Steve

[UPDATE] I was nervous before posting this but want to thank everyone for the big response. I’ve heard from a lot of people today and the great thing is many of them agree: we need to raise our game. The future can be bright. There are a lot of opportunities out there for Joomla. We just sometimes need to be reminded to go and grab them.

Sorry, Disqus is being a real pain and comments are sometimes missing on this thread after a server move.

Instead of commenting, go and do something positive. You’ll feel much better, I promise. Help move us forward. Here’s one place to start.

[/UPDATE]


It’s time for the Joomla community to professionalize.

I mean that in two senses:

1) Hire professional support staff

In some regards, Joomla has actually done a remarkable job in just maintaining it’s position over the last few years.

Automattic has raised $30 million to support the growth of WordPress and Acquia has raised over $40 million in Drupal. Both of those projects have benefited hugely from those investments.

Joomla doesn’t have an equivilent corporate parent and was close to running out of money three years ago. It now has only $250,000 in the bank. The Drupal Association (correct me if I’m wrong) now has annual budget over $2 million.

Yet, on a shoestring, Joomla still runs about as much of the web as it did three years ago.

In general, open source projects have been careful not to hire professional coders. Much of the work on WordPress and Drupal is done by Matt and Dries’ employees, but they’re not hired by the projects directly. Joomla’s experience of paid development didn’t work out.

Instead, Joomla needs to follow the path of the Drupal Association (DA) and professionalize important parts of Open Source Matters (OSM).

The DA has slowly grown over the years until it now has eleven staff members. That’s the same size as OSM now.

In my experience, the DA is not perfect but almost everything we’ve done in Drupal has been easier and more professional if the DA has been involved.

When I joined the board of OSM there was some controversy about the decision to hire a professional PR company for Joomla. It’s been one of the best decisions they ever made. Plenty of criseses have been averted because they were on hand.

With some money in the bank, large events such as the Joomla World Conference coming up and plenty of opportunities, it is time for OSM to start hiring professional staff.

The first hire should be a head of sponsorship. This is a well trodden-path for open source projects. The first staff member raises the money to hire more.

2) End the curse of volunteerism

People talking about open source often confuse “free” as in freedom with “free” as in no cost.

There’s a similar confusion often made about the word “volunteer”.

A lot of people seem to think that volunteers should be praised for simply stepping forward, regardless of their performance.  I’ll call that idea “volunteerism” and it’s nonsense.

Volunteers needs professionalism.

People suffering from volunteerism are not bad people. The vast majority of people suffering from volunteerism are good, well-meaning people who are:

  • just in the wrong position
  • have been in the position too long, or
  • are sometimes just not very competent

Professionalism means putting in your very best effort for as long as you can, and then handing over to someone else.

Volunteerism is easy. You can coast for years on volunteerism. I’ve met a number of people in open source who have been in leadership positions for over two years. A few of those people actually run the project and can’t quit. A few are extraordinary people. The vast majority are suffering from volunteerism.

Volunteerism manifests itself in quotes like this:

  • “I can’t quit. I’ve been doing this for four years, but can’t find anyone to replace me.”
  • “That person is failing in their position but they are a volunteer and they are trying hard …”

Volunteerism is hanging on no matter how lame your efforts and how many obstacles you’re putting in the way of others.

Professionalism is going as hard as you can and letting someone else take over as soon as you need a break.

Its not even a question of whether people actually are professionals. Some of the very best volunteers I’ve met are students and retired people. It’s just a question of doing your job right and politely refusing to accept volunteerism in others.

Some Closing Thoughts

The solutions to these two problems are actually interconnected.

By professionalizing Joomla’s support staff, we make it easier for companies and professionally run organizations to enter the ecosystem.

By setting professional standards at the top of community, it encourages everyone else to raise their game. “A” quality people want to work with “A” quality people.

Let me close by saying that are plenty of people in Joomla who embrace professionalism. It just needs to become the ethos of the whole ecosystem. These two recommendations will help.