According to the Helpful Robot, there are nearly 300 unique module developers in the SilverStripe open source community. On average, one developer has created 5 modules. There are only 2 teams, who have managed to produce around 140 modules: SilverStripe (well, that’s us) and Sunny Side Up.
Today, we’re revealing the man behind Sunny Side Up—the man behind hundreds of SilverStripe modules that have been built over 10 years. His name is Nicolaas Thiemen Francken, founder of Sunny Side Up — a company with goals to be a high quality provider of innovative web development services, provide meaningful employment, and play its part in promoting social equity, cultural progression, and environmental conservation.
I called Nicolaas to have a chat about what has driven him to create that massive number of modules (and other things too).
Tell me a bit about yourself!
I was born in Auckland but grew up in the Netherlands. I studied Business and Psychology at Victoria University (Wellington, New Zealand) many many years ago, had a variety of jobs in hospitality, government, and advertising before moving to web development. I was one of the early adopters of SilverStripe CMS.
How did you get into web development?
I was always the guy in a company that helped out with automation and using software to make things easier. Soon enough, people wanted me to develop a few things on their websites. I learnt about HTML, and it slowly grew from there.
My last job before I set up Sunny Side Up was actually developing a booking system in MS Access for the hospitality industry. I then offered that to bed-and-breakfasts and hotels. From there, I started making websites in general.
How did you first discover SilverStripe?
I think around 2005. Because I was in Wellington, I would have heard people mention SilverStripe CMS here and there. Sig at that time was also visiting lots of agencies, telling them they should be using SilverStripe CMS. So I started using it and introduced a whole of bunch of people to this open source CMS. I am very keen on the open source concept because I think it is very powerful. In many ways it is diametrically opposed to the traditional business model and that makes it interesting and refreshing.
What would be your main contribution to the SilverStripe open source community?
I have been publishing lots of open source modules, of various levels of quality. I am sure that some people over the years would have find them useful. I have always tried to publish concepts and drafts as early as possible because I think it’s better to publish something to the open source community to get feedback than nothing at all. We are all busy and if you wait for your module to be perfect, it is likely to never see the light of day.
What are your favourite modules?
E-commerce is the main one that I actively maintain. The module was first built by SilverStripe, and then I added my “flavour” to it and grew it to a bigger module. At the moment, a couple of my clients are using it and I really enjoy making e-commerce websites.
Another one I really like is what I call “Typography module”. It connects with the traditional method adopted by SilverStripe to turn the tinyMCE editor into a WYSIWYG editor. The typography module allows you to preview any content that the content editor may create.
Recently, we’ve developed Campaign Monitor module that allows you to create content and send it through Campaign Monitor (a campaign management software). And I also like our Meta Tag module, which is a one-stop-shop for all your meta-tags.
There are just so many we have made over the years that it is hard to remember all of them, but a few others that I can think of are one that checks for obsolete fields in your tables, dataintegritytest, and a module for editing a field across records called dataobjectsorter.
What do you like about SilverStripe community?
I like the fact that there has been a lot of effort put into producing things of high quality, high standards. You know, from the bug management to new releases—the emphasis is always doing things properly, not doing things quickly or easily. People at SilverStripe are also very approachable.
What has stood out for you, after many years working with SilverStripe?
Having E-commerce run on a few large websites with lots of visitors is quite exciting. And every now and then, I work with people in fascinating places all over the world and being able to share my passion with them is a beautiful experience.
Is there anything else you want to work on in the future with SilverStripe?
I want to have a look at the modules that I have built over the years and improve their quality, introducing unit tests, upgrading them to the latest version of SilverStripe, setting a benchmark for modules that are ready for a commercial release.
I’ve never developed a theme and I think that’s one of the areas that is lacking at the moment. Building a kind of simplified CMS would be amazing too.
Without SilverStripe or Sunny Side Up, how would you spend your day?
[Laughs, in shock of change of direction in questions] My passion in life is my kids, my family and windsurfing. The reason I moved to Wellington was because I heard it was a very windy city. Living in such a beautiful and peaceful place also really inspires me to promote sustainability and a more equitable world - I guess that is one of the reasons I also believe in the power of open source.
If you could holiday anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’ve been to more than 50 countries, so I have done my dash - but, I would love to revisit Central Asia, Namibia, Maui. Definitely South Georgia, North West Australia. All of those are amazing. Actually, coming to think of it, my dream destination is Socotra, off the coast of Yemen. It’s very windy there.
What's the best gift you've ever received or given?
All these hard questions [laughs]. I once lost my dog which was very upsetting and a few people came and helped me look for my dog. That is something I really appreciated.