This is a transcript. For the full video, see Core Confidential with Angie Byron (webchick) : The many faces of Drupal over 15 years - Pt. 2.

Preston So: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome back to Core Confidential, the Tag1 Consulting show giving you unique, behind the scenes insight into the Drupal Core development process as well. It's what's happening right now in Drupal Core, what you need to know to be successful and also what's up and coming in terms of the latest and greatest innovation happening in the Drupal space.

My name is Preston So. I'm the editor in chief at Tag1 Consulting. And this is a really special two part series that we're doing today. This is part two by the way of our two part series. And it's a really special occasion because today we're joined by our dear friend, our dear colleague, one of the most well known and most respected members, leaders of the community.

Angie Byron, also known as Webchick, who is senior director of product and community development at Acquia. We're also joined today by Michael Meyers, managing director of Tag1, who's currently in the Berkshires, Massachusetts. And let's go ahead and dig right in. You know, Angie, last time we talked a lot about your history and your experience in the Drupal community.

And, some of the really amazing things that have happened over the course of the last 15 years. One thing I wanted to kick off this conversation with just before we go to a lot of this discussion of, of what's happening in Drupal core right now, which is I know a topic, a lot of our viewers and listeners are really interested in,

One of the things I wanted to ask is, you know, you know, I find it very interesting.

You mentioned in our last installment, and by the way, don't forget to check out our previous installment, part one of this great talk with Angie Byron. One of the things that we mentioned is how, exactly the difference between the old way of doing core development, where, you know, you could, you could go and hit up Adrian Rousseau.

You could go and talk to somebody at a conference. And today where it's a very, very different process, it's a very, very different approach. We obviously have a lot more of an underlying structure for mentorship and for bringing new contributors in, in, in your view. And this is a really broad question.

What has changed over the last 15 years in core development? And, you know, what are some of the most important things that have happened over the course of those 15 years?

Angie Byron: [00:02:02] So I think the most important change is us moving to a predictable release cycle, prior to Drupal 8.0 prior to and inclusive of Drupal 8.0, Drupal was done when it's done.

And, Drupal also would break your code and not your data. That was the philosophy. And I think that worked really well for the early years of Drupal. Because we could be right on the cutting edge of, you know, at the time, like Drupal's old, like it's almost as old as I am. It's crazy. Now it might actually be older than Preston.

No, I'm just kidding. But you know, it's, it's old. So RSS was like a cutting edge feature at one point, you know, in taxonomy and, and, different web standards. And these kinds of things were, were all like really cool, innovative things. And by Drupal taking that approach, they could be very developer centric and really hone in on that thing that really excites developers to be on the cutting edge of whatever things. And I think that propelled most of Drupal's early success. And I think that was a really good direction, around the end of like the, say the mid to late two 2010s or 2000s, I don't know, like anyway, 2000s, What we saw is like kind of a shift where, and by we, I mean, Acquia saw this, you know, people who interacted with, with, with businesses of all sizes started to see this as became a, fundamental software management direction, which is somebody at some point had the bright idea that like, Oh, maybe we should let, you know, the people who use the software every day, you know, the victims of it. Maybe they should have a say in what technology gets chosen. And then what you saw was this move away from like the innovators and the, it people, the developers, the dev ops folks saying we're using this technology because I love it.

And I'm good at it. Two I'll actually involve the content authors and the marketers and things like that in the CMS selection. And so this caused a fundamental shift in Drupal to not just be a platform by developers, for developers, but actually be a platform that catered to a wide selection of people and had a user experience that was catered to that.

And we're still very much not out of the woods in that yet, but that's the idea. So, so one of those things is what end users who are involved in the selection process don't want to do is pay for a really expensive upgrade to get exactly what they just had. Every three or four years, and then they can't even plan or budget around it, cause they don't know when it will happen. Anyway, all of that was really stressful and was a big reason why people got scared of Drupal or once they adopted a version of Drupal, want to stay on it forever. And that held back innovation and a bunch of bad things. So one of the decisions we made in Drupal 8.0 was to do a predictable release cycle, which is every six months, there'll be a backwards compatible feature release, which means you get the innovations, but you get them in a way that does not break backwards compatibility.

And so you can get new features like in Drupal 8, we added Layout Builder, and Media Library and, you know, API first and all these kinds of things. but you don't have to rewrite your application every six months. You still get to benefit from it automatically, but we still have the developer audience to cater to.

And so for those folks, we do make sure that every couple of years, in the case of Drupal 8, it went from 2015 to 2020. This earlier this year was when Drupal 9 was released. Drupal 10 will be a little bit faster in 2022. There's an opportunity to be like eject now we can get rid of all this backwards compatibility stuff when we can stay focused on clean APIs.

Right. That are performant, easy to document, this kind of thing. So I feel like that is a really great direction because it has resulted in people being able to now plan around Drupal and the community. Also having these periodic stop gaps where we're not spending three and a half years on a certain feature we're spending, we have six months to get it in.

If it doesn't make it in, Oh, well, now I can go. And the next train, you know, this kind of thing. So I think that's a huge, fundamental thing in terms of the governance and kind of how we onboard things. I actually love the work that the Drupal mentorship team has done around formalizing mentorship and making sure that, there's, there's an onboarding process.

There's been so much innovation in Drupal's mentorship and onboarding process. The funny thing is I think. I think there's been that much innovation around it, because it still is a little bit, like you kind of have to talk to a person to figure it out, kind of thing. which I don't love about it, but the fact that we've kind of done it, you know, at every conference there's a group of people.

They go through the issue queue, they find a set of issues. That'd be really good for new people to work on. They have a bunch of mentors in a big ballroom size. Yeah. Obviously this is pre COVID times, but bear with me, where people will be wearing bright yellow t-shirts or whatever, to notify everyone in the room that they are the mentors.

They would pair individuals up so that they'd have someone to work with. and then, you know, we take a short list of those issues that were worked on and we'd nominate them for a core commit at the end. And so someone like myself would do a live commit of, say a documentation fix or a bug fix or something in front of everybody, get everyone on stage there's drumming on desks.

I would get my use of Git critiqued severely, and you know what I mean? It was just. Fun time for the community, really onboarding things. So, so yeah, I think the more structure and rigor to the core release process has been a really important, evolution, as well as, you know, putting in a more formal governance structure, because as you mentioned,Preston like in the, you know, for some people, the good old days was, yeah.

I could just approach Adrian Rousseau in the hallway and yack it up with him. But you know, if you're shy or you're like nervous to do something like that, or you're new in a community, especially when the community's grown by like seven thousand percent. It can be really intimidating. And so formalizing that structure makes it a lot easier.

So you have some onboards, whether it's through one of the initiatives, whether it's through one of the teams working on different aspects where you can, you know, get face to face with some people without having to go, go right up to the top, to just meet them right away. So anyway, that was a bit of a ramble, but.

Yes, those two things.

Preston So: [00:07:55] One thing I love about both of those things though, is that,you know, you mentioned that, you know, having, you know, you know, focusing on release trains and feature freezes and these things that are, that are really kind of meant to help the community understand that, okay, there are certain, there are certain inflection points in our kind of process of innovation, but also on the other side, the governance side, you know, which is that, Hey, if something happens where, you know, potentially there's a violation of a code of conduct, which wasn't something that existed necessarily two decades ago, you know, if you are, if you're somebody who's, you know, black indigenous person of color and you might not feel as comfortable talking to somebody who, you know, might, might be somebody of a different background.

And, and so one thing I love about both of these, the things is that they've introduced a great amount of predictability into Drupal. Predictability when it comes to the software project, but also predictability when it comes to, you know, knowing that folks who are marginalized or oppressed or, you know, people who have a harder time in this community for a variety of different reasons, they have different access needs.

Are there, you know, you know, they have, they have, they have. You know, certain, certain things that keep them from engaging in the community the same way. There are structures in place that are processes in place that will help people, who have issues or want to get involved in a deeper way. So I love that aspect of it.

Angie Byron: [00:09:09] It's exactly right. If I could just riff off that for a second. It's like, you know, a lot of people, you know, say open source was a meritocracy and that is absolute, complete nonsense. Cause not at all. And a lot of what these formalizing, the governance structure is put into place. It's kind of safe guards so that you don't end up with the loudest person in a given issue, making a decision.

And there is room and space for everybody to be able to, to contribute. Because what you want is you want to grow this beautiful garden, full of lots of different kinds of flowers and plants and vegetables. What you don't want is a field of dandelions. Because that's the one flower that was able to withstand the most abuse.

Right. That is not what we're after here. so yes, I do think that is a, I mean, we still have some, we have, we have problems. We've got to work on them. Right. But I, I feel like the fact that the community has tried to step up to fix a lot of these problems is, is really, really awesome. So.

Preston So: [00:10:00] So as a teaser from our previous point from part one of this, you know, and, please do listen to that episode or watch that episode because, you know, one of the things that we heard from, from you, Angie was a little bit of your opinion on, on Backdrop and some of the things that, that happened in that regard.

I won't, you know, we have that here. Folks can go and check out the other episode. Yeah. But, you know, I'm kind of curious this isn't, this is an example. This is, you know, this whole case of Backdrop is one of these examples of things that happened in the, in the history of Drupal that maybe we wish might not have happened.

Are there any other examples of things that you wish had changed or had been different over the last 15 years in Drupal?

Angie Byron: [00:10:39] I feel like. I wish there had been a wider embrace of the usability of Drupal and the challenges around that earlier on. I feel like now that's a pretty well understood problem, but I still remember back in 2008, we had just done usability testing, like in a real lab with like eye tracking and all kinds of stuff, with the university of Minnesota and in February. Okay. Minnesota, February. That's how much we love this community. Okay. So anyway, but it was Drupal 6 it had just come out. We got all of these web developers, so they had not used Drupal, but they maybe use WordPress or Dreamweaver, or they did their own hand build HTML.

They were our people and they struggled so much. Like we thought that we would learn interesting tidbits, unlike what we ought to call this button or that button. And what we found was they were fundamental, like just. Huge missing pieces of context of what Drupal is and how it's supposed to work and all kinds of things.

And so sitting in that room, watching all this, I was shocked because, you know, I grew up with Drupal. So of course I thought it was easy to use. And then watching how other of my peers interacted with it. I was like, alright, we got to fix some stuff. You know? And I went in and I, you know, did this whole presentation at DrupalCon Boston was all fired up and saying, Rah rah rah, And the kind of the reaction at that time was like, Oh, those people were just stupid.

You know what I mean? And it's like, no, no, these people are fine. Our product is stupid and we need to fix it, you know? And so it was a long process and, you know, Drupal 7 made a huge amount of in ways on that with the seven UX project, adding an admin theme to clearly separate add mini context from front end context.

Cause that was very baffling to people, you know, improving things like the field system and. You know, all these kinds of things, then Drupal 8 built on top of that success with the Spark team, which Preston you were part of where we put WYSIWYG in core and we added mobile friendliness and, you know, various other things.

And then Drupal 9 is built on top of that with like friendly page building tools in the form of layout builder, and media. Like, so we're, we're getting so much better, especially if you ever look at Drupal 6 again, it's like, wow, how did anyone use this? but I do, I do wish that that's something.

That our community had kind of come to awareness of sooner because I think the ultimate place we want to be is like, when developers look at Drupal and the power of the architecture and the flexibility, they get it and they love it and they dive in there and they're on it. You know, and they can see the power of how they can make Drupal, do everything that they ever wanted to do from a silly cat blog, all the way up to like, this is going to be like a component in my decoupled thing that runs a boat out in the ocean somewhere like everything.

Right. They can see the power, end users when they first used Drupal up until very recently, when we had the kind of out of the box initiative, they would see an ugly blog. And then they were supposed to infer from that, that Drupal had all of this power and this amazingness, and it's really difficult to do.

So what I would love to do is if we could eventually make it so that the end user experience is that same within five minutes, I got this, I understand how Drupal is so powerful and what I could do. That's what I would love to so that the people who use it every day, love it. As much as the people who develop on the backend.

Preston So: [00:13:54] I love that. and you know, one other question I wanted to ask is, you know, in terms of past regrets and, you know, things in the past that could have changed, you know, I think we've gotten some, some, some great insight. What about things that need to change right now and into the future? And this is, you know, obviously a much more kind of difficult question.

So no pressure, no pressure.

Angie Byron: Yeah. Well, I think, I think I got into that a bit. I think the usability aspect, one, one of the Drupal 10 initiatives not to spoil anything that I'm really excited about is, you know, make Drupal easy out of the box initiative because you know, on the surface, that initiative is very straightforward.

It's like we have all these great features. Let's get them wrapped up and into standard profile. Done, you know, but in my mind that initiative needs to go much further and like actually make Drupal actually easy out of the box so that people can use it and feel awesome about it. In the first time, five to 10 minutes.

Kathy Sierra is a thought leader who did a lot of user research stuff back in the day, and she has this great graph about the suck threshold, which is like the first bits of using a software, but you don't really know what you're doing. And it's very frustrating and you're angry about life.

And then the passion threshold, which is like, Oh my God, I kick ass at this and, you know, kind of take off from there and what we know from a lot of surveys we've done and other kinds of qualitative and quantitative analysis is that. If people get over that initial learning cliff of Drupal, they love it.

And they become like lifers almost. They're like, this is amazing. Why would I use anything else? I can use it for everything. And. When you don't, you tend to say like, this thing is terrible and then you'll go use some other solution that is not a good fit for what you're trying to do, and only realize it when you finally hit a wall there and then you come begrudgingly back to Drupal and you're like grumble, grumble.

And then you're like, Oh wait, this is actually awesome. Whoops. And like, if we can eliminate that. First three years of you not knowing how awesome Drupal is like imagine how far we would be. So I think that's what we need to focus on. We really need to focus on getting the power of Drupal into people's hands in that first little bit of using of times they understand the power and they can actually accomplish really cool things in a very short period of time.

Preston So: Well, I think that's a Clarion call to action if there ever was one. So, thanks Angie. You know, you know, I think that we've gotten, they're really good sense of, you know,the, you know, sort of your background and your experience. let's get a little bit of an inside look into what's happening right now. And what's been happening over the last few months.

So I'm kind of curious, you know, in terms of Drupal, what are the current focus areas? What are the current, you know, sort of places where, we're really focusing on as a community in terms of features and initiatives and things like that.

Angie Byron: [00:16:34] Yeah. So, for Drupal 9, we had like all kinds of ambitious ideas where it could go and we did surveys and we queried the community and we came up with not only our initial set of initiatives, but then an initial set of initiatives after that, which I guess is no longer initial.

Anyway, a whole, even more. And I think we ended up with like 13 or 14 initiatives in total with Drupal 9 and we hit a bunch of them. But in Drupal 10, I think the biggest focus is scaling that way back and focusing very hard and only doing a few things. one, because Drupal 10 has a much shorter release cycle than Drupal 8 did.

And I think that will benefit everybody who likes easy upgrade paths. So I'm not concerned about that. but Drupal 10 is due out in June of 2022. So you got about two years from when Drupal 9 was released to get this done. So basically the five things are. get Drupal 10 done, right? There's a bunch of backwards compatibility stuff we gotta to remove.

There's the, a bunch of external libraries we depend on that are going out of support. We need to upgrade the latest versions of those. And so on. There's the easy out of the box initiative that I mentioned in my last thing, which is, you know, we have a bunch of kind of loose ends from Drupal 9.

Let's get them. Polished up and into the standard profile. There's the, front end theme, initiative. So this is the Olivero theme led by the folks at Lullabot. This is an amazing thing that they're doing. They're making the, they're redesigning the front end of Drupal to not only be more modern design practice wise, but they're also really prioritizing accessibility.

And for example, just held an accessibility test of the theme with the National Institute for the Blind a couple of weeks ago and got. Rave reviews about that. Automatic updates. This is critical in my mind for Drupal in terms of becoming, you know, becoming something I can recommend to my family.

You know what I mean? Because right now, if I recommend Drupal to my family, I'm on the hook for like updating that every time a security release comes out and that's just a lot more work than I want to put into Drupal, you know? So I think that's really key for making sure people stay secure and also use Drupal, you know, for those kinds of like, you know, smaller projects, right.

And then the final thing is the, it doesn't sound like a lot, but the JS menu component initiative and what that's about. As it's about building a set of, you know, generalized react, view, angular, you name it components that can be used to build powerful front end interfaces without losing all of the benefit that Drupal gets.

I mean, Preston, you yourself have written a lot on this whole concept of, you know, decoupled this great buzz word, and you can like, you know, Hand the front end off to somebody else and yay. But then it's like you go down a line of all the features that Drupal offers is a CMS guess like accessibility and theme ability.

And you know, the ability for site builders and make change in the backend. It's show up in the front end, you lose all of that. Right? A lot of people are like, what the heck? So then the goal of this as an initial component, starting with menus, because most sites have menus to try to figure out how we're going to do that, how we're going to create generic JavaScript components that can be pulled into any application, but that contained the wiring with the CMS so that you don't lose that easy functionality.

So that's it, that's really our goals for Drupal 10 and there's a bunch of other stuff going on. There's the bug smash initiative being led by some folks in Australia, which is great. They're like trying to drill down on Drupal's technical debt, get that under control, you know, and there's, there's, you know, the documentation team working on the help system, there's lots of different things going on.

What we're trying really hard to focus on Drupal 10 on just a smaller bit.

Preston So: [00:19:51] I love that. And, and, you know, as you mentioned, Drupal 9 just came out this summer. and I'm kind of curious, you know, one of the things that happened with the Drupal 9 release was that, it wasn't really this, this kind of huge, you know, milestone or a huge shift in the way that Drupal does things.

What was that last release like? And, and what are some of the things that people should know about Drupal 9? And especially now that it's been out for a couple of months,

Angie Byron: [00:20:16] So the biggest thing they should know about Drupal 9 is that Drupal 9 was entirely built in Drupal 8 and Drupal 10 will be the same, or it will be built entirely in Drupal 9.

And what I mean by that is that the features and functionality we wanted to ship with Drupal 9s. We had this goal in mind over here, we would ship them in incremental feature releases in Drupal 8, as it went along. And so things like adding support for newer versions of Symfony, we would do that in a backwards compatible way so that people using Drupal 8 can use either version.

We're doing the same thing right now for things like PHP 8 and Symfony 5 support. So they're being done in a backwards compatible way. And then really the only big thing to shout home about with Drupal mine is that there's not a big. I think to shoot a bow home about Drupal 9, because we focused really hard on making sure that the migration path between 8 and 9 would be easy.

And if you've ever migrated from a previous version of Drupal to a next version of Drupal before you laugh your head off at that statement, but no, I'm actually serious. Like people are doing their 8 to 9 migrations, like in a weekend. or they're handing it off to a junior developer to just power through because there was a lot of investment in like tools to make this really easy.

So there's tools to show you which modules are out of date. There's tools to automatically convert the code for you in a lot of cases. And then there's tools to show overall the community is trending. So, yeah. So big deal with Drupal 9 is it's not a big deal. It's pretty easy to migrate to it. Use it.

It's got all kinds of cool stuff coming down the pipe.

That's amazing. And, you know, I know you've already mentioned several of the, the, the really forward looking initiatives that are happening right now, like the JavaScript menu component. a lot of the, you know, ongoing work on the new, the, new front end for Drupal.

And of course also some of the, some of the UX work that's going on, really exciting to hear. do we have any sort of dates or any sort of, you know, big, big releases or initiatives or features that. Are going to be coming to a head at some point soon with some kind of, you know, public availability or are there still a lot of things in flux?

I always like to be real careful about that. that date thing, because as you remember from last time's episode, Drupal is not a company. It doesn't control people's time. And so things flit in, and it - there's, there's a lot of people involved in, in getting something into core, for example, all Olivero something I'm hopeful, we'll make it into 9.1 .

That would be amazing. But in order for that to happen, You know, framework managers have to sign off, release managers have to sign off, the accessibility team, the usability team. Like there's a lot of people that may be involved in that and make sure that everything is copacetic. so I don't want to put dates on things, but I would say Olivero is, is really far along.

And I'm hoping that can go soon. Claro is also very far along. That'll probably happen next release. If I had to bet, the automatic updates initiative is the one I'm probably the most excited about not only because I like it. You know, it was like universally decided on, we did a big survey and everybody advanced novice, everybody wants this feature.

but the way in which it's being done is really cool where they're actually doing it in concert with a bunch of other open source projects. So there's Typo3 people involved, Joomla people involved, and it's getting us access to, you know, looking at composer two, which has like. Dramatically, you know, streamlined Bram usage and tie, you know, processor, users and stuff like that.

So what I expect to happen with the automatic updates initiative is going to kind of come out in dribs and drabs. So for example, there will be an eventual point where automatic updates is done, but I think what's going to happen is each release is going to get like a little drop of awesomeness that leads us along the path to automatic updates.

So, so I think that most initiatives would probably be in that realm. Same with JS menu component. Like maybe this time around, they'll get a prototype done. Maybe next time they're going to add some scaffolding. but I think what you can expect to see is as we remain focused on those five top five hit list and at each release, hopefully gets us a far, a fair amount of way into, into that.


Preston So: [00:24:10] I think you mentioned two things that, you know, Tag1 is very involved in of course the automatic updates initiative, which

Angie Byron: [00:24:18] I'm so


Preston So: [00:24:19] Yeah, we do. We do have an episode of Tag1 TeamTalks with Neil Drumm and with Tim Lehnen and I believe it was Lucas Hedding if I'm not mistaken. Yeah, who spoke to us about automatic updates.

So we'll share that in the show notes. and, you know, one, one quick note as well, to our audience in case you didn't know, by the way, because, of the upcoming timeline for, you know, Drupal 10 coming out in 2022, Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 are going end of life, which means you have to start to think about if you're not going to migrate your Drupal 7 sites over to Drupal 8.

Got to start to think about Drupal seven extended support for that end of life. Luckily Tag1 has an answer for you. We've got an episode of Tag1 TeamTalks that we just aired, with our dear friend, Jeremy Andrews and Michael Myers. Who's on this call, to tell you a little bit about Tag1 Quo, and the way that you can keep your Drupal 7 site intact and, future ready for years to come.

And also one other note I want to make is if you were at DrupalCon, if you weren't at DrupalCon Global, Michael Meyers has an amazing talk about Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 end of life. And that link will be included as well.,with this episode. Unfortunately, well, that's all the time we have for today.

I want to say thank you so much to all of you who are joining us from. Your homes from your RV's wherever you are, are staying safe from this pandemic. Thanks for joining us for part two of this two part series of core confidential with Angie Byron, make sure to check out part one before you head off and all the links that we mentioned today, including everything that we've talked about.

Will be posted online with this video, with this podcast recording. And if you like this episode, please remember to like, upvote, subscribe, share it with your friends and family, share it with your grandma out, you know, out in Tennessee, if you, and also check out our past talks at And as always, we definitely want to hear about your feedback and any topics that you want to hear about and people you would like to bring on the show. Maybe people that you might not have heard from, or people who are a little bit less prominent in the Drupal community.

Write to us at We'll do our best to bring them on. Big thank you to Angie Byron big, thank you to Michael Meyers and, and all of you out there watching and listening. Thank you so much for joining us and until next time.

Angie Byron: [00:26:32] thank you so much. Bye everyone.