This is a transcript. For the video, see 20 years of Drupal An interview with Jeremy Andrews.
[00:00:00] Michael Meyers: Hello, and welcome to another edition of the Tag1 TeamTalks, the vlog and podcast of Tag1 Consulting. I'm Michael Meyers, the managing director of Tag1. And today we're celebrating and looking back on 20 years of Drupal, we are really proud to have been a big part of Drupal's history, having many team members that have been there since the very beginning.
I'm joined today by the founder and CEO of Tag1, Jeremy Andrews, who I've known for a very long time. Well, over a decade, across many organizations I was actually Tag1's second ever client and Jeremy and his team helped me through many challenges over the years and I love working with them, so I decided to join.
Jeremy. Thank you so much for joining us today. Why don't you give people a quick background on some of the things that you've done in the Drupal community over the last 20 years?
[00:00:51] Jeremy Andrews: Oh, wow. It's been a long time now, 20 years? Yeah. Well, when I started using Drupal, it was on version three something.
And I remember it didn't have taxonomy. It had super simplistic statistics. It had a bunch of things that I needed, that I wanted. I was maintaining a website called kernel trap, which was about the Linux kernel. I interviewed a lot of key kernel developers and was fortunate enough that it was popular and my website would get what was called Slashdotted at all the time, where it would get so much traffic that would come crashing down.
And it turns out there was a college student that was reading the website that liked it by the name of Dries. And he said, Hey, I've got this software that I've been creating called Drupal. Why don't you give it a try? We've got a page cache. It's like, It's the best thing ever. And which was really cool because he gave me a Root on drop.org, which was the predecessor.
And it was before drupal.org existed. And I just remember, wow, you know, I had root access. Like I do anything and I poked around and it was, it was. Pretty cool, but even cooler than Drupal where the people and, and to this day, you know, people that I'm still friends with, you know, not just Dries, but Moshe, who's now here at Tag1 and Marco, who's also here at Tag1 and Gerhard, and there were, there were a number of people that, that were very memorable.
So I, I got a little distracted from what you asked me. But long story short, I realized that I did want to do this. It was a way better than that PHP-Nuke stuff I'm embarrassed to say that I was using. So I started preparing the website for it and started writing something - the statistics module which was my first contribution to answer that. That got merged in early on. And that allowed me to, to see what was going on, which was important to me because I needed to know I was trying to like detect before it happened when my site was going to get slashdotted. Over the years, I've contributed in lots of places - patches throughout core lots of contrib modules.
Currently, I still try to maintain the memcache module. I wrote a spam module, which had] some artificial intelligence that was really fun for a while, and it was necessary for kernel trap. I can count 20, 30, 40 modules, that I enjoyed over the years.
[00:03:12]Michael Meyers: Moshe said the other day when I talked to him that version one of one and two of Drupal happened within like a month or two of each other.
And so coming in at three was essentially the beginning and, and release cycles have changed dramatically since then from a month or two to several years. The, the traffic that you mentioned, if memory serves me correctly, didn't you also do Throttle?
[00:03:37] Jeremy Andrews: That's correct. It was a, it was a module that was designed to detect surges in traffic.
And then, so, so let me step back though. The, the whole way that throttle ever even happened was one of the second times I got slashdotted. I finally learned how to use IRC and I was in a channel with all the names I just mentioned. And Moshe came on and said to solve your problem type, delete star from block.
And I said, let's star from block, but that's gonna like, remove all my blocks. He goes, yeah, the blocks are your problem. Just do it. And I said, well, how do I? And so I did it and I said, but how am I going to get them back? And he goes, Oh, well, that's that you're gonna have to figure that out. The interesting part is it worked, you know, the, the website started working again.
And so from that, I came up with the concept of, you know, measuring how much traffic there was an auto-disabling stuff. It was a reactive strategy that was kind of cool. It kind of worked, but at the end of the day, it's much better to just optimize so that you can handle the traffic. Hence why I wound up in core.
[00:04:38] Michael Meyers: Yeah, I don't know, I, I love the concept of graceful degradation. Back in the day, it was huge for NowPublic as well which we worked on together. Another thing that comes to mind didn't you do the first Drupal installer.
[00:04:54] Jeremy Andrews: I was involved with that. I was working with Kieran Lal at CivicActions at [00:05:00] that point.
And he was - I was as a contractor for him and he had me do a lot of that initial work. If you go back through drupal.org, you can find all the original conversations. That was back when ChX was first getting involved in Drupal I remember. And he took my work and he made a lot of changes to it.
But yes, the, the core of that installer is had a lot of code that I wrote.
[00:05:23] Michael Meyers: Wow. And Kieran Lal went on to be employee number two at Acquia after Gabor.
Yeah, he's, he's been amazing and a huge force in the community. Of all the things you worked on. Is there something that stands out that you're like, Oh man, I'm really proud of that.
Or like I did this or ..
[00:05:46] Jeremy Andrews: Hmm, overall, I feel incredibly lucky. I feel like the majority of where I got involved, I was lucky to have the time to, to be able to give it and, and to contribute. And I got way back way more back than I, than I ever gave. I guess at this point, I'm, I am most thankful for Tag1, which is my company that evolved out of all of this Drupal work.
And it's, it's still amazing to me every morning I get up and I love everybody. I work with, you know, there's people all around the world. And that's, that's part of, you know, that's a hundred percent came out of this Drupal world, which is pretty amazing to me. I don't know. Does that count?
[00:06:27] Michael Meyers: It counts?
You dodged the question, but we'll come back to it. You must be a politician in the former life. So here's one that, that I don't want you to dodge. Favorite and least favorite thing about Drupal or feature about Drupal?
[00:06:45]Jeremy Andrews: It's not a very exciting favorite feature, but I've been playing with other frameworks. And the, the, the part about Drupal that I didn't recognize until I got off the Drupal Island was just how much it does for you out of the box. Building an API, whether it was in Django or I've been experimenting in Rust All these pieces that you take for granted the authentication system and the ability to hook in and make changes, like all, all of that, just being there and being so both functional and yet adaptable is, is an amazing.
Part of Drupal, which is, I hope it's not dodging the question cause I know that's kind of a ephemeral, but at the same time, it's, it's what makes Drupal amazing to me.
[00:07:29] Michael Meyers: I love tinkering with Rust. You created Goose, the most scalable load testing framework out there. That's the easiest to scale. So your concept of tinkering is pretty phenomenal.
Okay. Least favorite.
[00:07:42] Jeremy Andrews: Did you write anything? I'm sorry. I was just kidding.
[00:07:46] Michael Meyers: Yeah, I did. And, and ChX said, please never write another line of code, so you will not code anymore. So.
[00:07:56]Jeremy Andrews: What do I dislike about Drupal? Personally, I don't enjoy like the whole theming process. And, and it's not necessarily Drupal to blame just that I don't like spending the time to make things perfect. They don't like that whole process. Doesn't do it for me.
[00:08:15]Michael Meyers: Looking at Drupal's feature set today and, you know customers, you know, the clients that we work with.
Is there a feature that you wish Drupal had or that you think Drupal needs to continue to be successful moving forward?
[00:08:32] Jeremy Andrews: I was relieved to see in the last couple of keynotes, when Dries talked about where we're going, that the focus is on usability. Multiple times I've known whether it's a family member or a friend who needed a website that I've said, Oh yeah, Drupal is great.
I mean, it's fun. You can do anything. It's totally tinkerable. And then I'd try to get them started on it and they're immediately and completely lost. So I don't think it needs more features. I think it needs to be more streamlined, more usable and, and all of that work that's going into usability is where we need to focus
[00:09:05]Michael Meyers: Other than not hiring me. Is there something that you wouldn't change, if you could do it all over again, is there something that, you know, had we done it differently, Drupal would have grown faster or, you know, something that got taken out that, you know shouldn't have been in there to begin with.
[00:09:25] Jeremy Andrews: You know other than, they, they removed my throttle module.
The, the change from seven to eight was painful and leaving the Drupal Island while it had lots of benefits also has lots of risks. I'm not a hundred percent sold on that. Fabian Franz on our team had an interesting viewpoint that it would have made sense to rename Drupal eight, instead of calling it Drupal eight, it should have been, you know, some other thing and Drupal seven could have continued.
To me that makes a lot of sense. That said I'm also impressed with how it's evolving with Drupal 9. I think we're getting back on track. It was, it was a lot of big steps forward and big steps back for Drupal 8. And I think in Drupal 9 and, and, you know, we're starting to move forward again and that's fantastic.
[00:10:24] Michael Meyers: What's been the best part of, you know, being part of Drupal's journey, you know, best part of being, you know, in the community.
[00:10:32] Jeremy Andrews: Wow. The best part. It's all been amazing. The friendships that have formed, you know, I've got 20 year friendships with, with fellow Drupal developers, which is, is amazing.
20 years is a long time to know somebody. For me, what was magical about that was when it became so real that I would buy a ticket and fly halfway across the world to Europe to go to a conference you know, or to fly all over the United States as well to conferences. So the whole. I, I miss that with the, with the virus, the pandemic, that's going on right now, not getting together with people.
But that was really phenomenal. And, and it's the reason I'm now living in Italy because DrupalCon kept bringing me to Europe. I did a lot of traveling exploration and realized like, wow, you know, Italy, that's where I want to be home. I'm, I'm incredibly thankful for all of that.
[00:11:21] Michael Meyers: Yeah. I I've heard similar things from other people and I feel the same way.
I think Moshe mentioned he did 15 trips to Europe. As a result of, you know, going into Drupal conferences and then the travel around it. I feel like I've met so many people too, and, and not only that, but now I know people in all of these things, different countries, you know? And so when I go, you know, there's nothing better than seeing a city through the eyes of a local, it makes travel that much more enjoyable.
Awesome. Well, I know you're super busy. I really appreciate you sitting down with us and giving us your perspective. On a personal note, I just want to thank you because you are, you know a really important and critical part of my Drupal journey, you know when, when you first helped me with NowPublic and scale that which was the first startup on Drupal, and then the first, top 50 website on Drupal, we never would have been successful without your help and without the help of folks at Tag1.
And that's a big reason why I wanted to come work here and, and, and be part of the team. Because, you know, you guys are just amazing in your you're fun to be around. I learned so much from you guys and really wouldn't be here. Well, literally wouldn't be here. I worked for you, but you know, my career wouldn't be what it is, my journey over the last 20 years, it wouldn't have been what it is without your help and support. So thank you for making my Drupal journey awesome.
[00:12:47] Jeremy Andrews: Let me turn that around and thank you also, because when I was working with you at NowPublic, I didn't know what I was doing.
So thanks for believing in me while we figured out how mySQL works and you know, how to optimize PHP and, and doing that together. Like yeah, it was, it was quite an experience and I'm glad that happened. So thank you.
[00:13:06] Michael Meyers: Awesome. Thanks man. We'll talk soon. Take care.