Changing The Conversation About Joomla

Written by | 05 July 2016 | Published in 2016 July
The spirit of Joomla is community and our community is alive and well. Our community is strong and passionate, filled with vibrant and talented people around the world who collaborate and help each other every day. We use Joomla to build websites that help businesses, governments and organizations. Our work is meaningful and we make the world a better place. At the same time, we can be our own worst enemy. Our own words and actions create a perception that impacts the growth of our platform in many ways. In order to build our community and improve our platform, we need to change the conversation about Joomla and it starts with us.

We Make Joomla What It Is

As a long time Joomla user and a passionate contributor to the Joomla community, I dedicate much of my free time to improving the Joomla platform. As a member of the Marketing Leadership Team, my job is to increase awareness of the benefits Joomla offers, as well as improve the perception of our platform. I’m one of many Joomla contributors around the world who are committed to improving Joomla as much as possible for all of you. The work we do is not easy, but it’s made more difficult when the harshest criticism and most negative perceptions come right from within our own community. I spend so much of my time working to build positive perceptions around Joomla it's frustrating to see negative commentary from our own community. It makes my job much harder and it's holding us back in more ways than anyone wants to believe.

The End Is Near?

While constructive discussions and ideas are always appreciated in our community, I'm more concerned about the discussions with an increasingly negative tone. Aside from the always popular "Problems of Joomla" threads far too common on social media platforms, there are predictions of a Joomla apocalypse, articles blaming of people, volunteers and everyone else under the sun for our imminent demise. Some recall the tales of the golden days when Joomla was perfect and how much better everything was back then than it is now. If only we could go back in time 4 years and do it over again with these new insights we could be saved, but the end is approaching quickly and we don't have a time machine. If someone doesn't do something soon we may have to abandon ship....

Not so fast. I respectfully disagree with this outlook for many reasons. For starters, how have they come to this conclusion? These articles are often supply research data, usually consisting of a search results chart showing a comparison of how many times the word "Joomla" has been searched for versus the name of a competing CMS platform over the past few years. To the untrained eye this may seem like compelling evidence, and some consider this to be proof of an impending catastrophe but I'm so not sure about that. This evidence paints a picture but it's not definitive proof of anything other than search queries. 

Questionable data aside, we know we don't have as many users as we used to. Discussing this can be helpful when it is constructive, but not when tone is negative and casts blame. These articles may have some valid points in them, but they are based purely on the opinion of the author who may have their own agenda. They are often complaints, or sometimes rants, pointing out problems without offering solutions. If a solution is mentioned, we're still left with the mystery of who will actually put in the time and effort to implement this solution. Some people seem to believe simply pointing out problems is enough to make a difference and this is not true. Solutions require action. Problems get solved by people who take initiative and make it their personal responsibility to make sure it gets done.

The point of these articles with the search query data chart, is that we want more users. Of course we want more users. If your solution is to write an article about how bad Joomla is, all you're doing convincing new people to stay away from it. You're actually making the problem you're complaining about worse. 

We Need Marketing Magic

Something I hear frequently is that our main "competition" (WordPress) is destroying us because we haven't figured out their "secret marketing trick". The consensus is that we need to hire some marketing experts to perform this trick, much like a magician, and this will fix everything. This is completely ridiculous. Marketing seems to be a popular scapegoat in general and I think it's because people don't understand we actually do. Through years of working with both platforms in both communities, I know both well and I have a good idea of what this "secret marketing trick" is. It actually isn't a trick and it has far less to do with marketing than some people might believe. It's also what this article is really about.

The Perception We Create Is How We Are Perceived

What I'm talking about is perception. There is a negative perception of Joomla, inside and outside of our community. It's very difficult to see this as it often involves looking at ourselves objectively and taking responsibility for what we do. It's so much easier for us to cast blame on others than it is to consider we could be causing our own problems, it's simply human nature. It's also the biggest problem I see in our community and most of us don't know we're doing it.

For example: when we ask people why they prefer WordPress to Joomla the answer is always along the lines of "It's easier to use". We hear this all the time, it's the general perception of WP. After using both platforms for almost a decade, I know this is not always true. Depending what you need to do, WP is not necessarily easier than Joomla, it just seems that way. "Easy To Use" is a general perception about WP, the more they say it, the more it is continually perpetuated inside and outside their community. This perception is strong and it's not because of marketing, it's because of the users who believe it and spread this message.

Now, let's consider some common things people in our community say about Joomla. Consider how these statements might affect the perceptions people outside our community have about Joomla:

"It's too complicated"
"It's hard to understand"
"It's bad for SEO"
"Upgrades are a nightmare"
"We're not as good as we used to be"
"If they don't fix this I'm switching to something else"

We've all heard these comments a million times, we've all probably said them more than once and shared them with people we know. Again, I don't necessarily believe they are true, but this is how WE talk about Joomla. These perceptions are negative, and we continually perpetuate and re-enforce them every chance we get.

Think about the most common positive comment about Joomla that you hear all the time. Can you think of one? If you can: how often do you say it and share it with others? How many articles do you write about it? Who do you tell about it? This is what I mean by conversation. We don't talk about the positive benefits of Joomla nearly enough.

The perceptions of the two platforms are very different, but what they have in common is they come directly from their respective communities. If we want to change the perception of Joomla we need to change our conversation.

Ask yourself:
How can we expect to bring in new users when our community is continually telling everyone how hard Joomla is to use?

Who wants to try a platform filled with people who believe it's dying and constantly complain about it's problems?

My Answers:
We can't and no one does.

If we want the almighty search query chart to start going the other way then we need new users, and we can't bring them in by scaring them away. We won't be able to change anything unless we change the conversation.

Solutions Start with Us

While some of the opinions and editorials about the problems of Joomla are meant to be helpful in a certain context, when they are taken out of context they turn people away. We all want Joomla to be better but continually tearing Joomla to pieces in public with harsh commentary is not the answer - it's the problem. These conversations can take place elsewhere, or be presented in a different and more constructive way. Continually complaining about Joomla is damaging to our efforts, it's insulting to contributors and it takes away from the spirit of our community and the vision of our platform. The vision of Joomla is an enjoyable, rewarding, socially responsible community that thrives on trust and collaboration. That is the spirit of Joomla and we need to remember that.

For example: I know the perceptions of Joomla I mentioned above are real, I want to change them so I joined the marketing team. I know Joomla is too complicated for many people and I want to change that, and it's why I'm on the UX Team working to make it easier for everyone. That's the difference between pointing out problems and being part of the solution. If you want to be part of the solution and don't know how, contact me and I'll show you.


Let's Put All The Cards On The Table

We are aware that Joomla is not the #1 CMS platform in the world and it’s no secret that our community has gotten smaller over the past few years. I think we all agree that Joomla is complex and can be challenging to learn. We all know that some areas of our platform need improvement and that we as community can do better. 

None of that changes the fact that Joomla is still one of the most powerful and sophisticated CMS platforms in the world. Joomla provides a solution to countless people, businesses, governments and organizations from every corner of globe. The Joomla community is filled with fun, talented and dedicated people with a passion for helping each other and we have a camaraderie and spirit that many other communities envy. I personally can't think of anything in the world that means more to me.

I agree that Joomla does need to change and I know we need to discuss our challenges to find the best solutions. I also agree that that we need to adapt to the current CMS community to keep up. I believe this starts with our own actions and words within our own community. We need to stop complaining and start working together to find solutions.


Start Changing The Conversation About Joomla For The Better. Be Part Of The Solution

Accept The Current Situation And Deal With It

Pointing out problems does not solve them and re-hashing the past does not facilitate change, we already know what the problems are. We can’t change the past, but we can change the future. It starts with accepting where we are, finding a solution and being part of it. Stop looking back and start looking forward, the answers are in front of us - not behind us.

Stop Comparing

Our goal is to make the Joomla platform and community the best it can possibly be. This has absolutely nothing to do with any other platform or community. There are plenty of other CMS platforms and communities out there and I wish them all the best luck and success in the world. We can work with them and we can learn from them, but we do not need to compare ourselves to them to measure our success or determine the value of what we do. What we do is important and no statistic will ever change that.

Share More Good Stuff

We need to share the good things we do with Joomla more. We need to talk more about how Joomla helps us and how it helps people we know. We can talk about how it helps our clients or how a community event inspired us or how a person in the community helped us. Joomla has done you some good, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this or talking about how frustrated you are with it. Share the good stuff more and try to keep it positive.

Complain Less, Do More

We don’t need to pretend everything is perfect and happy in Joomla land, we know it’s not and there are certainly problems we need to address. We all get frustrated from time to time and need to vent but problems are solved through taking action. If don’t feel you can contribute a positive solution, at least try to not make it worse for everyone else by starting or participating in a toxic conversation.

For example, I’m concerned about a problem so I’m writing this article to contribute my solution to the community in a positive way. You can do the same with any situation and you can always choose to be positive. Actions speak louder than words, but your words can damage the work other people are doing.

Start Taking Responsibility

I hear it every day: “Someone should do something about this” or “Why haven’t they done that”. There is always someone that can do something - it’s you. This is a volunteer based community, you have the power to fix the problems you see. If you fix a problem for yourself, you’ve also fixed it for everyone else. Waiting around for someone else to do something is a choice, you can choose to wait or you can choose to make it happen.

Not everyone can solve every problem themselves, especially the some of the complex technical challenges that we deal with in our platform. But if you at least try to get involved you'll get much further much faster. This is a community, there are many people here that are willing to help you, even more so if you take the first step. We all do as much as we can to help, and we do listen to our community, but we’re also volunteers and we do this in our free time. If you want to see change faster, you can get involved and help to make it happen for yourself and for everyone else. We will all thank you for the effort.

Joomla Is Always Improving

Joomla is undergoing many improvements, we're doing new things and interacting with our users in new ways. Those who are contributing to this process are making a huge difference. The last few releases and recent changes in the community have opened the doors to our future and we are all working very hard to make it a great future. 2016 has been a rebuilding year for our community in some ways, and it may not seem like we’ve done much but we have, and the benefits of Joomla will continue to increase.

We’ve learned from the past and we've got our eyes on the future. If you want to have a say in the future, you can use your talents to contribute. You can help shape the platform and it will be appreciated. That is the power of a volunteer based community.


Final Words

I understand that not everyone shares the same passion and commitment to Joomla as I do, and that’s okay. All I ask is to think about what you’re saying, who you’re saying it to, who is listening and how it is helpful. We’re all free to say what we like, but if you don’t want to be part of the solution then please try to not to be part of the problem. 

If your intention is to help by writing an article about the flaws of Joomla, please take a minute to consider if the time you spend writing might be better spent helping as contributor to fix the issues you’re writing about. Some of the articles I've seen about "What Joomla Should Do" are incredibly detailed and complex, some must have taken weeks or months to write. Usually they have some good points, but unfortunately they are rarely contributed as ideas in a working group, or put into action as PR's on Github where they could be implemented, and nothing ever comes from them. It is infinitely more helpful to be involved in the official process, that is the only way things get done. If you consider how to best use your time you'll usually get a lot more out of your effort.

If you are truly concerned about the future of Joomla I hope can you take my words to heart and make a commitment to change this conversation for the better. It makes a huge difference. We can all do more to spread a positive message about our platform and our community. Without our community we are nothing, the more we share our love and our passion and the more we help each other, the more our community grow and the more our platform will improve as a result. We can do more when we work together and we are happier when encourage each other. Be #jPositive, your community will thank you.

 

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Cliff Pfeifer

Cliff Pfeifer

Cliff Pfeifer is a passionate Joomla contributor and savvy business owner from Denver, Colorado. He is the Joomla! UX Team Lead, Organizer of the Denver Joomla! Community, and a member of the Joomla! Marketing and Community Leadership Teams.