The Joomla project has been through some tough times over the years but recent shifts to the leadership team are ushering-in a host of positive changes for the project.
From the birth of Joomla as a fork of Mambo CMS there have been many hurdles along this project's way. Bringing Joomla from version 1.0 (essentially Mambo) to the new Joomla 1.5 release took a lot of effort -- both from the development team and from the Open Source Matters (OSM) board, the non-profit which owns the Joomla trademark.
New Joomla Leadership
Last year, there was a lot of controversy in the Joomla! community. Many leading developers and Joomla personalities were opposed to the way the OSM was running the project. Among the issues were the use of the Joomla! name and logo, as well as the policy of paying developers to work on the new version of the CMS (Joomla! 1.6). The lack of communications from the Joomla! leadership was also being questioned.
Earlier this year we got a new board of directors in Open Source Matters -- and from my perspective, the change of operation has been remarkable.
Leadership and Transparency
The Joomla leadership team is committed to involve the community in their decisions. Steve Burge of the Open Source Matters board recently wrote a piece called Better Communication with the Joomla Community. In the article he described the new communications policy adopted by the leadership team, writing the following:
We as the Joomla leadership team understand that we need to improve our communication with Joomla users.
Sometimes we have done really well and other times we haven’t. Two positive examples were the recent election of new Open Source Matters board members and the choice of a host for the new Joomla demo site. In both cases, we followed or are following these four steps:
1. The first community blog post asks for feedback.
2. The second post gives the results of that feedback.
3. The third post details the final decision.
4. Finally, we implement the decision.
By following these steps, you as the Joomla community member are clearly informed, have the chance to provide feedback and at no point are you caught by surprise.
This was followed up by post called Communication Policy Feedback Complete, Working on Draft. In the post, he outlined what kind of feedback the team had received from the Community. And he outlined how the process would continue. This kind of transparency is great when it comes to involve those who want to participate in the Joomla! project. At the same time it informs those Joomla! users who are feeling a bit distanced to the daily doings of the project team.
Joomla 1.6 and Community Involvement
Over 1.5 years has passed since Joomla 1.5 was released. At the time of this writing the latest version is 1.5.17, released last week. Many users feel the time is overdue for Joomla 1.6, a release which will introduce a number of important changes including advanced ACL (Access Control List) functions.
Despite pressure from the community, the Joomla team has kept their calm. The philosophy seems to be that they will rather spend more time releasing a finished product than rushing a version out the door.
The Joomla team also works actively to involve the community in the release of Joomla 1.6. The recent summary by Louis Landry communicates a clear strategy for the 1.6 release. At the same time, Louis calls for more community involvement:
The success of any software release in an Open Source project depends on people getting involved, and Joomla 1.6 is no exception. As we get closer to a stable Joomla 1.6 release I wanted to take a moment and go over the timeline to stable and how you can play a part in making it better, faster.
All in all, the project leadership seems more on top of things today than they did last year. In an open source project healthy, clear communication between the leadership team and the community is crucial. This is especially true in a community like Joomla, with a large number of template and extension developers as well as end-users.
Far from stumbling, the Joomla project is stronger now than it ever has been before.