Today I virtually met with 29-year-old German Senior Developer Ingo Schommer, who is an icon in the SilverStripe community. He is the person that bundles a lot of the community’s contributions and feeds it back into the core. @Brooke Penny says; every time she hears his name she thinks of David Schwimmer from Friends. (Apparently Ingo even resembles him, except for the fact that Ingo hasn’t had a nose job).
In his free time Ingo loves to work on documentation for SilverStripe which eventually resulted in a book. He also has the most impressive 80’s pop music collection in his iTunes library. Going back in time also meant moving to Germany a few months ago. Due to the time difference between NZ and DE, he now works crazy hours remotely for SilverStripe. Please send this poor guy some ‘Flat Whites’ if you can. (‘Flat Whites’ are the NZ coffee specialty. Caution: Addiction guaranteed!)
When did you start working with and for SilverStripe?
In the summer of 2005, when SilverStripe only had a handful of employees. Small enough to make toasties for everybody at lunch time, even!
What did you do before you came to SilverStripe?
I lost my computer virginity on a 286 with MS DOS, so you could call me a late bloomer. During school I founded a school magazine with a bunch of friends. Print layout and web design instead of programming, but in the end I think that I did it mainly to work in a great team. During my studies at FH Darmstadt, I was a typical web freelancer, and my attention shifted to more towards front-end and back-end architecture, and delivering a valuable end product to my clients (mostly in Typo3). My thesis was researching, designing and implementing a RSS reader with collaborative filtering, which was developed in the CakePHP framework (and even had a mobile design that worked on early “smart phones”).
How did you make it all the way from Germany to New Zealand?
By plane! OK, my jokes aren’t nearly as funny as Hamish’s. Being the orderly German that I am, I made a top 10 list of companies in NZ that I wanted to work for, and SilverStripe was right at the top. We turned out to be a perfect match, and I’ve gained many friends from working there. Heck, nearly all my friends in NZ are somehow connected to SilverStripe, it's a small place.
Why New Zealand in the first place?
Hmm, I’d like to call it careful planning and fate, but in the end it was mostly because I was too lazy to learn a new language, and loved the Kiwi attitude.
Now you are back in Germany. How do you like it?
Personally, it's been a positive challenge, and great to meet many old and new friends. Professionally, I’m still working with SilverStripe Ltd., just at odd times of the day. I’m drinking a lot more tea now, as the coffee in Germany doesn’t really deserve its name once you’re used to Wellington.
The SilverStripe CMS is quite popular in Germany. Why do you think that is?
SilverStripe had press publications (and the first book!) in Germany pretty much before any other country, which illustrates how vibrant and open that market is. I think developers here have a high interest to “do things properly”, so they naturally look for a CMS which has a solid base, and an appreciation for common software design principles. There’s not yet the same sense of community here that you can see for example in the UK (specifically London), but we’re looking into getting more meet-ups going. Dedicated individuals like the folks at SilverCart are very important for spreading the word in Germany.
What do you like about the CMS and Framework and what do you think could be improved?
I like how it elegantly weaves content management aspects into a solid framework base, without compromising either the user or developer experience. It's hard to find both in one consistent package, even beyond the PHP world. That’s only possible because of the “getting things done” spirit that’s both a principle of the core team, and popular within the tight-knit and responsive community. There’s so many potential construction sites, it's hard to pick a single thing to highlight for improvement. Overall, I’m hoping to replace more internal aspects with third party components, so the core team can focus on improving those parts of the framework that make us competitive.
You are quite an icon within the community. What do you like about working with the community?
The community is what keeps me going. I’m addicted to checking Twitter mentions about SilverStripe. Particularly through the boring bits like preparing a release, it's rewarding to see retweets and feedback coming in. The relatively small size of the community means that people know each other, and have most likely had a beer together at some point. That’s fantastic!
With SilverStripe 3 you had a big job separating the Framework from the CMS. Why did you think that was an important thing to do?
That’s more of a long-term shift which was started by, simply speaking, moving a bunch of files from one module to another. But conceptually it puts more of a spotlight on the framework itself, and its capabilities beyond whats traditionally considered “content management”. The interesting bit is that we shifted the usual dividing line; we see the framework as a complete toolkit for creating awesome web applications, including the same interfaces you’re used to from SilverStripe CMS. That’s what sets it apart from other PHP frameworks.
What do you think we can expect from SilverStripe in the next couple of years?
I believe we’ll see the ecosystem around SilverStripe maturing, with a higher amount of professionally maintained modules, but also a more diverse group of core developers to keep the product alive and fresh. In terms of framework, paradigms introduced to SilverStripe like Dependency Injection should find a wider acceptance, making everybody more efficient through a more powerful and customisable core product. I hope that we continue the raised focus on user experience that we’ve begun with the SilverStripe 3 concept designs. Felipe’s definitely got enough awesome ideas to keep us busy implementing them for a while!
As you can see Ingo is still attached to his first love 286. I suppose that goes well with the 80’s music.
NB: Photograph retouched to modify the physical appearance of a person.