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My Start On Joomla! (and a site showcase)

A part of me feels as though it'd be appropriate to discuss my beginnings with Joomla and what has brought me to where I am today in my work with the Joomla! Bug Squad.

My first experience with a Joomla! site came in 2008 when I volunteered to maintain my organization's pages on our intranet. All I knew of the site was that it was built on Joomla! (come to find out later on that it was 1.0), so I figured that with the little knowledge I had with HTML, things would work out OK. When I first started working with the front end interfaces, I won't lie; I wasn't impressed.

Actually, a huge part of me was excited to learn that our IT leads were in the process of getting SharePoint accredited for use on our networks and that we'd be moving off of Joomla!. So, first impression, not impressed.

First Alumni SiteFast forward to the end of 2009. A buddy of mine from high school had approached me about creating an alumni association for our old JROTC program. As we'd come forward to our friends with the idea, we both agreed that making a website for our small group was a great idea. I have a copy of Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 on my computer because I like messing with HTML & CSS occasionally (never did anything serious, but it was definitely a hobby; plus it was easily affordable thanks to a student discount), so I made a copy of the program's template as of that time and it became the first outline of the site.

Second Alumni SiteBecause the Alumni Association needed a distinctive look, I quickly decided to redo the template using the same basic concepts of the original as well as create a distinctive header banner with pictures of the Alumni (oh, in case I haven't mentioned, I like messing around in Photoshop as well, and have a copy of that at my disposal). This time, using Dreamweaver's Spry Vertical Menu instead of the Spry Horizontal Menu, the site and organization took on a unique look of its own while still retaining the core of what we were working towards.

After this point, I had started thinking of ways to take the burden of maintaining the website off of me. With me not being local to the group thanks to the Army, I could guarantee being able to keep content current. I knew I couldn't hand over a pure HTML site to anybody; it's too easy to mess up. It was in the beginning of February 2010 that I decided that I needed a system that would allow someone else to update the content, without breaking the site template and leaving me with only security maintenance and that type of thing. I remembered our use of Joomla! on my organization and quickly downloaded Joomla! 1.5.15 and started looking around. Having seen the backend for the first time and how simple a lot of things were, I quickly set out to get a Joomla! site installed and operational.

First Joomla! SiteI first thought I'd bitten off more than I could chew. I'd never even worked with PHP code before, let alone MySQL. Then, not being able to get certain things to perform exactly as I'd wanted and making my first venture into the Joomla! Extensions Directory for a hover-menu producing component. I did question why I was doing this to myself a couple times, but after my initial struggles (and maybe 10 re-installs...), I got things exactly as I wanted and on March 1, I flipped the switch on the HTML site and introduced the world to version three of the Alumni site, this time, Powered by Joomla!

Alumni Site TodaySince the initial install, I've taught myself a few things about reading the templates PHP files and integrating extensions to do the things I wanted to do. Slowly, the site has moved away from looking like an out-of-box installation of the Milky Way template (which, BTW, I'll be sad to see go from 1.6 if it indeed does; maybe I'll make it my own project...).

Still a low traffic site, today, the Alumni site is much more feature loaded than when initially started. Now, featuring extensions such as Chrono Forms and a newsletter being developed with AcyMailing (and I have to include a mention for J!Position, which makes moving modules around so simple), operation on the site is better than it could've ever been with only HTML implimented, and it's taught me quite a bit as well.

So, what do I do aside from maintain my own two sites? Well, I hang around the Joomla! Forums trying to help people with whatever I can assist with, and after buying into the hype, took my first look at 1.6 the day Beta 1 was released. It was at that point I decided I was going to work with the Joomla! Bug Squad and help bring 1.6 to the world (in a stable, hopefully bug free form). In the two months since then, I've learned quite a bit about PHP and how Joomla's framework operates, as well as its integration with MySQL. I've looked at the ACL implementation (and even made my own implementations into the core components), fixed quite a few display problems, and reported more bugs than I care to count by now (especially being an IE8 user...).

It's been fun, it's been challenging, and I think it's been worthwhile. I've always wanted to learn web design since I made my first HTML page in 2002, and now I'm doing so with an awesome group of developers.