We were all sitting on a round table, with our laptops open, Radek looked down on his screen, his fingers hung over the edge of his keyboard as if his wrists were broken. I couldn’t blame him, for days he had worked hard to make sure that the event JandBeyond was a success. His brilliance reflected this independence as he regularly found his way through challenges with grace matched by only a handful of engineers in the world. Radek is Polish, but his wife Sigrid, while having dinner narrated to me how they met. He was working for her, and they fell in love in the process……..and it was a good thing she says. They got married in Poland, but he, Radek had to wait three months to be able to travel to Germany and be with his wife, then, there was no European Union. They now live and work in Germany, and they keep bees.
We were five of us hard at work in the conference hall of the Hotel Alimara in Barcelona, Spain. Our team since I joined had been working well, and this was the first time we would be all of us in one room. We are called Joomla Event Team, one of many teams working with Joomla.org. This regular website where millions of websites are born and it’s among the most trafficked website on earth. Radek as now you know him is our team leader, but he is also a member of other teams including the Joomla Event Travel (JET) a program he pioneered and is now very proud of. His passion for Joomla is evident, every morning he would display his coffee on a table that in inhabited by everything Joomla, and the mug would be Joomla too. At least that’s how I came to know him.
We are all developers, Sigrid who works with her husband Radek in Germany, keeps us alive, she organizes our meetings and work schedules. Rowan, the lady with a big heart working from her London apartment with a great view of the London city-none like her in London, Carlos, the polite but strict Spanish guy who also loves running, through his company working on different successful project and then me, the guy who cycles daily in Nairobi Kenya doing design and enterprise consultancy. But all our work in Joomla was invisible, hidden inside the glowing screens of our laptops. What no one could possibly know is at the click of a button from any of our web browser, we would launch features that would instantly have an impact on millions of people around the world, yet to the person sitting near me, for all they care, I was playing solitaire. Rowan once told me-and I say this with a lot of love, that it took years for her mother to understand what it is she does, as far as she was concerned, her daughter stirred at a computer screen, like somebody who needs help.
The most amazing thing about our digital age is that the person next to you in a Starbucks might just be hacking into a Swiss bank or launching multiwarhead nuclear missiles continents away. Or maybe he’s just on Facebook. You can’t tell the difference unless you’re nosy enough to peek over his shoulder. Hidden behind our ordinary appearance were unusual facts. Although we were in the same team, our sitting together was a rare occurrence. Most of the time worked online. This meeting in Barcelona is the first we have all worked in the same room, but on a daily basis we are working in different countries and continents.
The very idea of working remotely seems strange to most people until they consider how much time at traditional workplace is spent working purely through computers. If 50 percent of your interaction with coworkers is online, perhaps through e-mail and web browsers, you’re not far from what Joomla.org does. The difference is that work at Joomla.org is done primarily, often entirely, online, and probably most important by a team of volunteers. Some people, most people, work together for months without even being on the same continent. Teams can organize to meet during world events, to recharge the intangibles that technology can’t capture, like sharing hii-fives with a bottle of beer. Which explains our trip in Barcelona.
Here is what you don’t expect to do on your first meeting, Budget and Budget cut, for the event team. Most people doubt that online meetings work, but they somehow overlook that most in-person meetings don’t work either. Being online does mean everyone might be distracted, but plenty of meeting today are filled with people with their laptops open, messaging each other about how bored they are. My theory is if what is being discussed is important, people will pay attention and in our meeting, Budget seemed to be the only topic of discussion and after that, we talked about other things, other personal things.
Later that day we all took seats at the bar, enjoying the conversation and some drinks. Many people know my name, but its only today that they can put a face on the name. When we are working on Glip or on email, you don’t see people’s faces. During our meetings on Hangout, most people don’t show their faces too. It’s difficult to know how they have changed or what color of hat they are wearing. But this kind of meetings allow you to answer some of the most disturbing questions on how your team mates look.
When you tell your neighbor that you have a Job, then spent the rest of the day, week, months, or year indoors, it’s difficult for them to believe you. And that’s just how internet has changed the way we work. For the Joomla Event Team, office was Hotel Alimara, so was home. And when we are in our different continents, we still have our office open on Glip, our tasks remain the tickets we solve-a ticket is when somebody sends a request, like a problem. Our boardroom is Hangout and skype and we live and breathe GitHub. With the hundreds of volunteers involved in Joomla community, the designers, programmers, engineers, translators, the people who sit behind their computers and launch applications that impact millions of users in the world.
The biggest consumers of coffee, this for them is where their work is, their heart is and their commitment is. It’s important to say that for me, Joomla has been a home, a wonderful place to work, network, make friends, interact and create strong bond of friendship. And when I look at people in action, all under the leadership of Sarah Watz, the President of OSM the future has never been brighter.