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Patrick Donelan

User: kristi
Date: 3/2/2009 2:42 pm
Views: 6472
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The Essentials

Name: Patrick Donelan
Username: patspam
Age: 27
Profession/Employer: Chief Technical Director & co-founder, SDH Consulting Group
Place of Residence: North Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia

WebGUI Related Questions

In what way(s) do you contribute to WebGUI or the WebGUI Community?

I work full-time on WebGUI-related projects. Currently most of my time is spent hacking on a bunch of RFE branches (Flux, Survey2, Crypt, ..), one or more of which will hopefully make their way across to the core at some point. I spend a lot of time in the #webgui IRC channel and I regularly frequent the dev mailing list due to the fact that most of the developer community's sleep/wake cycle is synchronized to strange American and European timezones. Excluding perlDreamer and preaction that is, who never sleep.

When did you first hear of WebGUI?


Andrew Smith (Creative Director at SDH) takes all the blame. Some time around 2005 he went in search of an awesome open source CMS, and chose WebGUI based on the strength of its content management interface and templating system.

How and when did you get involved in WebGUI?

I was working part time as a system administrator at the same company where Andy was working whilst completing my Software Engineering degree. I was the one responsible for deploying WebGUI, and later, after the birth of SDH, I learned Perl so I could get involved as a WebGUI developer. In fact, one of the first Perl articles I read was written by Plain Black's very own Frank Dillon..

Are you paid to work on WebGUI?

Pete and Andy have promised not to veto my salary as long as I behave myself.

How much time do you spend on WebGUI?

No more than 8 hours per day. That's the rule. If I do more than that, Andy and Helen tell me off.

What do you think is still missing from WebGUI or the WebGUI Community?

Enough tests. Enough developers in the GMT+10 timezone.

What keeps you motivated to keep working on WebGUI?

Being part of a vibrant open source community is a lot of fun. And in a wider context WebGUI makes it possible for me to be involved in some pretty ground-breaking Psychology eTherapy research, which helps keep me passionate about work.

What's WebGUI's killer feature and why?

The API. 10 years worth of battle-tested features. Written in Perl.

On top of that: good leadership, talented developers, a fantastic annual conference, a vibrant community and a karma economy.

What's WebGUI's greatest weakness and why?

The web: so awesome, so broken. Douglass Crockford highlighted in his 2007 “State of Ajax” talk some of the amazing graphics you can produce these days on home computers: realistic human forms, skin tones, hair... but what does a web developer drool over most in those screen-shots?

Rounded corners.

The point being, we're so far from the state of the art it's not funny. WebGUI is one big workaround for these variations on a theme of brokenness, and it does remarkably well.

My pet bugbear with WebGUI is the hurdles it places in front of the do-it-yourself hobbyist web crowd, who also happen to be the people most likely to write blog articles and generate buzz around the project. WebGUI is a highly sophisticated system, geared towards professionally hosted, complex sites. That happens to be exactly what I want, but it's frustrating to think that so many more people could be getting excited about WebGUI if it was only easier and cheaper to deploy. Now if someone could just figure out how we could do that..

Oh and I wish the assumed dbms was PostgreSQL instead of MySQL (although that probably conflicts with the sentiment in my previous paragraph).

What makes you work on WebGUI over the competition?


From what I'm told, most of WebGUI's true competitors are closed source software. And really, who wants to work on proprietary software?

What's your most brilliant WebGUI hack?

Flux is my only real claim to fame. It's a pluggable rule-based layer on top of WebGUI that makes it possible for content managers to build websites that have non-trivial paths of flow for users across different content areas. It saves me a lot of time as a developer because I can deploy sites with complex functionality as a bunch of interwoven rules. It's currently living in the WebGUI_flux branch.

Have you attended the WebGUI User's Conference?

Yes, last year was my first WUC, and I can't overstate how awesome it was. From the moment JT invited me to the Plain Black staff BBQ I felt like a part of the extended WebGUI family. Open source projects are such a social phenomenon, so it made all the difference to be able to put faces to names and buy beers for all the wonderful people who've been fixing bugs and implementing my RFEs over the years. It's a pretty long flight from Melbourne to Madison, but I wouldn't miss it for anything.

Where do you keep your Gooey doll?

Within arms-length of my desk so that I can stick voodoo pins into him and watch JT twitch and mistype on #webgui.

Personal Questions


How would you describe yourself?

Unsuccessfully, so instead I'll list some hobbies: cycling, playing the trumpet, training wushu, reading.

Are you married, dating, or otherwise involved?

Otherwise involved.

Do you have any kids?

Three: a road bike, a mountain bike, and a commuter.

Do you have any pets?

Sadly I live in a share-house in inner-city Melbourne so pets aren't an option, but if they were I'd have 2 dogs.

If someone visits your area, what's something they must see or do?


Check out the local street art scene.

What do you hate?


Cars, advertising, marketing, stupidity, pseudo-science, patriotism, national borders, police brutality, bad theatre, sexism, racism, Melbourne public transport, opinionated software developers who rant in interviews. And bad saxophone solos.

What do you love?

Updating my repo each morning and seeing a stream of overnight commit messages from other wg developers. Hearing JT say those magic words: “I approve this RFE”. A quiet corner in a cafe with a programming book and a coffee.

What's the last book you read?

Higher Order Perl, by Mark Jason Dominus. Actually I haven't finished it yet,  I just wanted to give it a plug because it's so insanely awesome. The last book I finished was The Little Schemer, which made me want to go out and learn Lisp, but then I got side-tracked cooking up a new WebGUI RFE.

What's the last CD/MP3 you bought?

Bought? Are you serious?

What's the last movie you watched?


Godard's “Bande à part” (Band Of Outsiders). I'm hoping Yung can teach me the dance sequence.

You're stuck on a train/plane for 6 hours and bored out of your mind, what do you do to amuse yourself?

Read. Drink coffee. Try to crash the in-flight entertainment system.

Any last words?

WUC 2010, Melbourne, Australia. You can all stay at my place.

P.S. My grandmother runs Ubuntu.


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