Can Joomla turn itself around?

First I like to say thank you to everyone that contacted me and posted comments on the site. I’m grateful for the support and appreciate you taking the time to send your regards.

I’m replying to everyone individually, so if I haven’t replied yet, rest assured I’ll be popping up in your email soon.

Today I share my thoughts on the Joomla project. As you may know, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the project and the latest buzz in the community is that planning for Joomla 4 has started.

Many in the community are hoping that with Joomla 4, the project can turn itself around and start gaining traction again. However I don’t believe that the issues we see in the Joomla project can be resolved so easily.

I’m sure there are still some people out there who refuse to believe the Joomla project has issues, but to them, all I can say is, “Google it.”

If you choose not to believe Google’s data, then by all means continue living in denial. Because until you’re ready to admit there is a problem, nothing anyone says can help you anyway.

The reason I am skeptical that Joomla 4 will be a game changer arises from two observations. One regarding software in general and the other regarding  the Joomla project specifically.

The first observation is that software, by its very nature, is a reflection of the minds that create it. In other words software created by inflexible people is itself inflexible.

The second observation is that the development of the Joomla content management system is controlled by an inner-circle of people (core contributors) who care more about “Who is contributing” then “What is being contributed”.

If you’ve ever tried to contribute anything more than a bug fix to the project, then you know that it is a toxic environment.

To even be treated as an adult, you’ll first have to spend months defending yourself from personal attacks and insults.

Of course as you can imagine this is the driving force behind the decline in contributors and overall interest in the Joomla project.

Over the years I’ve had more than my fair share of long nasty arguments with core contributors and after every one, members of the silenced Joomla community have emailed me and said flat out, “That is exactly why I don’t bother to contribute anymore.”

The ridiculous part is that the same people that insult and belittle anyone who dare have an original thought, complain because there aren’t enough contributors to the project.

In my opinion, if the Joomla project wants to turn this downward spiral around, then it needs to work to create a community culture that gives EVERYONE the opportunity to share their ideas openly without fear and an environment where ideas are judged on their own merit independent of who contributed it.

Until that happens, it doesn’t matter how much refactoring we do, because the flaws in the code are just a reflection of flaws in our community.

Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the state of Joomla, so post in the comments below =^D

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Born in the Rocky mountains of western Montana, Mathew now lives in Japan where he is the active "Crazy Foreign Guy" of a small town in the Tohoku region on the main island of Honshu. He is a father, a husband and a hopeless dreamer who believes that it is better to fail at life than to never try to live.

9 thoughts on “Can Joomla turn itself around?”

  1. It takes courage to speak up and share concerns. Thanks Mathew for having the courage to share yours.

    I think Joomla has a chance to turn itself around if (1) a clear, bold, and inspiring vision for the software can be defined that will attract new contributors and focus/unify/align existing contributors (including leadership), and (2) some paid staff are hired to take care of some of the important but not-so-fun tasks that have always tended to get neglected by members of the all-volunteer Joomla community.

    1. Thanks Paul.

      I defiantly agree that Joomla needs a unified vision for the future. Over the past two or three years, it feels as if there are several conflicting visions pushing the development process.

      I’m not sure about paid staff. In an all-volunteer community, it could be dangerous. Especially if the only people that get those positions are friends of the inner-circle.

      Personally I feel a better use of the projects funds would be to invest in educating our community.

      If people feel like their involvement with the Joomla community will help them achieving their personal and professional goals, then they’ll be more likely to invest in the project.

      I’m going to explore the idea a little deeper in a future post, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. =^D

    2. Completely agree with 2) Volunteers are doing a good job, however it would be nice to have some people working fulltime.

      1. Thanks for sharing you view Valentin!
        I also believe the volunteers are doing the best they can given the current situation.
        The BC rules alone make it impossible to do sweeping reform.

        I’d be interested to hear you and Paul’s insights into some of the important but not-so-fun tasks that have always tended to get neglected. =^D
        Looking forward to your input and thanks again for commenting!

  2. Hi Mathew,

    Here are a few thoughts regarding potential resistance from the volunteer community to the idea of adding paid staff:

    * I agree that there is a risk of showing favoritism. I think the way to overcome that is to have a legitimately open process.

    * I had the opportunity to hear from with leaders of another FOSS project that made the tansition from a 100% volunteer project to volunteers plus paid staff. They said there was some initial resistance, but it was short term. They said the key for them was to only add paid staff in support roles, but not in developer roles.

    * How many large scale, successful volunteer organizatione can you think of that don’t have any paid staff? If so many other organizations/projects have done this, why can’t Joomla?

    You asked for some examples of important tasks that don’t get done effectively by volunteers. Here are two examples: community management, and managing the development/testing process.

    1. Thanks for sharing your insight Paul. It is obvious that you’ve thought this through. I really appreciate your input.

      My biggest concern is with favoritism. It is a big problem in our community.

      I’m not against the idea, but I think there are issues that need to be addressed before it could be implemented effectively.

      Once the restructuring is complete, maybe all those issues will be resolved. (Fingers Crossed)

      If you don’t mind exploring the topic deeper, would you elaborate on the two examples? Perhaps some of the roles/responsibilities you had in mind and how each could benefit the project.

      Thanks again =^D

      1. Hi Mathew, thanks for being interested to hear more from me.

        The part of the community manager role that I don’t believe has ever been consistently carried out effectively by volunteers, is being more proactive about keeping online discussions respectful, including following up as needed for those who aren’t following the Code of Conduct.

        It’s a crummy responsibility that can make you unpopular or worse, and that’s exactly why volunteers have never done enough to keep the Joomla online culture as safe and respectful as it should be. So I think it makes sense to have paid staff (who are accountable to the board of directors) for that role.

        For the other example I gave (managing the development/testing process), I see that as a project manager type role. The person(s) in this role should (among other things) proactively recruit and organize contributors to work on things on the CMS and Framework roadmaps, support working group team leaders, and keep a proactive eye on the issue tracker and try to get more attention/focus on testing patches. These are all important items that (again) I feel like don’t consistently get carried out by our all volunteer community.

  3. About, why I think Joomla needs some paid staff? It would help to keep priorities always on top. A group of people in charge of sensitive and not-so-much-fun tasks working 5 days a week worth considering.

    Testing is a good example, Paul, specially to reducea situations where an important bug is detected one day after a release is done.

    1. Sorry it took so long to get reply. I’ve started working with a few companies in the Joomla extension development space and learning the ropes took some time. Thanks for sharing why you would support paid staff in Joomla.
      I defiantly agree that there are a lot of tasks that could benefit from a dedicated person. I would love to see a community manager type position like Paul described! Combine that with some “Interpersonal Communication” training for Joomla contributors (myself included) and I think a lot of problems we have now would work themselves out.

      Thanks Valentin & Paul for sharing your thoughts =^D

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