Rich: On today’s Sourceforge podcast, I’m speaking with Michael Beck, from the XOOPS project. XOOPS is a php content management system. You can use it to create and manage your website. It has a sophisticated admin interface, and it is over a decade old. This is a solid and mature project. Michael has been with the project for quite some time, and he’s going to talk with me about the project, the community, and how you can get involved.
Thanks for listening.
Michael: Hi, Rich, how are you?
R: Doing great. Thanks for talking with me today.
Tell me something about XOOPS, and how you got started with it, and what sort of problem space the project addresses.
M: OK. XOOPS, this year, celebrates its ten year anniversary, so it’s been around a long time. In Internet age, it’s kind of like eight centuries. It started ten years ago as a content management system – helping people create websites with dynamic content. It’s based on PHP and MySQL. It’s very similar to other content management systems like Joomla, like Drupal, or WordPress.
R: How many people do you have working on developing this? I see seven names in the admin list, but how large is the development community?
M: As any Open Source project, developers are coming and going. It depends on their work load and how much time they have. We have actively probably around 20 to 40 people who contribute currently. Because XOOPS is very modular, there is one group that is focusing strictly on the core, and then anybody else can contribute on modules, or on themes. There are some designers who are doing work on themes. And anybody can work and create new modules. The typical style, could be a calendar, can be news, a blog, typical daily applications which users can use on their website.
R: This runs on PHP. Does it require a particular version of PHP? Does it run on the latest?
M: It runs on the latest, but the minimum required is PHP 5.2. The next release is going to be completely compatible with 5.3, and we also tested it on 5.4 RC, and it is strict compliant, and it should not generate any errors from that perspective.
R: How about yourself? How long have you been involved with the project?
M: Well, I’ve been a user, starting in 2004. In 2007 I got involved in the management side of XOOPS. That required a little more heavy involvement.
R: What part of the system do you work on? You work on the core, or modules?
M: Most of my time I am involved in marketing and community involvement. I’m involved in modules, but the main responsibility I have is marketing and community support.
R: Tell me about some of the sites that are using your product.
M: One of the things we’re really proud of is that XOOPS is very international, and we have contributors from all of the world. Some of the original developers were from Japan, China, Germany and the US. So that set the stage for a very international Open Source project. That’s reflected in the websites. We have websites which have won different awards in China, Taiwan, in Japan, and Argentina and even Libya. That’s creates a very international community.
Some of the sites that have used XOOPS very successfully, for example: The government of the state of ParanÃ¡ in Brazil – they have probably 200 or 300 websites created using XOOPS; Computer World in Denmark is using XOOPS; PC Magazine in Greece is using XOOPS. There are a lot of different newspapers and government agencies which are using it.
We have very successful websites in Taiwan where the whole county school system is using XOOPS.
Anybody who needs a content management system, XOOPS is a very good solution for that. And you can develop very specialized applications on top of XOOPS like the school system in Taiwan proved.
R: How much time do you put into this project? Is it evenings and weekends, or is it a substantial part of your time?
M: Pretty much weekends and evenings. This is something we love to do – the whole group. Of course some people try to make money with it, and hopefully we’ll get more successful at that. We try to address that by putting better a marketing message behind it and trying to market us better so that people get jobs with it. Of course, the dream for us is to make XOOPS enabling people to make a living out of XOOPS. If we can succeed with that, that will make us very happy. There’s nothing better than people who love working with XOOPS and being paid for that, and not worry about paying for rent or other bills, and saying, I have a passion for XOOPS, I spend all my time on that, and it provides my living. So that’s something we’re looking forward to.
R: I personally feel very lucky that I’ve been able to find a job where I do Open Source and get paid for it. It seems almost unfair, almost.
M: Well, I don’t say unfair. I think that’s what everybody strives for, and if you’re lucky enough that’s what you’re going to be doing. It’s one of the highest levels of happiness to do what you have a passion for and not worry about expenses because you’re getting paid for that.
R: So, this project … I’ve spoken with a number of projects in the last few days, and one of the things that’s unique about your project – your developer community spans multiple continents and time zones. How do you manage project communication without conflict when someone is 18 or 20 time zones away.
M: I would say it’s just time management. Thankfully, with the Internet, we can communicate via email, so there’s really no need to be in person to have conversations. And because it’s a very international project we cannot expect that everybody has perfect English. Therefore some people don’t feel comportable being on Skype or online discussions, because they would like to use a translator to translate the content of the message they receive, and then respond in their native tongue and translate it into English. Skype or online conversations are very hard, so when we have email conversation it works the best for us. Some of the core members try, once a month, to have a conversation on Microsoft Messenger or Google Talk so that we can have a conversation about the project.
R: What is planned for upcoming versions?
M: The next version is going to be 2.6, and is going to be a totally refactored core. The aim we have is … in previous versions our focus was making sure that the core was compatible with all the versions of the modules. As a result of that we had a lot of code which is legacy code. 2.6 is a major cleanup, removing all old code, all PHP 4 compatible code, and making it totally PHP 5 oriented, so we can focus on 5.2, 5.3, and 5.4, so that’s going to be the major thing – making sure that we take advantage of the latest developments in the PHP world, that we optimize the code, that we test it with MySQL and make sure that we have the minimum number of queries. An updated, top-notch content management system.
R: If I’m looking to get involved in an Open Source project, where can I get involved in your project, and what sort of skills would I need.
M: As with any other Open Source project, you can get engaged with anything which you like to do.
Starting with development: If you’re really really good, you can join the core team. If you just want to play around, you can start developing modules. If you’re a designer, you can design themes. We’re always looking for those. If you’re a user, you can help us with documentation for other users. For example you’re using XOOPS for your website, and you’re becoming an expert in using certain modules, and there’s no documentation for those modules, or the documentation is outdated, then you can say, I’m going to share some of my experiences, I’ve got some really cool shortcuts on how to make it work better, faster, and more user friendly, and I want to share this with the community.
One thing about us is that our community is very friendly, and regardless of what part of the world you come from we embrace anybody. We don’t care how good your English is, we welcome everybody.
We also have local support websites in local languages. China, Taiwan, Russia, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain. So all the major languages are covered. If somebody doesn’t feel comfortable in English, they are welcome to contribute locally. Our moderators and leaders in those local communities share the experiences of their local communities into the larger, worldwide community, so we try to funnel some of the good ideas which could be created in Germany, France, or some other local support site, and share this on our main International site.
As any other Open Source project, we live and die with contributors, so once again we hope that people will check it out, will give it a try. Hopefully they will like it, and hopefully they will like our community and give that a try. Of course we are always open to suggestions, feedback, if anybody has any questions please contact us on XOOPS.org, and we’ll be glad to help you with setup of XOOPS and making sure it works correctly, and then hopefully we can collaborate together.
R: Thank you very much.