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“As a developer, it will probably be fun to work with Magento 2,” says Vinai Kopp, Author of “Grooking Magento”

August 3, 2015

8 Min Read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Vinai Kopp is an enthusiast in the Magento community with loads of experience in the Magento development area. Vinai has been working as a developer since 1998 and has been involved with Magento for the past 5 years. He has been a consultant along with being a Magento trainer since the last 2 years, while also working as a freelance Magento developer. If you are an amatuer and looking to make a career out of Magento, then Vinai Kopp is the right person to go to.

Vinai Kopp interview

Besides his love for Magento, Vinai likes sport and is an avid fan of travelling to different places. His love for Magento community takes him to different Magento Events like Meet Magento and Magento Imagine, where he has been a regular speaker on most occasions.

Recently, Cloudways got a chance to talk with Vinai about his involvement in the Magento Community and what amazes him the most about Magento and its upcoming versions.

Cloudways: Vinai, you are the most respected personality in the Magento community. How and why did you choose Magento as a career?

Vinai Kopp: Thanks for the kind words, but please let me start by saying I do not like superlatives. They are false. They are just link-bait.

There is a huge amount of talent and commitment in the community, and everybody has their own unique point of view. This is what makes the community such an awesome and alive place to be!

Cloudways: How was the experience of working with Magento as an evangelist for more than two years? Do you think developer education is in absolute shape or there is a need of something more profound?

Vinai Kopp: It was great working for Magento / eBay. The reason I decided to leave is because I wanted to do more development work again, and I like being a freelancer. I am grateful to have had this experience as an employee.

Your question regarding developer education is very broad. I don’t really think Magento could do a much better job than it currently does. The content of the Magento U developer trainings is very valuable in my view.

My stance on what is needed is the following: I believe education is primarily the job of each and every developer. As a developer it is possible to learn from the beginning to the very end of the professional career. There never is a point in time where a developer is “done”. I’m a big fan of the software craftsmanship movement. Developers who think of themselves as professionals, who challenge themselves and stay curious, will always be expanding the boundaries of what is possible and will be changing what currently is accepted as “best practices”. Such a developer will find value in any blog post, video or workshop, regardless of what the topic is.

Cloudways: If you have been given a chance to build a program for developer education especially for Magento developers, what would be your approach?

Vinai Kopp: My view on how to make a Magento customization has changed a lot. Over the last years I’ve become much more interested in generic programming principles. People like Martin Fowler, Ward Cunningham, Kent Beck, Uncle Bob, Rich Hickey and Eric Evans are great inspirations to me. Everything they teach and write applies just as much to creating a Magento module as to creating a financial services enterprise Java application. This kind of knowledge is slowly but finally finding it’s way into the PHP community. This is good.

Of course it is necessary to know a framework well if I want to customize an application built with it, such as Magento. However, knowing the framework is not enough to create a maintainable solution that provides long term value.

When creating a developer education program, all this has to be balanced against the need of the business that a developer should be able to produce billable hours as fast as possible. Unfortunately, it will be rarely possible to spend 6 months or more on exploring and learning fundamental programming principles, OOP design, testing, domain driven design and so on, before touching Magento.

All a developer education program can focus on is one technology, and the developers themselves have to recognize in which broader areas they are lacking and choose to study those topics on their own.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed that I can’t read all I want to. But I guess everybody feels like that every once in a while, and all we can do is read one page at a time.

Cloudways: You wrote a book with Ben Marks titled Grokking Magento for Magento developers who want to get involved in Magento development and become a Certified Magento Developer or Consultant. What made you write this book series? Alan Storm also gave his review for your book. What are the 3 most viable tips for a newbie who want to involve themselves in Magento?

Vinai Kopp: The book originally was intended to become a series, covering all of Magento. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but maybe we will pick up the idea for Magento 2 in some form. We started the project because at the time there were no good advanced Magento development books available. Now there is more, like the Magento Best Practices Handbook from Alessandro Ronchi.

Tips for newbies? New Magento developers should first understand how the configuration XML is used and how to use it to one’s benefit. That includes the loading during the application initialization and the factory name to class name resolution.

Then they should study event observers, and finally the view system, that is, layout XML and blocks and templates. After this a new developer will be able to do real work, and can dig deeper into the ORM or other specific areas such as indexing or checkout as needed.

Cloudways: Vinai, you are a member of the Congress council in MM15DE. How was your experience regarding this event? What impact does a Meet Magento has on the Magento community? Highlight our readers about your role in MM15DE as a member of the Congress council. Who were your 4 best speakers from the MM15DE?

Vinai Kopp: This sounds bigger than it is. All it means is I get a list of speech submissions, and I give my recommendations. The final selection is made by the organizers based on the recommendations of all the council members.

I believe Meet Magento was vital for the success of Magento in Germany, or maybe even internationally. Giving the community a focus point made a huge difference! It always is great to attend, meet old friends again and meet new people. The Magento community is very awesome 🙂

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend MM15DE, so I can’t speak about it at all.

Cloudways: Magento 1.9.2 is in the market. What are the major changes in this version? How many things has Magento improved in this version?  

Vinai Kopp: I haven’t worked with 1.9.2 yet, so I don’t really know. All my clients projects either haven’t upgraded yet, or they upgraded and all went smoothly, so there was no need to get involved. I am following Magento 2 development very closely though.

Cloudways: Magento 2 Merchant Beta is also available in the market. What are your thoughts on Magento 2 Merchant Beta? Do you think with the release of Magento 2.0 the market share of Magento will increase?

Vinai Kopp: That’s a great question. I am pretty excited about the framework changes. The core team has done a huge amount of work. However, there still is a ton of work left to do. I hope they will be able to get enough of it done so the product will be a success.

For me as a developer it will probably be fun to work with Magento 2. So far many people are questioning if it provides enough incentives for merchants to upgrade. I guess nobody knows. We will just have to wait and find out.

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, than social, do you use to connect yourself in Magento Community?

Vinai Kopp: I used to be very active on IRC. However, I’ve pulled out of most of the social groups. There are too many of them for me. I haven’t even looked at the new Magento forums yet. Every one or two months I read a little in the slack Magento group.

The most important channel for me is Twitter. It helps me keep up with what is going on. Given it is just 140 characters, I can quickly scan what is happening, and dig deeper if I want to. That helps save time.

To be honest, I much prefer direct discussions with individuals on Skype or in person.

Cloudways: You have developed many extensions for Magento. Do you think extension usage makes it easy to develop in Magento? What are your 5 most preferred extensions?

Vinai Kopp: Yes, extensions for Magento are easy to develop. My favorite extension is the advanced template hints extension from Fabrizio Branca. Frontend development isn’t my strongest point, and that extension makes it a lot easier. To be honest, I can’t think of something like a top 5 list. But I can tell you one thing about extensions I like. I like extensions to do one thing only and do that one thing well. I’d rather have 100 small extensions then 20 big ones.

Cloudways: What further improvements do you suggest to enhance the Magento experience? As a Magento Consultant, what are the most important things you suggest to your customers? And what are your suggestion for improving Magento security?

Vinai Kopp: If Magento has a feature that fits a business requirement to 75%, it usually is cheaper to develop a set of Modules that fit 100% from scratch, rather than trying to bend core Magento out of shape to make it fit. The result is usually a maintenance nightmare. I’ve certainly been guilty of doing that in the past, but I like to think I’ve learned from that mistake.

Cloudways: Let’s get outside of Magento and talk about your personal life. I follow you on Twitter and Facebook and saw some of your pictures from Magerun. You like Running or are you also just a Mage runner like Brent W.Peterson? Share with our readers some interesting moments from the Magerun event 🙂

Vinai Kopp: I like running a lot, the slow and longer distance kind rather than sprints or 5k. For me it is about being outside, enjoying nature and feeling alive. Unfortunately, I had to take a break recently because of an injury, but it is getting better again.

The runs around the Magento events are awesome because I get to run in great locations, like the desert around Las Vegas, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, or the fields around Diegem by Brussels.

Vinai Kopp

And it is possible to share the experience with people I work with. That is very cool.

Cloudways: Who are some people who have influenced you when you started with Magento? Name any 10 people whom you admire in Magento community?

Vinai Kopp: When I started I learned a lot from Lee Saferite. As I’ve said before, there are many great minds and hearts in the Magento community. Colin Mollenhour, Fabrizio Branca, Vitaliy Golomoziy and Alistair Stead to name a few. There are others whom I met through Magento work who probably wouldn’t consider themselves part of the Magento community, but who still inspired and influenced me a lot. Marcello Duarte for example. I’m sure I’ve forgotten heaps of people. Sorry, really.

Cloudways: How do you see Magento in next 5 years? Will it reign the ecommerce web market as it is today? Or you are seeing it changing its course into a more diverse web application platform?

Vinai Kopp: No idea, I’m not good at predictions. Change is the only constant.

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