Video: You Ask, We Answer

A couple weeks back we asked the Magento Community to submit questions to the Magento Team. With the help of Andrew Warner from Mixergy, we recently sat down to answer them. From product to community, we discuss some of the inner workings and provide insight to burning topics in this 20 minute video:

A big thanks to Andrew Warner for presenting the questions.


Andrew Warner: [0:00] Hey everyone, it’s Andrew Warner founder of I’m here with Roy and Yoav, co-founders of Varien, the Magento Company. What are we doing here today guys?

Roy Rubin: [0:09] We are going to answer some of the questions that the Magento community has asked us on the wiki there. And we’re excited to get going.

Andrew: [0:17] Yoav, why are we doing this?

Yoav Kutner: [0:19] We just want to have more answers for the community. They’ve been posting some posts recently asking questions. We wanted to do something more interactive so they get to see us answer in real life.

Andrew: [0:29] All right. I’m going to start with the first one, because I’m an ambitious person. I like the way this guy thinks. What are the best and largest examples of live stores that are using Magento?

Roy: [0:38] There’s some great examples without mentioning any names at this point. I think it’s worthwhile to wait just a little bit. We’ve got some very exciting things happening both here at Varien and also through a lot of our partners. This is in North America, certainly, and that is coming out of the…

Andrew: [0:54] You can’t give me the names of the people who are doing this?

Roy: [0:56] I can’t right now.

Andrew: [0:57] You can’t.

Roy: [0:57] No.

Andrew: [0:58] OK, [crosstalk] . But at some point you’ll be able to talk about it.

Roy: [1:01] Yes.

Andrew: [1:02] The person actually here who asked the question said, how many products do they have? How many orders are there per week? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Roy: [1:09] So you know we’re talking about some very large e-commerce sites. The volumes are tremendously large. We’re working on scaling those types of e-commerce sites. Again, if you can hang on just a little bit, I think the community will be very excited to see what is going to transpire out of the Magento product.

Andrew: [1:27] OK, do you have a sense about how much longer people are going to wait?

Roy: [1:29] Just a few more short weeks. It’s coming certainly before the holiday season for sure.

Andrew: [1:33] All right. Do you plan on setting up a Magento certification program?

Roy: [1:38] Yes, that’s actually in the works and we hope to have that available to the community within 90 days. That’s something that we’ve worked on for quite a bit. And it’s coming.

Andrew: [1:46] All right. Community support, let’s read this question. There’ve been a number of posts on the forum from users who’d like to see the Magento team more active posting answers on the forum. Obviously you’re the number one source for Magento information.

Roy: [1:59] Right.

Yoav: [2:00] Right.

Roy: [2:00] So community involvement and community support is something that’s a very key part of our vision. It’s something that we’re going to hope to get involved even further than we have thus far. The Magento team, the Varien team has answered over 5,000 forum posts to date. And we have every reason in the world to continue to do so. It’s part of our vision. It’s important to the longevity of the project. It’s something that we’re very focused on and we’ll continue to be as aggressive as we possibly can about it.

Andrew: [2:31] How, by the way, do you guys answer your questions? Do you sit there at the computer and do it? Or are you checking it on your phone?

Yoav: [2:37] We get it on the phone.

Andrew: [2:37] You get it on your phone. Do you have an example of a time when you checked it that was maybe a little unconventional?

Roy: [2:42] three a.m.

Yoav: [2:43] [laughing]

Andrew: [2:43] three a.m.? You’re up. You’re awake. If you’re on the phone, you’re gonna answer some questions. If I go to your website, I’m going to check the time stamp, I’ll see three a.m.

Yoav: [2:49] Yeah, you’ll see. Yes.

Roy: [2:50] Let me take it a step further. I personally read every single forum post that’s posted on the Magento…

Andrew: [2:56] Even the nasty ones.

Roy: [2:56] Even the nasty ones. I actually enjoy them.

Andrew: [2:58] You do?

Roy: [2:58] I do. Yeah. I get a laugh sometimes. But the bottom line is that it’s important for people to express what they’re feeling. It’s great feedback, and we appreciate every single post that comes up online.

Andrew: [3:10] All right. You really do. You actually brought me out here. You were setting up the camera I see for hours. You’re not a camera man.

Roy: [3:16] Nope.

Andrew: [3:17] You’re setting up the camera. This is important for you to do.

Roy: [3:18] It is extremely important for us to engage the community and express to them obviously the importance of their role and the continuation of the project.

Andrew: [3:27] I’m going to ask the next question. What’s their role? Why is the community so important in a project like this?

Roy: [3:32] Well this is an open-source project, an open-source project that has to have a very long life, has to be as transparent as possible. We’re a very big part of it, and that’s something that we’ll continue to be.

[3:43] But at the end of the day, I think it’s something that provides value not only to us as a company, but also to the community. They need to have a say. They need to have a role. And we hope they continue to be as vocal about it as they’ve been so far.

Andrew: [3:57] All right. When do you plan to stop adding new features and begin greatly stabilizing the code?

Roy: [4:02] Do you want to take that?

Yoav: [4:03] Sure. So I think we’re constantly working on improving our core code and fixing bugs. I know that the people are complaining sometimes that we’re not very responsive. I think we’re very responsive. We have a full time person handling all the community bugs that are reported. And we’re definitely working on kicking out all these small issues that come up. And I think that we divide all our manpower, so we continuously push forward with Magento new features as well as maintaining the existing code.

Andrew: [4:33] Tell me the process, by the way. I’m a little curious about this. If somebody submits a bug, who gets it? What happens? Where does it go?

Yoav: [4:39] So we have a QA Manager that actually receives all the Magento community bugs. We actually have it divided into three sections. We have core QA that actually tests and reports bugs. We have community bug reporting. And our support team actually report some bugs to us as well. Those are actually being looked at, trying to reproduce them in the core code to see if it actually reproduces. At that point it makes it all the way back to the core team that fixes it, reports back to the QA team that actually updates the bug status itself.

Andrew: [5:16] Let me ask you this. I’ve had bugs on my websites in the past. It eats at me at my gut. Do you feel that same thing?

Yoav: [5:22] Well definitely. Nobody like bugs, especially on a mission critical application. Before we release, the product does go through very rigid QA process that actually we pretty much feel very comfortable before releasing a product. That’s at the inaugurating, we always work on integrating it in a non-production environment, just to make sure that your customization, and your website works the same way you wanted it to work out before you operate it. And then just move into production mode.

Andrew: [5:51] OK. All right. Would it be possible to give the community a bigger voice in determining the direction of the Magento development?

Roy: [5:59] So we’re continuing to get feedback. And there’s a feature request form available on, and as I just said a few minutes ago, we do read through that very extensively. A lot of what you see in the product today is a result of the feedback over the last nine months.

Andrew: [6:14] Give me an example of that.

Roy: [6:15] We came out with our beta at the end of August 2007. So we got a lot of feedback, whether it’s the SEO, search engine optimization capabilities in Magento, and certainly other features as well. And that feedback has made it all the way through the team, which is the core Magento team, and released. So the feedback that we get from the community is essential in building a better product.

Yoav: [6:42] Definitely there’s two more features that we definitely use features. One, the custom options that we decided. That was a community request that was moved up on the schedule. And actually E.U. taxation as well. We listened to the community, what the European community needs, and we definitely adjusted our Taxation model to fit their needs.

Andrew Warner: [7:03] Do you guys have any life outside of Magento right now?

Roy: [7:06] No.

Yoav: [7:07] No.

Andrew: [7:07] Your wife is in the office. I just met her, right?

Roy: [7:08] Yep.

Andrew: [7:09] Yes. No personal life outside of this?

Yoav: [7:10] No, I am still single.

[7:13] [all laughing]

AndreW: [7:15] All right, I’m starting to understand. I see the office though. You guys are working hard. All.

[7:19] Right, currently Magento development process is opaque to the community. Does Varient have any plans to Address this?

Roy: [7:25] Absolutely. I think we’ve come a long way since our initial beta release back in August, as I said. What I think is as our processes get more refined as we continue to build a better process, add on resources to our team. I think we’ll have a lot more to work with. But to give that honestly, the open-source nature, it needs to be transparent. We’re fully aware of that. We’re focused on it, and it’s going to become as transparent as we possibly can very soon.

Andrew: [7:52] Who do you admire by the way that is being open with their development?

Roy: [7:58] There’s a lot of great projects out there. I think WordPress is a great example of a very transparent type of a development. There’s other companies such as MoveableType, which these days has done very very well, certainly since open-sourcing their product. So there’s a lot of examples that we take in the market, a lot of commercial open-source, which we’re very fond of as well. But we’re very much in tune with what’s happening in the market. And Magento is going to be, hopefully, a very big factor of it.

Yoav: [8:27] Zend Framework is another good example of…

Roy: [8:30] What’s the company?

Yoav: [8:30] Zend Framework. The PHP Zend Framework model design company, actually I think is a very good example of a mature community with a mature code submission setup.

Andrew: [8:42] When you’re thinking about your future and where you want to be, these are examples of what you’re.

[8:46] Looking at. All right, what are Magento’s current weaknesses? You guys are asking them to tell you the.

[8:50] Weaknesses in their product? All right, what are the weaknesses?

Roy: [8:54] Well, you know, first of all Magento is a software product, one that’s going to continue to evolve.

[8:58] Much like any other software product on the market. So that said, there’s going to be some things that are.

[9:04] Going to be great. We’re gonna get some feedback and improve on some other things. At the end of the day, I think that the product will continue to mature.

[9:11] Specific instances like I said, with our new release for example, I think performance on low-grade servers.

[9:18] Was an issue. We heard the community. We heard the feedback. We still have all the test bases that people.

[9:24] Submitted to us.

[9:25] That’s something that was greatly improved in 1.1, and I know Yoav and his team are continuing to work on.

[9:29] That for future versions as well. So performance for us is absolutely critical. But that’s just one.

[9:36] Example of things that we’ll continue to improve on.

Andrew: [9:39] How many people, by the way I flipped the page, how many people in the office here?

Roy: [9:42] We’ve got fifteen here in Los Angeles.

Andrew: [9:44] Fifteen--one five.

Roy: [9:45] Yep.

Andrew: [9:46] All right, and you’ve got people outside also working on it?

Roy: [9:47] Oh yeah, there’s about 60 people in the company.

Andrew: [9:50] 60 people in the company all working on all these problems.

Roy: [9:52] Fully focused on Magento, for certain.

Andrew: [9:55] But the people who are feeling it in their gut whenever there’s a bug? Mostly you two.

Roy: [9:58] I think the core team…

[10:00] [crosstalk]

Roy: [10:01] ...takes it very personal.

Andrew: [10:02] All right. When do you guys plan to introduce downloadable products?

Yoav: [10:07] So that’s actually in the works right now. We’re definitely going to update that with a release date soon. It was moved from 1.1 release, and probably going to make it into 1.2, which is definitely around the corner. So it is in the works. We started working on that, and that’s something that will be released pretty much with the next major release.

Andrew: [10:28] I actually just realized, there was a question here that I missed. Where is that? Here it is. What are the reasons for making Magento not multi-vendor capable?

Roy: [10:37] So that’s a great question. It goes back to really saying what are the features of Magento? And that’s something that was left out because it was just never a feature that made it to the 1.0 release. That may be something we take on in the future. But at this point, it’s just something that’s incredibly time consuming, needs to be thought out very very carefully. We just didn’t feel that that was right for the 1.0 release, which we want to get out to the community really as soon as possible.

Yoav: [11:07] Also, we kind of focused on the features that would help a wider range of users rather than specific industries. We did feel that that feature is not as needed as other features that we may have added in the 1.1 release.

Andrew: [11:23] OK. What about plans to document? Let me read the full question. What are your plans regarding documentation in regards to in code documentation, external documentation, and additional books in the works?

Yoav: [11:35] So there are definitely already some books that are in the works by very big publishing companies. There’s one already out and Roy posted about it as well. We actually released the PHP box for 1.0 and we’re updating it right now to the latest version. I think we’re going to see a lot more documentation done.

Andrew: [12:04] All right, what about WYSIWYG?

Yoav: [12:06] WYSIWYG is, as many people found already, hidden in the code.

Andrew: [12:11] WYSIWYG is in the code.

Yoav: [12:13] It was in the code. We just cut it out, because there’s a few features that have to do with url’s and images that were not complete yet. But we actually noticed that somebody in the community actually posted a [inaudible 12:31] as a solution [inaudible 12:33] ...

Andrew: [12:27] -huh.

Yoav: [12:27] ...which is great. We really like to see the community members have some solutions there. But it’s something that we definitely see being added to the core product very soon.

Andrew: [12:38] How’s the community doing in helping each other right now?

Yoav: [12:41] Very good. I think our community is growing daily. We’re getting about 30, 000 registered users right now. And I see a lot of response from community members helping others. This wikipost is definitely an improvement, and a lot of helping people install Magento, et cetera. So there’s very good response right now.

Roy: [13:00] I just want to add to that. I still think it’s a young community. It’s a young product for that matter. And we’ll continue to see that evolve through the months. But at the end of the day, I think it’s still a community that’s building and developing. It’ll take a little bit more time until it becomes, not really self-reliant as far as us being involved, but much more of a self-reliant community as we see within other projects as well.

Andrew: [13:26] Are there plans to extend the API to allow order creation?

Yoav: [13:30] Definitely. The API is something we are constantly adding more capabilities to. And order creation is right on top of the list. So look for it, again, in the near future.

Roy: [13:42] I’ll just add one regarding to that. The API for us is incredibly critical. So we want to make the API as comprehensive as possible. So you could theoretically do almost everything that you could do with the interface through the API.

[13:55] So in the next few months we’ll continue to develop that, document it, and make it available. But it’s certainly a very very high priority for us to make the API as robust as possible.

Andrew Warner: [14:07] OK, I’ve got a question about the upgrading process. Let me read it exactly as it’s been written, or as it’s printed here: “I think it’s generally fair to say that upgrading from version 1.0.x to version 1.1.x has been traumatic and challenging for many users, myself included. Does every upgrade have to be this painful?”

Yoav: [14:27] So definitely we have some guidelines as to how to work with Magento, how to customize Magento, extend Magento. If you abide by those guidelines, which is don’t customize the core. Don’t touch any of the core things. If you need to customize anything, do it to your local area code. It should not override any of your changes, et cetera. The architecture is built to being upgraded.

[14:51] That said, we have some issues, especially with themes between 1.0 and 1.1, and that’s due to a lot of new features that we added and a lot of improves we did on the performance side. We don’t see this happening in the next release, because it’s something we’re going to definitely pay attention to. We’re going to try to make themes with the core code as backwards compatible as possible, with custom themes.

[15:20] I think it’s very important. We don’t want people to redo their themes. Of course new features will need to be added to your custom theme, but definitely on the average should be much more easy and not involved so many issues like you heard about between 1.0 and 1.1.

Andrew: [15:36] OK. What is drag and drop design mode? Is it as exciting as it sounds and when will it be launched?

Yoav: [15:43] Well it’s very exciting. It’s definitely going to allow users that don’t have any knowledge of HTML, CSS, etc, to move blocks in the page around. So move them from one column to the other move them from right column to the header, etc. This is one of the reasons we created the layouts using XML that a lot of people were asking why do you choose XML for layouts. This is again to allow us the drag and drop of moving blocks around on the page. So it’s going to give even more control on the layouts, etc, for users rather than HTML or CSS professionals.

Andrew: [16:18] And when is it coming?

Yoav: [16:21] We started playing around with it. I don’t think it’s mature enough be released at this point. But definitely I think by the end of the year we’ll see something.

Andrew: [16:33] All right. “The EAV database structure base, Magento’s data model, very frustrating to modify. Is moving away from EAV a possibility?” That’s the worst reading of a question I’ve ever heard. Whoever wrote that, I’m sorry, I’m going to redo that one again. No I lie.

[16:52] [all laughing]

Yoav: [16:53] So I guess EAV is even hard to read, but We chose the EAV because it’s so flexible. It’s actually working with the EAV model, and once you get used to it and get the idea of it, actually it helps to help people with customization. They’re going to change the data structure in order to achieve more attributes for products, customers, etc.

[17:14] Saying that, we definitely are looking at areas of the code where we can simplify it. And a good example was that code model. There was some friend who actually flattened out a more relational kind of database. And again, we’ll look into more areas of the code to see if we can do that.

[17:32] And of course, using resource mode, that is also a way that you can also simplify and actually work with a different database structure. It’s, again, built into the code to support that. EAV is again very flexible. I think once you get the idea of that, it’s definitely good flexibility that we’re looking for in Magento.

Andrew: [17:48] OK. Anymore to add?

Roy: [17:50] No, I think Yoav’s the man of that.

Andrew: [17:53] I see, there’s certain questions that he just really gets fired up about. In the beginning I said what if he doesn’t talk?

[17:58] [all laughing]

Roy: [17:59] He’s got a lot to say, doesn’t he.

Andrew: [18:01] I’m jumping all the way over here just to be in front of the camera. The two of you just want to be at your desk right now, right?

Yoav: [18:05] I need to answer more questions.

Andrew: [18:06] You want to answer more questions. All right. Are you planning to extend the CMS system in any way in the near future?

Yoav: [18:14] So the CMS is something we offered in Magento. Right now I think the existing CMS is something that does what it’s supposed to do with e-commerce solution. But that’s definitely something that can be, and we see a lot of this starting to happen in the community, of integrating Magento with one of the more comprehensive CMS systems out there.

[18:33] It’s definitely something that we sought as a solution, using a robust CMS system to control your CMS pages, and using Magento for what it is, an e-commerce platform. We did have some ideas of how to enhance these capabilities and add more exciting functions to CMS. But definitely right now, this is something that’s going to take a back order on this system. This is something that we feel very comfortable with, and we feel does what it has to do right now.

Andrew: [19:03] Magento’s issue tracking would be far more useful to the community with more developer feedback on bug fixes, particularly when statuses are changed with no indication of the actual resolution or reasoning. Will this be addressed?

Roy: [19:15] Definitely, and like I mentioned before, we have a full time QA manager right now, that actually is managing both the core QA team bug reports and the community reports. And we’re definitely going to have more information about how the bugs are resolved, at what release we’re going to find bug fixes, etc.

[19:37] We also helped with all the admin notifications to allow for people to know when we’re coming out with releases, and security patches will be announced on that as well. So we have a lot of improvements going on with communication with the community about bug tracking.

Andrew: [19:56] All right. We’re done with the questions here. Overall is there something you want to say to the community?

Roy: [20:01] Yeah, I just want to thank the community for taking an active role and certainly helping us shape the product to where it is today. They have a big part in Magento’s success. And we’re committed to continuing to develop the product and continuing to push the product to even greater heights. We’re excited, seeing just a phenomenal interest so far, over $410, 000 as of today, Friday.

[20:25] And I think good things are in order. So we’re very excited. We’re thankful. And we hope to continue seeing the success that we’ve seen so far.

AndreW: [20:34] All right, me too. Thanks for doing this.

Roy: [20:36] Andrew thank you so much. Andrew: You bet.

Yoav: [20:37] Thank you.