Interview – John Cox of Xaraya

This is to be the first of several interviews with respected web professionals.

v7n: Hi John. You are well known as an innovative and knowledgeable programmer. Can you tell us a little about yourself? What motivates you to spend so much time on these open source projects?

John Cox: I have about 40 people in the project that might just disagree with the innovative and knowledgeable programmer part. I tend to make folks in the project scratch their heads at my goofy ideas. That said, Xaraya is a team project, which I just happen a small part of right now. The people in the project are who deserve the credit, I just happen to be lucky enough to be in the position to evangelize the project a bit.

Professionally, I am an account manager for an IT project with my company. I spend my time helping people with the installation, training and transition of their business when they install our product. I am the husband of a beautiful wife, and father of two great kids (ages 5 and 6 next month). I’m just a normal guy that travels a bit and just needs a bit of a creative outlet, since I am not in a very creative job.

That’s what got me into web design, and eventually into programming. I started with Perl, and was somewhat classically trained through classes and books, and then switched to PHP. I am not so sure that I could read Perl any longer, much less write it. In order for me to learn PHP, I just started downloading and playing with GPL’ed scripts, and then giving back any changes that I made. Some were good changes, and some were not, but that is the idea of Open Source. Do with it as you please, but give back the changes for the greater good. And the rest is as they say, history.

v7n: Before Xaraya, you were Founder and Project Manager for the PostNuke Project. How is Xaraya better than other content management systems?

John Cox: Better is a subjective term that seems to incite riots amongst some projects. We have an innovative approach to what we are doing, and we are very aware of our surroundings. I understand the market a bit better than I did when PostNuke started, and as such feel a little more confident in our approach.

Technically, our approach is advanced. We aren’t perfect, and we are finding bugs every day, which is what a Beta period is for. What sets us apart though is the extensibility of Xaraya. It’s the how everything interacts with everything else. It is no one part that makes Xaraya, instead it is when you sit back and look at how all the pieces fit together that you see the advantages of using the system.

v7n: How many times has Xaraya been downloaded so far?

John Cox: We have been using SourceForge to handle our download tracking for the mirrors that they provide. Unfortunately, there is a bug with their download tracking that we appear to have been struck with, because the download stats indicate about 10 downloads. I know this number is off, because I have downloaded at least 2000 times to pad the stats a bit.

I’m hoping that SourceForge has the bug fixed soon so we can get a good count, but it won’t be the end of the world if they don’t. It’s more fun to see the light bulbs go off in the chat rooms than to be a slave to the statistics. If we knew the actual number, I am not sure how that would help us improve Xaraya, except from a purely marketing leverage point.

v7n: Any exciting new features planned for the future?

John Cox: Once we hit the 1.0.0 release branch, we will support the stable tree and then blow up the development tree and start over (in some sense). We already have ideas for further development and abstraction on the XSLT front to bring even more flexibility towards the templates. Even more progressive ideas are coming down the pike as well dealing with the extensibility of the system.

Whatever the case, we hope to provide a rock solid core for a development platform for whomever to use. For instance, I am planning to build an online game built strictly on Xaraya. I also wouldn’t mind playing with some web based POS or inventory tracking system built on the core of Xaraya just to expand my knowledge a bit, and to maybe pay a bill here and there.

Regardless of what we are doing on the 2.0.0 tree, there is plenty of opportunity to develop for 1.0.0 and to build a feature set in. The idea is to be extensible, and not to bundle features into the core, but rather have the plug-ins handle the functionality. As far as features, imagination is really the limit.

v7n: What was your inspiration in creating this CMS?

John Cox: The main inspiration is to do something that hasn’t been done before. CMS’s are a dime a dozen, and to start something new that just basically has ideas of many rolled into one is boring to me and the rest of the team. What we set out to do was something that was fresh and new and hadn’t been thought of. Granted, we have not ignored ideas from others, and we are always quick to adopt emerging technology. For instance, I am actively following the Atom Project and would like to be one of the early adopters of the technology, but it’s more the concepts that had not been thought of before that interest us.

Developing the same thing that has been done is not much of an accomplishment in its self. Doing something that puts people in the position of questioning paradigms of content management is the key. So it comes down to building something that no one had thought of, much less implemented before. It’s fun to be creative, and for every ten times we fall flat on our faces with ideas, there is the one time that we are successful. That’s the inspiration, and that’s what drives each and everyone of us.

v7n: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, John.


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