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Wes Morgan

User: kristi
Date: 5/5/2008 12:13 pm
Views: 8287
Rating: 7    Rate [

The Essentials:

Name: Wes Morgan
Username: cap10morgan
Age: 27
Profession/Employer: Online Organizer and Software Developer at Environment America (
Place of Residence: Denver, CO, USA

WebGUI Related Questions:

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

I contribute bug fixes, mainly to the WRE lately, as well as try to be helpful in the IRC channel. I also help maintain and update over 50 different WebGUI sites for a network of non-profits, so I often write custom WebGUI code for those and try to contribute it back to the community as much as I can. I also try to evangelize WebGUI to others as much as possible. Recently I demo'd it at a Penguin Day event in New Orleans (following the NTEN conference down there) in a "speedgeeking" event. Everyone was pretty impressed.

When did you first hear of WebGUI?

In 2004 when Environment America went shopping for a CMS. I was surprised more people hadn't heard of it, since it's so mature, feature-rich, open source, and cool!

How and when did you get involved in WebGUI?

After we decided to use WebGUI as our CMS, we hired a consultant to work on it and get it ready for our needs (we needed some custom wobjects). His circumstances changed so I needed to take over maintaining the custom code and our WebGUI installation in general. I went to the WUC in Las Vegas that year (guess that would have been 2006) to get up to speed. I came back very excited to code in WebGUI, and dove right in. This was just after learning Ruby on Rails (the new hotness in buzzword land), and I still came away with a sense that WebGUI was a great web app platform (better than Rails in many regards). And it proved to be so once I started hacking on it.

Are you paid to work on WebGUI?


How much time do you spend on WebGUI?

Quite a bit, but mostly keeping the trains running. I wish I had more time for cool projects.

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

People! We need to get more folks using, hacking on, documenting, experimenting with, and talking about WebGUI. I think the three biggest impediments to that are, IMHBOWO (In My Humble But Often Wrong Opinion):

  1. Getting the word out. Plain Black is doing a great job of this lately, though. So they just need to keep it up.
  2. Make it easier to install and easier to integrate with existing systems. The WRE is great, but can be tricky to get working in environments where you already have an existing Apache and MySQL infrastructure. The other big pieces are that it should be installable from Linux distros package repositories (i.e. apt-get install webgui), which will probably mean the WRE is out. Plain Black is working on this too, though (I believe). And while I don't use it, a simple graphical installer for Windows would be pretty helpful for lots of folks. Maybe one for Mac OS X too. That would allow people to install it and play around.
  3. Make it simpler to use out of the box. We love and depend on many of WebGUI's advanced features like versioning. But out of the box it should be simpler for new folks to get up to speed without being intimidated by so many options. Plain Black's already doing this for a future release, so that should be good.

What keeps you motivated to keep working on WebGUI?

It's a great system that, like Perl, makes easy things easy and hard things possible. I hack on some PHP-based web apps too, and it always makes me miss WebGUI's clean OO architecture and Perl goodness.

What's WebGUI's killer feature and why?

That's a tough one. I'm tempted to say versioning. It's such a great feature that other CMS's are struggling to implement. Someone else recently answered this question with the API and Plain Black, which I heartily second. Having a solid development foundation and a company you can pay for support and development work is not something you should take for granted in the open source world.

What's WebGUI's greatest weakness and why?

Lack of a vibrant, large user and contributor community. WebGUI is currently like the Amiga in the 80's, and Drupal, Joomla!, and Plone are like DOS, Windows, and Mac. WebGUI's way better, but not as well known. Luckily, Plain Black is much smarter about their product than Commodore ever was, so I look forward to this changing (and I'm doing what I can to help it change, which I encourage all WebGUI community members to prioritize).

What makes you work on WebGUI over the competition?

Well, besides the fact that it's part of my job... ;) For starters, it's open source. I don't waste time with proprietary systems when great open source options exist, so that eliminates much of the CMS competition right there. A clean Perl OO system (like WebGUI) is about 1,000x more fun to hack on than any PHP system, which most of the competition uses. So that makes it much more fun as a web app development platform too. And finally, it's just better. You get many high-quality components right  out of the box, it's simple to use, a pleasure to hack on, and well supported. There's a reason it won out against the competition when we were picking a CMS 4 years ago. I recently participated in online seminar comparing Drupal, Joomla!, and Plone. I made a note of anything that they could do that WebGUI couldn't, and vice versa. At the end, there wasn't much on the "WebGUI can't do this" list, but quite a bit on the "the other guys can't do this" or "WebGUI does this better" lists.

What's your most brilliant WebGUI hack?

That would have to be the Asset Report. Doug Bell (at Plain Black) is currently implementing an official version of this, and probably threw out my nasty code as step 1. Haha. We were using SQL Reports all over the place to pull info from the WebGUI database itself. This worked OK except that the queries got WAY more complex in version 7 because of versioning. Additionally, the database schema is not guaranteed to remain static from version to version (nor should it be). The API is the right way to get info into and out of WebGUI, so I decided I would write an asset to pull info from other assets, create some template variables out of it, and let you slap it on a page. We use this to show the 3 most recent posts to a collab system on another page, for example. I basically stole the Navigation asset, gutted it, and hacked it to do this instead. It's ugly but it works. :)

Have you attended the WebGUI User's Conference?

Yep, twice. And will again this year. It's very useful.

Where do you keep your Gooey doll?

Right behind my desk, watching my back and pointing out mistakes in my WebGUI coding.

Personal Questions:

How would you describe yourself?

I'm a programmer, but I hate math. I like programming because it allows me to be creative and do things others haven't done already. I guess you could say I'm a right-brain programmer. That's why my code is buggy. Haha. I also really enjoy being outdoors, running, hiking, skiing, whatever. My friends and family are the most important things in the world to me. I also thrive on creating social change at the macro level. That's why I work for Environment America. I have to feel like the work I do day-to-day helps humanity solve problems that matter.

Are you married, dating, or otherwise involved?

Not currently.

Do you have any kids?


Do you have any pets?


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

The Rocky Mountains! Denver's a great city, and a lot of fun. But the mountains are where it's at. There's still plenty of places you can go that still retain their natural beauty and charm, despite the tourist trap takeover.

What do you hate?

Corporate special interests that take power away from regular folks and move our society in the wrong direction.

What do you love?

Taking power away from corporate special interests, giving it back to the rest of us, and most importantly using it to do good things (a.k.a. grassroots social change).

What's the last book you read?

Bury the Chains – about the British abolitionist movement in the late 18th century. Fascinating book.

What's the last CD/MP3 you bought?

Devotchka – A Mad and Faithful Telling. Local Denver band makes good (they did the soundtrack to Little Miss Sunshine).

What's the last movie you watched?

Michael Clayton

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

Think. I'm good at coming up with grandiose schemes in my head when bored.

Any last words?

Thanks for nominating me to be a Person Behind WebGUI!


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