This week, I have the pleasure of presenting an interview with Detlef Volmer.
Detlef is from Germany and is the developer behind the Joomla extension called JPodium. I've met Detlef several times and he's a great guy to hang around.
In this interview, he shares some of his experiences with the Joomla community and things he has learned from developing a Joomla extension.
Hi Detlef, please tell the readers a little about yourself - where you're from and where you spend your time.
Well, I am 46 years old and from a little town called Lahntal in Germany approx. one hour north of Frankfurt. I used to make a living from writing software more than 15 years ago in a more industrial environment. Since then I have worked in different management functions in a company producing packaging machines for the global food industry. Over the years I've tried to keep my coding skills alive, but it is not more than a hobby.
How did you get started with Joomla!?
Several years ago I maintained a website for my cycling club with PHPNuke. I had written an extension to display the results of our riders on the Nuke portal. At a certain moment I decided that Nuke causes more problems than it solves. So I looked for alternatives and found Joomla. The portal for the cycling club was quickly made but the results were missing...
So, what is JPodium?
JPodium is a component to manage and display sports results. In the beginning it was targeting on cycling results only but the need for this application created an endless amount of phantasy to use it for different types of competitions. One of the main features is that it supports class-based results. This is something a lot of hobby or amateur sports have in common. Be it age classes for cyclists or runners or competition type classes for triathletes.
Who is JPodium for?
There are cyclists, runners, triathletes, rowers and tennis players using it. I know at least two fishing clubs displaying results with it and I believe there was a club organizing beauty contests for goats. I made a customized version for an organization called RMSHA (RMSHA.com) who organizes uphill races for snowmobiles as a professional sport. And there are a lot of other rather odd applications using it. The range of sports or better competitions seems to be endless.
What encouraged you to start developing JPodium?
The own need. I was looking around for a component for my own website and could not find anything suitable. That was when I bought my first Joomla book and started coding a component.
How has JPodium been received by the community?
When I published it on the JED it quickly became popular. There definitely was a need! Unfortunately the speed of my development could not cope with the expectations of the community. In the beginning the weaknesses and missing functions were quite obvious and it took some time until it was kind of stable. But the version published about a year ago is stable and seems to satisfy what the community needs. I get a lot of mails asking for additional functions or partly very special customizations. This tells me that the versatility can be improved but also that I'll never be able to cover all types of competitions that are existing. Based on this expectations I am planning to publish dedicated versions for triathlon, track&field and swimming.
Any thoughts on Joomla! strengths and weaknesses?
The strength of Joomla is the sheer size. The community, existing installations, professional and non-professional support available. It is open and well documented and - most important - the initial hurdle to get started is quite low.
The weakness is the missing code development in the last years. It all looks outdated and old-fashioned. And the latest release is not well accepted in the community. Not to mention the discussion among leading developers in the Joomlasphere.
I've met you at several Joomla events. In what way do you think these events are good for the Joomla community?
Because these events show that the community really exists. There is a human being behind all the virtual contacts via the forum, Skype or Twitter. They even drink beer once in a while. And maybe more important the events provide a possibilty to talk for longer than a blog post and it is not always the typical one-way communication.
There is a down-side though. We as the core visitors of the events should not believe that we have the whole community or even a representative part of it there. There are mainly people with a vital - commercial - interest in Joomla and they want to know where the journey is going to. And they want to have their fair share in the opinion building process, they want to be heard. The presentations given are targeting this group of people and this fact can sometimes increase the fear of the normal Joomla user to attend such an event.
For a developer like yourself, is it important to meet other developers face to face at events like J and Beyond?
Yes, it is. I e.g. met the Nooku team in Stockholm and had a longer chat in the evening with Johan, Tom and Stian over a beer. They play a role in the community and they spread their word. On top they have an opinion about the general direction of Joomla as an open source project and what part Nooku has there. It was more than interesting to discuss this with them and explain my point of view.
What are your favorite Joomla extensions?
Well, good question. The Joomla core has a lot of weaknesses that led to the development of components replacing core functions. There are several of them on my list but some need to be mentioned specifically: K2 is a great replacement for regular content. I know there are other good ones but for me it's K2. Then everything Nicholas from Akeeba develops. I am sure no site runs without Akeeba Backup and the Admin Tools. Although introduced as a backup solution Akeeba for me is more a site transfer tool and for sure a very good one.
Why should users get involved in the Joomla community?
It might sound a little bit exaggerated but Open Source is democracy. And every democracy can only exist with a collaborating society contributing to the common targets.
What else do you do - apart from being a Joomla addict? I guess you're into sports?
I have a family and a house and I do some sports. I am a cyclist with much more ambition than success. For all cyclists among the readers: I finished Vätternrundan six times and my record is 9:49 hrs. This summer I participate in a seven stage race in the Alps (peakbreak.com). If I survive that I'll promise to continue the development of JPodium and publish a Nooku based version.
Anything else you want to share with the JoomlaBlogger readers?
I want to encourage wvery reader of your blog to participate in Joomla events and support the community. Go to your local Joomla day, meet the community and represent it yourself. Help to document or translate. Find or even better fix bugs. Share ideas. Whatever. There is something to do for every talent.
Thank you for sharing these insights, Detlef!