Today I participated in the Joomla! Documentation Weekend, an event designed to address that the (and I’m lifting this from the Joomla site) “community has a big need for new documentation on nearly every aspect of Joomla”.
I am entirely new to Joomla! and far from being a programmer (as far as you can get, actually). Rastin Mehr, of RMD Studio, organized the event in Vancouver. Rastin is a wonderful guy and has the reputation of being an excellent Joomla! programmer. He said newbies (nope, I refuse to use the meme) were welcome. I decided it would be a pleasure to learn about a new system (and wake up early on a Saturday, of course). The goal was basically to play around with a part of the site and post problems, comments, instructions etc. about the software.
Arash Sanieyan was kind enough to give me an overview of the system, so I did have an expert showing me what to do and, as such, wasn’t going in blindly. I’m not convinced I would have faired all that well using the information on the site. Understandably, given the reason for the day’s event, the documentation is not completely user-friendly at present. And I hate reading instructions (so you can imagine what my IKEA purchases look like when assembled).
So, my original intent was to begin by watching an online video demo of how to use the site. I also didn’t want to install the software, just, merely, try it out. Unfortunately, that task proved slightly daunting – the Joomla! demo was offline the day of the documentation camp– an unfortunate case of bad timing. Searching for other alternatives to view a demo, or try anything out met with a site with a dead link and seemingly no further options on that front. (Perhaps I didn’t root around enough – could there have been a Youtube how-to-use?) My search did, however, produce the information that the demo hasn’t been up for a while. I discovered that a forum participant (perhaps in desperation…?) offered the suggestion to search for screenshots of Joomla! template contest submissions. ‘Kay….
Even though the submissions appeared to be my best bet to actually see something without installing the software, it didn’t meet my need to experience the software in a hands-on-way. Finally, feeling somewhat clued-out, I deferred to Rastin, who indicated Joomla! was available to try out through his site for the weekend. Great. I tried. Did not work with Internet Explorer 7(it was supposed to). Grrrr. OK, switched to Firefox. All better. Ash explained Joomla! to me for a bit and then it was much better.
I had the chance then to fiddle with the software a bit – so here are some other quick points on what I did experience. While I tinkered with the “Menu” feature a bit, I really focussed mostly on using the “article” feature. So: I liked the find/replace feature. (Ver-y niiice.)
Right off the bat, I would love an autosave feature. Laptops often run out of battery energy, systems crash and I can be flaky. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the autosave feature on Blogger and suggest that the “Article” feature (basically most content in Joomla is referred to as such) employ it and save content periodically.
Also the ability to paste screen shots directly in/paste directly into articles (without having to upload from saved images) would be useful. Lazy, but me wanty. Or at least allow to paste directly from my desktop rather than have to upload to a site first.
Jeannette Dugay commented on the fact that the functionality of the software has apparently improved since the last version. It now has the ability to write an “article” and then figure out where you want to create the link to. This does seem like a better process because it is often easier to know where you want something to go once you’ve actually developed the content. I have a webpagewhich has changed drastically since its original conception, especially in terms of where content goes (and I am quite good at planning). Essentially, it is almost impossible to fully gage the “final result” (in fact with Web 2.0 expectations, there is no “final”). And sometimes a better vision of something comes only at a later stage – especially as content changes and is updated. Often, as you recieve feedback from your “audience” you may hear, for instance, that your Joomla! website would better showcase you/your work if that recent project you did was on the Front page.
So Joomla!, as far as I could assess, appears to be more like a website (in terms of pages/content/visual) and more like a blog in terms of ability to manage content (and ability to use it as a social media component, though this is a feature I didn’t experiment with in the session). I am impressed by the fact that you don’t have to commit to a template right away and that if you do choose one initially, you can change it later on (very “bloggy”).
Basically, I had fun and learned stuff! Then we went to lunch, I had food along with a buttered rum drink at Steamworks. Not sure if I absorbed all that much information (or was all that functional) afterwards. I did recall “breaking” a part of the system in way that I defer to Jeannette to blog about.
At some point, though, I also thought I saw the sun… So it is possible that this entire experience was just a dream….