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Dec 20 2018
Dec 20

To Zach Sines and Taylor Wright, It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.

Kaleem Clarkson2018 DrupalCamp Atlanta Group Picture

Thanks to all of the presenters and participants who attended 2018 DrupalCamp Atlanta (DCATL). We are excited to provide you with a little holiday gift. The Session Videos are now live. View here

I would also like to thank the awesome DCATL team that I had the pleasure to work with:

  • Sarah Golden — Acquia
  • Nikki Smith — Sevaa
  • Zach Sines — Manhattan Associates
  • Taylor Wright

As with any event, this year’s DCATL had some interesting twists and turns that we were able to overcome. The biggest and most noticeable one, of course, was the construction that was happening at the hotel. Two weeks before the event, I met with the hotel event staff to discuss our setup. On my way into the hotel, everything looked as I expected and it was business as usual. When I entered the lobby I noticed they were putting up a temporary wall that blocks off the hotel bar. During our discussion, I was informed there was going to be some construction going on during our camp but was ensured that the event space wouldn’t be impacted.

The DCATL team arrived at the hotel to load in and everyone was mortified when we saw the front of the building. No more than 10 minutes after we arrived, I received a message from one of the trainers asking, “are we still having the conference?” We immediately started thinking about how we can alleviate the situation, so we took a picture of the building and sent an email out to everyone stating that the interior of the building was okay and that we were still going to have an awesome conference.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. 10 days before the camp, we were still short on the financials and were kind of sweating it out (although we had reserve funds to cover the costs) thinking of ways that we could reduce costs without getting rid of too much programming. I received a phone call from an employee at Turner, asking if they could be a Diamond Sponsor and would also like to sponsor the after party. WOW! I couldn’t believe we were getting bailed out in the last minute, phew!

After the camp, I got a chance to have lunch with a mentor of mine and we talked about where are the next generation of Drupalers going to come from and what purpose camps serve today vs ten years ago. So based on our discussion here are my top two goals I would like to propose to the DCATL organizing team.

Increase the Number of Case Studies with co-presentations from Drupal shops and their Clients.

Another topic we discussed was how Acquia Engage has taken a different approach by showcasing their clients and providing opportunities for Drupal shops to schedule meet and greets talk with their clients. During the opening session at DCATL I asked the audience, “raise your hand if you have invited a client to attend or co-present at DrupalCamp Atlanta.” Out of all the attendees maybe 2 raised their hands.

Increase the Number of Student Attendees

When looking at some of my Drupal colleague's user profiles so many of us over 10 years. This means we are getting old folks :) But more importantly, where are the next generation of Drupalers going to come from. The state of Georgia has 114 colleges and 326,609 students. I know it takes a lot of energy but we have to figure out a way to use our camp as a pipeline for nurturing the next generation of Drupalist.

For the past 5.5 years, I have had the pleasure to work with Zach Sines and Taylor Wright as board members of the Atlanta Drupal Users Group (ADUG). Both Zach and Taylor were key stakeholders in the restructuring of the organization. Zach took on the writing of the bylaws that states how people are elected, what are the rules for participating, what are the roles and responsibilities of each officer and so on. Taylor has a ton of finance experience so he took on the responsibility of cleaning up our financials and paying all of our bills. These two have been by my side, even after heated discussions and have been what I like to call my nice translators. Sometimes I have the tendency to be too blunt and they were always there to translate my bluntness into that beautiful southern hospitality.

Zach in the Green on the Left. Taylor in the Green on the Right

Earlier this year, both Zach and Taylor informed all of us that 2018 will be their last year serving on the board. Not to get too mushy but I am going to miss them both a lot, I mean a ton. Not just for their expertise but hearing their voices on our monthly calls and some of their hilarious stories. But what is great about Drupal is that you build some lasting relationships and now I consider these two my friends. Thank you for all the work you have put into running these events, and I know this is not goodbye its soo you soon.

With our current vacancies, the Atlanta Drupal User Group (ADUG) is currently looking for new board members to join our team. While the serving on a board can sound intimidating we are really just a bunch of Drupalers who want to give back to the community. All of our meetings are held on a video call. If you are interested or know some who would be a great fit, please feel free to contact us.

Dec 11 2018
Dec 11

When it comes to ecommerce, a fast site can make a big difference in overall sales. I recently went through an exercise to tune a Drupal 7 Commerce site for high traffic on a Black Friday sales promotion. In previous years, the site would die in the beginning of the promotion, which really put a damper on the sale! I really enjoyed this exercise, finding all the issues in Commerce and Drupal that caused the site to perform sub-optimally.

FYI, We also have a Drupal 8 Commerce Performance Tuning guide here.

Scenario

Check Out Our High Five Drupal Web Series

In our baseline, for this specific site the response time was 25 seconds and we were able to handle only about 1000 orders an hour. With a very heavy percentage of 500s, timeouts and general unresponsiveness. CPU and memory utilization on web and database servers was very high.

Fast-forward to the end of all the tuning and we were able to handle 12K-15K orders an hour! The load generator couldn’t generate any more load, or the internet bandwidth on the load generators would get saturated, or something external to the Drupal environment became the limiter. At this point, we stopped trying to tune things. Horizontal capacity by adding additional webheads was linear. If we had added more webheads, they could handle the traffic. The database server wasn’t deadlocking. Its CPU and memory was very stable. CPU on the web servers would peak out at ~80% utilization, then more capacity would get added by spinning up a new server. The entire time, response time hovered around 500-600ms.

Enough about the scenario. Let’s dive into things.

Getting Started

The first step in tuning a site for a high volume of users and orders is to build a script that will create synthetic users and populate and submit the form(s) to add item(s) to the cart, register new users, input the shipping address and any other payment details. There’s a couple options to do this. JMeter is very popular. I’ve used it in the past with pretty decent success. In my most recent scenario, I used locust.io because it was recommended as a good tool. I hadn’t used it before and gave it a try. It worked well. And there are other load testing tools available too.

acro.blog-performance-tuning-4

OK, now you are generating load on the site. Now start tuning the site. I used New Relic's APM monitoring to flag transactions and PHP methods that were red flags. Transactions that take a long time or happen with great frequency are all good candidates for red flags. If you don’t have access to New Relic, another option is Blackfire. Regardless what you use for identifying slow transactions, use something.

Make sure that there’s nothing crazy going on. In my case, there was a really bad performing query that was called in the theme’s template.php and it was getting loaded on every single page call. Even when it wasn’t needed. Tuning that query gave use an instant speed-up in performance.

After that, we starting digging into things. There are several core and contrib patches I’ll mention and explain why and when you should consider applying them on your site.

In your specific commerce site, things might be different. You might have different payment gateways or external integration points. But the process of identifying pain points it the same. Run a 30-60 minute load test and find long running PHP functions. Then fix them so it doesn’t take as long.

As a first step, install the Memcache (or Redis) module and set it up for locking. Without that one step, you’ll almost immediately run into deadlocks on the DB for the semaphore table. This is a critical first step. From my experience, deadlocks are the number one issue when running a site under load. And deadlocks on the semaphore table is probably the most common scenario. Do yourself a favor. Install Memcache and avoid the problem entirely.

Then see if you can disable form caching on checkout and user registration. This helped save a TON of traffic against the database for forms that really don’t need to be cached. More about that later in specific findings.

One last thing before diving into some findings...

SHOW ENGINE INNODB STATUS

...will become your favorite friend. Use it to find deadlocks on your MySQL server.

Specific Findings

The following section describes specific problems and links to issues and patches related to the problems.
  • Do not attempt field storage write when field content did not change
    Commerce and Rules run and reprocess an order a lot. And then blindly save the results. If nothing has changed, why re-save everything again? So don’t. Apply this patch and see fewer deadlocks on order saves.
  • field_sql_storage_field_storage_load does use an unnecessary sort in the DB leading to a filesort
    Many times it makes sense to use your database to process the query. Until it doesn’t make sense. This is a case it leads to a filesort in MySQL (which you can discover using EXPLAIN in MySQL) and locking of tables and deadlocks. It is not that hard to do the sort in PHP. So do it.
  • Do not make entries in "cache_form" when viewing forms that use #ajax['callback'] (Drupal 7 port)
    This is a huge win, if you can pull it off. For transient form processing like login and checkout, disabling form cache is a huge relief to the DB. You might need to put the entire cart checkout onto a single page. No cart wizard. But the gains are pretty amazing.
  • If you are using captcha or anything with ajax on it on the login page, then you’ll need to make sure you are running the latest versions of Captcha and Recaptcha. See issues #2449209 and #2219993. Also, side note: if using the timing feature of recaptcha, the page this form falls on will not be cacheable and tends to bust page cache for important pages (like homepages that have a newsletter sign up form).
  • form_get_cache called when no_cache enabled
    You’ve done all that work to cut down on what is stored in cache. Great. But Drupal still wants to retrieve from cache. Let’s fix that. Cut down more DB calls.
  • commerce_payment_pane_checkout_form uses form_state values instead of input
    If your webshop is like most webshops, it is there to generate revenue. If you disable form caching on checkout, without this patch the values in your payment (including the ones for receiving payment) aren’t captured. Oops. Let’s fix that too.
  • Variable set stampede for js and css during asset building
    If you are using any auto scaling system and building out new servers when the site is under heavy load, you might already be using Advagg. But if you aren’t and are still using Drupal core’s asset system, spinning up a new system or two will cause some issues. Deadlocks galore when generating the CSS and JS aggregates. So either install Advagg or this patch.
  • Reduce database load by adding order_number during load
    Commerce and Rules really like to reprocess orders. An easy win is to reduce the number of one-off resaves and assign the order number after the first load.
  • Never use aggregation in maintenance mode
    While the site is under heavy load, the database sometimes becomes unreachable. Drupal treats this as maintenance mode. And tries to aggregate the JS/CSS and talk to the database. But the database isn’t reachable. It is a little ridiculous to aggregate JS/CSS on the maintenance page. And even more to try to talk to the database. So cut out that nonsense.
  • drupal_goto short circuits and doesn't set things to cache
    If you have any PHP classes you are using during the checkout, Drupal’s classloader auto loads them into memory. It then keeps track of where the files exist on the disk and this makes the next load of those classes just that much faster. Well, drupal_goto kills all this caching. And drupal_goto gets called when navigating through checkout.

Recap

acro.blog-performance-tuning-5

Wow! That was a long list of performance enhancements. Here’s a quick recap though. Identify critical flow of your application. Generate load on that flow. Use a profiler to find pain points in that process. Then start picking things off, looking on drupal.org for existing issues, filing bugs, applying patches. Many of the identified issues discussed here will apply to your site. Others won’t apply and you’ll have different issues.

Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, the biggest wins in our discovery process were the low hanging fruit, not the complex changes. That query in the template.php was killing the site. After that, switching to use Memcache for the semaphore table and eliminating form cache for orders also cut down on a lot of chatter with the database.

I hope you too can tune that Drupal 7 Commerce site to be able to handle thousands of orders an hour. The potential exists in the platform, it is just a matter of giving performance bottlenecks a little attention and fine tuning for your particular use case. Of course, if you need a little help we'd be happy to assist. A little bit of time spent can have you reaping the rewards from then on.

Contact Acro Media Today!

Dec 11 2018
Dec 11

Here are some performance tuning tips and instructions for setting up a very performant Drupal 8 Commerce site using Varnish, Redis, Nginx and MySQL. I’ve got this setup running nicely for at least 13,000 concurrent users and it should scale well past that.

FYI, We also have a Drupal 7 Commerce Performance Tuning guide here.

Varnish

Config

You’ll need some specific config for Drupal as well as some extra config to work nicely with BigPipe caching. These are standard for Varnish and Drupal and not specific to Commerce.

Drupal

acro.blog-performance-tuning-1You’ll want to setup the Purge and Varnish Purge modules to handle tag based cache invalidation, nothing here is unique to Commerce, so you can follow the standard instructions. You will, however, want to make sure your pages actually are cached, as often modules or small misconfigurations can make a page not cacheable. To work nicely with Varnish, you want the entire page to be cacheable so your webserver doesn’t even get hit. An underused module that I find very helpful is Renderviz, which will show you a 3D breakdown of what cache tags are attached to what parts and can help you identify problem parts. I run

renderviz(‘max-age’, ‘0’) to show me anything that can’t be cached. Usually the parts you find can be corrected and made cacheable.

For example: In a recent set of performance testing I was doing, I found a newsletter signup that appeared on the bottom of every page had an overly aggressive honeypot setting, which rendered the page uncacheable. Changing the settings to only apply to necessary forms, as well as correcting a language selector, turned tons of uncached pages into cacheable pages. Now these pages return <10ms and put zero load on my web servers or database.

Demo Drupal Commerce today! View our demo site.

Web Servers

PHP

Use the most modern version of PHP you can, preferably the latest stable. Never ever ever use PHP 5 which is terrible, terrible, terrible. Otherwise, make sure you have sufficient memory and allowed threads, and that will cover most of your PHP tuning. This is almost certainly the most resource heavy part of your Drupal stack, but it is also easy to scan horizontally, pretty much indefinitely. Also, the more you can make use of Varnish, the less this will get used.

Nginx/Apache

Most of this is just making sure you can handle the number of connections. You may need to up the file limit...

ulimit -n

...of your web user to allow for more than 1024 connections per nginx instance.

Database

acro.blog-performance-tuning-2

A Commerce site is usually more write-heavy than your standard site, as your users create lots of "content" (aka carts and orders). This will usually change your MySQL config a bit, although the majority of your queries will still be reads. A pretty simple way to tune your site is to run...

mysqltuner

...against it after getting some real traffic data for at least a couple days, or simulating high traffic. It’s recommendations will get you a pretty good setup.

There is one other VERY important thing you need to do, you need to change your transaction isolation level from READ-REPEATABLE to READ-COMMITTED. READ-REPEATABLE is much too aggressive at table locking to work with most Drupal sites, especially anything write heavy. You will suffer from constant deadlocks even at fairly low traffic levels without this. Frankly, I think this should be a flag in the status page, but my patch hasn’t gotten any traction.

Cache Server

Nothing special here, but you are going to want use a separate caching option. It could be Memcache, Redis or even just a separate MySQL database. Redis is nice and fast, but the biggest gain is just splitting your cache away from the rest of your db so you can scale them easier.

Patches

There are a few specific patches that will be a great help to your performance.

_list cache tag invalidation

See: https://www.drupal.org/project/drupal/issues/2966607

Every entity type has an entity_type_list cache tag, which gets invalidated any time an entity of that type is added or changed and that those lists will need to get rebuild. This happens a LOT, but is a relatively simple query.

update cachetags set invalidation=invalidation+1 where tag=’my_entity_list’

This is an update, which is a blocking query, nothing else can edit this row while this query is running, which wouldn’t be so bad except...

acro.blog-performance-tuning-3This query often gets run as a part of larger tasks, in our case, such as when placing an order. A big task like this is run in a transaction, which basically means we save up all the queries and run them at once so they can be rolled back if something goes wrong. This means though, that this row stays locked for the whole duration of the transaction, not just the short time it takes this little query to run. If this invalidation happens near the start of the transaction, it can take a query that would take 0.002 seconds and make it take 0.500 seconds, for example. Now, if we have more than 2 of these happening a second, we start to back up and build a queue of these queries, which just keeps getting longer and longer until we just start returning timeouts. Since this query is part of the bigger order transaction, it stops the whole order from being processed and can bring your checkout flow to a halt. 

Thankfully, the above listed patch allows these cache invalidations to be deferred so as to not block large transactions. I think the update query for invalidating cache tags is still a bottleneck as you could eventually reach it without these long transactions, but at this point that problem is more hypothetical than something you will practically encounter.

Add index to profiles

See: https://www.drupal.org/project/profile/issues/3017788

As you start getting more and more customers and orders, you will get more profiles. Loading them, especially for anonymous users, will really start to slow down and become a bottleneck. The listed patch simply adds an index to prevent that. Please note, this is a patch for the Profile module, not Commerce itself.

Make language switcher block cacheable

See: https://www.drupal.org/project/drupal/issues/2232375

This issue is unfortunately on hold pending some large core changes, but once it does land, this will allow the language switcher block to be used without worry of it blocking full page caching.

Conclusion

You should be able to scale well above 10,000 concurrent users with these tips. If you encounter any other bottlenecks or bugs, I’d love to hear about them. If you want help with some performance improvements from Acro Media and yours truly, feel free to contact us.

Contact Acro Media Today!

Dec 11 2018
Dec 11

This article demonstrates six different methods of changing content and functionality in Drupal. Each method requires a different skill set and level of expertise, from non-technical inexperienced users to advanced Drupal developers. For each method, we describe the components, skills, knowledge, and limitations involved. The goal is to highlight Drupal’s flexibility as a Content Management framework.

This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of php[architect] magazine. To read the complete article please subscribe or purchase the complete issue.

Nov 27 2018
Nov 27

If you’re evaluating CMS platforms for an upcoming project, Drupal should be one platform that you consider. It was built for generating content and also has robust ecommerce abilities through the Drupal Commerce module. If you only need to publish content, it’s great for that. If you only need ecommerce, it’s great for that, too. The fact that it does both very well is a winning combination that will always be available to you, now or down the road. This post takes a look under the hood of Drupal to show you why you might want to take a first, or second, look at the Drupal CMS.

Drupal for Content

As mentioned in the introduction, Drupal was built for content creation and it is very good at that. But, if you’re unfamiliar with Drupal, you probably wouldn’t understand WHY it works so well for this. Here are some of the things that really separate Drupal from other platforms.

Content Types

At the core of Drupal content creation is something called a Content Type. A content type is a collection of fields that are used to generate a certain type of content, such as a general page, landing page, blog post, press release, etc. It’s one of the first pieces of a new Drupal site to be configured.

Demo Drupal Commerce today! View our demo site.Configuring content types is mostly done through Drupal’s admin user interface (UI). Through the interface, you add fields. If you think of any website form that you’ve seen in the past, the form is made up of fields for you to enter in your information. This is the same for Drupal, but you’re actually creating the fields that are used to generate content. For example, a blog post typically contains a title (text field), body (textarea field), header image (image field), publish date (date field), author and category (reference fields). For the blog content type, all of these fields would be added as well as any other that you need. The field options available a many. If you don’t see a field that you need, chances are someone has already created it and you just need to install a module that adds it in.

After all of the fields have been added, you then configure how the fields are displayed to your content creators and to the end user viewing the content. I won’t get into details here, but many fields have options for how that content gets rendered on the page. Using an image field as an example, you can choose to render the image as the original image, or as a processed image (like a thumbnail), or as the url path to the image on the server. Each option has its uses once you start theming the site.

Regions and Blocks

Keeping with the blog post example, when viewing a blog post you typically see other elements on the pages such as a subscribe form, list of recent posts, and call to actions. It doesn’t make sense to manually add these things to every single blog post, so instead we place this content in something called a Block and assign the block to a Region.

Regions are added to your page templates and are there for you to place blocks into. When adding a block into a region, each block can be configured independently of one another so that you can assign blocks to specific pages, content types, access levels (i.e. anonymous vs. logged in users), etc. A block can be many different things, but one type of block is similar to a content type in that you can add fields that are used to make up the block.

Views

A View is a powerful tool within Drupal for creating dynamic content based on other content. Views allow you to take existing content, manipulate it, and display it in another way. They can be used to create both pages and blocks.

Again, using the blog as an example, if you look at a page that is listing all of your blog posts at one time, this is most likely a view. The view is taking content generated using the blog content type, manipulating each post so that you’re only seeing specific information such as a date, title and introduction, and then adding a ‘Read More’ link after the introduction. Not only is the view manipulating each post like this, it’s also displaying the 10 most recent posts and showing you a ‘Load More’ button afterwards to load the next 10 posts.

This is a pretty simple example, but as you can see it’s quite powerful. You can use as much or as little of the content information as you need and it gives you fine-grained control to use and re-use your content in new ways. 

Metatags

Any serious content platform needs to include a robust set of metatag options. The built in metatag module for Drupal is excellent in this regard. You can set default options for every content type and override those defaults for individual pieces of content if needed. You can choose if your content should be crawled by search bots or not, how your post would appear on social media if shared, and more.

Workflows

This might not apply to you if you’re the only one creating content for your website, but, if you have a team of content creators, workflows let you assign specific permissions to your teammates. For example, you can allow your writers to draft content, your editors to approve the content, and finally a publisher can publish the content. Instead of explaining it all here, here’s a separate article and video that shows you how it works.

Modules

Anything that adds new functionality to the base Drupal platform is called a module. A module can be small (such as adding a new field type) or big (such as adding ecommerce functionality). You can separately Google “best modules for Drupal” and see a whole bunch of popular modules, but one of our favorites that I want to mention for content creation is the “Paragraphs” module. This module lets you create reusable sections of content that can be used within your content types and product pages. So, instead of just a body of text you can add cta straps, rich media, image galleries, forms, etc., all within your content. We use it on our own site to quickly make unique page layouts for our content.

Theming

Drupal’s theming engine enables your designers and front end developers to implement anything they can dream up. You have broad control over the look and feel of your site so that everything is consistent, but you can also create totally unique pieces of content or individual pages that may break away from your normal styleguide.

Say you have a new product lineup that you’re launching. You’re store branding is one thing, but this product has its own unique branding and personality that you want to convey. Well, you can give your designers full control over how the product should appear on your website and your front end developers can make it happen using the granular template override system.

Drupal for Commerce

The Commerce module for Drupal turns your Drupal site into a fully fledged ecommerce platform that is 100% capable of running any size of ecommerce site you throw at it. And remember, this is adding functionality to Drupal, so you still maintain the ability to do all of the content side of things mentioned above. 

In fact, not only can you still generate other content, but all of the things that make content creation great on Drupal also apply to the ecommerce side of your site. Your product pages are totally fieldable and themable, just like the content. You can assign blocks to your project pages. You can use views to set up your catalog and create blogs that filter out featured products or related products. Everything is fully customizable. 

There are also many modules available specifically for Commerce that give you even more functionality and integrations, and this is actually where ecommerce on Drupal becomes a “big deal”. Drupal Commerce is API first, which means that it was made to be able to connect to other services. So while you might run your ecommerce store on Drupal Commerce, you will most likely also use other software for your business accounting, marketing and customer relations, to name a few. Drupal Commerce can integrate with these services and share information in order to automate tasks.

We have a whole article that drills down on this topic and explains why ecommerce platforms like Drupal Commerce can be a great fit for your business. I would recommend reading it here.

Content and Commerce

We’ve really only scratched the surface on what Drupal can do from both a content and commerce perspective. I hope you’re beginning to see the whole picture. 

The truth is that most ecommerce platforms don’t do both content and commerce well. You can definitely find many great content creation platforms out there, but can they also do ecommerce? Likewise, there are a ton of ecommerce platforms that will sell your products, but how well can you create other content and do you have the flexibility to customize one or all product pages in the way that works best for your products. And, can you integrate that platform with other services?

These are all important questions to ask even if you don’t think you need a robust content platform or an ecommerce component now. If you think you might need it in the future, planning ahead could save you a headache later. While there are a lot of options out there and I encourage you to explore them, Drupal should be high on your list of possible options.

Try A Demo

It’s one thing to say Drupal is great at all of these things, but why not give it a try. We’ve actually created a complete Drupal demo that showcases both content and commerce together. Click the link below to check it out and see what you think. If you’re interested in exploring how Drupal can fit with your business, feel free to Contact Us. We’d be happy to have that discussion with you.

Demo Drupal Commerce today! View our demo site.

Nov 23 2018
Nov 23

It’s been almost one month since I wrote the blog post, “DrupalCamp Organizers Unite: Is it Time for Camp Organizers to Become an Official Working Group” and a ton of things have transpired that will catapult us into 2019 with some great momentum. With the support of the many Drupal evangelists, over 50 Drupal event organizers from around the world signed up to attend our first official / unofficial video call.

Then on Friday, November 8, a few hours leading up to the video call, The Drupal Governance Taskforce 2018 Proposal was released. This proposal was put together by the Governance Taskforce in an effort establish a community directive that helps create the next generation of Drupalers. One of the recommendations in this proposal was to provide in-person events, more support, and to establish a Drupal community events working group. The timing of the proposal was perfect for our call. It was really great to see that us organizers were not the only ones who acknowledged that our community events are crucial to Drupal adoption.

Are you a Drupal Event Organizer? Well, join us at our next meeting on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at 12 pm (EST). Register Here

When the time came to start the call I was a little nervous that not very many people would attend and then all of a sudden the chimes started going off and faces appeared on the screen. After 5 minutes we had 25 people on the call. It was inspirational to be a part of something big. It felt like we were the United Nations :).

Flags of all the Countries that were represented

Countries Represented
Canada, Mumbai, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States.

Drupal Events Represented
BADCamp(2), Drupal Association(2), Drupal North, Drupal Camp Asheville, DrupalCamp Atlanta, Drupal Camp Chattanooga, DrupalCamp Colorado, DrupalCorn(2), Drupaldelphia, Drupal Mountain Camp, Drupal Camp Mumbai, DrupalCamp New Jersey, Florida Drupal Camp (2),Frontend United, GovCon, MidCamp(2), NED Camp(4),Victoria BC Meetup.

  1. The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at 12 pm (EST). Register Here
  2. Comment on Governance Taskforce Proposal Issue
    To help Dries Buytaert, prioritize the recommendation of creating a Community Events Working Group, we need as many people as possible to comment on this issue. Please view the issue and indicate why you believe this working group is critical to the success of Drupal. Comment now!
  3. DrupalCamp Website Starter Kit
    Out of all of the discussions, the common pain point is that the website takes up too much of our limited resources. The idea of an event starter kit, instead of a distribution, was really intriguing to us all. We also discussed all of the events donating funding to hire a professional project manager to scope out what a starter kit would look like.
  4. Drupal.org Events Website
    Many of us use the great Drupical to let us know what events are happening. But if you don’t know about that website there is nowhere on Drupal.org that is easily accessible that promotes Drupal events. The idea that was brought to the table was to design a new section of the community page that is a space specifically for promoting and producing Drupal events.
  5. A Centralized Drupal Event Statistics Hub
    Another website related item that was brought up was the idea of centralized data hub that event organizers could submit crucial data of events (attendance, budget, programing etc.) so that Drupal.org could display the data and allow for data manipulation. For example, it would be great to know how many people attended Drupal events in one year. This data would be extremely powerful as it could help organizers to compare events, drive corporate sponsorships and adoption, and get more people involved with Drupal.
  6. DrupalTV — A website with all Drupal Videos
    The topic around Drupal video content came up and one of the biggest issues was that videos are all over the place and are not organized. To solve this problem, the idea of a centralized website (DrupalTV) where videos were tagged by topic, presenter, module, etc.. would allow for content to be easily found. This idea was started before our meeting and you can see a proof of concept here.

I was very happy to be a part of this first meeting and I hope that Drupal leadership also sees the work we do as critical and will make us an official working group. There were a lot of great conversations that took place so I am sure that I have missed something. Feel free to comment and let me know and I will update the post.

Nov 20 2018
Nov 20

A while ago we introduced a Live Component Guide to our corporate website that gives our designers and content creators and quick way to lay out content on new and existing pages. It’s worked out great so far and has generated quite a bit of interest. A couple months old now, that initial blog post explaining why we did it and how it works has had over 400 views and the recorded demonstration on YouTube has been watched for more than 1500 minutes. Not bad considering it’s a very Drupal specific, niche post.

While I was working on our corporate site components, others at Acro Media were working away on adding similar components to our internal Drupal 8 framework. Our corporate website is currently running on Drupal 7, and so, in some of the feedback that we received, people naturally wanted to see an example of the Live Component Guide in Drupal 8. After all, that’s the latest version of the Drupal platform that all new Drupal sites are being built using it.

I’m happy to announce now that those components have made their way into Acro Media’s Drupal Commerce demo site, Urban Hipster! Want to see it? I know you do. Check out the video demonstration below or go straight to the Urban Hipster’s Live Component Guide and take look for yourself.

[embedded content]

Demo Drupal Commerce today! View our demo site.

Nov 09 2018
Nov 09

Last week, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Vaccine Makers Project (VMP) won a PR News Digital Award in the category “Redesign/Relaunch of Site.” The awards gala honors the year’s best and brightest campaigns across a variety of media. 

PR News Award on a table.

Our CEO, Alex, and our Director of Client Engagement, Aaron, along with members of the Vaccine Makers team attended the event at the Yale Club in New York City.

Screenshot of a Tweet posted by the PR News. Source

The Vaccine Makers Project (VMP) is a subset of CHOP’s Vaccine Education Center (VEC). It’s a public education portal for students and teachers that features resources such as lesson plans, downloadable worksheets, and videos. 

The Vaccine Makers team first approached us in need of a site that aligned with the branding of CHOP’s existing site. They also wanted a better strategy for site organization and resource classification. Our team collaborated with theirs to build a new site that’s easy to navigate for all users. You can learn more about the project here.

Screenshot of a Tweet from Vaccine Makers team. Source

We’d like to thank CHOP and the Vaccine Makers team for giving us the opportunity to work on this project. We’d also like to thank PR News for recognizing our work and hosting such a wonderful event. 

Finally, we’d like to congratulate our incredible team for their endless effort and dedication to this project. 
 

Nov 02 2018
Nov 02

You Can’t Put a Price Tag on Visibility, Creditability, and Collegiality

Kaleem Clarkson“pink pig” by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

Organizing a DrupalCamp takes a lot of commitment from volunteers, so when someone gets motivated to help organize these events, the financial risks can be quite alarming and sometimes overwhelming. But forget all that mess, you are a Drupal enthusiast and have drummed up the courage to volunteer with the organization of your local DrupalCamp. During your first meeting, you find out that there are no free college or community spaces in the area and the estimated price tag is $25,000. Holy Batman that is a lot of money!

Naturally, you start thinking about how we are going to cover that price tag, so you immediately ask, “how many people usually attend?” Well unless you are one of the big 5, (BADCamp, NYCCamp, Drupal GovCon, MidCamp or FloridaCamp) we average between 100 and 200 people. Then you ask, “how much can we charge?” You are then told that we cannot charge more than $50 because camps are supposed to be affordable for the local community and that has been the culture of most DrupalCamps.

Are you interested in attending the first online DrupalCamp Organizers Meeting, on Friday, November 9th at 4:00pm (EST)? RSVP Here.

If Drupal is the Enterprise solution why are all of our camps priced and sponsored like we are still hobbyist in 2002?

Drupal is the Enterprise solution. Drupal has forgotten about the hobbyist and is only concerned about large-scale projects. Drupal developers and companies make more per hour than Wordpress developers. These are all things I have heard from people within the community. So if any of these statements are valid, why are all the camps priced like it is 2002 and we are all sitting around in a circle singing Kumbaya? In 2016 for DrupalCamp Atlanta, we couldn’t make the numbers work, so we decided to raise the price of the camp from $45 to $65 (early bird) and $85 (regular rate). This was a long drawn out and heated debate that took nearly all of our 2 hours allotted for our google hangout. At the end of the day, one of our board members who is also a Diamond sponsor said,

“when you compare how other technology conferences are priced and what they are offering for sessions, DrupalCamps are severely under-priced for the value they provide to the community.”

Courtesy of Amaziee.io Labs

If a camp roughly costs $25,000 and you can only charge 150 people $50, how in the world are DrupalCamps produced? The simple answer, sponsors, sponsors, and more sponsors. Most camps solely rely on the sponsors to cover the costs. One camp, in particular, BADCamp has roughly 2,000 attendees and the registration is FREE. That’s right, the camp is completely free and did I forget to mention that it’s in San Francisco? Based on the BADCamp model and due to the fact the diamond sponsorship for DrupalCon Nashville was $50,000, getting 10 companies to sponsor your camp at $2,500 will be no sweat. Oh and don’t forget Drupal is the enterprise solution, right?

With all of your newfound confidence in obtaining sponsorships, you start contacting some of the larger Drupal shops in your area and after a week nothing. You reach out again maybe by phone this time and actually speak to someone but they are not committing because they want some more information as to why they should sponsor the camp such as, what other perks can you throw in for the sponsorship, are we guaranteed presentation slots, and do you provide the participant list. Of course, the worst response is the dreaded no, we cannot sponsor your conference because we have already met our sponsorship budget for the year.

At this point, you feel defeated and confused as to why organizations are not chomping at the bit to fork over $2,500 to be the sponsor. Yep, that’s right, twenty-five hundred, not $25,000 to be the highest level, sponsor. Mind you many Drupal shops charge anywhere between $150 — $250 an hour. So that means donating 10–17 hours of your organizations time to support a Drupal event in your local community. Yes, you understand that there are a lot of DrupalCamps contacting the same companies for sponsorship so you ask yourself, what has changed from years past?

Are you interested in attending the first online DrupalCamp Organizers Meeting, on Friday, November 9th at 4:00 pm (EST)? RSVP Here.

At DrupalCon Nashville, I got an awesome opportunity to participate in a session around organizing DrupalCamps. It was really interesting to hear about how other organizers produce their camp and what were some of the biggest pain points.

Group Photo — DrupalCon 2018 Nashville by Susanne Coates

During this session, we were talking about a centralized sponsorship program for all DrupalCamps (that I personally disagree with and will save that discussion for another blog post) and an individual asked the question,

“why should my company sponsor DrupalCamp Atlanta? There is nothing there for me that makes it worth it. We don’t pick up clients, you don’t distribute the participant list, so why should we sponsor the camp?”

Needless to say, they caught me completely off guard, so I paused then replied,

“DrupalCamp Atlanta has between 150–200 people, most of them from other Drupal shops, so what is it that you are expecting to get out of the sponsorship that would make it worth it to you? Why do you sponsor any DrupalCamps?”

On the plane ride back to the ATL it got me thinking, why does an organization sponsor DrupalCamps? What is the return on their investment? I started reminiscing of the very first DrupalCamp that I attended in 2008 and all the rage at that time (and still is), was inbound marketing and how using a content strategy and or conference presentations can establish your company as thought leaders in the field, therefore, clients will find your information useful and approach you when its time to hire for services. Maybe this is why so many camps received a ton of presentation submissions and why it was easy to find sponsors, but that was over 10 years ago now and some of those same companies have now been established as leaders in the field. Could it be, that established companies no longer need the visibility of DrupalCamps?

What happens to DrupalCamps when companies no longer need the visibility or credibility from the Drupal community?

The Drupal community thrives when Drupal shops become bigger and take on those huge projects because it results in contributions back to the code, therefore, making our project more competitive. But an unintended consequence of these Drupal shops becoming larger is that there is a lot more pressure on them to raise funding thus they need to spend more resources on obtaining clients outside of the Drupal community. Acquia, the company built by the founder of Drupal, Dries Buytaert, have made it clear that they are pulling back on their local camp sponsorships and have even created their own conference called Acquia Engage that showcases their enterprise clients. Now from a business perspective, I totally understand why they would create this event as it provides a much higher return on their investment but it results in competing with other camps (ahem, this year’s DrupalCamp Atlanta), but more importantly the sponsorship dollars all of us depend on are now being redirected to other initiatives.

Are you interested in attending the first online DrupalCamp Organizers Meeting, on Friday, November 9th at 4:00 pm (EST)? RSVP Here.

The reality of the situation is that sponsoring these DrupalCamps are most likely not going to land your next big client that pays your company a $500,000 contract. So what are true reasons to sponsor a DrupalCamp:

  • Visibility
    When sponsoring these DrupalCamps most of us organizers do a pretty good job of tweeting thanks to the company and if the organization has presenters we usually promote the sessions as well. In addition, most camps print logos on the website, merchandise, and name after parties. Yes, its only a little bit but the internet is forever and the more you are mentioned the better off you are. But you are from a well established Drupal shop so you don’t need any more visibility.
  • Credibility
    Even the companies who are have been established need their staff to be credible. There will always be some amount of turnover and when that happens your clients still want to know if this person is talented. And if your company is new, being associated with Drupal in your local community does provide your company a sense of credibility.
  • Collegiality
    I saved the best for last. Collegiality is highly overlooked when looking at sponsoring camps. Most companies have a referral program for new hires and when the time comes for you to hire, people tend to refer their friends and their professional acquaintances. There is no better place to meet and interact with other Drupalist than a DrupalCamp. What about employee engagement? In a recent focus group I participated in with a Drupal shop, many of the staff wanted more opportunities for professional development. These local camps are affordable and can allow staff to attend multiple events in a year when you have small budgets.

I must end by saying, that there are so many great Drupal companies that I have had the pleasure to work with and if it were not for the Acquia’s of the world Drupal wouldn’t exist. I understand that CEO’s are responsible for their employees and their families so I don’t want to underestimate the pressures that come with making payroll and having a client pipeline. The purpose of this post was to explain how it feels as a volunteer who is doing something for the community and the frustrations that sometimes come with it.

Oct 29 2018
Oct 29

At this year's BADCamp, our Senior Web Architect Nick Lewis led a session on Gatsby and the JAMstack. The JAMStack is a web development architecture based on client-side JavaScript, reusable APIs, and prebuilt Markup. Gatsby is one of the leading JAMstack based static page generators, and this session primarily covers how to integrate it with Drupal. 

Our team has been developing a "Gatsby Drupal Kit" over the past few months to help jump start Gatsby-Drupal integrations. This kit is designed to work with a minimal Drupal install as a jumping off point, and give a structure that can be extended to much larger, more complicated sites.

This session will leave you with: 

1. A base Drupal 8 site that is connected with Gatsby.  

2. Best practices for making Gatsby work for real sites in production.

3. Sane patterns for translating Drupal's structure into Gatsby components, templates, and pages.

This is not an advanced session for those already familiar with React and Gatsby. Recommended prerequisites are a basic knowledge of npm package management, git, CSS, Drupal, web services, and Javascript. Watch the full session below. 

Oct 27 2018
Oct 27

If the community is a top priority then resources for organizing DrupalCamps must also be a top priority.

Kaleem Clarkson“Together We Create graffiti wall decor” by "My Life Through A Lens" on Unsplash

Community, community and more community. One of the common themes we hear when it comes to evaluating Drupal against other content management systems (CMS), is that the community is made up of over 100,000 highly skilled and passionate developers who contribute code. And in many of these application evaluations, it’s the community, not the software that leads to Drupal winning the bid. We have also heard Dries Buytaert speak about the importance of the community at various DrupalCons and he is quoted on Drupal.org’s getting involved page:

“It’s really the Drupal community and not so much the software that makes the Drupal project what it is. So fostering the Drupal community is actually more important than just managing the code base.” — Dries Buytaert

With this emphasis on community, I tried to think back to how and when I first interacted with the community. Like so many others, my first introduction to Drupal was at a local Meetup. I remember going to this office building in Atlanta and the room was packed with people, plenty of pizza, soda and, of course, laptops. It was a nice relaxed atmosphere where we introduced ourselves and got a chance to know each other a little bit. Then the lights dimmed, the projector turned on and the presentations kicked off, highlighting some new content strategy or a new module that can help layout your content. After that first meetup, I felt energized because until that point, I had never spoken with someone in person about Drupal and it was the first time that I was introduced to Drupal professionals and companies.

Are you interested in attending the first online DrupalCamp Organizers Meeting, on Friday, November 9th at 4:00pm (EST)? RSVP Here.

After attending a few meetups, I joined the email list and I received an email announcing DrupalCamp Atlanta was going to be held at Georgia Tech and the call for proposals was now open for session submissions.

2013 DrupalCamp Atlanta photo by Mediacurrent

I purchased a ticket for a mere $30 and added it to my Google calendar. On the day of the event, I remember walking in the front door and being blown away by the professionalism of the conference as there were sponsor booths, giveaways, and four concurrent sessions throughout the day. But it wasn’t until I was inside the auditorium during the opening session and saw the 200 or so people pile in that made me realize this Drupal community thing I heard about was for real. Over the next couple of years, I decided that I would attend other camps instead of DrupalCon because the camps were more affordable and less intimidating. My first camp outside of Atlanta was Design4Drupal in Boston, DrupalCamp Charlotte, DrupalCamp Florida and BADCamp were all camps I went to before attending a DrupalCon. All of these camps were top notch but what I really loved is that each camp had their own identity and culture. It’s exactly what I think a community should be and for the very first time, I felt that I was a part of the Drupal community.

As provided in my previous examples, one of the advantages of Drupal comes from the great community and DrupalCamps are an important aspect in fostering this community. Running any event can be challenging, but to pull off a respectable DrupalCamp you have consider so many things such as the website, credit card processing, food, accepting and rejecting sessions, finding a keynote speaker, the afterparty, pre-conference trainings, oh and did I mention the website? You get my drift, it's a lot of work. Many of these tasks just roll off my tongue from past experience so ask yourself;

  • Where can I share my knowledge with other people who organize camps?
  • What if there was some way that all of us DrupalCamp organizers could come together and implement services that make organizing camps easier?
  • How could we provide camp organizers with resources to produce great camps?

During the #AskDries session at DrupalCon Nashville (listen for yourself), Midwest DrupalCamp Organizer Avi Schwab asked Dries the following question;

“... giving the limited funding the Drupal Association has, where should we go in trying to support our smaller local community events?” — Avi Schwab

Dries then responded with:

“That’s a great question. I actually think its a great idea what they (WordCamp) do. Because these camps are a lot of work. ...I think having some sort of central service or lack of a better term, that helps local camp organizers, I think is a fantastic idea, because we could do a lot of things, like have a camp website out of the box, ... we could have all sorts of best practices out of the box .” — Dries Buytaert

DrupalCamp Slack Community was the first time that I was provided a link to a spreadsheet that had the camp history dating back to 2006 and people were adding their target camp dates even if they were just in the planning stages. As a camp organizer I felt connected, I felt empowered to make better decisions and most of all I could just ask everyone, hey, how are you doing this?

Are you interested in attending the first online DrupalCamp Organizers meeting, on Friday, November 9th at 4:00pm (EST)? RSVP Here.

Earlier this year I volunteered for the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion Initiative (DDI) and was inspired when I heard Tara King on the DrupalEasy podcast, talk about how she just created the ddi-contrib channel on the Drupal slack and started hosting meetings. All jazzed up and motivated by that podcast, I reached out to over 20 different camp organizers from various countries and asked them if they would be interested in being on something like this? And if not, would they feel represented if this council existed?

Here are some quotes from Camp Organizers:

“I think a DrupalCamp Organizers Council is a great idea. I would be interested in being a part of such a working group. Just now I’m restraining myself from pouring ideas forth, so I definitely think I’m interested in being a part.”

“I am interested in seeing something that gathers resources from the vast experiences of current/past organizers and provides support to camps.”

“I definitely would appreciate having such a council and taking part. I’ve now helped organize DrupalCamp four times, and this was the first year we were looped into the slack channels for the organizers.”

“I really like the idea — what do we need to do to get this started?”

Based on the positive feedback and the spike in interest from other camp organizers I have decided to take the plunge and establish our first meeting of DrupalCamp Organizers on Friday, November 9th at 4:00pm (EST). This will be an online Zoom video call to encourage people to use their cameras so we can actually get to know one another.

The agenda is simple:

  • Introductions from all callers, and one thing they would like to see from the council.
  • Brainstorm the list of items the council should be advocating for.
  • Identify procedures for electing people to the Council: ways to nominate, eligibility criteria, Drupal event organizer experience required etc.
  • Outline of a quick strategic plan.
Oct 21 2018
Oct 21

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could add any block you want to your paragraphs?

Kaleem Clarkson

In years past, layout for Drupal has been in the hands of front-end developers, but over time various modules were developed that provided site-builders the ability to adjust the layout. An improvement yes, but there still wasn’t a clear cut option that empowered content editors to alter the layout during the editorial process.

Look out! Here comes the Paragraphs Module. This module has been taking the Drupal community over by storm because it allows content editors to add pre-designed components which gives each page the option to have different layouts. One of the limitations of the Paragraphs module, is that each paragraph can only be used once, and only for the current node you are editing. This means that you can’t re-use a common paragraph such as a call to action block, email signup or contact us form, so you end up finding yourself duplicating a lot of work if you want the same block on numerous pages. While the Drupal community has been working to help solve this problem by allowing the re-use of paragraphs, there are still going to be plenty of situations where you want to insert custom blocks, views, or system blocks such as the site logo or login block.

How do you allow your site editors to add re-used blocks into their content during the editorial process?

Let me introduce you to the Block Field Module. Maintained by the one and only Jacob Rockowitz (you know the webform guy ), you can be assured that the code follows best practices and that there will be support. The block field module allows you to reference any block regardless of where it is coming from and the best part, you don’t have to create some hidden region in your theme in order for the blocks to be rendered.

There are plenty of awesome articles out there that explains how to use paragraphs so I won’t get into that. To follow along with my steps be sure to have downloaded and enabled both the Paragraphs and the Block Field modules.

  1. Download and Enable the Paragraphs and Block Field modules.
  2. Create a paragraph type called Block Reference (or whatever name you want)
  3. Add a new field, by selecting the Block (plugin) field type from the dropdown and save it.
  4. Go to manage display and make the label hidden.
    I always forget this step and then I scratch my head when I see the Block Ref field label above my views title.
  5. Now go to back to your content type that has the paragraph reference field and ensure the Block Reference paragraph type is correctly enabled.
    The content type with the paragraph reference field was not covered in this tutorial.
  6. When adding or editing your content with a paragraph reference field. Add the Block Reference paragraph type. Select the name of the block that you would like to reference from the dropdown hit save on the content and watch the magic happen.

In conclusion, it does feel a little scary giving content editors this much freedom so it will be imperative that all views and custom blocks have descriptive names so that editors can clearly identify what blocks to reference. Overall I feel like this is a good solution for referencing existing blocks that can save a lot of time and really unleashes the power of the paragraphs module. The Drupal community continues to amaze me!

Oct 19 2018
Oct 19
Deirdre Habershaw

Today, more than 80% of people’s interactions with government take place online. Whether it’s starting a business or filing for unemployment, too many of these experiences are slow, confusing, or frustrating. That’s why, one year ago, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts created Digital Services in the Executive Office of Technology and Security Services. Digital Services is at the forefront of the state’s digital transformation. Its mission is to leverage the best technology and information available to make people’s interactions with state government fast, easy, and wicked awesome. There’s a lot of work to do, but we’re making quick progress.

In 2017, Digital Services launched the new Mass.gov. In 2018, the team rolled out the first-ever statewide web analytics platform to use data and verbatim user feedback to guide ongoing product development. Now our researchers and designers are hard at work creating a modern design system that can be reused across the state’s websites and conducting the end-to-end research projects to create user journey maps to improve service design.

If you want to work in a fast-paced agile environment, with a good work life balance, solving hard problems, working with cutting-edge technology, and making a difference in people’s lives, you should join Massachusetts Digital Services.

We are currently recruiting for a Technical Architect if you are interested submit your resume here

Check out more about hiring at the Executive Office of Technology and Security Services and submit your resume in order to be informed on roles as they become available.

Oct 10 2018
Oct 10

Authors are eager to learn, and a content-focused community is forming. But there’s still work to do.

Julia GutierrezVideo showing highlights of speakers, presenters, and attendees interacting at ConCon 2018.

When you spend most of your time focused on how to serve constituents on digital channels, it can be good to simply get some face time with peers. It’s an interesting paradox of the work we do alongside our partners at organizations across the state. Getting in a room and discussing content strategy is always productive.

That was one of the main reasons behind organizing the first ever Massachusetts Content Conference (ConCon). More than 100 attendees from 35 organizations came together for a day of learning and networking at District Hall in Boston. There were 15 sessions on everything from how to use Mayflower — the Commonwealth’s design system — to what it takes to create an awesome service.

Graphic showing more than 100 attendees from 50 organizations attended 15 sessions from 14 presenters at ConCon 2018.

ConCon is and will always be about our authors, and we’re encouraged by the feedback we’ve received from them so far. Of the attendees who responded to a survey, 93% said they learned about new tools or techniques to help them create better content. More so, 96% said they would return to the next ConCon. The average grade attendees gave to the first ever ConCon on a scale of 1 to 10 — with 1 being the worst and 10 the best — was 8.3.

Our authors were engaged and ready to share their experiences, which made for an educational environment, for their peers as well as our own team at Digital Services. In fact, it was an eye opening experience, and we took a lot away from the event. Here are some of our team’s reflections on what they learned about our authors and our content needs moving forward.

“The way we show feedback and scores per page is great but it doesn’t help authors prioritize their efforts to get the biggest gain for their constituents. We’re working hard to increase visibility of this data in Drupal.”

— Joe Galluccio

Katie Rahhal, Content Strategist
“I learned we’re moving in the right direction with our analysis and Mass.gov feedback tools. In the breakout sessions, I heard over and over that our content authors really like the ones we have and they want more. More ways to review their feedback, more tools to improve their content quality, and they’re open to learning new ways to improve their content.”

Christine Bath, Designer
“It was so interesting and helpful to see how our authors use and respond to user feedback on Mass.gov. It gives us a lot of ideas for how we can make it easier to get user feedback to our authors in more actionable ways. We want to make it easy to share constituent feedback within agencies to power changes on Mass.gov.”

Embedded tweet from @MassGovDigital highlighting a lesson on good design practices from ConCon 2018.

Joe Galluccio, Product Manager
“I learned how important it is for our authors to get performance data integrated into the Drupal authoring experience. The way we show feedback and scores per page is great but it doesn’t help authors prioritize their efforts to get the biggest gain for their constituents. We’re working hard to increase visibility of this data in Drupal.”

Bryan Hirsch, Deputy Chief Digital Officer
“Having Dana Chisnell, co-founder of the Center for Civic Design, present her work on mapping and improving the journey of American voters was the perfect lesson at the perfect time. The page-level analytics dashboards are a good foundation we want to build on. In the next year, we’re going to research, test, and build Mass.gov journey analytics dashboards. We’re also spending this year working with partner organizations on mapping end-to-end user journeys for different services. Dana’s experience on how to map a journey, identify challenges, and then improve the process was relevant to everyone in the room. It was eye-opening, enlightening, and exciting. There are a lot of opportunities to improve the lives of our constituents.”

Want to know how we created our page-level data dashboards? Read Custom dashboards: Surfacing data where Mass.gov authors need it

Embedded tweet from @epubpupil highlighting her positive thoughts on Dana Chisnell’s keynote presentation on mapping and improving the journey of American voters.

“It’s great to see there’s a Mayflower community forming among stakeholders in different roles across state government. ”

— Minghua Sun

Sienna Svob, Developer and Data Analyst
“We need to work harder to build a Mayflower community that will support the diversity of print, web, and applications across the Commonwealth. Agencies are willing and excited to use Mayflower and we need to harness this and involve them more to make it a better product.”

Minghua Sun, Mayflower Product Owner
“I’m super excited to see that so many of the content authors came to the Mayflower breakout session. They were not only interested in using the Mayflower Design System to create a single face of government but also raised constructive questions and were willing to collaborate on making it better! After the conference we followed up with more information and invited them to the Mayflower public Slack channel. It’s great to see there’s a Mayflower community forming among stakeholders in different roles across state government. ”

Sam Mathius, Digital Communications Strategist
“It was great to see how many of our authors rely on digital newsletters to connect with constituents, which came up during a breakout session on the topic. Most of them feel like they need some help integrating them into their overall content strategy, and they were particularly excited about using tools and software to help them collect better data. In fact, attendees from some organizations mentioned how they’ve used newsletter data to uncover seasonal trends that help them inform the rest of their content strategy. I think that use case got the analytics gears turning for a lot of folks, which is exciting.”

“I’d like to see us create more opportunities for authors to get together in informal sessions. They’re such a diverse group, but they share a desire to get it right.”

— Fiona Molloy

Shannon Desmond, Content Strategist
“I learned that the Mass.gov authors are energetic about the new content types that have been implemented over the past 8 months and are even more eager to learn about the new enhancements to the content management system (CMS) that continue to roll out. Furthermore, as a lifelong Massachusetts resident and a dedicated member of the Mass.gov team, it was enlightening to see how passionate the authors are about translating government language and regulations for constituents in a way that can be easily and quickly understood by the constituents of the State.”

Fiona Molloy, Content Strategist
“Talking to people who came to ConCon and sitting in on various sessions, it really struck me how eager our content authors are to learn — whether from us here at Digital Services or from each other. I’d like to see us create more opportunities for authors to get together in informal sessions. They’re such a diverse group, but they share a desire to get it right and that’s really encouraging as we work together to build a better Mass.gov.”

Embedded tweet from @MassGovDigital highlighting a session from ConCon 2018 in which content authors offered tips for using authoring tools on Mass.gov.

Adam Cogbill, Content Strategist
“I was reminded that one of the biggest challenges that government content authors face is communicating lots of complex information. We need to make sure we understand our audience’s relationships to our content, both through data about their online behavior and through user testing.”

Greg Derosiers, Content Strategist
“I learned we need to do a better job of offering help and support. There were a number of authors in attendance that didn’t know about readily-available resources that we had assumed people just weren’t interested in. We need to re-evaluate how we’re marketing these services and make sure everyone knows what’s available.”

Embedded tweet from @MassGovDigital highlighting the start of ConCon 2018.

Thinking about hosting your own content conference? Reach out to us! We’d love to share lessons and collaborate with others in the civic tech community.

Oct 09 2018
Oct 09

It was recently announced that 2020 will be the year Drupal 9 is officially released into the wild. The exact date hasn’t been set, but we can now look forward to the 9.0 release that year. The announcement also gave us an official End of Life date of November 2021 for Drupal 7 AND Drupal 8. So, what does this mean if you’re currently running or developing a site on one of those versions? In this post, I’ll explain.

What this means for Drupal 8?

Drupal 8 is built around a concept of continuous innovation. What this means is that new features and backwards-compatible changes are continuously added. When an old system or code is depreciated, instead of removing it, it stays in the codebase. This ensures that custom code and contributed modules will continue to work and have time to update. Eventually, there will be an excess amount of depreciated code and dependencies and there will be a need to remove it. That is one of the reasons for the release of Drupal 9. All that old stuff gets removed and we start fresh with the latest and greatest technology.

The great thing about Drupal 8 is that by the time Drupal 9 is released all of the modules and custom code in your site should be up-to-date. Therefor, updating from 8 to 9 is no different than from 8.5 to 8.6. Clean and painless!

And that’s the point. This method of building and releasing versions will continue for the foreseeable future which is why we like to say that a migration to the latest Drupal will be the last migration you ever need.

What this means for Drupal 7?

Unfortunately, Drupal 7 is a different story. When Drupal 7 reaches end of life in November of 2021, it will no longer be supported by the community at large. There are plans to release a Drupal 7 version that uses the latest version of PHP. There is also a paid support program planned (similar to Drupal 6 LTS) that will allow people and organizations unable or unwilling to migrate to continue to keep their sites secure. But really, your best course of action is to plan for a migration to Drupal 8 by 2020. This keeps your site current and guarantees it’s security moving forward.

The codebase between 7 and 8 is entirely different so a migration to Drupal 8 is a pretty big undertaking. You could call it replatforming. Drupal 8 does however include a built in data migration tool that will make the move easier. You might still need some help though depending on your site requirements and edge cases. Plus, data is one thing, but you would also need to move your theme, too. The silver lining is that migrating presents an opportunity to freshen up the look of your site and increase site speed with the latest software. For more information on what is involved in a migration, check out this post.

Like I mentioned earlier in this post, a migration to Drupal 8 may likely be the last migration you ever need since subsequent major version updates (i.e. from 8 to 9) should be very quick and easy. Once you’ve made that initial investment migrating to Drupal 8, you can rest assured that you won't have to go through that process again, possibly forever.

Migration experts

Acro Media is a Drupal agency specialized in eCommerce. We help build and maintain successful eCommerce websites as well as the underlying Drupal Commerce platform. We are also heavily involved in the development of Drupal’s migration tools. If you want to discuss what a migration might look like for your business, talk to us! We’re happy to help.

Contact us to discuss your migration!

Oct 04 2018
Oct 04

Variety of content and the need for empathy drive our effort to simplify language across Mass.gov

EOTSS Digital Services

Nearly 7 million people live in Massachusetts, and millions more visit the state each year. These people come from different backgrounds and interact with the Commonwealth for various reasons.

Graphic showing more than 3 million visitors go to Mass.gov each month.

We need to write for everyone while empathizing with each individual. That’s why we write at a 6th grade reading level. Let’s dig into the reasons why.

We’re proud of our education environment, but it doesn’t affect our readability standards. Navigating the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program might be challenging for everyone.

Learn about our content strategy. Read the 2017 content team review.

This is the case for many other scenarios. Government services can be complicated to navigate. Our job is to simplify language. We get rid of the white noise and focus on essential details.

Graphic showing desktop visitors to Mass.gov look at more pages and have longer sessions than mobile and tablet visitors.

Mass.gov visitors on mobile devices spend less time on the site and read fewer pages. The 44% share of mobile and tablet traffic will only increase over time. These visitors need information boiled down to essential details. Simplifying language is key here.

These groups want jargon and industry language. It taught us that readability is relative.

This is a good foundation to ensure we consistently hit the mark. However, time is the most important tool we have. The more content we write, the better we’ll get.

Writing is a skill refined over time, and adjusting writing styles isn’t simple. Even so, we’re making progress. In fact, this post is written at a 6th grade reading level.

Oct 02 2018
Oct 02

The Media module made its way into Drupal core for the Drupal 8.4 release a while back. It gives Drupal users a standardized way for managing local media resources, including image, audio, video, and document files. We wanted to add using this module into our Drupal Commerce demo site to give an example of how this module could potentially be used in a Commerce setting.

In this Tech Talk video, I’ll quickly show you how we updated our digital download Commerce product example to use the Media module, giving us the flexibility to add audio samples to the product page and access to the full download after purchase.

[embedded content]

Background

The product I wanted to update is the Epic Mix Tape by Urban Hipster digital download example product. This is a fake album featuring all of your favourites by artists you’ve never heard before. The idea is to showcase that you can add digital products to a Drupal Commerce based online store, not just physical products.

Originally we were using just a standard file field that, when checkout was completed, gave the customer access to download the file. This was done before the Media module made its way into core. Now that the Media module is in core, we figured it’s time to update it.

Setting up an Album media type

When the Media module is installed you get some new admin menu items. The first is a section called Media Types (under Structure) where you can configure your media entities like any other Drupal content entity. Here I created an ‘Album’ media type with two unlimited file fields, one for sample audio tracks and one for the full audio tracks. This is the basis for creating my downloadable albums.

The second admin menu is under Content. Here you get a new Media tab which is where you can add, edit and remove any media items. Since I already created the Album media type I can now add the Epic Mix Tape album files here. This completes the media side of the updated digital download product. All I need to do now is update the product configuration to use it.

Completing the digital download product configuration

Now that the media type has been added and I’ve uploaded an album, I need to set up a way to use it. It’s pretty easy to do. First, for the digital download Product Type, I add an entity reference field to give a way for selecting the album media entity to use for the product samples.

I then do the same thing for the Product Variation Type. This one, however, will be used to give access to the full files after purchase.

Finally, some template updates. The Drupal Commerce demo site has some pretty custom template files for the products. In the template, I access the media entity directly and loop through the items, printing each audio sample and track title onto the product page. I do the same thing for the checkout complete page but print out the full tracks instead.

Depending on your templates and display settings, you can get similar results without manually accessing the files in the template file, however I wanted to print out the file description with the audio player right on the page. Showing the description unfortunately is something you don’t have the option of doing using the standard audio display widget.

And that’s it! Check out the Urban Hipster Drupal Commerce demo site below to see it in action.

Demo Drupal Commerce today! View our demo site.

Sep 29 2018
hw
Sep 29

Another month, another Drupal meetup in Bangalore. This month’s meetup was held at Athenahealth office on Lavelle Road in Bangalore. Since the last month’s meetup was scheduled a week early, there was more than usual gap since the last meetup. This time, we had a full schedule and exciting sessions planned. For all this, we were in a beautiful room on the 17th floor overlooking the gorgeous cityscape of Bangalore (as you can see in some of the photos below). This was thanks to Athenahealth, our gracious host for this meetup.

Drupal Meetup

We started at around 10:30 AM with introductions of everyone present in the room. We had about 30 attendees in total, out of which about 7-8 were first time attendees. After introductions, Taher started the day by talking about updates to Drupal, mainly Drupal 8.6, 8.6.1, and talking about Drupal 9. He also mentioned upcoming events and mainly talked about important dates for DrupalCon Seattle 2019 including session submission deadlines.

We begin today's #Drupal #meetup with @devtaher covering what's new in Drupal. pic.twitter.com/NoITmOOtPI

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) September 29, 2018

Sessions

The first session of the day was about Drupal 8 Plugins and Plugin API by Manoj Kumar of Athenahealth. Manoj described common confusions between plugins and services in Drupal 8 and when to use each of them. He talked about the plugin API itself, specifically plugin discovery and factories. He walked us through a demo of how to create our own plugin type and creating plugins of that type. This included a very lively and engaged discussion about plugins.

First session of the day about #Drupal plugins by @manojapare at @drupal_bug #meetup. pic.twitter.com/RMGrcb1Lp5

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) September 29, 2018

This was followed by a lightning session on using Alexa with Drupal by Rakshith of Axelerant. Rakshith described how a service like Alexa integrates with Drupal, demonstrated the Alexa developer console and described concepts like intents. He also demonstrated tying this together with Drupal where Alexa could respond to user queries like “Read article” or getting a list of articles.

Rakshith talks about using Alexa with Drupal at the @drupal_bug #meetup today. pic.twitter.com/tWc1maQlN7

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) September 29, 2018

Break

This was followed by a few announcements and a break, with refreshments courtesy of Athenahealth.

Thank you @athenahealth for hosting us for this month's #Drupal #meetup and providing a beautiful venue and refreshments. pic.twitter.com/C0p6elSWBH

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) September 29, 2018

And more sessions

After the break, we resumed sessions with an introduction to the paragraphs module by Parvateesam Konapala of TCS. Parvateesam started by explaining what Paragraphs module provides and some of the modules which extend paragraphs’ functionalities. He also gave a demo in which he created paragraph types, adding them to content types, and how to use paragraphs in your site building workflow.

Back from a break and we have @paru_523 giving an introduction to paragraphs module in #Drupal. pic.twitter.com/vOO7Wmw2iJ

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) September 29, 2018

The last session of the day was on using Tome by Malabya Tewari of Specbee. Malabya started by summarising static site generators and how are they different from the conventional approach. He talked where static site generators might be used and their benefits. After talking about a few other systems, Malabya started talking about Tome and how it works. He demonstrated a workflow of a static website

The last session of the day on Tome (static site generator using #Drupal) by @malavya88 at @drupal_bug #meetup. pic.twitter.com/lyC0MNEkNC

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) September 29, 2018

End of the day

We had a quick questions and answers round where people brought up various issues they are facing and we collaboratively discussed on solving them. This was quickly followed by closing announcements and of course, crediting all the speakers and organisers on our meetup planning issue. We also discussed a bit about the format of our meetups and what we can do to improve. After a great discussion on couple of topics on what else we could do, the meetup ended at 2 PM with a group photo. There are more photos below.

Drupal Meetup Bangalore - September 2018

Sep 28 2018
Sep 28

Pairing Composer template for Drupal Projects with Lando gives you a fully working Drupal environment with barely any setup.

Lando is an open-source, cross-platform local development environment. It uses Docker to build containers for well-known frameworks and services written in simple recipes. If you haven’t started using Lando for your local development, we highly recommend it. It is easier, faster, and relatively pain-free compared to MAMP, WAMP, VirtualBox VMs, Vagrant or building your own Docker infrastructure.

Prerequisites

You’ll need to have Composer and Lando installed:

Setting up Composer Template Drupal Project

If you want to find details about what you are getting when you install the drupal-project you can view the repo. Otherwise, if you’d rather simply set up a Drupal template site, run the following command.

composer create-project drupal-composer/drupal-project:8.x-dev [your-project] --stability dev --no-interaction

Once that is done running, cd into the newly created directory. You’ll find that you now have a more than basic Drupal installation.

Getting the site setup on Lando

Next, run lando init, which prompts you with 3 simple questions:

? What recipe do you want to use? > drupal8
? Where is your webroot relative to the init destination? > web
? What do you want to call this app? > [your-project]

Once that is done provisioning, run lando start—which downloads and spins up the necessary containers. Providing you with a set of URLs that you can use to visit your site:

https://localhost:32807
http://localhost:32808
http://[your-project].lndo.site:8000
https://[your-project].lndo.site

Setup Drupal

Visit any of the URLs to initialize the Drupal installation flow. Run lando info to get the database detail:

Database: drupal8
Username: drupal8
Password: drupal8
Host: database

Working with your new Site

One of the useful benefits of using Lando is that your toolchain does not need to be installed on your local machine, it can be installed in the Docker container that Lando uses. Meaning you can use commands provided by Lando without having to install other packages. The commands that come with Lando include lando drush, lando drupal, and lando composer. Execute these commands in your command prompt as usual, though they'll execute from within the container.

Once you commit your lando.yml file others can use the same Lando configuration on their machines. Having this shared configuration makes it easy to share and set up local environments that have the same configuration.

Sep 25 2018
Sep 25

The Urban Hipster Drupal Commerce demo site was built to showcase what Drupal 8 and Commerce related modules can do. While the main focus has been Commerce, recently I started enhancing the content side of the site, mainly the blog. After all, Drupal is a content publishing platform at its core, so why not show how content and commerce can work on the same platform together. In the ecommerce world, that’s actually a pretty big deal!

In this Tech Talk video, I’ll show you how the Drupal core Comments module is used for blog commenting and product reviews. I also go into detail on how you can configure a role based publishing workflow using core’s Workflows and Content Moderation modules.

[embedded content]

Comments and reviews

All of the blog posts and products on the demo site use the core Comments module for customer feedback. This allows any level of user (anonymous, authenticated, etc.) to add comments or reviews to these content items. The configuration and permissions for the Comments module controls whether or not the comments need to be approved by an administrator before they appear on the site. When logged in, an administrator who has permissions to manage the comments can use both the frontend interface as well as a backend interface for deleting, approving, editing and finally replying to the comments.

Like any content entity in Drupal, comments are fieldable. This means that you can configure fields to allow for additional functionality for your comments. It’s not covered in this video, but it’s worth mentioning that this is how I was able to get a 5 star review system easily integrated into the product comments.

Content moderation workflows

Drupal core also has a couple modules for letting you define a process for adding specific types of content to your site. The Urban Hipster blog is now setup to be an example for this. 

The first aspect to configure is the workflow. Workflows is where you determine what content will make use of the workflow, the “states” that the content will transition through, and finally the transitions that can happen at any given state. These things all need to be configured first before moving on to permissions.

The second aspect is assigning role based permissions to use the workflow. Permissions for workflows are found in the usual permissions backend page where all other permissions are set. Each workflow transition has a permission attached to it and so you just simply check the role that can perform each transition. You can create new roles if you need to.

View the live example

As mentioned, the Urban Hipster Drupal Commerce is an example of what can be done. Try it out yourself and see what you think. Here are some username/password combinations that will let you check out the workflows in action. The site refreshes every night so you don’t need to worry about breaking anything.

Role based workflow logins:

  • Blog author: blogauthor/blogauthor
  • Blog reviewer: blogreviewer/blogreviewer
  • Blog publisher: blogpublisher/blogpublisher

Administrator login (for viewing the configuration):

  • Administrator: demoadmin/demoadmin
Demo Drupal Commerce today! View our demo site.
Sep 11 2018
Sep 11

There is a lot of talk out there right now about “decoupled” or “headless” open source eCommerce platforms. I won’t get into why that is in this article, but I will show you how easy it is to enable a full REST API for your Drupal 8 and Drupal Commerce platform in JSON format. It’s literally the enabling of a module… that’s it! Let’s take a look.

[embedded content]

In this Acro Media Tech Talk video, you’ll learn a little bit about the module used to expose the API, where to find documentation, and see an additional module that enhances the experience working with the API. Using our Drupal Commerce demo site as an example, you’ll see where you can view and modify the site resources as well as how to view the data for each resources in JSON format.

The data structure of Drupal is well suited to the JSON API which makes Drupal an excellent choice as a backend content-creation area for a decoupled application. This video will get you started, but what you ultimately do with that data is up to you!

Demo Drupal Commerce today! View our demo site.

Additional details:

Sep 05 2018
Sep 05
The making of Acro Media’s website content creation framework


It’s common place for brands to create guides so that there is a constant standard to follow when working with the brand’s identity. These are generally called Style Guides. We have one ourselves that we use when designing internal documents and printed layouts. This is great when it comes to branding, but how do you go about maintaining a level of consistency for something larger, such as a website? We recently underwent a fundamental shift in the way we create our website content, and with it, the Live Website Component Guide was born.

The Content Type Crux

For those familiar with Drupal, creating something called a Content Type is a common way to go about setting up a type of content - think your standard web page, blog post, frequently asked questions, rich media slider, etc. That content type can then be used to generate the pages of your website.

This works well enough if your site doesn’t need to change, but our marketing team is constantly looking to adapt to new trends, change content layouts, and A/B test. A website should ideally be dynamic and quick to change, however, changes ended up taking a lot of time because they need to first be designed and then built. The standard Drupal content type is rigid and the layout is fixed, so if you want to change the layout, the change is going to cascade to any page that uses that Content Type. Because of this, we often needed to create a whole new Content Type, template and styling. Something that should be quick ends up taking weeks because our process just wasn’t efficient. And furthermore, the more code we introduced, the more difficult the site was to maintain.

Eureka! Paragraphs

In February of 2017, we had a “eureka” moment while attending the Pacific Northwest Drupal Summit in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Here we learned about a new (to us) content creation module called Paragraphs. I know many people have been using this module for a while now, but it was new to us and we immediately saw the potential. As stated on the Paragraphs module’s Drupal.org project page:

“Paragraphs is the new way of content creation! It allows you — Site Builders — to make things cleaner so that you can give more editing power to your end-users.”

And it DOES do that! Instead of thinking in ‘pages’ we can now think in ‘components’. The graphic below illustrates this. On the left, a representation of a standard Drupal page layout using a Content Type. On the right, the same page broken out into individual Paragraphs components.

Content Type vs Paragraphs

Drupal paragraph vs content type example

What this module allowed us to do is to remove the rigid structure of the Content Type and instead build out a set of individual, standalone components that can then be inserted into a page wherever we want. If we want to add a new component to a page, we just select the component from a list and place it on the page. To remove one, we just click a remove button. To change the order, all we need to do is drag and drop the component where we want it. If there is a component that we need, but doesn’t yet exist, we can now create just that one component. It makes things fast!

The content creation aspect is incredible dynamic and easy to use. The best part of all is that once the components are built, the only need for a developer is to create new components later on. The actual content creation can easily be done by anyone with a very small bit of training.

From a design point of view, our designers can now piece a layout together knowing exactly what components are available to them. They know that if we’re missing a component, they can come up with something new and it’s not going to take weeks to implement. Plus, we already loosely follow the Atomic Design methodology by Brad Frost, so the whole concept was easy for them to grasp and got them excited. In fact, our Creative Director jumped on this concept and we now include a full set of content creation Paragraphs components in every new project that we build.

live-component-guide_02
An example of how easily we can generate page layouts using component driven design.

Things get very easy from a code maintenance point of view too! We created each of our components to have a standalone template and styling. This means that things stay consistent throughout the site no matter how a page has been setup. If we need to make a visual change to a component, we make it once and the change cascades throughout the site. The code base is small and logical. Anyone new to the project can jump in and get up to speed quickly.

Our Live Website Component Guide

So, if you’ve read this far, I bet you want to see it in action? You’re in luck! I recorded a quick video that shows you how it works using our corporate website’s Live Website Component Guide. You can watch the video below or view the page in all its glory.

UPDATE: Part 2 of this post is now available showing a Drupal 8 live component guide. 

[embedded content]

Contact us and learn more about our custom ecommerce solutions

Sep 02 2018
Sep 02
Drupal Europe

In only 8 days Drupal Europe will be happening from September 10 to 14 in Darmstadt, Germany. Are you coming?

Throughout the last 12 months a lot of volunteers worked really hard to make this event happen. Starting with our decision and commitment at DrupalCon Vienna to organize Drupal Europe, followed by an extensive search for locations, numerous volunteers have been busy for a year. Reaching out to sponsors, structuring the program, organizing the Open Web Lounge, planning the venue spaces, answering all your emails, writing visa invitation letters, launching trainings, reviewing sessions and putting together the big schedule.

How it started in the community keynote photo by Amazee Labs

Drupal Europe hosts 162 hours of sessions, 9 in-depth workshops, 3 training courses, contribution every day but the biggest value of all is meeting everyone. This conference brings together CEOs, project managers, marketing professionals, and developers alike. It is both a technology conference and a family reunion for the Drupal community and that is why we organized it.

Drupal Europe is a unique possibility to meet your (international) colleagues and talk about what drives, connects and challenges our community. There is only one open source community where “you come for the code and stay for the community” is so deeply rooted. And Drupal Europe is also a great place to connect with other open source technologies. WordPress, Rocket.Chat, Typo3, Mautic, you name it! You may be surprised that there are more that connect us than what separates us.

Have a look at the diverse and interesting program.

Besides the sessions and BoFs we also plan our other traditional activities.

On Thursday evening we organise the exciting Trivia Night where you can win eternal fame with your team.

Contribution opportunities are open all week. On Monday and especially Friday, mentors will be around to help you get started contributing. Contribution is for everyone, all skill and energy levels are invited.

New this year at Drupal Europe is the first international Splash Awards! All golden and silver winners from local Splash Awards will compete for the European awards.

All together we think there are plenty of reasons why you should come to Darmstadt and participate at Drupal Europe.

To make our offer even better, if you buy a ticket before end of the late ticket deadline (today or tomorrow), you enter a raffle for a free hotel room for Sept 10–13 at Intercity Hotel Darmstadt! Use FLS-LPNLGS5DS84E4 to also get 100 EUR off the ticket price.

The hotel room raffle closes and online ticket sales will stop at end of Monday. You will only have a chance to buy a ticket onsite at Drupal Europe afterwards.

Grab this last chance to join us at Drupal Europe, book your travels and have a safe trip getting here.

See you in Darmstadt!

Image Darmstadium venue in Darmstadt, Germany
Aug 27 2018
Aug 27

This post is part 5 in the series “Hashing out a docker workflow”. I have resurrected this series from over a year ago, but if you want to checkout the previous posts, you can find the first post here. Although the beginning of this blog series pre-dates Docker Machine, Docker for Mac, or Docker for Window’s. The Docker concepts still apply, just not using it with Vagrant any more. Instead, check out the Docker Toolbox. There isn’t a need to use Vagrant any longer.

We are going to take the Drupal image that I created from my last post “Creating a deployable Docker image with Jenkins” and deploy it. You can find the image that we created last time up on Docker Hub, that is where we pushed the image last time. You have several options on how to deploy Docker images to production, whether that be manually, using a service like AWS ECS, or OpenShift, etc… Today, I’m going to walk you through a deployment process using Kubernetes also known as simply k8s.

Why use Kubernetes?

There are an abundance of options out there to deploy Docker containers to the cloud easily. Most of the options provide a nice UI with a form wizard that will take you through deploying your containers. So why use k8s? The biggest advantage in my opinion is that Kubernetes is agnostic of the cloud that you are deploying on. This means if/when you decide you no longer want to host your application on AWS, or whatever cloud you happen to be on, and instead want to move to Google Cloud or Azure, you can pick up your entire cluster configuration and move it very easily to another cloud provider.

Obviously there is the trade-off of needing to learn yet another technology (Kubernetes) to get your app deployed, but you also won’t have the vendor lock-in when it is time to move your application to a different cloud. Some of the other benefits to mention about K8s is the large community, all the add-ons, and the ability to have all of your cluster/deployment configuration in code. I don't want to turn this post into the benefits of Kubernetes over others, so lets jump into some hands-on and start setting things up.

Setup a local cluster.

Instead of spinning up servers in a cloud provider and paying for the cost of those servers while we explore k8s, we are going to setup a cluster locally and configure Kubernetes without paying a dime out of our pocket. Setting up a local cluster is super simple with a tool called Minikube. Head over to the Kubernetes website and get that installed. Once you have Minikube installed, boot it up by typing minkube start. You should see something similar to what is shown below:

$ minikube start
Starting local Kubernetes v1.10.0 cluster...
Starting VM...
Downloading Minikube ISO
 160.27 MB / 160.27 MB [============================================] 100.00% 0s
Getting VM IP address...
Moving files into cluster...
Downloading kubeadm v1.10.0
Downloading kubelet v1.10.0
Finished Downloading kubelet v1.10.0
Finished Downloading kubeadm v1.10.0
Setting up certs...
Connecting to cluster...
Setting up kubeconfig...
Starting cluster components...
Kubectl is now configured to use the cluster.
Loading cached images from config file.

This command setup a virtual machine on your computer, likely using Virtualbox. If you want to double check, pop open the Virtualbox UI to see a new VM created there. This virtual machine has loaded on it all the necessary components to run a Kubernetes cluster. In K8s speak, each virtual machine is called a node. If you want to log in to the node to explore a bit, type minikube ssh. Below I have ssh'd into the machine and ran docker ps. You’ll notice that this vm has quite a few Docker containers running to make this cluster.

 $ minikube ssh
                         _             _
            _         _ ( )           ( )
  ___ ___  (_)  ___  (_)| |/')  _   _ | |_      __
/' _ ` _ `\| |/' _ `\| || , <  ( ) ( )| '_`\  /'__`\
| ( ) ( ) || || ( ) || || |\`\ | (_) || |_) )(  ___/
(_) (_) (_)(_)(_) (_)(_)(_) (_)`\___/'(_,__/'`\____)

$ docker ps
CONTAINER ID        IMAGE                                      COMMAND                  CREATED             STATUS              PORTS               NAMES
aa766ccc69e2        k8s.gcr.io/k8s-dns-sidecar-amd64           "/sidecar --v=2 --lo…"   5 minutes ago       Up 5 minutes                            k8s_sidecar_kube-dns-86f4d74b45-kb2tz_kube-system_3a21f134-a637-11e8-894d-0800273ca679_0
6dc978b31b0d        k8s.gcr.io/k8s-dns-dnsmasq-nanny-amd64     "/dnsmasq-nanny -v=2…"   5 minutes ago       Up 5 minutes                            k8s_dnsmasq_kube-dns-86f4d74b45-kb2tz_kube-system_3a21f134-a637-11e8-894d-0800273ca679_0
0c08805e8068        k8s.gcr.io/kubernetes-dashboard-amd64      "/dashboard --insecu…"   5 minutes ago       Up 5 minutes                            k8s_kubernetes-dashboard_kubernetes-dashboard-5498ccf677-hvt4f_kube-system_3abef591-a637-11e8-894d-0800273ca679_0
f5d725b1c96a        gcr.io/k8s-minikube/storage-provisioner    "/storage-provisioner"   6 minutes ago       Up 6 minutes                            k8s_storage-provisioner_storage-provisioner_kube-system_3acd2f39-a637-11e8-894d-0800273ca679_0
3bab9f953f14        k8s.gcr.io/k8s-dns-kube-dns-amd64          "/kube-dns --domain=…"   6 minutes ago       Up 6 minutes                            k8s_kubedns_kube-dns-86f4d74b45-kb2tz_kube-system_3a21f134-a637-11e8-894d-0800273ca679_0
9b8306dbaab7        k8s.gcr.io/kube-proxy-amd64                "/usr/local/bin/kube…"   6 minutes ago       Up 6 minutes                            k8s_kube-proxy_kube-proxy-dwhn6_kube-system_3a0fa9b2-a637-11e8-894d-0800273ca679_0
5446ddd71cf5        k8s.gcr.io/pause-amd64:3.1                 "/pause"                 7 minutes ago       Up 7 minutes                            k8s_POD_storage-provisioner_kube-system_3acd2f39-a637-11e8-894d-0800273ca679_0
17907c340c66        k8s.gcr.io/pause-amd64:3.1                 "/pause"                 7 minutes ago       Up 7 minutes                            k8s_POD_kubernetes-dashboard-5498ccf677-hvt4f_kube-system_3abef591-a637-11e8-894d-0800273ca679_0
71ed3f405944        k8s.gcr.io/pause-amd64:3.1                 "/pause"                 7 minutes ago       Up 7 minutes                            k8s_POD_kube-dns-86f4d74b45-kb2tz_kube-system_3a21f134-a637-11e8-894d-0800273ca679_0
daf1cac5a9a5        k8s.gcr.io/pause-amd64:3.1                 "/pause"                 7 minutes ago       Up 7 minutes                            k8s_POD_kube-proxy-dwhn6_kube-system_3a0fa9b2-a637-11e8-894d-0800273ca679_0
9d00a680eac4        k8s.gcr.io/kube-scheduler-amd64            "kube-scheduler --ad…"   7 minutes ago       Up 7 minutes                            k8s_kube-scheduler_kube-scheduler-minikube_kube-system_31cf0ccbee286239d451edb6fb511513_0
4d545d0f4298        k8s.gcr.io/kube-apiserver-amd64            "kube-apiserver --ad…"   7 minutes ago       Up 7 minutes                            k8s_kube-apiserver_kube-apiserver-minikube_kube-system_2057c3a47cba59c001b9ca29375936fb_0
66589606f12d        k8s.gcr.io/kube-controller-manager-amd64   "kube-controller-man…"   8 minutes ago       Up 8 minutes                            k8s_kube-controller-manager_kube-controller-manager-minikube_kube-system_ee3fd35687a14a83a0373a2bd98be6c5_0
1054b57bf3bf        k8s.gcr.io/etcd-amd64                      "etcd --data-dir=/da…"   8 minutes ago       Up 8 minutes                            k8s_etcd_etcd-minikube_kube-system_a5f05205ed5e6b681272a52d0c8d887b_0
bb5a121078e8        k8s.gcr.io/kube-addon-manager              "/opt/kube-addons.sh"    9 minutes ago       Up 9 minutes                            k8s_kube-addon-manager_kube-addon-manager-minikube_kube-system_3afaf06535cc3b85be93c31632b765da_0
04e262a1f675        k8s.gcr.io/pause-amd64:3.1                 "/pause"                 9 minutes ago       Up 9 minutes                            k8s_POD_kube-apiserver-minikube_kube-system_2057c3a47cba59c001b9ca29375936fb_0
25a86a334555        k8s.gcr.io/pause-amd64:3.1                 "/pause"                 9 minutes ago       Up 9 minutes                            k8s_POD_kube-scheduler-minikube_kube-system_31cf0ccbee286239d451edb6fb511513_0
e1f0bd797091        k8s.gcr.io/pause-amd64:3.1                 "/pause"                 9 minutes ago       Up 9 minutes                            k8s_POD_kube-controller-manager-minikube_kube-system_ee3fd35687a14a83a0373a2bd98be6c5_0
0db163f8c68d        k8s.gcr.io/pause-amd64:3.1                 "/pause"                 9 minutes ago       Up 9 minutes                            k8s_POD_etcd-minikube_kube-system_a5f05205ed5e6b681272a52d0c8d887b_0
4badf1309a58        k8s.gcr.io/pause-amd64:3.1                 "/pause"                 9 minutes ago       Up 9 minutes                            k8s_POD_kube-addon-manager-minikube_kube-system_3afaf06535cc3b85be93c31632b765da_0

When you’re done snooping around the inside the node, log out of the session by typing Ctrl+D. This should take you back to a session on your local machine.

Interacting with the cluster

Kubernetes is managed via a REST API, however you will find yourself interacting with the cluster mainly with a CLI tool called kubectl. With kubectl, we will issue it commands and the tool will generate the necessary Create, Read, Update, and Delete requests for us, and execute those requests against the API. It’s time to install the CLI tool, go checkout the docs here to install on your OS.

Once you have the command line tool installed, it should be automatically configured to interface with the cluster that you just setup with minikube. To verify, run a command to see all of the nodes in the cluster kubectl get nodes.

$ kubectl get nodes
NAME       STATUS    ROLES     AGE       VERSION
minikube   Ready     master    6m        v1.10.0

We have one node in the cluster! Lets deploy our app using the Docker image that we created last time.

Writing Config Files

With the kubectl cli tool, you can define all of your Kubernetes objects directly, but I like to create config files that I can commit in a repository and mange changes as we expand the cluster. For this deployment, I’ll take you through creating 3 different K8s objects. We will explicitly create a Deployment object, which will implicitly create a Pod object, and we will create a Service object. For details on what these 3 objects are, check out the Kubernetes docs.

In a nutshell, a Pod is a wrapper around a Docker container, a Service is a way to expose a Pod, or several Pods, on a specific port to the outside world. Pods are only accessible inside the Kubernetes cluster, the only way to access any services in a Pod is to expose the Pod with a Service. A Deployment is an object that manages Pod’s, and ensures that Pod’s are healthy and are up. If you configure a deployment to have 2 replicas, then the deployment will ensure 2 Pods are always up, and if one crashes, Kubernetes will spin up another Pod to match the Deployment definition.

deployment.yml

Head over to the API reference and grab the example config file https://v1-10.docs.kubernetes.io/docs/reference/generated/kubernetes-api/v1.10/#deployment-v1-apps. We will modify the config file from the docs to our needs. Change the template to look like below (I changed the image, app, and name properties in the yml below):

apiVersion: apps/v1beta1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  
  name: deployment-example
spec:
  
  replicas: 3
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        
        
        app: drupal
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: drupal
        
        image: tomfriedhof/docker_blog_post

Now it’s time to feed that config file into the Kubernetes API, we will use the CLI tool for this:

$ kubectl create -f deployment.yml

You can check the status of that deployment by asking the k8s for all Pod and Deployment objects:

$ kubectl get deploy,po

Once everything is up and running you should see something like this:

 $ kubectl get deploy,po
NAME                        DESIRED   CURRENT   UP-TO-DATE   AVAILABLE   AGE
deploy/deployment-example   3         3         3            3           3m

NAME                                    READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
po/deployment-example-fc5d69475-dfkx2   1/1       Running   0          3m
po/deployment-example-fc5d69475-t5w2j   1/1       Running   0          3m
po/deployment-example-fc5d69475-xw9m6   1/1       Running   0          3m

service.yml

We have no way of accessing any of those Pods in the deployment. We need to expose the Pods using a Kubernetes Service. To do this, grab the example file from the docs again and change it to the following: https://v1-10.docs.kubernetes.io/docs/reference/generated/kubernetes-api/v1.10/#service-v1-core

kind: Service
apiVersion: v1
metadata:
  
  name: service-example
spec:
  ports:
    
    - name: http
      port: 80
      targetPort: 80
  selector:
    
    
    app: drupal
  
  
  
  type: LoadBalancer

Create this service object using the CLI tool again:

$ kubectl create -f service.yml

You can now ask Kubernetes to show you all 3 objects that you created by typing the following:

$ kubectl get deploy,po,svc
NAME                        DESIRED   CURRENT   UP-TO-DATE   AVAILABLE   AGE
deploy/deployment-example   3         3         3            3           7m

NAME                                    READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
po/deployment-example-fc5d69475-dfkx2   1/1       Running   0          7m
po/deployment-example-fc5d69475-t5w2j   1/1       Running   0          7m
po/deployment-example-fc5d69475-xw9m6   1/1       Running   0          7m

NAME                  TYPE           CLUSTER-IP      EXTERNAL-IP   PORT(S)        AGE
svc/kubernetes        ClusterIP      10.96.0.1       <none>        443/TCP        1h
svc/service-example   LoadBalancer   10.96.176.233   <pending>     80:31337/TCP   13s

You can see under the services at the bottom that port 31337 was mapped to port 80 on the Pods. Now if we hit any node in the cluster, in our case it's just the one VM, on port 31337 we should see the Drupal app that we built from the Docker image we created in the last post. Since we are using Minikube, there is a command to open a browser on the specific port of the service, type minikube service :

$ minikube service service-example

This should open up a browser window and you should see the Installation screen for Drupal. You have successfully deployed the Docker image that we created to a production-like environment.

What is next?

We have just barely scratched the surface of what is possible with Kubernetes. I showed you the bare minimum to get a Docker image deployed on Kubernetes. The next step is to deploy your cluster to an actual cloud provider. For further reading on how to do that, definitely check-out the KOPS project.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. If you want to see a demo of everything that I wrote about on the ActiveLAMP YouTube channel, let us know in the comments as well.

Aug 23 2018
Aug 23
Drupal EuropeImage by LuckyStep @shutterstock
  • to revolutionize publishing, with a new rewarding model in an environment which can build trust and allows community governance.
  • to reshape open source communities, with a better engagement and rewarding system.
  • to free digital identity, thus killing the need of middlemen at the protocol layer.

Blockchain is an universal tool and can be applied in many different areas.

Communities, like the Drupal Community, can find new ways to flourish. Even larger and risky projects can be financed in new ways, with ICO (Initial Coin Offer). Taco Potze (Co-Founder Open Social) has a 10 year Drupal background and is an expert on Communities. He is working on blockchain technology to build a better engagement and rewarding systems for communities. Wouldn’t that be really nice for us?

See also Taco’s session: ICOs, a revolutionary way to raise money for your company

Publishing and its classic monetization model is challenged. Intermediates are about to disrupt the relationship between authors and publishers and their readers. This is based on a troublesome business model, with massive tracking and profile building, to turn our engagement in advertisement money. At the same time poor content and fake news has become a threat to our society. Gagik Yeghiazarian (CEO, Co-Founder Publiq) is looking for new ways to address these problems, with a non profit, distributed media platform based on blockchain.

See also Gagik’s session: Blockchain Distributed Media — A Future for good publishing

The Internet is broken and blockchain can fix it. The biggest promise with blockchain is to make middlemen obsolete, by creating trusted identities in an open protocol. This is to break the monopoly of the middlemen and to retain a free web. We recognize aribnb, amazon, ebay, netflix, itunes as middlemen. We understand, when we by or book, they get their share. With Google, Facebook and YouTube there are some other huge monopoly middlemen, they get their share based on our attention and personal data. They know how to transfer our attention into dollars, by selling it to advertisers. Ingo Rübe (CEO Bot Lab) is working on a protocol, which will allow people to gain control of their digital identity. It will be called KILT Protocol. (Ingo is well known in the Drupal Community and a Member of Drupal’s Advisory Board. As a former CTO of Burda he was the Initiator of the Drupal Thunder Distribution)

Our Panel will be moderated by Audra Martin Merrick, a board member of Drupal Association.

signed
Drupal Europe
Your Track Chairs

Aug 22 2018
hw
Aug 22

This month’s Drupal meetup was held at 91Springboard in JP Nagar. We held this meetup early instead of our usual last Saturday of the month due to a long weekend.

Drupal meetup

It was a lazy rainy Saturday morning and most of the people made it on time. We started the meetup at 10:30 AM as planned. We started with introductions and a catch-up on news and upcoming events in the Drupal world.

Starting off today's #Drupal meetup with @devtaher @drupal_bug @BangaloreDrupal pic.twitter.com/MF8LoIGGjh

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) August 18, 2018

Umami

Our first lightning talk was by Malabya on Umami, which is an effort for Drupal’s out of the box initiative. Malabya described why Umami was necessary and what are the problems it solves. The slides are available here.

.@malavya88 talks about why first impressions are important and how #Umami helps #Drupal do a better job there. @drupal_bug pic.twitter.com/NPI5rUnMRC

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) August 18, 2018

BLT

This was followed by Srikanth and Tejasvi giving an introduction to BLT. They introduced why something like BLT is required for developing Drupal sites in a moderately large team. They also described the structure of a BLT based setup briefly and answered questions related to BLT.

Introduction to BLT by @srikantmatihali at #Drupal meet-up in Bangalore. @drupal_bug pic.twitter.com/KAaqnR8vu0

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) August 18, 2018

Tejasvi talks about what a BLT setup looks like and the code structure at @drupal_bug meetup. pic.twitter.com/nO96l7xdGt

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) August 18, 2018

Bring your questions

We tried something new this meetup based on feedback. Many people brought in various questions they face when using Drupal. Some of the questions we addressed were:

  • What is config split? How do we use it?
  • Are there any best practices for Drupal multi-site?
  • Issues with layout plugin module in early versions of Drupal 8 and how to upgrade
  • Using paragraphs
  • and more which I can’t remember now…

QnA session at @BangaloreDrupal meetup. @hussainweb talking about Config Split module. #Drupal pic.twitter.com/SqyMpOrVbP

— Malabya (@malavya88) August 18, 2018

Webpack with Drupal themes

We had a short break after the session after which we started the last session of the day on using Webpack with Drupal themes by myself. I started the topic with a discussion on modern JavaScript including newer ES6 syntax and specifically, writing modular JavaScript. I then introduced the template I have put up to use Webpack along with Drupal’s bootstrap theme’s SASS starterkit.

.@hussainweb is talking about javascript and webpack @BangaloreDrupal #meetup pic.twitter.com/QKcUpiWdQi

— Taher Jodhpurwala (@devtaher) August 18, 2018

We ended the day with crediting all the speakers and organisers of the meetup on the issue we have for our meetup. This was followed by our group photo and closing.

Photos

All photos from the meetup are below.

Drupal Meetup Bangalore - August 2018

Aug 20 2018
Aug 20

Helping content creators make data-driven decisions with custom data dashboards

Greg Desrosiers

Our analytics dashboards help Mass.gov content authors make data-driven decisions to improve their content. All content has a purpose, and these tools help make sure each page on Mass.gov fulfills its purpose.

Before the dashboards were developed, performance data was scattered among multiple tools and databases, including Google Analytics, Siteimprove, and Superset. These required additional logins, permissions, and advanced understanding of how to interpret what you were seeing. Our dashboards take all of this data and compile it into something that’s focused and easy to understand.

We made the decision to embed dashboards directly into our content management system (CMS), so authors can simply click a tab when they’re editing content.

GIF showing how a content author navigates to the analytics dashboard in the Mass.gov CMS.

Love data? Check out our 2017 data and machine learning recap.

We chose a sample set of more than 100 of the most visited pages on Mass.gov. We made predictions about what certain indicators said about performance, and then made content changes to see how it impacted data related to each indicator.

We reached out to 5 partner agencies to help us validate the indicators we thought would be effective. These partners worked to implement our suggestions and we monitored how these changes affected the indicators. This led us to discover the nuances of creating a custom, yet scalable, scoring system.

Line chart showing test results validating user feedback data as a performance indicator.

For example, we learned that a number of indicators we were testing behaved differently depending on the type of page we were analyzing. It’s easy to tell if somebody completed the desired action on a transactional page by tracking their click to an off-site application. It’s much more difficult to know if a user got the information they were looking for when there’s no action to take. This is why we’re planning to continually explore, iterate on, and test indicators until we find the right recipe.

We rolled indicators up into 4 simple categories:

  • Findability — Is it easy for users to find a page?
  • Outcomes — If the page is transactional, are users taking the intended action? If the page is focused on directing users to other pages, are they following the right links?
  • Content quality — Does the page have any broken links? Is the content written at an appropriate reading level?
  • User satisfaction — How many people didn’t find what they were looking for?
Screenshot of dashboard results as they appear in the Mass.gov CMS.

Each category receives a score on a scale of 0–4. These scores are then averaged to produce an overall score. Scoring a 4 means a page is checking all the boxes and performing as expected, while a 0 means there are some improvements to be made to increase the page’s overall performance.

All dashboards include general recommendations on how authors can improve pages by category. If these suggestions aren’t enough to produce the boost they were looking for, authors can meet with a content strategist from Digital Services to dive deeper into their content and create a more nuanced strategy.

GIF showing how a user navigates to the “Improve Your Content” tab in a Mass.gov analytics dashboard.

Also, it’s important to note these dashboards are still in the beta phase. We’re fortunate to work with partner organizations who understand the bumps in the proverbial development road. There are bugs to work out and usability enhancements to make. As we learn more, we’ll continue to refine them. We plan to add dashboards to more content types each quarter, eventually offering a dashboard and specific recommendations for the 20+ content types in our CMS.

Aug 14 2018
Aug 14

Drupal Europe: Publishing + Media Special Focus

Drupal Europe

What industries come to mind when you hear blockchain? Banking? Trading? Healthcare? How about publishing? At Drupal Europe publishers will gain insights into the potential blockchain technology offers and learn how they can benefit. Meet Gagik Yeghiazarian, founder of the nonprofit foundation Publiq, and learn how he wants to fight fake news and build a censorship-resistant platform — using blockchain.

The publishing world is changing. Publishers no longer solely control media distribution. Big players like Facebook and Google are middlemen between the publishers and their readers, and technology built to entice publishers — Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) and Facebook Instant Articles — has strengthened social platforms as distribution channels. Additionally, publishers have lost money making classifieds business as employment and real estate markets create their own platforms and portals to reach the audience.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

As a result of these developments, publishers are losing direct relationships with their readers as well as critical advertising which traditionally supported the editorial and operational costs. The platforms act as middlemen, using the content of the publishers for collecting data and selling them to advertisers. The publishers are left out in the cold.

Critically, publishers are also facing a crisis of confidence. As social platforms are used to spread fake news and poor content, mistrust in journalism grows.

The nonprofit foundation Publiq wants to face these challenges with a blockchain-powered infrastructure. It aims at removing unnecessary intermediaries from the equation and helping to create an independent, censorship-free environment. Gagik Yeghiazarian, CEO and Co-Founder of Publiq, is convinced: “Blockchain infrastructure allows content creators, readers and other participants to build a trusted relationship.”

You can learn more about Publiq and its blockchain infrastructure at Drupal Europe in Darmstadt: Gagik Yeghiazarian’s session “Blockchain Distributed Media — A Future for good publishing” will give you a glimpse into this new technology and a real-world application of it.

While you’re at Drupal Europe, be sure to check out the exciting blockchain panel discussion where Gagik, Ingo Rübe of Botlabs, and Taco Potze of Open Social, will share insights and use cases for blockchain technology. Don’t miss this!

Drupal Europe
Publishing & Media — Track Chairs

Aug 13 2018
Aug 13

Drupal Europe: Publishing + Media Special Focus

Drupal Europe

Drupal Europe offers up a plethora of cases and solutions to help you with your DAM integration.

Multichannel publishing by Oleksiy Mark on Shutterstock

With so much to organize and store, publishers typically use Digital Asset Management Systems (DAM) to manage their assets. Add multiple channels to the mix and you have big operational hurdles. Thanks to the Media Initiative, Drupal now has a well-defined ecosystem for media management and its architecture is designed to play well with all kinds of media, media management systems, and web services that support them. The system is highly adaptable — the media management documentation outlines 15 modules shaping Drupal’s new ecosystem for media assets.

The Drupal Europe program offers several sessions to help you learn more about solutions building on this foundation. Case studies of demanding media management projects around the publishing industry include:

Drupal Europe
Publishing & Media — Track Chairs

Jul 30 2018
Jul 30
Comparing Drupal POS, Shopify POS and Square POS


If you need to accept card payment in a physical location, you need a point of sale (POS) system. There are many different POS systems out there so knowing how to choose the right one for your business can be challenging. All systems claim to be everything you need, however this might not be the case for all businesses. Most POS systems are designed around “industry best practices,” meaning that they try to serve the majority of businesses based on the most common needs. Many systems start to fail when the requirements of the business break away from the norm.

How do you choose the right point of sale for your business? The best way I’ve found is to look at three or four different examples and do a direct comparison. Today I’ll compare 3 different web-based point of sales systems - Drupal POS, Shopify POS, and Square POS. I’ll look at features, costs, usability, integrations, and more. In the end, I’ll try to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each and ultimately determine what business types they work best with.

All of the POS systems I examine today are web-based (or cloud-based). This means that these systems are connected to the internet and all of the data is kept online. Web-based systems are increasingly becoming more popular because they are generally easier to setup and require less time and knowledge to maintain. They can also integrate with your eCommerce store. You can read more benefits here.

The point of sale systems

Here is an introduction to the three POS systems I’ll be comparing.

Drupal POS

Drupal POS is a free add-on to the popular Drupal content management system. Drupal is open-source and completely free to use. It’s known as a very developer-friendly platform to build a website on and has a massive community, over a million strong, helping to advance the software and keep it secure. The open-source eCommerce component for Drupal is called Drupal Commerce. While Drupal Commerce has a relatively small market share, the platform is very powerful and can be a very good choice for businesses that have demanding requirements or unique product offerings.

Shopify POS

Shopify POS integrates with the popular Shopify SaaS eCommerce platform. Unlike Drupal Commerce, Shopify is a standalone product and stores running on the platform pay a monthly subscription fee to use it. With that said, business owners are given a well developed tool out-of-the-box that has all of the bells and whistles most stores require to get up and running fast. Shopify aims to serve the common needs of most businesses, so very unique business requirements can be hard to achieve.

Square POS

Square POS is an add-on point of sale service for your business and is not really a platform for running your entire store, although it does now offer a basic eCommerce component. It can also integrate with many eCommerce platforms, including Drupal Commerce. Square aims to make the process of accepting card payment easy to do, without bulky equipment.

Service comparison

Below is a side-by-side comparison of each service (as of July, 2018). Note that some of the information below applies to stores who also have an eCommerce component. If you don’t need eCommerce, you can ignore those items.

Note for mobile viewers: Swipe the table side-to-side to see it all.

 

Drupal logo

Drupal POS

Shopify logo

Shopify POS

Square logo

Square POS

Service philosophy

Open-source 

ProprietaryProprietaryService support Yes *
* via Drupal Commerce, in-house IT or third-party support  Yes *
* via Shopify or third-party support Yes *
* via Square Setup costs for basic service  $0 *
* The software doesn’t cost anything to use, however you may need to pay someone to set it up for you

$29 USD *
* Basic package pricing

$0 Ongoing costs for basic service $0 *
* The software doesn’t cost anything to use, however you may need to pay someone to apply occasional software updates. Third-party transactions fees may apply. Website domain and hosting also required $29/mth plus transaction fees and add-on product fees. Monthly fee increases with package Transaction fees and add-on product fees Payment gateways Third-party Shopify or third-party Square Accept cash payments Yes  Yes Yes  Accept card payments Yes Yes Yes Save cards (card on file) Yes  Yes  Yes Process recurring payments (i.e. subscriptions) Yes Yes *
* Third-party add-on required with separate monthly fees Yes Accept mobile payments Yes *
* Third-party hardware required Yes *
* Monthly fee for service hardware Yes *
* $59 USD one time price for service hardware Built in invoicing Yes *
* Using free add-on Yes Yes Apply discounts and promotions Yes Yes Yes Use with gift cards & coupon codes Yes Yes *
* Not available for basic plan  Yes  Printed gift cards provided by service  No *
* Add-on could be created to allow this functionality, but does not currently exist Yes *
* Additional fee for printing  Yes *
* Additional fee for printing Integrated taxes  Yes *
* Advanced taxes can be handled via third-party add-ons or configured directly within the platform Yes Yes *
* Third-party add-ons required
  Apply additional custom fees (i.e. environment fees, tipping, donations, etc.) Yes Yes Yes *
* Limited to tipping Built-in eCommerce Shop Yes *
* Drupal POS is an add-on for Drupal Commerce Yes *
* Shopify POS is an add-on for Shopify Yes *
* Basic Square store or integrate with third-party platforms Built-in website and blog Yes Yes  Yes  Multi-business (separate businesses using same platform or account) Yes No *
* Separate account required for each business No *
* Separate account required for each business/bank account Multi-store (multiple locations or stores of the same business) Yes  Yes  Yes  Number of products allowedUnlimited 2000-7000 *
* Number depends on device used to manage inventory Unlimited *
* Square eCommerce store only displays 1000 products. Third-party platform needed to run a larger store Number of product variations allowedUnlimited 4000-10,000 *
* Number depends on device used to manage inventory Unlimited * 
* Square eCommerce store only displays 1000 products. Third-party platform needed to run a larger store Number of registers allowedUnlimitedUnlimited  UnlimitedNumber of cashiers accounts allowedUnlimited  2 *
* Number of accounts increase with service plan Unlimited  Access controls Yes Yes  Yes *
* Additional fee of $6/employee  Create new user roles for advanced access controls Yes No Yes *
* Grouped with additional fee above. Mobile POS (i.e. use at trade shows, markets, etc.) Yes Yes Yes Sync inventory between online and offline stores Yes Yes Yes *
* Third-party platforms may not be able to sync inventory  Sync user accounts between online and offline stores Yes Yes Yes Sync orders between online and offline stores Yes Yes Yes  Park & retrieve orders Yes  Yes  Yes  Abandoned cart recovery (eCommerce) Yes *
* Using free add-on or third-party solutions Yes Yes *
* Requires third-party solutions Generate product labels Yes Yes Yes Print receipt Yes  Yes  Yes  Email receipt Yes Yes Yes  Customize receipt information Yes Yes *
* No layout customization, only the information shown Yes *
* No layout customization, only the information shown Process returns Yes Yes Yes  Basic reporting Yes Yes *
* Not available for basic plan Yes  Advanced reporting Yes *
* Using free add-on Yes *
* Not available for basic or mid-tier plans Yes  Supported operating systems Any *
* Requires only a web browser to use  Android, iOS *
* Requires app. iPad recommended with limited support for iPhone and Android Android, iOS *
* Requires app Themable (i.e. brand the POS interface) Yes  No No Customer facing display Yes No No Integrate with accounting/bookkeeping services? Yes Yes  Yes Integrate with other eCommerce sales platforms (Amazon, Ebay, etc.)? Yes Yes Yes *
* Only if using third-party eCommerce platform that supports this Integrate with marketing services (MailChimp, HubSpot, etc.)? Yes Yes Yes *
* Only if using third-party eCommerce platform that supports this Integrate with shipping providers (FedEx, UPS, etc.)? Yes Yes Yes Third-party calculated shipping rates Yes Yes *
* Not available for basic or mid-tier plans No Generate shipping labels Yes Yes Yes *
* Integration with ShipStation adds this functionality for an extra monthly cost Custom integrations with third-party services Yes Yes Yes Use offline (and have your transactions sync once back online)No *
* This is a requested feature currently in discussion Yes *
* Can only accept cash or other manual payments Yes Personalized customer feedback/support Yes Yes Yes

Hardware Requirements

Cashier terminal Third-party *
* Can be anything that runs a web browser (computer, tablet, phone, etc.) Third-party *
* iPad recommended with limited support for iPhone and Android Third-party *
* Any device running Android or iOS Card reader Third-party Provided Provided  Contactless payment Third-party Third-party Proprietary only  Cash drawer Third-party Third-party  Third-party  Barcode scanner Third-party *
* Can be a traditional barcode scanner or anything with a camera (i.e. phone, tablet, webcam, etc.) Third-party Third-party  Receipt printer Third-party Third-party  Third-party  Barcode printer Third-party Third-party None  Customer facing display Third-party *
* Can be anything that runs a web browser (computer, tablet, phone, etc) None None Custom/DIY hardware Yes No No

What business is best suited for each POS?

As you can see, all three options have most of the same features. Most businesses would probably be fine with any of them, but let’s see if we can distil down where each system fits best.

Drupal POS

Who’s it for?

If you have a medium to large business with unique business requirements, Drupal POS could be the ideal platform for you to work with. For small business, Drupal POS and Drupal Commerce might not be for you. The initial cost to get a site built might be too high for your budget, however, if you look at the long term fees charged month by month from the other venders, this upfront cost will be saved in a matter of time. Also, if you have a really obscure need that no other platform will accomodate, Drupal Commerce can.

If you’re already running a Drupal Commerce store and now want to add point of sale to your physical locations, Drupal POS is probably a no-brainer. It’s built on-top of the existing Commerce architecture, so you know it will integrate properly in every way, and you can utilize your existing web development service provider to help you set it up.

Demo Drupal Commerce today! View our demo site.Additional details:

If you’re not already using Drupal then you have some larger questions to consider. Do you already have an ecommerce website? Would you be willing to invest in replatforming? Since Drupal Commerce is an eCommerce platform, you would ideally be running your whole operation from Drupal Commerce. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. Drupal can readily handle any business case you can throw at it. It can integrate with virtually any third-party service, it can provide you with a single location to manage all of your products, orders, customer accounts, etc., it’s built to scale with your business, and on top of all that it’s a powerful content management system that will run your blog and any other content need you might have.

From a support point of view, because Drupal is open-source, you don’t have a single source of support to contact. Instead, you would need to utilize your current web development service provider (if you have one), or work with one of the many Drupal agencies out there who are specialized in Drupal development. This means you can shop around and find the company will work best with you.

Another advantage to Drupal POS (and Drupal as a whole) is that because it’s free, open-source software, you don’t actually have any type of fee to use it. Not one cent. You can have as many stores, products, staff accounts, transactions, registers, etc. as you need, and the price is still $0. Instead of spending your hard earned money on platform fees, you can now redirect those funds to developing your website and POS to do whatever you need it to, or towards marketing, or staffing, or growing your business.

Shopify POS

Who’s it for?

If you’re a small to medium sized business who is just getting started, you don’t have a large budget, and you want the best eCommerce site with POS capabilities, Shopify and Shopify POS is probably your best bet. Also, if you’re already running a Shopify site and happy with it, the Shopify POS is probably ideal for you.

If your business is growing, or you run a large, enterprise level company, Shopify and Shopify POS probably won’t cut it. For one, the fees associated with this level of company can be significant. If you’re at that point, replatforming to something like Drupal Commerce can recuperate a lot of lost earnings and give you full control of your development path, without restrictions.

Additional details:

Shopify has built their business around being easy. Whether it’s opening up a new store or managing your inventory and customers, the Shopify interface is clean and straightforward. As mentioned earlier, it’s ideal for small and medium sized companies just getting started.

However, where Shopify starts to fail is when your business growth is strong and your requirements start to become more complicated. With Shopify, the number of products and product variations you’re allowed can limit your growth. As you start adding more staff, your costs go up. You can pretty quickly go from a $29/mth plan to a $300+/mth plan in short order. 

Another possible deal-breaker is if your product offerings have very unique requirements. Shopify is built to work around the most common business requirements. When your business breaks out of this mold, the platform isn’t designed to accommodate. However, if you can stay within the “typical” business requirements, Shopify probably has everything you need as long as you’re willing to pay for it.

Square POS

Who’s it for?

Square POS is great for small businesses and food service businesses. It’s an easy to use, low-cost option that doesn’t really require anything more than your phone and the provided card reader. Their software interface is clean and easy to understand.

If you’re a medium to large business, or you have very high traffic, Square POS might not be for you. Square is mainly an add-on service to existing businesses, so don’t expect much from an eCommerce perspective. 

Additional details:

Square has become a pretty common sight around town these days, especially when you’re at small business such as cafes or walking around a farmers/artisan market. Square has been able to provide a very good product that allows people to jump in to card transactions easily. It fills this need.

When your business grows and you start having multiple stores and an eCommerce component, you may quickly grow beyond Square’s capabilities. Drupal POS and Shopify POS both have native eCommerce that they work with. This is important when you’re talking about inventory management and other integrations. While Square does have a basic eCommerce component and can integrate with various eCommerce platforms (Drupal Commerce being one of them), you may struggle to get some of the features that Drupal Commerce and Shopify have by default.

Your point of sale integrator

Acro Media is an open-source eCommerce development agency. Our experience in this area is vast and we would love to share it with you. If you have a project that you’d like to discuss, one of our friendly business developers are always available to have that discussion at no cost to you.

Contact Acro Media Today!

Jul 28 2018
hw
Jul 28

This month’s Drupal meetup was held at 91Springboard in Koramangala. We are back after a long time and that’s thanks to 91Springboard for providing us with the venue. Snacks in the meetup and lunch after the meetup were courtesy of Axelerant.

We had a total of 36 attendees from various companies in Bangalore. Here is a chart that shows the distribution of various attendees by their company. Notice that SpecBee has the largest participation in this meetup with 14 of their team members attending the meetup.

Drupal Bangalore Meetup - July 2018 - attendees

We started the day at 10 AM with Taher introducing the meetup, schedule, and talking about some of the happenings in the Drupal community. He talked about some of the new features in Drupal 8.6, initiatives that are going to be stable soon, and some of the events like Drupal Europe and BADCamp.

Drupal Bangalore Meetup - July 2018

Sessions

The first session of the day was on improving the developer workflow presented by Malabya. Malabya talked about various aspects of development including setting up the development environment with DrupalVM (Vagrant) or Lando (Docker), managing codebase, version control, dependency management with composer, deployment, and many other best practices around development (not just Drupal development, but even general programming).

Drupal Bangalore Meetup - July 2018

This was followed by a talk about how contributing to Drupal improves your career by Parvateesam. Parvateesam talked about various kinds of contribution, the benefits of contributing particularly to your career, and shared his own journey contributing to Drupal and speaking at various events. Everyone was impressed with how he started off as a speaker at DrupalCamp Hyderabad a couple of years back and now getting selected to speak at Drupal Dev Days and volunteering at Drupal Europe. After this talk, several contributors present spoke about their own journeys.

Drupal Bangalore Meetup - July 2018

We took a break after this session for coffee and snacks courtesy of 91Springboard and Axelerant. This also included a brief opportunity to network.

Drupal Bangalore Meetup - July 2018

The third talk of the day was a lightning talk for Rollout by Napoleon Arouldas. Napoleon described the typical problems faced during deploying code and how we can make the whole process better by using a tool like Rollout. He also handed out coupon for attendees at the meetup to try out Rollout for free.

Drupal Bangalore Meetup - July 2018

The last topic of the day was a discussion facilitated by myself for Drupal Governance initiative. After a very fruitful discussion and walking through a group interview, we ended the day with pizzas courtesy of Axelerant.

Drupal Bangalore Meetup - July 2018

Drupal Meetup

This was one of the better-organised meetups thanks to the efforts of the organising team, especially Taher Jodhpurwala. It was only made better thanks to generous support of 91Springboard for the venue and Axelerant for snacks and lunch. You can find more photos from the venue below, or just watch the video to fly through the photos.

[embedded content]

If you prefer just the photos, here they are:

Drupal Meetup Bangalore - July 2018

I’d like to thank the organisers, sponsors, and attendees for making this meetup a success. See you all at the end of August for our next meetup.

Jul 26 2018
Jul 26

Intro

In this post, I’m going to run through how I set up visual regression testing on sites. Visual regression testing is essentially the act of taking a screenshot of a web page (whether the whole page or just a specific element) and comparing that against an existing screenshot of the same page to see if there are any differences.

There’s nothing worse than adding a new component, tweaking styles, or pushing a config update, only to have the client tell you two months later that some other part of the site is now broken, and you discover it’s because of the change that you pushed… now it’s been two months, and reverting that change has significant implications.

That’s the worst. Literally the worst.

All kinds of testing can help improve the stability and integrity of a site. There’s Functional, Unit, Integration, Stress, Performance, Usability, and Regression, just to name a few. What’s most important to you will change depending on the project requirements, but in my experience, Functional and Regression are the most common, and in my opinion are a good baseline if you don’t have the capacity to write all the tests.

If you’re reading this, you probably fall into one of two categories:

  1. You’re already familiar with Visual Regression testing, and just want to know how to do it
  2. You’re just trying to get info on why Visual Regression testing is important, and how it can help your project.

In either case, it makes the most sense to dive right in, so let’s do it.

Tools

I’m going to be using WebdriverIO to do the heavy lifting. According to the website:

WebdriverIO is an open source testing utility for nodejs. It makes it possible to write super easy selenium tests with Javascript in your favorite BDD or TDD test framework.

It basically sends requests to a Selenium server via the WebDriver Protocol and handles its response. These requests are wrapped in useful commands and can be used to test several aspects of your site in an automated way.

I’m also going to run my tests on Browserstack so that I can test IE/Edge without having to install a VM or anything like that on my mac.

Process

Let’s get everything setup. I’m going to start with a Drupal 8 site that I have running locally. I’ve already installed that, and a custom theme with Pattern Lab integration based on Emulsify.

We’re going to install the visual regression tools with npm.

If you already have a project running that uses npm, you can skip this step. But, since this is a brand new project, I don’t have anything using npm, so I’ll create an initial package.json file using npm init.

  • npm init -y
    • Update the name, description, etc. and remove anything you don’t need.
    • My updated file looks like this:
{ "name": "visreg", "version": "1.0.0", "description": "Website with visual regression testing", "scripts": { "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1" } }   "name": "visreg",  "version": "1.0.0",  "description": "Website with visual regression testing",  "scripts": {    "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1"

Now, we’ll install the npm packages we’ll use for visual regression testing.

  • npm install --save-dev webdriverio chai wdio-mocha-framework wdio-browserstack-service wdio-visual-regression-service node-notifier
    • This will install:
      • WebdriverIO: The main tool we’ll use
      • Chai syntax support: “Chai is an assertion library, similar to Node’s built-in assert. It makes testing much easier by giving you lots of assertions you can run against your code.”
      • Mocha syntax support “Mocha is a feature-rich JavaScript test framework running on Node.js and in the browser, making asynchronous testing simple and fun.”
      • The Browserstack wdio package So that we can run our tests against Browserstack, instead of locally (where browser/OS differences across developers can cause false-negative failures)
      • Visual regression service This is what provides the screenshot capturing and comparison functionality
      • Node notifier This is totally optional but supports native notifications for Mac, Linux, and Windows. We’ll use these to be notified when a test fails.

Now that all of the tools are in place, we need to configure our visual regression preferences.

You can run the configuration wizard by typing ./node_modules/webdriverio/bin/wdio, but I’ve created a git repository with not only the webdriver config file but an entire set of files that scaffold a complete project. You can get them here.

Follow the instructions in the README of that repo to install them in your project.

These files will get you set up with a fairly sophisticated, but completely manageable visual regression testing configuration. There are some tweaks you’ll need to make to fit your project that are outlined in the README and the individual markdown files, but I’ll run through what each of the files does at a high level to acquaint you with each.

  • .gitignore
    • The lines in this file should be added to your existing .gitignore file. It’ll make sure your diffs and latest images are not committed to the repo, but allow your baselines to be committed so that everyone is comparing against the same baseline images.
  • VISREG-README.md
    • This is an example readme you can include to instruct other/future developers on how to run visual regression tests once you have it set up
  • package.json
    • This just has the example test scripts. One for running the full suite of tests, and one for running a quick test, handy for active development. Add these to your existing package.json
  • wdio.conf.js
    • This is the main configuration file for WebdriverIO and your visual regression tests.
    • You must update this file based on the documentation in wdio.conf.md
  • wdio.conf.quick.js
    • This is a file you can use to run a quick test (e.g. against a single browser instead of the full suite defined in the main config file). It’s useful when you’re doing something like refactoring an existing component, and/or want to make sure changes in one place don’t affect other sections of the site.
  • tests/config/globalHides.js
    • This file defines elements that should be hidden in ALL screenshots by default. Individual tests can use this, or define their own set of elements to hide. Update these to fit your actual needs.
  • tests/config/viewports.js
    • This file defines what viewports your tests should run against by default. Individual tests can use these, or define their own set of viewports to test against. Update these to the screen sizes you want to check.

Running the Test Suite

I’ll copy the example homepage test from the example-tests.md file into a new file /web/themes/custom/visual_regression_testing/components/_patterns/05-pages/home/home.test.js. (I’m putting it here because my wdio.conf.js file is looking for test files in the _patterns directory, and I like to keep test files next to the file they’re testing.)

The only thing you’ll need to update in this file is the relative path to the globalHides.js file. It should be relative from the current file. So, mine will be:

const visreg = require('../../../../../../../../tests/config/globalHides.js'); const visreg = require('../../../../../../../../tests/config/globalHides.js');

With that done, I can simply run npm test and the tests will run on BrowserStack against the three OS/Browser configurations I’ve specified. While they’re running, we can head over to https://automate.browserstack.com/ we can see the tests being run against Chrome, Firefox, and IE 11.

Once tests are complete, we can view the screenshots in the /tests/screenshots directory. Right now, the baseline shots and the latest shots will be identical because we’ve only run the test once, and the first time you run a test, it creates the baseline from whatever it sees. Future tests will compare the most recent “latest” shot to the existing baseline, and will only update/create images in the latest directory.

At this point, I’ll commit the baselines to the git repo so that they can be shared around the team, and used as baselines by everyone running visual regression tests.

If I run npm test again, the tests will all pass because I haven’t changed anything. I’ll make a small change to the button background color which might not be picked up by a human eye but will cause a regression that our tests will pick up with no problem.

In the _buttons.scss file, I’m going to change the default button background color from $black (#000) to $gray-darker (#333). I’ll run the style script to update the compiled css and then clear the site cache to make sure the change is implemented. (When actively developing, I suggest disabling cache and keeping the watch task running. It just makes things easier and more efficient.)

This time all the tests fail, and if we look at the images in the diff folder, we can clearly see that the “search” button is different as indicated by the bright pink/purple coloring.

If I open up one of the “baseline” images, and the associated “latest” image, I can view them side-by-side, or toggle back and forth. The change is so subtle that a human eye might not have noticed the difference, but the computer easily identifies a regression. This shows how useful visual regression testing can be!

Let’s pretend this is actually a desired change. The original component was created before the color was finalized, black was used as a temporary color, and now we want to capture the update as the official baseline. Simply Move the “latest” image into the “baselines” folder, replacing the old baseline, and commit that to your repo. Easy peasy.

Running an Individual Test

If you’re creating a new component and just want to run a single test instead of the entire suite, or you run a test and find a regression in one image, it is useful to be able to just run a single test instead of the entire suite. This is especially true once you have a large suite of test files that cover dozens of aspects of your site. Let’s take a look at how this is done.

I’ll create a new test in the organisms folder of my theme at /search/search.test.js. There’s an example of an element test in the example-tests.md file, but I’m going to do a much more basic test, so I’ll actually start out by copying the homepage test and then modify that.

The first thing I’ll change is the describe section. This is used to group and name the screenshots, so I’ll update it to make sense for this test. I’ll just replace “Home Page” with “Search Block”.

Then, the only other thing I’m going to change is what is to be captured. I don’t want the entire page, in this case. I just want the search block. So, I’ll update checkDocument (used for full-page screenshots) to checkElement (used for single element shots). Then, I need to tell it what element to capture. This can be any css selector, like an id or a class. I’ll just inspect the element I want to capture, and I know that this is the only element with the search-block-form class, so I’ll just use that.

I’ll also remove the timeout since we’re just taking a screenshot of a single element, we don’t need to worry about the page taking longer to load than the default of 60 seconds. This really wasn’t necessary on the page either, but whatever.

My final test file looks like this:

const visreg = require('../../../../../../../../tests/config/globalHides.js'); describe('Search Block', function () { it('should look good', function () { browser .url('./') .checkElement('.search-block-form', {hide: visreg.hide, remove: visreg.remove}) .forEach((item) => { expect(item.isWithinMisMatchTolerance).to.be.true; }); }); }); const visreg = require('../../../../../../../../tests/config/globalHides.js');describe('Search Block', function () {  it('should look good', function () {    browser      .url('./')      .checkElement('.search-block-form', {hide: visreg.hide, remove: visreg.remove})      .forEach((item) => {        expect(item.isWithinMisMatchTolerance).to.be.true;      });

With that in place, this test will run when I use npm test because it’s globbing, and running every file that ends in .test.js anywhere in the _patterns directory. The problem is this also runs the homepage test. If I just want to update the baselines of a single test, or I’m actively developing a component and don’t want to run the entire suite every time I make a locally scoped change, I want to be able to just run the relevant test so that I don’t waste time waiting for all of the irrelevant tests to pass.

We can do that by passing the --spec flag.

I’ll commit the new test file and baselines before I continue.

Now I’ll re-run just the search test, without the homepage test.

npm test -- --spec web/themes/custom/visual_regression_testing/components/_patterns/03-organisms/search/search.test.js

We have to add the first set of -- because we’re using custom npm scripts to make this work. Basically, it passes anything that follows directly to the custom script (in our case test is a custom script that calls ./node_modules/webdriverio/bin/wdio). More info on the run-script documentation page.

If I scroll up a bit, you’ll see that when I ran npm test there were six passing tests. That is one test for each browser for each test. We have two test, and we’re checking against three browsers, so that’s a total of six tests that were run.

This time, we have three passing tests because we’re only running one test against three browsers. That cut our test run time by more than half (from 106 seconds to 46 seconds). If you’re actively developing or refactoring something that already has test coverage, even that can seem like an eternity if you’re running it every few minutes. So let’s take this one step further and run a single test against a single browser. That’s where the wdio.conf.quick.js file comes into play.

Running Test Against a Subset of Browsers

The wdio.conf.quick.js file will, by default, run test(s) against only Chrome. You can, of course, change this to whatever you want (for example if you’re only having an issue in a specific version of IE, you could set that here), but I’m just going to leave it alone and show you how to use it.

You can use this to run the entire suite of tests or just a single test. First, I’ll show you how to run the entire suite against only the browser defined here, then I’ll show you how to run a single test against this browser.

In the package.json file, you’ll see the test:quick script. You could pass the config file directly to the first script by typing npm test -- wdio.conf.quick.js, but that’s a lot more typing than npm run test:quick and you (as well as the rest of your team) have to remember the file name. Capturing the file name in a second custom script simplifies things.

When I run npm run test:quick You’ll see that two tests were run. We have two tests, and they’re run against one browser, so that simplifies things quite a bit. And you can see it ran in only 31 seconds. That’s definitely better than the 100 seconds the full test suite takes.

Let’s go ahead and combine this with the technique for running a single test to cut that time down even further.

npm run test:quick -- --spec web/themes/custom/visual_regression_testing/components/_patterns/03-organisms/search/search.test.js

This time you’ll see that it only ran one test against one browser and took 28 seconds. There’s actually not a huge difference between this and the last run because we can run three tests in parallel. And since we only have two tests, we’re not hitting the queue which would add significantly to the entire test suite run time. If we had two dozen tests, and each ran against three browsers, that’s a lot of queue time, whereas even running the entire suite against one browser would be a significant savings. And obviously, one test against one browser will be faster than the full suite of tests and browsers.

So this is super useful for active development of a specific component or element that has issues in one browser as well as when you’re refactoring code to make it more performant, and want to make sure your changes don’t break anything significant (or if they do, alert you sooner than later). Once you’re done with your work, I’d still recommend running the full suite to make sure your changes didn’t inadvertently affect another random part of the site.

So, those are the basics of how to set up and run visual regression tests. In the next post, I’ll dive into our philosophy of what we test, when we test, and how it fits into our everyday development workflow.

Jul 26 2018
Jul 26

Encryption is an important part of any website that needs to store sensitive information. Encryption takes sensitive data that is in a readable form and encodes it, making it unreadable. This essentially hides the information from anyone who might try to access it without permission to do so. The encoded information can only be decoded by an entity that has a paired decryption key.

Our requirements for this particular Drupal website build included:

  • Acquia Cloud - One of the leading Drupal hosting providers.
  • Libsodium - Because of Acquia Cloud, we needed a custom compiled php extension
  • Encrypt - A Drupal module that exposes encryption APIs to other modules.
  • Key and Lockr.io - Drupal modules for managing the encryption key.
  • Sodium - A Drupal module to provide libsodium to the encrypt module.

Why use libsodium instead of mcrypt?

Libsodium is a portable, cross-platform implementation of NaCl. Experts recommend libsodium for its simple interface and strong cryptography. The sodium Drupal module takes an easier approach, which is to use a high-level package, paragonie/halite, to work with libsodium.

The other choice for encryption in PHP is mcrypt. It's the default method in the Drupal 7 version of the encrypt module. Despite that, it's a bad choice because it's difficult to use correctly. Mcrypt is deprecated in PHP 7.1 and removed in PHP 7.2.

Contact us and learn more about our custom ecommerce solutions

Installing Libsodium on Acquia's PHP 7.1

PHP 7.2 has libsodium built in and if you're on 7.1 or below you can install it from PECL. We're going to be using Acquia Cloud, so we can't yet run PHP 7.2 and we can't install any PHP extension we want - not as easily as we'd like to.

Acquia requires that extensions be compiled including their dependencies. The php-libsodium extension depends on libsodium itself and we have to produce one binary for both libraries. We'll be compiling libsodium the crypto library as a static library and php-libsodium the php extension that provides bindings to libsodium for PHP applications as a dynamically linked library so it can be loaded by a regular PHP install.

Let's get started!

  1. Download the latest libsodium from https://github.com/jedisct1/libsodium/releases.
  2. Compile libsodium so it's static, not shared. Put it in a directory we'll use later.

    $ ./configure --libdir=/home/me/sodium/library --disable-shared --enable-static--enable-static makes it static, not shared. It'll be a part of the php extension when we build it instead of a separate dependency.

    --disable-shared prevents creating a shared library version of the library.

    --libdir puts it in a directory where we'll use it later.

  3. Compile with PIC (Position Independent Code).

    $ make CFLAGS='-g -O2 -fPIC'
    $ sudo make install
    Here's our sodium library and a pkgconfig directory we'll need to point the php extension at.

    $ ls /home/me/sodium/library
    libsodium.a libsodium.la pkgconfig

  4. Download the latest version 1 release of the libsodium php extension from https://github.com/jedisct1/libsodium-php/releases.

    Use phpize to get the extension ready to compile. Normally a PHP extension is compiled as part of PHP. This script is used to set up things up so it's like we're doing that. You need the -dev version of PHP to get phpize, so install php7.1-dev or the equivalent for your situation.

    $ phpize7.1
    Configuring for:
    PHP Api Version: 20160303
    Zend Module Api No: 20160303
    Now you'd notice a lot more files in the directory, like the configure script.

  5. Set the package config directory to the one where we installed libsodium.

    $ export PKG_CONFIG_DIR=/home/me/sodium/library/pkgconfig

  6. Configure libsodium-php with the path to libsodium.

    $ ./configure --with-libsodium=/home/me/sodium/library --libdir=/home/me/sodium/library--with-libsodium tells it where to find the dependency we just created.

  7. Check that libsodium.so is not looking for a shared libsodium library.

    $ ldd modules/libsodium.so
    linux-vdso.so.1 => (0x00007ffcdd68e000)
    libc.so.6 => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc.so.6 (0x00007f71f26eb000)
    /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 (0x00007f71f2d0f000)
    There's no libsodium dependency there, so we're good to use our libsodium.so PHP extension! Deploy the file and configure PHP to load the extension. Since we're on Acquia Cloud, Acquia does that after we provide the file.

Get encrypted!

If you're running Drupal and need encryption setup, or if you're looking to start a new project and exploring options and requirements, get in touch with us! One of our business developers will be happy to help.

Jul 23 2018
Jul 23
Moshe Weitzman

I recently worked with the Mass.gov team to transition its development environment from Vagrant to Docker. We went with “vanilla Docker,” as opposed to one of the fine tools like DDev, Drupal VM, Docker4Drupal, etc. We are thankful to those teams for educating and showing us how to do Docker right. A big benefit of vanilla Docker is that skills learned there are generally applicable to any stack, not just LAMP+Drupal. We are super happy with how this environment turned out. We are especially proud of our MySQL Content Sync image — read on for details!

Pretty docks at Boston Harbor. Photo credit.

The heart of our environment is the docker-compose.yml. Here it is, then read on for a discussion about it.

Developers use .env files to customize aspects of their containers (e.g. VOLUME_FLAGS, PRIVATE_KEY, etc.). This built-in feature of Docker is very convenient. See our .env.example file:

The most innovative part of our stack is the mysql container. The Mass.gov Drupal database is gigantic. We have tens of thousands of nodes and 500,000 revisions, each with an unholy number of paragraphs, reference fields, etc. Developers used to drush sql:sync the database from Prod as needed. The transfer and import took many minutes, and had some security risk in the event that sanitization failed on the developer’s machine. The question soon became, “how can we distribute a mysql database that’s already imported and sanitized?” It turns out that Docker is a great way to do just this.

Today, our mysql container builds on CircleCI every night. The build fetches, imports, and sanitizes our Prod database. Next, the build does:

That is, we commit and push the refreshed image to a private repository on Docker Cloud. Our mysql image is 9GB uncompressed but thanks to Docker, it compresses to 1GB. This image is really convenient to use. Developers fetch a newer image with docker-compose pull mysql. Developers can work on a PR and then when switching to a new PR, do a simple ahoy down && ahoy up. This quickly restores the local Drupal database to a pristine state.

In order for this to work, you have to store MySQL data *inside* the container, instead of using a Docker Volume. Here is the Dockerfile for the mysql image.

Our Drupal container is open source — you can see exactly how it’s built. We start from the official PHP image, then add PHP extensions, Apache config, etc.

An interesting innovation in this container is the use of Docker Secrets in order to safely share an SSH key from host to the container. See this answer and mass_id_rsa in the docker-compose.yml above. Also note the two files below which are mounted into the container:

Configure SSH to use the secrets file as private keyAutomatically run ssh-add when logging into the container

Traefik is a “cloud edge router” that integrates really well with docker-compose. Just add one or two labels to a service and its web site is served through Traefik. We use Traefik to provide nice local URLs for each of our services (www.mass.local, portainer.mass.local, mailhog.mass.local, …). Without Traefik, all these services would usually live at the same URL with differing ports.

In the future, we hope to upgrade our local sites to SSL. Traefik makes this easy as it can terminate SSL. No web server fiddling required.

Our repository features a .ahoy.yml file that defines helpful aliases (see below). In order to use these aliases, developers download Ahoy to their host machine. This helps us match one of the main attractions of tools like DDev/Lando — their brief and useful CLI commands. Ahoy is a convenience feature and developers who prefer to use docker-compose (or their own bash aliases) are free to do so.

Our development environment comes with 3 fine extras:

  • Blackfire is ready to go — just run ahoy blackfire [URL|DrushCommand] and you’ll get back a URL for the profiling report
  • Xdebug is easily enabled by setting the XDEBUG_ENABLE environment variable in a developer’s .env file. Once that’s in place, the PHP in the container will automatically connect to the host’s PHPStorm or other Xdebug client
  • A chrome-headless container is used by our suite which incorporates Drupal Test Traits — a new open source project we published. We will blog about DTT soon

Of course, we are never satisfied. Here are a couple issues to tackle:

Jun 28 2018
Jun 28

The majority of Drupal's underlying code is PHP. As a Drupal developer, the better you know PHP, the better your code will be. In this Acro Media Tech Talk video, Drupal developer Rob Thornton discusses code nesting and how you can optimize your code in order to reduce unnecessary nesting. 

[embedded content]

Code nesting can basically be described as when a block of code is contained within another block of code. If you're code isn't well thought out, you can potentially end up with deep nesting that is both hard to read and difficult to maintain. Aside from reducing difficult to read code and making your code more maintainable, reducing the amount of nesting helps you find bugs and lets other developers contribute to your code easier. Rob uses a number of examples of common nesting scenarios, walking you through how to find and fix them.

If you liked this video, you might also like these posts too.

Contact us and learn more about our custom ecommerce solutions

Jun 27 2018
Jun 27
Drupal Europe

Community. Sharing. Helping. This is the spirit of Drupal. These things bind us all together. Be a part of it by joining us during Drupal Europe between 10–14 September 2018 in Darmstadt, Germany.

photo credit Susanne Coates @flickr

The track dedicated to Social + Non-Profit will gather ambitious life stories about helping others and projects whose purpose is to invest everything in making the world a better place. You will have the opportunity to meet colleagues from your field of interest and join forces, learn how to use pre-configured Drupal distributions and get inspired by ambitious social impact projects built with Drupal. Also learn how Drupal can be used to ensure accountability, trustworthiness, honesty, and openness to every person who has invested time, money, and faith into a non-profit organization. Talk and share ideas, learn from each other, improve, innovate … and take a leap forward. There are a lot of things you will learn, no matter your technical skill level. From developers to people with a big heart, you will for sure find something that inspires you.

Interested in attending? Buy your ticket now at https://www.drupaleurope.org/tickets.

We are looking for submissions in various topics. Here are some ideas to share your experience on with the rest of the world.

  1. Every nonprofit organization must apply the 3 E’s: Economy, Efficiency, Effectiveness. Economy forces you to handle your project with low budgets, that is almost always the case with non-profit organizations. Efficiency is required also due to low resources available to most non-profit organizations. Effectiveness ensures you get the job done and complete your targets. How are you doing that? What tools and practices ensure this?
  2. We live in a world that is changing every day and technology is a big part of it. What are the new technologies you integrate in social projects? What do you need and what do you find on the market? How drupal is helping you achieve your goals?
  3. Transparency, accountability and full disclosure on operations is a must for all non-profit organizations. People will donate to and support campaigns only if they know exactly where the money goes and how are things handled. This way, they ensure their credibility in front of the world. How do you technically implement this?
  4. A lot of people talk about making the world a better place. But talking is not enough. You have to take action! How do you plan to do it? How do social activities raise the level of engagement in your community? How are people’s lives improved by your actions?
  5. Non-profit is done mainly from the heart. Volunteering is the key word. What are your life stories about helping others, inspirational first hand experiences? Why, what and how did you do it? What drives you? What are your goals?

We look forward to your submission sharing you experience with the other attendees.

See you in Darmstadt!

As you’ve probably read in one of our previous blog posts, industry verticals are a new concept being introduced at Drupal Europe and replace the summits, which typically took place on Monday. At Drupal Europe these industry verticals are integrated with the rest of the conference — same location, same ticket and provide more opportunities to learn and exchange within the industry verticals throughout three days.

Now is the perfect time to buy your ticket for Drupal Europe. Session submission is only open for a few more days so please submit your sessions and encourage others who have great ideas.

Please help us to spread the word about this awesome conference. Our hashtag is #drupaleurope.

To recommend speakers or topics please get in touch at [email protected].

Drupal is one of the leading open source technologies empowering digital solutions in the government space around the world.

Drupal Europe 2018 brings over 2,000 creators, innovators, and users of digital technologies from all over Europe and the rest of the world together for three days of intense and inspiring interaction.

Drupal Europe will be held in Darmstadtium in Darmstadt, Germany — which has a direct connection to Frankfurt International Airport. Drupal Europe will take place 10–14 September 2018 with Drupal contribution opportunities every day. Keynotes, sessions, workshops and BoFs will be from Tuesday to Thursday.

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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