Two weeks ago, I was in Kerkrade, Netherlands at J and Beyond giving a lightning talk about Joomla’s True Merit. Here’s the video of that talk, along with the text I originally prepared. My talk is the first one in the video (after Brian introduces me) and the other Lightning Talks follow. Enjoy!
A huge thank you goes out to Jeremy Wilken for organizing the video recordings at JAB and uploading them!
I started off this year in the Philippines doing a missions internship. I packed all of my things into my car, parked it at my parents house, flew halfway around the world, then spent ten weeks working with missionaries. And I loved it. It was a chance to step away from writing code and spend time living in another culture.
And while I was there, I learned something very important about missionary work. You don’t just show up in a country and start a business, school, hospital, orphanage, or church. You meet people, build relationships, and learn from the people around you. You learn how business is done, you learn the local language, and you learn cultural expectations.
Only then do you work alongside nationals. And as you work, you train people. You train people not only until they can run something on their own, but until they start training others. Then you step back and let them own the work.
In contrast, when you run in and do everything on your own, your efforts become merely a means to an end. You create a dependency on yourself. Nationals are robbed of their dignity, believing they can’t do the work themselves. When you’re gone, the work you’ve done is over and nobody continues it.
There’s a direct correlation to the way missionaries must work and the way we approach volunteering for the Joomla project. If we contribute code to Joomla without learning from others, we won’t know what the expectations are. We won’t know what problems others are facing and we won’t know how to direct our efforts.
Worse, if we don’t put an effort into teaching, we’ll eventually become tired and burnt out. Other people in the community will become dependent on us and will never learn how to contribute to Joomla themselves. And when we’re gone, Joomla will fade away.
But if we approach the project ready to learn from each other and train each other, we’ll never have a shortage of people who are ready to maintain Joomla. And we’ll be accomplishing something far greater than simply maintaining Joomla: we’ll be launching new programmers, new designers, new webmasters, and new trainers. And people won’t just learn about Joomla, they’ll learn all of the tools and technologies that go into it.
We’re not here to build perfect software. There will be bugs in the tracker when we release 1.7, 1.8, 2.0, and every version of Joomla that will ever be released. There will always be features missing from the core, and there will always be old parts to do away with. But if we learn from each other, we can stop bugs before they happen. And if we train each other, there will be people ready to fix the ones that do crop up.
Twenty years from now, we won’t care about the way we implemented the Model-View-Controller design pattern in the Joomla Framework. We won’t care about how Joomla was licensed, and we certainly won’t care about Joomla vs. Drupal vs. WordPress. But we will care about the people we worked with, trained, and learned from.
Because the relationships we build through learning and teaching are Joomla’s True Merit.