TYPO3 Berlin: an interview with Community Manager Ben van’t Ende
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Ahead of the 10th International TYPO3 Conference next week we caught up with TYPO3 Community Manager Ben van’t Ende to find out a little bit more about his day to day role and what he is looking forward to most at TYPO3 in Berlin.

Ben also shared his views on the role of comment functions on websites and the kinds of problems community managers face.

Ben’s presentation ‚Play to Innovate‘ takes place on Knowledge Day (10th of October) at 11:15.

WebMagazin: Tell us a little bit about your day to day role as Community Manager for TYPO3

Ben van’t Ende: I started my job on a small budget from one of the teams about 5 years ago. That budget was basically focused on communication within the team. At that time I was in the Steering Committee that was part of the TYPO3 Association. In the T3A we recognized the growth of the community and the resulting lack of overview of community activity. We often discussed the need for an overview of what was going on in the TYPO3 community.

Through team communication I pretty quickly recognized the need for better communication across the whole community. This was needed within teams themselves, in cross-teams and the community as a whole. From that perspective I requested a full-time budget for, what is now called, community management.

Communication is the biggest part of my day to day work. I visit many TYPO3 events in Germany, but also Open Source events in, for instance the US or Africa. I gather feedback from people and connect people to TYPO3 teams or find possibilities for the TYPO3 community to participate in events or other activities. I take care of TYPO3 social media and I write an almost weekly article that summarizes the activity within the TYPO3 community.

What are you looking forward to most about the TYPO3 Conference in Berlin?

The TYPO3 conference is an excellent opportunity to get in touch with agency owners and get updated on technical developments that are closely related to the TYPO3 project.

Personally I am looking forward to meeting Kasper Skårhøj, founder of TYPO3, again. He has gone in a totally different direction and left the TYPO3 community a beautiful heritage. It is great that he still feels connected to the TYPO3 community in a way and we will all be looking forward to his keynote on the opening day.

Can you tell us some of the problems you encounter as a community manager? Do you have trolls?

The biggest problem I am facing is what I call the Association – Community dilemma. The TYPO3 Association represents the paying members, which are often agencies and also free-lancers of course. With the growth of the community in parallel with the growth of companies, the stakes get higher. The companies depend more and more on the stability, reliability and development of TYPO3 CMS and the other products we carry these days. There is a bigger need from companies for certain features and the T3A tries to give direction to the community regarding these topics. That is usually done with a top down approach while the community functions the opposite other way around. As an Open source community we heavily rely on our social capital. Most community work is done from that social basis, by consensus and from the bottom upwards. This might collide at times, because people who mostly do this community work in their spare time usually do not accept being told what to do.

The TYPO3 community does not really have trolls, as in ‚really nasty people‘. There is the odd nasty remark, but I never had to step in. Sometimes threads on the forum get out of hand, but the only irritating thing about that the discussions almost seem to be endless.

As a community manager, how do you see the role of the comment function on websites. Is it democratising online content? Or a marketing nightmare?

Whether or not this is a marketing nightmare also depends on the functionality of commenting tool. In my eyes tools like Disqus and especially Discourse provide very modern notification and moderation tools. The connection that these tools have to social media enable people to get into a participatory mode rather than only providing them with the possibility to feedback that might go unnoticed.

Unfortunately on typo3.org we provide the most basic way of commenting without any interaction whatsoever. It has been the topic of discussion in the maintenance team a few times, but we currently lack the manpower to change anything in the near term, although it is high on our agenda.

How do you see TYPO3’s role progressing in future? Can you reveal anything about new features?

I am currently participating in the second User eXperience Week (T3UXW). Topics that are being dealt with are strategy, backend usability, TYPO3 distributions and themes all geared towards making TYPO3 CMS more accessible to users. We create concepts that will base the current backend on new technology, get more usability in and make the backend accessible on all modern devices like tablets and phones. You can expect a new major release of TYPO3 CMS in October of 2015.

The themes project that is in its final stage is not a core feature but will be one of the most important extensions that will make TYPO3 CMS attractive to many first-time users by providing easy to install templates, taking away the hassle many people experience to build a website from the ground up.

These days, the TYPO3 project consists of multiple products and Neos, the new CMS, is getting more mature over time and sees rising adoption among developers and among companies that base their web presence on it.  A new version that includes a new feature called content dimension is around the corner.

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