Meet Benni Mack, Part 2: TYPO3 Core Project Lead, Germany (Application Podcast S1E7)

Categories: Community, Podcasts Created by Jeffrey A. McGuire
As we cover in Part 1, Benni Mack has been working with TYPO3 since 2007, and he’s currently the TYPO3 Core Development Lead. He also co-founded b13, based in Stuttgart, Germany, which builds web-based solutions for customers around the world using open source technologies like TYPO3.

Go to Part 1

Listen to the full interview in the audio player here, watch the interview video below, where you’ll also find a full transcript of our conversation. Don’t forget to subscribe and send us your feedback and ideas!

Open Source Has Been a Guidepost for Benni Since Day One

Benni’s initial work with TYPO3 began way before he became the co-founder of b13 (listen to Part 1 of our conversation for more). It started when he was an undergraduate. Although he was relatively TYPO3-inexperienced at this stage, when Benni saw an issue with a client’s Page Tree, his colleagues encouraged him to take ownership of the problem, while they provided support in the background. This open source mindset led Benni to TYPO3 in the first place, and many years later, he has never lost sight of that. 

How Open Source Can Help You—Benni Mack-Style

Use Open Source Projects and Tools to Become Part of the Community

In addition to b13’s frequent usage of the open source TYPO3 CMS, Benni says they also use other ones. “You know, in our company, we use a lot of open source tools. And we're currently thinking of giving back to the ones that help us do our job more and more,” not just TYPO3. 

Let Open Source Inspire You

Benni says he often prefers to look at open source projects objectively, from more of a distance. He admits that the “hype” surrounding a project can put him off, and that many open source projects aren’t yet mature enough for b13 to fully invest in. But he says that even open source projects he doesn’t want to use directly still hold a great deal of value for him. He adds, “They also offer a new way of looking at things that you've been used to for a long time. And I like to study them, see what my take is on that, what I like about it, what I don't like about it, and see what I can use.”

Keep Your Decision-Making Open and Flexible

Over and over again, open source has surprised the technical community and changed the course of the future. Benni names the influence of Wikipedia as an example. 20 years on, nobody could have predicted what it was going to grow into. Benni says it’s tough to predict the potential of a project, but that’s part of what continues to make open source so intriguing and relevant. He says of open source, “It actually influences our decisions. Because we know that open source has a good reputation in general, for corporations and decision makers. That's why we're explicitly choosing [open source], because we see the future.”

Adopt an Open Source Mindset as a Springboard to Greater Things

Diving in to using open source tools is a great way to become part of the community, immerse yourself in the principles, and get familiar with how it works. But even if you don’t (or can’t) use open source in your projects, keeping an open source mindset can still be massively beneficial to your career — just like it has been for Benni.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player here, watch the interview video below, where you’ll also find a full transcript of our conversation. Don’t forget to subscribe and send us your feedback and ideas! 

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Need More Reasons to Press Play?

Little known fact about Benni: he loves hats! Well, at least one … We think he really needs some more.


Application, the TYPO3 Community Podcast could not have happened without our special guest Benni Mack, b13 and Stefanie Kreuzer for our logo, and Maestro Patrick Gaumond for our wonderful, quirky theme music. 

And a huge thank you to the TYPO3 Association for sponsoring this podcast!

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Meet Your Host

Jeffrey A. McGuire, Partner at Open Strategy Partners, helps organizations communicate and grow at the intersection of open source software, business, and culture. He connects the value and people behind the technologies to the people who need to know about them through inspiring conversations, keynotes, podcasts, and more. 

His approach to technology marketing—sharing the human context of complex technology solutions, and celebrating the expertise and success of their creators—has left its mark in business and open source communities over the last 15+ years.

Interview Transcript

This transcript is AI-generated. We tried to correct the transcript, but the AI threatened to turn Skynet on. We left it alone after that. Some mistakes guaranteed.

Jeffrey A. McGuire0:03
Welcome to Application, the TYPO3 Community Podcast. One, two. Welcome to Application, the TYPO3 Community Podcast. I'm Jeffrey A. McGuire, you can call me jam. And this is where we celebrate the TYPO3 community, sharing your stories, talking about your projects and the difference you make in around and with TYPO3 CMS. On this episode of Application, the TYPO3 community podcast, I continue my late 2020 conversation with Benni Mack, Core Project Lead of TYPO3, in part two. Benni, as a business leader of a digital agency using open source technologies, and as the technical leader of an open source project, Benni and I dive into trying to balance between open source and hypes, what's exciting in technology and what's new and shiny, versus the longevity of TYPO3 websites and the cost of maintenance and balancing fancy new shiny things, and consistent, reliable value. We also touch on corporate versus individual influence and benefit in open source making values based choices. And the fact that clients as many says, sometimes they don't need what they want. And you heard it here first, folks, we are announcing on this podcast episode b13's pivot to washing machines. Welcome to the podcast, Benni Mack.

Benni Mack  1:48
They don't know that they're using time.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  1:49
Exactly. Exactly. Hey, so let's shift gears a little bit. What currently excites you in the open source world?

Benni Mack  1:59
One thing that? Well, I don't know if it excites me. But something I find quite interesting is that there's these hypes. And they come and go with JavaScript frameworks or whatever you can build with it.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  2:13
So my favorite my favorite question, talking with front end people is what's your favorite JavaScript framework this week?

Benni Mack  2:23

Jeffrey A. McGuire  2:25
And I remember in, we were sitting, we were sitting with Mateus libre. And it was literally like, January 12 2019. And there was an article online, the best new JavaScript frameworks of 2019. I'm sorry to interrupt. So you were talking about hype.

Benni Mack  2:44
Yeah, and so, so I'm excited by the hype, because they, I don't think they're mature enough. But they're also offer a new way of looking at things that you've been used to a long time. And I like to, you know, study them and see what, what my take on that, and what I like about it, and what I don't like about it and see what I can use, even though or especially for title three, because that's the majority of my open source work. So that is PHP, and that's TYPO3, but also the whole JavaScript and Kubernetes thing and whatever is cool. DevOps, it's interesting, but I'm not hands on on these topics. So I rather watch that from a distance and see how long people will use that. So because I'm on a different kind of business, I would say what TYPO3, because you build something that can last for a lot of years. And if you use a front end JavaScript library, even though it's going to be maintained for two years, or three years, you still apparently have to update it every week or so. And I don't want to do that with all of my projects.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  3:58
Right, and at every level, and at every level of the stack as well. So, I mean, um, you know, you you were switching a little bit between hats, but you know, apart from your chainsaw hat that you have on your head, you have a you have a TYPO3 Project Lead hat and you have an agency lead hat up with B 13, where you're a co founder and c t Oh, I guess, right? So you actually need to make conservative decisions for your clients and your your business because you know, the infrastructure that you run has to be quite stable and quite solid. And you you can't spend all your time upgrading some random thing that somebody got excited about, right?

Benni Mack  4:34
Yeah, exactly. And it doesn't even have to be TYPO3. But if your front end is using whatever JavaScript library we ran into this few years ago, you do Bower and grunt, and now you use Webpack. And now you give us the roll up, and you're like, I'm just doing that for changing the stack. Because that's what you use to use. Now. This is crazy. Apart from that, what I like about To open source, the awareness of larger corporations that they're building on top of something that somebody is doing in their home, in their spare time. I feel like this gets more and more traction, which is good. And I see larger corporations supporting that. I mean, TYPO3, in my opinion is a larger PHP based system where you have a, an association and a lot of members. But, you know, they have that awareness already. But, you know, I use in our company, we use a lot of open source tools. And we're currently thinking of giving back to the ones that help us do our job more and more. And that's, that's the mindset where open sources is moving towards is like, okay, I want you to still have fun in your open source project, because I depend on it. And I don't want to give you a lot of money, just to, you know, spend it, and making sure that, you know, my bosses is not bothering me anymore with we should use something else. But at the same time, giving the sustainability to to these smaller things, or smaller projects that everybody's using is really, really cool.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  6:14
Do you think that the corporate enterprise adoption and use of open source is reducing our ability in general to also help and empower individuals and and communication among, you know, non non corporations, it used to be a real empowerment story and a real activism story, sometimes in a real, you know, science story is that, are we losing that because it's because corporations are on board nowadays,

Benni Mack  6:46
I wouldn't say so. Maybe for some projects, but in the open source world I live in. And because I am only part of a fraction here, I feel like the awareness is a positive thing. It's not just about, you know, I'll send you over a present or a check, or something. But some corporations might want to influence the way where everything's heading. But at the same time, there's some real humble thanks, you know, to the maintenance of open source. And that's, that's what I really like. And that's what I also see, that's cool. This opens up, you know, the freedom we get with open source, it's also that we are able to come up with new things. And I really like that this effort continues like that there's new things coming up from open source. And that's like, a no brainer, it's in our generation nowadays. 2020, it's, it's in our heads, just two quick stories. I read this book about Microsoft back then in 1995, they came up with their encyclopedia on CD ROMs. And you're able to install it on and there was this large company, Microsoft, they actually decided to shut it down, I don't know, couple of years later. And nobody thought that Wikipedia would actually be much better, more comprehensive and more people working on it. And that was like 20 years ago, or, or 15 years ago, there were open source clearly won, and nobody's actually holding on to Microsoft is like, Oh, you release something and it's not good. It's actually you know, that's how the mindset shifted and changed. And I really liked that about open source. I mean, open source open, thinking in the open and the web, where there's so much freedom. And

Jeffrey A. McGuire  8:33
does that influence the sort of a business person you are? Oh, yeah,

Benni Mack  8:38
maybe I'm not the perfect business guy. And our company is not like out for profit. Our company's values are based that we want to have fun in what we're doing every day going to the office and have fun with the people around us and with the customers we work with. And with the software we work with. And so we we also use another e commerce software in PHP, I can't name it, of course, because I don't want to give a bad reputation. But that was like a couple of years ago. And my colleague said, after a couple of months working with just that system, can we finally go back to TYPO3, it's so much more fun. And that's like, Oh, no, we make more money with that other system, we should, we should not use TYPO3, and he showed up in code. Yeah, ecommerce is where you get money. We're not that kind of people in our company. So that's why I don't know if it changes something, but it actually influences our decisions. Because we know that open source has a good reputation in general, also for corporations and decision makers and not for all of them because we need to tell them still. We're getting there. And that's why we're explicitly choosing that, because we see the future if you take the Wikipedia example. It's like it's a no brainer,

Jeffrey A. McGuire  9:53
your company. I know a lot of the team and we know each other fairly well. You are In my view of values based organization, you, you, as a leader care about your people. And I feel that your, your, your team, a lot of people in your company say that you feel like it feels like family and I, and I believe you. So I think you were sort of a values based company. And what you've just said fits with that. Having the choice and the flexibility of working with these tools means you also have the flexibility to revisit your decisions, I don't know, you're not bought in on a 10 year vendor license for some proprietary system, and you're just gonna like find right gray suit code for 10 years, just because cuz that'll pay for, you know, a bigger boat or something.

Benni Mack  10:37
Yeah, that's completely true. Even though right now, our company called b13, there's no TYPO3 in it. Because there's no coding in it. It's just a name. And not just a name, but it's a name, and it's not bound to whatever we're doing. If we're we don't have fun on using open source or maybe TYPO3 CMS anymore. We'll just build washing machines, or sell washing machines, because that's much more fun. And we can still wait a minute or be 30.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  11:08
Why washing machines?

Benni Mack  11:11
Just something that might be

Jeffrey A. McGuire  11:12
I'm tweeting b13 pivoting to washing machines.

Benni Mack  11:16
Yes, exactly. Anything, right, your

Jeffrey A. McGuire  11:19
clean clothes made in Stuttgart.

Benni Mack  11:21
So we know we're not focused on locking ourselves into any system. But actually, nine years ago, I was we were debating if TYPO3 still has a future. And some people do that regularly, and they should either re evaluate their decisions. And I remember many years ago, I was like, Hmm, what happens if temper three is not going to sustain and or like nobody's needs needs a CMS anymore? in two or three years, and we're like, well, we don't know yet. Still, people still use it. And we only know a fraction of people who use it, we still can stick to it and invest in there. And that invest in our our own future. So it's a kind of egoistic concept, because we want to, we want to use TYPO3 for a longer time, as are for a long time. And that's why we're also making it better. And and we we talked about TYPO3 being quite a sustainable project with with a long term vision and individual sites and applications that work for a very long time. does that leave you your desire to keep working with TYPO3?

Jeffrey A. McGuire  12:31
I guess it not only pushes you to keep TYPO3 up to date and relevant. But does that change the way that you that you sell it or that you deal with your your clients?

Benni Mack  12:40
No, because for our clients, we look at what they actually need. Sometimes they don't need what they want.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  12:49
I am tweeting that, by the way.

Benni Mack  12:51
Yes, that's totally fine. And we're helping them to find out what they need. And then they can make their own decision. and stick with us or Steven stick with another temporary agency or WordPress or a non open source system, which is totally fine, because it might fit better to their ethics or

Jeffrey A. McGuire  13:10
whatever solution. Sure. And if it's not if your if your relationship doesn't sit, right, it's it's nobody's gonna have fun with that. Right?

Benni Mack  13:18
Yeah, exactly. That's, that's, of course, another part. But if they just don't need TYPO3, then it would be overkill to to tell them use TYPO3. That's the only thing you can do. I don't think that's that's the solution. Because I don't know if everybody needs Kubernetes either, right? So you don't need to have Kubernetes for everyone, if you need to spend a lot of more money because of that.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  13:45
I don't know if we're supposed to say that in 2020. But okay.

Benni Mack  13:48
Yeah, I know. At the same time, six years ago, seven years ago, everybody was like, I don't need my own website anymore. Because I don't need a CMS anymore. I'll just put my website on Facebook, they did that. And that works. And some, some people don't even need a phone number anymore, because they do everything through Facebook. And that's good. But then I would never sell them that TYPO3. They obviously don't have the need for such a sophisticated system. Hmm. Hmm.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  14:16
So so you you try and find out what they actually need and what their goals are. Right. And so is it's your experience that people come to you and they ask for something specific, but it's it's like quite a long way down the thinking process. And and you try and understand the beginning of that, or where where they actually need to go to get the thing that they want rather than the thing that they've pictured in their minds.

Benni Mack  14:38
Yeah, exactly. So it's a lot of thinking together and find the best solution. Find a process where they exactly know if they need help or three if they need a CMS or something completely different. And sometimes they come to us because they need something completely different. And they end up with TYPO3, which is also nice. If you have an example of that. Yeah, one of our clients, they Just run their website with TYPO3. And then some other department in the corporation came to us and said, while we have our annual reports or quarterly reports, and we want to have them online, and here's our InDesign file it could we bring that on the web. And we're like, well, you can see the InDesign file, of course, it's not built in into TYPO3, but we can display it on as a separate website. And you know, that would be really fun to use. And work with that. Also, the same process we had with print magazines, where they switch from print first to online first. And that's, that's one of the examples where it completely makes sense for help to help these corporations to switch or companies switch to digitalization process and Kickstarter, and not just for their website, or their intranet. That's quite cool.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  15:51
I guess both of those specific use cases, you guys must have a bunch of XML expertise at epi there. Yeah, one of the stuff like that. One of my very early tasks at my first startup, was publishing documentation. And the state of things there was we were publishing PDFs on a regular basis. And in the beginning, it was only the PDFs, then it was the webpages available online and as PDFs, but we were writing the documentation online. And then I had the unbelievable pleasure of learning about XSLT transformations. And and, and we're working with LaTex at one point, which is L-A-T-E-X ... Yeah, boy, if if I never touch that stuff again. It'll be too soon. So thank you for taking Kevin and I'll call you a fine.

Benni Mack  16:50
Yes, exactly.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  16:52
Who is it that you think people should get to know who is it that that I should call up and have a conversation like this with,

Benni Mack  17:01
you're sure if you're on TYPO3, in general, there's, there's one person you can't go around you, you will stumble over that person that's young, violent, great person, you should talk to him, he has so many insights, he's a very kind person. And what I like about it, about him are like his passionate about TYPO3. And that he built, built his company on top of three from day one and trusted the community or right now myself to trust in the TYPO3 community that TYPO3 will have a future. That's really, really amazing. And he's, he's really been a great partner in so many topics, string hosting, whatever, three,

Jeffrey A. McGuire  17:47
I would love to talk with you. And in terms of, I think maybe next time you and I talk, I want to talk about your ideas about contribution don't start now, he is an amazing open source, like a shining example to me of how contribution turns into value turns into, you know, jobs and companies and whatever. Because if I recall, rightly, people were having trouble installing typo. Three. He figured it out pretty well and started putting out videos of how to do that. And it kind of snowballed into him having a hosting company and an agency business and all sorts of cool stuff. Yes. Often violent. Absolutely.

Benni Mack  18:24
One of my my favorite heroes favorite persons to to work with is Marcus Klein, from Austria. He's been in the military courting a few years. And he has a lot of insights. He has a lot of special use cases. He knows so many features. And he likes to dig in the dirt and find out the reason why it was implemented in the first place. Give you a really, really good rundown on how it should be. So that's that's really cool.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  18:54
That sounds that sounds like a really interesting line of questioning. So he does like forensic coding or something.

Benni Mack  19:00
I don't know how he does it. He has a good understanding.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  19:04
All right, Nate, thanks so much for your time. I'm really enjoying this so far. And the next time we talk, I want to ask you in more detail about how you discovered it. the sort of things that you've built with typo three over the years, what you're proud of what you would have done differently. Yeah, I'm really, really looking forward to it. So next time we talk, what hat Are you going to wear? And I mean, the one on your head?

Benni Mack  19:27
I only have that one. So I'll Don't get me wrong.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  19:33
I swear I've seen you wearing other hats.

Benni Mack  19:35
No, really.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  19:36
Otherwise, otherwise? TYPO3 community challenge. Send Benni a trucker cap for Christmas. Go. The more hats he gets the more different hats that we can see him wearing over time.

Benni Mack  19:50
That sounds great. I love that. Cool.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  19:53
Hey, so thanks again. I'm I'm really enjoying this.

Benni Mack  19:56
Cool. You're welcome. All right.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  19:59
Thanks to the TYPO3 Association for sponsoring this podcast. Thank you b 13 and Stephanie Costa for our logo. Merci beaucoup, Patrick Gaumond, TYPO3 developer and musician extraordinaire for our theme music. Thanks again to today's guest. If you liked what you heard, don't forget to subscribe in the podcast app of your choice and share application that TYPO3 community podcast with your friends and colleagues. If you didn't like it, please share it with your enemies. Would you like to play along and suggest a guest for the podcast? Do you have questions or comments? reach out to us on Twitter at TYPO3 podcasts. You can find shownotes links and more information in our posts on TYPO3 dot org. Remember, open source software would not be what it is without you. Thank you all for your contributions

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  • Content Publisher : Mathias Bolt Lesniak