Angie “webchick” Byron: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes… (and a brief history of Drupal)

What the what?!


A crying Druplicon
Sad Drupal is Sad. :'(

Well, might as well get right down to it… I’ve made the incredibly difficult decision to leave Acquia, and my employment there officially ended last week. :'(

Some important notes about this:

  • This is in no way a negative reflection on Acquia. I have worked with SO many amazing people there in the past 10 years(!), and have endless gratitude for all of the challenges, opportunities, learning, and laughs. The leadership team has a solid strategy, and the effort everyone there puts into achieving it every day is inspiring.
  • This is in no way a negative reflection on Drupal. In my time here, I’ve seen Drupal through its youthful toddler years, to its surly teenage years, and now Drupal’s all grown up, with a nice, stable apartment downtown. 🙂 Drupal is and remains an amazingly powerful, flexible solution for building every single type of application one can dream of, with an incredibly strong and vibrant community behind it.
  • What this is about is about an opportunity that came up to take lessons learned from Drupal and apply them more broadly to (hopefully) make an even bigger impact (more on that below).

10 years sure is a long time…

It sure is! Here are some fun Drupal facts that help illustrate key achievements of Acquia’s Drupal Acceleration Team [DAT] (née Office of the CTO [OCTO]) over the years, and hopefully provide some insight into the areas of investment Acquia has made and continues to make in Drupal.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The folks explicitly called out below are former co-workers who work / have worked at Acquia, since this post is in some ways a “farewell” to them, and an opportunity to celebrate their often unsung efforts. This is unfortunately NOT able to be a comprehensive list of ALL of the amazing people working on various initiatives, because that list would be far, far too long and I’d invariably miss someone. 🙁 Suffice it to say, however, that none of the items listed below would be possible without hard work, input, funding, and help from literally thousands of other people across the wider Drupal community!

Did you know? Back in 2011:

Authoring Experience and Strategic Initiatives


A blog post with hand-typed HTML
Eat your heart out, WordPress! 😀

Eas[y|ier] Upgrades


A screenshot of the Drupal 7 contrib tracker website
Tale as old as tiiiiiiime…

  • Drupal 7 had just come out, and the first initiative of the day was to help the community get all of the modules ported to the new version. (Sound familiar? ;)) Drupal Gardens (R.I.P.) was key to this effort, with a world-class team focusing on the biggest, gnarliest modules first. We then repeated that initiative for Drupal 8, for Drupal 9, and, because @Gábor Hojtsy is such an *amazing* overachiever, have already started it for Drupal 10 as well! Ted Bowman (@tedbow) and Katherine Druckman (@katherined) deserve shout-outs for doing a huge ton of Drupal 7 > 8 and Drupal 8 > 9 (respectively) porting in their initial Acquia assignments!
    • To assist with these efforts, OCTO/DAT has also developed numerous pieces of tooling over the years to help make upgrades easier, including:
      • Drupal Module Upgrader (originally an Acquia Hackathon project!), an automated code analysis/porting tool for Drupal 7 -> D8/9 code which @phenaproxima rocked the crap out of as an intern back in the day!
      • Upgrade Status, a dashboard of your contributed modules’ porting status that gives you a dynamic “todo” list for major upgrades, which the team has shepherded over the years from Daniel Kudwien (@sun)‘s original efforts back in the day!

    Predictability/Reliability


    A troll face that says 'when it's ready'
    Three words to strike fear into any Drupal site admin.

    • In 2011, Drupal releases took the philosophy of “it’s ready when it’s ready,” which made them basically impossible to plan around. Even security releases came out on an unpredictable, as-needed basis, so running a Drupal site required CONSTANT VIGILANCE. 😛 OCTO/DAT worked with the Drupal Security Team to develop the Wednesday security release windows system we all know today, and also with core contributors to develop the predictable semantic versioning release approach that Drupal 8+ uses. Major kudos go to Jess (@xjm) for making sure those trains run on time, and that they start any fires when they reach the station! 😀
    • Another Drupal release philosophy from 2011 was “we’ll break your code, not your data”. OCTO/DAT has done extensive work, alongside other major community contributors, to enact various policies that ensure Drupal upgrades are easy from Drupal 8 onward.

      Governance


      If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
      I don’t have a pithy caption here; this is actually sound advice.

      • Back in 2011, Drupal was very much a “do-ocracy” which meant that it pretended it didn’t have a governance structure, which mostly meant that if you weren’t already neck-deep in the community to know who everyone was, you were completely in the dark as to which people held key decision making powers. 😛 We held a Governance Sprint alongside OSCON with mindful community members, as well as various luminaries from other open source projects, and developed an explicit, scalable governance framework for the Drupal Association, for Drupal Core, and for the Drupal Community. Much of that framework exists to this day, and others have evolved as project needs have changed. Alex Bronstein (@effulgentsia) deserves some props here as he’s always incredibly thoughtful of structural changes within Drupal and their longer term ramifications.

      Sustainability


      A scale showing one red block balancing three grey blocks.
      The delicate balance…

      • Back in 2011, if you needed a Drupal 7 committer, it was down to either @Dries or me. Over the years, we’ve built this up to a team of 14 committers, including different specializations in Product Management, Framework Management, Frontend Framework Management, and Release Management. We’ve also brought onboard a Core Team Facilitator (Pamela Barone (@pameela)) to help with coordinating efforts of the team itself.
        • Another major initiative that falls under this is the Drupal.org contribution credit system, to encourage organizations to donate time back to the project and create more makers than takers.
        • In partnership with the Drupal Association, we created the Drupal 8 Accelerate grants program to bash through the final critical bugs holding Drupal 8.0 from release. The core committer team was in charge of disbursing $125,000 in the form of bug bounties, and directly resulted in Drupal 8.0 shipping in 2015 (without it, who knows :).

      I’m sure I’m forgetting a million and a half other things that happened over the years, but hopefully this helps paint a picture for those who are newer to the company of how far Drupal has come, and the role Acquia has helped play in that growth.

      What’s next?


      MongoDB Logo.
      Webchick is going Web Scale! 😉

      Starting today, I’m going back to my community building roots at MongoDB as Principal Community Manager on the Community Team, focusing on initiatives such as building out an open source contributor program and further awesome-ifying the MongoDB Champions program.

      What drew me to this opportunity is:

      • MongoDB has focused from the outset on stellar developer experience, which is a value I believe in strongly, even since before my time in Drupal. I really appreciate that they take a strong, developer-centered view of how databases ought to work, and that they’ve tackled so many of the hard problems up-front.
      • Because MongoDB is a technology that is used by tons of other projects, languages, frameworks, etc. it seems like a really great opportunity to both take some of the lessons learned from Drupal over the years and apply them to other communities, while also being able to get a broader perspective from other communities and bring those back into Drupal!
      • The people. While it’s really (really!) scary to think about starting out in a new place with new faces, I had the opportunity to interview with folks from a wide cross-section of the company. Every single person I spoke with fully embodied their core values. Every single person was passionate, genuine, kind, and determined to make a huge difference. In a lot of cases speaking to folks felt like speaking to a friend you’ve had for years.
      • MongoDB has also been a tremendous ally to Drupal (speaking of 10+ years :)), putting funding and time into efforts such as Drupal 7’s database abstraction layer, the Views in Drupal Core initiative, and more.
      • From being prompted for pronouns on the initial application form, to a variety of queer/trans-inclusive benefits, to dedicated LGBTQIA+ inclusive initiatives, MongoDB takes their commitment to Diversity and Inclusion more seriously than just about any other tech company I’ve seen. Colour me impressed!
      • AND, to top it off, they’re going to continue to give me dedicated time to work on Drupal as well! :O


      An adorable chihuahua puppy wrapped in a multicoloured scarf.
      Our new chihuahua puppy Arthur wearing the MongoDB Pride bandana, more or less like a cape. 😀

      So, fret not! I’ll still be around in the Drupal community, hopefully with a broadened perspective and bringing in some new ideas and energy along the way! 🙂

      Sheesh, what’s the TL;DR here?!

      So, in short:

      • I no longer work at Acquia, but want to sincerely thank everyone there for 10+ years of important work, learning opportunities, amazing friends, and of course laughs.
      • A LOT has changed in Drupal over the last 10+ years, and up above you can view a tiny sampling of it.
      • I’m starting a new position at MongoDB today as Principal Community Manager, and am really excited! (And also nervous, but hey. ;))
      • I’ll still see you Drupal folk around in Drupal Slack and the issue queue. 🙂
      • MOST importantly, we now have a puppy. 😉

      One last thing: If we’ve worked together over the years in a Drupal community capacity and if you’re up for it, I would be hugely appreciative of a LinkedIn recommendation. And I’ll do my best to reciprocate! 🙂


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