New Development Approach Powers Joomla! 1.6 Release

Joomla! 1.6 Beta 1 was released for download on Monday, marking in important milestone for the PHP-based, open source content management system (CMS). The new version adds features that should ease management of large content stores and complex user groups, as well as provide for better content presentation.

Louis Landry, developer in the Joomla! Production Leadership Team, said Joomla 1.6 addresses four key areas: More capable access control, a hierarchical content category system, simpler site administration and extension updates, and a revamped output that gets away from the tables-centric display of content. There are also numerous smaller feature improvements and fixes underway in the 1.6 beta.

"This is technically our third major release as a project. And I think each one of them sort of focuses on a particular area," Landry said."It appears on the outside as if we targeted the enterprise or targeted a large scale organization. But really what we've done is focus on the pieces that are most painful right now."

Landry said that the access control list (ACL) had emerged as a real pain point, as Joomla! CMS administrators found themselves checking multiple check boxes to establish permissions. The new, hierarchical system enables users to inherit permissions based on the groups they are part of. Also new is the overhauled content categorization system, which provides for a deeply scalable hierarchy that removes the three-level limit in earlier versions. The features address issues encountered by larger organizations.

"You could probably put a spin of Joomla! growing up thing on it. But I would argue that the Joomla! growing up angle comes from the work we've done on the development process," said Landry

Changed Approach
That work includes a new approach to project contributions and updates with version 1.6. Landry said that the lack of discipline in the process sometimes created delays and problems, often because a single feature wasn't ready. With Joomla! 1.6, the development team has committed to a rapid, two-week beta release cycle, and has established ground rules for development.

"We've done it a bunch of different ways in the past. And what it comes to is we need to set dates in the ground and do things a little more structured," said Landry. "Everything in the trunk is always stable. Work is done in branches. And we've set a date where your stuff has to be ready or it goes in the next release."

Landry said the new system doesn't mean dedicated developers can't pursue a dream feature. But he did emphasize that beta releases won't be held up waiting for promised bits. Instead, delayed functionality will simply be rolled into the next beta, two weeks down the road.

Landry also said the Joomla! team hopes to expand the circle of contributors to the project. Interested developers can gain access to source code repositories after signing a contributor agreement, which gives them the ability to write to branched code. Landry said Joomla's "inner circle" of developers will review code and work with developers to assess whether their bits can be introduced to the trunk code.

Ultimately, the goal is to get Joomla! on a six-month release cycle.

"What we've done with the last couple of releases is they were about two years apart, and the world changes," explained Landry. "What we're hoping to do is smaller bites, more often, and keep things moving, consistently."

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.