A few weeks ago, the third J and Beyond conference took place in Bad Nauheim, Germany. The event, which started as an unofficial event for the Joomla! community, is now as close to an official event as one can get. Attended by over 220 people from 40 countries, the event also gathered a big group of Joomla leadership team members.
The organizing team, with Robert Deutz and Brian Teeman in the foreground, did a tremendeous job creating and running this event.
J and Beyond has been moving around, first being conducted in Wiesbaden, last year in Kerkrade (The Netherlands) and this year we were at the Dolce Bad Nauheim, again in Germany. The venue is huge, and had some great rooms for presentations. One of the advantages of this venue was that all of the rooms were located close to eachother. Some of the sessions were going back-to-back, so it was great to be able to just walk a few meters and be in another room.
The Wifi connection was also better than in previous venues, even though people were encouraged to avoid using it during the keynotes so the live video streaming would work well.
Some of the people I talked to thought it would be a good idea to come back to the same place next year. We'll see what the organizers plan, but I definitely think it's a good idea to return. Travelling there was fairly easy and the town itself had some good restaurants and pubs with excellent food and drinks.
This year's J!OSCARs award was a fun event as always. Expertly conducted by the Tuxedo-clad fellows Teeman and Drover, the awards ceremony was held on Saturday to celebrate the talents of the Joomla community.
Apart from the "Best of" awards in various categories, the most significant ones in my opinion were the ones for "Personal Contribution" and "Innovation".
The award for "Innovation of the Year" was given to the Joomla platform. The award was presented by Sarah Watz from Pixpro (Stockholm, Sweden) as she read the jury's statement:
The award for Innovation goes to an initiative that has changed the way people work with the Joomla project. It makes it easier for developers to contribute to the project, provides a more powerful tool for developing any web application, empowers Joomla, strenghtens the CMS and helps us reach new markets.
The award for "Personal Contribution" was given to former OSM President Ryan Ozimek. The award was presented by Gabe Wahab of Savvy Panda (Milwaukee, US). The jury had this to say about Ryan's contributions to the Joomla project:
This year's award for Personal Contribution goes to a person who has made great personal sacrifice working to bridge the gap between the different parts of the Joomla community. His always smiling presence has been instrumental in unleashing the power of the Joomla community.
Personally, I really enjoyed being part of the J!OSCARs jury, together with a very international group of Joomla community members.
Joomla 3.0 and User interface improvements
The decision to include Twitter Bootstrap into Joomla 3.0 was made only a week or so before JAB. The idea for an improved user interface and administrator for Joomla came up last year, as Kyle Ledbetter showed some concepts. They were well received back then, and since then he has been working on recreating the complete Joomla admin using Twitter Bootstrap. Now, he will start the work on improving the actual workflow and how information is presented. In his keynote, he outlined why using Bootstrap as the basis for the new JUI (Joomla User Interface) is a good idea.
First, and foremost, this new JUI will improve the look and feel of the Joomla administrator. The user experience will also be improved. One example is the edit article view, where parameters will be moved into tabs instead of the huge right hand column we're so used to.
Components will be able to use common HTML5 markup, as well as common user interface elements (buttons, form elements, navigational elements, icons etc). This way, the user experience will be much improved for the end-user, as the elements will be the same regardless of the component they are working on. It will also save development time. Developers can tap into these elements directly using CSS classes, without spending time on styling each and every element they need.
There is no reason the use of Bootstrap should be limited to the administrator. The front-end can also take advantage of the improved mark-up and CSS. Bootstrap has built-in responsive support, which means the template can be immediately ready for mobile devices. As Kyle mentioned, however, the mark-up needs to be everywhere for this to work (if not, a non-responsive module will break the responsiveness).
Prototyping with Bootstrap
One of the things Kyle mentioned in his presentation was how he works with prototype sites. Using bootstrap markup and CSS, it's dead simple to create a working HTML version of a concept. Let's say you want to show how a component will work, you can create the different views in an HTML prototype. This prototype can easily have the exact look that the final component will have, as no time is used on creating the visual elements. Want a button? Just add the codeand you have a beautiful CSS3 button, complete with hover effects and all. The HTML prototype can then be show to the client and they will be able to click around, looking at all the different views. Corrections are made in the prototype and when the developer starts the actual coding, he can refer to it directly. Questions drop to almost zero, and the developer can use the actual markup in the final component, adding the neccessary PHP and other functions as needed.
Joomla for Mobile
Another topic that was widely discussed at this conference, was how to go mobile with a Joomla site. There were several presentations that touched upon this subject, and there were some really interesting topics being discussed. I particularly liked the presentation by Ugur Kaner from Mobile Joomla. They have been developing mobile extensions since 2007, and Ugur showed great knowledge about the subject. One of his concerns with the CSS based responsive templates was that they don't resize images before displaying them on the mobile device. That takes bandwidth and drains battery from the handset. Using a solution like Mobile Joomla, you can resize images so they fit the width of the handset automatically. This happens on the server, so the image that is pushed to the client can be much smaller in data size than the original image (example given was 1/3 of the size).
Collaboration between extension devs
One thing I noticed during the weekend, was the amount of collaborative projects going on. More and more developers are getting to know eachother through events like this. And getting to know people means sharing experience and knowledge. Sharing leads to ideas and often developers find that they share common ground. This is great for end-users, implementers and designers. Data exchange between extensions is one example of this type of collaboration. By adding small modification to their extensions, developers can let other extensions connect to their functionality. Examples can be an events manager that taps into a ticket reservation system, which in turn connects with a payment plug-in.
Leadership teams and OSM represented
People from Open Source Matters, The Production Leadership Team (PLT), The Community Leadership Team (CLT) and the Google Summer of Code group were all represented at JAB12. This is a testimony to the fact that even if J and Beyond is not an official event of the Joomla project, it certainly felt like one. And in a positive way.
Not only for developers
At the first J and Beyond, a large portion of the attendees were developers. This has gradually changed, and I do not look at J and Beyond as a developer conference. I know someone mentioned on Twitter that it is, but I really don't think so. It's maybe not an end-user conference, but it's definitely something for both designers and implementers. We all see things differently and have stuff to learn from eachother.
A positive atmosphere
This year's JAB was also a very positive one in every way. The events in previous years have always carried with them a slight feeling of the community being split in different directions and factions. This year, the crowd seemed more on a similar note and focussed on carrying the Joomla project foward together. Apart from that, what Victor Drover said.
Made some new friends
This is my third year at JAB, and every year I have met lots of new people. This year was no exception in that regard. I had the opportunity to meet people whom I have only talked to on Skype or Twitter. Each and every one of them were great people that I enjoyed spending time with. It's one thing to chat with a person online. It's a totally different world being able to sit down over breakfast, lunch or a couple of beers at the pub. We all share a common interest and enthusiasm for the Joomla community and the project. Meeting community members from India, Vietnam, South-Africa, USA, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Spain, to mention a few, really underscores the fact that Joomla is not about software first. Joomla is about the community and what we do to help each other. That's the way the project grows and we, as Ryan Ozimek put it, can make the world a better place.
All in all, the J and Beyond 2012 was a great experience. I really hope to see you there next year.
- The J and Beyond video stream
- My photo gallery from JAB 12
- Joomla! Rocks with Ryan Ozimek (video)
- Joomla!, Community and Rock 'n' Roll with Thierry Jirkovsky (video)
- Walk-through of the J and Beyond 2012 venue with Jack "Elvis" Bremer and myself
- Is the Joomla community one big happy family? by Victor Drover
- Jab jab hook! Knockout event for Open Source by Kevinjohn Gallagher
- AfterJaB - Moving between the circles
- My JandBeyond 2012 by Hagen Graf
- Sigsiu.NET photo gallery from JAB12
- Ryan Ozimek's photo gallery from JAB12
- J and Beyond Joomla Conference in Review by Mike Carson
- JoomStew Radio shows recorded at J and Beyond 2012 interviews and discussions
- Links to all photos from JAB12 at Google docs