J and Beyond 2011 - A Perspective

The 3B team have just returned from this year’s sensational Joomla Convention, “J and Beyond” – a 4 day celebratory geek-fest of all that is wonderful in the world of Open Source. This is the second year that Jack Bremer & I have attended, and this year we took along our Lead Developer, Jordan Worner, and our Head of Search, Hugh Williams.

It can’t go without mention that this is also undoubtedly a social occasion! Whilst the vast majority of delegates’ time was spent deep in code, it cannot escape the notice of anyone who has viewed the many personal photo galleries and blogs that sprung up during and immediately after J and Beyond that the friendships forged and renewed were toasted and lubricated by the finest ale that Rolduc had to offer... and more often than not it was very fine indeed.

Our own social experience started early when the 3B team met up with Philp Locke (@philiplocke, Owner of Fastnet Web Design), Alan Sparkes (@joomkit, JoomKit) and Simon Wells (@k2joom, K2Joom) for a very early breakfast in Dover. Our journey to J and beyond was to serve as a “proof of concept” for next year’s “JoomBall Rally” – an opportunity for delegates to meet up with a growing convoy of vehicles from across Europe as we converge on the venue.

Just a few short hours later we had crossed the channel to Calais and arrived in Bruges for lunch. We spent far too little time in this extraordinarily beautiful Belgian city – but long enough to resolve to return here for a more leisurely visit at the earliest opportunity. By 7pm we were at our final destination in time for an evening’s indoor skiing! Here, in this colossal mile-long fridge-on-a-hill we met up with friends and comrades not seen since last year’s event (despite frequent communication in the “CyberSphere”).

I should point out that, personally, I attend these events very much from a business development perspective; it’s been a very long time now since I have had to code anything, but my appreciation of the collective efforts of this extraordinary community is borne of a fundamental understanding of what is achievable within Digital at a core level, and it is an honour and a pleasure be able to express this appreciation personally at conventions such as this.

Compared to me, Jack Bremer (@jackbremer) has far more contemporary and practicable technical experience that augments the efforts of Hugh (@hughhwilliams) and Jordan (@jordanworner), and so for these 3 the weekend’s events served as an extraordinarily valuable opportunity to increase their understanding of all that is new and exciting in Open Source and Joomla. For Hugh and Jordan it was especially terrific to actually meet the very folk who develop and release the platforms, tools and extensions that they use every day, and it was an utter delight to witness their enthusiasm to attend the various and varied series of seminars and workshops that made up the weekend’s programme.

Moreover, Hugh, Jordan and Jack all took the opportunity to present to the community. Hugh and Jack both delivered talks on “Best Practice”. In Hugh’s case it was “Pimp Your Joomla SEO” – a very well received seminar covering all the steps required during the development of a Joomla website from siopente-brief onwards (up until launch... post launch “off-site” SEO will be covered in a future talk). Hugh was particularly satisfied when one of the most impressed attendees turned out to be Yannick Gaultier, developer of one of Hugh and Jack’s favourite and most-used plug-ins, “SH404SEF”.

Jack’s talk was on site-launch Best Practice: “Launch It Right, Or Prepare For A Fight”. In it he covered the long list of items that we consider most vital prior and during a new site launch, and name-checked the tools that we find help us in the process. Jack invited contributions and suggestions from the floor and the seminar will serve to help us update our Best Practice spreadsheet before we release it back to the community.

Jordan’s talk was a far more technical document. “Joomla admin for (dummies) your clients - the way it should be” set out to explain how better to deliver an Admin Interface that reduced the opportunities for a client to mess-up a site page layout and functionality. There was a moment of pure theatre as Jordan demonstrated an extraordinary new drag-and-drop front-end module admin that won him a spontaneous round of applause. I was very proud!

Far too quickly this event comes to an end, and again our “JoomBall” Rallyers climbed aboard their steeds for the return journey. A terrific lunch this time in Brussels joined by Marcos Peebles (PiezoWorks) before we bade each other a weary farewell at Dover – again resolving to reconvene next May for JAB12! Miss out at your peril, Open Sourcerers!