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Don Gilbert
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Watch PHP Town Hall live in about 10 minutes here

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<a class='ot-hashtag' href='https://plus.google.com/s/%23hangoutsonair'>#hangoutsonair</a>Phil Sturgeon and Ben Edmunds

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Wise words concerning the Joomla Exodus. 
A few observations about the "Joomla exodus" post:

- Blast from the past: many people from pre-1.5/1.5 days who we don't always "see around" posted. That means they are looking to upgrade from 1.0 or 1.5. They are asking themselves, do I stay the course? Or, is now the time to move on? Think on the implications of this.

- Ease of use: fair or not fair, users want upgrades to be uneventful. The update should be nothing more than pressing a button. Everything should look and operate the way it did before. They are asking "Wordpress does it, why can't you?" It's a good question.

- Features: The only discussion of features in all of those posts was about removing features from the standard edition and coming out with a "lite" version.

Stop. Wait. Hear that.

There was not a single mention made of additional functionality that made upgrades worthwhile. In fact, there wasn't a single mention of any value that came from any update, be it a new feature in the CMS, or a new class for developers.

The only comments about change related to the cost of change, be it the cost to a user for getting the site to look like it used to look before the upgrade; to the cost to a developer to make the changes needed to their extension so it worked the way it did before the core changed.

Where is the value added? Why isn't that obvious?

- Communication: Most of these people are happy to be Joomla users, they want to stay with the CMS they selected a few years ago. They are happy to market Joomla with their web development services. What they aren't interested in involvement deeper than maybe buying a Joomla t-shirt or proudly displaying "Powered by Joomla" in the footer of the websites they build. They don't want to logon and read more about Joomla on a regular basis.

Not defending, just explaining.

- Disconnect, noise, and very likely, turnoffs: comments about volunteers not getting paid, calling people trolls, telling people they are negative, bringing out lists of names of people who write the code, none of that helps. It does not educate. It doesn't set expectation. It doesn't satisfy. It is not constructive. It just defines the "we" and the "them" in the "we versus them" and screams out "you don't contribute, so you don't matter."

And, it feels that way to those who posted. Misguided, perhaps, but generally speaking, people who bother to complain, do so to help. They do so because they care.

- The problem is the Joomla project has no direction. There is no defined user base. There is no roadmap. No goals and no performance metrics that can be used to measure the community's progress towards those goals. There isn't even a set of specific deliverables to be developed for the next release. There's obvious tension between the CMS and platform teams and if those groups aren't in sync, how can anyone else stand a chance?

Regular releases now happen every six months but it's a fair question as to whether or not  the software has been significantly improved over the years. Setting aside any technical knowledge for a moment, take a moment to sit down with the newest release of Joomla and an old copy of Mambo and compare features. It's worth considering whether or not the impact of these changes is paying off for small businesses.

It is easy to understand why many prefer only updating for security fixes for their sites until they (or more likely, their users) decide a jump forward is affordable. They aren't looking for 1 1/2 years, either, between LTS version, many want five years of stress free, change-free, site life.  

If you accept a role in a community-based open source project, badged or walk-on volunteer, you're going to hear a lot of whining. People will not be fair. Many have not been indoctrinated in the open source way. They honestly believe they are doing you a favor just by using your software. And, frankly, they have every reason to feel that way, look at how Joomla markets itself. It's a "come and get it" call. We tell them it's easy to use, it's fabulous stuff, mobile ready, very little knowledge required. The only time expectation of contributing even comes up is when people start complaining. And, in case there is any question, there are better times to recruit.

In any open source project, setting direction can be tricky, but in Joomla, it's next to impossible since no one is in charge. I believe it's critical to the project's future that the development team be empowered to set a roadmap, decide who the target audience is, detail out deliverables and release plans, and get the oars in the water at the same time heading the same direction. Now that this open source thing is past it's grand opening, and some of the shine has been knocked off, users are opting for stability. Everyone would be smart to hear that message and align accordingly.
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