Joomlers: Sander Potjer

Written by | 01 January 2015 | Published in 2015 January
Sander Potjer, talented Dutch Joomla developer and passionate Joomla Community Leadership Team member, agreed on this interview with me for Joomla Community Magazine readers to share with them his thoughts on Joomla User Groups, his vision for newly launched Joomla Volunteer Portal, recently revamped by its team Joomla Extensions Directory, his competitive rowing schedule overlapping with JoomlaDay "season" and other Joomla related matters.
Joomlers: Sander Potjer Photo: Pierre Sempé

For those JCM readers who may not know you: could you please briefly introduce yourself?

Sure. I'm Sander Potjer, 29 years and live in Weesp, a small city next to Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Member of the Joomla Community Leadership Team (CLT) since 2011 and CLT liaison for the the Joomla Extensions Directory, Vulnerable Extensions List, Joomla Volunteer Portal and the Joomla Structure team. Besides that I'm also involved with the active local Joomla community in The Netherlands.

As we are in December, reaching the end of the year 2014, what were your major highlights? How do you look back at it? Has there been anything you are particularly happy and proud of? Anything you'd rather not happen? Anything funny?

In 2014 two projects I am involved with reached a major milestone. The first one is the brand new Joomla Extensions Directory. I am extremely proud of the JED team that has been working on this for about two years. A much needed update. The team started by creating an extensive requirements document, put out a Request For Proposal, selected the contractor and looked after the development by the selected vendor. A special mention to Matt Baylor who spent countless hours on the JED in the past years.

The second project is the Joomla Volunteers Portal that was launched back in November 2014. The idea to improve Joomla community members contributing process comes alive that have been on my mind for a while. So, I am excited to see that the first version, which provides insights in the working groups, what they are working on and volunteers contributing into those working group project, is now in "launched start".

In 2014 I also continued to enjoy meeting our community at Joomla Days and other events. It's great to hear all the Joomla stories of volunteers and users from all around the world. It makes me really proud about the Joomla project when I see what we have already achieved. We do have a really unique project!

Exactly, Sander! I also feel the revamped Joomla Extensions Directory looks very sleek, compact and modern. Kudos to Matthew Baylor and the rest of you in the JED team. I must admit, although no doubt every volunteer in every Joomla project deserves his/her credit for contributions but in my opinion JED is at the very heart of Joomla ecosystem. Would you agree with this statement?

The JED is the most visited subsite of joomla.org and, indeed, an important part of the heart of the Joomla ecosystem. Site builders can build great websites thanks to the many extensions and make a living from that. On the other hand, extension developers can make their living by selling their Joomla extensions, promoting them via JED.

You mentioned the launch of the Joomla Volunteer Portal in November 2014. How do you see the Portal in three years time? What would you expect it to achieve for Joomla as a volunteer community? What would you expect it to achieve for Joomla as a software?

I hope the Volunteer Portal will grow to the central place for all volunteering work in the Joomla project, a place where we can match Joomla volunteers with available tasks, where we offer tools and resources to working groups to get their job done, and, above all, a place that allows us to recognize contributing volunteers of our community.

I am sure many people are interested to help out in our project, but don't have a clue where to start and what type of help is needed. My expectation is that the Volunteer Portal will make it much easier and welcoming for anyone to get involved, so more people can contribute and the Joomla project gets more things done on all kind of areas.

Would it be fair to compare what you’ve just described with a sort of a big shop window, where the shop owner (being Joomla leadership) displays to public all the available positions for local community volunteers he is seeking help from and where interested volunteers (being Joomla volunteers) in turn would pick up a vacancy as they see fit and “apply” for it?

That is indeed a good comparison, but it is not limited to the Joomla leadership. Any working group that is looking for volunteers can use the Portal. It works also the other way around: group leaders can browse volunteer profiles and actively reach out to people that might be interested in roles or tasks.

Are we talking about moving absolutely every single volunteer task and its related infrastructure under the Joomla Volunteer Portal?

The longer term goal is to offer all kind of tools to working groups to enable effective collaboration and communication. It makes it much easier for volunteers if the same tools are used for the groups they are involved with. Just one place to go for your volunteer work. Think of your personal dashboard with all recent activities of the areas you're working on.

That's sounds exciting. All Joomla working groups with their projects, tasks, coordinators and contributors under the same roof. Brilliant. You’ve mentioned that besides your commitments in Joomla Community Leadership and various Joomla working groups, you are also involved in your local Joomla community in The Netherlands. Could you please elaborate on that a bit?

I think that Dutch people are Open Source minded in general and like to share their knowledge. So, from the beginning of Joomla as a project and a software many have been involved with Joomla. English language skills helps with that as well, to get information and software translated for others.

While in the USA people are used to drive for more than an hour to user group meetings but we, the Dutch, are not. We have a small country, but even then a thirty minutes drive feels long for us. So people rather start a new group. It also helps that all user groups and their meetings are supported by and published on a central local community website, which makes it easy for people to start, find and join user groups. I know some people visit up to four different user group meeting a month!

On December 31, 2014, the Joomla project stops support for 2.5.x family of versions. What would you advise in this respect to those Joomla folks running their personal or business web-sites on J!2.5? You know, there is one very credible school of thoughts suggesting “If it is not broken, don’t try to fix it!” and I am sure many people think along these lines: “Since my Joomla website works just fine, why do I need to bother migrating it to Joomla 3?” What would you say to them?

I can understand that people are still scared for upgrades, but Joomla really improved on this area over the past years. An upgrade if Joomla 2.5 to 3 can be done with a click on a button, Joomla even can handle database changes nowadays.

Upgrade pains are often not caused by Joomla, but by extensions in use. If you start building a Joomla website, you should basically accept that a website needs maintenance and somewhere in the future the site needs an upgrade. So keep that in mind while building a Joomla website. Don't install dozens of extensions, this will only make maintenance harder. Make sure the extension you choose is still actively supported. I always try to keep websites as clean as possible, and because of that I already upgraded many websites from 2.5 to 3 painlessly.

The Joomla Update Working Group did a great job by collecting useful resources and documentation about upgrading your website, have a look at that and upgrade your website. Joomla 3 has fantastic new features and even more are coming!

I can not be more agree with you on this point, – the folks from the Joomla Update Group team: Jacques Rentzke, Patrick Jackson, Tom Hutchison, George Wilson, Jennifer Gress and Nick Savov, deserved huge credit already, just for the job they done so far and I am sure there are more goodies to come out of this team in the months and years to come. Fantastic! Let’s move on. A year and a half ago in your previous interview for JCM with John Rampton you talked a bit about some seriously competitive international rowing in which you were involved as a part of a rowing team. Are you still as actively involved in rowing as you were then or did you have to sacrifice it due to your Joomla commitments?

I'm still actively rowing, also for the competition we have in The Netherlands. That means that we have to row at least 8 races during the season. And the rowing season is in line with the "JoomlaDay season", so this means I often have to choose between joining a JoomlaDay or a rowing race. I try to find a balance between these. So for example, this year I had a rowing race or a JoomlaDay for each weekend in September and October, and I still missed JoomlaDays and rowing races those months. But I really enjoy both, rowing clears up my mind and I often get ideas while performing the sports.

That’s great. I am sure many Joomla folks are including doing more physical exercises or even may be doing a sport into their New Year resolutions list as we speak. May I ask you one rather unpleasant question on wide spread of websites which distribute Joomla paid templates and extensions for free download? Their owners say that since Joomla is GNU GPL, every Joomla extension should be free for download and distribution, totally ignoring that GNU GPL license actually allows to charge for software licensed under it. What would you say?

The GPL doesn't say extensions should be free, you are allowed to sell extensions for money. See http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#DoesTheGPLAllowMoney. You are allowed to make modifications and redistribute extensions if done in the accordance with the GNU GPL license. But the GPL refers to the extensions. Quite often the websites that distribute paid extensions for free say that the extensions are not modified (and don’t say that they are modified with vulnerable or even malicious code) and also use the company name, titles, logos etc.. that are copyrighted. Those are not part of the GPL license so you can't simply redistribute those. I personally prefer to support the Joomla ecosystem and buy an extension, so I can have the advantages of proper support and download new versions. Often you get great software for a very little price.

Exactly. Like you said, the average guy or gal looking for a Joomla extension just has no clue that these so called “free” for download commercial extensions actually do have a price tag attached to them, albeit hidden, in the form of malicious code. Thank you very much, Sander. Any New Year wishes to JCM readers?

I wish all JCM readers a fantastic 2015! Keep building great Joomla websites and I hope to see many of you contributing to one of the many areas of the Joomla project. I really hope we can recognize all of our volunteers better in 2015 via the Volunteer Portal. 2015 will be a special year for the Joomla project with the upcoming 10th birthday of Joomla!

It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Sander. Happy New Year to you and your folks!

Thank you for your invitation Alex, and for your contributions to the Joomla Community Magazine in general!

 

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Alex Smirnov

Alex Smirnov

Born from Ukrainian mother and Russian father, migrated to the United Kingdom in 1999, Alex Smirnov, self-taught Microsoft Certified Professional by IT qualification, has been devoting his knowledge of and passion for Joomla! CMS and its extensions to their diverse global community of Joomla! developers and end users since 2005.

Ever since he enjoyed simplicity, power and beauty of Joomla! CMS and its extensions, mainly via friendly and supportive Forum at joomla.org, Alex in return has been cheerfully giving his experiences and knowledge back to English- and Russian-speaking Joomla! community, firstly as a forum member and volunteer moderator and later - as localisator and support manager.