J & Beyond 2012 - My Thoughts, My Experiences

At last, I was able to attend my first Joomla! event ever.  What better way to start off my experiences than with the biggest event the Joomla! community has to offer, J & Beyond.  With that said, I'd really love to share my thoughts about the event from my perspective as a speaker, someone sitting in on the sessions, and a first time visitor to the event.

My Sessions

I didn't waste any time diving into the speaking circuit, all in all having a room full of people sitting in front of me as I was babbling on at six different points over the three day event (even if most of them were for two or three minute sessions).  My first session was one of the ones to kick off the event after the initial keynote and was a discussion about changes to the Joomla! API coming as the CMS transitions between 2.5 and 3.0 (the slides are available on SlideShare).  I really didn't pay attention to the size of the crowd in the room until I was about to speak as I was getting prepared to speak, but once I looked up and surveyed the audience, I realized that there was some great interest in what I was going to be discussing since the Blue Room was filled an eager to learn audience.  Just as I'd expected, I ended up speeding through my slides and was finished much quicker than I should have been, but I'll attribute that to first time jitters.  Nonetheless, some great information was taken from the session and some great questions came out of the crowd about some of the new APIs and how backwards compatibility is being handled with our new development.

From there, my next three sessions were all related to our Roadmap Working Groups.  I was asked to lead the Unit Testing for the CMS group, which entailed preparing a lightning talk to give the attendees an idea what we'd be talking about, leading the actual working group session, and sharing some of the takeaways with the attendees.  One of the first things about the actual session that blew me away was that in a room of about 15 people, only a handful had prior experience with unit testing.  This actually changed the way I approached the session as I now had to give a little bit of a basic introduction to unit testing and showed some examples of how we use the testing in the Platform.  Niels Braczek was one of the more vocal members of the session, in a very good way, and helped to come up with some good goals for the CMS testing, and overall bug squashing process, as we implement this structure.

A talk I wasn't planning on being part of was one that was put together by myself, Elin Waring, and Rouven Weßling gave as a last minute replacement for one of the other speakers who had to cancel.  This was actually kind of fun getting the three of us together and compiling notes about what we wanted to discuss about the Platform.  We ultimately ended up discussing ways that the Platform has matured as a separate project since being branched off on its own last year and again rehashing some of the API changes and how we're doing what we can to be forwards compatible in CMS 2.5 while helping with backwards compatibility in CMS 3.0.  Sharing a few beers with a couple of people I've spent a lot of time working with over the last year while "talking shop" and getting this session ready was truly one of my highlights.

My last session was part of the lightning talk session where people could talk about projects they were working on.  Originally, I was going to highlight my library code I started which expands on the Platform, but after talking about the idea I ultimately went with after the JoomStew recordings, I changed my session at the last minute.  Instead of describing the session here, I invite you to watch it now on UStream (my session starts at about 20 minutes in).

Thoughts As An Attendee

As an attendee, it was quite a blast checking out all the different sessions.  Obviously, one of the highlights was the J!OSCARs, in which I was privileged to have been voted for the GitHub Junkie Award and chosen to accept the Innovation of the Year Award for the Joomla Platform alongside Elin and Rouven.  My thoughts on that are best read on my previous blog entry.

Aside from the J!OSCARs, my own sessions, and the keynotes, I attended ten informative sessions covering all sorts of projects.  The sessions on the OpenTranslators and Square One projects were very interesting and offered a good insight into what those projects offer to the community at large.  In addition to my own working group session, I attended two other sessions that I had some great interest in, and I think overall, the discussions in those sessions was positive and we came out of them with an idea of the current issues and ways to move forward.  Code wise, I sat in on Sander's session about the Joomla! ACL and adding it to your extension and Nicholas D.'s session on his Framework on Framework.  Both sessions were very well presented and showed some of the weaknesses in the current code and great ideas floating around in the community.  In was in these two sessions that Sandy Ordonez and I decided to "blow up" Twitter, but overall, our coverage of the event as a whole was well received by those not in attendance (and a bit of a running gag for those who were there; see this tweet from Rouven if you don't believe me).

In addition to attending numerous sessions, I had a great time conversating with people about whatever it was we were discussing.  Whether it be discussing bugs in the Smart Search code with Matias Griese, meeting about our GSoC work over lunch with most of the attending participants, talking about API changes with Nicholas, fixes for ACL related code with Sander, or my own interaction with Joomla! after Dianne put the JoomStew microphone in front of me, the social interaction for me was one of the better parts of the event as a whole and it's really good to just sit down and share a beer over a few lines of code.

J & Beyond As A Whole

This year was my first time in its three-year run that I've been able to attend, and I think I picked a great year to do so.  From everything I've heard from those who've been previously, this was hands down the best year and had some of the most positive energy coming out of the event for core development.  Easily, something that everyone is excited about is the J!UX Working Group as we integrate Bootstrap into Joomla! and CMS 3.0.  As I tweeted over the weekend, Kyle has really started a phenomenon within the community with his work.

The team organizing the event did a fantastic job with keeping everything running smoothly over the weekend while still finding plenty of time to stop and talk to the attendees.  At one point during one of the sessions I'd chosen to sit out of, Brian Teeman and I had a 20 minute conversation about some of our past experiences on things we've worked on and with.  My hat's off to Robert, Brian, Victor, and everyone else who played a part in the success of the event.

Looking Beyond - What's In Store For Me?

At this point, it's been a little over 24 hours since the official close of J & Beyond 2012, and already, I see a lot coming in my future.  A few folks have spoken with me about presenting at Joomla!Day events in the future, which even if it's "via satellite", will still be a fun experience for me.  I've also talked to folks about just meeting up in general to travel a little bit and relax, so the networking I've gotten from this three day period is really quite amazing.

The future looks bright, I have a lot of code to get working on, probably a couple of talks to write, and a wallet to keep happy, all with a fresh level of energy (well, once I catch up on lost sleep from the weekend) and motivation to do it.  Who knows where it is where we'll meet again, or for the first time, but I'm really looking forward to what the next year has in store for me, my potential J!Travel, and the code that's about to be written.