This is a transrcript. For the video, see 20 years of Drupal - an interview with Narayan Newton
[00:00:00] Michael Meyers: Hello, and welcome. Welcome to another edition of the Tag1 Team Talks, the blog and podcast of Tag1 Consulting. I'm Michael Myers, the managing director, and today we're celebrating and looking back at 20 years of Drupal. We're really, really proud of Tag1. We have been a part of Drupal history and have many team members that have contributed along the way.
I'm joined today by Narayan Newton. One of our partners and our CTO, I've known for a very long time. And we've played a major role over the years within Drupal. Narayan, why don't you give folks just a quick background? Uh, some of the things that you're working on in the Drupal community,
[00:00:35] Narayan Newton: Um, I am the head of infrastructure for drupal.org.
Um, so a lot of what I do is on the backend of drupal.org and its associated services. So like for example three hours after this, we have a downtime where we're switching the media backend for Drupal static file storage. So that's the sort of thing I usually do in the community. Just keeping the infrastructure around Drupal.org, moving forward.
[00:01:07] Michael Meyers: So you're the one to blame for everything
[00:01:10] Narayan Newton: Yup, historically. That's been absolutely true.
[00:01:14] Michael Meyers: Um, do you remember looking back how you first learned about Drupal, why you decided to use it? Like,
[00:01:24] Narayan Newton: So the, how I first learned about Drupal, I guess it'd be far before my involvement. I used to write and be an editor for an online magazine , like a community site.
Um, and we migrated to Drupal in like 2004 probably and I didn't make that decision, but I was running the infrastructure for the magazine as well. So that was my first introduction to Drupal, was running it in a semi large scale to support that. Having no idea how it works. Um, I have to say, I don't think I was a huge fan, but it worked out.
[00:02:06] Michael Meyers: Awesome. Do you remember what your first contribution was to the Drupal community?
[00:02:14] Narayan Newton: Uh, it depends on what you mean by contribution. Likemy, my intro to the community. Well, after. That magazine was I worked at the Oregon State Open Source Lab and Drupal was one of my first clients there.
So I think my first contribution to the community was someone asking for a VM to try to port drupal.org to Drupal 5. I'm pretty sure that was my first contribution is setting up a VM for that. Um, I was looking back through my email and my email ended before the emails about Drupal.org ended and ended sometime back in 2006.
So this has been a while.
[00:03:01] Michael Meyers: You've been involved in so many projects. And I, I love talking to you because when a lot of people think about Drupal, they think about the code contributions and other aspects of the community. And you forget about all of this insane tooling that powers the development. That the automated QA and testing systems, GitLab and Drupal.org and all different websites.
We wouldn't be able to function without the role that you play in the things that you do. Is there something that you're most proud of?
[00:03:32] Narayan Newton: Sometimes we can't function with my role what I'm most proud of - Probably one of the Git migrations. I would imagine either the first one to get from CVS or the migration to GitLab from Git. The first one, because it was, we were one of the first major projects to do it and it was kind of rife with issues.
Um, but we - We got it done, but kind of barely. And then the GitLab migration because we had everything pretty well understood by that point. And it just, it went really well. And I was very proud of the team for like, how everything was done and tested and rolled out. And and it just went really cleanly, which I appreciated.
And there are both major changes. Like the GitLab migration allowed for merge requests that we just turned on recently and will allow for much more. So is a big improvement.
[00:04:44] Michael Meyers: Awesome. Uh, being on Git was a huge step forward for Drupal. I know there's a lot of debate that went into itback in the CVS days, which way to go.
Um, and now looking back, it's a no-brainer, uh, yeah, so
[00:04:59] Narayan Newton: I remember the BCR screaming matches.
[00:05:02]Michael Meyers: If you could do something over again, is there something that you would change? Oh man, I wish we hadn't done that. Or I would have done it differently.
[00:05:14] Narayan Newton: I mean, the answer is obviously yes, but it's a hard question to answer because I was looking back through my email. And so I've been in this industry for like 20 years or a little bit less than that, about around as long as Drupal has been around. It seems I've been involved with Drupal for 15 of those 20.
So like the stuff I worked on a long time ago, obviously there were things I would do differently because like my career has in my career, in my knowledge in this area. And experience has literally developed like as I was in this position. So yes, there are a number of things I would do differently, but I don't know how I would answer that question because that's basically saying if I were to roll back to 2006, as I am now, there's no way Drupal could afford me.
[00:06:11] So I think we getting so much better.
[00:06:15] Michael Meyers: I thought you were going to say the GitLab migrations.
[00:06:18] Narayan Newton: I do not regret the GitLab migration.
[00:06:20]Michael Meyers: Um, all right. My favorite question, which is, what is your favorite and least favorite feature or aspect of Drupal?
[00:06:31]Narayan Newton: I mean, I'm tempted due to my position and how I interact with Drupal, whereas I'm not really a developer as such or at all. Um, and I mainly deal with the repercussions of Drupal's actions. Um, I'm tempted to answer that. My favorite thing about Drupal is the flexibility and my least favorite thing about Drupal is the flexibility.
But that seems like a bit of a cop-out. Um,]I think as weird an answer as it is, my favorite thing about Drupal is Views because I like, in my senior year at Oregon State, Oregon State University was rolling out Drupal to a bunch of its sub-departments. And I was, for some reason, part of the group that was doing some training on that ,and watching people with absolutely no technical ability or not, no technical ability, no technical background, be able to build like fairly complicated listings.
Was really cool. And seeing like that they were excited about that and the amount of power that Views exposes to someone who's not necessarily a developer is amazing. You could also say that that could be a negative, but I think it's amazing.
[00:07:49] Michael Meyers: The interface for Views has been a little challenging, but as a feature it's, without a doubt, one of the transformative things that Drupal has offered .
[00:07:59] Narayan Newton: My least favorite thing.
My least favorite thing right now is how much it depends on a shared file system.
[00:08:08]Michael Meyers: Okay. Um, all right. From an infrastructure standpoint, I mean, it could be for anything, but I'm curious because you have a really unique perspective. Um, what were the major advancements. Over the last 20 years, like key things that stand out to you that really helped move forward, Drupal and facilitates it.
Its adoption, or so primary and secondary support you know, things of that nature. Are there like key advancements or features that in your mind facilitated the adoption?
[00:08:48] Narayan Newton: Um, so we could roll way back and the whole fight. That was won on the, I know, DB side for defaulting to InnoDB in Drupal. Um, that was a very contentious topic. And it was put forward that it was like somewhat elitist as well, which is interesting. Um, but I think the fact that we really embraced InnoDB early on was helpful because it meant that things out of the box just scaled up much cleaner. Um, and when that happened, I was already in consulting when that happened and the amount of issues that were just convert your tables really decreased overnight almost. So I think that was very helpful. Um, honestly, like Views was clearly helpful and has been copied since.
Um, primary and secondary database service supports. I am hesitant to say it was very helpful because it's just so difficult to make it work right. And I think people have had more problems than successes with it at this point. Um, yeah, I'm not sure that's a very good answer, but that's probably
[00:10:08] Michael Meyers: No, I mean, it's funny you say elitist. Like I guess I think about a lot of enterprise adoption and sort of the sophistication that was added from an infrastructure and database standpoint over time led to companies adopting it.
You know, there's tons of people, individuals, small organizations that use it. They may not need things like InnoDB and.
[00:10:32] Narayan Newton: But do you understand people's frustration? Right? Like InnoDB is much better in basically every way, but it's not faster when you have a website that gets like 10 users. Um, actually I shouldn't say that it is faster now back then with like, if you're on shared hosting and with restrictions around that, it wasn't.
So it definitely. It definitely felt like Drupal was targeting. Not you. If you were in that position. On the other hand, that's accurate.
[00:11:06]Michael Meyers: All right. If you had a magic wand and you can wave it to add any feature to Drupal or any capability, what would it be..
[00:11:14]Narayan Newton: Hm. I think I'd go back to my comment on shared file storage and say, if I had a magic wand that could make that go away and be replaced by some sort of pluggable object store. So that Drupal was a much better fit for Kubernetes and serverless deployments where you didn't have a shared file store as a provisioner.
Um, and Drupal was better for like, serverless deployments. Um, I think that would probably be what I do and I know stuff like that exists, but yeah, better by default.
[00:11:56] Michael Meyers: Sort of out of the box are much easier to implement. Yeah. Yeah. Um, I think that you can make Drupal do anything. You can make anything. Uh, it comes down to how easy and cost effective. Can you do that? Uh, so what has been the best part for you about being a member of the Drupal community?
[00:12:18]Narayan Newton: Um, probably the community as a whole. Like, it's an interesting experience where I'm not really. Super connected at the developer level. And I used to be more so than I am now, and now I'm really not connected at the developer level. So like going to DrupalCon especially, when we used to do that very much was going for like the whole track and being able to talk to people.
And these are people I've known for a really long time. So I think the community it's just been very. Very welcoming and it's very nice to be a part of.
[00:13:00]Michael Meyers: All right. Okay. Uh, last question - I'm sure you know, today there are a lot of people that you would love to thank, but if you look back at when you first got started in your early years, are there individuals that stand out that you want to just say, Hey, thanks for helping me get up and running with Drupal for supporting me when I got started.
[00:13:23] Narayan Newton: Oh, yeah. I mean, there's one that rises above everyone else, which is Gerhard Killesreiter. Um, he was the head of infrastructure when I came on and he was my client at the OSL and I worked under him on the restructure team for years and years and years and years and years. Um, yeah, if, if there was someone to thank for my involvement in Drupal infrastructure, it would be basically solo him without a doubt.
[00:13:52] Michael Meyers: Gerhard's an amazing guy. Yup. Awesome. Um, thank you so much for joining us today. Really appreciate it. And thanks to all our listeners and Watchers for joining us for another Tag1 Team Talk. We'll see you soon.