The Long Road To India.
This was my 3rd JWC and it was the furthest I’ve ever travelled in my life. When they announced the JWC 2015 would be in India and I said to myself with certainty that there was no way I was going. At that time I hadn’t travelled much and the thought of going to India seemed pretty far fetched to me. Little did I know that my involvement with Joomla in 2015 would take me all over the USA and Europe. This made the JWC a perfect grand finale to an amazing year of traveling and participation in the Joomla community.
Why I Went
I made the trip because I felt it was important for me to be there to celebrate with the community after a year of events and involvement. I traveled more in 2015 than in all of my other years put together and I've grown to love the adventures - and this seemed like the adventure of a lifetime. I knew very little about India but I figured it would be the most unique place I had ever visited and I wasn’t disappointed. The commute alone was an adventure and getting myself to the other side of the world took some serious planning. It’s almost a 20,000 mile round trip from Denver, about 20 hours in the air each way. That translated into almost 4 days of total travel time from Denver to Bangalore and back, with layovers in Germany, Dehli and Canada.
Welcome to India
It was 3am local time when I finally got through customs and went outside to find a cab to the hotel. It was a sea of people saying and doing things I didn't understand. A world filled with signs I couldn't read and smells of food I had never experienced. I found it to be very disorienting and I wasn't sure where to go. None of the taxi drivers would accept credit cards so I found an ATM machine, fully expecting it to have more options than "How Much Do You Want?". I realized I had taken a lot of details for granted in my preparations for the trip. It's easy to forget how many conveniences we have in the US. Until you leave that is.
When I finally found a taxi, I was a bit confused when the driver asked if I wanted to sit in the front seat and opened what I thought was the drivers door. I was exhausted and I didn't realize they drive on the opposite side of the road in India. Being a cautious traveller in a very foreign place I was a bit skeptical of the situation. It turned out he was just very excited to have an American passenger and he told me all about his dream to live in America. I was unsure of how I would be perceived by the locals during my trip and it was a relief to get such an enthusiastic welcome.
A Crash course In Indian Driving
The 30 minute taxi ride that followed is something I will never forget. The driver's questions and perspectives on the USA were interesting, but obviously influenced by popular celebrities and media stories. I did my best to explain that life in America isn't necessarily the way it appears on TV. He was nice and I was happy to share, but I was exhuasted. It was difficult to communicate at times and I was very distracted by the traffic and his driving. Every car on the road was honking horns non-stop and it was freaking me out. The driver explained that it's how people let you know they are swerving through traffic behind you so you don't crash into them. We also encountered several cars that were actually driving on the wrong side road coming towards us. Apparently, that's not uncommon in India because it's often faster than driving on the correct side. "No big deal" he said. His words provided little comfort. I had a white-knuckled grip on my seatbelt the whole time.
I realized quickly how different life is in India compared to where I live. Everything was backwards to me - the roads, the escalators, the doors, and so many other details we never think about until they are different. My watch had the same time on it but the sky was the wrong color since it’s a 12 hour time difference from Denver. People in India often move their heads side to side to agree with you and up and down to disagree - exactly the opposite of how we communicate yes and no in the US. It was often confusing and it became overwhelming after awhile, but the differences are what make it exciting.
Just getting there was an adventure - and the conference hadn't even started yet....
The Accidental Speaker
When I booked my trip I had no obligation or expectation of being there, I just wanted to go. I’m a busy person with a crazy schedule and sometimes details fall through the cracks. One such detail was the JWC speaker submission deadline, which I had accidentally marked in my calendar a month too late. I realized my mistake when the speakers were announced in September. I thought I still had two weeks to send in my submission and I was more than a little bummed out. I sent the organizers a list of my topics and explained my brainless mistake. I didn’t ask for any special consideration, I just let them know that I would be there and I was happy to help out if a spot opened up. I booked my trip knowing that it was enough for me be there and I was actually looking forward to a pressure free weekend of supporting the community.
A few weeks before the conference I got word that a spot opened up on the schedule and was asked if I could fill in. I jumped at the opportunity and I ended up getting a great presentation time in the main ballroom. It was my second time speaking at JWC and I did much better this year despite not having much preparation time. I had a lot of fun sharing my tips with Joomla users on the other side of the world and the crowd was great. Everything surrounding my involvement with the Joomla community seemed to go my way in 2015 and I'm glad I got to speak. Big thanks to Jon Neubauer for the opportunity.
Joomla AV Club
Sunday morning I was hanging around before the sessions and was asked if I could help with video recording in one of the presentation rooms. I did a lot of this sort of thing in my earlier life and I was already planning on going to several sessions in that room anyway so I was happy to grab the front row seat behind the video rig all day. For me community events are all about giving back and I always make a point of helping as much as I can. I love being involved behind the scenes and I’m glad I had the opportunity to contribute at the conference in more ways than one.
Aside from the experience of doing my own presentation, which was a personal highlight and a great learning experience for me, all the presentations and workshops I attended were awesome. Several stood out for me as inspirational....
My JWC highlights:
It’s hard to pick a favorite because they were all good and the topics were very diverse. I gained much insight from seeing the different perspectives and approaches that people in Joomla community have, especially how people in different parts of the world use Joomla. The keynote speakers from the larger internet community were well chosen and top professionals in their respective fields, they added a much bigger perspective to the conference.
The Joomla Community
Of course I love the Joomla Community and listening to Sarah Watz, Tessa Mero, Sander Potjer and Ken Crowder speak is always inspiring. Jon Neubauer did a great job hosting the event and kept everyone upbeat and on track. Marco Dings and Chris Davenport provided us all with a big glimpse into the future of Joomla 3.5 and Joomla 4 as well.
Brad Frost: Atomic Design & Responsive Patterns Workshop
- Twitter: @brad_frost
- JWC2105 Video: Atomic Design Keynote Presentation
- JWC2105 Video: Responsive Patterns Workshop
Both Brad's Keynote Presentation and Workshop provided invaluable information and insight into the UX and responsive design process. As a front end developer and contributor to the J4 UX team I’m always looking for the latest and greatest techniques and I found them here. I’ve already put some of this knowledge to work and I’m only beginning to scratch the surface of the concepts and ideas he talked about. My perspective on the website development process has expanded considerably from attending his sessions. It was a game changer for me and I highly recommend watching the videos. I’m the annoying guy that asks a lot of questions in the workshop :)
Lea Verou: The Missing Slice
This keynote presentation was nothing short of amazing. Lea Verou didn’t waste any time, within the first 2 minutes she had every jaw in the room on the floor as she cranked out complex CSS codes at a blistering pace. She demonstrated cutting edge CSS and SVG concepts by creating and animating a pie chart in real time using multiple techniques. As incredible as the coding demonstration was it wasn’t really the point. The takeaway was about the process of finding the best solution to a problem by considering all the angles, by using the resources of the open web community, then giving back to it. I can’t say enough good things about this presentation. A must watch.
Jono Bacon: The New Era of Community
Jono had so many powerful insights in his keynote presentation. I found his take on community concepts to be very similar to my own, but on a much larger scale from a much deeper perspective. I sincerely appreciated his views and what he had to say resonated with me on so many levels. He’s also a great guy. I got the chance to meet him and I had a lot fun hanging out and talking with him. A very inspirational and uplifting person with a great message.
The Joomla Founders Panel
This panel was hosted by Ryan Ozimek and we got some insight into how Joomla came to be from some of the people who started it. Chris Davenport, Ken Crowder, Johan Janssens and Andy Miller shared their stories about how they got involved with Joomla and influential people for them along the way. What struck me was that I found their stories to be surprisingly similar to my own. The main difference was that they were the influential people that got me involved in Joomla. It made me realize what I’m doing now influences people and what I do impacts our community in ways I had never considered before. It was a very insightful discussion.
In particular, seeing Andy Miller up there was awesome. He made the first Joomla template I ever used, the Joomla 1.5 default Milky Way template, which I’m sure was the first Joomla template that many people used. Not long after that he gave me a job at Rocket Theme as a forum moderator and I went on to do much more. That job was the start of my Joomla journey. I was a sponsor rep at JWC2012 which was my first community event and it opened so many doors for me.
Without Andy and Rocket Theme I probably wouldn’t have been at this JWC, or any JWC ever, or had any of the opportunities I’ve had with Joomla this year. I hadn’t spoken to him for awhile and it was great to reconnect again. It brought my journey with Joomla full circle In a lot ways and I’m really glad he was there.
Much like every Joomla event I’ve been to this year I just seem to end up in the right place at the right time. I had great discussions over meals and in the lounge just because I sat down at a table that had an open chair. The chair next to me always seemed to be occupied by an influential person in the Joomla community telling me things I needed to hear. These short and unexpected conversations alone were worth the trip. They provided insight and motivation for what I’m working on now and for the future. That’s what these events are all about.
There were so many wonderful people at the conference and so many other great topics and workshops. I made many new friends from Asia and all over the world. My only regret at these conferences is that I can’t be in every room at the same time to watch every session and get to know every person who is there.
Outside of the conference, I found some time for fun and exploration...
My Personal Experiences In India
A big reason I wanted to go on this trip is because it was the adventure of a life time and I made time to explore while I was there. I was looking for a spiritual experience of some kind in India and I found it at the Hare Krishna temple near the hotel. I wound up there after wandering through the streets of Bangalore for a few hours which was an experience in itself. It was humbling to visit such a powerful temple with so much history. The architecture and artwork was beautiful, there are no pictures allowed inside which made it an even more valuable memory. I was blessed by the Krishna, meditated in the temple and learned about the culture while I took it all in.
Life is so different in India than it is in Colorado or anywhere in the US. Experiencing it first hand has given me a new perspective on life. I realized how fortunate I am and that we take many things for granted in the US. We may have more conveniences in the US but the people of India were very friendly and happy, it's just a different way of life.
I can say I’ll never complain about traffic again, downtown Denver during rush hour is a walk in the park compared to the streets of Bangalore at any time of the day. I experienced this first hand during my several taxi rides and a memorable rickshaw ride to the hotel that got my blood pumping. It was a little scary for me but it’s business as usual in India.
We also had some fun outside of the conference. A bunch of us hit the nightclub on the roof of the 30 story World Trade Center, which was right across the street from the hotel. We drank and danced until they booted us out of there at 1am, which is still pretty early by my standards, but at least they can go later on Saturdays instead of the usual 11pm curfew in Bangalore.
It was a blast to dance and drink while looking at the city from one of the tallest buildings in the city with my Joomla friends from all over the world. I got to dance on top of the world trade center, on the other side of the world, with my favorite people and my favorite music. Too cool.
Not to mention the food. I’ve never had much Indian food before and I didn’t really have an opinion about it before I went. I figured I would give it shot and I tried everything with an open mind. I can now say I’m a big fan of Indian cuisine. Once I got a taste for it I couldn’t shovel enough into my face. I tried so many things I had never had before and they were all really good for the most part. I wouldn’t say anything was bad, it was just very unusual to me, like everything in India was. Trying new food and eating is one of my favorite parts of traveling and I'm looking forward to enjoying more Indian food now that I know how good it is.
A Great End To A Great Year
Overall, it was an amazing experience. My head was spinning for a week after I got home but having this story to share is priceless. The conference was amazing and experiencing what life is like in India has given me a much deeper life perspective. It was the perfect way to end an incredible year of traveling and participation in the Joomla Community.
This year I have learned that the end of every journey is really just the beginning of the next journey and the story continues. I’ve got a lot of important work to do with Joomla over the next year and the motivation I got from the Joomla Community at JWC 2015 will fuel my passion until the next JWC in Vancouver.
Big thanks to everyone in the Joomla community - the contributors, the sponsors, the speakers and the event volunteers for making JWC happen and for everything else you do. Joomla rocks and I can’t wait to see you all again in 2016.