August 25, 2006 Controlled Chaos

Taku Fujita
Operating Officer and Executive Producer,
Mitsue Information Network Technology

Typo3 Developers Days

From August 11, over three days, open source CMS Typo3 developers met in Switzerland for the 1st International TYPO3 Developer Days event. While Typo3 is very popular in the USA and Europe, it is still relatively unknown in Japan as yet. Nevertheless, content management system (CMS) tools like Typo 3 now look set to become more firmly entrenched at some stage in the future as more and more information is collected. Prior to attending this event, I had only just installed Typo3 to try it out, but even at that this early stage, I was really impressed by its flexibility, and so I decided to check out the 1st International TYPO3 Developer Days event.

The three days of the event provided an actual forum for development. This made this event more like a "developer's camp" that involved those in attendance participating in brainstorming sessions about the latest Version 4.0 and the new Version 5.0, Bug Squashing sessions where several developers worked tirelessly on ironing out any bugs, Code Sprint sessions where new ideas could be implemented and tried out, with various practical examples of Typo3 applications also given, along with their codes.

What's Normal for Some Is Not Always Normal for Others

As I had only just started using Typo3, initially I was a little bit nervous about ensconcing myself in this world of developers, but from the second day onwards, I was able to talk to a number of other people, and was able to get a lot of useful information out of these conversations. Even though the event schedule was tightly packed with events programmed from morning to night, it wasn't that tough at all.

During these chats I had with the other participants, one of the main issues that came up was, naturally, the issue of interaction between different cultures, and the differences in the way the web is used in Japan and the United States or Europe. For example, when I mentioned that CMS were not used as extensively in Japan as they are in the USA or Europe, I was then asked "So labor costs are cheap in Japan, are they?" And when I talked to a few people about a blog tool used in the Japanese web industry that I thought pretty much everyone would be familiar with, I was the asked, “How do you spell that? I haven't heard of it.” Evidently, what was considered “the norm” in Japan was not necessarily so overseas, as so I found myself suffering from a bit of a culture shock when discussing some very fundamental concepts.

A CMS Development Platform

One of Typo3's main features is its flexibility and potential for customization. The development of Extensions for adding new features is probably the main draw card of this CMS tool, and at present, some 1,500-plus Extensions are registered on official sites. Some of these many extensions include extensions for realizing e-commerce, as well as others for creating links to applications that handle business processes like CRM or ERP.

There are also other open source CMS that can be customized in this way as well. For example, there are tools specifically for development such as JSP development tools for OpenCMS and Content Management Framework (CMF) for Zope. For Typo3 too, consideration has also been given to what sorts of systems are needed to develop Extensions more effectively, and this topic took up a large part of the brainstorming sessions that took place at the Developers Days event. The fact that these Extensions can be developed might just be Typo3's best feature, but with little (or maybe even no) documentation in Japanese, this may be why Typo3 has been so slow to take off in Japan.

Presentation by Kasper Skårhø

To wrap up the event, Kasper Skårhø, the father and author of Typo3, gave an address in which he extended his thanks to all developers, and talked about the future direction of Typo3.

During his address, he said something, which I have briefly summarized below, that made a lasting impression on me.

When I first started developing Typo3, I was the only developer, and so I had control over everything. But what I could achieve was limited to what one person could do. Then, with Typo3 going open source, more and more developers from different backgrounds got involved and a community was formed. The range of basic features has been improved and expanded, and countless Extensions have now been registered as well. However, this development is starting to descend into chaos. So from now on, I hope that we will be able to further refine the flow of Typo3 development systems, so that we can better organize those systems and create a state of controlled chaos, without encroaching on the freedom of those developers creating the chaos.

This concept of Controlled Chaos that Kasper touched on is something I think will apply not only to the future directions of open source projects, but also to Web technology too, where the chaos invoked by talk of concepts such as Web 2.0 needs not to be quashed but organized.

So, I will definitely be keeping a keen eye on what happens next with Typo3.

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