Interview with John Coonen, CMS Expo

John Coonen, CMS Expo

John Coonen, CMS Expo

I’ve been a participant and a presenter at CMS Expo for 5 years now and it’s always such a great pleasure! John and Linda Coonen are the ones who make this whole thing happen! They work all year round to bring together the best presenters and sponsors and create a truly uniqe conference experience.

So I thought it would be a good idea to have a little chat with John Coonen:

Tell us about CMS Expo, how it started and how it’s going?

We started planning the first event in 2007 as a response to massive growth in the CMS industry itself. The advent of open source CMSs in the mid 2000’s fueled massive demand for CMS technology, and the business savvy that goes along with it. We saw an opportunity to offer up a trustworthy connection point for all content pros – Admins, Businesspeople, Creatives &Developers – and we went for it. Turn out, we were right. CMS Expo has grown every year since.

Linda Coonen, Merav Knafo, Paul Orwig at CMS Expo

Linda Coonen, Merav Knafo, Paul Orwig at CMS Expo

What was the highlight of this expo for you?

The highlight of CMS Expo for us this year was welcoming several new CMSs to the event, to share what they do, and give users and developers an incredibly valuable “front row seat” experience when it comes to how they create, store and deliver content. Knowing how one’s own CMS works is important, but it becomes exponentially more valuable within the context of how well it operates in comparison to others. Several CMS leaders, including Joomla, came to us afterwards and thanked us for the experience. It gave them great insights on how they can improve their systems, as well as business & community practices.

What got the most buzz this time around?

Responsive design. Hands-down.

CMS Expo Sponsors

CMS Expo Sponsors

How do you utilize social media for promoting CMS Expo?

Extremely well. 😉 We’ve found Twitter rules the day like no other tool. Daily, relevant, “real” tweets without a sales pitch wins every time.

How was meeting the new OSM president Paul Orwig, what was your impression?

Paul Orwig? 1) Excellent listener. 2) Credible leader.

You probably know more CMS than anyone in the world, which one is your favorite and why?

My favorite is the one that fits perfectly for each and every CMS owner, and responds to their needs with smart, solid solutions. Seriously. I came from the Joomla world by way of Oracle. Part of the beauty of today’s market is, they all move so fast to satisfy demand, my “favorite” changes often.

What do proprietary CMS do to convince people to pay when they can get it free with a CMS such as Joomla?

They hire well, and they respond to customer needs. “Free software” is great for do-it-yourselfers (and I’m one), but it’s not difficult to convince a business decision maker to choose a proprietary solution if the people on-board give the buyer a valuable competitive advantage. As I see it, the value of “free” becomes secondary for mid-sized and larger organizations in comparison to the value of a non-restrictive license. Ah, for another blog post 🙂

CMS Expo Expert Panel

CMS Expo Expert Panel

What are the features that CMSs are now missing?

Great question. Where to start… hmmm…

  • A Real WYSIWYG Editor. Sounds basic, I know, but this is a real stickler. Most CMSs accept TinyMCE as “good enough.” It’s not good enough. It sucks. It gives every nontechnical user a legitimate reason to hate CMSs, and refuse to use one, ever. 99% of content types are textual. 99.9% of CMSs have a WYSIWYG that closely resembles Microsoft FrontPage. #FAIL! Why are we stuck in 1994 on this issue?
  • Versioning & Audit Trail. Many CMSs get ahead of themselves, and forget one of the key features businesses often look for is versioning, built-in to the core. You don’t find Joomla powering many Editorial sites for a good reason. The workflow process is built for a maverick freelancer who simply wants to get his or her blog post up and out; not built for a collaborative staff, requiring any editorial review, let alone short- or long-term archiving and its associated (and must-must must requirement) audit trail. For legal reasons and more, a lack of versioning and audit trail discounts about 90% of CMSs right from the get-go, for collaborative sites (something CMSs are best at).
  • Powerful, Flexible APIs. When CMSs think they can do it all themselves, everyone suffers. A key to today’s successful CMS is its ability to be flexible and adaptable to. Those with a strategy of offering robust APIs to empower their customers will keep growing. Those which continue to ignore a strong API strategy, or miss deadlines to deliver promised APIs (same result) will go away.
  • Smart Technology. I use that term broadly. Sounds “buzzy” I know. Brief explanation: if CMSs are to continue in a leadership role, seated at the center of organizations’ missioncritical technology plan, successful CMSs must take advantage of “Big Data” to empower owners, admins, content creators (and even visitors) with relevant, actionable information. Today, for instance, that may be in the form of a marketing dashboard or instantly accessible analytics graphs to help with marketing and editorial decision-making. Again, books are being written on the subject, but in the next year, CMSs must embrace how to embed, or allow for “smart” dashboards to empower site owners & admins. CRMs, Ecommerce and Marketing Systems are muddying the waters in this area right now, and CMSs are not responding fast enough to market demand.

You and your wife Linda seem to work well together as a team, is it always peace and harmony?

It is always harmonious between us, but there is not always peace. 😉 Linda keeps me in line, I keep Linda guessing. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

What are some of the partnerships you’ve seen developing in this CMS expo?

We’ve been the launchpad for several very successful business ventures. It’s been very satisfying to witness the growth, thanks in great part to our approach of connecting synergies together. Unlike other conferences or cheap knock-off events trying to mimmic us, we’re not out hustling sponsors, all the while, cherry-picking the attendee list for new clients. We’re not a web design or development firm; so our mission isn’t building sites or apps. Our sole purpose (and we’re good at it) is to shine a spotlight on the world’s leading CMSs (including Joomla) and the talented people who power them. We focus on bringing legitimate, quality content to the event, and that earns us trust among all members of the CMS Community, from attendees to speakers to sponsors.

We’re really great matchmakers, we know how to quickly spot prospects and refer the right prospects to the right developers, designers, marketers and consultants to make magic together.That’s what we love to do. We’ve helped small shops find multi-million dollar projects; we’ve helped very frustrated companies, non-profits and universities find solid, trustworthy partners; we’ve introduced developers to fortune 100 brands and have watched that blossom. It’s been a ton of fun!

What can we expect on the next CMS Expo?

A relentless focus on delivering relevant, trustworthy, practical information for one. Boiled down, we’re going to do an even better job of being the place to go where people know they can feel comfortable asking, “Can you show me how to to this?” and we will indeed show them.

Thank you!



Merav Knafo is the founder and CEO of iJoomla, Inc. She loves writing about Joomla, usability and Social Networking.

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    iPad Application Development


    You know your tasks take a position out of the herd. There is something unique about them. It seems to me all of them are really brilliant!


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    We’ve been the launchpad for several really successful company ventures. It’s been very gratifying to witness the growth, thanks in great component to our businesses approach of connecting synergies together. As opposed to some other conferences or cheap knock-off events attempting to mimmic us, we’re not out hustling sponsors, all the whilst, cherry-picking the attendee list for new clients. We’re not a web site design or development firm; so our businesses mission isn’t building sites or perhaps apps. Our businesses sole purpose (and additionally we’re good at just it) is to shine a spotlight with the world’s leading CMSs (including Joomla) plus the talented those who power them. We focus on top of bringing legitimate, high quality content to the celebration, and additionally which makes you trust among all employees of the CMS Community, from participants to audio speakers to sponsors.