Closing This Chapter - My Time on PLT

Posted by Michael Babker on

After a two year stint as a member of Joomla's Production Leadership Team, a time filled with many ups and downs and sleepless nights, it's time for me to end this chapter of my life, and on November 26 I will be doing just that.

Just to make sure it's clear, this isn't a decision I made in haste, even though my tweets yesterday surely made it seem that way. The truth is I've known since June that this year would be my final year, but I never really decided upon a date. I wanted to stay on long enough to see 3.4 released, but I'm not so sure that will happen given how long it's taken to finish that release and the way my calendar looks for the next month with half of that time being spent on the road. Even with it taking a longer time than we had hoped back in April, I hope it's a good release and it paves the way forward for future 3.x releases of Joomla.

Also, to make sure it's clear, I'm not leaving the project completely. I still have a lot to offer with regards to the code and pushing that forward and want to stay involved from that aspect. I just don't have the interest to stay in a leadership role right now where more of my time is demanded for non-code related tasks.

Why Now?

This year has easily been the roughest year of my life for both personal and professional reasons. I started the year wearing an Army Combat Uniform to work daily and sleeping two or three hours a night to keep up with Joomla and my own development activities and today my dogtags are hanging peacefully while I focus full time on development. I learned the theoretical limits of just how much of myself I could give to an open source project in how I ran myself into the ground supporting Joomla. I felt villainized by a group of community members for supporting Joomla building out its own PHP framework, and inherently supporting it being distributed under the LGPL license. And truth be told, I'm just exhausted from everything I've done and need a long overdue vacation.

The current hot topic of Joomla's restructuring truthfully has absolutely nothing to do with my decision to leave. The timing of its debate and my feelings about it or how different community members are communicating with one another over it does make it easier to step down, but it is not the reason I'm doing so.

My Impact

When stepping out of a role, people really like measuring the impact someone left while in that role. So what has my impact on the project been? One of the most obvious things is in the issue tracker; it took me being annoyed by how much inaction was happening around that to lay the framework for what eventually has become Joomla's official solution for tracking the bug reports and feature requests for its software. Being able to lay the framework for that idea, see it through, and help pave the way forward for it has really been one of the high points for me in the four and a half years I've been contributing to the project, and short of writing something that takes the PHP community by storm, it will probably be one of the most significant things I ever do as a developer. I do find it appropriate that my last presentation to the Joomla community as a member of PLT will be about this application and I look forward to bragging about how awesome it is.

In my two years as a member of the PLT, I've overseen yet another major shift in the development focus and strategies of Joomla in the form of our latest development strategy. Hopefully, this strategy proves to serve the project well for a bit longer than the previous strategies did, but I'm glad to say that we did make a change that favored our userbase.

Something that had never been done in the land of Joomla development was the publishing of a proper release roadmap. Not only did I manage to lead the way on that, I got it published to the community even before the previous release had gone out. Being able to give direction to the project's development is a great feeling and it finally gave something developers and community members could rally around and work together on. And I'm glad to say that we hit most of the release's goals, so it wasn't just some fluff we published.

Lastly, even though the idea has all but died, being able to properly abstract the framework that's been powering the CMS and making its resources available to the greater PHP community has been a rather fun experience. I truthfully think that move could have opened new doors to adoption of Joomla, be it the CMS or the underlying code, and helped be able to provide solutions for next generation applications, and still have hope that it can, but the concept stalled greatly and its reception has never been all that great for reasons I won't get into. Long and short is I believe in the concept and I believe in the ideals that went into making it happen, I just feel like it can't be successful in the present conditions.

Joomla's Road Ahead

From a code perspective, something that Joomla has really slowed down on is its innovation. In some ways this is good as there has been a renewed focus on backward compatibility and stability in the project, but I think the structure of the overall application and even the concept of a CMS as we know Joomla are starting to show signs of their age. For Joomla to stay relevant in an evolving marketplace, it needs to be able to adapt to newer technologies and demands to stay competitive. Web Services and Internet of Things have been hot topics with very little action; is it because of a lack of interest in the Joomla community or a lack of resources to provide code supporting these newer ideas.

From a community perspective, the organization as a whole needs to do a better job of working together with one another. Yes, in today's project there is more communication and more collaboration among the community and the various teams, but is it the right type of communication? Is the project's structure (today's or the current proposal) suitable to carry it forward for the next several years? Are we doing the right things to invite new members into our community and new users to use our software or are we falling behind the times? All things I surely don't have the answer to, but questions that I feel are worth having answers to in order to help guide the project forward.

Thank You

I wouldn't be sitting here today if it wasn't for the guidance, motivation, and occasional slapping around of a lot of people around me. I know I will probably offend someone by leaving names out, but in no particular order, just some of those who have really helped me to get to this point:

  • Elin Waring - This is one of the names I remember seeing most often when finally picking up on PHP development. Without her nudging me to try and fix some issues in the early 1.6 beta releases or helping me learn the ropes, it's easy to say I would have never gotten so involved with Joomla or picked up on development.
  • Mark Dexter - I remember being in the motorpool for my unit when I got the phone call from him asking if I was interested in joining the PLT and how honored I was that I'd even be considered for the role. Over the years, he's always been a level head to look towards and available to brainstorm with when needed, and some of his work in documenting different aspects of Joomla (code and PLT processes) has definitely made my life easier.
  • Brad Baker - One of Joomla's unsung heroes, he really does help make managing various properties easier for us. Whether it be getting new domains established or setting up new servers for existing infrastructure, he has always been quick to respond and ensures we're set up for success.
  • Jean-Marie Simonet - One of the few people who are as old as Joomla ;-) He has always been around to bounce code and concepts off of and isn't afraid to call something as he sees it. His way of keeping up with the bug trackers, the pull requests, and translation teams has helped keep Joomla moving for a while now and his willingness to help whenever I've needed it has helped keep me sane on days where I thought I would finally lose it.
  • Brian Teeman - Whether it be to remind me my language isn't properly internationalised or to provide advice when I didn't think I needed it, Brian has helped keep me going on rough days with his "unique" perspective on matters and willingness to listen, even when it stopped being about Joomla.
  • Dmitry Rekun & Nikolai Plath - Their willingness to help with the issue tracker's development and take ownership of the projects and the aspects they contributed to it are a lot of the reasons why it has been so successful in being developed and deployed. Without the efforts of these two, the tracker would not be anywhere near what it is today.
  • Chad Windnagle - Indirectly, Chad is responsible for a good chunk of the features and improvements that have slipped into Joomla over the last few years through his work in coordinating our Google Summer of Code participation. Being willing to manage a program where there are easily 40 active contributors (between the students and mentors) and coordinating with the leadership teams on all matters of the program's success is no small feat and one that probably doesn't get the recognition it deserves.
  • Jessica Dunbar - At a time when clear communication was real important in moving forward with development, Jess and her marketing team were there and provided a lot of support and guidance in crafting the right message in our releases, communicating our revised strategies, or explaining why we were moving the way we were. Simply put, what she and her team provided were unmeasurably better quality than what I was producing on my own and better explained than I ever could have.
  • David Hurley - Arguably one of the most patient people in Joomla, I still don't get why he's dealt with me jumping all over the place with regards to the projects I'm working on, being antsy and wanting to try new things, or screaming about the code quality in other projects. He's also served me well as a level of checks and balances and has kept me from going off the deep end a time or two.
  • JoomlaDay Organizers - I've been lucky enough to present at a half dozen JoomlaDays this year, as well as a WordCamp, been able to share my code knowledge at the DevCon, and will be representing Joomla at the upcoming php[world] conference. A huge thank you to the organizing teams behind all of those events for giving me a platform to rant about whatever topics come up in my Q&As and to brag about why Joomla rocks!

"When I leave CSI, there won't be any cake in the break room. I'll just be gone."

Gil Grissom

I'm not someone who enjoys the spotlight. I don't want a big deal to be made of my stepping down. Everyone comes and goes, and now it's my time to go.