All Together Now: The Process and People Behind Joomla! 3.0
Joomla! is an open source content management system and application framework powering nearly 3% of the world’s websites. No. That’s not quite right. Before the 30 million downloads, the 7.5 million monthly visitors, the 2.6 million forum posts, the 10 thousand extensions, the 500 JCM articles and the hundreds of Joomla! Day events around the world, Joomla! was actually “jumla”, a Swahili word meaning “all together” or “as a whole”.
In her November 2010 JCM article Joomla! Rising!, Dianne Henning wrote that “the very definition of Joomla! invokes a sense of community … we span the globe ... we are multilingual, multinational and multicultural. And, we are volunteers.” The handle is no doubt appropriate. According to OSM, the “name was chosen from thousands of community suggestions.” It’s even more appropriate today, on the eve of Joomla! 3.0, that we take a minute to recognize some of the community members, the volunteers, that came “all together” to make 3.0 possible.
I recently got a chance to talk to a few people involved in the development of 3.0 and I learned a lot about the process and people behind the project. Key among them was Kyle Ledbetter, a principal usability engineer for eBay, and the project manager for the UX/UI design – the heartiest of new features found in 3.0.
According to Kyle, the UX project was “a grassroots campaign that spanned years.” Dozens of Joomla! events facilitated many brain scrums, but after the events ended and everyone went home, using technology to communicate and collaborate was critical in moving the project forward. Kyle was proud to say that everything started using Joomla! extensions. Kunena was used for primary communication and Projectfork was used as the project manager. Images were shared and feedback was gathered through the community using Twitter, and JUX daily communication took place through Skype. Kyle said that he has been using Skype to communicate with the Joomla world for years, but that this was the most productive and talented volunteer team that he had ever worked with.
Everyone I spoke with wanted to talk about the process and the people behind it. Javier Gomez, a key developer of the new language installer, told me that the communication was the most amazing part of the entire process. Javier said that he first remembered “seeing Kyle speak at JandBeyond 2011 in the Netherlands. He was talking about doing something that would allow users, template designers and extension developers to work together.” Kyle became the evangelist for the project that day. Javier commented that “because we are a community-driven project, if you have great innovation you can really make anything happen.”
There were definite obstacles. Peter van Westen, a Joomla extension developer who overhauled the 3.0 installer, said that “the biggest obstacle was – and still is – time. This all had to be done during our spare time.” Kyle said that the JUX team worked around the clock for months during their free time, work time and on weekends. Kyle told me that Michael Babker “worked from a military base on a crappy Internet connection and that Peter van Westen was sneaking onto his laptop during a family vacation.” There were other snags in communication and trust and credibility had to be earned over time. As the project nears completion, everyone I spoke with wanted to compliment and thank everyone they worked with.
Mark Dexter, a Joomla! Bug Squad and development coordinator told me that two unsung heroes of the project were Jean-Marie Simonet and Elin Waring. Mark said that “Jean-Marie (JM) is passionate about ensuring that the project doesn’t forget about the millions of Joomla! users who don’t work with English.” He also pointed out that Elin Waring, “despite being a full-time college professor and mom, somehow found time to contribute to the project in countless ways.” Throughout my interviews I found that community members get a lot of personal satisfaction from being a part of a team, working towards a collective goal, and being a part of something that will be used for millions of websites around the world.
Javier Gomez aptly described what it was like being part of the project: “I felt like I was playing a violin in a world class orchestra conducted by Kyle Ledbetter and surrounded by many amazing musicians.” Everyone I spoke with gave me a list of people that they wanted to acknowledge. Many also wanted to thank their own families. Kyle was especially thankful for his wife, Melinda, who has supported him continuously. So many names crossed my desk as I chatted with folks, sifted through interviews and read articles that it quickly became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to tell how many people played a role in the project. Feel free to post a comment to this article to elaborate on the contribution of some of these folks or to mention someone who was inadvertently left off this list.
Thank you to the following musicians (in no particular order): Nguyen Huu Hien, Dave Horsfall, Rouven Weßling, Pedro Gonçalves, Gary Gisclair, Michael Babker, Mark Dexter, Andrea Tarr, Elin Waring, Jean-Marie Simonet, Chalak Kareem, Steve Burge, Ryan Ozimek, Nick Savov, Viet Vu, Christophe, Ian, Elkuku, Hackwar, Rvsjoen, Robschley, Ron, Don Gilbert, Aaron Smitz, Phproberto, Radek-Suski, Beat, Philip Locke, Tito Alvarez, Anderson Grüdtner, Anthony Oslen, Bui Huy Thang, Chad Windnagle, Dainel Dimitrov, Joseph LeBlanc, Jeremy Wilken, Nguyen Van Hiep, Paulo Griiettner, Robert Deutz, Andrew Eddie, Louis Landry, Jacques Rentzke, Matt Thomas, Aaron Schmitz, Chris Davenport, Daniel Dimitrov, Diana Prajescu, Emerson Rocha Luiz, Florian Voutzinos, Herman Peeren, Jon Neubauer, Kavith Thiranga, Marius Van Rijnsoever, Ofer Cohen, Oleg Nesterov, Prasath Nadarajah, Stefan Neculai, Gabriele, Alikonweb, Sam Moffat, Jean-Claude Richard, Roland Dalmulder, Bill Richardson, Paulo, Strumjan, Brian Teeman, Paul Orwig, Lungkao, Mu'uz, Ole Ottosen, Jan Erik Zassenhaus, Biz Smith, Sander, Sándor Balikó, Mark Studer, Ricky Stanley, Jordi Sala, Fernando Galindo, Iván Ramos, Pablo Arias, and Miquel Reus Capó.
Joomla! is much more than an open source content management system and application framework that powers 3% of the world’s websites. Joomla! is a community and a culture of its own. Joomla! is a way of life for a lot of folks. It provides jobs for regular folks, and, yes, it keeps people like Kyle Ledbetter awake at all hours of the night. Wikipedia tells us that roughly 60 million people speak the Swahili language. How ironic is it that the number of Joomla! users long ago eclipsed the number of people that speak the language that gave us our collective name? And how ironic is it that Joomla! is now reaching users of many different languages around the world?
There will undoubtedly be millions more Joomla! users over time. The community will have fancy new infographics with numbers that continue to climb to infinite proportions. Between that time and now, take a minute to respect and praise those who are contributing so much right now.