We can never understand other people’s motives, nor their furniture.Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1963

I can think of a dozen or more sound reasons for keeping software up-to-date and, further, why I would recommend that other people should not use outdated or unsupported software.  However this article is not about my personal preferences; this article is about how we should recognise that everyone’s different and to respect people who have different needs or different views about such matters.  In fact, while I can think of good reasons for not using outdated or unsupported software there is one reason that negates all the others:  if a business is thriving on the use of outmoded technology, if there’s a continuing demand for it, then the business comes ahead of anyone else’s opinion.

Inasmuch as the Joomla! forum is a resource for people to ask questions and seek help, I’ve often written that there’s only one expert in the “room” at any given time.  That expert is not me nor is it someone who’s written tens of thousands of words elsewhere.  The true expert is the person who asks the question—even if they may not know the technical terms or how best to articulate that question.  Our job should only be to facilitate in ways that relate to the questioner’s needs.  The Joomla! forum should welcome people, irrespective of their technical proficiency, and respect their questionsRespect, of course, is a two-way street.  People who abuse the forum to shamelessly promote themselves, products, services or violate the forum rules—people who show no respect to others who rely upon the forum for help—of course, deserve only to be shown the exit door.  Our task is not to judge other people because of the choices they’ve made no matter what personal feelings we have.

Before continuing further, I have to admit that I haven’t always felt as I do now; I confess that I have criticised—some people may claim that I’ve judged—others for their choices.  I confess that I have been among the chorus of opinionated “experts” who’ve condemned people who come to the Joomla! forum seeking help with obsolete software and told them to update—as if people were clueless, in the first place, about the need to update in any case.  I even went as far as to request the abolition of J! 1.x-related forum categoriessee https://forum.joomla.org/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=960705.  I admit I was wrong.  I can’t retract what I have written in the past but, as poor an apology as this may be written here in a microcosm on the internet, I’m genuinely sorry.

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Those people cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them because they see and covet what He has not given them.  All of our discontents for what we want appear to me to spring from want of thankfulness for what we have.Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, 1719

About a fortnight ago I had a most interesting evening chat with one of the moderators from Joomla Stack Exchange.  It was worthwhile gauging the impressions of an independent outsider, that is, someone who is not a regular user of the Joomla! forum.  Our chat gave me several further ideas about how we could use JAFFAAS to improve the quality and effectiveness of the Joomla! forum.

There are three key strengths that set the Joomla! forum apart from other technical forums for Joomla!:

  1. The Joomla! forum is usually the first place that novice users visit when they have a question about Joomla.  Depending on how their questions are received, new users will decide to persevere with, or abandon, Joomla based on that experience.  In other words, the Joomla! forum is not merely a showcase of technical excellence but, depending on that first experience, the forum can be a deal-maker or a deal-breaker.  In that regard, the Joomla! forum stands out from all other technical forums where Joomla! issues are discussed.
  2. The Joomla! forum is the first place where the arrival of new releases of the Joomla! CMS product are announced.
  3. The forum has a large multi-language area for people to discuss Joomla in a language other than English.  Although other forums exist for people who prefer to write in a language other than English, most of the well-established and respected technical forums only allows for questions and answers to be discussed in English.

In this article we will look five simple improvements for the Joomla! forum.

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webilicious's Avatar
webilicious commented: #93 03 Dec 2019 21:49
Hi Michael,

Thanks for caring.

Due to some of the problems you have touched on here, I gave up on the Joomla forum a couple of years ago after contributing over 850 posts over a period of about 8 years (which of course is a minor contribution compared to yourself and many others).

I still occasionally find useful solutions on the Joomla forum when I stumble across posts in search results but now tend to find solutions quicker on Joomla Stack Exchange or Stack Overflow.

The beauty of the Stack Exchange websites is that the best solutions are voted to the top and can be found easily without having to wade through pages of forum posts, many of which are unhelpful or irrelevant to the original question. Duplicate and off-topic questions also tend to be flagged and removed which makes the content easier to navigate and more efficient. The moderation structure also seems far more equitable where moderators are voted in by the community based on merit.

There is a wealth of information in the Joomla forum and there's no doubt this will continue to be useful for years to come but I can't help thinking that technologically, the forum platform has been superseded by platforms like Stack Exchange for users that are looking for a solution rather than a discussion.

As I write this in December 2019 I note that the joomla.stackexchange.com website domain authority is currently 89 which is fast approaching the forum.joomla.org website at 92.

I'd also like to point out for anyone who is unaware that joomla.stackexchange.com is an "official" Joomla support channel at least to the extent that it is included under the Help menu in the Joomla back-end.

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Man who says it cannot be done should not interrupt man already doing it.Chinese proverb

Image:  Michael Babker comment 1-Oct-2019People who offer their help on volunteer-run technical forums are often criticised by experts—experts who, just as often, fail to provide easy-to-follow advice to novices—and it’s in this context that the Joomla! forum is at risk of becoming the last place where people seek advice.  In my last article—Drawing people together—I discussed the kind of criticism that some of my clumsily-worded tweets have attracted.  It’s extremely difficult to express one’s opinion in 280 characters or less and not attract a flood of opposition in return.

Michael BabkerWe tried to contact Michael for comment before publishing this article but he declined to respond to our request. is one of my heroes.  I’ve probably learned more about Joomla—the Joomla! project and what happens behind the scenes—from Michael than from anyone else.  Although self-described as “opinionated”, he writes with a breath-taking clarity that puts the rest of us to shame.  Every time I see his name on the Joomla! forum I make sure that I read his contribution to the issue being discussed.

Over the past twelve months, perhaps as the result of the apparent torpor with the Joomla! 4 project and the inability to breakthrough into the beta phase of development, I’ve observed Michael has become less active on the Joomla! forum.  His website says that he’s, basically, had enough.  That, in itself, is a pity but it’s not the reason I am writing this article.

In this article we will look at the effect on a self-help forum of censuring of people by experts.  We will particularly look at how the Joomla! forum is at risk of becoming redundant owing to this kind of behaviour.

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Kjrsos's Avatar
Kjrsos commented: #88 15 Oct 2019 01:44
I love the Joomla forum and the expertise afforded to those of us who don't know what we are doing. Personally, I bless each one of these volunteers that give of their time and knowledge so freely to make a difference. And I want to make all the difference I can to make sure to support those volunteers in this incredible project and make sure it is there for a long time to come not just for me but for everyone. But Michael, is right there are some that do come across at times as.. I don't know the right word... hard? Almost angry when you ask a question only to find out it has been answered before. Well of course it has. I am sure most are. And of course, I have used the search function on google and on Joomla. But it should be obvious that if I am posting the question neither search came up with the right answer for me. Either because I didn't input exactly the right words in the right order to get the answer I needed or in the long list of return searches, I missed it. So why be snarky saying that if I only searched I would obviously find the answer? Or be miffed if I have problems following your instructions? What to you is easy and obvious because you work with it every day can be difficult for those who only look at the programming side of their site once every six months or year. Because that is the brilliance of Joomla - endless miles of code prewritten for us so that we can focus on content, not programming. But I also know that if we want good volunteers working on the Joomla project and forum we need to make sure that they feel appreciated and are working in an environment that bolsters them to be there and having to deal with spam all the time can't be something that makes them feel like they want to be there.
Abernyte's Avatar
Abernyte commented: #87 14 Oct 2019 19:11
This is an interesting point and I would be fascinated to know what the other large CMS fora look and feel like. I might even be motivated to go and have trawl.  We have all ( those that contribute) seen examples of replies to topics which were less than helpful or welcoming, but my overall impression is that the Joomla forum is really not to scary for a technical discussion board. I too put great store in what I see penned by Mr Babker.  It can be direct and unsettling but it is always pertinent and worthy of notice.  There were others in the past that I look at in similar regard whose names are now seldom seen in the Board but that is the way of life. The question is really,  has the board changed since social media became a thing? Are we shorter and less respectful in how we deal with others because of the type of communication that we now use? 
As I have not and will never sully my pixels with any of the offerings from Large Social Techtm I am ill suited to comment

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