This is a transcript. For the video, see 20 years of Drupal with Greg Dunlap.
[00:00:00] Michael Meyers: Hello, and welcome to Tag1 Team Talks, the blog and podcast of Tag1 Consulting. We're commemorating the 20th anniversary of Drupal with an interview series, featuring community leaders talking about their Drupal experience. I'm really excited to have Greg Dunlap on the show today.
Greg is the Director of Strategy at Lullabot, which is one of the most well-known Drupal agencies. And he's been a prolific and important contributor to Drupal over the last 15 years. I'm Michael Meyers, managing director of Tag1. Tag1 is the number two all time contributor to Drupal. We build large scale applications for Fortune 500s, large organizations in every sector using Drupal, as well as many other technologies.
Dries, the founder of Drupal, once said that it's really the Drupal community and not so much the software that makes the Drupal project what it is. And so our goal with this podcast series is to introduce you to some of the amazing community members that have made Drupal what it is, and in sharing their stories and seeing their success as a result of their engagement in Drupal communities.[00:01:00]
We really hope that it will inspire you to get more engaged in open source communities as well. So please welcome Greg Dunlop to the show. Greg. Thanks for joining us.
[00:01:10] Greg Dunlap: Thanks for having me.
[00:01:12] Michael Meyers: Greg, so you've been programming for 30 years now?
[00:01:16] Greg Dunlap: Yeah, yes. I first wrote Basic on a K pro computer in high school. That was probably like 1984 or something like that.
[00:01:28] Michael Meyers: I remember when we were kids but you, you have this amazing background: you've worked in C++ on real time operating systems, building out slot machines, writing assembly to design coin up games, including Pinball machines. Uh, I mean, you've worked with pretty much every web technology and platform out there from, you know, Microsoft and Oracle stuff to, you know, the major open source platforms.
[00:02:00] And of course, you know, you've worked with several well known Drupal agencies: Palantir, NodeOne, before joining Lullabot And, you know, you've helped organize and speak at numerous Drupal Camps, Drupal Cons. Uh, you served as the Drupal initiative lead for configuration management- the CMI Initiative.
And I, I wanna come back to that cause, there's a lot I wanna talk about on that front, if we have time. Uh, and of course you, know, maintain, deploy and services modules and have contributed to core. Um, so there's a lot to talk about today. I'm really excited about this.
[00:02:35] Greg Dunlap: Yeah, me too. It's been quite a ride.
[00:02:37] Michael Meyers: Yeah.
Um, before we, we jump into the, the Drupal stuff though, I, I kind of wanted to step back and, and talk about your career prior to Drupal you know, a bit of a, you know, what is the origin story of, of Greg-and when when I was doing some reading, preparing for today's show, I noticed that you have a degree in Photojournalism and Fine Art [00:03:00] Photography.
And so I wanted to start there cuz I love really interesting career paths and I see this a lot with, you know, talented and successful people; is that they've done a really wide array of things. And so I, I, you know, I really gotta know. Um, how did you go from Film and Photography into Technology?
[00:03:19] Greg Dunlap: Um, it was kind of a confluence of different things.
Like I had been interested, like I said, in programming for a long time, but like when I was in college, I was kind of like, A rebellious punk rock kid. And at the time, you know, we're talking about the late 80s, early 90s going into technology or computer stuff. It basically meant working in the basement at an insurance company or a bank, you know, and.
It didn't interest me. It's just like, I was good at programming and I enjoyed programming, but the jobs that were out there for me just didn't seem like anything I actually wanted to do. And I really [00:04:00] loved photography and journalism. And my mom was a journalism major as well. And I got very inspired by, you know, seeing, you know, All the President's Men and reading about Edward R Murrow and stuff.
And so I started digging into that and one of the things that I realized as I was getting towards the end of my schooling is that I could kind of see the end of the newspaper industry happening even way back then I graduated in 1991 and I could see the beginnings of it starting already. And I found that really sad.
And also when I graduated, there was a very bad recession going on. So I found it very hard to find a job. And so the first job I got out of college was at a real estate weekly, like the kind of things they would give out in supermarkets, listing houses for sales and stuff like that. And while I was there, there was a guy who was kind of crazy who was my boss who owned the place.
And he had a database application that he had [00:05:00] built in Paradox for DOS, for those of us who are of a certain age and can remember that. And he was documenting basically the street address of every unit in Chicago. And he wanted to convert it to the new Windows version of Paradox, but he was sick of maintaining it and he's like, oh, you seem to be good with computers.
How would you like to do this? And I'm like, sure, I'll give it a shot. And that was my first time really working with relational databases and programming professionally. And from there, I became very proficient at Paradox and that led me to another job at an agency in Chicago that specialized in bland products.
And that was really the beginning of my career in technology. Um, and then. And that was right around then the time that the internet came out, which completely blew my mind. Like I remember I had a friend who worked at one of the first ISPs in Chicago, Ripco. His name is Rob Ormowski, sadly [00:06:00] passed away a couple of years ago, but he brought me in and he said, and he said, Hey, there's something here you've gotta see. And he showed me the very, very first version of Mosaic and it was absolutely life changing for me. And so then I started getting into internet stuff and, you know, the rest is kind of history.
[00:06:17] Michael Meyers: Before we get into the internet stuff. How did you end up building, you know, slot machines and, and, and, you know, particularly Pinball games in assembly?
Like, was that as cool as it sounds? I mean
[00:06:29] Greg Dunlap: It was, it was pretty, it was, it was so. The way that worked is that I eventually started getting into Pinball as a player and I was really enjoying it. And there was a bar across the street from the real estate place that had a couple of games. And I was dating a girl who introduced me to Usenet basically.
And on Usenet, there was a rec. rec.games.pinball group. And I started reading that and interacting with other Pinball players and getting more and more into [00:07:00] Pinball. And then there was Pinball. Uh, Chicago was the place where all Pinball manufacturing has and continues to happen for all of history basically.
And the Pinball World Championships were being held there in 1994. And so I went and when I was there, I met a ton of people from all over the country who were mad Pinball fans. It was my first competitive Pinball experience. I met people who worked at the Pinball manufacturers. You know, many of those people are still dear friends of mine to this day.
And that kind of set me on this course of being kind of obsessed with Pinball and competitive Pinball. And through that I, you know, met more and more people who worked at the manufacturers Williams Electronics Games. And, and the guy, one of the first people I met was a guy named Larry DeMar who has a long and storied history in the industry.
Um, he was the person who programmed Defender and Robotron. So he, I had a really crappy job. I'm like four [00:08:00] jobs in now. And I had a really crappy job and I reached out to him and I said, Hey, are you all hiring anyone over at Williams? And he said, well, we're not hiring in Pinball because Pinballs kind of in a rut right now, but we're hiring people to do slot machines.
If you're interested in doing that. And I said, sure, I'll give it a shot. And I came to work there and it was, it was my first experience doing any low level programming. That was all C++, and it was the greatest job I've ever had. I was on the floor. I was on the same floor with all of the Pinball people.
And so I got to interact with and meet and, you know, hang around with, and be a part of that energy, but also work on slot machines, which is a really fascinating industry. I'm not sure I would do it now. Um, but, but at the time I found it really interesting and it was new technology and I was young and it was very.
It was, it was super cool. The coolest thing is there's nothing like creating something and putting it out there for people to enjoy and then being able to go out and [00:09:00] watch them use it. Like that experience is, is there it's like second to none. It's absolutely amazing.
[00:09:07] Michael Meyers: I think that's one of the things that I, I struggle with with what we do now.
I absolutely love it, but there is no physical, tangible product. You know, you can't, you can't do that. You can't go out. I mean, you could look at someone, you know, use your website
[00:09:19] Greg Dunlap: right, right.
[00:09:21] Michael Meyers: It's not the same thing. And while, it is very satisfying. I, I totally get that, you know that, that sense. I mean, it's, it's amazing.
[00:09:31] Greg Dunlap: Yeah. And and it was out of that. Like when, when that company shut down, then one of the Pinball designers created his own company to build Pinball machines. And that was, and then I went to work for him and that was where I got to, you know, build Pinball and I learned to write Assembly which was really, really crazy and daunting for somebody like I have no background in computer science.
And so to figure out how Assembly works was kind of insane, but that was all, you know, it was [00:10:00] the same thing. Like I was working on Pinball. Those games are still out there today and people still tell me how much fun they have with them. And it's really, it's really cool.
[00:10:08] Michael Meyers: That's amazing. Is the, is the game behind you?
Is that one that, that you did? Or is, is that just a favorite?
[00:10:14] Greg Dunlap: No, actually this is, this is my favorite. This is the game that got me into Pinball. It's called Twilight Zone. It was programmed by Larry DeMar, who I told you about earlier, who was one of the first video game guys, and then has a long storied career in Pinball and also designed by Pat Lawler, who was the guy I ended up going to work for in the Pinball industry to build Pinball machines.
So. Holds a special place in my heart.
[00:10:39] Michael Meyers: Definitely. Do you know, hearing you, you talk about your career, you know, you'd never done C ++ and someone like, Hey, you know, go do it. You know, you've never done Assembly, go build slot machines. Like, do, do you think that that kind of stuff still happens today?
Or like, is it much harder you know, to, to get into new technology? Is, or is that just how it happens? You just jump in. [00:11:00]
[00:11:00] Greg Dunlap: I think it really depends on, I think, I think it really depends on who you're going to work for. Like, in both of these cases, I was lucky enough to have met people who were really hiring for enthusiasm and passion and trusting that you would learn it because you wanted to very desperately.
And that is exactly what happened. And I don't know how much of that there is today. I mean, It's it's, I'll also say that, you know, When you look at the complexity of the things we're working with today, like a Pinball machine, you can say it's complex to work with assembly and optimizing and all of that stuff.
It's true. But at the end of the day, you cannot write more code than fit in 16 K of RAM or whatever, you know, it's like, it's like you were limited in what you could possibly do. And I think if you look at similar creative industries today, like the video game industry, or even the [00:12:00] Pinball industry now, The, the complexity of the code bases, of the tool chains, of the things that they're of the different moving parts is like so far beyond what it was when I was working on those things.
You've gotta learn, you know, your pre-processor and all of that stuff. It's just like, it's so daunting. And I honestly think that that's a much bigger problem than knowing or not knowing any individual technology.
[00:12:46] Michael Meyers: I long for the days of mosaic and like rollovers were like, whoa.
[00:12:52] Greg Dunlap: Oh yeah, you could just kinda, I mean, you know, the first Drupal, you know, I downloaded it, I changed some things in a config file and [00:13:00] I was done.
Like, it's just not like that anymore. And I know that there's good reasons why that is, but I also really miss the simplicity and approachability of those days.
[00:13:10] Michael Meyers: Definitely so fast forwarding a little bit. Um, mm-hmm you ended up at the Seattle Times. Yeah. Was there any photojournalism tie in there? Um, you know how, how did you end up at the Times?
[00:13:27] Greg Dunlap: I was just in Seattle. I was freelancing. I hated freelancing. Um, and I was applying for jobs and they called me, I thought it was really interesting. Like I did think it would be kind of a full circle thing of bringing my journalism background back to back to the work that I was already doing in technology.
And it was something that I was really passionate about improving. So and so I did that for, I did that for a while.
[00:13:53] Michael Meyers: Was that your first foray into Drupal?
[00:13:56] Greg Dunlap: It was.
[00:13:57] Michael Meyers: What do you recall? Do you remember like what your first impression of Drupal was.
[00:14:04] Greg Dunlap: Uh, it was interesting because I, at the time, had never really worked with a content management system platform of any kind before I had written simple content management systems.
Um, and I had, and I had worked on the one at the Seattle Times that they had written for themselves because you know, this was, this was back in a time when writing your own content management system was actually a thing that lots and lots of people did. Um, and. Um, when they were wanting, they, you know, they had a site, it was called NWsource.com and, and it was basically a conglomeration of like eight content management systems all thrown together in different times and places, and then brought together to build this site and they wanted to consolidate into one technology.
And so we were looking at different platforms and the guy who I was working with, his name was Gary Love, on bringing this together. He was [00:15:00] very insistent that he wanted something. It didn't have to be open source, but it had to be source code available, like something that we could build and modify on our own without having to rely on outside vendors.
And he had some experience with Drupal and knew a lot more about those platforms than I did. And so that's what we ended up with. And and yeah.
[00:15:29] Michael Meyers: Um, that makes a lot of sense that organizations, you know, that's sort of like the, the story, you know, even today, you know, people moving off with proprietary systems, it fascinates me how sort of like the song remains the same you know, motivations for, for moving to, to Drupal in, in many ways, ha haven't changed too much in 20 years, which is crazy.
[00:15:49] Greg Dunlap: Yeah, it's the same fights too. Like I remember at the time, one of the biggest reasons why the management at the Times didn't want to go with Drupal is because they didn't have [00:16:00] a group of white guys in suits come in and sell them and sell it to them and then sign a contract that said that they could sue them if it went wrong, you know, it's like, and that's exactly the same thing that happens today.
It's like, from that perspective, like nothing has changed at all..
[00:16:17] Michael Meyers: So let's shift gears a little bit and, and talk about your Drupal journey and experiences. Um, do you remember your first contribution to Drupal and you know, if so, what do you, what do you recall about it?
[00:16:32] Greg Dunlap: I do. So when we were starting at the Seattle times, I, we hired Lullabot to come in and be our consultants at the time.
Lullabot was like five people and they were going to basically. Basically, we had a call every week with them and we'd say, Hey, we're working on this and we have this problem. How do we deal with this? And then they bring someone together to to work with us. And then [00:17:00] at the, and then at the end, when our site was fairly well built, they came in and did training. Matt Westgate and Jeff Eaton came in and did training.
And I met Eaton and we immediately hit it off really well. And he was, and I was talking to him about a Core bug. I had found, I meant to go look this up before this, and I forgot. But but it was something about, it was, it had something to do with databases and I feel like case sensitivity or something.
It was, it was a problem that was really weird. I'll have to go look it up. Anyways. He, he encouraged me to contribute a core patch. And so I did, I made an issue and I made a core patch and like many people's first core patches. It ended up. Um, in the queue being discussed and iterated on for many years before it was finally don't fixed like six years later.
But that was [00:18:00] my, that was my first Drupal contribution.
[00:18:05] Michael Meyers: Six years later. Yes. Oh yes. .
I'm just gonna leave it at that. Um, yeah. So we've had some core initiative maintainers on the show before, but we've never really talked about what a core initiative is how you get anointed as the leader of a core initiative. Um, and, and what I'm really curious about is, you know, what is a core initiative owner do and what was it like from your perspective?
[00:18:38] Greg Dunlap: Yeah, I should point out that it's been 10 years since I had my core initiative at this point or something like that. Um, and so I think that a lot of how core initiatives are managed has changed in that time.
Um, but. At the time. So I was the first ever core initiative lead who was named and [00:19:00] Dries had this vision of the core initiatives. As, you know, being things that were big pain points in Drupal that he wanted to focus resources and attention to in order to get them moving.
At the time, I think for Drupal 8, I had an initiative. Gabór was running a multilingual initiative. Um, Earl and Tim Plunkett were running a Views in core initiative. Um, there was a front end initiative of some point that ended up falling apart in the middle if I recall correctly, but those were the big ones.
And I think Dries always had a vision of the initiative’s leads being as much project managers as architects or, or software people. And and I was not a big core contributor at the time. I had done some documentation patches and some minor things, but I was not [00:20:00] well known as a core person in the Drupal community.
And at DrupalCon Chicago, I submitted a talk about deployment to the brand new Core Conversations track. And I gave the very first Core Conversation and I was, and I literally, before I went in, I thought I was gonna puke. I was so nervous. Um, but I went in and gave this talk and afterwards Dries came up to me and he shook my hand and he said, that was so great.
That's exactly what I envisioned these being. And it was later in the week that he asked me to run the core initiative.
[00:20:39] Michael Meyers: It sounds like going back to enthusiasm and passion and you know, are willing to, you know, invest in it. And that's like the number one thing I look for, you know, when we're looking to hire new people. That matters to me more than anything, because if you know, if you're not engaged, but I, I think that's, that's a really amazing story.
You know, for [00:21:00] people who are listening to see that you can bring a really great idea to the table. And even if you aren't already this really well known, you know, core initiative owner or, or whatever it happens to be, there's still a lot of opportunity to be part of, you know, that was a significant change in Drupal. Yeah. That led to a lot of capabilities that were, you know, sorely lacking. So it was a big, big leap forward for Drupal.
[00:21:31] Greg Dunlap: Yeah. And it was really like, It was hard for me. I think at the time the Drupal community had a hard time accepting somebody being a big contributor who would - being a big part of a core initiative who was not a technical or programmer core contributor.
And, you know, I, I definitely faced some battles on that front. But on the other hand, it was also. I mean, you know, to this day, configuration management is such a [00:22:00] big deal in Drupal and you know, I ran that initiative for two years before handing it over to Alex Pott and, you know, to see it run basically in the same vision that we had envisioned from the beginning is actually pretty crazy.
And, and it's still like, I still feel, I still feel really good about that part.
[00:22:19] Michael Meyers: Very rewarding. Mm-hmm. You know, I was talking to a core initiative, a former core initiative owner this morning on another topic in a call. We had some time at the end and I knew we were talking today. So I, I asked him a little bit about it and you know, it, it sounds like a gargantuan task. You know it seemed like it took an unbelievable amount of, you know, passion and dedication and, you know, cat herding to get things, to move forward, you know, like you said, your sort of six year core patch experience, you know, now take that to a, you know, critical change to the platform and, and guess what happens.
[00:22:58] Greg Dunlap: Yeah. I mean and it wasn't done without help. I think in particular I would call out David Strauss was a very big, was a very big help in making that happen. He was an incredible technical sounding board and he was a great supporter of the project. Um, both, you know, from the perspective of developing the architecture and also Pantheon supported me financially for a while too.
Um, to be able to devote some time to working on CMI and also to Angie Byron, who was, you know, not just a dear friend, but somebody who I could lean to for support when things were tough, you know. Having those people around to be a part of it were really, really what made it work.
[00:23:47] Michael Meyers: Yeah. Amazing folks that have, you know, such great insight and capabilities.
Um, so. What do you think the best part of [00:24:00] being part of the Drupal community is?
[00:24:04] Greg Dunlap: Well, I mean, I've always, I made, I made amazing friendships that you know, persevere to this day and will continue to persevere into time out of the Drupal community, and met amazing people. I got to travel the world. You know, I got, because of my experiences in Drupal, I got to live overseas for a while and work in Stockholm, Sweden for Node One. Um, and that was an experience that I will never, ever forget that was literally completely life changing. Um, and so like all of those things have been really great, but it's also been interesting, just like. It really spurred an interest in me in how communities work and how communities work together and about how open source can kind of, you know, work in different models and stuff like that.
Like, it, it really, it really [00:25:00] opened up like all of these different areas of interest for me, which have been really fantastic too. Like there's a lot, there's a lot that I have taken away from the community that has really impacted me. In, you know, really profound ways. If I'm honest.
[00:25:16] Michael Meyers: Oh, for sure. I, I think a lot of people have similar experiences.
Like it's really, you know, transformed a lot of aspects of our lives and had a lifelong impact, whether it's the people we met, to the experiences that afforded us. Um, I think that's one of the things you know, about Drupal, of the other technologies that I'm part of and communities I interact with, you know, there's always been something different and special about Drupal. Not that these other communities aren't great. But you know, Drupal definitely stands apart and that's a big reason why we're doing this series. Um, sure. You know, I always kind of wish that a documentarian, you know, would bring in like a [00:26:00] sociologist and do like a, you know, this is Drupal movie.
[00:26:05] Greg Dunlap: It's interesting. I, I was recently going through the Lullabot website and I was looking, I started going through the archives of the Lullabot podcast and it's, it was so fascinating because it's like that Lullabot podcast is like, It's like the history of Drupal in, in, you know, recorded right there on these bits, because that thing is 10 years old and, and I've been really wanting to do something to really highlight that, you know, and it's like an internal project and you know how those things go at agencies, but it's like, it's like, I feel like, I feel like there's so much archival information sitting there.
And I would love to, I, I just wanna make sure that it's out there for people to get their hands on and, and, you know, and, and understand,
[00:26:51] Michael Meyers: I wish you the best of luck with that because, you know, Lullabot was like the OG when it came to, you know, marketing and content and, and had so [00:27:00] many, you know amazing people that have made such impact.
So, you know, the, the what's on that podcast is, is gotta be pretty crazy.
[00:27:08] Greg Dunlap: Yeah. It's amazing.
[00:27:10] Michael Meyers: You, you mentioned, you know, some, some amazing things like moving to Sweden and the impact it had on your life. Um, do you have a favorite Drupal memory or experience?
[00:27:21] Greg Dunlap: It, it has to be DrupalCon Chicago. Like that experience of like, like I remember, I remember going into that talk and like, when I say I wanna a puke, I'm like not kidding.
I was in the green room and I was pacing around and I literally like was sick to my stomach and Addie Berry who is, you know, former Lullabot who now runs DrupalizeMe, former active Drupal contributor. Was in there getting ready for another talk. And she like sat me down and talked me down and talked me out of it.
And, and, and I went in there and did it, and it, and it was just like, it was [00:28:00] like something in that moment. Like I just let go of all of the tension. And then when I was in there, just like sparring with all of these like ChX and Yched and, and Karen Stevenson and, and all of these people. And it's like, and it was just like fun.
It was like so much fun. And. I think that really came out and then to have like Dries, who I had never actually met before, come up to me like days later and ask me to run this thing. It was, it was like, it was that whole week was so incredible. And it's like truly one of the highlights of my professional career.
[00:28:35] Michael Meyers: It was also a really great conference.
[00:28:38] Greg Dunlap: It was, it was really fun and it was really special to me. Like it was my, it was my first time back in the States, since I had moved to Sweden. Chicago is my hometown. So it was really great to be back there. Like there was a lot of stuff going on at the same time, but the conference yes was also super fun.
[00:28:54] Michael Meyers: It was, I think it was the first conference that was like entirely self-contained in a hotel. Um, which just led to, you know, ridiculousness, because, you know, the lobby was a party nonstop. Yeah. You know? Um, yeah.
[00:29:09] Greg Dunlap: Yeah. And they gave away the Drupal Pajamas to people because of like this whole thing where, where, you know, cuz it was the first time the hotel was also the conference center.
And like I remember, I remember. Kieran Lal getting up on the bar and, you know, announcing that he had just gotten a $3,500 bonus for getting someone hired. And so he opened a bar tab for $3,500 and people could drink for free all night. And it was just like, it was, it was, it was, it was a party. It was really fun.
[00:29:38] Michael Meyers: I, I forget, I forget the story, but he ended up not getting that bonus. There was like some sort of, like the person didn't end up taking the job or like whatever it was, but it was still pretty epic.
[00:29:50] Greg Dunlap: I, I had never, I had never heard that. That's great.
[00:29:54] Michael Meyers: I can completely picture. I see him now to this day, getting up on that bar and screaming.
I know Drinks [00:30:00] on me! Um, so.
Favorite and the least favorite aspect of Drupal the software.
[00:30:12] Greg Dunlap: Um, I think that Drupal the software, so I think that one of the outstanding things in of Drupal, that is very, that we kind of take a lot of people kind of take for granted is the content modeling tools, like the ability to create you know, content types and fields and interconnect them in different intricate ways to use the principles of structured content, to build a website that's flexible and manageable and to have a lot of different ways to approach that, is to me, the killer feature of Drupal. And I feel like people, you know, focus on so many other [00:31:00] things, but like I've been doing a lot of investigation into a lot of other CMSs recently as part of a project that I'm undergoing. And there is nobody that has anything close to the level of content type creation tools that Drupal does.
Now we can talk about the interface for creating those things, which I think could be improved a lot, but the actual tools and the technology themselves are absolutely incredible. And I feel like that's the core of Drupal right there. Like it's the most important part and, and nobody else can touch us on that.
[00:31:36] Michael Meyers: Yeah, it's a pretty amazing aspect. And I, I agree. I don't think it gets the, you know, the, the respect and, you know, acknowledgement that it should, you know. It's a really, a really important piece and a big differentiator. Yeah. Um, so I wanna ask the same question, but make it about the community.
What's your favorite and least favorite [00:32:00] aspect about the community?
[00:32:02] Greg Dunlap: Oh, I didn't get to do my least favorite about the software though.
[00:32:06] Michael Meyers: Oh, please. I thought it was the interface. Please.
And it's hard because when I talk about, we were talking about we're talking about, you know, 30,000 people, which is a different problem, but.
[00:33:51] Michael Meyers: And a good segue to your favorite. Yeah. Favorite part about the community?
[00:33:56] Greg Dunlap: Um, yeah, I mean, my, my favorite part [00:34:00] about the community is the people obviously, I mean, I mean, you know, I am not best friends with everybody in the community, but I have met some absolutely amazing inspiring incredible human beings is a part of this project.
And and you know, they will all, they, you know, many, many, many of them will forever be a part of my heart, even though I think at this point, a lot of us, especially from the early to middle waves of Drupal are starting to kind of scatter, you know? Um, but you know, I, I, I really love each and one of those people very dearly But then my least favorite part is definitely like, I, I personally, and I know a lot of people won't agree with this, but I personally feel like you create better products with stronger leadership and you know, I'm not gonna say singular vision, [00:35:00] but like when I was working on Pinball, there was this, there was this adage and it's like, every game has to have a Dad. And that's the person for whom somebody at some point says, I'm making a decision. This is it. And we're gonna go. And it's like, like a film director is, is kind of the same idea.
[00:35:20] Greg Dunlap: Like, you know, this person doesn't make every decision, but for when decisions need to be made, the buck stops here and we're done. And. Drupal doesn't work like that. And I think there are in some ways benefits to that, but I think there are a lot of ways in which it's not beneficial, because it's very, very hard to Institute needed change in Drupal,
if it's not something that the community is particularly interested in doing, because you know, for a long time, you know, scratch your own itch, code is gold has been our mantra. And if the itch that people in the community are scratching are [00:36:00] not necessarily the itch that Drupal needs to move forward in the competitive landscape in, you know, whatever other aspects there may be to measure Drupal, then that becomes then, you know, things become difficult. And I think there's always been a push and pull between Drupal is a product for developers, which makes sense because the community is developers and Drupal as a product for the people who use Drupal, which of course is also makes sense because people have to use Drupal and they want it to be usable.
And neither of those has ever won out particularly. And I think that as a result, both have been somewhat washed down. And so, you know, this is my personal preference. There are many, many, many people in the community who would adamantly disagree with me. But but I wish, I just wish we had more ability to make decisions and execute on them.
[00:36:57] Michael Meyers: Gosh, if only the people who use Drupal did more to make the Drupal, no, I, that's one of my biggest frustrations and, you know, I think you said it really well. I don't know what the balance is. Um, you know, we're working on some core changes right now with an organization. Um, Google's funded some performance improvements in Drupal and I mean, patience doesn't begin to underscore.
[00:37:26] Greg Dunlap: oh yeah.
[00:37:26] Michael Meyers: What you need to get through the core contribution process, no matter who you are, you know, and there's so much input and back and forth from people. And like you said, on one hand, it's great. You know, people really think things through and contribute ideas from different perspectives.
On the other hand, it seems to go on forever and ever, and ever, and you know, it's, it's hard to make progress and. You know, if this was a company we would operate very differently. We would take risks. you know, there'd be decision makers. And, [00:38:00] you know, I don't, you know, I don't know how we move more towards that without destroying, you know, what makes Drupal great.
And I would never want to do that, but I, I feel like, you know, that balance needs to be improved. Um, you know,
[00:38:17] Greg Dunlap: And it's hard because, you know, I mean, cuz Dries can say, this is what we're gonna work on and that's it. But what's he gonna do to make it happen? Right? It's like he has a small group of developers at Acquia who can do things.
Um, but they can't do things unilaterally or on their own. I mean, I guess they could all stop. Like committing patches for anything other than, you know, whatever thing they wanna work on. But it's like the ability for anybody to direct anything is very difficult. And that's definitely, and that's something I ran into when I was on CMI too.
Like, I didn't have the authority to say, this is how it's gonna be. And that's it. Um, I, I actually had many situations in which I tried to do that. And a developer would open up a new [00:39:00] issue. Doing a separate - doing a separate you know, approach to a problem. And what was I gonna do about it? Like now people are discussing this other, this other approach when I've already said, Hey, here's how we're gonna do things.
And this person was just like, screw you. I'm gonna go and try and get this other issue and patch in. And you know, those things. Those are definitely when I look back at my time on, on the initiatives, like those things around like leadership and decision making were definitely the hardest part for me.
[00:39:32] Michael Meyers: In my mind and, and. That was hopefully the goal of initiative owners was for Dries to federate out, you know, ownership of critical, much needed changes to the platform to keep people with the community, to oversee, manage and get these things done and, and, and be that arbiter. Right? To be that Dad or, or, you know, the one who has to make those tough decisions.
And, you know I certainly don't have insight in perspective into all of the core initiatives, but you know, of [00:40:00] the initiative owners that I've talked to, you know, it sounds very much along the lines of the experience that, that you had. Um, and you know, I'd love to see that happen. That might be a, you know, sort of a happy medium, you know, you foster collaboration and ultimately make decisions.
You move things forward, you know ultimately, I think Drupal would be more successful even if there are missteps, because mm-hmm, change is better than, you know, waiting a year and a half. Um, right. And you know, it's software. We can undo things. yeah. Yeah. Um, so more than anything. You know, we've touched on a lot of things now, so we may have already covered it.
Um, but is there something that you think Drupal is really missing? Something that Drupal really needs for it to be around for another, you know, 10 plus years?
[00:40:58] Greg Dunlap: It's really hard to [00:41:00] say. Like, I don't think there's any threat to Drupal not being around for the next 10 plus years. I think the question is. What, what will it be in 10 plus years?
Eaton makes a joke where he says the future of Drupal is to become the open source equivalent of SharePoint. And I've always thought of that as like, Drupal is the technology you use because it's there and it's available and you can, and nobody really loves it, but it's fine. And it gets the job done. And so we'll install it and we can build an intranet or we can do, you know, a personal site or whatever, although, well, I don't think anybody is installing Drupal outside of Drupal developers for personal sites these days, but you, you know what I mean? It's like, it's like the thing that's there that people use that nobody really loves and everybody just kind of tolerates. And I think [00:42:00] that is, and, you know, so we can be around in 10 years and be that, I think the question is, is that what we wanna be?
And I don't know. And I don't know how to turn that around either because it's like, there's people's attitudes about Drupal are very entrenched and, you know, we can see what we want to about Stack Overflow polls and stuff like that. But like, I meet lots of people who, when I mention Drupal they cringe and they can't deal and nobody, and, you know, PHP is on the down trend as far as technologies go right now. And, you know, I don't know if there's any one thing that Drupal needs now to not just be around in the next 20 years, which I'm sure it will in some level, but to be around and relevant in 20 years. There's there's a lot there too much, too much to unpack on one podcast. I think.
[00:42:59] Michael Meyers: Uh, I'm [00:43:00] I'm gonna rephrase that question for future interview because, because you nailed it. It's it's, you know, it will be around in 20 years, but, you know yeah. Maybe as a legacy platform, but you know, how is it around and relevant? That's that's the real question that I should be asking and yeah, you know, for whatever reason, you know, PHP powers, the internet still, you know, mm-hmm, used by the majority of websites and yet, you know it's sort of like a dirty word nowadays.
Yeah. You know, and I really my best friend is a college professor, computer science, like, you know, I, I asked him the students about PHP and it was like, okay, grandpa .
[00:43:38] Greg Dunlap: Yeah. Right. Exactly. Even some of my coworkers are like,
[00:43:43] Michael Meyers: Yeah. So Drupal, you know, itself has perception challenges, and, and the issues you talked about, but you know, the stack you know, isn't helping et cetera.
And yeah. Um, I'm hopeful that it will continue to be successful and, [00:44:00] and thrive, but it definitely has a lot of challenges to overcome to continue to be the success that it has been to date.
[00:44:08] Greg Dunlap: Yeah. Um, I agree.
[00:44:10] Michael Meyers: Greg, this has been, this has been amazing. Um, it's, it's been so much catching up. Uh mm-hmm before we wrap up I wanna ask you to pass the torch.
Um, you know, you mentioned some amazing people you know, if you had to pick one person and I know that's really tough who should I interview next?
[00:44:31] Greg Dunlap: I was actually thinking about this. And I think that somebody that would be really interesting to interview is Karen Stevenson. Um, she was around very early in the Drupal days, but she also oversaw and was a very big part of developing a lot of the foundational things that are in Drupal right now, particularly CCK, which became fields and core, which became all of our tools for building content types. Um, as well as [00:45:00] maintaining the date and calendar modules for Drupal. And it's like, those are three of the most ever used technologies in all of Drupal history.
And she was like right there at the helm of all of it. And I bet her insights about Drupal and the way the community has grown and, you know, building extremely highly used contributed modules and then getting them into core would be really fascinating.
[00:45:28] Michael Meyers: That's an awesome recommendation. I'll definitely reach out to Karen.
I love her. She's amazing. And yeah, I mean, her contributions are awesome and that would be a really great process to talk about. It's not something that we've covered and that's a really great was talking about that again this morning with someone well started as a contribute module and, you know, get buy-in and support and getting into core.
And, you know, I think that's a really common path for things, although the reverse is becoming true these days, things are moving outta core.
[00:45:56] Greg Dunlap: Yes. Small core is back.
[00:45:59] Michael Meyers: [00:46:00] Um, Dude. Thank you so much. I, I really appreciate your, your taking the time to do this. I know you're crazy busy to all our viewers. We really appreciate you joining as well.
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