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on Sunday, 20 May 2012

The #joomla community - what is it and why is it valuable? #jab12

I've spent the last few days over at Joomla! and Beyond in Bad Nauheim, Germany - an international Joomla! conference which brings together Joomla! people from over 30 countries.

Although I've been involved in running Joomla! User Group Suffolk and Joomla! Day UK events for the past few years, I've never yet travelled abroad for a Joomla! event, so it was a first for me!

I've always harped on about the Joomla! community and how it was what originally drew me to Joomla! (I've probably already bored you with my stories of having to figure out from the forums what the default username was when installing Joomla! 1.0.x!) and I still stand by the fact that the community is the most important element of the JoomlaSphere.  

What do you mean by the Joomla! Community

What I mean by the community is the huge number of people and organisations who contribute in some way to helping Joomla! move forward - whether that be through fixing bugs, implementing new features or coming up with ideas for future development of Joomla! itself or the Joomla! platform; extension developers; people who help with answering forums; User groups; event organisers ... the list goes on.

Without our community we would not have the amazing extensions that are available, we wouldn't have the team of people around the world who update, fix, release and test the system that we use so freely.  We also wouldn't have the huge resource of people who respond to forum posts - not only on the Joomla! forums but also on the many other forums across the web where people post questions about Joomla!.

A couple of examples over the past few days reminded me just how valuable events like this are for keeping the Joomla! community fresh, vibrant, and in touch with the rest of the world.

Joomla! in Africa

After a particularly tiring morning, I was desperate to sit down and have a coffee rather than stand and chat with people, so I headed over to the main atrium and sat next to someone I hadn't met before.  We soon got chatting and it turned out that the person I was sitting next to - Naod Yeheyes - had travelled from Ethiopia to attend the event - made my travel seem slightly insignificant!  Naod works for the Aids Resource Centre in Ethiopia and manages several Joomla! sites providing information and guidance.  He also is in the process of planning a Joomla! Day event in Addis Ababa, and potentially starting a user group.

Having been through the process for both starting a user group and running a Joomla! Day we were able to share our experience, I could offer some thoughts on what we found worked and didn't work, and also suggest other people who might be able to help with various things he needed to set up. 

Oops, my site is broken!

Another advantage of attending international Joomla! events is of course being able to meet up with the people who write the extensions you use on a day to day basis.  We have used Akeeba products since Joomla! 1.0.x and our software site Virya Software uses ARS, Akeeba Subscriptions, Admin Tools and Akeeba Backup.  We started getting reports yesterday that one of our subscription levels was throwing errors, and users weren't able to buy the software.

In the morning I happened to bump into Nicholas Dionysopoulos - owner and lead developer of Akeeba Backup - who sat down with me and figured out what the problem was.  I was also able to test a bug fix which was holding up the release of his next stable version of Akeeba Subscriptions, as I had experienced that bug and was able to check  whether his latest developer release worked.

Why is the community so valuable?

If we were to float the Joomla! community, what would it be worth?  Just imagine the worth of all the developers, designers, implementers and end users around the world who all contribute in some way to the system - how would you be able to create such a team in a commercial environment?  What kind of costs would you be incurring?

I don't think the true value lies in the number of people involved in the project  although obviously without them, there would be no project and no community.  I think the value of the Joomla! community exists in the ethos behind the community - the raison d'être if you will - of sharing.  Sharing code under the GPL license so that others can use and expand upon it.  Sharing knowledge of how to use, customise, expand and improve the Joomla! CMS to benefit hundreds of thousands of people and organisations worldwide.  Sharing time by helping newcomers get started with Joomla!, documenting advanced features to allow developers to implement the Joomla! platform and CMS for a massive range of uses, and much more.  Sharing projects to create joint venture opportunities, allowing Joomla! to be increasingly adopted by large enterprise and really show its potential.

The value of the community is in its ability and willingness to share - something I hope to see continue (and of course participate in) for many years to come.


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