The Bob Bloom Show #49: Throwing The Book At Joe LeBlanc, Part 1 Of 2

Wednesday March 21st, 2012



Joseph LeBlanc began programming when he was eight years old. Since then he has become a computer programmer and an active member of the tech community in Austin, Texas. After writing a Mambo programming tutorial in 2004, Joseph went on to author Learning Joomla! 1.5 Extension Development and record Joomla! 1.7/2.5: Programming and Packaging Extensions. Joseph currently writes code for Cory Webb Media while sampling tacos and bánh mì sandwiches around Austin.


Welcome to the 49th “The Bob Bloom Show”. My name is Bob Bloom from Toronto, Canada. Today is Thursday, March 22nd, 2012.

Bob: Today I have the pleasure of talking to Joe LeBlanc. Joe, first time here, thank you for taking the time to be here.

Joe: Thanks for having me and at last.

Bob: Yes at last. I want to tell you that I went to the Joomla and Beyond website and I see you’re a keynote speaker.  I don’t understand what you’re going to talk about.

Joe: So, what I really want to talk about is just taking a look at what other Open Source projects do and how they handle different problems that we run into in the Joomla community.  I’ve been taking a look at some different systems this year, like I did a Google Plus post a little bit earlier this year talking about some of the other things I’m looking at – like Ruby on Rails and Druple and just a few other software packages that are out there because they all are focused on solving this web problem that we’re all facing.  You know we’ve got to create a website and deal with Javascript and CSS and database queries and all the things that come together to make our website and a lot of these other projects have come with a lot of tools that we should be looking at when we’re building Joomla.

Bob: It’s just like one big cross pollination thing?

Joe: Yeah, I mean it’s, we don’t want to go around reinventing the wheel and I think there is a lot of things that we can learn from other projects even if we can’t directly use the code that they’re using.

Bob: Well, I don’t want you to give away what you’re going to say.  I just didn’t quite understand from the write-up on the site.

You’re the first person in the Joomla world that I met through Amazon.

Joe: Yeah.

Bob: That’s because you wrote the book called Learning Joomla! 1.5 Extension Development. So, my question is what motivated you to author the book?

Joe: I was actually approached by the author of the book.  The whole story behind this was I was working a job and decided to quit and didn’t really have anything lined up after that and on the very last day of work the final contract for this book came through and so I just spent the next little while writing the book while I was doing some freelance work and you know, just kind of hung tight there for a little bit while I wrote the book and got another job and then it got published.

Bob: and I’m not the only one who met you through Amazon by the way.  I hear it quite a bit.  I appreciate it that you offered the code samples for download, because that was a big help for me.  It also reinforced the idea that the way to learn is to look at the code.  Something about it being Open Source?

So you graduated with a Bachelor of  Science  in Management Information Systems.  I’m thinking that sounds like you should be deep within Corporate IT, so how did you end up with Joomla?

Joe: Happy accident. [laughter] I started looking for work during my senior year of college and it was still kind of rough, I mean, the after affects of the dot com crash were still being felt but things were beginning to turn around a little bit and I just started looking for work and found some part-time contract work with someone who wanted to use Mambo to power all his websites and there weren’t really any tutorials on how to write code for Mambo at the time. So I just started tearing Mambo apart and looking at how it was built; and, then finally wrote a tutorial on how to create a Mambo component and then it was just all downhill after there.  People just started hitting my website like crazy and I was hooked on freelancing.

Bob: And your book which I’m holding in my hand is subtitled “A Practical Tutorial” so I guess you’re used to writing about tutorials in that style.

Joe: Yeah, I like teaching, I really do and I like doing things where I can show it used in a sentence – I don’t like Hello World or anything like that.  I want to show kind of a practical example of how you can use that code to solve a problem that you have.

Bob: Did you find that your book helped your freelancing?

Joe: Oh definitely.  There were lots of people that found my book and wanted me to do work for them.  Although immediately after the book was launched I was actually working for a contractor at the Federal Aviation Administration in DC and so that was really keeping me busy for the first couple of years after the book was launched and then after that just all the while I was working there people were contacting me and wanting me to do work for them but that definitely helped when I decided to leave the FAA.

Bob: Not just left the FAA, you left Washington.

Joe: Yeah.  I left the FAA first though and still had another year or two there in Washington.

Bob: You went from Tweeting about where you were having a snack or something in Washington and then that all just stopped on Twitter. Just like overnight.  

You have attended a lot of Joomla events. Is it like if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all?

Joe: It’s interesting because while a lot of the Joomla Days do have kind of the same feel to them, you still have, I say as you go to the different locations you have the different user groups and kind of their personalities come through.  I love going to Joomla Day New England, I went there once and spoke and if you go up there they just have a solid crew that is very much into Joomla and is very excited about building websites and they all just live in little towns in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts and it’s just a lot of fun.

Bob: They have a Joomla day coming up in two weeks, right? The last weekend of this month?

Joe: Yeah, Jeremy will be there.

Bob: I find it curious that this web project Joomla where people from all over the world work on it have a visceral need  to meet face to face and this is the most important thing to know about these Joomla events?

Joe: I think so.  You do learn what the presenters are teaching and you do have some interaction where you’re sitting down and just talking through different problems with people but I think the most important part is just to meet people that you’re interacting with on-line because there is so much that doesn’t transfer over the internet as far as socialization goes.  There’s vocal tone and body language and a lot of culture that just kind of gets erased when you’re on-line.  I mean the flip side of doing things on-line though is that you get to meet people from all over the world that you probably wouldn’t have otherwise, but at the same time you need that time, that facetime with people so that you can just learn a little bit more about them.

Bob: I’m here nodding my head.  Even doing the podcasts and hearing somebody talk is different from reading a blog post that they wrote about the same thing we’re talking about.  It conveys something different.

Bob: I noticed today at lunch time that you had just released Podcast Suite.   When I decided to create my own Media website, I took a long look at your extension which was called Podcast Suite. You had stopped working on that extension at the time so I was considering tweaking it and maybe just releasing it to the public.  I remember I contacted you about it and you said “sure, whatever” [laughter] and I did something. You’re talking about the different projects I sat down with Druple and I said “forget it”; and then, I sat down with WordPress and WordPress just seemed to have a lot out of the box, they’ve got something called PowerPress which is aligned with someone’s business but obviously I went with WordPress and it just seemed better suited, so I’m glad I sent you the Show Notes first.

Why did you create Podcast Suite in the first place, and then how come you stopped working on it?

Joe: So we’re back when podcasting was really new, I mean this is back in late 2004, it was still the Mambo days and I was beginning to hear about podcasts and began to subscribe to a few and I was thinking – what do I need to do to get podcasting into Mambo. And how can I make Mambo the best platform for publishing a podcast? and it turned out that for the most part the only thing that was missing was the enclosure tag in RSS feeds.

Bob: To get it to ….. sorry for interrupting ….. for the RSS feeds and also for iTunes.

Joe: Yeah, well this was before iTunes.

Bob: It was? Wow, I didn’t realize it went back that far.

Joe: Oh yeah, it started, if anybody was around then there was this guy Adam Currie who did a lot of the spearheading of the whole podcasting format and before Apple got into it it was very much a community driven thing and it still is, but we didn’t really have iTunes to catch the podcasts and to download automatically to your iPod, and it was all done through a lot of the different scripts and things that people cooked up to make it work and so I wanted to be part of this community and I wanted to make it just brilliantly simple for someone to publish a podcast for Mambo and at the time all it was was just adding a tag into that RSS feed and you were pretty much good to go and so I got that out pretty quickly.  I forked the com_syndicate component for Mambo and just added in the pieces that we needed to make it do podcasting.

Bob: Those were the days.

Joe: Yeah and that was Podcast Suite.  You know I had that and then a plug-in and a module, so it was the three kind of major extension types.

Bob: So you had an on again/off again with Podcast Suite – I had no idea.  Because when I picked it up it was not like Mambo.

Joe: Right, so I still worked on Podcast Suite and then Adam Currie convinced Apple to add podcasting support for iTunes so that you could subscribe to podcasts directly in iTunes.

Bob: It will never work. [laughter]

Joe: Right. So it exploded and iTunes is now essentially the de facto podcatcher, I guess as people would call it.  It is really simple to just go through and search for podcasts and subscribe and you don’t have to even think about RSS or anything and all these podcasts just magically appear on your iPhone now.  As that happened Apple also added just a ton of new tags to the RSS feed that you need to add to make things appear attractive in their Podcast Directory.

Bob: That’s right and before you were trying to pull info from the Joomla database as it was, like from the article, and with iTunes there are so many specific XML tags – where do you put them [oops, I mean “where do you get the info within Joomla for these Apple-specific XML tags” -Bob]?  So when I looked at your Podcast Suite I remember there was a few more tags or whatever because you had stopped development I would have had to put in and there was nowhere on the Joomla article where this info would have been.  So I could just see you pulling your hair out over this.

Joe: What I really wanted to accomplish with Podcast Suite was just a very thin layer over the core content management so that you weren’t managing this enormous component to handle a lot of different things at once and that you put in a little tag and you just ran with it.  That was the idea behind Podcast Suite. But the very concept that podcasting has now really I would say evolved because now it’s not even just iTunes but people are very much into the front end of the podcasting, you know how the podcasting looks on the website. Because there are tons of people who listen to podcasts and never subscribe.  They just go to the website and start playing it because they see a player there. So that’s part of what we’ve done with Podcast Suite 2.0 is we’ve really reworked it to work with that newer concept of what a podcast is and to help people display their podcasts on their website rather than just syndicate it off iTunes.

Bob: There’s a few things happening.  You have to get the podcast to iTunes, so you do that.  You also want to get it into an RSS feed which is not necessarily iTunes, so there’s that.  You also want to include a player so that the MP3 just shows up in the article.  And you said something else – how it looks on the site, so it sounds like you’re going to have a module – I have not looked at your Podcast Suite 2.0 – you just released it an hour or two ago.  I assume that there is a module.

Joe: Actually there is no module.

Bob: There is a module that can display a few podcasts in the player.  Sorry, you’re thinking about how to present it on the site as well.

Joe: Yeah, it’s actually not a module.

Bob: It’s not a module.

Joe: The approach that we’ve taken now is the Podcast Suite now has more of a front end to it so you can list all your podcasts in one place without necessarily creating even articles now.  So that has all the players that you  need and then if you do want to use an article or you do want to imbed an episode in a module you could use the editor tabs that will place a specific episode in that module or that article.  So now we’ve bundled a copy of JPlayer and that is what we’re using at the moment as the front end player and we have more plans in the works as far as that goes, but at the moment we have that working and it is just working right out of the box.

Bob: and the extension is free but the support is commercial.

Joe: Actually we have changed it.  It is now a commercial extension and so when you buy it you do get the support and you do get updates for however long you subscribe to the extension.  So that is how Podcast Suite is now moving.

Bob: So it’s a premium extension?

Joe: Yeah.

Bob: Okay, and there were six month duration and 12 month or something like that?

Joe: Yup.

Bob: You have to give me at least 2 hours notice. [laughter]

Joe: No worries.

Bob: I’m going to sell this as I’m always on the bleeding edge – right?

Joe: Yes.

Bob: I’m sort of reticent because you said something about the Square One.  I did see that the site that the new is built on Square One.  I think there was a tweet on that.  So that’s working out.

Joe: Yup. Yeah we, Jeremy and I, mainly Jeremy right now is working on Square One and I’m getting a little bit more involved with it too and we’re very happy with what Jeremy’s been able to accomplish in a pretty short period of time and we’re looking forward to doing more work with Square One and using it as a way of testing out new features and things we can bring back to the Joomla community at large.

Bob: I didn’t quite realize that you guys are connected through your connection at Cory Web.  Both of you joined there recently and it’s through Cory Web that Podcast Suite is being developed?

Joe LeBlanc joins Cory Webb Media

Jeremy Wilken joins Cory Webb Media

Joe: Yes.

Bob: I think that’s what I read, and because of that and I see you’re chiming in on the Square One Google Group.

Joe: Yeah.

Bob: So, it’s all, I’m having Jeremy on next month.

Joe: So you can see all the connections.

Bob: So it’s all connected. So I thought we’d talk about Podcast Suite and then Square One, it will sort of be just one big continuous conversation.  So that’s why I’m here stumbling through  my notes.  Actually you said something on the Square One Google Group that had me going to those websites about package management and that’s what I didn’t quite understand what you were all getting at so I was hoping that – I thought when Jeremy comes on I’ll ask him about it.  But I really like what you said even though I didn’t quite understand it.

Joe: Yes, there’s a couple of different concepts floating around out there and one of them is more generalized package management for PHP and if you take a look at, that is a project that’s designed to be kind of a generic package manager for PHP itself.  And that way if you have a lot of dependencies for your software you don’t actually have to bundle those dependencies with your software, you just have to have packages there and tell it it to go fetch everything for you.  So that’s kind of something I’d like to see in Square One and I know Jeremy is working on doing things as bundles, for lack of a better term, where you might say all these different extensions go together and I want blogging set up.  So that would go and install some of your extensions that would help you get a blog up and running.

Bob: Uhm hum.  And if you had just released an extension and you did the website on the Square One and you would end up maybe doing a distro of Square One with Podcast Suite on it or with it on the XML for the updates.

Joe: Yeah.

Bob: I like that.  See it’s just one big continuous conversation.  We should split this into a two-part – we’re already at the 25 minute mark.

Joe: Okay.

Bob: For the second part, you have a tutorial that you did and I wanted to talk about that. So we’ll see you in Part 2.

Joe: All right.


Bob:This is Bob Bloom, signing off part 1 of my interview with Joe LeBlanc, wishing you a profitable week.

You have been listening to a production. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of SouthLaSalleMEDIA dot com, nor of the organizations represented. Links and materials discussed on air are available in the Show Notes for this show. Information contained herein have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but are not guaranteed. Podcasts are released under a creative commons licence. Some rights are reserved. Email correspondence to the attention of Bob Bloom at info at SouthLaSalleMedia dot com.

Monthly commentary and interviews about websites, technology, and consulting. Produced by Bob Bloom, founder and developer of LaSalle Software.

Produced 57 podcasts from 2010 to 2016.

Currently on hiatus.

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