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Nov 23 2020
Nov 23

4. Track team

This year's DrupalCon will feature well-over 100 sessions, across five tracks, and also four deep dive workshops that are not to be missed (for the first time, these workshops are included in the price of your ticket).

For a number of years, Annertech has provided volunteers to chair tracks. This involves many meetings about the conference to decide what the tracks will be, answering questions from those who wish to speak before sessions are submitted, reviewing and rating sessions after they are submitted (hundreds get submitted, so this is no small task), awarding speaking slots, and ensuring speakers are taken care of during the conference.

Our Director of Projects, Mike King, has been a track chair for many years, including chairing the Agency & Business track this year. In previous years, Mark Conroy, our Director of Development, has chaired the Frontend and Site Building tracks, while Stella has chaired numerous tracks from Agency & Business to Higher Education.

Jun 03 2020
Jun 03

Every new version of Drupal has had the headache of the upgrade path - from 5 to 6, from 6 to 7, from 7 to 8. What this often meant was re-building the site in the new version and then doing a migration of the content. This was expensive for clients. With Drupal 9 (and the versions that will follow), this is now a thing of the past.

Drupal 9 is the exact same codebase as the last version of Drupal 8, with just two changes:

  • Updates of dependencies to versions that stay supported
  • Removal of our custom Drupal code that has been marked as deprecated

This means, if your site was running on Drupal 8, and your developers kept it updated to the latest version of Drupal 8, you just need to make sure that any contributed modules and custom code are not using deprecated functions. If that's the case, hey presto - you're website is Drupal 9 ready. I don't think we can underscore how good a feature this is strongly enough.

New Features

But surely there are some new features? No, not in this release - and that's good for now. For Drupal 9, we have the same feature set from Drupal 8. Drupal 8 introduced the idea of new features in each minor version (8.1, 8.2, etc) rather than having to wait for the next major version (Drupal 9). This means Drupal, during the 8.x lifecycle, got lots of new features - media in core, umami magazine profile (for which I am a core maintainer), layout builder, JSONAPI, and more. For Drupal 9.0, there are no new features, though that will change from 9.1. Once we get over this first release, expect new features again every 6 months.

Sep 10 2018
Sep 10

As ever, we have brought our bags of knowledge with us to share out our goodies. On Tuesday, Mark Conroy will co-present on the new installation profile and theme for Drupal core - Umami. This is part of the "Out of the Box" initiative of which Mark is co-maintainer. Mark will be accompanied by two other leads from that initiative - Eliot Ward and Keith Jay. Later on Tuesday, the three will co-host a BoF to set the parameters for what they want to achieve during the weeks' code sprints.

Also on Tuesday, Stella Power will co-present a session on Drupal governance. Maybe you already heard about the Governance Task Force. This is a chartered group that was formed to make a proposal on community governance in Drupal. The session will share what the task force is doing, how to get involved, and the current progress of the Task Force.

Not to be outdone, David Thorne will - again on Tuesday (we've a busy Tuesday!) - give a presentation on the Islandora CLAW distribution for Drupal. This talk will introduce CLAW's key concepts to educational establishments, many of whom may already use Drupal for websites, as well as Fedora Commons for their digital asset collections.

Wednesday is the day we'll all relax after our presentations on Tuesday, and look forward towards Thursday where we'll host the usual (pretty crazy) Drupal Trivia Night Quiz, along with an army of volunteer runners, judges, and the ever-dapper host - Anthony Lindsay.

On Friday, we'll crack open the laptops and contribute as much code as we possibly can to the Drupal project, before flying home Friday night and Saturday morning.

Oh, and - we're hiring!

Oct 31 2017
Oct 31

To achieve the first, we had a strict policy on "no case studies, no sales pitches". Instead we specifically asked for people to propose talks about migration, multilingual, headless Drupal, test driven development, component-based theming, etc. Naturally, the Drupal community didn't let us down and provided two days of very high-level sessions on these and more topics. (As an aside, one attendee told me he didn't get to DrupalCon, but did manage to get to four DrupalCon sessions at Drupal Camp Dublin.)

To achieve the second, we deliberately scheduled our camp for 2 months after DrupalCon. This would allow us to talk to people at DrupalCon and encourage them to come along. Added to that, we contacted people we knew from other Drupal communities outside of Ireland and asked them if they would like to come to our camp and to promote a tweet or two for us. This was a successful endeavour with about 33% of attendees at Drupal Camp Dublin coming from overseas, mostly the UK and Belgium.

So, what was talked about? We'll here's a lightning talk blogpost of each topic (yes, I managed to get to every session across two tracks, except for one session that was on the same time as one of my own).

Lessons Learned from Building a Large Multilingual, Multi-region Site in Drupal 8

This was a shortened version of Stella's talk from DrupalCon. A fascinating look at the quirks of building a website with localised content, rather than just multilingual content. For example, showing a blog post to users in Europe, but not to users in Asia; an English language report in US English for the US audience and UK English for the rest of the world. There are more pitfalls than you might think, but Stella covered them all.

Surviving your job when having ADD

Levi Govaerts gave a wonderful talk on how having ADD affects his life and work and strategies for coping. I tweeted to him later to say I'd love to see such a talk given to a larger audience, such as a DrupalCon audience. I hope this happens. Very insightful.

Lean Web Operations — Planning for the unpredictable

This was a talk from Jochen from FreistilBox. As usual, Jochen delivered a very engaging talk on "getting things done" with his typical humour and deep knowledge. In short - stop starting and start finishing.

A Headed Goal for SSE Airtricity League with Headless Drupal!

This talk wasn't so much a headless goal as it was a triple header. There was so much to get through here it took three very capable developers from Monsoon Consulting to deliver it, the talk focussed on building a Drupal backend for a headless Angular JS frontend for the Football Association of Ireland.

Clearing out the cruft - Using Migrate API to migrate a 12 year old site

Alan, from Annertech, has been maintaining the Athenry running club website for a long time, starting with Drupal 4.7. Each new major release of Drupal allows Alan to see what has changed about Drupal migration from version to version. In this talk he looked at the workflow needed and how to migrate from media in Drupal 7 to Media Entity Embed in Drupal 8 as well as migrating to paragraphs.

Estimates are dead, long live forecasting!

I apologise for turning this well-prepared talk into a discussion. But I couldn't stop asking inline questions because what Mike King was talking about had such a resonance for how developers work. Basically, we need to use data to let our clients know our 'forecast' of work completion. We cannot estimate with any accuracy.

One-click automated builds

Luis Rodriguez from Capgemini gave this talk on making your development workflow easier by automating as much as possible. I wish I knew as much as Luis about this kind of stuff.

Case study : making Commerce, Webform & Group play nicely together

Okay, we said strictly no case studies, but this one was worth it. Chandeep Khosa gave a great overview of how he has used webform and Drupal commerce along with the group module to allow quite complex pricing rules to deliver products to clients.

Live Performance Workshop: A top-to-bottom performance overhaul

Anthony Lindsay, from Annertech, shocked us all with some terribly bad code that would make a site very slow (the type of code we have seen and fixed for some of our clients). After we got over the shock, we set about fixing it, together, as a team with everyone giving whatever knowledge we had until we got the site from a 5 minute page load to a 2 second  page load.

Deploying Drupal (and anything else) with Fabric

This was the first  of Oliver Davies's talks, in which he demoed some very clever things he has been doing with Fabric to help his deployment workflow.

Back to the Future: No More Static Mockups!

Without doubt the best talk of the weekend, not just because it was by me! This was a version of the talk I gave at DrupalCon, where I go on my usual rant about why we need to stop sending clients photoshop mockups of their websites and start using PatternLab (or at least design in the browser).

Teaching Development via Drupal

I missed this talk because I was giving mine at the same time. From comments from people who were at it, I'm sorry I missed it. Apparently a great talk along the lines of "I am teaching CMS developer at a third level institute. What should I be teaching about Drupal".

There's more to code reviews than you might think

This was a great introduction from Daniel Shaw about how to get started with code reviews, why code reviews are not supposed to be scary, and how they can make your developers even better developers.

Drupal 8 Sitebuilding with Paragraphs, Display Suite & Configuration Management

Chandeep's second session. This time he gave a preview of how he uses paragraphs and display suite to allow him to deliver complex requirements without writing code, and also give the editor as good a user experience as possible.

TDD - Test Driven Drupal

This was Oliver Davies' second session. in this one, he expounded on why we should write tests, how to get started writing them, and - crucially - why using TDD can help you work faster and find bugs sooner.

A foundation in Drupal development with Docker

This was one of those sessions where I know very little about the topic but like to attend so I can at least gain some vocabulary about it. Ed Crompton didn't disappoint, and now at  least I know the difference between a Docker image and a container.

Growing an Agency Business: Tactics Vs Strategy

Bharat Sharma from Monsoon Consulting stepped in to give this talk when another speaker had to cancel. In it he dissected the process his company went through a few years back to re-shape themselves and the type of client they wanted to work with. There was a lot to take away from this talk for any company looking to scale.

A New Theme for Drupal Core?

I gave this presentation as the last one of the weekend. It was a short and simple overview of the work we are doing as the 'Out of the Box"' initiative for Drupal Core - building a demo installation profile for an imaginary food publishing magazine called Umami, which will become part of Drupal Core 8.5.x (if we meet our deadlines).

And that was it. Drupal Camp Dublin 2017 - in my opinion the best Drupal Camp we have had so far in Ireland.

Sep 19 2017
Sep 19

I got a request today from a former colleague:

@marky I need some quick practical selling points why our designers should stop using dedicated design programs and design in the browser instead. 2 or 3 should do!

I guess he had to add in the "2 or 3 should do" knowing I'd go off on a long rant. In either case, I gave him 5, here they are:

1) Don't Build Up Expectations for Your Client

When you use a static tool such as Photoshop, you build up expectations for your client. What usually happens is that all titles are the same length, all images have the same crop proportions, etc. But when your client adds real content, the rendered page looks like an approximation of the design.

With design in the browser, what you show to your client is what your client will get.

2) Quicker for Implementing Change Requests

If changes are needed, they can very quickly implemented by editing classes in CSS (for example, the new theme for Drupal core has a base font size of 15px. We’ve decided to up that to 16px - which means one line of code in CSS - instead of redoing all the Sketch files). The same is true if you want all image in a teaser list to position on the right hand side of the text instead of the left. Doing this in Phhotoshop is a pain.

3) QA Starts Sooner

QA testing can start waaaay sooner than using Photoshop or Sketch. As the client is signing off the designs (or each component) they are also signing off the frontend QA. Using something like PatternLab with Twig you can have almost the whole Drupal theme developed in this design phase, and then get the backend developers to output the HTML that will match it.

4) Signoff is on Real Devices

Client will see the designs in a real device and how they will render on that device - not looking at a mobile design on a desktop screen. When a client looks at a pdf of their new site, they will zoom out until the text is unreadable to see the whole page on one screen. No one will ever view the site like that though. Design in the browser forces your client to view the site as it will finally be viewed, in whatever browser/device they choose.

5) Multiple Variations is a Breeze

It’s very easy to show different variations of the same design (e.g. blog post with short title, long title, no image, etc) to see how the design stacks up against these real-world scenarios. This takes much longer in Photoshop or Sketch if you need to create individual mockups for each. Again, using PatternLab for this, you can have a base blog.json file (with the data for the blog component) and then extend that with each variation you need blog~long-title.json (with just the title variable changed), blog~long-title-no-image.json (you get the idea).

Okay so, at this stage it looks like I'm not a fan of Photoshop (I'm not) or InVision (I'm definitely not), or Sketch (I am! I love Sketch). So is there are place for these tools? Well, yes. If you designer likes to use them, and can work quicker with them (maybe he/she is not a frontend developer), then by all means they should use them. As each component is designed, they can then hand them over to the frontend team to implement them as HTML/CSS/JS, and it's these files that are sent to the client for signoff.

Won't that take longer? Initially, yes - it'll take a little longer to get the designs to the client, but the payoff is in how much sooner QA is done, how the client doesn't expect a unicorn to eventually be delivered as that is not what they signed off, and ... at some stage you are going to have to write the necessary HTML/CSS/JS, so why not early on?

After all that, what was the response from the person who said "2 or 3 should do"?

/me has started wondering how to turn @marky off now that he has started him...

I'll be speaking about this at DrupalCon Vienna on Wednesday 27th September at 15:45. My talk is titled: "Back to the Future: No More Static Mockups!" I'd love to chat with you there.

Here's a video of a similar talk from Frontend United in Athens this year:

Nov 10 2016
Nov 10

Clients sign off on designs. You build a website for them based on these designs. It looks quite like the designs, but not exactly like them. It's not your fault. It's not the client's fault. But wouldn't it be nice if you could build what the client signed off?

Why are the websites we build not exactly like what the client signs off and why is it nobody’s fault? Here’s three (good) reasons:

  1. Websites in the real world use real content – not all titles have 5 words, images have different dimensions, etc.
  2. Designs are in static (image) format so can’t be tested on real devices and screen widths such as phones, tablets, desktops, and smart TVs. So, even though you've got “mobile” designs, they were designed for a specific mobile screen size, but mobile screen sizes can be anything from 3.5 inches to 11 inches.
  3. The designs were completed in my most hated design tool – Photoshop, which renders design elements (especially fonts) different to how browsers do. For example, a thin font in Photoshop might be much fatter in Firefox. Why not just see what it’s really going to look like.

Photoshop is for editing photos (the clue is in the name) not designing websites. If your designer comes to you in 2016+ with designs created in Photoshop, you’ve hired the wrong designer.

Surely there’s an interface designer that is better than Photoshop? There is: SketchApp - built especially for designing user interfaces, but it still falls waaaay short when you want to give your clients designs that they can touch and feel and smell and see exactly what they are going to get. SketchApp is great for rapid prototyping and early stage mockups. It’s great for quickly designing ‘patterns’ or ‘elements’ but not for full designs – again, you can’t expect clients to get a true feeling for how their website works rather than looks by giving them static images of it.

Right, Mark, is there a solution to this conundrum? Yes. It’s called “Design in the Browser” - use the tool that the design will be accessed in to create the design. Give your clients a coded-up prototype. Get your design ideas into code, send your client a link to the website. Let them test it on their phone, on their tablets, on their teenagers’ PlayStations, on their desktops. Let the CEO scream when it doesn’t work on his Windows XP with IE8 as the browser he refuses to let go of. And then explain to him that he wouldn’t have known that if we had sent him a Photoshop document and if he wants it to work on his dinosaur of a machine, it’s going to cost him 30% more. Let him make his decision based on real world interactions.

Do you have a magic workflow that can slay all the dragons?

Here’s my 10 Step Plan for Losing Weight (or at least reducing technical (frontend) debt):

  1. Discovery: see what the client wants.
  2. Research: find out what the client actually needs.
  3. Rapid prototyping 1: use pen and paper, post-it notes, anything to come up with quick ideas about what a design might encapsulate, what a workflow might look like, how an interaction might function.
  4. Rapid prototyping 2: use SketchApp to create quick outlines of what elements of the design might look like (from herein called ‘components’). For example, a search box (input and submit button with bounding border), a news teaser (teaser image, title, post date, snippet, read more link), etc.
  5. Create each design component as an actual coded object. Write the HTML for the structure, the CSS for the layout and styles, and the JavaScript for any interactivity.
  6. Use these design components to create fully-fledged mockups of sample pages of the new website – homepage, listing page, full article – complete with real sample content and images from the client's website.
  7. Send a link to the prototype to the client. This is their designs delivered. Ask for feedback.
  8. Make changes based on client feedback.
  9. Get sign off for the designs from the client.
  10. Use the HTML, CSS, JS from the prototype in the real world implementation of the designs. In short, create a website exactly like what the client was expecting. Not an approximation of it, the thing itself – so the product they get is the product they sign off.

10 Reasons Why Your Client Needs to Insist You Design in the Browser

  1. We use real world content to test that the designs work with the same type of content our clients create.
  2. We can test these designs on the devices they are ultimately going to be consumed on – phones, tablets, desktops, etc.
  3. QA for the frontend begins very early: as the client is signing off the designs, they are signing off the frontend of the website.
  4. QA becomes an on-going item throughout the website build, not something tacked on at the end.
  5. If the client wants an updated design – for example, she would like all text on buttons to be uppercase, we can simply edit the .button class in our CSS and not have to go through 40 PSDs to change each instance of it, saving you time and effort and the client money.
  6. Because we have an interactive prototype of the website, we can use this for regression testing. So, if you add a new feature to the website in Phase 2, you can easily check that the new feature doesn’t break any of the present features.
  7. The client always has the most up-to-date copy of the designs. All they need to do is click on the link you have sent them to see what has changed.
  8. You are providing your client with a styleguide. They can mark this against their print brand guidelines to make sure both are in sync.
  9. When a new feature is requested your client will already have a list of pre-defined design components to choose from. This means you may not need to invent new ones – again, a money saver for the client.
  10. There are no surprises or hidden charges. The client gets what they client is paying for.

I know, I know. This sounds difficult. It sounds like a new way of working. It’s going to take time and effort to implement this workflow. You build websites with Drupal, does this mean you will have to maintain two versions of the frontend?

I come with solutions, not problems. Our tool of choice for this approach is an “Atomic Design” system called PatternLab. This lets us do everything listed above. Using Version 2 of this allows us to integrate the templates that we create for PatternLab directly into our Drupal workflow. What does this mean? Well, without blowing your mind too much, it means that the design that the client signs off is the actual code that is going to be used in the Drupal theme. We do not copy/paste the CSS and JS from one place to another, we do not have anything magic to try to keep two systems in sync. We provide the client with a URL such as styleguide.example.com and they can refer to that as the canonical design as a static HTML prototype while example.com will be the Drupal implementation of it – pulling the templates, CSS, and JS into its system.

Thanks to the great work from the folks behind PatternLab and with some very generous help from the great team at Phase2 who first created a Drupal version of it, we are able to design in the browser, get sign-off from our clients, and then focus on developing the CMS with the frontend work already complete.

Ooooh. That sounds nice doesn’t it? Tune in for part 2 of this series where I’ll detail how to use PatternLab with Drupal. Or, even better, come to Drupal Camp Cork on November 25 and 26 where I’ll be giving a presentation about all of this.

Sep 29 2016
Sep 29

My fingers are trembling typing this. I can't believe it. This morning everyone in Annertech land is thinking "did that really just happen?" It appears it did, we are the web agency of the year!

Last night, to top off the other three awards we won - best arts and culture website, most beautiful website in Ireland, and best website (all for Ireland.ie) - we then went on to win Best Web Agency 2016.

Speaking to accept the award, Alan Burke thanked the great team we have in Annertech and our fantastic clients who trust us with such important work.

Afterwards, Stella Power had the following to say, "it's just amazing. I always knew we had a great team. We work so well together, we get on so well, we're not co-workers or colleagues, we're friends. And when working with your friends it's much easier to do great work. This award vindicates everything we've been doing to make Annertech the agency it is".

Please join me in congratulating Annertech on this fantastic news. Annertech: Web Agency of the Year 2016.

Sep 29 2016
Sep 29

We knew Ireland.ie (built by Annertech on Drupal) was a special website. The design is beautiful thanks to the amazing work of BigO Media, the content, media, and experience is second to none thanks to the the team in the Ireland.ie office at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The implementation is without flaw (if we say so ourselves!).

Last night at the Realex Web Awards 2016 ireland.ie was nominated in two categories: "Best Arts and Culture" website and "Most Beautiful Website in Ireland". It won both. Were we happy? We were ecstatic but that was increased moments later when we won the Grand Prix, the overall winner for "Best Website in Ireland" 2016. Congratulations ireland.ie - winner of three awards!

As well as the above awards we (Annertech) won one more - WEB AGENCY OF THE YEAR 2016. That was just amazing!

Sep 26 2016
Sep 26

We're all very helpful people in the Drupal community and so help should easily be available. But sometimes you get caught out and can't find people nearby - you get lost, you lose your phone, you're in an area of town and haven't a clue how to get back to your home, you are locked out of your AirBnB, you've gone to kiss the Blarney Stone not realising it was 350km away!

If you need help with anything while in Dublin, please get in contact with us. We have lots of local knowledge (and a team of 15 people here for DrupalCon) willing to help you. You can contact us via:

email: [email protected]
email: [email protected]
phone: +353 (0)1 524 0312
twitter: @annertech
 

We'll be keeping a good monitor on all of the above and will do whatever we can to help anyone that needs it.

Sep 22 2016
Sep 22

DrupalCon Dublin is just around the corner (since I live in Ireland, I mean that literally!). DRUPALCON: HEAR ME ROAR! (or at least speak, along with some other Annertechies). At DrupalCon we'll be speaking on a number of topics (interesting aside: we're the only Irish agency with any speakers at this year's DrupalCon). Here's a quick roundup of our talks and why you won't want to miss them:

Speaker(s): Alan Burke and Aisling Furlong

Where: Liffey Meeting 2 | 10:45

Why come to this: You will learn what large organisations look for when selecting a CMS, how you can pitch Drupal as the CMS of choice, what competition Drupal has and how it fares against it. You do want insights from one of Ireland's largest multinationals don't you?

Speaker(s): Mark Conroy

Where: Wicklow Hall 2B | 14:15

Why come to this: Come get an overview of how to use Drupal as a decoupled system, how to use Ionic Framework (and AngularJS) to take the decoupled data to make a hybrid webapp that can run on iOS, Android, or the native web. Sorry Windows phone.

Speaker(s): Alan Burke

Where: Liffey Meeting 3 | 12:00

Why come to this: Learn from our insights gained building ireland.ie, where we built a co-lingual rather than multi-lingual website. In a co-lingual website all languages present are given equal importance. We made sure this was true on the frontend and the backend.

Speaker(s): Andrew Macpherson

Where: Liffey Meeting 4 | 10:45

Why come to this: Andrew, Drupal core maintainer for accessibility, is one of Drupal's most recent core maintainers. In this core conversation he will discuss the present state of accessibility of Drupal, where it might be improved, and how we can do so. Andrew is the only core maintainer working for an Irish agency.

Speaker(s): Anthony Lindsay

Where: Wicklow Meeting 1 | 10:45

Why come to this: Anthony, Annertech's lead support engineer, works from home (like the rest of us here at Annertech). Come listen to Anthony tell in his own inimitable style why remote working makes him happy.

That's our official speaking slots. Don't miss them, and don't forget to say hello to us at Booth 901.

Sep 20 2016
Sep 20

This day next week, as part of the Drupal Ireland Association, we will be delighted to welcome you to Dublin at the DrupalCon Welcome Party. It's on a boat, which is going to be deadly ("deadly" in this context means great, "lethal" would mean dodgy/dangerous!). The boat is just across the road from the convention centre, so that will be savage ("savage" of course means lots of fun). However, the ceiling inside the boat is only about 2 metres high, that's going to be a bit cat (let's just say "cat" doesn't mean brilliant).

So what is this hoolie (usually a loud party with lots of traditional instruments and improptu performances, but not in this case) all about? It's about the Drupal Ireland Association giving a céad míle fáilte (one hundred thousand welcomes) to the world when they arrive in Baile Átha Cliath (Dublin). It's about us showing gach duine (everyone) that we are a welcoming community of Drupalists in Ireland. That we are open to new people coming on board and helping out with what we do - we'd love to hear from Irish people using Drupal whom are not members of Drupal Ireland yet and also people from other tech scenes here.

The party is on the MV Cill Airne boat (Cill Airne is the Irish for Killarney - you won't be disappointed if you go there - and means the "church of the sloes"). It's starts at tea time (18:00) and goes on until serving time finishes (23:30 on a Tuesday). Come join mise (pronounced misha, means "me"), all the rest of the Annertech team, many others from the Drupal Ireland Association, and hundreds (sorry we can't fit thousands onto the boat) of other Drupalists at the DrupalCon Welcome Party to have a savage, deadly night of craic (fun).

Sep 13 2016
Sep 13

Annertech will be descending upon DrupalCon with (nearly) our full team of "Annertechies". So much so that there will be more Annertechies in attendance than all other people from Irish agencies combined. With that kind of showing, we thought we'd introduce ourselves and let you get to know us.

Stella Power

Stella is Ireland's Drupal wunderkind. Founder of the Drupal Ireland Association, member of the Drupal security team (the only person from an Irish agency with that accolade), and managing director of Annertech, Stella is the kind of person that doesn't come along often enough. Stella has spoken at many European DrupalCons; this year she was track chair for the business track and is also the local liaison for DrupalCon.

Alan Burke

Alan is also a director of Annertech. When not keeping the invoices raised and paid, he's focussing on being a top-notch frontend developer. In this vein, his main passion is for website performance. Alan has spoken at a lot of DrupalCons over the years; this year he will be speaking about developing a co-lingual website for ireland.ie and why a multinational organisation might choose Drupal.

Dermot Frost

Poor Dermot has a tough life. He won't be able to make it to DrupalCon as he'll be preparing for a conference the following week in Boston. When not jet-setting, Dermot spends a lot of time building and maintaining server infrastructures.

Anthony Lindsay

Anthony is our lead support engineer. He makes sure that all our existing clients are happy. For Annertech, support often means on-going development of new features and enhancements to existing ones. If you have an existing website and would like us to support it, come talk to Anthony at Booth 901. This year he will give a presentation at DrupalCon about how remote working makes him happy.

Mike King

Mike keeps us all in check. He's our project manager. He makes sure we know what the client wants and deliver it to them on time, on budget, and with smiles on our faces. He was track chair for DrupalCon this year on the project management track.

Mark Conroy

Mark - me! - is a lead frontend developer with Annertech. He's very interested in maintainable code, design in the browser, component-based frontend, and how those three can be brought together. You can find him (too) often in the DrupalTwig slack. He'll be presenting at DrupalCon about getting started creating mobile/hybrid apps using Drupal as a backend and Ionic Framework as a frontend. Mark is presently chairperson of the Drupal Ireland Association.

Tommy Lynge Jørgensen

Tommy is one of our lead backend developers. He knows a lot about solr, and migrations, and backing up data. He comes from Denmark, lives in Ireland, and is the reason we have cake at Booth 901. Come for the code, stay for the cake!

Andrew Macpherson

Andrew is another lead backend developer in Annertech. He is the only core maintainer working for an Irish agency, having recently been made a core maintainer for accessibility. So, if you want an accessible Drupal website built by an Irish agency, get in contact with us. He will conduct a core conversation on the future of Drupal accessibility at DrupalCon.

Gavin Hughes

Gavin is one of our support engineers. Whilst Anthony makes sure that all our clients are happy, Gavin is the one beavering away in the background actually doing the work!!! (Sorry Anthony!) When not debugging issues and developing new features, he's probably kite surfing somewhere off the west coast of Ireland.

Bren Vaughan

Bren joined us recently as a project manager. Having trained as a developer, he is slowly recovering from his past life. He's also slowly recovering from participating in Iron Man competitions and other feats of endurance unknown to the rest of Annertech. He's got so much recovery to do, he won't make it to DrupalCon this year.

Ricardo Flores Galán

Ricardo, from Spain, is our in-house designer and UX expert. He checks the fine details of designs for consistency, brand adherence, vertical rhythm, and more. Oh, and his wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy yesterday. CONGRATULATIONS. Ricardo is presently secretary of the Drupal Ireland Association.

Rob McCreary

Rob lives in Northern Ireland. He joined Annertech almost a year ago and has been doing some fantastic frontend work for us. Previously having worked in the non-profit sector he is a great compliment to many of the types of clients Annertech has historically serviced.

Adrien Sirjacques

Adrien is one of our backend developers, and has worked on a number of projects to add new features to existing sites and also some greenfields work. Though from France, he's very active in the Irish Drupal community and can be found each month at our Drupal Ireland meetup in Dublin.

Tom Bamford

Tom is English. He lives in France where he attends to the meadow, country walks, sunshine (which apparently is rare in Normandy) and frontend development. We're lucky to have him on board given his vast knowledge of Drupal, JavaScript, SASS and other complimentary items.

Karen Leech

Karen is also English. She also lives in France, and attends to the same things as Tom. Except, instead of frontend development she is a site builder and QA Analyst. You know when you miss out on a client request by just a tiny item? Karen is our backup to notice that and makes sure nothing gets to UAT without passing her exacting standards.

So that's it. A quick roundup of the Annertechies you'll (likely) meet at DrupalCon. We'll be at Booth 901 and here's some reasons why you should come talk to us.

Sep 08 2016
Sep 08

DrupalCon is big. It's got hundreds of sessions. A similar amount of BoFs. Approximately 2,000 attendees. Social events left, right, and centre. It's not hard to get confused, miss things that you promised not to, and leave thinking "damn, I could have done that better". At Annertech, we're Ireland's most seasoned DrupalCon attendees. Here's our guide to making the most of it.

Create a Schedule

You can add any session to your own personal schedule on the DrupalCon website. You can do this right now. Do so. With so many great sessions running concurrently, it's very hard to work out on the spot what to go to next. You can find your personal schedule here.

Attend BoFs

At my first DrupalCon (in Prague) I went to the all day media sprint on Friday. I can't explain how much I learned that day - amazing. It was then I realised that I had missed out (and it was too late) on great opportunities by only going to sessions during the week. BoFs are where you get down and dirty with the innards of Drupal and related technologies and theories - accessibility, Drupal for Museums, Open Data, etc were just some of the ones I attended in Barcelona last year.

What's a BoF? It's a "birds of a feather" meeting. Basically, people with a common interest book a room and sit around discussing it. It's usually someone with A LOT of knowledge about a topic that does so. The format is very informal and friendly, just like a tutorial in college, with usually less than 20 people in attendance. This year I'll end up at about 50% BoFs and 50% sessions (or less).

Go Easy on the Alcohol

Yes, we know, you're in Ireland and Irish people like to drink and party. That's true, but you're going to be here for a week. Please don't go overboard on Monday and be wiped out for the rest of the week (not least becuase my session is on Tuesday and I'd like to see you there!).

During the week there will be lots of social events. You are welcome to all of them. But do not feel pressured to drink alcohol or to buy drinks for others. Be respectful of yourself and others and when leaving venues please do so quietly - there are lots of people trying to sleep.

Attend the Keynotes

If you go easy on the alcohol, this one is easier to achieve. The keynotes are where you'll learn about the state of Drupal and the plans for the immediate future of it from Dries. This will be followed by a Q&A with Dries, moderated by a local volunteer, where you get to tweet questions to him.

The other two keynotes will be hugely relevant talks from very respected individuals - Emer Coleman and Eduardo Garcia.

Contribute to Drupal

There will be loads of opportunities to contribute to Drupal by sprinting and/or mentoring. There will be extended sprints each weekend before and after DrupalCon. The conference hotel will have a 24 hour sprint room. Contributing is how Drupal gets built. Please contribute.

Take Time Out

With all the talking and sessions and BoFs and keynotes and contributing, it's okay if your brain is feeling a little over-worked. We have a beautiful city in Dublin. Take some time out, go for a walk. Visit some our recommended things to see and do in Dublin. Talk to some locals. Enjoy yourself (DrupalCon is about more than just work).

And if all that fails to help you get the most out of DrupalCon, well, you could just go on the DrupalCon diet!

Nov 19 2015
Nov 19

Drupal 8, which we previously called "the most brilliantly amazing responsive accessible version of Drupal to be released so far", has just been released.

This is major news for three reasons.

  1. Drupal 6 will not be supported for very much longer. If you are running a Drupal 6 website, you will need to start migrating to Drupal 7 or Drupal 8 (or risk potentially being exposed to security vulnerabilities and loss of data).
  2. Drupal 8 comes with lots of great features built into its fabric. This will make it the most enjoyable Drupal ever for content editors.
  3. It will be the most advanced CMS on the market, bettering all open source and proprietary systems.

When you involve Annertech in your Drupal 8 projects, you will be in very capable hands as we are the only team in Ireland:

  • to have committed code to the Drupal 8 codebase
  • to have live Drupal 8 websites launched already
  • to have a member on the international Drupal Security Team, ensuring that your website's data is safe

When it comes to Drupal 8, we are as excited as we are experienced.

Your Project + Drupal 8 + Annertech = Success

Get in contact with us today to find out more.
 

Sep 24 2015
Sep 24

Céad míle fáilte go Baile Átha Cliath. DrupalCon is coming to Dublin. Yes, you read that right, DrupalCon 2016 will be in Dublin, and we at Annertech can't wait to see you there.

The Drupal Ireland community has been doing great work over the past few years - Drupal.ie was launched, Drupal Camp Dublin became Drupal Open Days Ireland, hundreds of Drupalists came to Drupal Dev Days in Dublin, DrupalCon Trivia Nights were organised and hosted in many cities, and now - at last - DrupalCon will be held in Dublin.

At DrupalCon Barcelona's closing session today, the Annertech team were present to hear and help out with the announcement, give a short presentation about all the great reasons to come to Dublin for DrupalCon, and celebrate with all the amazing people who attend DrupalCons. Judging by the atmosphere today, everyone is as excited as we are, everyone is coming to Dublin, and everyone is going to have "the craic". Will we see you there too?

If you have any questions that you'd like to ask about Drupal, Ireland, and/or DrupalCon in Dublin, don't be afraid to get in contact with us.

Sep 23 2015
Sep 23

Wow! What a day we had at DrupalCon Barcelona 2015. I know, personally, I had the best day i've ever had at a DrupalCon, attending a great keynote on web psychology, a talk that validated my thoughts on design in the browser, an awesome presentation on linked data and the semantic web, and that's without mentioning the BoFs on web apps versus websites and Twitter Bootstrap, and then ... oh man - that was a lot.

So, today's best bits:

Mark

I'm struggling to come up with my best moment of today given the amount of them. I think I'd probably choose the "interaction" idea of design in the browser - clients get to actually see how their websites will work, rather that just what they'll look like.

Stella

I passed the Acquia-certified backend developer exam. That was definitely the highlight of my day, though "beta-testing" the DrupalCon trivia night questions during dinner with the rest of the Annertech team was great fun.

Andrew

I had some great conversations about web accessibility before and after the session on "Inclusive Design", which has me really fired up for tomorrow's BoF on the same topic, hosted by me!

Gavin

I loved the design in the browser presentation, espeically how it spreads QA across the project, rather than tagging it on at the end.

Mike

Natalie Nahai's keynote was my highlight, it was really informative and the audience participation worked very well.

Anthony

I'm with Mike in finding the keynote on web pshychology as the best of the day. Really enjoyed Natalie's presentation style and the subtleties of how we use the web.

Tommy

I had to go home with a tummy bug. But thanks for bringing me biscuits!

Tomorrow is the final day of sessions and the DrupalCon trivia night. If you've never been to that, don't miss it.

Sep 22 2015
Sep 22

DrupalCon Barcelona. Day 2. The Annertech crew were up early (especially given our late night last night) and arrived at the convention centre. Here's our team's "best of the day" list - including one from Marta Paz, whom we've picked up as an honorary Annertechie for the week.

Mark
"I loved the talk by Tim Millwood and Dick Olsson about revisions in Drupal 8. We see a lot of tenders for large projects asking for an "audit trail" and the approach being taken with multiversions/revisions looks very, very promising."

Stella
"I liked the "Reducing Waste: Cut the Crap" session, because we implemented the blitz that was suggested at the start of projects very successfully at Annertech; it was great to have our theory validated."

Gavin
"My favourite session was "Mastering Twig". I realised there is a lot of Drupal 8 core that is not yet leveraging the greatness of Twig, and I'm looking forward to that changing."

Anthony
"I definitely like the "Reducing Waste: Cut the Crap" - I love the idea of sprints spikes; I'm convinced that a compressed timeline on a project will be to the project's benefit."

Andrew
"A big chunk of my day was taken up with the Acquia exam, though I certainly enjoyed putting my feet up afterwards at the Drupal 2020 Vision talk."

Mike
"My favourite session was also "Reducing Waste: Cut the Crap", an entertaining, enthusiastic, and knowledable presenter. (The worst thing was losing a tooth to a salad roll.)"

Martha
"MortenDK's talk on theming was my favourite. I like how the theme layer is disappearing and everything is going into Twig templates."

Congratulations to Andrew - our fifth Acquia-certified Drupal developer.

Sep 22 2015
Sep 22

The Annertech team descended on DrupalCon Barcelona on Monday. Sun on our faces, wind at our backs, day one saw us all getting busy. Mark and Andrew worked their way through some accessibility issues for Drupal 8 - writing patches, reviewing patches, and move issues along the queues. Stella attended the business summit. Tommy, Gavin, and Anthony all completed Acquia-certification exams.

The Acquia exams taken (and passed) means that Annertech is not just the only agency in Ireland with Acquia-certified Drupal developers, but that we are also the only agency to have passed all four exams. The day complete, we now stand at 4 Acquia-certified Drupalists.

Site Builder - Mark Conroy
Frontend Specialist - Gavin Hughes
Backend Specialist - Tommy Lynge-Jorgenson
Certified Developer - Anthony Lindsay

Tomorrow sees the start of the sessions and talks. Tune in then for our "best bits of the day".

Sep 07 2015
Sep 07

When building client sites that necessitate an e-commerce feature (a store or donations system for example), we use Drupal Commerce. We find it a very easy to use e-commerce portal that is fully integrated with all other aspects of the client's new website.

Annertech have built a large number of e-commerce stores using this system, some of which transact millions of Euro a year, such as for Oxfam Ireland, Trócaire, and Irish Cancer Society. This has enabled our clients to develop websites that, in essence, pay for themselves.

Here's our 10 benefits of the Drupal Commerce platform:

  • Free - Unlike the Magento and WordPress communities, the concept of "premium" plugins or modules that you have to pay for doesn't  exist in Drupal and so there are no hidden charges when you want to extend your Drupal Commerce shop with a new feature.
  • Extensible – Drupal Commerce is highly extensible, and can adapt to meet the changing needs of your website through integrations with third-party systems, feature enhancements, and international functionality.
  • Flexible - Drupal Commerce is especially good at selling physical products, complete with the ability to create variations of the same product, e.g. a single t-shirt product sold in multiple colours and sizes. However, it's just as easy to sell other types of products, such as digital content, recurring, tickets, subscriptions, etc. We are currently about to relaunch the Contemporary Music Centre website in Drupal which will use Drupal Commerce to sell music scores and other files.
  • Simple to manage - Manage orders, products, and customers through a consistent and intuitive interface that you can customize to fit your needs, workflows, and legacy systems.
  • Content driven – The Drupal Commerce platform is built upon the enterprise Drupal CMS, enabling it to connect content and products seamlessly to drive online sales and influence offline sales through a rich user experience, optimized merchandising tools, and proven SEO tools.
  • Supports multiple payment methods – Accept payment through multiple payment providers, including PayPal, Realex Payments, Stripe, SagePay and WorldPay. It's also possible for your customers to choose their preferred payment method from your predetermined list. This is something we've implemented on the Trócaire website which accepts payments via Realex Payments and PayPal.
  • Flexible shipping rules – Using Drupal Commerce you can define your own rules on how, which products and where to apply shipping charges, including flat rate shipping and weight based shipping.
  • Handle multiple currencies - A number of websites we built presently work in a dual currency manner, such as Oxfam Ireland and Trocaire.org. Both of these websites allow for transactions to happen in Euro (€) and Sterling (£). Adding additional currencies will be a matter of extending how this functionality works, though in the same manner as it presently does.
  • PCI Compliant - Drupal Commerce is fully PCI compliant and we make sure that no credit card details are ever stored on our clients' servers. So, should hackers wish to gain access to a client database, they will never gain access to credit card details that would allow them to defraud any of their customers.
  • Well documented - Drupal Commerce is very well documented on the Drupal Commerce website, making it very easy to imagine solutions for complex commerce functions.

We do our best to contribute as much code to Drupal as possible. Within the sphere of Drupal Commerce, we have contributed a number of modules to Drupal that extend/enhance Drupal Commerce, such as Stella Power's Commerce Donate module, Mark Conroy's Commerce Views module, and more. As well as this, we are the agency that Realex Payments has tasked with developing the module to allow Drupal to integrate with the Realex Payments gateway, supporting both Realex Redirect and Realex Remote, with or without 3D Secure.

So, if you want seamless integraton between your content and your commerce (and even your CRM), why not give us a call today on 01 524 0312 or drop us an email at [email protected] and let's build a website that will pay for itself.
 

Aug 17 2015
Aug 17

We recommend using Drupal as a content management system platform for our client projects for many reasons, not least of which is that it is a widely adopted, free, open source solution. Here are some of the strengths that we see our clients benefiting from when they use the Drupal content management system.

1) Open source

As an open source platform, Drupal is free to use, free to modify and free to distribute. There are no licence fees and no vendor lock-ins. You have complete control over your site/codebase and, given the large number of Drupal developers out there, you have the freedom to switch between vendors as needed (if you are looking for a new Drupal agency to service your needs, talk to Annertech).

We love the freedom this gives to our clients. It means they can come to us with a Drupal project developed by another agency, or they are free to take our work to another agency.  You only need to work with agencies that you trust and enjoy working with.

2) Flexible and extensible

There are thousands of freely available extensions (called modules) to the core Drupal platform, which can provide all manner of additional functionality to your website, from shopping carts to advanced social media integration to integration with back-office CRM systems.

If for some reason you can't find an extension to deliver what you want, you can always hire us to create it for you. You can see some of the modules Annertech develops/supports here.

3) Secure

Drupal is seen as one of the most secure of the open source solutions available, with dedicated release slots scheduled for security updates, so developers know when to expect an update and can best place themselves to apply these patches as soon as they are available.

It is backed by a team of security professionals who make up the security team, including Annertech's Stella Power.

4) Scalable

Drupal scales effortlessly and is stable even when serving thousands of users simultaneously. For example, The Economist website, built with Drupal, has over 3 million registered users and 30 million page views per month.

Building large-scale CMSs, often with interactions to other systems and APIs, is our speciality.

5) Innovative

An award-winning platform is the best platform to build award-winning sites with. It is highly innovative and is constantly being worked on and extended by thousands of Drupal developers around the world. It is a best in class solution for content management.

Annertech is proud to be the leading team of this innovation in Ireland.

6) Proven

Drupal powers some of the busiest and highest profile websites for the biggest organisations and brands globally, including the White House, the Grammy Awards, Nike, Amnesty International and The Economist. Drupal is a mature product with a large user base. Started in 2001 and in the top three most popular platforms, Drupal is currently downloaded approximately 150,000 times per month.

We at Annertech have proven ourselves over and over again to be the choice when it comes to proven technology.

Due to the reasons outlined above, we believe Drupal will provides our clients with a high level of business security in their content management investment.

If you want to discuss Annertech helping you build an award-winning website using Drupal, please feel free to contact us by phone on 01 524 0312, by email at [email protected], or using our contact form.

Jul 20 2015
Jul 20

With only 5 critical issues marked as "needs work", Drupal 8 - the most brilliantly amazing responsive accessible version of Drupal to be released so far - is just around the corner (we're so excited, we forgot to put commas in that list of adjectives). Last week Acquia announced they now have Drupal 8 available on their platform for clients to start building their D8 sites on. This announcement is a very important one, and a signal that we must all get very serious about planning upgrades from Drupal 6 to either Drupal 7 or 8 sooner rather than later.

What's going to be so great about Drupal 8?

  • Mobile First: Drupal 8 is built with a mobile first approach for both backend and frontend, meaning mobile content editors and mobile content consumers are both equally provided for.
  • Easier Authoring: Drupal 7 made huge gains on Drupal 6 for content editing. Drupal 8 takes this to a new level.
  • Accessibility: Drupal 7 is quite accessible and can be perfectly accessible with a little work. Drupal 8 takes accessibiilty as a core value.
  • Enterprise Ready: Drupal 8 is designed with enterprise in mind, though it can also be used for smaller websites, there will be no question about its ability to handle large scale projects.
  • Multilingual: Massive changes to how multilingual requirements are met, which is hugely important for Irish-based (government) websites which usually need to be available in Irish and English.
  • Performance: Huge caching improvements to ensure that your web page is served to your users as quickly as possible.
  • RESTful: Ability for content to be Created Once, Published Everywhere (COPE) is much greater in D8, allowing you to publish your content in multiple formats on multiple platforms and apps.

We're ready for Drupal 8. Are you? If not, let us help you.

I want to talk about Drupal 8

May 28 2015
May 28

We are not aware of ever meeting a client who doesn't want to rank high on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), but it's easier to request this than to implement it. Reason being, as we tell clients, we don't own Google; it sets its own algorithms for ranking and indexing content, and these can change on Google's whims. The solution: we do our very best with what is in our control.

What's in our control? The design and development of the website, including the CMS (Content Management System) that we use and the extensions to this system. We use Drupal almost exclusively for our web development work, whose default settings are quite well optimised for SEO. We then supplement this with a fleet of contributed extensions (modules) to enhance the SEO of the websites. Here's our Top 10 Drupal modules for helping SEO.

1) Metatag

This is the big gun for SEO in Drupal. Metatag module, created by Dave "he's created a module for that" Reid, allows site editors to set "global" metatags which will automatically set things like page title and description and/or custom metatags on a per page basis. Sub modules of this allow you to set metadata for things like Twitter Cards, Facebook Open Graph, Google Authorship and all the Dublin Core attributes. It's a huge module and deserves it's status as number one on our list.

2) Page Title

The page title is hugely important for SEO - this is not necessarily the title that users see such as "Top Ten Drupal Modules for SEO", but the machine title that search engines read, such as "Annertech | Web Design Agency Dublin | Top Ten Drupal Modules for SEO". Page Title module lets you set these titles with your own set formulas per content type (e.g. all news posts, all events posts) or on a page-by-page basis.

3) Pathauto

Pathauto is the fourth most popular Drupal module. It allows you to use "tokens" to dynamically set human readable URLs for your pages. This means instead of a default Drupal path such as www.annertech.com/node/1 you can have a path such as www.annertech.com/blog/drupal-top-10-seo-modules.

4) XML Sitemap

To help Google, Bing and other search engines index your content, you can submit a sitemap to them which will list all of the pages on your website. With the XML Sitemap module, the sitemap is automatically created in an XML format, submitted to search engines, and then re-submitted anytime there is a change in your content. You can also use it to rank certain site sections higher than others - you might want your e-commerce product pages to have more weight/rank higher than your privacy policy pages.

5) Honeypot

Spam is the bane of the web world. If your website is getting cluttered with spam it will turn your visitors off. If the spam is full of links to low grade websites, you may lose SEO rankings. Honeypot is our preferred solution for blocking automated spam on a website.

Want to read about our "5 best modules to eliminate spam on a Drupal website"?

6) Google Analytics

To analyse how many visitors your site is getting, where they are coming from, what they do on your website, you probably use Google Analytics. The Google Analytics module for Drupal allows you to set what pages/content types, file downloads, links and whole host of other options are tracked by your GA account.

7) Site Verification

In order for your website to use services like Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics you need to verify your site with Google - i.e. prove that you have admin access to it. This makes sure that you can't track a competitor's website. The easy way to do this is through the Site Verification module which allows you to either add a verification metatag or upload a verification file.

8) Link Checker

If your website contains broken links (i.e. a link that does not work) your SEO ranking is going to go down. The Link Checker module will scan your website for you and let you know if there are any broken links so you can fix them.

9) Content Optimizer

Since Google says "Content is King" you want to make sure your content is optimsed for SERPs. The Content Optimizer module will scan your content and give you feedback on how optimized it is for search rankings and suggestions for improvement.

10) Redirect

The redirect module (another Dave Reid creation) lets you redirect one page to another. For example, your last website may have had an "About Us" page at www.annertech.com/about-us and your present website might have an "About Us" page at www.annertech.com/about. If people visit the former then they'll get a 404 error ("Page not found"). Using the redirect module you can stipulate that anyone landing on the former gets redirected to the latter. Since Drupal gives every page a "node id" - www.annertech.com/node/1 - you can remove the duplicate URL so the node id version of each URL will redirect to the pathauto version instead.

11) SEO Checklist

We thought we'd chuck in one more for good measure. The SEO Checklist module is a simple list within your CMS of all the things you should do to help your SEO - such as enable the modules listed above. It's a handy way of keeping check on what's been done, what needs to be done, and what you haven't even considered just yet.

So, that's our short 10 Drupal Modules to help increase SEO. What have we left out? Let us know in the comments.

May 06 2015
May 06

Drupal Open Days - the largest meeting of Drupal developers, users, and enthusiasts in Ireland - is fast approaching. This year is looking like it's going to be the biggest and best one yet.

Biggest - checkout who is coming

Best - checkout the great line up of speakers

Wondering if you should come along? The answer is yes. It'll be two great days of talks, workshops, informal discussions, and meeting up with old and new friends. And it's free. And we'll give you lunch on both days. And finger food at the social events. What more could you ask for? Okay so, I'll buy you your first pint on Friday evening!

Have you registered? If not, do so here now.

As always, Annertech are Gold sponsors of the event. We are delighted to once more provide our assistance to the Drupal Ireland community to help spread the word, get more people involved, continue to make Drupal the best platform for Content Management Systems possible. We'll also be giving three talks over the two days.

The whole Annertech team will be present, so if you have any questions about any aspect of Drupal (or web development in general) be sure to chat with us.

Apr 27 2015
Apr 27

We love to share our knowledge. At every Drupal camp and Drupal Open Days in Ireland (not to mention most DrupalCons and DevDays internationally) we give presentations. This year we are giving three talks at Drupal Open Days Ireland 2015. Here's what we'll talk about:

Alan Burke: Doing the post-launch dance

You got the project live. It was on time. It was under budget. You did the post-launch dance. Now ... it's time to support that badboy. That great client, who now has a great website, wants some more great features (and that thing you thought was working, no longer is).

Here's the art and science of successful support.

Read about our Drupal Advice and Support | View event notice

Mark Conroy: The content editor deserves an easy life

You know how it is. You design a beautiful website (and the site visitors love it), but the backend edit page is long, and ugly, and hard to follow, and ...?

As developers, we often forget that our end users are the website editors. Their end users are the site visitors. Well, let's fix this mess so that website visitors and content editors both have the time of their lives.

Read about our Content Strategy Service | View event notice

Stella Power: Building a CRM into your Drupal website

You've heard of SalesForce, and Microsoft Dynamics, CiviCRM, and a whole host of other CRM systems that can plug into your Drupal website, haven't you?

Yes? Well, have you ever thought of building a CRM within your Drupal website, using Drupal contributed modules, entities, and fields? It's a great solution for small- to medium-sized enterprises that want to keep control of all of their data but can't afford the price of commercial CRMs.

In this presentation, we'll walk you through the steps needed to create a CRM using Drupal 7 and RedHen.

Read about our CRM Solutions | View event notice

===

And if hearing our pearls of wisdom isn't enough, there is a whole host of other great talks going on, not least the keynote "Managing Projects the Drupal Way" by Emma Jane Westby.

Will we see you there? Let us know in the comments if you're coming and any suggestions you might have for our talks.

Apr 22 2015
Apr 22

So there I was, sitting in my batcave, minding my own business, wondering what to do with an afternoon. In truth I had plenty of work to do, but since I got paid yesterday, I felt as rich as Bruce Wayne himself and decided to take an afternoon off and splash out on an Acquia Certified Drupal Examination. Which one? Well, to start off, the site builder one. Did I pass? Read on, my friends.

What I expected

I wasn't expecting the exam to be too difficult. You need to get over 68% to pass the exam, but I've been building sites with Drupal since Drupal 6.3. It can't be that hard, can it? My presumption was that the questions might be a little tricky in parts, very easy in other areas, but nothing that I wouldn't be able for. I was aiming for in excess of 90%.

The exam I took was the online one where you register in advance and set up Sentinel on your computer. That was quite unnerving and invasive I thought. I signed up, created my Sentinel account, installed the software, then had to go through two recognition items. The first was to type my name 10 times to get a record of my typing style. The second was to take shots of my face to get a record of that. In seriousness, I wasn't happy about this and certainly worry about the NSA and other bodies (inadvertently) having access to my personal data (as well as credit card details etc).

Timewise, I didn't see a problem. I had an hour and a half to get two thirds of 50 site building questions correct.

How it played out

In reverse order - you don't have an hour and a half, you have an hour and a quarter (though I only realised that after the exam - during it, I just thought the first 15 minutes went very quick).

Doing an exam online with Sentinel is very unnerving. You are told it is a proctored exam and I never knew if I was being watched or not, or if all the facial recognition stuff was doing the watching of me. Then if I tried to scratch my back would a bot think I was trying to cheat. If I looked at the corner of my screen to see the time (Sentinel takes over your whole screen so you can't), would it be construed that I was trying to look at a second monitor. All-in-all, not a pleasant experience.

The exam is not "difficult" in the traditional sense, but it is very tricky. At times I thought the questions were not very clear and on a number of occasions more than one response could have been correct.

What do you need to know? You need to know the admin pages of a Drupal website very well. Most importantly, you need to know the exact phrases that are used on admin pages and on what exact page they are on. You will not have the option to check.

You should also have a good understanding of the views module - how it works, what it does, when you might use it - especially in relation to contextual filters and relationships.

One question about stopping spam accounts had 4 options, two of which were: remove "create new account" permission from anonymous role; and, on account settings page set who can create accounts to administrator only. Both of these looked like likely answers to me (until I remembered there is no "create new account" permission). There were a lot of questions like that - be careful, read the question and the answers very closely. (Once or twice I tried to read out loud, but then got worried that the damn Sentinel would construe this as trying to communicate with someone.)

As mentioned above, there were a number of questions which I thought more than one answer could have been correct. For example, how would you install a new theme. Options included: 1) Go to the "Appearance" page, select "install a new theme" and follow the instructions; 2) Download the theme, place it in sites/default/themes and clear the cache. I went with the second option. I don't know if I was right, but either of those methods seems workable to me. Given my low score in that area, I've a feeling I was wrong. (Pity there wasn't a drush dl option for that question!)

The result

I scored a decent 88% (which means I got 44 out of 50 questions correct). I'm happy(ish) with that and it's certainly spurred me on to do the rest of the exams. I'll take the front-end exam next, and then the backend one. I wouldn't be happy to use Sentinel again, so I think I'll sign up for the front-end exam at DrupalCon Barcelona.

Here are my exact results:

  • Overall Score: 88.00%
  • Result: Pass
  • Topic Level Scoring:
    • Section 1 - Drupal Features: 100.00%
    • Section 2 - Content and User Management: 100.00%
    • Section 3 - Content Modeling: 91.66%
    • Section 4 - Site Display: 70.00%
    • Section 5- Community and Contributed Projects: 80.00%
    • Section 6 - Module and Theme Management: 75.00%
    • Section 7 - Security and Performance: 100.00%

If you think your project would benefit from the involvement of Mark or any of our highly talented team, feel free to contact us by phone on 01 524 0312, by email at [email protected], or using our contact form.

Mar 31 2015
Mar 31

As an illustration, a journalist might write an article and upload it to a central content repository; different parts of it can then be used in different media - online, print, web app, etc. In a smaller - closer to home manner - a web editor might create a news article, complete with an image, an attachment, the main article content, some keywords, and embedded media (audio and video). The fields used on the form to create this page can then be reused, so:

  • On an events page, you might see “Related News” showing a title of the news piece and a link to read the full article
  • On the news listing page, you might see the title of the news piece, a reduced image, the first two sentences of the news article, and a link to the full article
  • On a media gallery page, you might see the image and a link to a hi-resolution version of same
  • On a mobile device, you might decide to not load the video unless the user has a wi-fi connection

As you can see “COPE” is revolutionary in allowing a lot of work to be done by a reduced staff, saving time, effort, and overhead. We use it on this website. Within our content architecture we have a number of content types such as "Client", "Project", and "Testimonial". We create a client page which has image, description, projects, and testimonial fields. The testimonial content type has client, short testimonial, and long testimonial fields. The project has client, testimonial, project description and project images fields.

Some examples:

  • To create a page for a case study, for example, we create a project page. Within this, we reference the client page and this pulls in our data dynamically to show the client's name, logo, and a short description. We then reference the client's testimonial and this pulls in the long testimonial content. We then fill out the information needed for that project/case study.
  • On the client listing page, we pull in the client logo and link that to the client's page.
  • On the homepage we pull in the short testimonial field for the testimonials block and the logo for the "Trusted by" block

The great thing is, if the client changes logo, or if we update the testimonial, then all instances of this will update. No more searching and replacing text and hoping that we replace every instance of it on every page.

We use Drupal to build our content management systems. Drupal gives us great tools to make COPE a reality, such as:

  • Fields - to allow us to present different information (image, video, product, text, select list, etc) at different places on the website
  • Content types - to make our data more semantic and atomic for later re-use
  • Views - to create lists of content curated by content type and other categories
  • Entity reference - to dynamically pull content from one page into another
  • View modes - to present the information in different formats on different pages
  • Services - so we can make the information available to other publishing organs such as apps and feeds

This allows us to create (our content) once, and publish (it) everywhere (on our website).

If you want to discuss Annertech helping you build an award-winning website, please feel free to contact us by phone on 01 524 0312, by email at [email protected], or using our contact form.

Feb 12 2015
Feb 12

Drupal Groups: Where Drupal community members organise, plan and work on projects.

At groups.drupal.org you can find groups based on geography, or join online groups allocated to planning upcoming events, and working groups designated to a particular aspect of drupal and drupal distributions.

Drupal.org has over 850 groups currently.

While online technologies facilitate communication and collaboration regardless of physical location, I have found that the best way to really get to grips with Drupal is to attend the local “real world” user group meet-ups.

Many cities have user groups that will meet up on a regular basis and talk drupal. These meet-ups can be casual get togethers or more organised speaker-led formats. There are currently over 400 user groups on drupal.org

What's happening in Ireland

Ireland has a monthly meet-up in Dublin city. It is attended by many of the best and also the up-and-coming Drupal developers in Dublin and organised by Annertech's Lisa Corcoran. There are occasional meet-ups in Galway (organised by Annertech's Alan Burke and Mark Conroy), Cork and Belfast.

On top of that, the Drupal Ireland community organises weekend events in the form of DrupalCamps and Drupal Open Days, which happen a few times a year, in different parts of the country.

These typically involve a day of scheduled talks, on topics ranging from adopting Drupal in 3rd level and government institutions, to more technical themes like dev ops, automated testing, UX, and agile workflows.

Workshops, open spaces or BOFs are often scheduled for the second day, where attendees are encouraged to get together to discuss Drupal topics of mutual interest.

The chance to sit down with a bunch of knowledgeable people and share Drupal experiences should not be passed up. And, in my personal experience, is irreplaceable.

Here's just 10 Great Reasons to attend your local Drupal user group

  1. Insight into the local/national economy
    For businesses or individuals working with Drupal, meeting the local Drupal community is a good way to get an idea of the local Drupal workforce. You can also discover news about the Drupal project that could affect your business decisions going forward. If you are looking for a Drupal developer in Dublin, you'll have a pick of them at the Drupal Dublin meet-up.
  2. Networking and promotional opportunities
    Being active in the Drupal community is a good way to meet others, and sponsoring local Drupal events is a great way to foster the local community, as well as align your brand and expertise with the global Drupal project.
  3. Employment opportunities
    Companies looking to hire Drupal experts are always impressed when they see potential candidates giving back to the community and investing in their own education. If you’re on the hunt for a job in Drupal, participating in your local meet-ups is a great foot-in-the-door.
  4. Collaboration opportunities
    Being surrounded by people with similar interests can lead to interesting collaborations, whether it’s help on a specific project, or developing long-term, working relationships with other enthusiasts.
  5. Get specific about your problems
    You can bet that the people who attend the local meet-ups are there to collaborate and help. There’s no need to skip over the details. Bring your code examples, pages of notes, or head full of questions. Provided you’ve put in the initial effort, the mutual goal is to solve people’s Drupal problems and/or provide direction. At the Drupal Dublin meet-up, we have solved some very complex issues on many occasions - it often just takes that pair of fresh eyes.
  6. Hands-on, show and tell learning
    Sitting quietly and listening to others demo their projects or outline their issues can lead to major "a-ha" moments down the line. Witnessing someone explain their approach or techniques is very valuable, even if some (or most) of it goes over your head initially. Basically, don't be afraid to show your work - it'll certainly be at least as good at the end of the evening as it was at the beginning, if not better.
  7. Ready-made audience
    Presenting something you’ve worked on and/or struggled with is a good way to make sense of it yourself, and having an audience to provide feedback and reinforcement is enlightening. Learning by teaching is a great way to acquire deep knowledge.
  8. Peer encouragement and inspiration
    The likelihood is that most people at the meet-ups have been where you are at one time or another. If something is driving you up the wall, you’ll find sympathy, workarounds, and solutions. You’ll also be amazed at what other people are doing with Drupal and no doubt leave the meet-ups inspired to keep at it and try something new.
  9. Encourages new people to get involved
    The casual nature of the meet-ups are a good way to get new people on board and spread the word about upcoming DrupalCamps. Drupal Ireland uses Drupal groups, facebook and meetup.com to announce local user group meet-ups and DrupalCamps.
  10. Module recommendations
    Find out what has been tried and tested, and adopted or ditched. If you have a specification that you aren’t quite sure how to fulfill, others can offer suggestions as to which modules to use and which modules to avoid. They might even show you a demonstration.

Despite the multitude of tools we use to communicate and collaborate without being in the same physical location, I’ve found that hashing out the niggly details with others in person has enabled me to get the most out of Drupal, and contribute back to the community by helping others.

Join us for the Dublin Drupal user group meet-up on the last Wednesday of each month.

Feb 02 2015
Feb 02

I hate spam. It's that little annoyance, just a tiny one, that keeps chipping away. And it gets worse, more intense, more frequent. But can it be beaten? In truth, probably not. But we can go a long way towards lessening it. Which means fewer spam accounts and comments.

On my personal blog I had someone adding a lot of spam - about one comment every 30 minutes - not much, but irritating. To combat it, I set up a rule that said "Do you see that green message below saying your comment was posted? Well, it wasn't; we don't allow you to post spam. If you think we have blocked you incorrectly, please get in contact". Amazingly, it worked. Thankfully that person had been using the same email address to post their spam so it was easy to target them. But usually spam submitters are not so easy to target so precisely and we need mass approaches to tackling it.

Spam comes in two forms - human input (sorry, there is very little you can do to get around a real person sitting at a real computer typing real spam - unless my little rule above works for you) and spambots.

Using Drupal, there are a number of approaches to pulling the plug on spam. Let's look at them.

Captcha

The captcha module provides a base API for other spam modules, but also comes with some preconfigured captchas, such as a maths question. You are asked 2 + 4 = ? and if you get the question right, you must be posting legitimate comments. Right? I've found it very easy for spambots to get around this, however, so don't recommend it as a standalone solution.

Re-captcha

I love the idea of re-captcha. Basically, many old books have been scanned, but some of the words are not readable by the scanners. These squiggly words are then presented as captchas (and very hard for spambots to read). If enough people enter the same word as the answer, that word will be accepted as the correct word for the book and you can pat yourself on the back for helping humanity in your efforts to digitise old manuscripts. One website that I developed did fall foul of re-captcha being beaten and led to loads of spam getting past. I still don't know how! And since it can be very difficult to read some of the words, it does have the potential to turn people away. On the bright side, here's a great Ted talk from the inventor of captchas and re-captcha.

Mollom

Mollom is a freemium (free up to a certain level) anti-spam measure created by Dries, the creator of Drupal. You can configure it to  only present the captcha after scanning the user's input and figuring out that it might be spam. While it apparently works quite well, I've never been a fan of it. I find it ugly and I find that sites with it keep asking me to fill it out. Perhaps the comments I leave on the internet are all spam.

Honeypot

Honeypot is the daddy of anti-spam. It's so good that Drupal doesn't use Mollom, it uses honeypot. Honeypot creates a hidden field with a label that is enticing to a spambot, something like URL or Website. if that field is filled in, then you must be a spambot. You can also configure it to be time-based, defaulting to 5 seconds. If you can fill out this form in under 5 seconds, you must be a spambot. I tend not so use it on very short forms like a password reset one as it's easy to fill this in in under 5 seconds. Overall: simple, beautiful, and oh so effective. And the great thing is, users do not see it - it's totally unintrusive.

Simple Anti-spam

Simple Anti-spam is a module that I haven't tried out. It appears to do what Honeypot does and then some more as well, which means it's potentially even better than honeypot.

And that's our round up. 5 modules you can use right now to dramatically cut down on spam on your Drupal website. And a bonus rule to let you know when comments have been added, here's:

Rules

This isn't an anti-spam module, per se. The rules module lets you set up custom rules to say do certain things upon certain events. On my blog I have set up a custom rule to send me an email whenever a new comment is posted. Since I get notifications immediately, spam comments are removed within seconds/minutes. You can grab a copy of the rule on my github page.

Do you use any of these modules or something better? Let me know your favourite anti-spam measures in the comments.

If you want to discuss Annertech helping you build an award-winning website, please feel free to contact us by phone on 01 524 0312, by email at [email protected], or using our contact form.

Jan 30 2015
Jan 30

Last Thursday - Jan 22nd - President Michael D. Higgins launched the European Year for Development at Dublin Castle, saying that "2015 is a seminal year for the future of human development". Dóchas, as national coordinator of the programme, said that they "intend to use the European Year to encourage people in Ireland to take action, and to think of themselves as change makers". Participate in the conversation at the #EYD2015 hashtag.

Live tweeting from The #EYD2015 event! Share your thoughts with us pic.twitter.com/8SFbLDtC1k

— EYD 2015 (@EYD2015) December 9, 2014

As Ireland's leading web development agency to the non-profilt and charity sector, Annertech plans to play our part by continuing to make as much of our code and knowledge as possible freely available for others to use. At the same time we will continue to work with our great clients in the development sector, clients such as Oxfam Ireland and Trócaire, to ensure that they can best make use of their digital tools.

Examples of some of our contributed code for the NGO sector includes:

  • Commerce Donate - which encourages people to make a donation while making a purchase in a charity's online store
  • Webform Conditional Confirmation Messages - this lets our clients personalise confirmation/thank you pages on webforms so our they can increase engagement with their users.
  • Commerce CiviCRM - a plugin that sends customer data to CiviCRM - the world's most popular open source CRM for NGOs and other non-profits
  • Commerce eCards - which creates eCards as shop products as an income generation stream for charities and others.

For knowledge sharing, we will continue to be regular and frequent attendees and speakers at open source conferences and events:

  • February, Mark and Anthony will be in attendance at DrupalCamp London, with Anthony in line to speak about "Creating WOW Factor with Drupal"
  • April, Mark and Gavin will attend Drupal Developer Days in France
  • May, we will sponsor/organise/speak at Drupal Open Days Ireland
  • August, a number of us will attend Front End United in Bristol
  • September, the whole team will travel to Barcelona for DrupalCon Europe
  • November, we will sponsor/organise/speak at Drupal Camp Ireland

Why the continued focus on open source? We believe a more open and transparent world will be a better and more secure world. We are happy to play our part to achieve this. We wish all participating people and organisations a very successful European Year for Development.

If you want to discuss Annertech helping you build an award-winning website, please feel free to contact us by phone on 01 524 0312, by email at [email protected], or using our contact form.

Dec 10 2014
Dec 10

Everyone knows media management in Drupal has been, shall we say, problematic. From the pre-CCK days of a simple upload field on a content type, to the CCK days of a dedicated file and/or image field, to Drupal 7's built-in file and image field, it has never been “done right”. For me, the two pain points are: reusability of media assets (using the same image in more than one location for example) and media being deleted if it is not attached to any page on the site (even though you may need it later on, so may wish for it to remain in your library).

When working on a large website last year which had about 20,000 media files (images, audio, video, pdfs, etc), I was asked as a solutions architect to come up with a way to manage these in a sustainable manner. This meant being able to categorise the files, search through them, retrieve them at will, and reuse wherever was wanted on the website. Also, the files should be available (and new ones be able to be added to the library) even if they were not being immediately used. Basically, kill both pain points. Time to get serious about media management I thought and started to do some research.

Media Module

The most popular option being used (by a huge factor) is the media module, but it didn't seem right to me in this case. Yes, it meant I could reuse media in different contexts and I could browse through a media library, but there was very little tagging of items. This would mean a flat list of 20,000 assets to scroll through to find the one I wanted. (I know, we could add fields and exposed filters and make it do what we wanted, but ...). Another problem was that if a media item was only on one page and that page was deleted, the media item also got deleted - “Where did our 2011 annual report go?”.

Asset and Scald Modules

Next I thought about creating my own content type or entity type that could be referenced by any other entity and displayed via view modes. Sounds simple? It's not. After more sleuthing, I came across two modules that seemed to work as I would like them to: Asset and Scald. Asset looked very promising (still does) but didn't have a stable release at the time (still doesn't). Scald had been used on some very large media websites in France and looked like it ticked all the boxes. Coming with a very slick media browser, a drag and drop interface for embedding media, and a custom fieldable entity type (called “atoms”), I was smitten.

I installed the Scald Galaxy distribution on SimplyTest.me to kick the tyres before installing it on my own computer. I then previewed it to our client, showing them how it works and how it can be extended to include lots of providers such as Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram and more. The client loved it and gave me licence to keep investigating things like migrating from a legacy file management system to Scald and organising the exposed filters in different manners.

Getting Scalded in Prague

So where to next? Prague, of course. For DrupalCon. And now I had a mission: to take part in an all day “Birds of a Feather” session on media management. Who was at this? Well, the creators of Scald amongst others - they had just given a session on media management. The session was very full on with lots of very, very clever ideas – getting right down to the core of “what exactly is a media asset in the first place?”. This became the starting point for a “media management in Drupal 8” working group (that's us in the photo, just to prove it!). Let's just say, media in D8 is going to be a huge leap forward.

Scald it was going to be. However, choosing a solution and implementing it are two very different untamed beasts. In the next part of this series I will focus on installing and configuring Scald – exporting the configuration and creating custom Scald contexts (that's where it gets tricky).

In the meantime, if you want to discuss anything about media management in Drupal, feel free to get in contact using the link below.

If you want to discuss Annertech helping you build an award-winning website, please feel free to contact us by phone on 01 524 0312, by email at [email protected], or using our contact form.

Nov 06 2014
Nov 06

It's that time of year when the Drupal Ireland community get together for a weekend of Drupal talks, workshops, and the Drupal Ireland Association AGM. As ever, Annertech are sponsoring the event. Not just that, but Mark Conroy (@markconroy) - Annertech's content strategist - is the main organiser, having offered to take up the mantle at Drupal Camp Cork last year.

The event this year is taking place in Portumna, Galway on the shores of the lovely Lough Derg, with accommodation in the newly opened "glamping" site of Podumna, and, as always, features a great line up of talks. The talks cover topics such as web development, web design, Drupal theming using Twig, some open spaces (attendees propose topics and everyone forms into groups to discuss these). Of these talks, Annertech will be presenting on the following topics:

  • Gavin Hughes : Drupal 8's new theming system (and why it's so great)
  • Lisa Corcoran: How gaming makes me a better web developer and designer
  • Anthony Lindsay: Applying software engineering principles to Drupal site building

To keep up to date, why not follow Annertech (@annertech) on Twitter where we'll be live tweeting the event using the #DrupalCampGalway hashtag?

Oct 02 2014
Oct 02

Day 4 (blog 3, don't ask!) of DrupalCon Amsterdam, and Annertech have been at it again. For the third time this week, an Annertechie was on stage. This time Stella gave a presentation about our ground-breaking (our word) #d8in8 competition. Check it out in the video below; Stella is on from 36 mins. Following this, we continued our adventures in expanding our Drupal knowledge - yes, even we have more to learn. With so many great talks and BOFs on today, we can't talk about everything we attended, so here's each Annertechie's "take away of the day".

Alan

A great venue makes all the difference for DrupalCon Trivia Night.

Andrew

It was great to talk to the Entity API and Field API maintainers in person and getting really in-depth answers to my questions. We discovered a small feature was missing from the D8 API that we can now work towards filling.

Anthony

A console tool for building Drupal 8 modules is a pretty sweet idea.

Gavin

Themer vs Coder: both are needed for successful websites.

Lisa

Can't wait to start paper prototyping - quick interactions means layout and flow design ideas can be shared and testing with end-users and clients early on, reducing risk of wasted dev and design time later on.

Mark

Name your view modes and image styles the same as each other to keep consistency in your (semantic) site architecture.

Stella

Speaking on the main stage twice is not as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be.

Sudev

Loved how useful the Drupal Module Upgrader module is for porting modules to Drupal 8.

Tommy

Drupal 8 Plugin System seems just as extendable as it should be.

Oct 01 2014
Oct 01

Welcome to Annertech's DrupalCon Amsterdam blog: Day 3. What did we get up to today? As it turns out, lots ... but more importantly (at least for me as the blog editor), we were at Cory Doctorow's keynote speech and then Annertech's Alan Burke's presentation on "Grid Style Sheets" (GSS).

Keynote by Cory Doctorow - key take aways

This presentation was a real eye-opener, and I say this as a dedicated open source evangelist. Two great items of open source elevator pitches included:

Scenario One

You are building a shopping centre and ask the architect, "what girder system are you going to use to make sure the shopping centre doesn't collapse?". He answers, "I can't tell you ... but believe me, it won't collapse". You would probably say, "I'm not hiring you" (in less polite language). You need to be able to investigate and validate what your suppliers are doing.

Scenario Two

Your parents have a computer running a proprietary operating system. There is a flaw in this system that allows their financial data to be stolen and reused. The company whom created this system are legally mandated to NOT tell you what the flaw is. Should your parents continue to use such a system?

Looking at the two (paraphrased) examples above, it's quite clear that people should not be forced to use systems and software that they are not allowed to investigate. Open Source Software is the answer to this issue. We in the open source world say, "we can build you something great, and then you can get other people to validate this work to ensure its security, quality, and extensibilty".

Alan Burke on Grid Style Sheets

Well, this session was a packed house - no room for sitting, no room for standing, and no room for some of the people that came along to it (apologies). Alan talked about a revolutionary approach to using JavaScript to layout page elements instead of CSS. This will lead to super cross-browser compatibility, less debugging headaches, and ... basically, there was too much in the talk for me to recount here, so let's just look at the presentation instead:

Sep 30 2014
Sep 30

So, here is the second "daily" Annertech round up of DrupalCon Amsterdam (we forgot to write the first blog post, so bear with us!).

Day 2 of DrupalCon is the day the sessions begin - lots of sessions, on lots of topics, by lots of great speakers. The result: Too much to take in. The solution: bring 10 Annertechies (well, 9 really - we left one at home manning the barricades) so they can spread themselves around the venue and soak up the vast amounts of knowledge being dispensed. The blog post: a massive sprawling tract that I have decided to condense into each Annertechie's "take away moment" from the day. Of course, this is not to mention that Annertech's Stella Power was on stage as part of the prenote speech (see main image) and Alan Burke will be giving a presentation tomorrow.

Here's what we loved and are looking forward to more of:

Alan

"Everyone should blog more. PR is cool."

Andrew

"I really liked the works example of a Symphony console app that was thorough enough so I now know how to start building my own. It was also the funniest DrupalCon session I was ever at."

Anthony

"The Object Oriented Programming session reminded me of everything I had forgotten from years ago."

Gavin

"I really loved the idea of stripping and adding classes at the template layer in Twig, as demonstrated by Morten."

Lisa

"I was delighted to chat with Lewis Nyman and John Albin at an impromptu grunt.js demo, after the 'Getting a Clue at the Command Line' session."

Mark

"You've got to work hard when expanding to ensure that your company's culture doesn't get lost or replaced."

Stella

"I didn't realise it was (so) easy - or at least almost ready - to integrate BitCoin with Drupal.

Sudev

"I now have a much better idea of how to use design patterns in PHP."

Tommy

"Object abstraction is a tricky business."

And because Stella is our CEO (and to celebrate this new website), I'm allowing her a second pearl: "When selling Agile, sell the benefits first, the process later."

To wrap up - we all learned too much, we all met too many great people, we are all looking forward to the same again tomorrow. Thank you DrupalCon! Thank you Amsterdam.

Sep 24 2014
Sep 24

Annertech have always been Ireland's pioneers and thought-leaders when it comes to Drupal and open source technology. We have consistently had a new live version of our website ready on the day that a new version of Drupal was released: Drupal 5, Drupal 6, Drupal 7. This time however, we've surpassed and surprised even ourselves: we have a new website - launched today - months in advance of an official release of Drupal 8.

#d8in8

We ran an 8 week internal competition called #D8in8. This gave each member of our team 8 weeks to build "something" with Drupal 8. After this each "annertechie" (you'll know us by our t-shirts) gave an 8 minute presentation on what they built, why they built it, and what they learned about Drupal 8 along the way. You can find out more about it in this blog post.

Contributing to Core

One of the great things about the #D8in8 initiative was that we contributed a lot of code back to the Drupal ecosystem. It means that now every member of our team has contributions to Drupal 8 core - some front end, some back end, some documentation. This gave us a head start when it came to building annertech.com as we knew we had a team that could come up with the Drupal 8 goods. If something we needed wasn't available, we built it ourselves and contributed it back to the Drupal community in the form of core patches or contributed modules. Want to see a selection of the work we have sponsored?

Expanded team

We are bigger than ever. In the past year we have expanded our team by about 25%, taking on people to work in the areas of content strategy, front end design, back end development, custom application building, and graphic design. This added personnel allowed us to work with clients at about 88% capacity and spend 12% of our time building up our Drupal 8 knowledge and other capabilities.

What does all this mean?

It's quite simple: Annertech remains the leader in Drupal implementations in Ireland. So, if you want to use the most up-to-date, cutting edge, free, open source content management system available, you know who to contact.

Jul 04 2014
Jul 04

This year, in an effort to encourage as wide an audience as possible, the Drupal Association of Ireland rebranded Drupal Camp Dublin as Drupal Open Days Ireland. We wanted to give a sense that it was a multi-day event, an event for the whole of Ireland, and that, true to the open source philosophy, it was open to all. Judging by the number of people and energy present, we think this was a good move. 

Some things I don't need to mention – good company, good conversations, good socialising; these are things that come natural to Drupal meet ups. Let's instead focus on the presentations.

Friday

First keynote presentation was by James Sweeney and Mihai Bilauca from Limerick City and County Council (LCCC), whom Annertech work with in a consultancy capacity giving advice about Drupal, server administration, and version control systems. James and Mihai discussed why LCCC decided to move to open source and why specifically they chose Drupal for their CMS, using the newly launched Limerick.ie as a reference site. Reasons: speed of development, ease of using the system, not being tied to proprietary licences, and more.

Following from that, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) presented a keynote on their uses of Drupal and how they are moving all sites within GMIT to Drupal (with the help of Annertech). Martin from GMIT went into a lot of detail about the highs and lows of adopting new technology and the benefits that open source can bring.

After the keynotes, it was the turn of Mike King, one of Ireland's foremost Agile project managers, whom Annertech are delighted to have on board. Mike discussed “The (web) Project Life Cycle” - in a nutshell: plan >> do >> review (wash, rinse, repeat). And then Sile Gullane from Fluid Edge gave some very interesting thoughts and slides on creating a video resource library using Drupal, with attendant tips on using Vimeo to only allow videos be posted on specified websites. Cue lots of “oooh, I didn't know that” from the audience.

Post-lunch, Gary Hammond from Iterate talked about setting up your own business. He let us know what it entailed, how scary it was, how brave you need to be, and, importantly, how well you must treat your employees. We then set up an “Open Q&A” for anyone to ask any question of our expert panel, with questions ranging from “how do I get started in Drupal?” to “what's the worst thing about working with Drupal?”. That particular session was very good for general audience participation. Lastly on Friday, Tim O'Driscoll from EIL gave a presentation detailing social media and Google Analytics tips and tricks, especially with regard to how they can integrate with Drupal.

Saturday

Saturday began a little later than expected. No one knows why!

First talk of the day was Annertech's Anthony Lindsay, discussing how to create the “Wow Factor” on a Drupal website. We were all suitably “wowed”. Hot on his heels, we listened to Jochan Illich from Freistilbox tell us what DevOps was not and what DevOps was – don't advertise for someone with “devops” was one lesson. And then we had Karen Reilly give a very lively talk about using user research so as “not to commit crimes against humanity”. And then some much needed coffee.

Coffee ingested, Gavin Hughes from Annertech demonstrated what happens when you use test-driven development, previewing some of the recent work we have been doing with Behat. Suffice to say, people were impressed. Not to be outdone, Luis Rodriguez gave an equally impressive preview of what to expect in multi-lingual setups in Drupal 8. And then some lunch, to get ready for ...

After lunch we had the pleasure of Tommy Lynge Jorgenson's expert knowledge of Apache Solr and Drupal Search API – complete with graphs and data and cool geeky stuff. We're privileged to have Tommy as part of the Annertech team. To complete the day, Bharat Sharma from Monsoon Consulting gave a very passionate delivery on “How to Sell Drupal”, and who is the competition.

So, was it a success? You bet. Did everyone learn something? I'd be surprised if they didn't. Where is the next event? Here.

Jul 03 2014
Jul 03

Annertech was very privileged to have the opportunity to work on such an exciting project as the “Inspiring Ireland” website which was funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and coordinated by the Royal Irish Academy. This first phase project is a pilot which marks the beginnings of a much larger programme to digitise, preserve, and share Ireland’s culture for public viewing, educational use and scholarly research.

Launched for St Patrick's Day 2014 by Minister Jimmy Deenihan in Stanford University, California, the website features an exhibition of images from the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) entitled “A Sense of Place,” which traces the way that “place”, in the most open and creative understanding of the term, resonates through Ireland’s art and artefacts. Future exhibitions scheduled for the website include “A Sense of Identity” and “A Sense of Freedom” - two developments Annertech is very much looking forward to engaging with.

This responsive website was built in Drupal 7 by Annertech's Andrew Macpherson (backend development) and Mark Conroy (backend and frontend development), with Mike King as project manager. We were very lucky to also have the expertise of the folks at the Trinity College Dublin, who wrote the API that was used for the project, on hand.

Annertech was quite chuffed to read the report in The Irish Times that accompanied the launch of the website.

Challenges Encountered and Overcome

  • Create webpages on the fly via API calls to DRI servers
  • Parse data from JSON feeds via API reference
  • Display data on overlay boxes that respond to viewport size
  • Faceted search for “objects” by subject, type, era, format, and institution
  • Fully responsive website, adaptive at 5 different breakpoints
Jun 24 2014
Jun 24

As part of our efforts to enhance our Drupal 8 knowledge, we have been running an internal competition called #D8in8 (don't worry, you didn't miss it on Twitter; it wasn't trending). Basically, each Annertechie had eight weeks to “do something” with Drupal 8 – port a module, build a theme, migrate a database, anything. After 4 weeks we all previewed our work in an internal Q&A session and tried to help break any blockers anyone had. Then, on Monday (23rd June) we premiered our “finished” products. First prize: a Google Nexus tablet; second prize, a subsidised DrupalCon Amsterdam ticket. Third prize: well, we all got paid to learn about Drupal.

Here's what was demoed:

Andrew Macpherson
Andrew maintains a number of popular Drupal modules, and used his time to port some of them to Drupal 8, find and solve a Drupal 8 beta blocker (and have it committed to core), and create some new functionality around field formatters and placeholders. Naturally, having seen the amount of work Andrew had completed, everyone was afraid to go second.

Mark Conroy
Mark stepped up to the plate. He had begun by re-creating annertech.com in Drupal 8, but having banged his head against the wall a number of times trying to call JavaScript in the theme's .info.yaml file, he abandoned ship and set about setting up a multi-lingual viral video website. The site featured a theme built from the ashes of Bartik, with responsive videos from YouTube and related videos per post via entity reference fields. YouTube videos were embedded by inputting the video id into a text field and then re-writing the text field's Twig file to wrap YouTube embed code around it and a wrapper div to make the videos responsive. Though a field formatter may have been a better solution (and lead to a Drupal 8 contrib module), Mark wanted some exposure to Twig.

Mike King
Mike demoed a very simple way to create a Drupal sub-theme – basically a .info.yaml file with a statement to tell the theme to use Bartik as the base theme (don't forget to call it base theme, not base_theme or similar). He could then add what was needed to his theme (a new CSS file, some JavaScript, custom twig files, etc) ensuring only a tiny overhead on the theme setup and performance.

Anthony Lindsay
Anthony created a new theme, starting from Stark. He then created a website for a photographer, where users can browse photographs, open them in a overlay, and, best of all, purchase them. Anthony used Realex as his payment gateway. Everything worked fine (after we cleared the caches!).

Tommy Lynge Jorgenson
Tommy created custom entities which were exposed these to views. When he was finished demoing his work, we had a working questions and answers game (with multiple choice answers) before us. Now, the competition was really getting going.

Gavin Hughes
Gavin began his #d8in8 task by porting some modules to Drupal 8, one of which was Magnific Popups. By the time the final bell had gone, the modules were not completely ported, though most of the functionality was there and certainly enough for us to see how it will work in the real world. Great to see a strong contender for Colorbox's dominance – configurable, slick, lightweight. We're looking forward to seeing the finished results of the port of this module from Gavin.

Sudev Pradhan
Sudev took the Facebook Connect module and ported part of it to Drupal 8. He showed us a working version of a website that you can login to with your Facebook account. Once logged in, a normal account is created on the website, which you can change the password for. You then have the option to login via the normal login form or Facebook for future uses.

Alan Burke
Alan has been doing a lot of work on the configuration management initiative and automating the deployment of code. He showed us (what he thought was) some basic CMI features, but rest-assured it lead to a very excited conversation about configuration, git, installation profiles, primary databases, features, git and more.

So, who won what? Ask us in Amsterdam, where the whole team will be for DrupalCon.

Do you know what would be great? If other companies ran similar competitions and get all got #d8in8 trending - it's looking a little lonely at the moment.

Apr 29 2014
Apr 29

It's Powerful

With great power comes great flexibility. Drupal does not so much see itself as a content management system, but more as a content management framework. This means, it can be used to build any type of web application – website, intranet, secure portal – including a content management system. To put it simply, there is nothing that can't be built in PHP (Facebook for example), that can't be built with Drupal.

It's Secure

Since Drupal is built as an Open Source platform, its codebase is very closely scrutinised. Open Source means the code that powers it is freely available for anyone to look at, use, modify, and contribute to. When you make your source code available in this manner, you've to make sure it's top notch code. Since anyone can contribute to it – and thousands of people across the world do – you then get code that has thousands of pairs of eyes invigilating it at all times. Proprietary code manufacturers cannot give this guarantee; when using closed source software, you have no idea what potential security flaws are present.

It's Search Engine Friendly

Drupal “out of the box” is quite well optimised for search engines, especially when Drupal 7 arrived back in 2011 with RDF support enabled. Drupal code is written quite semantically, and its ability to use alt and title tags for images and other uploaded media gives it quite a push in SEO terms. Okay, I've used the word quite three times now. And 'quite' is not quite good enough. The brilliance of Drupal lies in the 20,000+ contributed modules that are available for it. When it comes to SEO there is no shortage of modules to turn something that is quite good into something that is super, such as the SEO compliance checker, SEO checklist, Global Redirect, Metatag, Search 404, XML Sitemap, and Pathauto modules to name just a few that made it onto Netmag's 20 Best Drupal Modules for SEO list.

It's Cutting Edge

Whatever is the latest up-and-coming trend in the software development world, is the latest up-and-coming trend in the Drupalverse. Drupal was the first to make responsive (base) themes available to ensure that any site could benefit from the increased user-experience that a mobile-friendly website brings with it. In Drupal 8 all themes will be responsive by default. It was the first major CMS to adopt RDF for semantic data. Also in Drupal 8 will be the awesomeness of in-line editing – if you want to change a page title, then you can do so without having to load the full edit screen; same for menu items, images, footer links, copy – anything. Perhaps the biggest feature to come in Drupal 8 will be the configuration in code aspect – so no longer will configuration be stored in a database (needing the features module to come rescue it!), from now on (almost) the only thing to be placed in your content management system's database is ... content!

It's Free

Drupal is 100% free. You do not pay for Drupal. You do not pay a licence fee to use it. You do not pay a repeating licence fee each year. It is free, free, free. This means anyone can download it and build a website as complex as The Economist's, The White House's, or Harvard University's. All you need to do is roll up your sleeves, be prepared to learn something new, and have fun. Failing that, you could call the experts who have gone through this learning curve already (that's us, Annertech!).

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