Alessandro Ronchi has vast years of experience with Magento under his belt. He is a very active member of the Magento community, an author and a co-moderator of an Italian Google Plus group for Magento. In this interview, Ronchi talked in detail about Magento community and sharing his thoughts about the community members he said: “Magento has an amazingly active community made up of brilliant people who love to share their time and knowledge with each other.”
Alessandro also talked about Magento 2 and why it is indeed the next big thing in Magento. Talking aside Magento, Alessandro revealed that he is a swimming geek and loves taking long walks. Speaking about the Magento events, Alessandro said, “Attending conferences like Mage Titans, Mage Unconference, Meet Magento and hackathons like Mage Stack Day (only to mention some of them) gives developers the ability to meet and join the community and actively give their contribution.” I hope the readers would love this interview with the very experienced developer of Magento and online commerce.
Cloudways: Alessandro, you are connected with Magento since quite a long time as Magento specialist. How and why did you choose Magento as a career? What challenges did you face during your initial career?
Alessandro: In 2009 I had the chance to develop my first “real” e-commerce site. By “real” I mean not only a catalog, a cart and an order confirmation e-mail. Customers required integration with their ERP and WMS and tools to analyze sales and customer behavior. Furthermore they needed to be independent on managing catalog and processing orders. It was time to switch from a custom made solution to an e-commerce platform.
I begun to explore e-commerce trends and Magento attracted my attention. Looking back at Google trends is quite interesting: 2009 is the exact year in which the number of searches for “Magento” surpassed the ones for “osCommerce”.
At that time osCommerce was the most popular open source ecommerce platform but I didn’t like sites made with osCommerce: they all looked similar, making me think that customizing the frontend wasn’t that flexible. Thus I chose to try Magento which seemed a more promising platform. Challenges started very soon with Magento because there wasn’t a lot of documentation except for some articles by Alan Storm and the Inchooers, Tomislav Bilic and Branko Ajzele above all.
At that time I was reading a book that still inspires me today entitled “Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. There is a phrase in that book that encouraged me: “The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the others!”. Magento was my brick wall and I had my chance to demonstrate how badly I wanted to climb it.
Cloudways: Currently you working in Bitbull srl as Magento specialist. What is the common query you face from Magento store owners? What is your advice for Magento developers, how should they attain Magento specialist status? Do you think developer education curriculum should be in rigid shape or is there a need of something more profound?
Alessandro: The common query from Magento store owners is, and I think, will always be related to performance.
Magento is a huge framework. Mage_Core module is almost 25K lines of PHP code, not counting XML. And it’s only one of the 60+ modules (100+ if we consider Enterprise Edition) Magento is made up of. To become a Magento Specialist, and get my certification, I studied a lot of Magento source code. What also helped me a lot was supporting others by writing articles, teaching, speaking at conferences and contributing to open source projects.
Cloudways: Alessandro, you wrote a book titled: Magento Best Practices Handbook. What made you write this book? Tell our readers about “Mageploy”.
Alessandro: After years spent on fixing bad code, I decided to write the Magento Best Practice Handbook (#magebp on Twitter). It was intended to be a companion for me and my colleagues to avoid and fix recurring mistakes due to the poor knowledge of some Magento fundamentals. Writing the book also gave me the opportunity to start some collateral open source projects, from Magento tools and extensions to a curated list of Magento technical resources (#mageres on Twitter).
Mageploy is an open source project that dates back to 2013. I created it to be able to change config, create entities and entity attributes to avoid using a shared development database or writing tons of upgrade scripts. I wanted to use my local DB and let other developers of the team do the same and keep changes synchronized. Mageploy is a tool which tracks and then lets you replicate Admin actions among different environments.
I never finished working on it, I expected some more support from the community but it didn’t arrive.
Nevertheless, during these three years I’ve collected some precious feedback and ideas and I’d love to have time to put them in practice rewriting Mageploy from scratch for Magento 2.
Cloudways: What is the motivation behind your work? What are the 3 most viable tips for a newbie who want to involve themselves in Magento?
Alessandro: Nowadays, I love how computing allows us to automate solutions and processes, enabling efficiency and scalability. But when I was a young boy, I most of all loved videogames and computer graphics, that’s why I became a member of the Italian demo scene.
My advices to newbies:
* Find at least one mentor, someone who inspires and guides you, directly or indirectly;
* Be a mentor for someone else and share what you learn with others: it’s the better way to learn and improve;
* Take part (or found) a programming user group, attend (or organize) conferences, don’t stay closed in your own cocoon.
Cloudways: Tell our readers something about “Mage Titans IT”? As a Magento developer, what are the advantages of attending Mage Titans? Do you think every Magento developer needs to attend the Mage Titans conference?
Alessandro: Magento has an amazingly active community made up of brilliant people who love to share their time and knowledge with each other. Attending conferences like Mage Titans, Mage Unconference, Meet Magento and hackathons like Mage Stack Day (only to mention some of them) gives developers the ability to meet and join the community and actively give their contribution.
In 2013, events like that were infrequent in Italy so I decided to organize something on my own with the help of the local Programmers User Group I founded. Thus, in 2013 we organized the “Mageday”, the first Italian technical conference dedicated to Magento.
We did it again in 2014 but not in 2015 because the user group was designated to organize the Italian Symfony Day. In october 2015, I moved to Bitbull which soon embraced my idea of bringing Mage Titans overseas.
Space48 supported us, and in more or less three months we organized the first Mage Titans Italia, an international conference designed and curated by and for Magento developers. It was a success and chances are that Mage Titans Italia will have a future.
The major result was that of obtaining profits to donate to a charity campaign.
As I love to say, being part of a community means giving back and thanks to Mage Titans we gave many people the possibility to have clean water for the rest of their life.
Cloudways: Magento 18.104.22.168 is on the market. What are the major changes in this version? How many things has Magento improved in this version? What is your advice regarding shoplift bug? Share your highly regarded advice for merchants who want to keep their Magento store secure.
Alessandro: Version 22.214.171.124 provides most of all a bundle of security patches, including the shoplift bug patch (SUPEE-5344) which was addressed almost a year ago. As Anna Völkl showed us during her speech at Mage Titans Italia 2016, “XSS is real”: the SUPEE-7405 patch alone (included in v 126.96.36.199) addresses 7 XSS possible vulnerabilities. The advice (not only for merchants) is simple and, once again, I use the words by Anna: “stop last minute security”. Security issues can compromise your site and your business for real and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Cloudways: Alessandro, what are your thoughts on Magento 2? Do you think with the release of Magento 2, the market share of Magento will increase? What functionality do you most like in Magento 2? What would be your recommendations for those e-merchants looking to upgrade from 1.x to the Magento 2?
Alessandro: In my opinion Magento 2 is a great framework. Yes, it raises the bar of complexity to provide more flexibility and to adapt to modern coding standards; but there is a big difference from Magento 1. While it took years to have good books and tutorials on Magento 1, there is already a vast number of resources available for Magento 2, only after a few months of its launch. Simply put, learning Magento 2 won’t be such a challenge as it was for the previous release. Additionally, being more similar to other modern frameworks, I think it could be attractive for all those developers that didn’t approach Magento 1 so far.
There are so much people involved in providing high quality Magento 2 resources, starting from the dev docs team. I recommend to follow the weekly Magento Community Digest by our beloved Sherrie Rohde, the articles by Alan Storm and the guides from Firebear Studio and Session Digital. There is no space to list all the available resources, that’s why I encourage you to follow (and maybe contribute to) my #mageres repo.
About upgrading from Magento 1.x to 2: I think some time should be spent on analyzing the effective benefits of switching to Magento 2 right now. Magento 1 has a well established ecosystem of vendors, extensions and themes. The same is not yet true for Magento 2 and some time (months, maybe a year) is required to fill the gap.
Cloudways: There are many active Magento groups on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Can you name a few active ones you have joined? What are your views about these groups? What other ways, besides social media, do you use to connect yourself with the Magento Community?
Alessandro: I am co-moderator of an Italian Google Plus group counting more or less 1000 members. I also joined groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and spend some time on Italian Forums every now and then. But most of all I prefer being on Magento Stack Exchange: my browser starting page points to the newest questions with the intent of giving some help every day before starting my working routine. My main source of information is my Magento public list on Twitter and the way I prefer to connect with Magento community is contributing to open source extensions and tools.
Cloudways: Meet Magento is the best platform to engage ourselves with the Magento community. Did you attend any Meet Magento? In your opinion, what are the advantages of attending Meet Magento events for newbies?
Alessandro: Sure, I attended all editions of Meet Magento Italy both as attendee and as speaker and I’m planning to attend international Meet Magento events too. From the point of view of a company, Meet Magento represents a good opportunity to develop relationships with partners, clients and potential employees. From a developer point of view, it is a networking and knowledge sharing space where they can also meet their next employer.
As far as possible, I warmly suggest attending Meet Magento and all other Magento related events.
Cloudways: Alessandro, on the lighter side of life, how do you spend your time besides work? Are you an athletic guy :)? Would you share with our readers about how you felt when you got your first computer at 13 years of age :)?
Alessandro: I certainly am not an athletic guy but I like swimming and having long walks. I’m a family man so when I’m not in front of my PC or behind my digital camera I spend my time with my family. You can learn more about my passion for digital photography watching Mage Engage episode 21.
When I got my first personal computer, I felt ecstatic and confused: I went on and on typing Basic commands in the DOS prompt but the response was always the same: “Bad command or file name”. When I finally realized I had to launch a Basic interpreter and managed to write my first Basic program, I understood that I would have loved to do that for the rest of my life.
Cloudways: Everyone has some inspiration behind their success. Name some people from the Magento community who have inspired you the most with their work?
Alessandro: There are a lot of them, starting from Vinai Kopp who is my mentor, the one who inspired and pushed me to write my book. I already mentioned Alan Storm and the Inchooers. I really appreciate Ben Marks and Sherrie Rohde for their engagement with the community. I think that the team behind MageCasts.io really deserves a mention as well: James Cowie, Allan MacGregor and Fabrizio Branca.
I really mentioned only a few of the ones that inspire me every day but if you want the entire list just go here.
Cloudways: Cloudways provides 1-click Magento installation with fabulous speed of your cloud server on our platform. I would highly appreciate if you can provide some suggestions or feedback about the platform. Don’t hesitate to share your opinions of Cloudways for Magento hosting!
Alessandro: I’m honest, I didn’t try your services so far thus I can’t express any feedback on them. But I have an opinion about what you offer, that is managed cloud hosting. I’m not a sysadmin, I love to code and I like the idea that life’s too short to spend time on something that I will never master, that’s managing a server. That’s someone else’s job and you seem to be that someone else. I like that you leave the choice of the cloud provider to the end user but giving your advice on why to choose one or another. That’s a very professional approach.
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