Of course there are numerous changes that I expect the community to mention in the comments section below, but in my mind two of these changes stand out as having a disproportionate impact on the community.
Connecting to the outside world
The first has to deal with the fact that Joomla’s leadership teams have been increasingly open to initiatives that originate outside the project.
For example, when J and Beyond was first organized in 2010, it was not officially endorsed by the Joomla project. This is why the word Joomla is not in the title of the event itself.
Thus, attending this "rogue" event — J and Beyond 2010 — gave some people the feeling that they were part of a movement that was somehow rebelling against the Joomla project.
For others who did not attend that first conference, I expect that the feelings were similar but simply framed as a different narrative — one of loyalty to the Joomla project perhaps.
In my mind, every Joomla event — regardless of whether it has been sanctioned by a leadership team or not — is a positive event. J and Beyond 2011 was very rewarding then as numerous representatives from the Joomla project were in attendance
Not only did this mark the acceptance of J and Beyond by the Joomla project, folks on both sides immediately recognized many similarities in each other and any prior feelings of us vs. them melted away and were forgotten almost immediately.
For example, I personally settled a contentious issue with Paul Orwig (then a member of the Community Leadership Team) dating back to when he joined the Extensions Directory team some months earlier. I think both of us used that conference as the basis of a professional relationship built on common purpose and mutual respect that has continued well into 2012 when we met this past weekend.
Another example of the Joomla project accepting outside ideas is Bootstrap — the responsive UI framework from Twitter — that Kyle Ledbetter has been championing for sometime for inclusion in Joomla 3.
Since this framework has now been accepted by the Production Leadership Team, I feel that Bootstrap is a powerful example of how ideas originating outside the Joomla project can gain widespread acceptance.
No more forking drama
The other change that has had a profound influence on the community is that the various sub-groups that spawned from Mambo — Joomla and then Nooku and Molajo for example — have realized that as cousins, they can each have their own success independent of the other.
To provide some context, at J and Beyond 2011 both Nooku and Molajo each had a visible and united presence. Similar to what I mentioned above, there was a palpable feeling in the air of us vs. them that was elevated by the sense that a Joomla fork might be on the horizon.
Joomla’s history as a fork of Mambo stirs powerful emotions for those of us who were around at that time. So it’s easy to see why J and Beyond 2011 might not have inspired quite so much of the warm and fuzzy feelings I mentioned at the beginning of this article.
Using Nooku as an example, they recently announced their plans to move away from Joomla entirely and follow their own vision. I felt very proud when there was no large outcry about forking from the Joomla community or any other such nonsense.
I hope Nooku has great success and I think many folks in the Joomla community feel the same way.
Critically though, the success of these groups means that the Joomla community is maturing and focusing on its core strengths and interests. At J and Beyond 2012 there was none of the forking energy in the air and everyone had positive outlook for Joomla’s future.
In addition, the concept of Joomla distributions — a big buzz word at last year’s conference — is actually coming to fruition with Square 1 being perhaps the best-known example.
Joomla distributions are an excellent way to experiment with the codebase without having to create a fork. I have not heard one person express any concern with the concept of Joomla distributions, and Square 1 was well received at J and Beyond 2012.
One big happy family
J and Beyond is a lot like a large family reunion — you eat and drink all weekend with a bunch of people who aren’t your friends where you talk about why Uncle Phil couldn’t attend this year and who had a new baby and who’s getting married or graduating.
When the end comes there are lots of hugs and kisses and promises that everyone will get together next year and do it all over again.
In the past however, folks also seemed to be talking about other events specific to their own interests and how they could be growing those separate communities or external technologies.
In contrast, all the chatter at J and Beyond 2012 was focused on how soon we could get together for another Joomla family reunion and who would be in charge of bringing the beer!
It seems that the Joomla community is finally on the same page and heading towards an ever-brighter future.
More importantly, we need to remember that families can disagree but at the end of the day, the most successful families stick together.