It takes all kinds to build a world

Ten years ago, I'd never have thought that an Open Source project could give me enough fuel to stay for such a long time. And although being part of it can require a lot of energy at times, it was certainly the friendly community which made me eventually quit my old job and dive into TYPO3 completely. Diversity and common value is what drives us ahead personally and in the end also TYPO3.

The TYPO3 project has always been a great place to be: many passionate enthusiasts willingly spending their spare time on sometimes tedious work; because we are proud of what the community can create and thrilled about the challenge to make it even better. Personally, this has always inspired me and let me in turn inspire others. That's what some of the "old boys" in the community identified as our common vision during a meeting in Kettrup Bjerge: Inspiring People to Share. Not a marketing claim, but rather a manifest we all could agree on.

So far so cosy. But TYPO3 has also always been a rough place to be. Most of us being not native English speakers learned communicating by email the hard way. Everybody soon realized that especially email is a quite misleading communication channel. A lot of very different characters contribute to TYPO3 and each of us has a certain vision of how things should be. This makes it a perfect breeding ground for misunderstanding and personal flame wars.

In the history of the core team we had several "bigger issues" between team members. And as far as I can see most of them could have been prevented. What we need to accept and be aware of all the time is that

  • we are diverse, each of us has a different character, mentality and cultural background
  • but we have common values and are part of the project because we love what we can achieve together

Although Kasper took an unbelievably big step in creating TYPO3, it was the community and the friendship among its members which made TYPO3 what it is today. It was the diversiveness of the community which brought the project ahead: we managed to put our different ideas together instead of living a my-idea-or-nothing mentality. It is the wisdom of the crowd which made TYPO3 a great CMS, not the wisdom of the crown alone.

Where many people, money and power are involved, there is always room for conspiracy. When Julle, Kasper and I first discussed the idea of creating a TYPO3 Foundation (at a McDonald's break on the way back from Amsterdam), we had never thought that this would also mean a lot of politics, justifcations and bureaucracy. The first years of the TYPO3 Association were hard because the TYPO3 community (including us founders) was unsure about what role the Association would take. Today the situation is much better because we managed to bring the T3A into a position we initially imagined for it: as a fundraiser for important community projects and a guardian of the TYPO3 brand.

We are also getting better at making the TYPO3 Association transparent. At the General Assembly last week members like Jochen Weiland asked several good and detailed questions about administration costs, budgets and marketing. And we could answer Jochen's questions with pointing to running or accomplished initiatives. Most people in the TYPO3 project highly value constructive criticism and I know from personal experiences and from conferences that TYPO3 is known for this openness even outside our community.

But conspiracy doesn't stop at the Association. Community members speculate that Kasper and me must be millionaires, the core team is an elite club who lets nobody in and the organizers of our conferences and snow board tours all drive Mercedes thanks to the expensive tickets. The awkward thing is that you, as the subject of such an affair, come to know about it as the last. You hear it through the grapevine and it is always highly emotional and cumbersome to solve.

One way to tackle this is better communication and more transparency. But that's only half of the truth because often I heard myself saying "hey, we posted it on the front page on" but the message still missed the recipient (should have posted that on Facebook). I think that the real solution is only a deeper understanding and more considerate communication. We need to be team players and at times cut back our own interests in favor of a viable compromise. We should receive all messages in the most positive manner and not allege that someone is doing us deliberately harm. We should accept that people are different, have different opinions and ways to communicate, but in the end we're striving for a friendly community and a great piece of software.

In that sense I wish that whoever currently feels harmed by me or someone else in the community takes a deep breath and considers if that is really the case or be done on purpose. And then: talk to eachother.

It takes all kinds to build a world.

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