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August 2012 Project of the Month – XOOPS

Rich: SourceForge is proud to announce that the August project of the month is the XOOPS content management system. I recently spoke with Michael Beck and Mark Boyden about the project. Mark and Michael and I discussed XOOPS and what’s been happening recently, and what we can look forward to in upcoming versions.

If you’d like to have your project featured on the SourceForge podcast, just drop me a note and we’ll schedule something.

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Rich: Congratulations on being project of the month!

[See former Projects of the Month.]

Mark: Thank you. That certainly comes from everybody who’s involved with XOOPS. It’s a credit to everybody who’s involved with XOOPS.

Michael: It’s definitely a great honor for our community and we are extremely happy about this award.

Rich: For those that are not familiar with your project, can you give us a brief summary of what XOOPS does?

Mark: XOOPS is a content management system. It’s designed to help people get quickly up and running with lots of good common functionality. So, like some of the other content management systems out there that others may know, it’s a very mature, very secure, easy to use system. You can install the basic content management system that has all the permissioning, all the plugins and hooks for other functional modules to be added in. Then you can add in page content management, you can add in forums, you can add in frequently asked questions modules, social networking modules … whatever type of functionality that you really need for a website that’s pretty common out there, calendaring, etc, it exists in XOOPS. Somebody has built at least one module, typically we have several modules to choose from, each with different types of functionality and you can plug those in. We also have module packs, we have our first one up, we’re working to build several other to make it even easier to just pull down a pack together and download those and get them installed.

Rich: Looking at the download statistics from your project, it’s obvious that you have a very international following. Why do you think that is?

Michael: XOOPS has been an international project from the very beginning, when it was started 10 years ago. The first developers were from Japan, Germany, China, USA, and several other countries. So we’ve made a key requirement that it will be translated into all major languages, and to make it easy to customize it for local requirements. We are very popular in Japan, Taiwan, Brazil, France, and many other countries.

This is also reflected in our development community, where we have our developers coming from different countries, such as France, Libya, Japan, China, Portugal, Brazil, Australia, Russia, and many others. The beauty of a project such as XOOPS is that it allows people join together, regardless of their country of origin, gender, race, religion, or politics, and focus on something they enjoy, which is developing XOOPS.

Rich: When evaluating a CMS, of course we want to see what other sites are using it. Can you tell us a few of your recent success stories with XOOPS?

Michael: Yes, XOOPS has several installations that we can be very proud of. The most recent success story is from Libya, where the new government was looking for an Open Source solution, and after some tough testing of several CMS projects, they’ve decided for XOOPS. As a result the new Ministry of Defense and the National Election Commission are both running on XOOPS, and we hope that more of the government institutions in Lybia will follow.

Another success story is State of Parana in Brazil, where all government Websites (and they have over 300 of them), are running on XOOPS. Also the Brazilian CIA, the Brazilian Intelligence Agency is running on XOOPS.

We have also a whole county in Taiwan running their school system on XOOPS.

Of course, there are many others less visible users, but not less happy with XOOPS.

Rich: What’s happened recently? Have you had some important release recently that you want to tell us about?

Mark: 2.5.5 came out a short while back. That’s a bug and security release in that branch. We’re working on the 2.6.0 branch, and we’re working to incorporate a number of member-driven and -desired improvements to XOOPS. In terms of when that is, that’s kind of up to that developer group – the core team – and I believe it’s going to be out this year. I’m just not sure of the exact timing of that.

Rich: What will we see in this new release?

Mark: One of the biggest pushes that we’re doing is to bring a much more consistent management interface to the entire XOOPS collection of modules, and to bring forward a better API to make that easier for the module developers. That’s one of the key things that XOOPS has always done is try and make it easier for the module developers to do those routine things.

Rich: Michael, is there anything you’d like to add about upcoming releases?

Michael: As Mark mentioned, the focus of 2.6.0 is on refactoring and simplifying our architecture and our API. While other CMS systems might be written in a procedural way, XOOPS was from the very beginning very Object Oriented, which is even reflected in our name: XOOPS stands for eXtended Object Oriented Portal System. But over time, you know how it is, you tend to add baggage, and from time to time you need to do a little house cleaning. In XOOPS 2.6, that’s the focus, in order to keep XOOPS as pure OOP as possible, and the architecture and API as consistent as possible. We’ll be looking at that, and we’ll be adding some new ways, new classes, to make module development easier for our developers.

We hope, that after being a Project of the Month, more SourceForge members will try XOOPS, and will join our community as users and developers.

Rich: If folks are looking to get involved in the project, are the plugins the best way to get involved, or is there opportunities to get onto the core team?

Mark: There’s absolutely the opportunity to get on the core team. We would ask people to come in and get involved however they want to, whether that’s answering questions on the forum, helping with the documentation, building modules, getting involved with particular module developers to help enhance or build those. Then once you become familiar with all the various API issues within XOOPS, certainly come back and contribute those. We are very community driven, and there’s threads on our forums where, even if you’re not writing code, at least you can come back and give suggestions and/or contribute code to the project that helps the core developers fix or enhance a particular are. So while I’m not on the core team, I have certainly contributed code and suggestions back myself. XOOPS is a very secure system. It’s easy to develop on. It’s object oriented and the key is to keep code in that methodology, because it builds straight off of the core. It’s got a really good, mature presentation layer capability, so that when people want to change the look and feel, but don’t want to get into the PHP code – since we use Smarty templates, all you really need to know is HTML. So it’s really easy to change the look and feel of the site because of that – just getting involved with the HTML templates. For somebody who wants to get in and have their site have great functionality, get up and running, wants to be able to make the changes but isn’t a PHP developer, make their site look like their own and different from the others, it’s a quick, easy methodology to get going.

Rich: Congratulations on the project of the month.

Mark: We’re excited and we appreciate it, too. We appreciate the highlight.

Rich: I look forward to talking with you again some time. Thanks a lot.

Mark: Thanks, Richard.

Michael: Thanks, Richard, and thanks everybody for listening.

The Anvil Podcast: XOOPS

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.

You can subscribe to this, and future podcasts, in iTunes or elsewhere, at http://feeds.feedburner.com/sourceforge/podcasts, and it’s also listed in the iTunes store.

If the embedded player doesn’t work for you, you can download the audio in
mp3 and ogg formats.

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?

Admin list

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 Paraná 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.

M: Absolutely.