of the JCM was started by Chris Szabo in a thread on alltogetherasawhole.org titled Getting the monthly Joomla! Community Magazine back on the rails.
How did you get involved with the process?
On October 13, 2009 (the same day that Chris Szabo started the discussion linked to in the previous question), Amy Stephen invited myself and Airton Torres to get involved with early discussions about the magazine which were already underway on alltogetherasawhole.org. Airton and I were invited because we were Co-Webmasters for the Joomla! Community website, and the plan at that time was to have the magazine content be served from that website.
Many of our readers are unaware that getting the magazine from start until now has taken that many months, but the end result is fantastic! Can you give us some insight on what the process was?
There is no question that it was a long and sometimes challenging process. From the start, there was always a strong committment that the JCM would be open to all and inclusive of everyone’s ideas and opinions. That meant that all of the myriad discussions and decisions about everything from the JCM’s philosophy to its content structure, the design and layout of the website, team organization decisions, article workflow considerations, and hundreds of other details, all took much longer than if the decisions had simply been handed down to us.
The emerging team of early JCM volunteers all brought their own perspectives, passions and different points of view to those discussions. There were a lot of long debates on multiple subjects with a wide range of opinions expressed, but the discussions were always civil and everyone had a chance to be heard before important decisions were made. The value of that long, and sometimes painful, process has been that the result is something that everyone can take pride in and feel a true sense of ownership in the outcome.
Here is a (believe it or not) brief summary of how the process unfolded: First, there were those early, unofficial brainstorming discussions on alltogetherasawhole.org that began in October of 2009. I also stayed in regular touch with the Joomla! Community Leadership team and OSM about developments to make sure our plans for the magazine were aligned with the goals and processes of the Joomla! project. Brad Baker and Ole Bang Ottosen from the Community Leadership team, Ron Severdia from the Production Leadership Team, and Elin Waring from Open Source Matters provided lots of helpful leadership and guidance from the start and throughout the process.
During the early unofficial brainstorming phase, Fotis Evangelou volunteered to contribute development and design services from his company Komrade, and he put together some mockups for how the JCM might look. Once we finally had a reasonably well defined idea for how we wanted the JCM to work, a proposal was submitted to the public Community Working Group email list. That proposal got approved, and the next step was to conduct a thorough security audit of K2, which was completed by Andrew Eddie.
After K2 passed the security audit, an official public forum was created on forum.joomla.org to continue and refine the discussions and plans for the JCM and help recruit new team members. Because we wanted some discussions with team members to be private, a Google group was set up for that purpose along with a document repository for everything from style guide rules to article submission guidelines to workflow processes. Also, an open ended Skype group chat was set up for team members to collaborate with Komrade as the design and layout was being developed, and also for team members to chat about other questions and issues which came up along the way.
While all of that was going on, we were also coordinating with OSM to develop an Author License Agreement, since we planned to invite all members of the Joomla! community to submit articles.
We had a extra hectic frenzy of activity in the final weeks to try and get everything finished before we launched on July 1, 2010. We were working hard all the way up to the last moment that the JCM went live. So, the entire process took over nine months. It was a huge effort, but I am very proud of how the process took place, in an open, inclusive, and collaborative way, that I think represents what is best about the Joomla! community.
Wow, it definitely sounds like it took really excellent project management skills to pull that off! The magazine team is the largest CWG. How do the dynamics of a team like that work?
What really helps make a big team like the JCM work together well is that first and foremost everyone is motivated, bright, friendly, creative, passionate, and hard working. For example, when an idea for a new feature comes up, usually all I have to do is explain what the result should be and ask for volunteers. Team members typically step forward and take initiative to get the work done, and I only have to get involved if there are questions or problems.
It's an important part of my role to give clear expectations to every JCM team member about what they are responsible for and also to establish clear goals for what work needs to get done. But, beyond that, I try to give team members as much authority and autonomy as possible so that they can have the freedom to develop and bring to life their own vision for their work on the JCM. I think that’s really important to help everyone feel motivated and fulfilled and have fun, especially since we’re all volunteers.
What is your vision for the JCM?
I have two visions: One for the way that the JCM itself should function, and another for the type of impact that the JCM should have on the Joomla! Community.
For the way the JCM itself functions, my vision is that we will be open and inclusive to all members of the community who want to contribute, that we will have a friendly, fun, helpful, and collaborative work environment, and that team members will be empowered to use their creativity and bring their ideas to life (consistent with the overall goal and philosophy of the JCM).
For the type of impact that the JCM should have on the community, my vision is that the JCM will touch all members of the community and recognize all areas of the project. First and foremost, the JCM is a platform to allow all community members to share their Joomla! story. So, the JCM is not simply a place that users come to and passively read content, but it is a place for everyone to share and learn and be inspired by one another.
The JCM is also in a unique position to be able to highlight all areas of the project. The magazine format can be an easy way for those who are brand new to Joomla! to get an easy introduction, while also being a useful resource to those more familiar with it. In addition to learning more about using Joomla!, readers can also learn more about many other things, such as how innovative websites are built with Joomla!, about project leaders and volunteers, and about different opportunities around the world to connect with others at Joomla! events. When JCM readers learn about all of these different aspects of the project, it can motivate them to take the next step and find how they can become contributing volunteers themselves in areas that fit their interests, which further strengthens the project and the community.
I’m sure there are many people that would love to write for the magazine or get involved with the team. What is the best way to go about that, and are there currently specific areas that need help?
The easiest way for anyone to get involved is to contribute an article. I encourage prospective JCM authors to familiarize themselves with all of our different topics, and then decide what they want to write about. We have created a lot of Author Resources content to help answer new author questions and submit articles that meet our style guide standards. It is a very easy process to register as a JCM author and submit an article. If needed, our team of friendly and helpful JCM editors will work with authors so that it will be ready to be published in an upcoming issue.
For anyone who is interested in joining the JCM team, there are a number of different areas where we could use more help. We would like to create a dedicated JCM Public Relations team composed of people who would like to write announcements for each new JCM issue and connect with other websites and media outlets to spread the word about the JCM. We would like to have more help to continue to expand our Author Resources content. We have room to add more editors in multiple JCM topics. And we could also use help from more members of the international community who would like to encourage people to submit stories about Joomla! in their own language in our International stories topic.
Any final thoughts?
I would just like to say that working on the JCM has been one of the most challenging and rewarding projects I have ever been involved with. It was a huge effort by many people to go from concept to launch. To see such a great result of that sustained committment from so many people all focused on a common goal is something I am very proud to be a part of, and I think the JCM is a wonderful example of what the Joomla! community can accomplish.
For me, the best part of this project has been the opportunity to get to know and become friends with all the bright, friendly, and passionate people from all over the world who make up the JCM team.
Paul is a website designer and developer and active member of the Joomla! Community. His work as the JCM Lead Editor, Webmaster of community.joomla.org and service on the Community Leadership Team proves his dedication to both the Project and Community and has helped to open doors for others to volunteer. You can easily follow Paul on Twitter! to find out the latest.
A special thanks to Paul for his dedication and for taking the time to allow the Joomla! Community Magazine to interview him.