Last week, I got back from San Jose, California where I attended the Joomla World Conference. To those people who are not nerdy about websites, Joomla is one of the largest open source softwares used to create websites today (the other two ‘big’ ones are Drupal and WordPress). The conference was held at eBay headquarters, which is one of the largest companies in the world that uses Joomla to run its site.

The conference was three packed days of keynote speakers, seminars, and networking from early in the morning until after dinner. The day after the conference and before my plane took off, some of us had time to do a nerdy area tour: lunch at In-n-Out Burger (my first time); tour of Mozilla headquarters; drive-bys of Google and Facebook; and finally a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and some Vietnamese food nearby.

Around 300 people attended the conference. I'm near one of the umbrellas if you can pick me out!

Around 300 people attended the conference. I’m near one of the umbrellas if you can pick me out!

So what were some of the biggest takeaways from the conference? What are some very smart people talking about in terms to what’s next in website development?

Responsive design is big but most of our clients aren’t asking for it yet.
Have you ever visited someplace where you ate a new food or saw a cool fashion trend that you tried to bring back home… only to have everyone look at you weird? Currently responsive design is kind of like that for me. Developers all talk about it at conferences and on blogs because it is changing how we think about making a website but most regular people just shrug when I bring it up.

As people who want to keep up with what’s new/cool and also want to serve our clients with services they are actually asking for, when/how do we bring up a new technology like this? Do we wait a couple years until clients start hearing about it and asking questions or do we start educating people about this option now?

After hearing four talks on responsive design at this conference, clients in larger markets are already asking for this technology. Also, there are ways that as the person creating the site, you can communicate with a client about the process without being overwhelming or ridiculous. While the  conference answered some technical questions about responsive design, it was mainly a ‘How do we present this to clients?’ question that I was looking for an answer for… and got here.

Want to know more about responsive design? Here’s what you need to know about it from a business owner’s point of view and if you really want to geek out, check out this video about The Boston Globe’s responsive design development. I embedded a basic video below for a short, basic definition about responsive design if you are less nerdy but curious enough to watch a 60 second video:

Open source software is the way to go since people participate in it and constantly improve it.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the stressing of open source software and open communication within the community.

What does ‘open source’ mean? It means not only having your product available for free but also being very open about your processes. This includes having your source code out in the open and making other things in the company public, including how you do business. This spirit of openness was not always common in the tech community but is becoming increasingly so.

Joomla is open source software. Actually its tagline is ‘Open source matters’. People create websites by taking this free software, installing it on their web server, and modifying it for their uses. From this, people have developed programs that work with Joomla (called ‘extensions’) or build entire Joomla design or support businesses. The Joomla community was very open and collaborative, which is refreshing to see since I myself prefer collaboration to competition.

One of my favorite talks was a keynote by Pascal Finette, the CEO of Mozilla, another open source software. You can visit their offices, they have Monday company meetings that are broadcasted so anyone can attend, and their products are all available for free to download.  In the open source community, instead of being technology consumers, we become participants, which improves the software more quickly and makes it more meaningful to everyone who uses it.

If you want to see what a Pascal Finette keynote is like, check out this video about the participant culture of being online:

In building a website, we can’t just think of ourselves.

Part of when we build a website is thinking about how we’d use it, but that can’t be all. Two presenters drove this point home for me.

One was Tito Alvarez whose talk ‘Lighter Joomla for The Third World’ talked about what challenges the third world has related to website technology and how we can develop websites that meet those challenges. For example he pays about $100/month to have 1/4 of the download speed that I take for granted every day. Helping sites load faster is not just something cool in the first world, it’s something essential for website visitors in the third world.

Cade working on his website. He's awesome and this photo is courtesy of JoomlaShack.

Cade working on his website. He’s awesome and this photo is courtesy of JoomlaShack.

The other speaker was Cade Reynolds, who was the youngest person at the conference (15) and also happened to be a presenter. Cade is a 4H participant from Missouri who, along with other people his age, took a Joomla training over the summer with Dr. Amy Patillo. Both Amy and Cade came to the conference to talk about website building with Joomla.

With both Tito and Cade, it was nice to see that Joomla users weren’t just technology nerds in Silicon Valley. They are a bit more like the rest of us, though probably a little smarter.

On a personal note, Cade gave me hope for our future. If 15 year old boys are half this great, our world is going to be ok when they run it!

Overall, I was impressed not only with what I learned but the kind of people I met. I hope to get to Joomla Day Boston if not another event soon. Thanks to Jeremy Wilken and the rest of the team who organized this great event.

I’d like to thank my client CNP Integrations who funded part of this trip. It was great to meet other people on your team in real life! Thanks!

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