To all of you who think I’m smart, thanks. You know how well compliments work on me.

That said, it’s important to keep whatever awesome things you think about yourself in check. Every day I’m humbled about my brain power by dealing with people much smarter than myself (Matthew Baya, Tom Beal, Jeremy Mason, Ogy Nikolic, David Charron, and several others come to mind very easily). Mainly, I deal with my smart friends over the internet or phone on a one on one basis. Very seldom do I find myself in a room of 100 people who are all blowing my mind.

The group of smartypants people. Good luck finding me, I'm kind of hidden in the back. Photo via http://www.flickr.com/photos/hagengraf/

Welcome to Joomla Day New England, a yearly gathering of Joomla enthusiasts in Brattleboro Vermont. For those of you unaware, Joomla is an open source content management system. 2-ish% of the world’s websites run on Joomla and, if you consider all the options that are out there, that’s a pretty robust number. There are Joomla Days all over the place but this is the closest one to my corner of the world.

(Aside: But wait, Nicole, didn’t you fly in from Europe less then 24 hours before repacking your suitcase and doing a 6 hour drive in each direction for this one day conference? Why, yes I did! My friend and former coworker Mike drove which is the only reason this was even possible. Thanks Mike, who is also on that list of smart people but I don’t get to deal with too often sadly.)

You super nerds will notice looking at my source code that while I did attend a pro-Joomla event,  I am writing on a WordPress blog. Basically I’m the web development equivalent of this guy at first glance:

So can I really talk about Joomla websites when I run WordPress on my own site? Yes, and here’s why:

It’s about choice, and the right tool for the job.

I began life as a blogger. WordPress began life as a blogger. Joomla has some blogging extensions but at the time I was picking blogging software, WordPress was the best choice for blogging.

Can you blog on Joomla? Absolutely. I just preferred the taste of WordPress. I still work on and can appreciate a Joomla site…. much like you can enjoy Coke or a Pepsi, much like I can speak French and English, life is all about variety.

As long as your website is open source, I love it.

Whether you go with Joomla, WordPress, or Drupal is of little consequence to your website developer, or to your website visitor. As someone keeping your site up to date, I need the access information on your site. (If I can’t do something, there are forums, experts on Twitter, LinkedIn groups, and lots of places online and off for me to learn anything I need to.)

Your website visitor needs to find the information they need to find. Most of them won’t even know what software you are running. Like at all.

Open source website software is free to download and you pay a designer/developer to customize it. This means for the money you spend, you are getting closer to the website you want than you would be otherwise. It also means you aren’t stuck  your website designer. Open source software systems are used worldwide so you can always find someone to work on your site, not just the person who designed it. I tell people to stay away from ‘custom CMS’ whenever possible. ‘Custom’ is code for ‘only we can work on it’ and you should only be married to your web designer if you are in love with them. ;^)

FMI: Here is a cheesy post I wrote about website options: http://breakingeveninc.com/web-tech/website-types/

FEMI: Here is why I will talk you out of a Flash website any day of the week: http://breakingeveninc.com/web-tech/why-flash-websites-stink/

We can all learn from each other.

Imagine if there was only one brand of soft drink. Would there be any incentive to improve the product? Market it better? Probably not.

Open source CMSes are all learning from each other. Getting a sneak peek at Joomla version 3.1 I thought I could definitely see some WordPress inspiration. On that end, I see WordPress needing to get more intuitive on  publishing widgets to selective parts of the site (I see some plugins kind of doing this but not intuitively) and both CMSes needing specific user permission levels a la Drupal. Maybe I’m not putting some of these improvement ideas as elegantly as I should for the smarter-than-me people reading this but my point is all software has limitations, and because of that there is room for improvement everywhere. Sometimes improvements can be inspired by other companies in our space.

Smart translates.

My favorite talk of the day, an introduction to responsive web design for mobile websites was given by Jason Mark, a knowledgeable but accessible professional…. who mainly uses Drupal. Was he booed? Did people throw tomatoes? No, we packed a room to hear what he had to say.

My point is that as web developers, no matter what software we use, we are concerned with the same things for our clients and ourselves: the increasing power of the mobile web, how search engine optimization is changing, our place in the web development process as tools for web design become cheaper and more user friendly. Most of what I learned at this conference can be applied to a Joomla, WordPress, or Drupal website.

What I liked about this conference was that it was a humble group of collaborative people, showing each other fixes and projects and asking good questions. I even got to share baked goods and conversation for a few minutes with the head of the foundation that governs Joomla Paul Orwig, which kind of felt like playing foozball with the CEO of Coca Cola.

So if attending a Joomla conference makes me a Pepsi driver who drinks Coke, guilty. But anywhere where I can learn something, and anywhere with a group of people that’s smarter than me about what I do for a living is somewhere I should be… even if it does involve jetlag.