At the last meeting of the magazine team, we came up with the proposal to have an article in the August issue celebrating Joomla's 16th birthday. The main idea was to ask several Joomlers how Joomla has affected/changed their lives in these 16 years. Because at the JCM we love to hear Joomla stories. Each of the participants in this meeting started to tell, very briefly, how Joomla changed their life. At that point we said, how about this time we, the JCM team, tell our experience with Joomla?
We are talking about 2008 here. My partner, a publisher at that time, needed a website for promoting books. I wanted to build this myself, we stumbled upon Joomla and I started. I had never even worked with a content management system. Even worse: the only websites I had ever built (a total of 3) I made with Frontpage, in the previous century. So I had almost no knowledge whatsoever (which is why I soon discovered the power of the community), but that didn’t keep me from creating a fully functioning, well-visited website, with a webshop and a newsletter integrated.
Joomla took some getting used to in the beginning, but I learned a lot and got better fast. I joined a user group. I learned so much there, from all these nice people sharing their knowledge. After a few months, I became the co-organizer of this JUG. Not much later I found out I actually knew something somebody else didn't and I could help people with their problems! That was a major life-changer.
When I started making up new projects just to be able to build another website and another, I figured it might be time to quit my work as a writer and journalist and become a web designer by profession. So I switched to that, and in 2018 my partner joined me and together we founded WebLab42. We create and maintain websites and custom applications, all in Joomla.
I really like to share my knowledge and meet other Joomlers. Over the past twelve years, I have been giving talks at user groups and Joomla Days, translated Joomla Documentation, joined PBF events, joined the Dutch JoomlaDays Team, co-organised two successful editions of the Dutch Joomla Unconference event Joostock (we hope to do another after the Covid-situation), and since a year I’m a member of the Joomla Community Magazine Team. Giving back to the community makes you feel its power even more.
Joomla is not just a content management system, it's a community effort, carried out by people all over the world, working together to make the best of it. That's why I love to use Joomla.
I moved from the templates in Expression Web to Joomla… then never looked back. Joomla allowed me to start a career when I was a young student so that I could pay the University tuition by myself. Then I started working as a consultant and, again, thanks to Joomla I improved my English skills and was hired by IBM in Slovakia. Joomla gave me so much, so in 2015 I decided to give back to the Project, joining the JED Team, then TM Team and the Certification Program, which I led for several months. In 2017, in the first round of general elections to reform the governance structure of the Project, I was elected Secretary of the Board of Directors, a position that I’m still honoured to hold.
I cringed at how bad the previous CMS was I had been using the day I found Joomla's predecessor Mambo. At the time I'd been looking at which systems came up around 2003 when you googled 'Content Management Systems', and among the features that made me take a second look was that it had gotten its start in Melbourne Australia, where I'm based.
After having battled with a few others on recent projects, Mambo comparatively had a straightforward installation process, coupled with a structure that made sense. You create categories to put your articles in. You put your articles into those categories. You create menu items to display the articles and categories in various ways. That's still Joomla's basic structure, even today with the release of Joomla 4.
Extensibility was the other big selling point. Quickly after Mambo forked into Joomla 1.0 in 2005 components to do lots of things quickly appeared on the extensions directory, and in the past 16 years, that's enabled me to deploy creative solutions for clients around Australia. Projects I've built with Joomla even enabled me to travel around the world to deliver solutions to a variety of hallmark events in the past decade.
Today I currently manage 70 Joomla installations for both clients and my own projects, having also provided advice or support on countless other Joomla sites over the years for users worldwide through Joomla Australia, Joomla forums, Joomla Stack Exchange and answering questions on other platforms such as Quora, Linkedin and Facebook.
Step 1: discovering Joomla
My story with Joomla started back in 2008 when our little family left Belgium to live for several years in Burkina Faso (West Africa). My wife was starting a new job in an NGO over there so the kids finished their school year and I resigned from my job in the financial sector to join her a few months later.
I had already built my first website (in Notepad) in 1994, in the very first years of the web. And I thought it would be nice to write a blog about our life experience in Burkina Faso. Not really about us, but more about the country, its culture, its people etc.
The issue back then was that there was still no internet in the town where we lived (where 90% of the people were living without water and without electricity). So I definitely wanted to use a CMS (Notepad was not an option anymore) and set it up before leaving… because I would have to ride 1 hour on a motorbike on bad roads to get to a cybercafe where 10 to 20 people would share the same dial-up connexion!
I tested several CMS and got a very good feeling with Joomla (1.5).
During the three years in Burkina Faso, since I had no paid job anyway, I started volunteering by building websites for the cultural sector, mainly music festivals (Fesdig, Jazz à Ouaga, …).
Step 2: making a living with Joomla
That was really fun (not only building websites with Joomla but also meeting people and helping them in their non-profit projects). So when the family eventually came back to Belgium after three years, I decided I wouldn’t go back to working in the financial sector and I started to build websites for a living.
Step 3: discovering my first Joomla User Group
After a few months, I discovered by chance that there was a Joomla User Group not too far from my place. That was a big step: I had found the local community where we could exchange tips & tricks, ask questions, share experiences etc. This allowed me to learn so much and so fast!
Step 4: discovering my first JoomlaDay
One day, the founder of my JUG convinced me to go to the annual JoomlaDay in France (which happens to be just a few hours from Brussels). As you can imagine, I discovered a new world: meeting all these Joomlers, listening to all those interesting sessions, exchanging ideas with people, getting to know the developers of some famous extensions etc.
Step 5: discovering the global community
At one of these JoomlaDays in France, I met a.o. Peter Martin who was coming from the Netherlands. During a coffee break, we were having an informal conversation and somehow I told him that there was a feature of J!1.5 that I was missing in J! 3, namely the Category Item Count.
I was so surprised when he told me the day after: “Well, that’s a good suggestion. If I develop it, could you test it ?” And this is how the feature was introduced and how I realized that each one of us could contribute -directly or indirectly- to our beloved CMS.
Read the whole story about this in these two Joomla Community Magazine articles written by Peter Martin:
Step 6: trying to give back to the community
Over the years I had learned so much from the community, so it seemed quite obvious to me that I wanted to give back. This is how I made my very first presentation at a JoomlaDay, precisely about “how to become a Joomla tester”.
My favourite topic is Custom Fields, as you might have noticed �
A long story short: Joomla is much more than just a tool:because it is open-source, anyone can contribute and make it even better, the fact that the project is driven by its community (and not by a company following its own interest/logic) makes it unique and gives it a soul, as for any human adventure, the more you give the more you receive, like many others everywhere on the planet, Joomla has completely changed my life.
Joomla saved me from the time-consuming attempt at maintaining my own CMS. There was a time in the distant past when I believed I could build a CMS of my own. Nothing grand, just something to help my business grow. The inspiration for this CMS is the story below, but this was neither scalable nor practical. Had I not found Joomla I certainly would not have the viable business I have today, with international names as clients and able to employ staff. Had I continued with my own offering and not switched at that moment in time, life would not have been anything like as independent and fun as it is today. Joomla has helped me and helped so many others and long may it continue.
I was so chuffed with my attempt at a CMS. The brief from one of my clients, John, was that they wanted to be able to add or change something in the middle of the night, when inspiration took hold, without having to call me up to do my magic.
Months of research, database integration and several Peachpitit press books later and I had my first working CMS/ It did what it said on the tin, it was a fully-fledged CMS according to the specifications. Except it was not, the client (who we will continue to call John as that's his real name) is a Luddite and wanted several additions such as a basic editor and the ability to style the site! So more research followed and I came across Mambo, the answer to my prayers. It was all that he had requested and more.
I set it up, made the site and then (this was the age before simple video conferencing) drove to him to talk it through on his machine: “Log in, I have to log in, but I will never be able to remember that password you set” (did I mention his name was and still is Luddite?).
Calls and emails followed so that changes could be made on the site as inspiration struck in the night but not the desire to go downstairs and switch the pc on or remember the password.
This was the big barrier, and for me it was insurmountable. Joomla 1 came and I changed the site to this new thing that I quickly enjoyed using. It was Joomla 1 where I started to play with plugins and then modules, tickled pink that I could make my own and use them on different client sites. I was fascinated to see how problems I had encountered and solved had been solved by those coding Joomla and it was a learning curve I enjoyed following.
Then a miracle occurred: I noticed a change on the site without the accompanying call or email with instructions.
“I love it, Phil, it’s great, looks really clean and modern!”
“Wow,” I said, “and it's so easy it inspires you to get up in the night, walk down, switch the PC on and make the changes yourself?”
“O no, my daughter showed me how to use the wifi on the laptop last week so I can do it all from bed.”
In 2008, I worked for an oil company in Quality, Environment, and Safety Management, with a background in Chemistry. I needed a change, motivated in part by the birth of my second daughter. At the same time, Anibal (Sanchez, husband, and partner) wanted to change his job, so we thought we could combine our two areas of expertise at that time, technology and management, into a business. That was the birth of Oquma, a document manager, made with...Joomla. Over time, we started to develop extensions, and our own business changed and evolved. I started to work more on the marketing side (leaving chemistry completely behind) and get to know the community. Around 2016 I joined the Certification team and began to get more involved with the community, which is what I really love about Joomla.
Would you like to share your story with Joomlers World Wide?
If you’re already a Joomla Volunteer, we might want to interview you for our ‘Meet-a-Joomler’-series.
And if you’re not a Joomla Volunteer (yet) and want to tell us how you learned Joomla, we’d like to interview you too :-)
Maybe you don’t want to be interviewed, but you have a great story to tell about a Joomla-related subject. In that case, you might want to consider becoming an author.