TYPO3 Recap / Kasper Skårhøj
1 comment | Posted: 21 April 09 in Interviews, by Nathan Smith
This past weekend, I had a chance to attend the first ever TYPO3 Conference held in North America (huge in Germany and the rest of Europe). Luckily for me, it was held right in the Dallas / Fort Worth area — Irving, to be exact. Serendipitously, I happened to know Ron Hall and Jeff Segars, the organizers of the conference.
For those of you not familiar with TYPO3, it is an enterprise level content management system written in PHP. As of the latest release, it runs solely on PHP5, a gutsy move for an open source project. Anyway, Ron and Jeff encouraged me to attend the conference. Even though I’m not a big TYPO3 user myself, three churches I’ve worked with (design / front-end) use it to power their sites.
So, when I heard about this opportunity to hang out with a cool group of PHP developers, most of which came all the way from Europe to attend, I thought I outta check it out. To me, one of the coolest things about TYPO3 is its founder Kasper Skårhøj, who decided to give away the CMS for free as open source software. Cooler still, is that he is unashamedly Christian. I was able to sit down with him for a bit at dinner, in between mock gunfights being staged at Austin Ranch.
(Note to self, blanks sound just like the real thing.) While he is a very busy guy, I am happy that Kasper was able to humor me with an informal interview for Godbit. Since I don’t have a direct transcript, I will generally summarize our conversation. Hopefully it will accurately reflect his good humored nature.
Why Open Source?
First off, I asked him why he chose to give away TYPO3 — seemingly leaving money on the table, given the widespread popularity and use on high-profile sites such as Cisco’s WebEx site (View source, and you’ll see it’s powered by TYPO3).
Kasper responded that had he charged a hefty fee for TYPO3, it probably would not have caught on as well as it has, so in that regard it is probably a catch-22. He said that he had several main reasons for releasing it free of charge:
- He wanted it to glorify God, and help ministries with limited budgets.
- He dislikes the administrative overhead involved in running a business.
- He wanted TYPO3 to be about sharing, collaboration, and community.
Now that Kasper has turned over the reins of lead developer to Robert Lemke, who is heading up the development of TYPO3 version 5, I asked Kasper what his plans are for his “retirement.” He said that he is just trying to learn and absorb as much of life and information as he can, and enjoying not having the burden of long hours programming. He said that he felt fortunate that the inspiration to build TYPO3 hit when he was relatively young, and without other responsibilities. Now he is happily married and is loving being a father. Having more time to spend with his family is at the top of his priority list.
He hinted that perhaps someday he might become an active code contributor again, but for now is perfectly contented passing the torch, yet still being active in the strong European community that has formed around TYPO3.
As an aside, I’ve been told if you walk into a bookstore in Germany, and look in the computer science section, alongside programming languages you will find a section devoted just to TYPO3. To me, that is truly amazing. As a biproduct of Kasper’s vision for ministry and free software, it is now used by successful business — including 3M, BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen — to name a few.
In addition to his attitude towards open software, Kasper also runs a philanthropic business in his hometown. Actually, he attributes this effort to being led by his wife. It is a fair-trade coffee shop that is run mostly by volunteers, the profits from which go to benefiting charitable relief efforts in less fortunate countries.
The atmosphere in the bistro is relaxed and conversational, encouraging people to talk about issues of religion and faith, while not trying to coerce any particular outcome — though, hoping and praying for those they meet, that they might meet Christ. He said that this has been one of the more rewarding uses of his time.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Web Empowered Church, a non-profit ministry organization that builds church management features atop of TYPO3. Mark Stephenson, the director of WEC, was also in attendance at the Dallas conference. It was great hearing his vision for tech + ministry.
It was communicated to me by a member of WEC that while Kasper appreciates all the companies / agencies out there who have built their sites and / or business models on TYPO3, he is especially glad that there are ministries that are benefiting from the CMS, which was his original inspiration for creating it.
All in all, I had a blast hanging out with everyone, and want to thank the members of the TYPO3 community for allowing me to crash the party and ask n00bish questions about this powerful CMS. Hopefully they’ll be back in 2010! :)
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