The unofficial, community organized Joomla! (newssiteconference «J and Beyond» took place this weekend in Wiesbaden, Germany.

This is the first time an international conference has been organized by the Joomla! community. And international it was! «J and Beyond» saw 187 participants from 27 countries. There were people from Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia present. People came from all over the world. From above the arctic circle in Norway, from below the equator in Brazil and Cape Town, from China and Vietnam, from nearby France and Netherlands, to mention some.

And they all spoke a common language: Joomla!

A Diverse Crowd

J and Beyond was announced as a conference for everyone in the community. This resulted in a varied crowd of people. From hard core programmers and people working in the Joomla! project, to the end-users of the product. In between you could find most of the leading developers in the community.

I don't think there has ever been this many Joomla! developers gathered under the same roof. Some of them are «competitors» in a way, as they create products for the same type of users. One example is the Joomla! CCK extension developers. Almost all of them were present. This proved fruitful for both the developers and the community.

To quote Fotis Evangelou of Joomlaworks:

It was a great opportunity to discuss with like-minded people. We extend our knowledge, share information and all this is going to be to the benefit of all of us, and the end users of Joomla!. This enables us to implement new features, new ideas, that we have discussed here. I think the «J and Beyond» more or less represents the «creme de la creme» of the Joomla community.

The CCK component K2 from JoomlaWorks won the award for «Best Joomla! component» in the J!Oscars award on Monday night.

A Wide Selection of Topics

In regards to the official program, there was something for everyone. Introductions to Joomla! concepts and extensions, productivity and optimization tips, developer sessions and workshops, to mention some.

The sessions were actually submitted by speakers before the conference. Then the community voted for the sessions and the program was put together from the resulting votes. True community involvement.

A fair share of the participants were designers and integrators. They could benefit from talking directly to the developers of their favorite Joomla! extensions. Both to learn more about them and to suggest improvements and report bugs or other issues. I saw several examples of end-users and developers coming together to exchange views. The result being a change or improvement in the software.

Long Time Online Friends Met for the First Time

As the Joomla! community is so spread out across the world, many people had never met before. Many knew each other from online communities like Twitter, Skype, the new website and forums. Some had even worked together on projects small and large, some even in the same company, but never met in person.

The fact that so many people knew each other previously made the conference a very nice event socially. Something which was definitely noticeable when the bar opened in the basement every night.

The Joomla! community is full of fun people!

3 Co-founders of Joomla Present

Joomla! was founded as a fork of Mambo. 3 of the original founders had taken  the opportunity to come to «J and Beyond». They were Brian Teeman, Alex Kempkens and Johan Janssens.

To have these people there was very important during discussions, as they have the experience and knowledge to see new challenges in a historical perspective. They had faced challenges in the past and we could learn from that. It's also important to understand how and why Joomla! has become what it is to understand how to improve it in the future.

Brian Teeman had a talk about how the project got the name «Joomla!». The name is a rewrite of the Swahili word meaning «all together» or «as a whole» (Jumla). I'm really happy they didn't decide to go for «Spork»…

Open Source Matters President with Keynote

Even if the event was an unofficial one, the president of Open Source Matters (OSM), Ryan Ozimek, had taken the time to fly in from New York to be at «J and Beyond».

Open Source Matters, Inc. (OSM) is a not-for-profit formed under United States and New York state law that provides organizational, legal, and financial support for the Joomla! open-source project. OSM has been incorporated as a New York not-for-profit to ensure the Joomla project and future projects continue to exist beyond the participation of individual volunteers.

Ryan spent his keynote talking about the role of OSM in the Joomla! project. As I have written before in my post New Joomla Project Leadership Brings Increased Transparency, Involvement, the OSM has been out of sync with the community in the past. According to some, they still are. I guess it depends on from where you look at it. My impression after this conference is that the OSM wants to involve the community more than before.

The role of Open Source Matters is to support Joomla! leadership team and the Joomla! Development team. And, as they might have realized, they need to support and work with the community. After the keynote I had the opportunity to meet up with Ryan for a chat on the same subject. This resulted in a video interview.

Very Well Organized

«J and Beyond» was organized privately at first, and then supported by the community. The people behind the event did a great job in organizing everything. There was a good mix of topics and the organizers had allocated time for informal sessions and socializing.

The conference program was tight, but the flow was good and time was well spent in my opinion. Every session was recorded on video and will be made available at the «J and Beyond» website. The same goes for presentation slides from each session.

«J and Beyond 2011»

Everything points to a repetition of the success next year. The «J and Beyond 2011» was actually announced by Brian Teeman on the last day of the conference. Rumor has it that the event will take place in a warmer climate.

Open source poolparty, anyone?