Feeds

Author

May 21 2019
May 21

Images are one of the most widely used assets on the web and with all the right reasons, but they may cause a slow loading time of your website if not included in the right way. There are a lot of things you have to consider while preparing images for the web, and in this post we’ll take a look at what those things are and how Drupal 8 can help you make this process automatic.

Optimized Image

First of all, let’s look at what makes an image optimized for the web. Web as a media is in fact a lot simpler in quality demand opposed to print media but it does have its own specialties. The biggest challenge here is to get the best possible image quality with the smallest possible file size by adjusting image dimensions and quality while also being able to serve each screen type and size just the right image. This may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but keep reading because in this post I’m going to show you how to achieve that step by step using Drupal 8 core features. 

Adjusting Image Dimensions

Out of the box, Drupal offers a really great tool for optimizing images called Image styles. In general, image styles are used to control the size of displayed images, although you can also do other cool stuff with them, such as making images black and white. Drupal allows us to set different image styles which we can then use in different areas of the page.

For example, an Article content type can use a bigger image for a detail page and a smaller one for a teaser display, usually used in the Articles list page. The great thing about image styles is that you only need to set them once and it will automatically display the right image size every time, no matter what the size of the originally uploaded image is.

An image style can be set in the ‘Manage display’ section of the content type setup. By clicking on the gear icon on the image field, the setting will be shown where you can assign any of the previously configured image styles to this field. If the image style you wish to assign is not available, you can create a new one by clicking on the ‘Configure Image Styles’ next to the image style dropdown.

Configure image styles

This will take you to the Image Styles configuration page. Click on the ‘Add image style’ button. First of all, you’ll have to give a name to the new image style. You can choose whichever name you would like but it is recommended that you add image dimensions to it. 

After the name is set up, you can add different effects to the image style. A few effect options are given, but for our purposes, the two most important ones are:

  • Scale: this effect allows you to only specify the width or height of an image, and the one that is not given will be automatically set to keep the original image ratio.
  • Scale and crop: this effect scales an image, but it also crops it so that it always fits the given ratio.

Choose the effect you want for your image style, set the properties and save it. In the example below, I chose Scale effect and only specified a width of 970px (based on the design, I calculated that the image using this image style will never be wider than 970px), letting the height adjust to the original image ratio.

Create image styles

Now the only thing left to do is to assign the new image style to the image field. Go back to the ‘Manage Display’ section of your content type setup, click on the gear icon, choose the new image style and hit save.

To see how much effect image styles have on the actual file size and loading time, we need to do some testing. First of all, let’s see what happens when no image style is assigned to the image. For this example, I used an image with an original file size of 6.7MB, meaning it is way too big to be used on our website because it took 2.08s for this image to load.

No image style

The second test I ran is with image style assigned to the image. The results show great improvement of the file size, as well as loading time, because, using the same original image, the file size is now 956KB and it loads in only 487ms. 

Image style 970

This is all very exciting - but there’s one more question that needs to be answered: did we sacrifice any of the quality to achieve this result?

Image style 970 comparison

I took a screenshot of an image without image style (on the left side) and compared it to the screenshot of an image with image style (on the right side). I noticed that the quality is a bit lower on the scaled image.

The root of this problem, however, is not the image style per se. These tests and screenshots were taken on a MacBook Pro which has a retina display, meaning that one actual pixel of an image is seen as half of a pixel on this device, and this is why the image got upscaled, making it look a bit blurry. To test it out, I created a new image style that is twice as big (Image Scale 1940 x ...). Now we can see that the image using the new image style looks just as sharp as the original one. 

Image style 1940 comparison

This, however, opens up a new question for us. Which image should we use? The first one is smaller and looks great on normal displays but makes images a bit blurry on retina displays. The second one, on the other hand, looks great on all devices but is bigger than the first one. Luckily Drupal 8 has another tool that will help us get out of this dilemma, but before we take a look at what it is and how it works, let’s try to optimize those images of ours a bit more. 

Defining Image Quality

In the first part, we took care of adjusting the image size; but there’s one more thing we can control in order to get the file size smaller - adjust the image quality. Drupal 8 has a perfect tool for that and it is very simple to use.

All we have to do is go to the Admin > Configuration > Media > Image toolkit.
Here we can adjust the quality of the image. The best results are given if the number is between 60 and 80. In the example below, I set the number to 75. In order to see the changes on the previously uploaded pictures, we need to delete all ‘styles’ folder content in the Drupal directory.

Folders that need to be deleted are located in ‘sites/default/files/styles’. Delete everything in there but leave the styles folder. After that go to your Drupal site and clear cache (Configuration > Development > Performance). When the page reloads, all images that you have uploaded before will be regenerated and they will all have the specified image quality.

Now we’re ready to run some tests and see how much of an impact this has on the file size. The first test I ran was using the image style for retina (1940 x …). Before that, the image file size was 3.2MB.

Image style 1940 toolkit

This time around we can see that the file size dropped to 383KB which is a great improvement. Even better are the end results for the image using the smaller image style. Let’s take a look at this one as well. Remember that previously the file size of this image was 956KB.

Image style 970 toolkit

This time the file size is only 126KB and it loads in 35ms. The result is impressive but let’s see what this did to the actual image quality. Let’s keep in mind that these tests are run on MacBook Pro that has a retina display and therefore images need to be twice as big to be displayed as they would have to be on a regular screen. 

Image style 970 toolkit comparison

With the image quality set to 75 we can now really see the difference in the smaller image style. This image would look great on normal displays and the file size is just right but the image still doesn’t look so good on the retina screen. Using the bigger image style, however, we get a better result in the said case.

Image style 1940 toolkit comparison

The file size is now 383KB and the look is almost identical to the original image. Now we can say that images have the optimal file size if we compare them to the actual quality, but one problem still remains - we have two image styles, each one optimal for a different screen type.

Responsive Images

Nowadays we have to consider many things when we’re making a website and amongst them, different screen types and sizes are one of the most important ones. Responsive design has become a standard in today's web development practice and images are no exception. We don’t really need an image that is 970px wide on a mobile screen that is 500px wide, but we do need an image that is 1970px wide on a retina display of a screen that is 1000px wide.

As we can see in the examples above, it really does matter what we serve to what screen - and no, we do not need to load the biggest image on all screens so that the image would look nice and sharp. This would increase the loading time of our website and that is also something we don’t want. What we do need to do is play it smart - serve every screen type and size exactly what it needs to display an image in its best light. Again, lucky for us, Drupal 8 has just the right tool for that and that tool is called Responsive images.

Responsive images are a Drupal 8 core module, meaning that Drupal 8 already comes with it, all you have to do to use it is enable it. To do that, go to Admin > Extend, then search for the module and enable it. We have already talked about how to use this module in this blog post, so I will not go into too much detail here. I will, however, explain how to solve the dilemma with retina displays that we have previously encountered.

Following the instructions in the link above you should be able to change image styles (sizes) or even the entire image depending on the screen size - for example, a mobile display can use a different, smaller image than a laptop display.

This module, however, also lets us set a different image style according to the retina display value. There is one requirement though - the theme you are using needs to have those multipliers values defined in theme.breakpoints.yml file. If the multiplier of 2x is defined for each breakpoint, then you will see it in the backend as an option to which you can assign an image style to.

Retina settings

Here you can assign a retina image style for a specific breakpoint - making the image adjust to a screen size and display type. For the example above it would mean that on a laptop that is not retina, the browser would render an image with Image scale (970 x …) style, but on a laptop with retina display, it would render an image with Image scale (1940 x …), making it truly the optimal choice.

In case you’re wondering - there is no magic to it. This module uses a HTML5 picture tag to change the image src depending on the screen size and type. There is, however, a downside - some browsers, including IE, do not support this HTML5 tag which means you’ll have to use a picturefill solution.

Conclusion

In this post, we’ve taken quite a deep look into how to make image optimization automatic with Drupal 8 and how to successfully decrease an image file size from 6.7MB to as low as 126KB. If a website you’re building has a lot of images per page, then this optimizing process may lower the loading time, but it can still be above the average. If this is the case then I would advise some extra steps to solve the problem, and your best bet in this case would most definitely be to include lazy loading functionality to your website.

May 16 2019
May 16

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

We're very happy we got to speak with Tim Lehnen, the interim Executive Director of the Drupal Association. Tim is honored to be serving the Drupal community for the past 5 years and is looking forward to how Drupal will evolve alongside digital innovations. Read on to revisit a touching moment from a past DrupalCon and find out more about some of the Association's notable recent accomplishments. 

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

My name is Tim Lehnen, and I'm the interim Executive Director for the Drupal Association. Prior to that I was the Director of Engineering for the Association. The board has just recently announced that we've appointed a new executive director - so I'll be happy to be returning to my role on the engineering team in June. 

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

I first found Drupal in around 2006, around the time of the Drupal 4.7.0 release. At that time I was a student building websites as a freelancer to help pay for my education. I didn't know all that much about open source communities and collaboration at the time, and my early career actually diverged from Drupal quite a bit. However, even during that time I observed and admired the community the Drupal project had built.

In 2014 when I saw that the Drupal Association was hiring, I jumped at the opportunity to come home. Being able to engage with such a passionate (and compassionate) open source community has been very rewarding - and being able to do it for a living is a humbling privilege. 

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

Having spent just about the last 5 years working full time to serve the Drupal community there are many, many moments I could point to. 

In particular, though, I'd like to highlight the #DrupalThanks campaign at DrupalCon Baltimore, where one of our partners and sponsors EvolvingWeb chose to use their sponsorship time at the keynote not for commercial promotion, but instead to give flowers to DrupalCon attendees to present to anyone else in the community that had made an impact on them and say 'Thank you.' 

It's all too easy to get caught up in what is difficult and hard about the work we do, and moments like these are wonderful reminders why it is worth it. 

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

I echo the words of project founder Dries Buytaert. Drupal is a platform for ambitious digital experiences. That doesn't mean it's only for enterprise, or only for large end users. If you are a scrappy non-profit or start-up or really anyone with an ambitious idea for your digital presence - ambitious means you! 

And yes, this means websites, but increasingly it also means other kinds of digital experiences like voice-assistant interfaces, kiosks and information displays, in-flight entertainment - and even AR and VR experiences. 

On the flip-side, Drupal is not a platform for simple blogging or brochure-ware. If your needs are simple, a less sophisticated platform might serve you well. But when you're really trying to make a mark in the digital space, Drupal is your best choice. 

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

I feel that Drupal will continue to hone in on its strengths - its highly engaged and expert community, the quality of its underlying architecture, and its pivot towards web services and decoupled architecture. 

Drupal is years ahead of other solutions when it comes to robust omnichannel and decoupled solutions - and as our digital interaction models evolve further and further away from traditional keyboards and screens, I think we'll see Drupal evolve to be used in ways that couldn't have been predicted when Dries first built the platform in his dorm room 18 years ago. 

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

I've never been more than a mediocre developer, but I've always tried to find ways to contribute my project management skills. My team at the Drupal Association is the best in the world, and together we've done some amazing things for the community. 

I'm particularly proud of the team's work to create the Drupal contribution credit system. It's an industry first in open source, and as far as I know we're still one of the only open source communities that allows our contributors to attribute their work as a volunteer, sponsored by an organization, or on behalf of a client customer. It's given us tremendous insight into the lifecycle of contribution for the Drupal project. 

I'm also very proud of the team's recent work to move the Git tooling for the Drupal project to GitLab. I think that's going to enable a lot of new collaboration tools and reduce friction for contributors to Drupal. 

As far as my own independent contributions, I was very happy to work on defining the JSON feed for the Open Demographics Initiative, to support our work to improve representation on Drupal.org user profiles. 

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

There are few initiatives I'd love to give a shout out to: 

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavor. 

I'm an avid geek when it comes to virtual reality and augmented reality. I think I have four or five different headsets right now. The ability to actually inhabit a virtual world and feel present in it is something I've dreamed about since childhood.

At the same time, it feels like a very dystopian technology, and I can see how people perceive it as being yet another layer of technological isolation and alienation. On the other hand, it also has tremendous potential to help people who might be otherwise unable to travel or even leave their homes take part in new experiences, both solo and socially. 

We'll have to see where it goes! As with every new technology I imagine we'll have to take the bad with the good. 
 

May 13 2019
May 13

Since last month a lot of Drupalists were busy preparing for and traveling to DrupalCon, we wanted to give everyone a chance to catch up with important news and goings-on in the Drupalverse. To this end, here’s a recap of our favorite Drupal-related posts from last month.

VideoDrupal.org: A new site of Drupal videos tutorials

The first post from April we want to highlight is Karim Boudjema’s introduction of VideoDrupal.org, a new resource for the Drupal community to easily find videos from various Drupal events. The idea for the website was born out of Karim’s desire to give something back to the community who is doing so much, but often has no lasting value to show for it.

VideoDrupal.org is essentially a curated collection of videos found on YouTube that aim at either promoting or educating people on Drupal. To be as helpful as possible both to beginners as well as more seasoned Drupal developers, the site is divided into two sections: one that focuses on the basics of Drupal theming and site building, and one that’s dedicated to more specific topics. 

Read more

A Series Of Unfortunate Images: Drupal 1-click To Rce Exploit Chain Detailed

This next post, written by Zero Day Initiative’s Vincent Lee, relates the discovery of a set of bugs in the recent critical patches for supported versions of Drupal 7.x and 8.x. These two bugs enable remote code execution through uploading three malicious files to the target server and then persuading the admin to click on a crafted link. 

While the exploit is not exactly smooth and involves the attacker(s) having to set up a profile on the site (which means that any site which doesn’t allow visitors to create accounts is automatically safe), it is still interesting and useful to be aware that the possibility of such an attack exists.

(By the way, the song in the video of the two bugs in action is really great - if anyone knows what it is, please let us know!)

Read more

The privilege of free time in Open Source

In the third post on this month’s list, Dries touches upon the problematic of open source contribution of underrepresented and less privileged groups. Because of their social and/or economic status, e.g. women must dedicate a lot of time to childcare and housework, these groups don’t have as much time to do unpaid work on open source. 

In contrast, privileged groups have much more time to contribute, which results in a lack of diversity in tech and open source in particular. But time constraints are not the only issue here; people from underrepresented groups are often subject to hostility and discrimination, which makes them that much more reluctant to continue contributing to open source. 

So, as individuals, we need to be more welcoming and not succumb to our biases. As for organizations, sponsoring your employees’ work on open source so that they don’t have to do it in their limited free time can really go a long way. 

Read more

State of Drupal presentation (April 2019)

Next up, we have another post written by Dries, this one essentially a recap of his annual State of Drupal presentation which he gave at DrupalCon Seattle. The post actually opens with the topic of the previous post mentioned here, that is, fostering diversity and inclusion in open source by giving underrepresented groups better opportunities to contribute. At this year’s ‘Con, nearly 50% of the speakers were from such groups, which shows that we’re on the right track. 

The rest of Dries’ keynote was dedicated to Drupal’s (at the time) upcoming release, the preparation for Drupal 9 and Drupal 7’s end of life. Drupal 8.7, released on May 1st, brought important updates such as a stable Layout Builder and JSON:API in core. With Drupal 9 just a little over a year away, it’s wise to start preparing for the upgrade now - one of the first things you can do, if you haven’t yet, is to upgrade from Drupal 7 to 8.

Read more

A Proposed Drupal privacy initiative and the Cross CMS privacy group.

With privacy becoming a key concern in software development, it’s important for Drupal as well as other CMS to focus on privacy. For this purpose, members of the Drupal, WordPress, Joomla! and Umbraco communities have formed a Cross-CMS privacy group whose goal is to establish a common set of principles that all these technologies can rely on.

In this blog post, Jamie Abrahams of Freely Give discusses the work of the Cross-CMS privacy group, listing a number of the group’s achievements since its formation last year, as well as some points on privacy not just as a legal, but an ethical obligation. Finally, he enumerates the goals of a proposed Drupal privacy initiative and concludes the post with next steps for the Cross-CMS privacy group to take.

Read more

Enabling headless Drupal Commerce while improving its core

In the next post on our list, Matt Glaman of Centarro (formerly Commerce Guys) writes about decoupling Drupal Commerce and how this can actually improve Drupal’s core. The basis for this post is the recent trend of decoupling, or “going headless”, which has been particularly talked about in the Drupal community.

As Matt points out, the work on the API-first initiative and decoupled Drupal is very beneficial to the modules in question and Drupal in general. He gives a few examples, such as a smooth coupon redemption via the Cart API module

This post, then, shows how a decoupled architecture and ecommerce can work perfectly well together. It finishes with some examples of successful uses of decoupled commerce, such as 1xINTERNET’s React-based solution which they presented at DrupalCon Seattle.

Read more

Learn to Theme with Hands-On Exercises

Since part of our mission at Agiledrop is spreading Drupal awareness and training new generations of Drupalists (we just held our second free Drupal course of the year this weekend), we also make it a point to promote other endeavors of educating people on Drupal. 

In this respect, we wanted to highlight this post by Amber Matz introducing Drupalize.Me’s new hands-on workshop for learning Drupal 8 theming. This is a 7-week course perfect for Drupal beginners who want to get practical experience with theming. At the end of each week, participants test their newly acquired skills through hands-on exercises accompanied by helpful videos. 

Another important novelty is Drupalize.me’s partnership with Stack Starter, which enables web-based development environments and consequently allows participants to focus on learning rather than having to set up their own local environment. 

Read more

Drupal Association appoints Executive Director

We conclude April’s list with some important news for Drupal and its community. At the very end of April, Interim Executive Director Tim Lehnen announced in a blog post that the Board of Directors of the Drupal Association have appointed Heather Rocker the new Executive Director of the Association. 

As a former executive director of the Women in Technology foundation and CEO of Girls Incorporated of Greater Atlanta, as well as due to her experience in robotics and other fields, Heather is the ideal choice for leading the organization that aims to increase Drupal adoption and unite a diverse community of Drupalists. 

We’d like to give a warm welcome to Heather and join Dries and the entire community in the excitement of beginning the next chapter of Drupal under her guidance!

Read more

We hope you enjoyed our selection and were able to either revisit some of last month’s blog posts or learn something you may have missed. Tune in next month for an overview of the top Drupal posts from May!
 

May 08 2019
May 08

Last month, we wrote a neatly diverse selection of blog posts: one related to the Drupal community, one about a major recent change for our company and two that were more business-oriented. In case you missed some of them, here’s a quick overview of all of them to get you up to speed. 

6 remote staffing challenges and how to tackle them

Our first post from April discussed the challenges businesses face when opting for a partnership with a digital agency to increase their development capacity. Of course, we also presented very effective solutions to them, which we have employed to great success.

To recap, these challenges are: communication issues, differences in culture and location, challenges with trust in and monitoring of remote teammates, cost and ROI, and miscellaneous, unexpected issues that are beyond one’s control. 

If you or your company are currently contemplating remote staffing, we suggest you read the entire post more thoroughly and arm yourself with the knowledge to make a more informed decision and effectively manage a remote team. 

Read more

Our brand new Ljubljana office

In case you didn’t know - April also marked our Ljubljana team’s transition into shiny, brand new offices! We seized the opportunity and wrote a short blog post about it, documenting our reasons for the move and the teambuilding-like moving process, as well as looking ahead to what this move means for our company. 

The move into bigger offices was a necessary next step if we wanted to stay true to our vision, grow our team even further and scale our business by working on an even greater number of interesting and challenging projects. 

We’ve already had both AgileTalks and AgileFoods in our new offices, and we’re looking forward to running our first free Drupal course at the new location this weekend.

Read more

Interview with Ruben Teijeiro, Drupal hero at 1xINTERNET and co-founder of Youpal

After almost two months, we returned with our Drupal Community Interviews series! This time we spoke with the lively Ruben Teijeiro, Drupal hero at 1xINTERNET and co-founder of the Swedish Drupal agency Youpal

We loved learning about the meaning and responsibilities of a ‘Drupal hero’, as well as his beginnings with Drupal, when he was deciding between at least 10 different technologies. As soon as he encountered Drupal, though, he knew that the CMS was a perfect fit for him. 

Apart from spreading Drupal awareness and meeting diverse Drupal communities, Ruben is really excited about the JavaScript modernization in Drupal and is looking forward to the initiative bringing together the two communities. 

Read more

5 key benefits of remote staffing

The last post we wrote in April was a sort of parallel to the first one; while the latter discussed the challenges of remote staffing, this one focused exclusively on the benefits of this particular outsourcing strategy. 

Without beating around the bush, the main benefits of remote staffing that we wanted to point out are: scalability, redundancy, flexibility, faster acquisition of developers and the ability to get exactly the kind of skillset that a certain project demands. 

All of these smaller benefits add up to the number one benefit of this type of outsourcing: they enable you to better navigate the constantly shifting landscape of digital agencies and grow your business more efficiently. 

Read more

Well, this is it for our blog posts from April. We hope that you enjoyed them and that you were able to learn something new from them. Make sure to check back for our upcoming posts!

Apr 26 2019
Apr 26

This post is a kind of logical continuation of one that we published earlier this month on dealing with some of the most pressing challenges of remote staffing. If you missed that one, we suggest you go have a look at it, just so you have the most context possible.

Right - now that you’re all up to speed, and probably even more eager to know about the advantages of remote staffing (hints of which you could probably already glean from the previous post), we can begin discussing the factors that make remote staffing such a popular option.

While it’s true that there will be some challenges encountered when working with a team of remote partners, this kind of project outsourcing is also hugely beneficial - even taking into account all the potential issues. 

How is that so, you ask? Aren’t there just more communication issues, bigger costs, more difficulties with monitoring ... essentially more of everything?

Well, no, a lot of these “myths” can be debunked, and we believe we already did a good job at that in the aforementioned post. But, even if they couldn’t be debunked, more of everything also means more of the good stuff, not just the bad stuff. 

Think of it - greater flexibility; the capability to scale only when you need it and when you’re ready for it; a lot of redundancy, a luxury you don’t have when managing a project exclusively in-house; lightning-fast acquisition and onboarding; the capability to get exactly the kind of expertise your current project demands, and likely even skills you don’t even know it will demand later on in its progress ...

All of this adds up to the foremost advantage of remote staffing, that is, the capacity to more smoothly navigate the ever-shifting landscape of digital projects and/or agencies. 

Still not convinced? Not a problem - we can’t wait to dive into specific benefits and discuss them in more detail! After getting through our list, and especially if you’ve read the previously mentioned post on the challenges of remote staffing, you’ll be able to see the whole picture more clearly and always know when this kind of partnership is the right fit for you. 

1. Scalability

One of the biggest questions that digital business leaders of today are asking themselves is: how can we effectively scale our business? 

It’s certainly a question worth asking. One cannot expect a business to truly be successful on a larger scope if it doesn’t grow or scale. However, in a constantly shifting digital environment, which also brings about a fluid scope of work, effective scaling can become problematic.

This is precisely why remote staffing is such a great fit when the need to scale arises. Recruiting and managing in-house employees while also taking care of all of their expenses is not only costly, but also very time-consuming (read: costly2). While this does result in growth, it doesn’t exactly scale your business.

Of course, you also have to take into account the possibility of not being able to find a full-time employee who lives near enough to join your on-site team. With an ever-increasing demand for experienced developers, this is a concern you’ll likely have to address (if you haven’t done so already).

This scenario changes completely when you establish a partnership with an off-site development team. With remote staffing, you can bypass the lengthy recruitment processes and instantly expand your in-house team. 

You get the luxury of deciding how many remote workers you want to hire - and the initial number is not set in stone, either. Once you’ve established a successful partnership, getting additional developers to work on your project will be even faster and safer (there will be a much smaller risk of making a bad hire or at least this risk will not be on you). 

This gives you protection from unexpected changes to the scope of the project. An unplanned increase of its scope is no longer an issue when working with remote partners. At Agiledrop, we are usually able to supply clients with new developers in under a day - or even significantly faster when we already have all the documentation and information related to the project. 

By working with us, you’ll get an instant boost to your workforce for the duration of the working arrangement; you’ll be able to tackle a greater number of bigger projects while keeping your expenses to a minimum.

As such, scalability is very likely the number one benefit of remote staffing. More than that, actually - most of its other benefits are directly or indirectly linked to scalability. These are what we’ll discuss in the following points of this article. 

2. Redundancy

This next benefit is in fact a kind of subset of scalability and a lead into the third benefit which we’ll discuss a bit later on. We’re treating it separately since it looks at growing your team from the other perspective - we’re dealing with redundancy.

In our context, redundancy essentially covers the other side of the fluctuating nature of digital projects, the “down” period where you have fewer projects and less work. 

With an exclusively in-house team, the down periods impede your progress and growth even more than you’d expect. Not only do you have less work and by consequence less income, you have all these employees who were vital to previous projects still on your payroll. This basically means double the cost, with no gain.

And, should you decide to let someone go on account of there not being enough work, you’ll again have certain expenses. Even if an employee resigns of their own volition, this process is not instantaneous, and they keep receiving their salary up until their departure. 

It’s a different - and even more costly - story when an employee is given resignation, especially if the justification for it is “not enough work” (after all, it isn’t and cannot be their fault that you the employer are unable to provide work for them). In addition to their ongoing salary, you’ll also have to cover all the costs associated with their severance.

Moreover, you’ll risk creating a negative atmosphere and sending a negative signal to the rest of the employees, who do have enough work, but may start contemplating other career opportunities on account of that. This may cause you to lose even those employees whose expertise is crucial to your ongoing business.

Very likely, when weighing your two options against each other, you’ll come to the realization that the best solution would nonetheless be to keep your employees on your payroll and wait for more work to arrive. But, logically, you won’t be happy about it. 

One of the magical things of remote staffing, already hinted at before, is the ability to get reinforcements to your team only for the duration of the project. Even if you have to end the contract prematurely, there are no long-term consequences like when you fire full-time employees. While we covered the case of an increase of a project’s scope under the benefit of scalability, the other side is neatly covered by redundancy.

So, not only is remote staffing a great choice of growing your team when it cannot handle the increased scope of work, it also eliminates all additional expenses for the period when the project is finished and the extra workforce is no longer needed. 

A partnership with an agency such as Agiledrop gives you the flexibility (buzzword alert!) to hire and fire as your project demands, with no resentment and no expenses associated with letting people go. You get the developers, the timely quality work, then shake hands and remain friends. 

3. Flexibility

You have to admit - this was a super smooth transition into this next point! The capacity to instantly respond to changes in the scope of your work via scaling and descaling your business can be neatly summed up in a concept that actually covers more than just these two advantages: flexibility.

In fact, flexibility is like an added bonus to the two benefits we’ve just discussed. The ability to get as many developers as your project needs with no obligation to retain them after the project is concluded allows you to be incredibly flexible.

And this flexibility doesn’t just cover unexpected changes issuing from the project itself. Working with partner agencies also provides you with a fail-safe against the plethora of uncontrollable factors that can arise whenever people are involved, such as unforeseen health issues or urgent family matters.

As we pointed out in our post about the biggest challenges of remote staffing, there’s not much you can do when one of your in-house developers has to take a sick leave or any other type of paid leave (some emphasis on paid). 

With remote staffing, however, you don’t need to worry about what to do in such situations. You can count on your partner agency to supply any necessary replacements in case something happens to the original hire. 

But the major benefit of remote staffing in the context of flexibility actually goes beyond just a single project. In the introduction, we already touched upon the constantly changing and by consequence hard to navigate digital sphere. 

Finding the right outsourcing strategy allows you to not only be flexible with regard to the project in question, but actually with regard to your very workflow, making it much easier to handle this shifting nature of the digital. 

This means that the “up” periods aren’t as hectic, while the “down” periods aren’t as devastating to your business development. You’re able to smoothly adapt to market needs as well as keep up with new and emerging technologies, either by not having to focus so much on HR or thanks to the diverse expertise of your remotely working developers (or, most likely, both).

It essentially boils down to this: this flexibility obtained through remote staffing enables you to take on more projects and win bigger deals with more important clients. Additionally, it lets you focus more of your energy and resources on business development and helps you to stand out from the crowd, priming you for growth and success.

4. Faster acquisition

Right, so, the previous three points dealt with what you’ll gain by working with partner agencies. Let’s now take a look at how remote staffing can save you time and resources thanks to the accelerated process of hiring and onboarding.

We mentioned earlier that the recruitment of in-house employees can be very time-consuming and consequently costly. Searching for the most suitable people is just the first step - and, naturally, the more workers you need, the longer it takes.

Then you have to interview all those candidates, likely discounting a decent percentage of them. Those that do make the cut then have to go through onboarding processes - and all the while time just keeps stacking up. We won’t even go into the obvious costs of salaries, travel and health expenses, paid leaves and adequate equipment. 

Luckily, there’s an easy, one-stop solution to all of the above. Yep, you guessed it - it’s a remote partnership! Partnering with an agency and relying on them to provide you with the needed experienced personnel will notably cut down the time searching for developers, as well as most of the expenses. 

Perhaps the best thing about such an arrangement is the sustainability of the relationship. Once you’ve partnered with an agency that you’re satisfied with, it’ll be that much easier and faster to get additional developers from a proven source that you trust will deliver the right profiles based on your requirements.

Another time-saving advantage of remote staffing becomes apparent in the onboarding of newly hired developers and their integration into your existing team. At Agiledrop, all new employees go through an in-house onboarding project, during which they familiarize themselves with all the most up-to-date tools and practices. 

This onboarding is carried out by our highly qualified development leads who also play a major role in selecting the most adequate person for a project. Since they’ve served as their mentors, they’re able to make a very informed selection quickly and efficiently.

What this means for our clients is that we basically cover 100% of the onboarding costs; when you hire one or more of our developers, they can immediately adapt to your workflows, become your temporary teammates and start working on the project.

The end result is that, despite a possibly higher daily rate of a remote hire than that of an in-house employee, the time saved more than pays off for the difference. Add to that all other areas where you are able to cut down on expenses and you can see why such a partnership is indeed a great fit for ambitious businesses that are focused on growth and scaling.

5. Specific, but diverse expertise

The last advantage of remote staffing that we’d like to point out relates to all the ones previously discussed in this post. Actually, it’s very likely one of the key reasons why outsourcing via staff augmentation has been established as such a successful business model: we’re talking about the ability to provide exactly the right kind of expertise for any type of project. 

It is at the same time the reason for and the result of such a business model: agencies started to capitalize on diverse and/or niche market needs, training employees to respond to those needs while acquiring more diversified skills during the process. 

Perhaps a certain project demands, say, a dedicated ecommerce developer that your in-house team lacks. Naturally, you don’t want to turn down interesting work coming your way, but you only need this specific expertise for this one project, not full-time. This is one aspect where you can immensely benefit from a remote partnership.

Having worked on a variety of projects for different international clients, the developers of an agency such as Agiledrop not only come pre-trained with the specific expertise a client’s project needs, but have also likely familiarized themselves with even more fringe cases. 

This enables them to quickly find solutions in similar situations. But, even when they encounter a new problem, it doesn’t mean they’ll get stuck in a rut and waste precious time. The open-minded and solution-oriented mentality they’ve cultivated will allow them to always approach new challenges in a logical and innovative way.

In the case of Agiledrop developers, this is additionally accentuated by our strong promotion of collaboration and knowledge-sharing. Mentoring and being mentored don’t stop once the onboarding is concluded; everyone is encouraged to help out when they can and to likewise seek help from their peers before trying to solve something unfamiliar on their own. 

Because of this, our clients always benefit from our entire team’s expertise, even when only hiring one or two developers. This way, they get more than their money’s worth, making for a much higher ROI (especially when taking into account all the cost reductions mentioned in the previous point).

So, tying back to scalability and redundancy, it’s obvious how valuable it is to be able to get a developer with a specific set of skills. By default, outsourced developers only work for the duration of a project, providing their expertise while not turning into a financial burden once that expertise is no longer needed. Effective scaling - check!

In conclusion

Now that we’ve discussed each specific advantage of remote staffing more thoroughly, we can see how strongly connected they all are. The connection between the first three is particularly obvious, as we already pointed out. 

But there are also others that we haven’t specifically addressed, e.g. fast acquisition of remote hires naturally provides a lot of flexibility thanks to reduced overheads and a hyper-efficient means of scaling. 

It thus seems we’ve come back to and reinforced another claim we already made in the introduction: all of these specific benefits result in the ability to better cope with the constantly evolving digital space by allowing you to keep up with the pace of its evolution, stand out among the competition and secure bigger projects while saving resources. 

Have you found yourself in a situation where you’re turning down work because you lack the development capacity or certain necessary expertise? We’d be more than happy to help you scale your business and win more deals - give us a shout out
 

Apr 17 2019
Apr 17

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

For our latest Drupal Community interview, we had a really great talk with Ruben Teijeiro of Youpal and 1xINTERNET. Ruben revealed to us the meaning and responsibilities of a Drupal hero, a role which has enabled him to spread Drupal awareness all over the world and meet diverse Drupal communities. Read on to find out more about his journey with Drupal and what he's most excited about going forward.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

In the Drupal community I am participating as a speaker, organizing conferences, for example organizing DrupalCamp Spain at the moment, also collaborating with companies and other communities in other countries. The purpose of this is to make the community bigger and try to identify issues within the project itself, not only technically, but also human issues - basically just trying to be, like, not an evangelist, but an advocate of open source and Drupal specifically. 

That is exactly the definition of a Drupal hero: someone that really takes open source seriously and wants to bring Drupal to every corner of the world. It’s this kind of “sharing is caring” mentality; as I started in open source, a lot of people helped me to get started. So, for me, I need to give something back, because I’m here at the moment because a lot of people helped me during my career. So I guess it’s our duty to help other people during the next stage of our careers. 

So, at the moment I’m working as a Drupal hero for 1xINTERNET, which is a Drupal agency in Frankfurt. I’m actually doing everything that’s needed: helping our development team, helping our project managers, doing sales pitches, attending conferences, you know, this kind of thing. Apart from that I also have my own digital agency, Youpal, in Stockholm, Sweden; as a co-founder I’m responsible for let’s say the company management things. 

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

My first installation of Drupal was 4.6, and then actively working since version 5, it was something like 8 to 10 years ago. I can tell you that before Drupal I was testing 10 or 12 different CMSs and different technologies, such as Java, Python and PHP, and I was really upset about all of them. One of the latest that I used was Joomla!, I was actually working at a company for 3 years. For me it was things such as the code quality, community engagement, these kinds of things that I was missing. 

Then I found Drupal and I started to feel that this was my CMS; proper code quality, code reviews, not anyone can contribute any module unless they follow some programming practices, this kind of thing. 

Apart from that, I attended my first community event and that’s when my mind was blown. Because it’s when you meet the community that you realize that this is bigger than you expected.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

Actually I have a special moment, which is when Drupal brought me to Sweden. It was during the financial crisis in Spain, there was no good work stability, and then suddenly because I was collaborating in the mobile initiative for Drupal 8, my name came up in Ericsson, in the company, so they needed a front-end developer. I was not a front-end developer actually, I was working in the mobile initiative to strengthen my front-end skills, but then I was assigned to the intranet project in Ericsson, and then I worked there for 3 years. That completely changed my mindset, my career, my life, everything.

The project itself is based in Drupal 7, integrated with several internal services, using REST and SOAP. They have Apache Solr for indexing the content, really strict single sign-on internally with their computers ... More or less that’s all, it’s just an intranet, so it’s regarding the employee information, documentation, processing and this stuff.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

When I try to explain this to my parents, or with let’s say people that are more into politics or government, or not technical people in general, what I try to use is samples that everyone knows, like, for example, “Do you know what is NASA? Do you know what is the European Commission? So, their websites are running on Drupal, that means there’s this secure infrastructure where you can just have your websites.” So, more or less, that's how I pitch Drupal in the beginning.

Then if you want to go to younger people, how do you explain it to them? So, if they want to use Drupal, I just try to tell them: “Oh, you want to have your own website, to sell your own stuff, this kind of thing? Then with Drupal you can just do it yourself, it’s a matter of clicks.” More or less I try to tell people, if you are able to use Facebook, you are able to build your own website with Drupal. 

With the new generations, such as with teenagers that will get started into technologies pretty soon, it’s best to use examples that they know on a daily basis; those are really easy to link to, what is this and what is the solution that you get, the outcome of it, you know. For instance, the main or the major universities worldwide, they use Drupal, so, Oxford, Stanford, those are good examples, not for teenagers, but for people who are going to university.

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

At the moment I guess it’s not only Drupal, it’s just PHP, the PHP ecosystem must evolve, like the Java ecosystem. So in this case I guess Drupal will become more decoupled, meaning that internally in their core they’re going to have more loosely coupled components, and in the end Drupal is going to be an API-first CMS or even framework. 

Because I guess that with a lot of good things that we are doing in Drupal, all the PHP projects could benefit from them. Like, I don’t fully understand why we have for example a user login component in Drupal, but then Magento use their own user login component, Symfony and Laravel, they use their own, which makes it really difficult to maintain because of multiple components that are doing exactly the same task. 

So, for me, unifying this component in one single one for all the PHP projects should be beneficial, and I think that it isn’t that difficult to make it so loosely coupled that we can use it even as an API.

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

My contributions … My case is, I guess one of the biggest ones is the Drupal Heroes stickers, because I guess they are now all around the world; I have seen them in Saudi Arabia, I have seen them in Africa, I have seen them in India, you know, Russia, United States, South America, so they are going everywhere. So that’s one of the things, it’s just let’s say a pet project that I started with a friend who did the design of the stickers and then I just printed and handed over all of them.

It’s easy to identify through these stickers, because people maybe don’t know me by Ruben, but they know “Ah, this is the guy with the superhero stickers!”, you know, that’s all - an easy way to get spotted and to create brand awareness in Drupal.

That’s one thing, and the other is I guess all the traveling I’ve been doing around Europe, speaking about Drupal, meeting all the communities, I guess I’m pretty proud about having met almost 20 to 25 different communities in different countries. 

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

At the moment I’m pretty happy about what we are doing with the JavaScript modernization, since everybody says that Drupal sucks because the UX is terrible, and I guess we all agree that the user experience is really bad; the developer experience is getting better and better, but the end user is where we should work the most. 

Apart from that, it’s as usual a lack of new talent, like, in every not only company, but open source project, you really want to attract new talent to your projects, or you do things differently and you also improve it. So for me the Javascript Modernization initiative is a good one because it’s bringing React developers or JavaScript developers into Drupal in a really easy way. So I guess it’s not my contribution, but it’s a contribution or an initiative that I think is super beneficial, not only technically, but from the human perspective.

The most beneficial thing about this is that everything is going to be API-driven, so all the API features are going to be available for every framework. But the thing is, we should work more actively in the content creation, because at the moment it’s not only the interface that’s important, but actually the content creation process that’s the most important - the editorial experience. That’s the session I’ve been giving at Drupal conferences for the past couple of years. 

So, it’s about the editorial experience, when you create content, why people really hate Drupal, like editors when they create content. Because then in the admin interface you go to the user and permissions page and, probably, you do it twice during the development of the project and then you don’t do it again. So we don’t really need to invest a lot of time improving the user experience of that page. So that’s my thing - we should focus our energy and time into the editorial experience, more than into the admin interface.

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavorment. 

As I said, I’m really happy to have the React community come into Drupal, at least we are attracting part of it. I guess JavaScript modernization will improve a lot, because in the last JavaScript framework that we included in Drupal, it was Backbone and Underscore during the development of Drupal 8; Ember was considered as well, but there’s a long journey to go to have a proper JavaScript framework in Drupal core. 
 

Apr 11 2019
Apr 11

Same as every month, we wanted to share with you our favorite Drupal blog posts from the previous month. So, here's a list of 8 Drupal-related posts from March that we found the most interesting. Enjoy!

#DrupalOriginStories

The first blog post we’d like to point out is a Drupal origin story by Angie Byron, perhaps better known as webchick. The inspiration for her writing this post is a talk she’ll be giving at an upcoming DrupalCamp in Belarus; she wanted to gather stories of people from different backgrounds about how they got into Drupal, and she figured the best way to motivate people to share theirs would be to share hers first.

It was very awesome to learn how Angie discovered Drupal through viewing the source code of the websites she visited. This really shows how starting small out of sheer curiosity can turn into a completely new lifestyle - it seems it certainly was this way for Angie, now employed full-time at Acquia, who has gained numerous invaluable friendships and experiences through Drupal.

Read more

Drupal's Angela Byron On Building A Diverse Community

In line with the previous post, this one is not exactly written by webchick - but it is about her, or more specifically about her role of promoting diversity and inclusion within the Drupal community. 

The article lists 3 of Angie’s core principles for building a more diverse community: the importance of a community-wide code of conduct, the promotion of a more diverse leadership, and the accessibility of a project to diverse groups of users. It concludes with a note on how companies can - and should - contribute to open source by sponsoring their employees’ work on OSS.

Read more

JSON:API lands in Drupal core

Next up, we have a post by Dries together with another one by Wim Leers. We decided to include both of them, since they work in tandem (Wim’s post even advises its readers to go read the one by Dries first - we couldn’t just ignore that suggestion!). In these two posts, an important piece of news for Drupal was announced - the next major release of Drupal, 8.7., will be shipped with JSON:API as a stable module!

This implementation of JSON:API into Drupal core is a huge milestone toward making Drupal API-first, the significance of which Dries already outlined almost 2 years ago. Major thanks to Wim Leers, Gabe Sullice, Mateu A. B. and of course all the other contributors for all their hard work on this module!

Read more

Additional info in Wim Leers’ post

Webform module now supports importing submissions

The purpose of this next blog post, written by Jacob Rockowitz, is to make importing submissions to the Webform module as simple as exporting submissions. The key question that Jacob asks here is how to make it as easy as possible for organizations to make a switch to the Webform module from other form builders. 

His solution is to rebuild an external form, then import the existing data to the form. The best way to import submissions is with a CSV. Don’t worry - Jacob also includes a helpful demo video that will make the entire process even easier. Finally, he gives a shout out to 2 contributors to the module: Kaleem Clarkson, who made this new feature possible, and Michael Feranda, who found a task in the module’s issue queue and simply started working on it.

Read more

Florida Drupal Camp: Sunglasses, Alligators, Community, and Connection

Adam Bergstein aka n3rdstein’s recap of DrupalCamp Florida was an immensely enjoyable read. Three members of Hook42’s team attended the ‘Camp, and the post relates both the impressions from their two sessions, one on Gatsby.JS training and one on emerging technologies, as well as more general impressions from the event of each team member.

As with other DrupalCamps, DrupalCamp Florida 2019 seems like a great event to have attended - especially considering it took place in February, when Florida was likely much warmer than other Camps at that time (Adam even mentions the warmer weather as a big plus, so, there’s that!). 

Read more

Headless Drupal, decoupling Drupal

Another excellent post was one by Josef Dabernig on decoupling Drupal. He provides a short explanation of what “decoupled” means and what the difference between fully and progressively decoupled is. 

The main capability of a decoupled or headless architecture is building more complex web solutions, such as PWAs (progressive web applications) and integrated e-commerce applications.

Of coursing, decoupling is not the ideal solution for each and every possible use case. Josef also lists some key advantages and disadvantages of going headless, as well as some situations where a decoupled architecture makes the most sense. For those wishing to learn more about decoupling, he recommends Preston So’s “Decoupled Drupal in Practice”.

Read more

The Big, Bad Layout Builder Explainer

Even though Drupal’s Layout Builder is currently still an experimental module, it has already proved to be extremely useful, and is to be included in the next major release of Drupal next month

Caroline Casals of Phase2 dives into the ins and outs of Layout Builder and its capabilities in this blog post. According to her, one of the key advantages of this module is that it improves the experience of content editors and developers alike, as it is very intuitive to use (although probably not as much for someone not used to working with blocks).

The post concludes with some thoughts on the potential impact of Layout Builder on Drupal site building, as well as some areas that could still benefit from improvements, such as the module’s UI.

Read more

Saving temporarily values of a form with Private Tempstore in Drupal 8

In the last post on this month’s list, Karim Boudjema tackles the problem of temporarily saving values from a form and retrieving or processing them later in a controller. To do that, he uses Drupal’s Form API and Private TempStore API

The goal of the post is to build a simple RSS reader where a user can introduce an RSS file URL along with the number of items to retrieve from that file. Since the information belongs to a specific user (anonymous or authenticated) and only needs to be stored for a certain period of time, the ideal way to go about it is by using Drupal’s Private TempStore.

Read more

These were some of our favorite Drupal articles from March. This month's list features a healthy balance between community-oriented posts and those that focus on Drupal's open source code. Check back next month for an overview of April's posts!

Apr 09 2019
Apr 09

The last weekend of March, our team in Ljubljana finally made the long-anticipated transition into our brand new offices. 

In this short blog post, we’ll give you a glimpse into the teambuilding-like moving process, as well as explain why we made the decision to move and what this means for Agiledrop.

We knew a move was on the horizon since about the middle of last year. In 2018, we saw our team grow way more than any previous year. This meant that we were able to start working on even more projects for even more diverse clients.

What it also meant, however, was that we would soon outgrow the office we were in at the time. We were recruiting new developers at a lightning-fast pace, and our office’s capacity was quickly becoming insufficient for so many people, with only a few empty desks remaining. 

Furthermore, we also saw a growing interest in our free Drupal courses. If we wanted to accommodate everyone who signed up, we would either need to run these courses more frequently or increase the size of the groups. 

Since the first option would unload even more work on our already busy CTO and everyone involved in the organization of the courses, the second one was much more appealing. And, thanks to our extremely roomy new offices, also much more feasible - we can now host almost twice as many course participants as in the old ones! 

Right, so - we knew we’d be moving soon, but we didn’t yet know when or where. Because of this, it was all still in the air, something intangible and by consequence far away. The cliché expression “out of sight, out of mind” definitely held true here. 

So, when things finally started to move, they moved fast; we only found out about the definitive new location in the beginning of March. And, we were to be completely moved by April 1st! This didn’t exactly give us a lot of time to move.

Conveniently, we had a teambuilding planned for the Thursday preceding the move. We decided to combine business with pleasure, postpone the teambuilding till the weekend and get our exercise in a less conventional way. 

When we started to move, we moved fast. We took some after work hours on Friday to get everything ready and make it easier for ourselves during the actual move. The next morning, we said goodbye to our old offices, loaded our things onto the moving truck, and were off to our new location.

Of course, staying true to our company culture, we also took this as an opportunity to bond and forge new friendships among teammates. We washed down Friday’s recreation with a beer or two, then on Saturday enjoyed our first meal in the new offices after getting everything set.

Now, just over a week later, we’re well on our way to being completely settled in. Having almost a whole floor of the building to ourselves gives us a lot of flexibility. Our new offices thus boast 2 booths for calls with clients, 5 meeting rooms and enough desks for 50 developers, with the bonus of much better parking spaces than in the old ones. 

At the moment, though, the new offices are so much more spacious compared to the old ones that one’s always a bit surprised at how empty they seem; however, we’re still actively looking for new teammates, so that’s bound to change soon.

On top of that, we’re already looking forward to having our first free Drupal course in the new office less than three weeks from now - and then another one soon after!

So, we’re keeping up with the change happening all around us, staying true to our vision and opening ourselves up to new opportunities. 

We can already feel this move has been the start of a new chapter for our company; we can’t 
wait to see what else this year has in store for us.

Apr 04 2019
Apr 04

The digital agency field is one that’s in constant flux. It’s very difficult to predict the scope of your work several months in advance. But, of course, this doesn’t mean that you won’t take on the project, even if your resources are lacking. What are you going to do, then?

One possibility is to outsource the project or parts of it to remote partners. You actually have two options here; you can either hire a freelancer or get your developers from an agency that specializes in staff augmentation. 

Naturally, however, working with remote partners is a different process than managing the entire project in-house. Remote staffing entails its own unique challenges that demand adjusting your approach to some degree in order to get the most out of everyone involved in the project.

But, let us put your mind at ease - even these newly incurred challenges can be managed perfectly well. Lucky for you, we know the ins and outs of remote staffing, and have tailored our workflow specifically to accommodate a team of developers working on projects for diverse international clients.

In this post, then, we’ll dive into the most common remote staffing challenges. Our extensive experience on the matter at hand also enables us to provide efficient solutions to all of the challenges that we’ll enumerate and discuss in this post. After reading it, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to effectively manage your remote teammates without having to worry about all the details of the working arrangement. 

1. Communication

The first and foremost challenge of remote staffing - or any kind of remote work, for that matter - is almost certainly communication. Good communication is an absolute must in order for a project to progress smoothly and launch successfully. We could even go so far as to say that poor communication is what lies at the heart of a lot of unsuccessful projects. 

It’s something that’s extremely important even when managing an in-house team - you can then logically assume that communicating smoothly and effectively with your remote partners is even more essential. 

One of the most frustrating things that can happen when communicating with remote partners is them not responding. Just think of it - hours can go by with you unaware of the progress of their tasks. Naturally, you’ll want some reassurance that you’ll be able to reach your remote workers when you need them.

We at Agiledrop understand how great a concern this is. As such, we make it a point to relay the importance of good communication to all new employees. 

Our developers are always available to the client during their working hours, and they inform the client of any absences (e.g. lunch breaks) they may have. They also synchronize twice each day, once when they begin their day and once when they’re getting ready to leave. 

This way, the client is always brought up to speed on any recent issues and developments, and has a much better overview of the project, as well as a much stronger relationship with the developer themselves. And, as we know, it’s always easier and more satisfying to work with someone you have a good relationship with. 

Another communication-related issue that we need to address is also the remoteness itself. An in-house team is much better at exchanging ideas and sharing their expertise in order to solve problems swiftly and more efficiently; however, a freelancer that you’ve hired, for example, doesn’t have the luxury of discussing things with peers that share a workspace. 

It’s true that the remote workers will usually have access to all of your communication tools, meaning they will technically be able to ask your in-house developers for guidance and/or help. Very often, though, they will instead try to solve the problem on their own - and spend copious amounts of time doing so, resulting in greater costs to you. 

Fortunately, this is rarely the case when working with a team of remote partners such as one provided by Agiledrop. While they will be separate from your in-house team and hence not so prone to exchanging knowledge with them, they will always have their own teammates to turn to and get inspiration from, despite them working on different projects for different clients. 

Therein lies the magic of outsourcing your work to an agency that puts huge emphasis on collaboration and teamwork. Even when hiring just one or two developers, you will benefit from the collective knowledge of their entire team. In this way, you will save both time and money, while at the same time not compromising the quality of the project at all.

2. Culture and location

A challenge that’s still very much tied to communication is the elimination of cultural breach. Logically, it becomes increasingly important the more your remote partner’s culture differs from yours. 

Huge distances between locations - and consequently huge time zone differences - can lead to unwanted hindrances to the project. Fortunately, even seemingly insurmountable cultural differences can be managed perfectly well if you tackle them appropriately. 

The first step in eliminating cultural breach is knowing your remote partner possesses an adequate level of expertise in English. Granted, with English becoming progressively more prevalent and leveraged as a means of international communication (English as a lingua franca), this is likely not something that you’ll need to worry about. 

Very often, a certain level of English is a prerequisite for working at an outsourcing agency. It’s the same at Agiledrop: English proficiency is one of our top priorities when hiring developers. This way we’re able to preselect those that are both fluent in English as well as sociable and outspoken.

With a freelancer, this is slightly different, as there is no supervisor that sets those demands - but, seeing how freelancers are self-managed, you can pretty much expect them to have good communication (and English) skills, since, otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to work effectively. 

Still, it’s wise to get to speak to your remote partner to-be in person, not just via email, but through some form of video chat. Usually, agency leaders will have no problem scheduling a video chat where the potential outsourced developer(s) will also be present. 

However, overcoming cultural breach takes more than just being able to understand one another. A remote worker’s extensive knowledge of English will be of little help to you if you’re unable to reach them. Here, we come to probably the biggest issue in establishing smooth cross-cultural communication: synchronizing both parties and scheduling meetings accordingly. 

This is especially important in the case of large time zone differences, e.g. six hours or more. With an on-site team, this problem wouldn’t even exist; the team share workspaces and, to some extent, also working hours. In this way, even those more spontaneous, unscheduled meetings are possible. 

With a remote worker or a team of remote workers, however, this can prove very hard to achieve. If, for example, your company is based in the US and you decide to outsource a project to a European development agency, you can’t expect the remote developers to be available during the same time slots as your on-site developers.

But what if the needs of your project demand they be present for a meeting that takes place, from their perspective, late in the evening or even at night? You can be almost 100% sure that you won’t get the same quality of input; either they won’t be able to make it to the meeting, or, if they will, their subsequent work may suffer because of a disrupted biorhythm. 

The solution is to coordinate well with your remote partner and establish beforehand what the optimal hours to schedule meetings are. In the case of a large time difference, schedule your meetings for hours which still fall in the scope of your remote partner’s workday. This will give them more than adequate time to both be present at the meeting and continue with their work undisrupted. 

Last, but not least, you’ll probably want to make sure that your remote developers share the values of your in-house team, or at least hold similar ones. Those values can differ greatly from culture to culture, from location to location. Some cultures hold different views on punctuality than others; the same is true for values such as quality and transparency.

The best thing to do is speak with your partner’s leadership about these issues. By learning about the values of your potential partner agency, you’ll be able to select a partner whose vision, mission and values are aligned with those of your organization.

3. Trust

Another major challenge of remote staffing is the inherent uncertainty of it. Ever heard of the expression “don’t buy a pig in a poke”? Well, this is exactly what hiring remote partners can feel like - like buying a pig in a poke, or having no reassurance that what you’re getting is really what you paid for. 

And it’s a perfectly legitimate hesitation. How can you ensure that your remote workers are trustworthy and reliable? How do you know they are as committed to the work and as experienced as your in-house team? Actually - how do you know that your in-house developers are reliable and committed, at that? 

The short answer is that you just have to take their word for it. Usually, you won’t make a final hiring decision until thoroughly researching your new potential employee. But even CVs can be deceiving (pun almost intended) and dishonest. 

You’ll of course have to fact-check the information supplied in the CV. But, even if you find that everything checks out, how can you know that they’re really responsible for, say, the frontend of a website or application? You likely won’t find their signature hiding in the code or even cleverly concealed in the site’s design. 

At least with in-house developers, you’ll get a much better overview of their day-to-day and month-to-month performance. Granted, this will only be possible after they’ve been working with you for some time, i.e. after the investment has already been made. Still, it gives you more power and more control over the progress of the project(s) in which they are involved.

But, with a remote partner, you pretty much have to gamble, right? Well, yes - and, also, no. There might be some risk involved with hiring a freelancer - but you have all their references to check, which will help you make a more informed choice. Also, it’s relatively easy and straightforward to stop working with a freelancer if you’re dissatisfied with their work. 

The biggest risk of hiring a freelancer is actually something else - but we’ll address and discuss it a bit later, when we come to the relevant challenge. Right now, let’s concentrate on how you can make sure that your newly-hired remote partner or team possesses adequate expertise to effectively augment your staff rather than hinder their work. 

Again, this is a concern that we at Agiledrop have already pinpointed and successfully eliminated. Our approach guarantees that our clients always get the best possible people for a certain project; let us briefly describe how we have achieved this. 

The key component of this approach is our very effective training program: all our new developers go through an in-house onboarding project under the supervision of skilled mentors before they start working on any client project. This ensures that they familiarize themselves with all the state-of-the-art tools and practices, and can consequently seamlessly integrate themselves into the client’s team.

Our development leads are the ones responsible for the training of new employees - as such, they are also the ones who can best gauge the competency level and the suitability of a developer for a specific client and/or project. They select the most appropriate person based on actual hands-on experience of working with them, not just on a list of references. 

What this means for you, the client deciding to work with such a remote partner, is that the remote workers’ employers essentially do the fact-checking for you beforehand. All you have to do is check the references of the agency itself, which are quite often much more salient and informative than those listed in a CV. 

And, this agency that others have already been satisfied with then vouches for their personnel - naturally, they would want only competent people on their team, and the careful selection made by the leadership assures that you are provided with only the best of the best. 

The greatest thing about this approach is that it eliminates most of the risk for you. It transforms project outsourcing into an informed purchase rather than a gamble - and, going back to the point made in the intro about the constantly shifting nature of the digital, any degree of reassurance is more than welcome in this era of uncertainty and overabundance of choices. 

Right - we’ve covered the main issue associated with trust, namely, trusting in the competency of your remote partner(s). What about the next step, though - trusting these newly integrated teammates with access to your communication channels, with sensitive private information, trade secrets etc.? 

An employee of an agency will probably have an internal moral obligation to protect the privacy of their enterprise. It’s less likely, however, that their moral compass will be as strict when they work on projects for the agency’s clients. 

Again, the focus shifts to the agency itself: what is their company culture? What values do they hold? Is the importance of privacy clearly communicated to all their new employees? And, are there steps taken to ensure the maximum protection of privacy?

These are all questions you’ll need answers to, especially if the nature of your work demands a very high level of security. It’s vital that you find about out your potential partner’s attitude towards privacy. E.g., if they make their employees sign non-disclosure agreements, this is already a good sign that privacy is something they value. 

It’s even better if they reassure you of their protection of privacy without you having to even ask - if this happens, you can be almost 100% certain that your privacy is in good hands. 

At Agiledrop, newly hired developers sign an NDA pretty much at the same time as their employment contract. Additionally, we handle all our passwords - as well as any clients’ passwords - with password management tools such as LastPass, especially when working from home. And, because of our strong company culture, the moral obligation to our company is extended to all the clients we work with. 

If you want additional protection, you can always add extra security layers to your own channels and services, such as obliging everyone to set up multi-factor authentication or change their password(s) every few months in the case of a longer-term partnership. 

4. Monitoring

This next challenge of remote staffing is actually still tied to trust: effective monitoring of someone who is working remotely. The main difference here is that the meaning of trustworthiness is actually closer to conscientiousness than to honesty; this is why we’re addressing it as a separate challenge. 

Even in the case of international or offshore offices, you’re generally able to monitor all your employees in-house. Having to monitor a team of outsourced remote workers, however, is a completely different beast to tame. 

Without actual physical supervision from your side, how can you be sure that developers working on your project remotely are actually doing the job? How can you know that they don’t just slack off when they turn Slack off? Even with a time-tracking tool such as JIRA or Teamwork, you can never really be certain; and finding out about their inactivity only after seeing a project not completed is not exactly helpful. 

This is likely a bigger issue when hiring a freelancer. Being self-managed, they are left to their own devices, which means you have only negligible supervision over their work. Admittedly, since they are most often experts of a specific field, and since they’re able to work extremely flexible working hours, you can probably expect the work to be done even with very little monitoring from your side. 

Well, but … What if it isn’t? What can you do if the remotely-working freelancer turns out to be a poor investment? Besides already having spent precious resources on them, you will now have to invest even more time and money into rehiring - which will, of course, come neatly packaged with all the hesitations and extra work we’ve outlined before: interviewing, fact-checking, uncertainty - and then some. 

Trying to stay as objective as we can, we believe a better and safer solution would be to partner with a staffing agency. Granted, you’ll face the same issues as with freelancers when it comes to management from your side; but, at the same time, you’ll benefit from the management coming from the agency’s side. 

Of course, your own project managers will be responsible for the project’s smooth progression - but you’ll be able to leave the management of your remote workers to the partner agency. While it’s true that this kind of dual monitoring demands a little extra synchronization, it definitely pays off. And, since the agency’s reputation is at stake, you can expect them to have a well-established system which guarantees the top-notch performance of their employees.

Yep, you guessed it - we have such a system at Agiledrop, and we’re very pleased with its results. The satisfaction of our clients is of paramount importance to us; at the same time, however, we realize how crucial the well-being of our employees is to the success of our clients’ projects. This is why we have devised a company culture that provides only the best for both clients and employees. 

We hold weekly sync meetings and collect feedback from both sides to ensure smooth communication throughout the duration of the project. This also enables us to spot and resolve issues quickly, before they turn into a detriment to the project. If you want to find out more about our company culture, we discuss it in more detail here.

Also, we take the meaning of “remote partners” at face value. After joining your team as a remote teammate, the developer assigned to you will dedicate themselves exclusively to working on your project. As such, you will essentially benefit from their full-time work without the need to micromanage and without worrying about any additional costs.

5. Cost and ROI

This leads neatly into the next challenge that we wanted to point out. While the previous ones were relevant to any kind of remote work, this one is actually more specifically a challenge of remote staffing. We’re talking about the costs incurred by hiring remote teammates via staff augmentation and the return of investment of deciding on this option. 

Here, the questions that you’re probably asking yourself are: how fast will my new remote worker adopt my tools, practices and workflow? How much will I have to invest into them before they are able to do the job that I’m paying for? Will the investment be a worthwhile one - or would I have been better off just growing my in-house team?

We admit that these are indeed important and difficult questions. There’s no universal all-around answer to them, except for “it depends”. As such, we can only speak from our own experience. 

Fortunately, though, experience in this field is something we have loads of. Having worked with a wide range of clients, our developers have familiarized themselves with all the most up-to-date development tools and practices - well, at least with those they haven’t already mastered during their onboarding. 

The entire cost of onboarding is thus already taken care of from our side; all you need to do is to integrate the new developer(s) into your in-house team - but you would’ve had to do this even with a new full-time employee.

What’s more relevant to you, however, is what else you’ll have to take care of when hiring a full-time employee - and, in contrast, what you won’t have to worry about when hiring remote partners. This is likely the main and most attractive reason for outsourcing your work. 

Because, let’s face it - you’ve read through some 2000 words about the challenges of remote staffing - there have to be some glaring benefits to it, too, right? Cause, otherwise, why would so many businesses outsource their work to remote partners?

That’s right - there are obvious benefits! Actually, these are so great that we don’t even have to make a compelling case for them; they just speak for themselves. You probably know what we’re getting at, huh?

While a daily rate for your in-house employee may be lower than that of a remote hire, with the latter this is pretty much the only expense that you’ll have - not as much can be said about the former, though. 

Travel expenses, health insurance, vacation and sick days, the costs associated with onboarding, let alone the necessary equipment… These are just the basics. Don’t forget about teambuildings, healthy office snacks and all the various perks that create a pleasant working environment and take care of the motivation and well-being of your in-house team. It sure adds up - as you’re probably well aware of.

So, your top priority - or one of them, at least - is cutting down on expenses whenever possible; why not go for an option that comes prepackaged with all additional expenses, save the salary, already excluded? 

But wait - there’s more! Referring back to the intro and the unstable nature of the digital - how can you know that you’ll have as much work in, say, half a year as you do now? And, more importantly, what will you do if you don’t?

You likely won’t want to get rid of your talented employees - but, at the same time, it won’t make sense to keep paying their salaries and all their expenses if there’s no work to be done for an indefinite amount of time. 

This will be even more important when you take into account the costs of finding and hiring a full-time employee. Since the demand for developers is already high - and constantly increasing - you can’t even be sure you’ll be able to find a full-time employee in the same area as your offices, which runs the risk of your search being completely fruitless - though no less expensive.

With a remote teammate, it’s a completely different story altogether. Outsourced remote workers are able to easily join your team and just as easily leave it - no hard feelings, no strings attached. And should you ever need to augment your staff again? No problem - agencies usually love working with clients with whom they’ve already established strong, trusting relationships. 

All of this gives you the flexibility to effectively scale when needed, while also greatly reducing most of the costs associated with hiring. And, going back to the “trust” issue, since it’s easier to gauge the competency of the remote hire in such a partnership, this also means that the cost will definitely reflect the quality of the service you are receiving.

6. Unexpected and uncontrollable factors

So far, we’ve covered most of the main questions that likely pop up in your head when deciding for remote staffing. We saved this next challenge for last, though, since it’s a more general one - but, also, just as pertinent. It has to deal with all the various unexpected issues and things that are just, well, out of our control.

For example - what do you do when your newly hired remote worker suddenly falls ill? Or, even worse, what if they’re in an accident? You can’t blame anyone, of course, but the truth of the matter is that your work suffers because of it. 

Here, the distinction between outsourcing work to freelancers versus staffing agencies becomes especially relevant. Remember how we promised to talk more about one of the biggest challenges of hiring a freelancer? Well, since a freelancer is a one-man-band, you’re pretty much screwed if they go on sick leave (or, God forbid, just randomly stop responding - remember how crucial communication is).

When this happens, you need to redo the entire hiring process, which is more complicated and time-consuming with a freelancer or an in-house employee to begin with. Plus, depending on your contract, you’ll probably still have to pay for the freelancer’s incomplete work.

When an in-house employee falls ill or has any kind of medical emergency, it’s also not the best thing in the world for you. In fact, it may even be more costly than with a freelancer - you have to cover their health insurance, as well as pay them the salary during their sick leave. 

And, while you have some reassurance in the fact that they’ll likely get better soon, you still suffer from staff deficit. You can try to patch things up by distributing the person’s tasks among the rest of the team (and even that on condition that the team have the needed expertise), but that will just lead to burnout and a generally poor employee experience.

The best possible solution, then, is definitely partnering with a staffing agency and outsourcing your project(s) to their developers. Since such an agency specializes in staff augmentation, you can count on them to always provide suitable replacements if anything unexpected happens to your current remote hire.

This is exactly the approach we employ at Agiledrop - and it is only made more effective thanks to the onboarding program that we mentioned earlier. The in-depth knowledge of the competency of our developers allows us to not only provide the most adequate person at the start of a working arrangement, but also to ensure that the skillsets of any replacement we have to make match those of the original hire. 

We also do our best to anticipate the unexpected - at least in the realm of what’s under our control. We urge all our employees to notify us of any emergencies as soon as they are made aware of them. In this way, we’re able to remedy the situation and arrange a replacement way before the developer’s emergency can be of any disadvantage to the client. 

This approach eliminates any friction of rehiring, saving cost while not compromising the quality of the services in any way. If you’re able to find a partner agency that can guarantee such a level of aptness and dedication, you’ll know you and your project are in good hands.

In conclusion

There you have it - the six most pressing challenges of remote staffing, coupled with the solutions that agencies which specialize in outsourcing, including Agiledrop, have successfully relied on. We hope this comprehensive blog post has armed you with the necessary savvy to make more informed decisions when outsourcing your work and managing outsourced projects.

Are you currently looking for remote partners to help with your project and this post just sealed the deal for you? We’d be happy to work with you - contact us and we’ll immediately start working on a solution that best fits your needs!

Mar 22 2019
Mar 22

Each year, there’s a plethora of various tech and business events all over the world, even if we disregard the numerous Drupal events. In fact, there are so many of these conferences dispersed throughout Europe, the Americas and the Asia Pacific region that you can never even dream of attending all of them (in some cases, you’d actually need some kind of time machine!). But how do you find the ones that you or your agency would really profit from attending?

At Agiledrop, we’ve been asking ourselves the same question. Even though some of the biggest tech conferences of 2019 have already taken place (e.g. January’s CES which took place in Las Vegas), this doesn’t mean that you or your agency have to miss out on great networking and business opportunities at such gatherings. With spring already begun, there’s a huge number of relevant events you can (and should!) check out. 

For this reason, we’ve done some research and have attempted to make a more narrow list of the absolutely-don’t-miss tech and business events from March until the end of 2019. This narrowing down is also the reason why we decided to exclude all the Drupal events - we believe the community is already pretty well informed on these, but perhaps not so much on non-Drupal ones.

We hope you’ll be able to make a more informed decision after reading our list. Best case scenario - you won’t have to convince your boss as vehemently after telling them about all the benefits of specific events and all the amazing speakers you would miss.

So, without further ado, here’s a list of events for agencies to attend in 2019 that stood out to our team the most. 

1. OutBound (April 23-26, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

With over 1200 yearly attendees from all over the globe and a lineup of renowned professional speakers, OutBound is one of the hottest Sales conferences you can attend. 

Such a high number of prestigious speakers coupled with the huge focus on catering to the audience make OutBound the perfect event for sales executives or even entire sales teams to attend. 

Among this year’s speakers are Bob Burg, with the sales total for his books on sales, marketing and influence well exceeding 1.5 million copies; Meridith Elliott Powell, featured sales expert for the LinkedIn Learning Platform and award-winning author, keynote speaker and business strategist; Anthony Iannarino, another acclaimed international speaker and bestselling author; and many others.

For the full list of speakers and information on tickets and accommodation, see the event’s website

2. Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo 2019 (April 29-May 1, San Diego, California, USA)

Gartner’s Marketing Symposium/Xpo is an event dedicated mostly to marketers, particularly CMOs and other marketing leaders. You’ll get a chance to network and exchange ideas with over 1,500 like-minded attendees, as well as expand your professional experience. 

Marketing is a field where trends are constantly shifting and evolving, and one must remain vigilant and keep track of the latest technologies and practices. The 2019 symposium aims to help with exactly that; with the sessions covering a whole range of marketing topics, attendees will have a greater insight into the different trends and consequently will be better equipped to tackle change when it comes (and it will come!).

Perhaps the most appealing thing about Gartner’s event are the exhibitors. Next to major players such as Adobe and Salesforce you’ll also find the leading Drupal company, Acquia

Check out the event’s website for a full list of exhibitors, speakers, schedules for each day and pretty much anything else you might want to know about.  

3. The Next Web Conference (May 9-10, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

TNW Conference is one of the leading events in Europe celebrating technological innovation. This year will mark the 15th consecutive edition of the conference; over the past 15 years, the event has grown from only about 200 to over 17,500 attendees for each day, making it one of the biggest European tech conferences.

The topics and sessions of TNW Conference are quite broad; anyone working in any kind of tech industry will surely find something for themselves. Topics range from marketing, business, digital product development, emerging technologies, women in tech, commerce, and many more. 

This year’s speakers include: Gordon Willoughby, CEO of WeTransfer; Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking; Chris Slowe, CTO of Reddit; … you know what? There are too many awesome ones to list them all - check them out for yourself here!  

4. Mirren Live New York (May 14-15, New York City, New York, USA)

Also dubbed the “agency growth conference”, Mirren Live New York is the perfect event for agencies to attend. It is a chance to meet representatives from numerous globally-recognized names and learn the latest agency trends. 

Their website claims that this year’s lineup is “killer” - and that’s a pretty appropriate description. Just quickly going through the list, we don’t even know where to start - we might as well just list them all. So, go ahead and see the whole list for yourself. 

In case you really do want to catch all the sessions, or prefer leveraging your presence there to make new business connections, it’s also possible to purchase access to the broadcast of most of the sessions. This is also ideal for anyone who won’t be able to make it but also won’t want to miss the speakers.

5. Adobe Summit EMEA (15-16 May, London, UK)

This is the EMEA version of the Adobe Summit, with the North American equivalent taking place this weekend. The focus of the event is on experience marketing - an area that’s becoming more and more relevant, with customers’ and users’ increasing demand for (unforgettable) experiences.

Still, it is an event that will inspire anyone working in marketing. You can personalize your weekend by choosing between more than 120 sessions by fascinating speakers, among whom are Senior Vice President at Magento and Adobe, Mark Lavelle; Digital Project Manager at Capgemini, Kelly Derickx; Vice President EMEA at Twitter, Bruce Daisley; and countless more. 

If you or your company use Adobe products, attending is almost a must, as you’ll get first-hand insights into Adobe’s latest technologies and practices in experience marketing. Here you can check the reasons for attending, with a bonus email template for more easily convincing your boss.  

6. AA-ISP Digital Sales World (different dates and locations)

AA-ISP (The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals) is a global association focusing on Inside Sales. Each year, they organize their one-day Digital Sales World event with four different dates and locations. This is great news for everyone wanting to attend - you have four options to pick from, which ensures that you won’t miss out.

The dates are the following:

  • May 14, London, UK
  • June 13, Dallas, Texas, USA
  • September 12, Norwood, Massachusetts, USA
  • December 3, Dublin, Ireland

It is a digital sales world conference where sales leaders and other industry experts come together for a day packed with learning, networking and getting to know new sales tools and technologies. 

A lot of the speakers are already known; judging from these lineups, it’ll be hard to decide on a single instance to attend. You can check out the main page of the event to get more information and make a more informed choice.

7. SaaStr Europa (June 12-13, Paris, France)

Even though SaaStr Annual in San Francisco already took place in February, you still have plenty of time to plan for and attend the European variant of the event. 2018 was the inaugural year for SaaStr Europa, and it returns to Paris in 2019 with double the content and almost double the number of attendees compared with last year.

SaaStr Europa is thus the perfect opportunity to learn from and network with a wide range of SaaS experts from all over the world. The impressive lineup of speakers includes Christina Bechhold Russ, Principal at Samsung NEXT; Jane Kim, VP of Revenue at CircleCI; the co-founder of Saastr, Jason Lemkin; and many others. 

For a full list of speakers, sponsors and more information on tickets, visit the event site itself.

8. MozCon (July 15-17, Seattle, Washington, USA)

MozCon is a conference organized by the SEO-centric company Moz. As a consequence, the event puts great emphasis on SEO; but, more broadly, it’s an event for any kind of marketer, exploring topics such as branding, user and customer experience, analytics, and content marketing.

The 2019 speakers list features a number of Moz employees, such as CEO Sarah Bird, and other industry experts, such as Head of PR & Content at Aira, Shannon McGuirk. You can check out the full list here.

So - you definitely won’t want to miss MozCon. No matter where in the digital sphere you’re positioned, SEO is a field you’ll always have to keep up-to-date with. Add to that the impressive lineup of speakers and the unique opportunity to connect with leading industry experts and agencies, and you know where you’ll be going this July.

9. INBOUND (September 3-6, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

INBOUND is HubSpot’s annual conference for sales and marketing enthusiasts. It is an event that puts emphasis on human interaction, where attendees view each other as peers rather than competition, and consequently help each other learn and improve.

The speakers at INBOUND’s sessions are perhaps the highlight of the conference. While speakers for 2019 have not yet been announced, previous years’ speakers include names such as Michelle Obama, Deepak Chopra and Gary Vaynerchuk

Besides all the educational sessions, INBOUND also offers attendees non-business entertainment with performers such as Judd Apatow and Amy Schumer. The agenda for this year has yet to be announced; we’ll make sure to update this post with fresh information. Meanwhile, you can find out more about INBOUND here

10. Dreamforce (November 19-22, San Francisco, California, USA)

Dreamforce is the annual event of the American cloud-based software company Salesforce. Its roots going back as far as 2003, Dreamforce was one of the early B2B conferences - and a relatively small one, at that, with just over 1000 attendees. 

Fast forward a little more than 15 years and Dreamforce is one of the largest B2B events in the world, boasting almost 200,000 attendees and over 2,000 sessions in 2018. 

Even if you don’t use Salesforce or any other cloud products, with such an abundance of options, you’ll definitely find something for you. At the very least, you’ll have the one-of-a-kind opportunity to connect with some of the biggest names in the digital industry and forge new business relationships.

You’ve definitely heard of companies such as IBM, Deloitte Digital and Accenture. Well, these are just the tip of the iceberg of Dreamforce’s sponsors. Additionally, going through the list of last year’s speakers, you’ll stumble upon names such as Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post and Thrive GlobalOscar Munoz, CEO at United Airlines; and even Al Gore, former US vice president and known environmentalist. 

If you’re still not convinced, check out Dreamforce’s official site for any additional information. You can even calculate the ROI of attending to make a better case to your boss!

11. The Drum Awards

The Drum is Europe’s largest marketing platform, so their annual awards are definitely the place to meet the cream of leading industry professionals. It is a chance for outstanding businesses to get their deserved recognition, which also helps them attract new talented employees.

What’s really great about The Drum’s awards is that they showcase success in all areas of digital and marketing, enabling you to cherry-pick the ones you want to attend and/or the ones most relevant to your position and interest. 

You can view a full list of the awards here. So far, only the dates for the Marketing Awards ceremonies are known:

  • Europe: April 3, London, UK
  • USA: April 11, New York City, New York 

We’ll make sure to update the list as soon as the dates and locations are announced. Meanwhile, you can get a better feel of The Drum Awards by checking out the highlights from last year’s marketing award ceremony.  

Honorable mentions

Some of the don’t-miss events of 2019 have already taken place, such as the already mentioned CES. We also refrained from including events that are happening this weekend, as it would be pretty much impossible to book tickets and/or flights at this point. Nonetheless, we wanted to at least mention them, so you know which ones to be on the lookout for next year:

These were the non-Drupal-related events and conferences in 2019 that we found to be the most appealing. We hope this blog post sheds some light on which of these events you would benefit from attending so that you’ll be able to plan accordingly. We’ll update any lacking parts when more information is released. 

Mar 19 2019
Mar 19

Late last year, we started a series of posts that tell the story of what makes Agiledrop the company that it is today. In the first chapter, we presented our unique workflow, while the second and third chapter dealt with the major challenges that arose from such a workflow and our very efficient solutions to them.

This final chapter of the series will tie things together, diving into our company culture which strongly promotes cooperation and knowledge-sharing. This ensures that our clients always benefit from the collective knowledge and skillsets of the entire Agiledrop team.

Well, let’s get right down to it!

Basing our company culture on cooperation and knowledge-sharing

What makes Agiledrop stand out is our strong culture of support and knowledge-sharing among developers. We make it a priority to integrate new employees into our A-team, make them feel welcome and help them become fully-fledged members of the team as soon as possible. Creating a collaborative and welcoming working environment is the responsibility of every person on the team and something we all participate in. 

The onboarding and mentoring of new developers is a prime example of our company culture - but it doesn’t stop there. We promote and encourage knowledge-sharing between all members of the team, no matter their status within the company or the amount of time spent with us.

Our development leads are always available to help developers weather through any obstacles they might encounter - be they considerable or negligible ones. In this way, we are able to find solutions much faster, which results in fewer working hours spent on a specific issue and, in consequence, significantly lower costs for the client.

We also have a Slack workspace dedicated exclusively to obstacles encountered by developers during their work. Every member of the team participates, no matter their physical location. It’s a place where the real knowledge exchange is allowed to happen. One of the best things to see there is when a newly recruited junior developer who is still dealing with their onboarding project helps out a senior developer with one of their issues - and it happens more often than you’d think!

In short, when working at Agiledrop, you are never given the impression that your lack of knowledge is detrimental to anyone on the team or the company as a whole; rather, it’s an opportunity to learn something new or revisit something already learned. 

Balancing the happiness of clients and developers

It’s not always easy to sustain such a well-defined and inclusive company culture. On the one hand, the development leads in the mentor roles must possess an innate pedagogical capacity in addition to extensive technical knowledge and a knack for spotting and solving problems. On the other hand, however, we must take great care to understand the positions of both the developer and client when a problem arises, and not simply look for scapegoats.

In order to catch and resolve issues in the early stages of a project and not after a month, we do weekly reports every Friday. These reports are done in two directions: our resource manager collects feedback from the clients, while the development director checks the issues that were raised by developers, such as not getting enough tasks or sufficient information to fulfill a task.

Issues raised by the clients are not something we punish; instead, we aim to provide constructive feedback to improve on the mistake, not just sanction it. The development director will speak with developers and suggest any improvements to their work. Likewise, the resource manager will notify the client about issues raised by developers so that they can do certain things differently in the future. 

Such a system ensures constant smooth communication between everyone involved in the projects, making it easier to find solutions and improvements while also keeping each side satisfied and up-to-date on any new projects and developments. 

Boosting morale and keeping the team motivated

We understand that a motivated team is more committed and able to deliver better results. It’s easier for people to give their best and be satisfied with their job when they know that their work makes a difference. The appreciation of their peers and superiors gives them the confidence needed to get through even the most difficult days.

For this reason, we hold weekly meetings every Monday and monthly meetings every first Thursday of the month; these meetings are essentially weekly and monthly reviews where we go through our new and ongoing projects. But, most importantly, they are an opportunity to congratulate people for the good work they’ve been doing, which helps boost the morale of the entire team. 

We also frequently organize various educational and sports activities that bring the whole team together, which results in new friendships and another level of knowledge-exchange. Besides our free Drupal courses where we train wannabe Drupal developers (who often go on to become full members of our team!), we also:

  • Organize TechTalks, which we call AgileTalks, on developers’ own initiative,
  • Attend tech conferences and other Drupal-related events,
  • Promote and reward any additional activities of developers, such as the organization of an aforementioned AgileTalk or writing a blog post on a topic of their choosing,
  • Organize teambuildings,
  • Organize differently-themed common lunches,
  • Enable flexible working hours that ensure a healthy work-life balance for developers.

Additionally, we also collect feedback through Officevibe surveys, which makes for a better overview of the week-to-week satisfaction of our employees and enables us to constantly improve the way we do things. A pleasant working environment and a good team spirit are key to a strong company culture.   

Providing clients with our collective knowledge

Because we base our company culture on collaboration and knowledge-exchange, we are in a unique position where we can offer our clients not just individual, but the collective knowledge of the entire Agiledrop team. By exchanging ideas and sharing resources, we are much more productive and consequently able to provide solutions faster and more efficiently. 

If you’ve read the other posts in this series (and we suggest you do!), you’ll notice that the values outlined in this post are intrinsically tied to and realized in all aspects of the work we do. We take the same understanding and inclusive approach with developers and clients alike, and we believe this is what lies at the heart of our success. 

We truly operate as a team, having each other’s back and valuing the input of each and every member. As a result, we managed to strike the perfect balance between the wants and needs of our clients and developers. This balance guarantees, on the one hand, that our developers work for a company that helps them grow, on projects they can take pride in; and, on the other, it ensures the satisfaction of our clients and helps establish ourselves as trustworthy partners that never fail to deliver.

This is evidenced by our fast, but stable growth: in just one year, we doubled the size of our team, opening offices in a new location in Maribor, with plans for a third Slovenian office this year. In addition to that, we are now taking on a number of new and exciting projects for a wide range of different international clients, making for a stable market share. You can dive into the numbers a little bit more by reading our review of 2018.

(This is not) a conclusion

Last year, we thought “Wow - 2018 really is our year”. But, seeing how it’s only the middle of March and there are already so many exciting things going on and planned for later in the year, we might have to reevaluate our previous assessment. Perhaps 2019 will be our year; besides all the new teammates and exciting projects, there’s also a major change for us on the horizon (keep following our blog posts to find out more about it!).

Or, maybe, it’s not about the year at all. Maybe we’ve arrived at the point where we’ve finally realized our vision - maybe, if we keep following in the footsteps that we’ve set for ourselves, every year will be our year. 

And, hopefully, an insight into how we do things at Agiledrop will help other businesses who are dealing with the same obstacles as we did, giving them proof that, yes, it is possible to start and successfully scale the kind of company you’d be proud working for!

So, this was the story of how we transformed Agiledrop into what it is today - a company one can take pride to work at and work with. We hope this series has given you some ideas on how to kill two birds with one stone by keeping your employees and clients happy. If you’re interested in working with us, give us a shout out!

Other posts in this series:

Mar 14 2019
Mar 14

We’re back with an overview of the top Drupal blog posts from last month. Have a read and get yourself up to speed on the most recent goings-on within the Drupal community!

The 15 Things Your AEM Team Says Drupal Can't Do, But Can

The first post that caught our attention was Third & Grove’s list of 15 misconceptions about Drupal when compared with Adobe Experience Manager (AEM). With this blog post, the team at Third & Grove want to shed some light on the real differences between the two content management solutions and help people make a more informed decision.

A lot of the assumptions about Drupal’s shortcomings with regards to AEM are outdated and hence more up-to-date information was needed for an honest comparison. With the recent developments in Drupal, such as the Layout API and the new admin UI that’s on the horizon, Drupal now offers a much better experience for developers and content editors alike.

Read more

A Security Checklist for Drupal 8 Sites with Private Data

Even though Drupal has the reputation of an extremely secure CMS out-of-the-box (hence also its widespread adoption in government sites), some websites built in Drupal need some additional security precautions. This is especially true for sites that contain sensitive private information. 

With this security checklist provided by Lullabot’s Matthew Thift, you’ll always have a point of reference to check if each security measure has been adequately followed in every step of the project. 

Read more

Announcing the New Lullabot.com

Next on our list, we have another blog post by Lullabot, this one being an announcement of the new look of their website, Lullabot.com, written by Mike Herchel. The previous version of the site was one of the first decoupled Drupal sites built with ReactJS, but a decoupled architecture was deemed too complex a solution for Lullabot's current needs, and so they decided to replatform the site. 

The new and improved Lullabot.com is thus a return to a more traditional Drupal architecture. This makes it easier for developers to join the project while offering a better experience for content editors through the Layout Builder module.

Read more

Find out more in a podcast by Lullabot

Testing your Drupal code base for deprecated code usage with PHPStan

The starting point for the next post on our list was this blog post by the same author, Matt Glaman, about writing cleaner code with phpstan-drupal, a Drupal extension for PHPStan. The discussion in the comments section was what spurred this second blog post by Matt, which details how to test your Drupal code base for deprecations with the help of this extension. 

The goal of discovering deprecations is not just optimizing code, but also ensuring the compatibility with Drupal’s dependencies, namely Symfony and PHPUnit. This is one of the key responsibilities of the Drupal 9 group led by Gábor Hojtsy and Lee Rowlands; a tool that automates the tracking of deprecated code is thus exactly what they’ve needed.

Read more 

Drupal Pitch Deck at 60+ case studies

The following post is a sort of continuation, or rather, an update to Paul Johnson’s call for case studies. In this first post, he provided more information on the Promote Drupal initiative, the Pitch Deck project in particular, complete with examples of case study slides, and called on the community to contribute to the project with our own case studies.

This follow-up post details the progress of the Pitch Deck project: how many case study slides were submitted up until that point and what the next steps are. Even though this is an ongoing project, it’s never too late to get involved - anyone wishing to do so can and should contact Paul Johnson.

Read more

Optimizing site performance by "lazy loading" images

Next up, we have a post by Dries on how to greatly optimize site performance with the use of “lazy loading” images. Since all the images on a page are usually loaded simultaneously, this can be very detrimental to the site’s performance. A small tweak such as opting for lazy loading images can greatly reduce the time needed for the page to render.

How this works is by generating lightweight placeholder images which are as small as possible and devoid of any unnecessary headers and/or comments. These placeholder images are then embedded directly into the HTML and replaced with real images when they become visible to the user scrolling on the page.

Read more

Related blog post by Dries

Headless CMS: REST vs JSON:API vs GraphQL

Another post that we wanted to highlight was again written by Dries; this one is a comparison of different headless architectures. It is a very comprehensive post in which he compares three web services implementations - REST, JSON:API and GraphQL. The first part is a more general, CMS-agnostic comparison, while the second focuses on Drupal-specific implementation details.

The three different headless options are compared by the qualities that are most relevant for developers. These are: request efficiency, API exploration and schema documentation, operational simplicity, and writing data. According to the analysis in this blog post, the most viable headless solution for Drupal 8 core is JSON:API. As such, JSON:API is planned on being included in Drupal 8.7.

Read more

My 2019 Aaron Winborn Award Nomination

Finally, we have a post taken from Adam Bergstein’s aka n3rdstein’s blog. In this post, Adam reveals his 2 nominations for the Aaron Winborn Award - Nikhil Despande and Kendra Skeene, 2 instrumental members of the Digital Services in State of Georgia

Nikhil and Kendra are both avid advocates for open source and Drupal in particular. They were the driving force behind Ask GeorgiaGov that has a major two-fold benefit: the needs of Georgia’s citizens are better served, while Drupal profits from innovation in the form of an integration of the conversational interface Alexa. As such, they are truly outstanding members of the community and more than deserve the nomination for such an award.

Read more

These were the Drupal-related blog posts from last month that intrigued our team the most. If you’ve read any you found particularly interesting that we’ve missed, let us know and we’ll be happy to check it out. We’ll be back next month with another overview of the most interesting Drupal content - stay tuned!
 

Mar 11 2019
Mar 11

Last month, our team was busy acquiring new members, preparing for DrupalCamp London which took place the first week of March, and getting everything set for our Ljubljana team’s move into new offices. Still, this didn’t prevent us from writing some really fun blog posts. Here’s a quick recap of our posts from February in case you missed any.

Druplicon.org: In Search of the Lost Druplicon

The first post we wrote in February presented druplicon.org, a site for exploring the different variations of the famous Druplicon, and the story behind the site’s creation. The idea originated with one of our developers and the site itself was also built by our developers as part of their onboarding project

Visitors to the site get to explore the various Druplicons in a fun and educational way, and they also get the chance to submit any icons that they can’t find in the inventory. But the true highlight of this blog post is the origin story behind druplicon.org - by now, you’re probably eager to know about it, so, give it a read!

Read more

Interview with Taco Potze: Why Drupal was the CMS of choice and what potential open source has

We continue with one of our Community Interviews. We managed to get some very interesting insights on Drupal and the Dutch Drupal community from Taco Potze and his team. 

With Taco being a co-founder of several notable projects in the Drupalverse (GoalGorilla, Open Social and the blockchain-based THX), our talk with him was a really great and thought-provoking one. We really enjoyed getting to know more about his projects and his views on the potential of open source. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Drupal with us, Taco!

Read more

Interview with Amber Matz: How will Drupal's greatest challenge shape its future?

Next up, we had another post from the Community Interviews series. We talked with Amber Matz, who is Production Manager and Trainer at Drupalize.me; but her involvement with Drupal does by no means end there. Among other notable roles, she is also involved with organizing the Builder Track for the upcoming ‘Con.

According to Amber, the greatest challenge that Drupal will face is intrinsically connected to one of its greatest advantages - its scalability. The main obstacle going forward will thus be gaining more insight into our user base and consequently having more articulated and differentiated tools for the easy acquisition of Drupal.

Read more

Top 6 SEO Modules for Drupal 8

We finished February’s blog posts with a list of useful SEO modules for Drupal 8. Drupal is a CMS that is very SEO-friendly, and its prolific community has provided a range of modules that can vastly improve the SEO of any Drupal site.

By using the modules from this list, you'll no longer have to worry about things such as manually creating proper URLs or taking care of dead links. If you’re dissatisfied with the SEO ranking of your Drupal 8 site, then these are the perfect modules to get you started on stepping up your SEO game.

Read more

We hope you enjoyed revisiting our blog posts from February. Stay tuned for more!
 

Mar 07 2019
Mar 07

At Agiledrop, we do what we can to support and grow the local Drupal community as well as contribute on a more global scale. As such, we were honored to be one of the Gold sponsors for this year’s DrupalCamp London after being Tote Bag and Tea and Coffee sponsors last year. Coincidentally, a part of our team held a free Drupal course in our Ljubljana offices this weekend, while a few of us were up north representing Agiledrop at the DrupalCamp. 

The DrupalCamp in London last weekend was not just my first DrupalCamp, but actually my first Drupal event of any kind. Having just joined Agiledrop in December of last year with very little experience in marketing and development, I was a bit nervous about going to the event and meeting some of the brightest tech minds of today - but I knew I was in for an unforgettable weekend.

Aleš and Iztok at our booth. You can even see my reflection in the background!

After setting up our booth at the venue and getting some much-needed coffee, it was time for me to mingle and start meeting people. I almost immediately learned that my nervousness was completely unjustified, since everyone I talked to was super friendly and inclusive. This is a natural reflection of the essence of the Drupal community: it is one based on inclusivity and acceptance, giving everyone who wants to contribute the chance to do so within their own capacity.

Nonetheless, even with this awareness, it was not a piece of cake to approach and introduce myself to people whose blog posts I’d read or whose videos I’d watched. One of the first people I got the courage to talk to was Helena of Lullabot - despite not being a developer or a designer, I absolutely loved her presentation on accessibility at DrupalCamp Florida, and I just had to tell her that! 

For me, this welcoming attitude of people within the community is the best thing about Drupal and consequently it was the best aspect of the event itself. It is this attitude that gives us newcomers the motivation to strive to make Drupal better for everyone and makes us realize that our fresh and inexperienced perspective can actually benefit Drupal and its community.

Here I’d like to give a shout out to Paul Johnson of CTI Digital. He was actually the one person who motivated me to start thinking of ways I can contribute without worrying about my lack of knowledge. I was very excited to meet Paul and I attended both of his Saturday sessions. The afternoon one was a presentation of the Promote Drupal initiative and it also included a short workshop where the group brainstormed ideas on Drupal’s unique selling point.

This meant that I actually got to contribute to Drupal at my first Drupal event ever! And the way in which the workshop was conducted ensured that even a seemingly insignificant idea was given equal attention and perhaps served as inspiration for someone else’s idea. In this way, every voice was heard, and the combination of different mindsets and skill levels yielded a much better result than someone trying to tackle the issue on their own. 

Paul Johnson giving his talk on the Promote Drupal initiative

The next morning, I attended Preston So's keynote speech on decontextualizing content in order to keep up with new and emerging technologies. I must say I was completely blown away by Preston’s mastery of language and the abundance of experience he has on the subject. His speech encompassed all aspects of Drupal, from development to marketing and sales, and contained meaningful insights on the future of Drupal as a decoupled system.

Being a linguist myself, I couldn’t resist running after Preston when his lecture was finished and introducing myself to him, babbling about how I’m a total Drupal newbie, but how his talk was just completely inspiring (I actually got goosebumps at some point during his lecture). Thanks to Preston, I believe I now have a much better understanding of Drupal and all its capabilities, consequently being more aware of my place within the community and the extent to which I’m able to get involved.

Preston So giving his keynote speech on decontextualized content and decoupled Drupal

It’s not easy to honestly relate such an unforgettable experience, so these were just some of the highlights from my first Drupal event. The best thing about the weekend was definitely getting first-hand experience of what it’s like to be part of a community as welcoming and accepting as Drupal is. I’m sure that my next Drupal event will give me a chance to do and learn even more, and I’m already looking forward to it. Big thanks to the DrupalCamp London team and to everyone there for ensuring a great experience for all of us!

Feb 22 2019
Feb 22

SEO is an integral part of any website. The same holds true for Drupal as well. Fortunately, due to Drupal’s prolific community and consequently module-rich nature, getting started on SEO with it is somewhat easier as there are loads of SEO modules available for it. 

However, sifting through loads of modules can get overwhelming, and this is why I’m going to help you out by highlighting the ones our team has found the most useful. 

Drupal SEO Checklist

First up on our list, we’ve got the Drupal SEO Checklist module; an all-in-one SEO dashboard that checks if your site is optimized for search engines and gives you an overview of various SEO functions for the site. 

Apart from that, it also breaks down the SEO tasks for you, recommends various SEO modules that further improve functionality and even keeps track of what has already been done with a date and time stamp. If you like to keep things organized, then the SEO Checklist is a must-have for you!

SEO Checklist

Pathauto

Pathauto is an immensely useful module that most Drupal developers swear by. Where SEO is concerned, having proper URLs to a site’s pages is essential if you want your content to rank high on SERPs. 

By using Pathauto, the need to manually create proper URLs for each new node is eliminated. Instead, the module automatically generates URLs based on specific set patterns that can be customized by the user. The URLs thus generated are concise and structured in the way that the user wants. As such, the Pathauto module is a really simple solution that can do wonders for your SEO.

Pathauto module

Redirect

Imagine a situation where you make a change to an article, which also means changing the context of the URL. The thing is, that URL is already ranked on search engines - this means that if any user were to click on the ranked URL, they would be directed to a link that is no longer available. 

Very likely, this would cause the user to leave your site and look elsewhere for the desired information, resulting in a detriment to your site's SEO ranking. With the Redirect module, you can easily redirect the users to the new URL. This contributes greatly towards your SEO efforts as it eliminates dead links from your site.

Redirect module

XML Sitemap & Simple XML Sitemap

A website’s XML sitemap is like the directory of that website. In it is defined the website’s structure, such as its URLs and the relationships between them. This makes it easier for Google’s search engine bots to crawl through such directories and hence rank them. It is highly recommended that you create a sitemap for your site in order to boost its SEO ranking.

The XML sitemap and the Simple XML sitemap modules for Drupal create such a sitemap for your Drupal site. The major difference between these two modules is that the latter was made specifically for Drupal 8; see this post for more differences between the two.

XML sitemap module

Simple XML sitemap module

Metatag

The Metatag module gives you the ability to provide more metadata to your website. This includes tags, page titles, descriptions etc. Google’s search engine uses this metadata to rank the website in search engine results.

While Drupal natively doesn’t allow editable meta tags fields, all of that can be done with the Metatag module. Using this module, the user can set meta tags for users, taxonomy, nodes, views etc. 

A new release of the module was made just a few days ago, resolving the issues described in SA-CORE-2019-003.

Metatag module

Google Analytics

While not a SEO module in and of itself, Google Analytics is a powerful tool for all aspects of a website. It helps you with monitoring traffic and keeping tabs on an extensive analysis of your site. 

Whenever you perform SEO-related changes to your site, you might be curious to see what results it yields. Using the Google Analytics module for Drupal, you can integrate your Drupal site with Google Analytics and find out what results your practices bring about. 

Google Analytics

Conclusion

There you have it - some of the most useful modules for Drupal 8 which encompass a wide variety of SEO actions. These are also the most accessible modules for anyone wanting to get started on optimizing their Drupal site for search engines. We hope you make good use of them and succeed in upping your website’s SEO game!

Are you struggling with your Drupal site’s SEO? Need a helping hand? Contact us at Agiledrop - our extensive experience of working with Drupal enables us to provide top-notch Drupal services to our clients.
 

Feb 20 2019
Feb 20

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

This week we talked with Amber Matz, Production Manager and Trainer at Drupalize.Me. In addition to these two important roles, Amber is actively involved in a number of projects in the Drupalverse, the current most notable one likely being the Builder Track at DrupalCon Seattle. Have a read if you’d like to find out more about her journey with Drupal and her insights on its future.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

My username on drupal.org is Amber Himes Matz. I participate in the Drupal Community in a number of ways. The bulk of my volunteer time lately has been consumed by the program team for the Builder Track at DrupalCon Seattle, where we review, select, schedule, and support speakers and sessions for the upcoming ‘con. I’m working on (as I am able) moving two issues forward, Add experimental module for Help Topics and new Draft "Getting Started" Outline & Guide. I’m also part of the Community Cultivation Grants Committee and like to keep tabs on what’s happening amongst Drupal camp organizers in Slack. (In February 2019, I was the lead organizer for the Pacific NW Drupal Summit in Portland, OR.) Professionally, I work on Drupalize.Me as Production Manager and Trainer for the platform, which features Drupal tutorials in both written and video format.

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

I was a web developer for an organization for many years working mostly with PHP and MySQL on the backend and HTML/CSS on the frontend. I coded a LOT of forms and form processing scripts. I discovered Drupal as an escape from that tedium. I stuck with it because I needed work and wanted a better job, which I eventually got. I stay with the Drupal community because of a rewarding and satisfying job, great people (local, global, and online), and the opportunity to travel.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

My career benefited greatly and singularly from showing up to a local Drupal user group meeting. From that first meeting, I made a connection which lead only weeks later to a job interview and my first job as a dedicated Drupal developer (which ended up being Developer + Client Manager + Project Manager). After this job experience, I was hired at Lullabot as a trainer for Drupalize.Me. (Drupalize.Me is now part of a sister company to Lullabot.)

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

Drupal is a platform to structure and present loads of content in a scalable way.

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

I think the challenge for the Drupal community is to provide straightforward and accessible means for anyone to install, use, and customize Drupal. The great “tout” of Drupal is its scalability. And it certainly has and does scale. This presents a great challenge. How do we provide functionality, tools, documentation, and training for a platform that can be used for such a wide range of use cases? How do we make it easier to use the kinds of tools that are necessary for such a complex platform? I know that a lot of people are hard at work on these kinds of problems. I think the future of Drupal will mean gaining a better understanding of our user base and not assuming that everyone falls into an “enterprise” category or whatever.

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

At the moment, I’m most proud of the line-up of speakers for the Builder Track for DrupalCon Seattle. The program team worked really hard choosing speakers and in the midst of a lot of changes to the ‘Con.

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

Register for DrupalCon Seattle!

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavorment.

I’ve been a web developer since about 2001 or so. That has added up to a lot of raging against the screen. I have discovered open source hardware and the “maker” community and have discovered the joy and pleasure of coding on a variety of microcontrollers and single-processor boards in a variety of applications from breadboarding to learn concepts in electronics to sewing with conductive thread to making a variety of fun and whimsical projects. Working with physical computing objects has brought back a level of sanity to the otherwise (come on, admit it) insane world of web development.

Feb 13 2019
Feb 13

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

We had a delightful talk with Taco Potze, co-founder of GoalGorilla, Open Social and THX. Taco revealed to us why his team decided for Drupal among the various possible CMS choices and what Drupal initiative they are most excited about. He thinks open source has the potential to balance out the power of tech giants and give people all over the world equal opportunities. Read on to find out more about his projects and his contributions to the community.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

My name is Taco Potze, or just Taco usually does it ;). I am the co-Founder of the Drupalshop GoalGorilla and co-Founder of the Open Social and THX projects. I have been on the board of the Dutch Drupal Association for four years and active in organizing various local events such as the DrupalJam. My day to day business focuses on business development for Open Social and getting our latest THX Project up and running. Other than that, I love to travel and take care of our 1-year-old son.

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

I really started working with Drupal when one of our early clients asked us to build their new website. We were mainly working on online marketing, analytics and UX improvement in those days. 

My co-Founder and I have an industrial engineering background, not in coding per se. We searched for an out-of-the-box CMS that was open-source and Drupal made it to our shortlist. The winning reason for doing the project with Drupal 6 was the multi-language capabilities. The project had to be done in English and Chinese. Adding Chinese menus, blocks and content to the websites gives me now, over 10 years later, still nightmares sometimes ;). 

Jaap Jan Koster and I, now our VP of product, got the project done over summer within time and budget and ended up with a very happy client. That triggered us to offer more web development services and soon we were doing lots of projects. We used a variety of open-source CMSs until in 2010 we decided to do projects only in Drupal. 

For us Drupal provided the best framework to do challenging projects and working with only one CMS meant we could really become experts. The early years did not include many Drupal projects, I have to admit. We did not fully understand how important contributions (on all levels) are and lacked some of the skills to make worthwhile contributions. This changed over time when we started contributing modules back and became mature with the Open Social distribution where we have invested 10,000s of hours.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

One of the best aspects of the community is the Dutch Drupal Community. We have excellent thought leaders such as Bert Boerland and Baris Wanschers that relentlessly push the Drupal community forward.

We’ve had many successful events such as the DrupalJam, Frontend United and Splash Awards. There are informal meetings with developers or members of the board, and cooperation exists in distribution projects such as Dimpact WIM or DVG. Instead of competing with negative sentiment, we are competing but also working together to push our projects and companies forward.

A while ago, I even helped pitch an Open Social project for another Drupal agency (which we won). When I tell other companies about this ecosystem, at times they are skeptical and think that I am overselling or that we don't really compete or cooperate. However, with over 10 years of experience as a community, we have proven we can. The community is growing, Drupal is still winning market share, and companies are flourishing. I think this has made a profound impact on me as an entrepreneur.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

It depends who you are talking to. At a birthday party, you might want to simplify more than when talking to a potential client that hasn't heard of Drupal yet. I always amplify the message that it's a huge global community all working on the same IT project contributing code, sharing information and meeting at events all around the world.

I might share some of my worries about the power of big tech companies (Facebook tends to be a good example) and how we are trying to balance the scale by being completely open and transparent. I love sharing the idea that work we have done on Open Social gives people all around the world, say in developing countries, the same opportunities to organize and engage and drive their missions as companies with larger budgets.

For me working on open-source is a principled choice. Drupal is one of the projects where the importance of the open-source comes first. If I can make somebody aware of that and the choice they might have in that one day, then it was a good conversation.

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

These next few questions about Drupal I answered with the help from my team.

Our team sees Drupal evolving into an API-first platform, something we definitely applaud when looking at the possibilities out there that are related to this innovation (e.g. Internet of Things). We see Drupal being more open to integrations with other systems so we can provide an amazing cross-channel user experience.

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

Our team works hard to contribute back to the Drupal distribution. It’s actually hard to pick which contributions we are most proud of since every single one of them is something to be proud of. 

However, the contributions we would highlight are all the commits done to Open Social. The fact that we are able to provide a ready solution for everybody to use is very motivating, especially since we can work together with developers from the community who help to make our distribution even better!

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

Drupal has many initiatives that we look forward to. One of our developers, Ronald, especially highlighted the Layout Builder

“I’m really looking forward to using the Layout Builder. We have always struggled with creating a good solution for custom one-off pages with unstructured content, which would provide a lot of flexibility for content managers using Drupal. I think this initiative will produce the “wow factor” to our users and give us the ease of mind by not needing to create difficult custom solutions.” - Ronald te Brake

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavorment. 

Blockchain technology has been a passion for a while and we are making great steps adding this exciting technology as part of Open Social and beyond with our THX Project. It's important to be able to improve engagement in social communities. 

With THX you can reward your users for valuable actions they take. For example, filling out their profile, adding content, adding code and patches for a community such as Drupal and much more. It also helps transferring reputation from one community to the next and gives a model to measure the value of online communities. If you are interested, we have written a white paper and various blogs on the matter and will publicize more information on the project and our DAICO in the upcoming months.
 

Feb 11 2019
Feb 11

We’re off to a great start of the new year! In January, we wrote some really interesting blog posts; in case you missed any of them, we’ve prepared this overview where you can find all of our posts from last month, neatly compiled in one place. Enjoy!

2018 in review

Our first post in 2019, published just a few days into the new year, was a review of our achievements in the previous year. Not only did 2018 mark the 5-year anniversary of Agiledrop, it will also remain in our memories as the year when we upped our game, scaled our team very successfully and optimized our strategy for the future. 

Of course, we still found the time to give back to the Drupal community, whether it be through open-source contributions or any of our educational events, such as our free Drupal courses. 

Read more

Interview with Shawn McCabe, CTO of Acro Media

We couldn’t properly start the year without continuing with our Community Interviews series. Mere days after our yearly review, we published the interview with Shawn McCabe, CTO of the Canadian Acro Media

Shawn’s love for open source was something that was immediately obvious from our talk and it was extremely interesting to get to know his story about discovering and working with Drupal. Our favorite part is almost definitely how he first met Dries - but you’ll just have to check out the entire post if you’re curious about that! 

Read more

Best Drupal 8 Security Modules

To also cater to the more tech-oriented audience, and to highlight one of the foremost advantages of Drupal (yes, of course it’s security!), we wrote a post about the 5 Drupal security modules that we’ve so far found to be the most useful. 

Even though Drupal is known for being a very secure CMS out-of-the-box, it still never hurts to take some additional security measures. Better safe than sorry, they say, especially with so many cyber security threats reported recently!

Read more

Interview with Gabriele Maira of Manifesto Digital

Next up came another Community Interview - this time we talked with Manifesto Digital’s Gambry, an avid proponent of contribution sprints (definitely not just because he’s responsible for running local Contribution Sprints in London!). He thinks every Drupal developer should attend a sprint at least once in their life, and provides the really on-point reasons for this.

There’s one sentence from the interview that’s really remained with us and fills us with warmth every time we read it: “And instead of being a mortal between gods, I found friends. I found the wonderful Drupal Community.” Ahh … Isn’t it great? Can you feel the warmth? We know we sure do.

Read more

The Story of Agiledrop: Cultivating Strong Relationships with Clients

Our final blog post from January was the 3rd chapter in our latest series of posts, The Story of Agiledrop. In this extensive post, we talked about the steps we take to ensure that the relationships with our clients are always as healthy and strong as possible.

Admittedly, due to our unique workflow, this has proved to be quite challenging. But, because we’ve understood the importance of this from the get-go and have hence made it one of our top priorities, we’re proud to say that our approach is very effective. The result is two-fold: happy clients and a motivated team.

Read more

That’s it for our posts from January - but, don’t worry, we’ll be back very soon with new content, and, if you happen to miss any of our upcoming blog posts, we’ll be doing the overview again in March. So, keep warm and stay tuned! 

Feb 07 2019
Feb 07

A while ago, we wrote a post on the history of the Druplicon. As we pointed out in this post, our beloved Drupal logo, the drop, went through quite a few iterations to arrive at the point where it is today, known by everyone in the community. On top of that, because of the same prolific community, various versions of the logo have been created for special occasions, such as new releases and events, and for different topics and regions.

So, in the 18 years since Drupal’s conception, the community has seen a wide range of different Druplicons. But, unlike for other Drupal-related material, such as modules, there did not exist a unified platform where one could get an overview of the Druplicon’s evolution and all its variations throughout the years.

Druplicon version Delta from 2013

The Official Origin Story 

Officially, this is what sparked the idea of druplicon.org for Vesna, one of our Drupal developers. She was impressed by the large number of Druplicons and wanted to create a website that would display all existing Druplicons in one place. 

In order to bring the Druplicon closer to the community, she decided to gather all the diverse versions of the Druplicon and turn their discovery into something fun and interactive. 
 

... And the Actual One

Well, the origin story above is not exactly untrue; there is more to it, though. Vesna actually revealed the whole story behind what drove her to create druplicon.org - and it’s super fascinating! 

At Drupal Developer Days Milan 2016 she caught a glimpse of someone wearing a T-shirt with what appeared to be a Druplicon in the style of Joan Miró i Ferrà, one of her favorite painters. She isn’t completely sure, but she thinks the logo was that of a Drupal-related event in Barcelona (Joan Miró was a Spanish painter, sculptor, and ceramicist born in Barcelona, so there’s the connection). 

Of course, it’s not always easy to approach someone you don’t know and just spark up a conversation. It’s totally understandable, then, that she didn’t go to him to find out about his shirt and ask him if she can take a photo of the Druplicon for Instagram - and it’s even more understandable that she immediately regretted not doing so! 

She went on to scour Google relentlessly, trying to find the lost Druplicon - but, sadly, to no avail. So, she decided to make a database of all existing Druplicons, with the hidden agenda of maybe eventually finding this mythical one.

Memory Game

Visitors to druplicon.org can thus easily explore the icons by different categories, get additional information about them, clearly see which are the newest ones and even play an interactive memory game with the icons.

Due to the abundance of different Druplicons, the game is not exactly an easy one - even when opting for the “easy” mode. Playing it regularly, however, will quickly improve your knowledge of existing Druplicons. 

And, since the game is designed to be educational as well as fun to play, it greatly helps with remembering which Drupal event or aspect of the larger community a specific icon is connected to. 

Whenever you discover a matching pair, you get information about the event or topic that the icon has been used for, together with the link to the event’s or the community’s page on drupal.org

So, attend Drupal events, memorize their logos, get to know the community, then play the game regularly and become a true Druplicon master! (Pro tip: tackling the harder levels on a big screen will make the game much easier).

Druplicon.org memory game example

Staying True to the Spirit of Drupal

There’s another very Drupal-esque aspect of the site - in the spirit of Drupal contribution, users that register to the platform get the opportunity to submit new Druplicons. Because, let’s face it - there are so many versions of Drupal’s logo that it would almost be megalomaniac to think that we caught them all. 

So, if you discover or think of any Druplicons we might have missed, you’re more than welcome to join druplicon.org and add them to the platform - especially if one of them is the elusive Joan Miró Druplicon!

The Power of the Community

Druplicon.org is thus a collective effort in the true sense of the word. Staying true to the all-encompassing nature of Drupal, it’s a site anyone can contribute to and thus connect with members of the Drupal community no matter where they hail from. 

And, fittingly, the site itself is of course built in Drupal 8; it was actually built by our freshly recruited developers as part of their onboarding project (if you want to know more about how we onboard our new developers, take a look at this post on our effective training program). 

Doing so, they got hands-on experience with both crucial aspects of Drupal: coding and giving back to the community. As such, druplicon.org is truly a site by and for the Drupal community, showcasing the power of said community. 

Call to Action

This, then, is the perfect opportunity to try to get the community involved in our search for the lost Druplicon. Remember how we mentioned before that (a major!) part of the motivation behind the creation of the site was finding the Joan Miró Druplicon?

Well, we know that the Druplicon is somewhere out there, just waiting to be discovered. So, now we’re calling on all of you, especially those who attended Drupal Developer Days Milan in 2016, to spread the word, explore druplicon.org and contribute with any missing Druplicons. Together, we can surely find the lost Druplicon and make Vesna happy!

Joan Miró i Ferrà: Zephyr Bird

(If anyone has any information on the icon, but doesn’t want to join the platform for any reason whatsoever, please give us a shout out - any info is helpful!)


 

 

Feb 05 2019
Feb 05

Just like every month, we’ve prepared a selection of the most interesting and engaging Drupal-related blog posts from the previous month. Check out January’s list and make sure you haven’t missed any!

Drupal Pitch Deck initiative update and call for Case Studies

With the Promote Drupal initiative gaining ground, it was high time to get the larger community involved. Since Drupal Europe in September, the lead proponents of the initiative (Paul Johnson, Suzanne Dergacheva and Ricardo Amaro) have been working on the Pitch Deck of case studies showcasing the various benefits of choosing Drupal for a particular project. 

The goal of the document is to have sales material always at hand to help promote and sell Drupal. And, since Drupal has been a collective effort from its very beginnings, this post hence functions as a call to action to anyone within the Drupal community to contribute to the Pitch Deck by sharing their interesting case studies and helping Drupal win more often.

Take a look

Refreshing the Drupal administration UI

Now this is a post that gained a lot of traction - and not only because it was authored by Dries. There have been talks for quite some time now about the outdated look of Drupal’s admin UI and the need to refresh it, especially from the sales perspective. 

Early last month, Dries finally catered to the community by providing a glimpse into the new look of the UI (aptly called “Claro”, meaning “clear” in Spanish). The new design system is already being implemented and an alpha release is planned for next month. Anyone wanting to get involved, especially designers and front-end developers, is of course more than welcome to do so - more details on how to go about it can be found in the post itself.

Take a look

A Step in a New Direction. Farewell from Amanda Gonser.

This next post is quite a bit more emotional - and rightfully so, since it is essentially a farewell letter from Amanda Gonser after stepping down from her role within the Drupal Association

In this post, Amanda revisits the greatest achievements during her 4 years as a member of the Drupal Association, and thanks everyone who was part of this journey. Now she will finally be able to start getting hands-on with Drupal. Good luck, Amanda!

Take a look

6 Tips to Rock Drupal 8 SEO

Ben Finklea, the CEO of Volacci, has written a helpful blog post on how to make your Drupal site as SEO-friendly as possible. The post was originally published over a year ago, but has been updated with more up-to-date information and best practices. 

Since SEO is a field that is constantly changing, site builders have likewise to remain flexible and adapt to emerging trends. But, luckily, in the words of Ben Finklea, “Drupal is phenomenal for SEO”. Taking into account the 6 tips highlighted in this post, you can start taking advantage of Drupal 8’s innate affinity for SEO today.

Take a look

How to decouple Drupal in 2019

Another great post by Dries, this one explains all you need to know when decoupling Drupal in 2019. The post includes a flowchart mapping the perfect decoupled solution based on the needs of your site or app. Here, a balance between developer and editorial needs is crucial.

Accompanying the flowchart are the explanations of the different architectural options as well as a more accessible version of said flowchart in textual form. With the help of this post, you can now easily and painstakingly determine to which extent you need to decouple your Drupal site and plan the project accordingly.

Take a look

Getting ready for the Drupal Global Contribution Weekend

In light of Drupal’s Global Contribution Weekend which took place in late January, Nathan Dentzau of Chromatic wrote a post aimed at new developers who are eager to start contributing to Drupal. 

Nathan includes links to useful resources for new contributors to get started, as well as a short step-by-step guide on how to set up a local development environment with Lando.

Take a look 

Happy eighteenth birthday, Drupal

Contrary to what one would expect after such a hectic end of the year, January was likewise a very hectic month. Amidst all the interesting developments in the Drupalverse either taking place or on the agenda, we also celebrated Drupal’s birthday on January 15. But not just any birthday - it was, in fact, Drupal’s 18th birthday!

With 18 representing the age of maturity in many cultures, we can now proudly say that our favorite CMS has successfully entered adulthood. In his post, Dries looks back on Drupal’s humble beginnings through an emotional video showcasing some of the most powerful brands that have adopted Drupal for their online presence.

Take a look

The Webform module for Drupal joins Open Collective

The last post from January that we wanted to highlight is Jacob Rockowitz’ post on the sustainability of open source. As the creator and maintainer of the Webform module, Jacob has invested a lot of time and effort into said module. 

In this post, he tackles the problem of making open source sustainable. A very good solution he presents is Open Collective - a global platform for the collection and distribution of funds. The Webform module has already joined Open Collective, and so Jacob explores how to best leverage the funds obtained through the platform.

Take a look

We’re off to a great start of the year. The abundance of activity so early on is a true testament to how the Drupal community is always active, never resting. Be sure to check back next month for an overview of the top Drupal content from February. Till then - enjoy!


 


 

Jan 30 2019
Jan 30

In the second chapter of the series, we wrote about the first challenge we encountered when defining our unique workflow, which was establishing a process for training newly employed developers to meet requirements needed to work as part of the client’s team. In fact, this was just one half of something more important that we had to be mindful of - building and maintaining a healthy relationship with our clients. This is what we’ll dive into in this chapter.

The Challenge

The first and foremost thing to keep in mind when providing clients with experienced and reliable personnel is actually having that experienced personnel. However, a strong and healthy relationship with clients also demands continuously ensuring this personnel’s top-notch performance and smooth communication with the clients. 

Since our developers are integrated into various projects for various agencies or simply development teams at, let’s say, a publishing company, and are managed directly from the client’s side, we had to find a way to monitor their work and eliminate any possible friction before it transformed into a major issue for the client.

Playbook

Forming and cultivating strong relationships with our clients is something we encourage from day one. All new employees receive a copy of our “playbook”, a directional document outlining our workflow, best practices and basically everything they need to know when starting their job at Agiledrop. 

This playbook includes a set of guidelines for working as a part of the Agiledrop as well as the client’s team. Before any specific instructions on time tracking, communication, tools or anything technical, though, there’s a helpful introductory principle that they’re familiarized with. We call it SHARD, which is short for:

  • Stop - Take a breath and take a moment to remember that every interaction matters.
  • Hear - Let the client tell their entire story without interrupting them. Sometimes, all we need is someone who listens.
  • Apologize - As long as it’s sincere, you can’t apologize too much. Even if it wasn’t your fault, you can still genuinely be apologetic for the way your client feels.
  • Resolve - Resolve the issue quickly and don’t be afraid to ask the client: “What can I do to make this right?”
  • Diagnose - Get to the bottom of why the mistake or issue occurred, without putting the blame on anyone. Instead, focus on fixing the problem so that it doesn’t happen again.

As you can see, we take great care to always provide top-notch services to clients, even if the fault or mistake did not occur on our side, if we are swamped with projects and deadlines, if we are tired and fed up with a specific issue…. We suck it up and put the client first! The entire team is extremely committed and driven to deliver. 

And, even though we operate as remote partners to our clients, we strive to make the relationship feel as personal as possible and to reassure the clients of our online presence. Our developers frequently and conscientiously inform the clients about when they start and get off work, and about any breaks they might have.

We're Your Remote Partners

Since our clients come from various countries, often with different time zones, we had to find a way to always be available for calls and daily standup meetings for clients, but also keep things fair for those working on open source or on projects for clients from the same time zone. 

For this reason, we’ve implemented the rule that our offices are open between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., which altogether comprises 10 hours, while our effective working hours are between 7 and 7.5 per day. 

These flexible working hours allow for at least 2 hours of overlap even with clients with the biggest time difference, such as those from the US. The developers who work on those clients’ projects are hence able to arrive at the office later and don’t have to work overtime just to be present for a call or a standup meeting, whereas the rest of the developers are able to arrive earlier and finish work earlier, but are still available to the client when they are needed.

Such a system also ensures an excellent work-life balance, which in turn also greatly benefits the clients, since our developers working as members of their team are consequently more motivated and perform better - it’s truly a win-win arrangement! 

Motivation is crucial for a strong and successful team, and this is why we frequently organize team buildings, shared dinners and other fun events that strengthen the team, further improve the vibes in the offices and consequently make working at Agiledrop something every team member looks forward to each day.

Another major benefit for clients working with our A-team is that we operate as remote partners to the client’s team. This means that the client essentially gets a boost to their workforce without any additional costs such as recruitment, onboarding and equipment costs, health insurance, travel expenses, etc. 

Furthermore, we spare clients the need to open additional offices in different parts of the world in order to effectively scale - it’s exactly like we’re there with them (except that we’re not, at least physically)!
 

Feast or Famine? Not with Agiledrop

A considerable concern for companies and agencies when it comes to remote staffing is “feast or famine”. This is realized as the need for extra developers for a certain project, whom you cannot hire as full-time employees, since they will turn into unnecessary burdens to your finances once that project is concluded and you will no longer need such an extensive team. 

This is where we offer the perfect solution. Clients can hire our developers for the duration of the project, but, if they happen to need them for an extended period of time or again at a later time, that can be arranged as well. In this way, we can scale your team easily and efficiently, but only when it’s needed.

Usually, when hiring part-time employees or freelancers, your chances are quite limited. If your remote developer falls ill, goes on leave, or disappears in some other, unexplained manner, what can you do, really? Go through the tedious, wrought-out process of staffing a second time? Deliver a not-so-optimized product? Either way, your project and consequently likely your entire enterprise suffer because of this. 

Fortunately, this is pretty much an impossible scenario when working with the Agiledrop team. Our reliable team is led by skilled development experts whose greatest talent lies in the recognition of the talent and skills of others. As such, you can always count on them to provide the people and solutions most suitable for a specific project from about 30 to 40 experienced and proven developers.

If a developer assigned to a certain project falls ill or goes on leave? No problem - we take utmost care to immediately provide appropriate replacements, ensuring that the client’s project is never at a disadvantage because of some uncontrollable factor. With such a diverse team, we can assure we will find the people with the best possible combination of skills and experience for any given project. 

Cultural Breach - What's That?

Even though we come from a small, relatively unknown country in the European Union, our values and traditions are essentially the same as in other Western countries; hence, our developers are able to integrate completely into the client’s team. All of them are fluent in English and are extremely flexible; we can effortlessly and seamlessly adapt to different practices and cultures, and we immediately employ the client’s tools, communication channels and workflows. 

We strive to eliminate cultural breach as much as possible, continuously reassuring the client that the developers working with them are not a separate entity, but rather an equal part of their in-house team. Of course, we also pay attention to respecting specific cultural norms and/or time zone differences. You will never get pinged by one of our developers during your day off!

Your Privacy Is Safe With Us

Besides ensuring smooth project delivery, we’re also dedicated to protecting our client’s privacy and any trade secrets. A very strict NDA is signed with all our clients as well as our employees and we make sure everyone respects and follows it. 

We never reveal our clients’ identity to other clients and we never share the client’s documents outside the team assigned to their project (you probably noticed that we appropriately censored the photo above with the conversation). 

Additionally, we’re extra careful when handling our or the client’s passwords and access to services, etc. - especially when working from home. To add an extra layer of security, we handle our passwords with LastPass or similar tools.

Hire 1, Get Access to 30

What’s also greatly advantageous for our clients is that with such a large group of developers working in the same workspace, the client always benefits from the collective knowledge of the entire Agiledrop team. As we shall see in the final chapter of this series (stay tuned!), we promote and reward knowledge-sharing and support between employees. 

We already pointed out in the first chapter of this series that our workflow demands new employees are supported by their mentors and team leads, helping them with tasks that are beyond their current level of expertise; but this support is not only limited to the probation period or to less experienced developers. 

Anyone can help anyone, as we firmly believe that a unique and fresh perspective can always be beneficial, and we encourage asking for help rather than spending copious amounts of time trying to solve the problem on one’s own. We encourage communication between employees and also with the client’s management team, we peer review our code, we seek and develop solutions together, as a team. 

It’s like those really old commercials or sales offers - remember, buy one, get one free? Well, with Agiledrop, it’s more like - hire one, get access to the skills and experience of thirty!

Unsure about how to most efficiently scale your team? Need to augment your staff, but only for the duration of a certain project? Not to worry - reach out to us anytime and we’ll be happy to lend a helping hand and ensure the success of your project! 

Jan 22 2019
Jan 22

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

Meet Gabriele Maira, also known as Gabi by friends and as Gambry by the Drupal community. With over 15 years of experience working with PHP and over 10 working with Drupal, Gabriele is currently the PHP/Drupal Practice lead at the London-based Manifesto Digital. Read about his beginnings with open source and why he thinks every Drupal developer should attend a Sprint at least once in their life. 

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

Hi I’m Gabriele, Gabi for friends and @gambry on Drupal.org. I’ve been working for more than 15 years with Web and PHP and just a bit more than 10 with Drupal.
I work at Manifesto Digital where I am PHP/Drupal Practice Lead, meaning I take care of the quality of the projects, from the code, best practices, standards and security perspective.

I’m an active member of the Drupal London community, I help with organizing local events as well as running Sprints (either Drupal Sprints, Distributed Sprints or Open Source Sprints).

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

My first Drupal installation was with version 5. At that time I was more messing around rather than following the Drupal way. Nasty things like PHP logic in templates and hacking the core

In my life I’ve been involved in a lot of communities more or less connected with FOSS (Free Open Source Software), where the community is always divided into 

  • The top GODs: who know everything and have the last word
  • The rest of mortals: who are normally scared of doing or saying anything and their contribution is often as small as possible, due to fearing the reproof from whoever knows more than them.

And with the same skepticism I’ve never been much involved with the community until Drupal 8 came along.

Drupal 8.0 had just been released, although some of its modules where still in an almost-stable (if not unstable) state. The “date” ecosystem was one of them I required the most, but it had several glitches.

The “date” Drupal subsystem is one of the most fragile and obscure ones for most developers, but it is one I’m confident with so I gave all my expertise and all the time I had to complete 2 of the most important issues still open despite thousands of requests from users (Datetime Views plugins don't support timezones and The Views integration Datetime Range fields should extend the views integration for regular Datetime fields).

And instead of being a mortal between gods, I found friends. I found the wonderful Drupal Community.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

Drupal for me has always been a trigger for my curiosity. Since Drupal 8 is based on Symfony, I found myself browsing Symfony documentation a lot. If you want to know more about routing, container, services and dependency injection, events and dispatchers, etc., Drupal is just the consumer and the only way to master the topic is to look further and out.

Take for example the issue “Sites named with special characters cannot send mail”, which started as a bug in a client website and ended in a two day long research about email syntax protocol and all RFCs related to it.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

“It’s a program” - nowadays I call it “App” - “helping you build a website. A bit like MS Word, but for the web”.

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

Drupal’s future has never been so bright as it is now. Drupal 7 was a good product, after the initial skepticism I can now shout Drupal 8 is an even better one, and Drupal 9 - and next versions - have already a defined approach and you can already tell Drupal will grow better and better.

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

The work for the “date” subsystem is the one I’m really proud of. It was my kick-off to the Drupal community and code contribution. And for this I thank mpdonadio and jhedstrom for being so patient and helpful. Something I will never forget.

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

All religions have their “things you should do at least once in your life, to be a good believer”, and I think the Drupal community must have one too: attending Sprints!

Attending a Sprint should be something every Drupal developer should do. By attending a Sprint you:

  • Meet Drupalists like you, creating new friends.
  • Know more about the Drupal community, the WHYs, the HOWs, the WHATs and the WHEREs.
  • Know more about Drupal contribution, either writing code or documentation or reviewing issues.
  • Improve your skills!

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavorment. 

I’m always being curious about Chatbots and Conversational devices, and how they can improve your everyday small actions… if not your entire life in general.

After some investigation and playing around I’ve published the Chatbot API suite, which creates a common layer to expose Drupal content to conversational interfaces and/or services.


Photo used with permission by NW Drupal User Group (@nwdug)
 

Jan 17 2019
Jan 17

The internet can be a dangerous place, what with so many hackers and people potentially looking to make a quick profit off bad practices. In such an environment, it becomes increasingly important to make your Drupal site as secure as possible. Fortunately, Drupal is well-known for being a pretty secure CMS out of the box. However, it is by no means perfect, and, owing to its flexibility and support for various modules, there are a number of modules you can install to make it a lot more secure. So, in this, post let’s take a look at some of the best security modules that you can download and install on your Drupal site to make it as foolproof as possible.

Login Security

The login page to your site is like the gate to your house. It only makes sense, then, that the first thing to strengthen would be the login process. An excellent module for this purpose is the Login Security Module. It allows you to set a limited number of login attempts, failing which the account will be automatically blocked. In addition to that, it also allows you to block IP addresses as well as sends you alerts via email if there’s a potential brute force attack on your site.

Link

Captcha Module

Quick question: what’s the easiest and most widely used method of keeping spammers away? It is, of course, captcha. With the captcha module, you can integrate captcha on your Drupal site in a couple of minutes and keep those pesky spammers and bots at bay.

Link

Security Kit

A module that’s going to become your best friend on your journey to make you site foolproof, Security Kit is an all-in-one module for your site that allows your to configure, tweak and set up various options in order to minimize the chances of any attacks on your site. On top of that, it also gives you helpful directions such as setting up http headers etc. to make your site as resistant to malicious attacks as possible. A module which is very much worth its weight in any secure Drupal site’s arsenal.

Link 

Password Policy

Setting up a password policy for your site is a good idea, as it not only keeps bots away, but also helps to ensure that users keep a strong password and not just the ‘password123’ type. A strong password helps prevent breaches on your site, making it a lot more secure in the process. The password policy module allows you to do just that by giving you options to define a set of constraints which need to be met by the user before their password is accepted. While the Drupal 8 version is currently in the alpha stage, it works perfectly well, so go ahead and enable it on your site.

Link

Session Limit

As the name implies, this module allows you to configure the maximum number of sessions allowed per user. The number of sessions is the number of browsers a user is logged in at. Using this module, you can also configure various other options such as prompting the user to log out of another session before logging into a new one etc.

Link

Conclusion

Using these modules, you can ensure your Drupal site stays a lot more secure. Since these are modules that anyone can grab for their site, there’s really no excuse not to use them. While there are additional techniques which can be implemented on a Drupal site to secure it, they are advanced techniques. To get started, these modules will do the job nicely. Another thing to note is that with Drupal 8, a lot of security measures have been implemented out-of-the-box, hence it currently sports a smaller amount of additional security modules than Drupal 7.


Are you confused about how to set up security measures for you site? Worried about whether your site isn’t safe enough? Contact us at Agiledrop and let our extensive Drupal experience help you with this!
 

Jan 14 2019
Jan 14

We’ve compiled all the blog posts we wrote in the final month of 2018. Besides continuing with our Community Interviews series, we also introduced a brand new series of posts - the Story of Agiledrop, in which we discuss our work practices and give you a glimpse into what it’s like to work as a member of our A-team. Have a look and stay tuned!

How to Create a Node in Drupal 8 using REST

The first blog post we wrote in December was a short tutorial on creating a node in Drupal 8 using RESTful web services. RESTful web services are the underlying principles that enable the concept of “headless Drupal”, and they bring about a plethora of possibilities for the customization of a Drupal site. This post takes you through the basic function of creating a node using these services and serves as a kind of demo of the feature.

Read more

The Story of Agiledrop: Introduction

Our next post was the first chapter of our new series, the Story of Agiledrop. Here we explained our workflow and the advantages it has had, both for our dedicated team and for our clients. Thanks to such a well-defined workflow, our A-team can keep improving and growing, professionally as well as personally. But, of course, we also encountered some obstacles when defining our workflow and putting it into effect - we discussed these in the series’ second chapter.

Read more

Interview with Kevin Kaland, aka wizonesolutions: Towards a more and more decoupled Drupal

The third post was part of our Community Interviews series. We talked with the digital wizard Kevin Kaland of WizOne Solutions, who revealed to us his thoughts on Drupal’s future as well as some more personal, non-Drupal related bits of information. Besides being actively involved in the community as the maintainer of the FillPDF module among other things, he’s also an avid traveler, hiker and language enthusiast. Take a look at what we talked about.

Read more

The Story of Agiledrop: Our Training Program

Finally, just before the holiday season, we wrote a blog post on our effective training program, the second chapter in Agiledrop’s story. While the first chapter concentrated on our workflow and its advantages, this second one dove into the challenges we faced when setting up such a unique workflow. We deal with the first of these challenges - providing a number of clients with proven and experienced developers - more thoroughly, and reveal how we succeeded in finding a very beneficial solution for it. 

Read more

That’s that for our blog posts from December. We hope 2018 was a successful year and the transition into 2019 a pleasant one for everyone. Check back later this month or keep following our blog for any new content!
 

Jan 11 2019
Jan 11

Values & Principles Committee Update - November 2018

The first post we would like to highlight is Rachel Lawson’s update on the Drupal community’s Values & Principals Committee. Here, Rachel covers the basics of the committee: why it has been put together, how it will function and who its members are. She finishes with a powerful CTA to members of the community to contribute their own stories about Principle 8.

Read more

Drupal's Commitment to Accessibility

Next up, we have a post by Dries on Drupal's commitment to accessibility. He has made the realization that accessibility is not something that benefits only a small group of people and should as such be shrugged off and/or postponed, but rather something that promotes inclusion and can benefit everybody involved. So, the community as a whole should put more effort in making Drupal accessible, consequently benefiting each and every member.

Read more

A Visual Prototype of Drupal.org's Integration with GitLab

Early last month, Tim Lehnen, executive director of the Drupal Association, wrote a piece on Drupal.org's integration with GitLab. In this post, he goes through all the things needed to get the integration working and even includes a video outlining the migration phases for the project.

Read more

A Framework for Progressively Decoupled Drupal

When discussing the future of Drupal, a lot of talk revolves around “decoupled Drupal” or “headless CMS”. Malcolm Young of Capgemini offers his insights on what Dries describes as “progressively decoupled Drupal”, and introduces the so-called SPALP module together with the benefits of using this module.

Read more

The New Layout Builder’s Impact on Drupal’s Evolving Learning Curve

Ashraf Abed and Jack Garratt discuss Drupal’s new layout builder in this blog post by Debug Academy. They compare different ways of creating content and show how site building can be greatly facilitated when using the layout builder. Consequently, it makes Drupal more accessible to content editors and less experienced developers, giving them more reign in creating a website.

Read more

How to Automate Testing whether Your Drupal 8 Module Is Incompatible with Drupal 9?

In this blog post, Gábor Hojtsy takes us through how to automate testing the incompatibility of a Drupal 8 module with Drupal 9. With the release of Drupal 9 only about a year and a half away, it’s wise to check whether your module is compatible with Drupal 9 (or, at the very least, if it’s incompatible).

Read more

Improving Drupal and Gatsby Integration - Part 1 and Part 2

Jesus Manuel Olivas, Head of Product at weKnow, has started a series on improving Drupal and Gatsby integration. In December, he published the first two chapters of the series: part 1 focuses on two contributed Drupal modules that facilitate the usage of Drupal when working with Gatsby, while part 2 explains how you can really take advantage of the two modules using weKnow’s very own Gatsby plugin. 

Part 1

Part 2

Plan for Drupal 9

Last but not least comes a major post from Dries’ blog. He finally announces the release date for Drupal 9, which is planned for June 2020. This gives site owners more than enough time for a smooth and uncomplicated upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9. According to Dries, the upgrade will be easy and should as such not be considered a big deal.

Read more

This concludes our selection of the top blog posts from December 2018. We’re very excited to see what the new year will bring for Drupal; we’ll make sure to keep you informed of all the most important goings-on.
 

Jan 08 2019
Jan 08

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects. 

This time we had a chat with none other than Shawn McCabe, the CTO of Acro Media. In our interview, the avid Drupal contributor talked about his most memorable Drupal moments, his love for open source and his reasons to opt for a more sustainable lifestyle. Have a read!

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

I am the CTO at Acro Media, so I run our product development and R&D, which puts me pretty heavily into contributing to Drupal and working in the community. I do actually get to do a respectful amount of programming myself, which is nice and not something I always got to do as Acro was growing as a company. 

Thankfully now we have a head of operations for development who handles most of the day to day runnings and I get to run wild with awesome new tech while he does most of the actual work.

I also do architectural consulting and sales work for larger clients, a lot of which involves proselytizing about our lord and savior Drupal to anyone I get pointed in the general direction of.

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

I was aware Drupal existed, but my first actual work with it was when I was assigned to do a large Drupal/Ubercart site, back when Ubercart was still just in alpha. At the time we’d just started transitioning from our own proprietary stuff to Drupal. I’ve been an open source advocate pretty much since I got the internet, so I was all for the move in general.

Drupal ended up matching fairly well with my own preferences, it was open source, fairly developer focused and not controlled by a single company. I found it fairly similar to Linux in philosophy and that sat well with me. That whole “come for the code, stay for the community” thing that Drupal has never resonated with me, I keep working on Drupal because I like the direction and philosophy behind it.

Lots of Drupal events seem to focus on non-coding related activities as a big selling point, but I have little interest in doing non-Drupal activities as part of the community. I am not an isolated freelancer, so this isn’t one of my few times to hang out with other developers. I know other people in the community feel differently and we chatted about it on Slack and Drupal was literally the first time a lot of developers had a single other friend who was also a developer.

That’s a really rambly way of saying that I stay for the code, all the core developers are honestly working towards the best decisions for the project and even having larger corporate backers like Acquia I don’t think has affected that. People like Wim Leers, Gabor, Fabianx, Berdir, Daniel Wehner and Bojanz have done a lot of architectural work that I admire. Working with something like Magento I don’t get quite the same experience, they care primarily about only their own use cases and contribution efforts always feel like you’re the little brother tagging along.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

Haha, I remember meeting Dries for the first time and basically just getting all starry eyed and basically stammering at him. In person I swear he’s like 7 feet tall.

On a less embarrassing note, I was very proud to be on the list of the top 100 Drupal contributors at this year’s Drupalcon, as well as 4 other Acro employees. It’s been my goal to push Acro’s community involvement heavily over the last few years, so to see those efforts pay off was really great. As a company we’re also consistently in the Top 3, which I’d like to think I had a large part in. If anyone from Acquia is reading this, we’re coming for your #1 spot.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

Ha! Explaining it to people not in the industry is nearly impossible, usually I resort to “I make websites”. Even then people seem to get confused, it’s like “you know websites? You use them every day? Someone has to make those”. Drupal runs like 10% of the sites you go to, even if you don’t know it.

If they know web development I just say it is like wordpress with more flexibility and fewer security holes.

On a more serious note, I tend to pitch the philosophy of open source a lot when I talk about Drupal. I find most people grasp that fairly well and can see the advantages of having control over their own stuff. Somewhat ironically, I find developers who come from the proprietary side of things have the hardest time grasping open source, the concept of opening up the code is strange and terrifying. I’ve had calls with some very large companies who shall remain nameless who had to be given the ‘Explain it like I’m 5’ version of open source, which I found baffling.

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

I am a big fan of the direction of Drupal 8, I love the integration with the community and the adoption of many modern development practices. I think anyone still wishing for Drupal 7 to stay around is doing themselves a disservice instead of growing as a developer along with Drupal. I’ve been working with Drupal since late in the 4.7/early in the 5.x era and I think every version has been a clear improvement over the previous. 

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

I’ve contributed around performance a lot at various times, I like to think those ones are the most useful since they help everyone. Drupal gets this bad rap for performance that I think is totally unjustified, install one bad module or make a poor caching choice and suddenly it seems like Drupal sucks, but it’s just a side effect of how much flexibility it gives you.

I always feel I’m 10 blog articles or videos behind though in sharing information, any time anyone else has to fix something I’ve already solved, I feel like I’ve wasted their time and they could have solved something new instead of the same thing twice. I’m mostly a “self taught” developer, which really means I’ve been taught by every kind soul who wrote a blog article or open sourced a project, which is a debt it doesn’t seem I can ever sufficiently pay back. So I’d guess I’d say I’m also proud of any content I’ve been able to give back, especially completely original work, then I’ve done my tiny bit to push society forward.

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

We’ve done a ton of work on the Commerce POS module that I don’t think gets as much exposure as it should. It provides a wealth of functionality that integrates completely with commerce, providing a fully integrated setup that is usually only an option for expensive or enterprise setups. It even works with hardware you can build yourself like a Raspberry Pi, of which we’ve built some samples of already.

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavorment. 

I am obsessed with renewable energy stuff lately, I built my own ebike last year and converted a Jeep Cherokee to full electric this year as well. Shameless plug for my youtube channel and blog, except they don’t have near as much content as they should. Our head office is in an area that has suffered from increasingly bad forest fires similar to California, so I’ve tried to take my reduction in greenhouse gases seriously.

I am a fanboy of Tesla for all the work they’ve done pushing the industry forward, but they’re not really my kind of cars as they’re very locked down against customization and filled with unnecessary gadgets, which as you can’t tell from my open source rantings, is pretty important to me. 

I’ve also converted to a vegan diet (aside from the occasional screw up, you wouldn’t believe how much stuff has milk powder in it!) for the same reason. Less for the cute little animals and more so I don’t die in a fire.

I also get super excited about OpenAI’s efforts to build DOTA bots, which seems like a real advancement from comparatively simple games like chess or go. 
 

Jan 04 2019
Jan 04

Happy New Year to everyone! At Agiledrop we’ll remember 2018 as a year of training, mentoring and increasing our A-team. This year was a successful one in itself, but, most importantly, it set us for growth for the upcoming years. Have a look at some of our highlights in 2018.

Agiledrop turned 5 last year

In September, we celebrated the company’s 5th birthday! The history of Agiledrop dates back to our humble beginnings in 2008, when we started out as just a couple of Drupal enthusiasts.

But 2013 was the year that marked the inception of Agiledrop as the company that we know today - and, due to the ever-evolving digital landscape, we are constantly in the process of growing and improving ourselves, expanding the skillsets of our team members and providing top-notch services to our clients.

From 25 to 42 full-time employees

At the very beginning of 2018, we proudly announced that our team grew from 18 to 30 people in the previous year, this number also including contractors. With the opening of a new office in Slovenia’s second largest city, Maribor, and the increase of our team to a whopping 42 members (!), we were able to transition to working solely with full-time employees who work from one of our offices in Ljubljana or Maribor. 

Even though we operate as a remote partner to our clients, we strongly believe that developers working together in the same workspace can provide a better, much more all-inclusive service to our customers. As our motto goes: “When working with one of our developers, you also benefit from the skills of the entire team at Agiledrop.” This is why we shall continue to base our workflow on our developers sharing the same workspace.

26% revenue growth from 2017 to 2018

A huge success in 2018 was growing our revenue by as much as 26%. We managed to acquire clients from different leading countries, dividing our work pretty equally between several minor and major clients. This means we don’t have to depend on only one major client, nor on a singular market to drive our business. Because of this, we were able to achieve stability no matter the market situation.

But growth is not only measured in numbers. Let’s take a look at how our scope has evolved since 2013: we started out as a “digital agency”, then dubbed ourselves “web development agency” in 2014, adding the development of our own product ply.jobs in 2015. It was, then, 2016 that served as the turning point, when we evolved into a “Drupal agency”, only to further specify this in 2017 as “Drupal outsourcing company”. In 2018, it felt like we finally found our calling as “partners to Drupal agencies” - but, the market and the business demand adaptability, so, we’re staying flexible and redefining our focus again. 

Our plans for 2019 are to expand the scope of our services, providing development teams with reliable and proven developers who work alongside their in-house developers as their teammates. 

Drupal courses, internal training and mentoring

In the introduction, we mentioned that 2018 will remain in our hearts as the year of training and mentoring. This comprises the very effective onboarding program for all our newly employed developers, who learn the tricks of the trade through an in-house onboarding project under the supervision of their mentors (if you want to know more about our workflow, you can read about it here). 

But we’ve also dedicated ourselves to helping aspiring coders become fully-fledged Drupal developers - we’re talking about the Drupal courses that we’ve been organizing for the second year now. In 2018, we organized 4 of these courses, one of them being run for the first time in our newly-established Maribor office. And we’re very happy to say that some of the attendants actually went on to join our team as full-time employees!

Giving back to the community

Even though we were busy with all of our ongoing projects and investing into our new employees to help them become Drupal superheroes, we still found the time to contribute to the community. Besides training new developers through our Drupal courses and participating at 6 Drupal events, we also contributed to Drupal core issues with 125 issue credits, ranking on page 1 of the list of several thousand companies contributing to Drupal.

This is only the beginning

We can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring for our company as well as for the Drupal community as a whole. We’re already looking forward to overcoming new challenges and growing as a team. We wish everyone a successful and engaging new year!


 

Dec 24 2018
Dec 24

We want to get you better acquainted with the kind of company Agiledrop is, the practices we employ and the team spirit we cultivate. So, we’ve decided to start a series of blog posts that tell the story of how the company has managed to make a name for itself and form a team that major global agencies can trust and depend upon. 

In the first post of the series, we got you familiar with our workflow and the advantages it has brought for our team as well as for our clients. But defining the workflow of your business is not all sunshine and rainbows, especially if your goal is to be on the cutting edge in your field.

So, as promised in the first chapter, the second post of the series will take a look at the major challenges we faced when defining a workflow as unique as ours. We’ll discuss one of them in detail and present our very efficient solution to it.

The management of a team fragmented over different projects and agencies alongside the rapid growth of the company turned out to be quite challenging. We’ve had to:

  • Establish effective training programs to deal with people’s personal and professional development,
  • Find a way to monitor and control the work of developers integrated into different agencies and managed directly by the clients and their teams,
  • Promote an environment where everybody is encouraged to share their knowledge with each other to limit the skill gaps,
  • Create a system that motivates employees and maintains a strong company culture.

The first thing we had to do was establish a process for training new employees to meet requirements needed to work as independent members of the client’s team.

All freshly recruited developers are first given an initial onboarding project which involves tasks and environments that they will need later on in their work. This helps them get familiar with the practices and modules they will be using when working on actual projects with clients.

Understanding the importance of training has led us to take our best people from their projects and assign them to take over education and knowledge-sharing among new and existing developers. These dedicated mentors are available to new members of the team throughout their onboarding, offering them support and validating their tasks.

Even with such a well organized system, the training of new employees lasted from 3 to 6 months or more; but, in order to provide our customers with experienced Drupal developers, we had to find suitable long-term projects where they could improve their knowledge and skills to the level where we were confident they would meet all the expectations of our clients.

Besides onboarding new team members, the process of improving the knowledge of existing developers is constantly in progress and Agiledrop's investment in education is quite substantial. This helps us maintain the high standards we have set and it has proved to be crucial to maintaining a strong company culture based on personal growth and professional development.

One of the most prominent advantages of our investment in training and education is maintaining top-notch results despite the number of developers increasing rapidly. This has a double positive effect: the clients are satisfied and the developers are able to take pride in their work.

Of course, this was not the only challenge we had to deal with, as pointed out earlier. The next post of this series will talk about ensuring the long-term satisfaction of our clients by continuously involving ourselves in the projects and helping with their maintenance even after their launch. 

Check back early next year for chapter 3 of Agiledrop’s story!
 

Dec 20 2018
Dec 20

First one up is a post that is concerned with an unpatched Drupal vulnerability. In this post, Lindsay O'Donnell of Threatpost reveals how the bug dubbed Drupalgeddon 2 was exploited in a cryptojacking attack that targeted a Make-A-Wish Foundation site and likely a number of other sites as well. Apparently, hackers were successfully leveraging this bug along with an unpatched instance of the Drupal publishing platform to mine the Monero cryptocurrency. 

Next up is Aleksi Peebles’ blog post about Drupal's Layout Initiative and component based theming. He explores the notion of an alternative non-visual UI for Layout Builder, while also reminding that experimental core modules should be limited to experimentation and not find their way into production.

Moving on, we have an extensive post by Hook 42's Ryan Bateman which is in fact a kind of GatsbyJS tutorial for Drupalers. It is intended for people who are already familiar with Drupal, but want to see how GatsbyJS can help with decoupling their Drupal site. It even has a super-short React tutorial hiding within it! (But you’ll most likely need some prior knowledge of React to be able to follow the entire tutorial.)

The fourth blog post that was the most memorable is Samuel Mortenson’s presentation of Tome, a static site generator for Drupal 8. He delves into the challenges he faced while creating Tome’s beta version, from finding his niche to realizing he needs to cater to diverse audiences. He concludes the post with a list of issues he still has to take into account going forward.

The next post we’d like to point out is the introduction of the Drupal Governance Task Force 2018 Proposal by Adam Bergstein, also known as nerdstein, of Hook 42. Due to Drupal’s increasing success, some level of governance is necessary to ensure a sustainable future for Drupal. According to Adam and other members of the Governance Task Force, there are two crucial things to establish: a new community governance structure and a framework for community evolution. 

We continue with Dries’ thoughts on the end of PHP 5. The godfather of Drupal urges everyone who has not yet upgraded from PHP 5 to do so as soon as possible, as security support for the outdated version will cease with 2019. Not beating around the bush, he concludes by thanking both the PHP and the Drupal communities for all the hard work they’ve been doing.

This next post was again written by Dries. It explains how Paychex used Drupal to double its traffic and managed to beat their launch goals. With the help of Acquia, the payroll services company replatformed on Drupal and beat its original launch goal by a long shot. As a bonus, the post also includes a Q&A video with Paychex’s digital marketing manager, Erica Bizzari.

We’re finishing November’s list with a blog post by Suzanne Dergacheva, co-founder of Evolving Web. Together with a group within the Drupal community, Suzanne has been working on researching ways to improve the user experience of Drupal content editors. In her post, she relates the results of the thorough study on content editors’ interaction with different CMS.

Well, that’s it for our selection of November’s blog posts. Not to worry, though - we’ll be collecting the top posts for December as well. :) So, stay tuned and enjoy the holidays!
 

Dec 17 2018
Dec 17

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects. 

Meet Kevin Kaland, perhaps more easily recognized by his Twitter handle wizonesolutions, the digital wizard responsible for the FillPDF module. In this interview, he talks about his first interactions with Drupal and reveals his thoughts on the future of Drupal as a decoupled system. 

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

I’m originally from the US, but I’ve been living in Europe (Norway and Slovenia) for the past 6 years.

I maintain the FillPDF module and run an associated software-as-a-service business called FillPDF Service.

Professionally, I’m a software developer. I develop and maintain websites, usually with Drupal.

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

I first encountered Drupal when volunteering on a nonprofit’s web team. I got familiar with it, and when I started WizOne Solutions, I did a good amount of work with it. I didn’t get involved in the community until Autumn 2010, a little over a year after. The community was welcoming enough that I began attending meetups and conferences regularly.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

Learning Drupal 8 was fairly difficult at first, but I was impressed that the community managed to release it. It took a long time to come out.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

I usually avoid trying, haha. But seriously, if they don’t know what it is, I just describe it as a tool for making websites.

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

It’s always hard to say. I have a couple thoughts, though:

  • It will become more and more of a content administration backend coupled with single-page applications on the user-facing side that simply exchange data with Drupal. This is typically called “decoupled Drupal.”
  • If the Promote Drupal initiative is successful, it will be marketed as compliant with legal accessibility guidelines.
  • As ready-made Drupal distributions become better, it will become faster to build effective sites.

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

Code-wise, the FillPDF module :) the Drupal 8 version was released on the same day Drupal 8 came out.

Community-wise, probably my DrupalCon Vienna session. It was my first DrupalCon session, and it went alright. I also made a diagram for it that is now in the Drupal Commerce migration docs.

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

The Promote Drupal initiative! Everything else is dependent on there being enough Drupal projects to pay the bills!

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavorment. 

I like traveling, hiking, and learning languages. I’m currently studying Romanian on Duolingo in preparation for DrupalDevDays Transylvania.

Dec 14 2018
Dec 14

We want to get you better acquainted with the kind of company Agiledrop is, the practices we employ and the team spirit we cultivate. So, we’ve decided to start a series of blog posts that tell the story of how the company has managed to make a name for itself and form a team that major global agencies can trust and depend upon. 

In the first post of the series, we’ll present our workflow and the advantages such an approach brings, both in producing satisfied clients and in motivating our team to help each of us with our personal and professional growth.
 

The nature of the work at Agiledrop dictates a different approach to resource management. With the help of online tools and at least 2 hours of overlap for daily standup meetings, we have been working successfully with customers from all over the world.

Our clients are mostly Drupal agencies who need to expand their existing teams with experienced Drupal developers or agencies who don’t have their own development department but would like to manage their projects entirely in-house. 

After onboarding, our developers adopt the client’s best practices, tools and workflows. They are present at meetings and daily standups, and work alongside existing teams while being entirely managed by the client’s project managers. As such, they essentially become members of the client’s team for the duration of the project. 
 

What This Means for Our Team ...

The opportunity to work on a variety of projects with teams from all over the world helps our employees with their personal growth and development. It emphasizes their knowledge, experiences, confidence, and, most importantly, it helps them grow professionally.

They have the opportunity to encounter environments with a variety of different workflows, practices and skill sets, and the chance to work with people outside our company makes their work interesting and never boring or monotonous.
 

… And for Our Clients

From the clients’ perspective, they are able to fulfill their resource capacities at any given time without a long and costly recruitment process, which means the pipeline for new projects can be more adaptive. 

The stress typically caused by catching deadlines or by unpredictable events, such as sick leaves of your in-house developers, can be managed more easily or even eliminated entirely. 

Most importantly, the clients can always rely on the collective knowledge and skill sets of the entire Agiledrop team working side by side with the developer they’ve hired.
 

Granted, such an approach is not without its unique challenges. In the next post of the series, we’ll deal with the first major obstacle that arose from our desire to provide only the best for our employees and our clients, and how we managed to very efficiently solve it, even turning it to our advantage. 

Be sure to check back for the next chapter of the series!
 

Dec 11 2018
Dec 11

Drupal 8 brought along with it many notable features which have made it easier to use and develop for the platform. One such feature was the incorporation of RESTful web services in Drupal 8 core for API calls. Using RESTful web services, a host of possibilities for customization of the platform open up; not to mention that these web services are the underlying principles which enable the concept of ‘headless Drupal’. In this post, I’ll start by performing a very basic Drupal function using these web services, i.e. creating a node.

Enable Modules

Start by enabling the following 4 core modules in Drupal:

  • HAL;
  • HTTP Basic Authentication;
  • RESTful Web Services;
  • Serialization.

Download the REST UI module as well, since it allows changing permissions and settings through a simple GUI, negating the need to go into the rest.settings.yml file in order to do the same changes.

Create User and Set Permissions

I’m now going to create a new authenticated user for the site. I’ll be doing this to teach you the kind of permissions that need to be set. Note that if you log in as an admin, all the following permissions will already be enabled.

Now, create a new user and navigate to admin/configuration/web services/REST. Click edit for the content row, since that’s what we will be doing in this article, and then set the permissions as shown in the screenshot below:

Now I’ll set proper permissions for our new authenticated user in order to let the user create, edit and delete content. I do this by navigating to admin/people/permissions. Set the following permissions:

  • Basic Page: Create new content
  • Basic Page: Delete own content
  • Basic Page: Edit own content

Get User’s Token

Before we start creating a node, we need to get our new user’s token in order to pass authentication. This can be done by testing API calls. For testing API calls, I’ll use the Restlet Client – Rest API Testing extension for Chrome. Of course, if you prefer some other method, feel free to use that one instead. 

Now, to test my API calls and get the new user’s token, I’ll first log out of my site as an admin and log in with the new user account. Now, I’ll simply copy the URL of my site, add rest/session/token at the end of it and paste it in the Restlet client’s URL field. Next, I’ll select the ‘GET’ method from the dropdown and send the URL to get the token from the body field. Here’s a screenshot from an earlier call:

Create Node and Test API Call

Now that I’ve got my unique token, I can start creating a node. To do so, the POST method is used to POST the entity/node, and the content-type should be set to application/hal+json. The title and type fields should be declared in the body field like this:

{

 “_links”:{

   “type”:{

     “href”:”http://example.com/rest/type/node/page

   }

 },

 “title”:[

   {

   “value”:”My first page”

   }

   ]

}

The following headers have to be added for this call:
Content-Type : application/hal+json
X-CSRF-Token : ‘The token that we got from the previous step.’

Click ‘Add authorization’ and enter the credentials of the authenticated user to add authentication if required.

This is what it should look like before firing the API call:

Next, go to your Drupal site and navigate to admin/content. Check to see if the node you created is visible on your site. If it’s there, your API call works.

Conclusion

That’s it! You’ve successfully created your first Drupal node using RESTful web services. Note that this is a very basic function of RESTful web services intended to give a demo of the feature.

Having trouble with your Drupal project? Stuck with customizing your Drupal site to your own liking? Lay aside your worries and hand them over to us at Agiledrop. 
 

Dec 07 2018
Dec 07

We’ve collected all of our blog posts from November 2018 to make them even more easily accessible to you! Check them out below.

Our first post from November was a detailed, step-by-step description of creating custom blocks in Drupal 8. It explains what ‘blocks’ are and provides the reader with thorough instructions for both creating blocks through Drupal’s own GUI and for doing it programmatically. Since blocks are a key component of a Drupal site, this post is a useful read for anyone who is just now getting familiar with Drupal as well as for those more experienced developers.

The next blog post was an interview with Agaric’s David Valdez. In this interview, he talks about his mixed early experiences with Drupal and presents Drutopia, Agaric’s project for nonprofits and other low-budget groups. To him, Drupal presented the perfect opportunity to learn a ton of new things, which made him eager to give back to the community. Discover what motivated him to become an active member of the Drupal community and which contributions he is proudest of.

The interview with Adam Bergstein aka Nerdstein provides a very personal aspect, which makes it extremely easy for the reader to relate to him. You can truly feel his passion and get genuinely excited reading about his achievements, and you can’t help but smile at his honest display of love when he talks about his family. In his view, Drupal core should put a greater emphasis on stability than on adding new features. He believes the future of Drupal depends as much on the community as it does on the technology and invites anyone interested in participating in his projects to reach out to him. 

Last but not least came our interview with John Piccozi, co-host of the weekly podcast Talking Drupal. As the Senior Drupal Architect at Oomph, he’s known in the company as the  resident Drupal enthusiast. He kicks things off with an impressive roster of Drupal projects that he’s currently involved in or that he’s worked on in the past, and spices things up with a personal anecdote or two. He concludes with a powerful quote by American scientist Margaret Mead that feels like it was written specifically about the Drupal community. Curious about what it is? Read the interview and you’ll see for yourself!

Well, that’s it for our November blog posts. Keep checking back to never miss an update or a new post!
 

Nov 28 2018
Nov 28

Meet John Piccozi, co-host of the weekly podcast Talking Drupal and co-organizer of the Drupal Providence Meetup and the New England Drupal Camp. John met with Drupal about 10 years ago, and he is looking forward to what will the next 10 years bring.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

I’m an Acquia-certified Site Builder, Drupal podcaster, and co-organizer of a camp and meetup. I’m the Senior Drupal Architect at Oomph, my claim to fame is being our resident Drupal enthusiast. It's important to me that Oomph be part of the Drupal community here, and at-large, in every way we can. Sharing knowledge, staying curious, and trying new things is definitely the name of the game. My Drupal work includes projects for CVS Caremark, Leica Geosystems, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Marriott International. I am a co-organizer of the Drupal Providence Meetup and the New England Drupal Camp. I also co-host the weekly Talking Drupal podcast with Stephen Cross, and Nic Laflin.

2. When did you first came across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, software or the community, and why?

Neither, it was my job. Shortly after graduating college I worked for a company that was “building websites”. I put this in quotes because I knew nothing of Drupal or it’s capabilities at the time, I thought I was going to be coding HTML and CSS. After getting hired, I was told they used this content management system called Drupal. At that point it was “sink or swim”. Luckily, Mark Ferree (our senior developer at the time) was an amazing mentor and Drupal coach. After getting a few sites under my belt I was hooked. In looking back at that experience, I would say it was both the software (not having to build it from the ground up) and the community. Fun fact: I worked with Oomph’s current Director of Engineering, Rob Aubin, at that job, pretty sure it was his first interaction with Drupal too!

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

I would have to say my first real exposure to the Drupal Community made a huge impact on me. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was DrupalCon Austin and, unlike more recent DrupalCon’s, travelling with members of the Oomph team, I was flying solo. Lucky for me, I was in a city full of fellow Drupalers and a friend (and former boss) Jason Pamental. I reached out to Jason and he quickly filled me in on all of the social events happening after sessions. He introduced me to people I had only heard about or talked with in the issue queue. We went to the various social events and he even brought me to a few invite only events. It was a whirlwind trip and the experience has stuck with me all these years. So much so that I have been to DrupalCon every year since I made that first trek to Austin and every year it’s amazing to reunite with Drupal Friends and learn from the community.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

Well, most of the time when people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a Web Developer. Sometimes when I wear one of my many Drupal shirts, someone will ask “What is Drupal?” to which I will tell them it’s a Content management system for their website. Usually, I will get some confused faces, but once in a while someone’s eyes will light up and they will want to know more. I’ll never forget once being in a mall in Massachusetts, going up an escalator, and someone on the opposite escalator said “Nice Shirt.” I nodded and didn’t think much of it at the time. A few minutes later I realized what the person said and what shirt I was wearing (a Drupal shirt of course). It brought a smile to my face. Drupal Rocks!

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

Drupal has evolved greatly in my 10+ years working with it. I started on Drupal 4.7 with Ubercart and saw the release of Drupal 6. More memorable was Oomphs Drupal 7 release party. I remember being excited for the release of Drupal 7 and the improvements that brought. However, all of that excitement and improvement pales to now working on Drupal 8.6 with Commerce 2.x, Core Translations, and the newly added Configuration Management system in core. With the release of Drupal 8 and a firm and frequent release schedule, Drupal keeps improving year after year. Like a fine wine, Drupal gets better with age. I look forward to the coming releases, a finished media system, layout builder, and improvements to the core. Drupal’s future is bright and I look forward to the next 10+ years!

6. What are some of the contribution to open source code or community that you are most proud of?

I found a core bug last week, that was pretty cool! I spoke at DrupalCon for the first time in Nashville. I co-founded and co-organize the New England Drupal Camp, which is a camp that aims to bring the New England Drupal community together in one place each year. I also co-organize the Providence Drupal Meetup each month at the Oomph, Inc. offices. Oomph is working on a helper module for Paragraphs called Oomph Paragraphs. It’s all pretty exciting and keeps me coming back for more!

7. Is there an initiative or a project in the Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

Well, I work with commerce and translation quite a bit. The advances to those two systems in Drupal 8 has been amazing. I’m looking forward to kicking off a project with the commerce guys in the next few weeks. I have a feeling that will lead to some enhancements to commerce 2.x. On Talking Drupal we talked to many maintainers and co-maintainers in the Drupal community. Recently we talked with  Adam, one of the co-maintainers of the media initiative. In the last few weeks, I have been excited about the improvements to that system over Drupal 7. I also think that the work Jacob Rockowitz is doing, maintaining the Webform module, is inspiring. He is providing great documentation and training, as well as frequent updates to the module. So many cool projects and initiatives in the Drupal space, I couldn’t possibly name them all. 

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavorment.

Watching my kids grow and learn is very exciting. My oldest just turned 6 and is turning into a very skilled Lego architect, as well as a soccer star. Then his brother (my one and a half-year-old) is just learning to walk and has some choice words he likes to use – “More More!”. In the tech space, I think we are moving ahead with some very interesting ideas and technology. The internet of things is always amazing to me. The new Apple watch has got me thinking it’s time to replace my analog version. The idea of wearables is great. I am really looking for Apple to come out with glasses. As a lifelong wearer of glasses. It would be amazing to have Siri, headphones, and a phone built into the glasses I wear every day.

In closing when thinking about the Drupal community and answering these questions. This quote from American Scientist Margaret Mead kept coming to mind. I leave you with this: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”.
 

Nov 26 2018
Nov 26

We’ve gathered all the blog posts we’ve written in October 2018, take a look. 

The first blog post was Tips to Speed Up Your Drupal Site. While Drupal isn’t considered a slouch when it comes to performance out of the box, there are some factors which can slow it down and some basic practices which everyone should implement, in order to squeeze more speed out of their Drupal sites. In this post, we highlighted some tips which can help to speed up your Drupal site. 

The second was an interview Jonathan Hedstrom: Drupal is like Lego for adult professionals. He tells us what he thinks has been the biggest evolution for Drupal, what contribution is he the proudest of and what he thinks is the most important about Drupal today.

We continued with a blog post Drupal events in the 4th quarter of the year 2018. We've made a list of Drupal camps and summits that you can attend in the last quarter of this year. There are still a few left until the end of a year.

The fourth blog post was interview Janne Kalliola: Organising CEO dinners, Drupal Business surveys and local and regional DrupalCamps. Janne does not code, but he is a very active Drupal community contributor. Read about CEO dinners he helps to organize, and what would he be working on, if he had an extra day between Thursday and Friday.

The next one was Agiledrop presenting Drupal at the Faculty of Computer Science. We’ve organised a Drupal meetup in Maribor (the second largest town in Slovenia, where Agiledrop has the second office) in cooperation with Student Council of Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Maribor. As a member of Drupal Slovenia, we organised two presentations and sponsored a reception with networking after the event. The event was well received, as was attended by more than 50 people, mostly students of the faculty, interested in starting their career in web development and Drupal. This blog post sums up what those two lecturers were about. 

The last one was Top Tips for Aspiring Drupal Developers. If you’ve decided to join the Drupal community and want to know what are some development tips you should know beforehand, we went through some things you should be familiar with, to get started on your Drupal journey.


Those were our blog posts from October 2018. Looking forward to continuing having you as a reader! 
 

Nov 12 2018
Nov 12

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews.

Adam Bergstein is the maintainer of SimplyTest.me, runs the Drupal Coffee Exchange and participates in the Governance Task Force that just released its community proposal. Learn how Adam, aka Nerdstein, feels about Drupal 8 core development.
 

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

I go by [the nick name] Nerdstein and have been a part of the Drupal community for quite some time. My main contributions are porting/supporting Drupal 8 modules, giving talks at events, maintaining SimplyTest.me, running the Drupal Coffee Exchange and recently participating in the Governance Task Force.

I live in the United States with my wife and two daughters, whom I adore. I currently serve as the VP of Engineering for Hook 42 but had previous roles at CivicActions, Acquia and Penn State University. I have a masters in Information Security, and love working with teams, mentoring/enablement, architecture, security, Agile and DevOps.

2. When did you first came across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, software or the community, and why?

I started looking at Drupal during an evaluation of a project. This was right around the time that the business/agency ecosystem was just starting to take shape. While I was a bit intimidated by all of the new terminology and my lack of understanding open source communities, we selected Drupal. A vendor and I were impressed by how much progress was able to be made thanks to both core and contrib. 

While that piqued my interest, it still took me a long time to understand the community and to contribute. I attended Drupaldelphia back in 2014. I learned a lot, made several community connections, and really enjoyed it. At that point, I knew I wanted to participate and got the confidence to do so. 

I’ve always valued both, the people and the efforts of our vast community. We have some incredibly unique, fun and talented people that contribute in meaningful ways. I’m routinely impressed by how we face and solve hard problems. There is an incredible impact when we add up our collective efforts. I look at what we do each day and I’m proud to even have a small part in it.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

It’s made a huge impact. It’s allowed me to grow professionally and provide for my family. All of this while maintaining a feeling that I’m serving clients and for a greater good through the community efforts.

I remember the moment I went to Boston to the interview with Acquia, which was my first Drupal-centric position. I had not travelled much professionally, rarely attended community events, and generally had a sense of imposter syndrome (I shouldn’t even be here, sort of thing). I was surprised at how relevant my Drupal experience was, and knew this was the start of something much larger. 

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

Basically a bunch of really cool people building technology together. People are shocked to learn how a significant number of (mostly) volunteers across the globe are able to come together to build software that is widely adopted. It seems a bit far-fetched at first, but I think people understand there is something larger and impactful happening in our community. I often compare this to proprietary efforts, like Microsoft, and the analogy is better understood. 

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

I actually have a blog post I’ve been drafting for several months on this very topic. I feel like we need to evolve both, the technology and our community. It is non-trivial to answer, and I need to state that this is my opinion. 

Technically speaking, I’d like to see Drupal core slow down on adding new features and focus on stability. The recent additions of Unami, media, layout builder and a stable migrate is incredibly impactful for Drupal as a product. I’d much prefer if we pause, reflect on what we’ve learned and polish what we have. Prioritizing and resolving already known open issues would stabilize Drupal and clean up a lot of the small things people find frustrating. The initiative around Composer-related improvements is a great example of something we learned and need to prioritize. And I sense there is a lot we can clean up in the core, like View Modes and the Block system, that could be incrementally improved to promote usability and consistency between features.

Community-wise, I would simply reference the proposal we have now released from the Governance Task Force. We proposed recommendations to several aspects of the community. A lot of work and deliberation went into the recommendations, and do a much better job communicating them than I ever could myself. 

6. What are some of the contribution to open source code or community that you are most proud of?

I am very proud of the opportunity I had to serve on the Governance Task Force. I see so much potential to help the community from the work done by the task force. I was so overwhelmingly impressed by my peers on the task force. It was a dream team of some of the most thoughtful, smart and easy-to-work-with individuals I’ve ever collaborated with. 

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

I’ll take the time to highlight three things and would ask anyone who is interested in participating to reach out to me.

  1. SimplyTest.me will be going through some technical modernization that includes a new Drupal 8 front-end and the underlying tools that provision instances.
  2. We’re expanding the Drupal Coffee Exchange to better support international audiences. If you and others in your country enjoy coffee, please sign up! It’s a lot of fun for people.
  3. As part of the Governance Task Force, we publicly released a proposal and created issues for an open commentary period for the community. Get involved. You may have better ideas to contribute or be able to provide additional context to help move the efforts forward. 

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavorment. 

I always rave about my two beautiful kids, my love for craft beer and my foodie tendencies. But lately, I have been trying to prioritize my physical health by running. Over the last two years, I have participated in over ten races and very recently was able to run a ten-mile run (~15K). For several years I focused on my education, jobs and family needs, while my physical health was not as good as it should have been. I have enjoyed running routinely and shocked by how much it helps relieves stress, gives me some fresh air and helps me remain balanced.
 

Nov 09 2018
Nov 09

First one on the list is Why I am one of the top contributors to Drupal? by Jacob Rockowitz. This blog post was inspired by Dries’ annual Who sponsors Drupal development? (2017-2018 edition) report. Jacob is one of the developers, who contributes the most to the Drupal community. In this blog post, he wants to go a little bit further from the question, who contributes the most - he is answering why is he contributing to Drupal. 

We continue our list with a blog post How Marketers can Benefit from Drupal 8 by Tim Cruse from Duo Consulting. Tim explains that we are witnessing increasing interest in Drupal 8, especially from the marketing department, and that is with a good reason. In this blog post, he looks at the facts that make Drupal so valuable to marketers. 

The third spot is reserved for a blog post Decoupled Drupal Authentication with OAuth 2.0 by Preston So, Director of Research and Innovation of Acquia. Preston explains that the most critical component of the decoupled Drupal architecture is a robust authentication mechanism that protects data transmitted between a Drupal site and API consumers. Drupal contributed ecosystem contains several highly useful modules that leverage more recent authentication standards, like OAuth 2.0, at which he takes a closer look in this blog post. 

Let’s continue with Drupal Strategies: Landing Pages by Cindy McCourt from Promet Source. In this blog post, Cindy looks at five recipes for building landing pages in Drupal: Node page, Node Plus View Block, A View Page Plus a Block, Panel Page and Custom Theme Page, and for each, she is answering how and why.

Our fifth choice is How we are improving Drupal's configuration management system by Dries Buytaert. He explains that configuration management is an important feature of any modern content management system. What will the future bring for Drupal in that area?

The sixth blog post we would like to highlight is End to End Testing With Drupal and Cypress by Edward Allison from Sevaa Group. At Sevaas they started to use Cypress to handle End to End tests for their Drupal sites. The experience was great, thus the process has not been complete without hurdles, therefore Ed finds a few concepts that have been helpful specifically for Drupal sites, he is walking us through. 

The next one is 9 Drupal Websites that Change the World by Vergiliu Hachi from Sooperthemes. In this article they talk about some of the world’s biggest organizations and NGOs who are dedicated to making the world a better place - NASA, Tesla, Doctors without Borders etc. Besides changing the world, all these websites have another thing in common: they all use Drupal.

And the last but not least is a blog post Atomic Design in Drupal with GraphQL & Twig - Webinar Recap, the recap of Philipp Melabs webinar by Daniel Lemon, both from Amazee Labs. Daniel gives us an insight of the webinar, where Philipps focus on building a real-world example website for a fictional web agency called Amazing Apps.

These are our top blogs from October… We will be collecting best Drupal blog posts in November too. Stay tuned.


 

Nov 06 2018
Nov 06

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Learn who are the people behind Drupal projects.

This week we talked with David Valdez. Read about what impact Drupal made on him, what contribution is he the proudest of and what Drutopia is.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

I’ve been doing web development for fourteen years and Drupal the last eight.

I currently work for Agaric which is a worker-owned cooperative. This allows us to make decisions about the cooperative democratically. Equally important is that we support one another, not just professionally but personally as well. 

Agaric is involved in several Drupal Projects, including Drupal Training Days, Sprint Weekends, and other local events. You can learn more here

2. When did you first came across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, software or the community, and why?

The first time I used Drupal, I faced the well known steep learning curve. In the beginning, I disliked how difficult the CMS seemed, but later when I started to understand why things were done the way they are, I began to appreciate all the cool things you can do with it, how well thought the subsystems were and how Drupal dramatically improves between one version to the next.

And later, when I had questions about specific problems or bugs, I found many talented people working on the project and giving support. It was amazing and I felt motivated to also contribute back to the community. In this way, I learned a ton of new things, and at the same time, I was helping other people.

3. What impact Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

Drupal gave a new direction to my career. At the time I was working on several different technologies and frameworks. Drupal motivated me to become a specialist, so I left my job and sought out an opportunity to work in a Drupal shop, where I could spend more time improving my Drupal skills.

Having that in mind, I travelled to DrupalCon Austin at 2014 (it was my first time in the USA), and I was convinced, that I wanted to work in a Drupal shop to be more involved in the project.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

Firstly, I usually try to explain what Free Software is about, how this allows projects like Drupal to become so good and how it helps many people.

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

Drupal has always been considered as a Content Management Framework, and I believe Drupal 8 is following this path to become one of the most solid options to build any project.

6. What are some of the contribution to open source code or community that you are most proud of?

There are a few contributions at the Core which allowed me to interact in the whole process to fix a bug on Drupal 8. 

For instance, at Drupal 8.1 the permalinks were broken on the comments, so I helped to write the patch, discuss changes and wrote the tests, to make sure this bug won’t happen again. 

I learned by reading the feedback from other, more experienced developers, and at the same time, I understood how Drupal works (at least in the parts related to the bug).

The same happened with a bug in the migrations and the REST module.

And learning from those issues helped me to contribute in fixing other smaller core bugs and fixing bugs in a several contributed modules, from porting small modules as Image Resize Filter, to contribute to well-known modules as Migrate Plus.

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

Yes, we at Agaric have been working on Drutopia (https://www.drutopia.org), which is a series of Drupal distributions for nonprofits and other low-budget groups. 

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavorment. 

I live in Mexico and I’m a member of a PHP Group (https://phpmexico.mx), where we talk about good practices, help each other improve our skills and keep informed of other cool technologies. 
 

Nov 02 2018
Nov 02

‘Blocks’ in Drupal are pieces of content that can be placed anywhere throughout the site. They are an integral part of Drupal and the way it displays information. While Drupal has a variety of useful blocks out of the box for most scenarios, there might be times when custom blocks are required. That is what I’ll be addressing in this post, by going through how to create a custom block in Drupal 8.

There are two ways in which you can create a custom block:

  • Through Drupal’s own GUI, or
  • Programmatically.

Via Drupal GUI

This method is pretty straightforward and easier than creating a block programmatically. However, it also is less flexible and customizable than programmatically creating a block.

  • Go to admin -> structure -> block layout -> custom block library.
  • Click ‘block types’ tab. Once here, click on the ‘Add custom block type’ button.
  • Enter block label and description.
  • Now, you can add fields, manage display type, manage display etc. for your custom block. Customize the block to your liking and click save.
  • Now, go back to custom block library and click the blue ‘Add custom block’ button, to add the block to your library.
  • The next step is to simply place the block into your desired region by navigating to admin -> structure -> block layout.

Programmatically Creating Block

This method requires a little more understanding of the way Drupal works, however, once you get the hang of it, it gets pretty easy.

Create a module

In Drupal 8, it is necessary to create an info.yml file that contains the metadata for every custom module, theme or plugin you create. Similarly, for our custom block, we will need to create an info.yml file in the ‘modules/custom’ directory. Note that if the custom folder isn’t already created, you will need to create it. For creating a custom block, we will need to make a custom module.

Now create an ‘info.yml’ file such as ‘custom_block_example.info.yml’. Inside this file enter following:

name: Custom Block Example
type: module
description: Define a custom block.
core: 8.x
package: Custom
dependencies:
  - block

You can now go to your Drupal dashboard and enable the custom module we have just created.

Create Class

Now, in order to define the logic of the block, we need to create a class which will be placed under the modules/custom/custom_block_example/src/Plugin/Block directory. 

The class file should contain annotation as well. The annotation allows us to identify the block. Apart from the annotation, this class will contain 4 methods:

  • build() - Returns a basic markup by rendering a renderable array.
  • blockAccess() - Defines a custom user access logic.
  • blockForm() - Defines a custom block configuration form using the Form API.
  • blockSubmit() - Used to save a configuration, defined on the blockForm() method.

Now, this is what the class file should contain in the end:

<?php

namespace Drupal\my_block_example\Plugin\Block;

use Drupal\Core\Access\AccessResult;
use Drupal\Core\Block\BlockBase;
use Drupal\Core\Form\FormStateInterface;
use Drupal\Core\Session\AccountInterface;

/**
 * Provides a block with a simple text.
 *
 * @Block(
 *   id = "my_block_example_block",
 *   admin_label = @Translation("My block"),
 * )
 */
class MyBlock extends BlockBase {
  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public function build() {
    return [
      '#markup' => $this->t('This is a simple block!'),
    ];
  }

  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  protected function blockAccess(AccountInterface $account) {
    return AccessResult::allowedIfHasPermission($account, 'access content');
  }

  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public function blockForm($form, FormStateInterface $form_state) {
    $config = $this->getConfiguration();

    return $form;
  }

  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public function blockSubmit($form, FormStateInterface $form_state) {
    $this->configuration['my_block_settings'] = $form_state->getValue('my_block_settings');
  }
}

Now, go back to your site, and you should be able to see the block you have just created. Simply assign the block to a region of your choice and it should become visible.

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, blocks are an integral part of a Drupal site. Learning to customize and play with the blocks in your own way can be a very useful skill.

Having trouble with customizing your Drupal site? Contact us, here at Agiledrop, and forget about having to worry about getting stuck with your Drupal site ever again.
 

Oct 29 2018
Oct 29

So, you’ve decided to join the Drupal community and want to know what are some development tips you should know beforehand? You are in the right place. Firstly, I’d like to welcome you to the most awesome development community out there.

Starting out with Drupal can be a bit daunting, after all, it is quite a bit more complex than other popular CMSs, but it’s also a lot more rewarding, powering all kinds of websites out there.

So, let’s go through what are some things you should be familiar with, to get started on your Drupal journey.

Languages

While you could create a Drupal site without any prior programming languages knowledge, to make anything more than a simple website would most probably require delving into Drupal’s back-end. For that purpose, it helps to know beforehand what technologies Drupal is using and what you’ll be dealing with. To keep this section simple, Drupal utilizes the following:

  • PHP 7 (Symfony Framework)
  • HTML5, CSS3 (Sass) and Javascript (jQuery and recently React)

Getting familiar with core PHP as well as Symfony framework plus front-end skills should get you in a pretty good position for Drupal development.

Front-end frameworks

This point ties into the point above. Read about frameworks, what they are, as well as how they are used. Frameworks are also going to become a lot more important for Drupal, due to the emergence of headless or decoupled Drupal (a concept that allows integration of various front-end technologies such as React, Angular etc. with Drupal’s back-end). This further enforces the importance of familiarity with JavaScript since all of these front-end technologies are built on it.

Twig Templating Engine

Drupal 8’s move to the Symfony framework has resulted in the Twig templating engine being used throughout. Learning Twig templating is an absolute must for any aspiring Drupal developer. The great thing about Twig templating is that it is easy to learn and use.

Command Line Interface (CLI)

Developing on Drupal will require quite a lot of time spent on Command Line Interfaces, in fact, it’s so essential that Drupal has its own CLIs, named Drush and Console. Also with tools like a Composer, you can make it a lot easier for your Drupal development efforts by learning it to get a grip with CLI.

Debugging

Ah debugging. This is an essential skill for any developer. While Drupal has a great built-in error reporting tool, there will be many scenarios where it won’t be able to catch on to problems, and that’s where your debugging skills will come in handy. Any Drupal developer worth his salt should be a good debugger. At AGILEDROP we use XDebug.

How Drupal works

Learning how Drupal works is a crucial step in your Drupal development journey. Learning the ins and outs of the CMS keeps a clear picture in your head and provides a good high-level view of what goes on behind the scenes of a Drupal site. The official Drupal site has a great in-depth section on its working.

Theming

Themes are a basic component of Drupal. They give Drupal site’s their looks and turns them from boring and bland sites to pretty and visually appealing sites. Learning how Drupal handles themes and how they are implemented should be a part of every Drupal developer's arsenal.

Version control

Version control is a form of keeping revisions for your code. This is a skill that every developer should have, regardless of the technologies they work on. Version control also acts as a gateway to collaboration with other devs and the Drupal community. As in many other open-source communities, Drupal developers mostly use Git.

Contribute to the community

Speaking of Community, Drupal is a CMS that thrives on it. Being an open-source software the community is what keeps it thriving. Drupal’s community is widely known as being one of the greatest of all open-source software. Contributing to the community doesn’t only help Drupal to grow, it also helps you to know great people while simultaneously increasing your Drupal development knowledge!

Are you starting a Drupal site and coming across hurdles? Our extensive experience with Drupal here at Agiledrop can be of great use to you! Feel free to contact us.

Pages

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web