Feeds

Author

Aug 23 2019
Aug 23

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

This time we talked with Greg Dunlap, pinball wizard and Lullabot's senior digital strategist. We spoke of how satisfying it is to work on interesting things with the right people, the importance of the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion initiative, and the close similarities between the Drupal community and Greg's local pinball community.

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

I am a Senior Digital Strategist at Lullabot; historically, I’ve been very much involved in the development and technical side of website building, but in recent years I’ve gotten much more into the content, digital strategy and information architecture part, and so that’s more how I do my work these days, sort of dealing with bigger picture problems. 

As far as my participation in the Drupal community, it’s been pretty light these days. I still speak at conferences here and there about various things, but my contribution beyond that has dropped off quite a bit. I’ll pop in in an issue here and there, and I’ve been involved in the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion group and similar projects, but other than that, my participation is pretty light right now. 

I think it’s also been a bit of me taking my life back, I was very very involved in the Drupal community for almost a decade, and so I think a lot of it was also just sort of me taking some time for myself. It’s hard because I built my career through participating in the community, so to some extent that’s necessary, but you really need to find a balance. 

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

I came across Drupal at an interesting time in my life. It was around 2007, Drupal 5 was out, and I was working for a newspaper in Seattle called the Seattle Times. We were doing a migration to Drupal, and through part of that migration we hired Lullabot to come in and help us out. And that was when I first met Jeff Eaton and Matt Westgate, and it was Jeff Eaton who pushed me to get involved in contributing. I was talking to him about a problem and he said “wow, you should really file a core issue about that”, which I did, and 10 years later it got marked “won’t fix”, so that was great. 

But at the time I was looking for a new job anyway and Drupal was just taking off, so I started getting involved with the local Drupal user group, and through that I met a bunch of really cool people. I also needed to figure out what my next thing was going to be professionally, and so all of this stuff kind of came at just about the right time for me. I was looking for something in Drupal to dig my teeth into, and we were having a bunch of problems around deployment and configuration management at the Seattle Times, and so that kind of just became my niche. 

And through that I met a lot of people who helped and I also wrote a lot of code, and that ended up getting me my first Drupal job, which was at Palantir; then, everything just kind of snowballed after that.

Now I’m basically working for the company that was my first contact with Drupal. And through that Eaton and I became really close friends, and the two of us are the strategy team at Lullabot. One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is that people always tell you to follow your passions, but I really think that the people that you do things with are much more important than what you do. Because, granted, it’s great to do what you want, but if you don’t have the right people around you, it’s not going to be any good anyways.

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

I’m doing a project right now for Lullabot which is involving me going back and listening to a lot of our old podcasts, and one of the things I did was, I went back and listened to my old podcasts (we used to do this series called Drupal Voices and I got interviewed on it a lot). 

And I really noticed as I listened to them, that every year as I was on the podcast, I could hear in my voice my confidence level growing. The first year, for example, was at DrupalCon D.C. and I was very scattered, I could tell I was very nervous; then the next year, I sounded much more confident, and then the year after that when I was at DrupalCon Chicago, I could tell I had really found my steps and stride.

Chicago turned out to be a really formative DrupalCon for me because I gave the very first ever core conversation at a DrupalCon and I was very very nervous about it. And as a result of that core conversation Dries came and asked me to lead the initiative for Drupal8, for CMI. So, DrupalCon Chicago really stands out as a turning point for me in the Drupal community, and where I really hit my stride. I’m just a little upset that the talk wasn’t recorded.

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

Even when I explain my job, usually all I say is just “I build websites”, and so I just say that Drupal is software that you use to build websites. Sometimes you’ll meet somebody who actually understands conceptually what a content management system is, but I usually don’t even bother going down that rabbit hole. “I build websites” is close enough for anybody to at least get the idea.

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

It’s crazy seeing how Drupal has changed. Returning to the podcasts from question three: the first Lullabot podcast was in 2006, and at that time, while there were a couple of shops doing things, the global economy in Drupal was essentially nothing. Now, it’s grown to billions of dollars in thirteen years, and I think that change has been incredible; not in a good or bad way in particular, it’s just been change. 

For a lot of people who prefer a small scrappy group, it’s probably been a negative thing, but for people who prefer a more mature industry that they can grow into and make a career out of, it’s been a positive change. And I think that, as Drupal grows, we’re going to be seeing more and more focus on that maturity, that focus on stability. One of the things that we hear all the time now in the Drupal community is that we’re much more focused on predictable releases, on backwards compatibility, easier migrations, all of the stuff that you focus on when your focus is much more on stability.

Because, given the kind of industries that we’ve grown into, stability and predictability are super important. And I think that theme is going to continue to grow over the years, not that we won’t have new features, but I think that the turnaround time on them is going to continue to be more stretched out; we’re already seeing this now with Drupal 9, for example.

The experimental modules are also interesting, as they’ve allowed us to get new features into core in the middle of the release cycle, e.g. the Content Moderation came in and Migration and stuff like that. This takes a long time, however; Content Moderation is a functionality that’s been in development for years in contrib, it’s not as straightforward as somebody just writing a patch and whipping that out in 3 months.

Getting new functionality into core is a very long process that demands lots of testing, and even then the module has to have the “experimental” status for 6 months. All these smaller processes make the overarching process longer, but they also make it more transparent, predictable and stable - it’s essentially just a trade-off. 

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

I wrote a lot of code for the Configuration Management initiative, and even though that code ended up all getting thrown away and rewritten, to me the mere ability to put that on a path to getting done is extremely satisfying. I ran it for about 2 years and then I handed it off to Alex Pott who ran it for about 2 years before Drupal 8 got released. 

Getting all of those concepts in place and putting together a team of people to get those concepts in place and get it working and rolling forward is something that I’m really happy with. And it was also really great because it represented the end of a long period for me; I started with configuration management as my niche that I dug into in the Drupal 5 era, and then to see that all the way through to getting done in Drupal 8 was really satisfying for me. 

Recently, working with the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion group has been really satisfying. It’s a truly amazing group of people who are really interested in growing our community in positive ways, and making sure our community is open to everybody who wants to contribute and welcoming to everybody who wants to contribute. 

I think this is going to be more and more important going forward, because as Drupal becomes a global enterprise, we need to be able to bring all of those voices in to speak. Even Dries is starting to talk about how important that is now (e.g. in Seattle in his keynote). 

I think that work is really important and I’m really glad to see more focus on the community management side, because traditionally Drupal has been a place where we bring in contributors and then we kind of burn through them. We need to realize that contribution is hard and takes a lot of time, and focusing on how we can make that contribution cycle more healthy for people is really crucial to sustaining the community - so, in whatever ways that comes in or works towards is really great. 

I think that anything we could do to make the Drupal community more welcoming to people is going to be really important. Obviously, growing the community is important, but so is bringing in different voices and viewpoints, so that we can make the community more open and more interesting and really bring in all of the wonderful differences we have in the world.

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

Well, the one that we just talked about, of course! Anybody who’s interested in the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion initiative can join the DDI channel (diversity-inclusion) on Slack. That’s where a lot of that discussion happens; there are weekly meetings on Thursdays, and from there you can get links to their website and other similar resources. 

I’ve also been really interested in the work on the Drupal product side for Layout Manager recently. I was a little skeptical of that when it first came out, but we’ve been using it on a couple of client projects and I’ve been really impressed with it. I think that it’s going to fill a lot of gaps and needs in the Drupal community. 

While the UI is still a little rough, I think that once the usability gets some polish on it, it’s going to be a really important thing for Drupal going forward. I’ve been really really pleased to see how that’s been working, and the clients just adore it; every time we demo it for a client, they completely freak out, so, I’m really looking forward to seeing how that progresses.

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

I don’t get into a lot of technology stuff out of work anymore these days as a hobby. My biggest hobby outside of Drupal is pinball; I’ve been playing it competitively for 25 years and I’ve always been very involved in the local community here in Portland, Oregon. 

I’ve been really involved in that for a really long time - running tournaments and playing in tournaments, I was also the state representative for the group that runs the pinball rankings for many years, and recently I’ve gotten really into fixing up and repairing pinball machines, which has been really cool. It’s very physical and manual, not at all like working on your computer, so it kind of like rubs a different part of my brain than computer work does - and then when you’re done, you have something fun you can play, which is really cool. 

But I will say that one of the nicest things about running tournaments and being involved, similarly to Drupal, in the pinball community, is that you can build the community that you want to see. One of the things I’ve really done in Portland is trying to bring together a different set of voices to help run tournaments, to be the face of the community here, to create welcoming and safe spaces for people. And we have seen, for instance, the number of women that we have competing in tournaments here grow by leaps and bounds as a result of that work, and that’s been extremely gratifying too. 
 

Aug 19 2019
Aug 19

Making sure your website is accessible is becoming a necessity - and with all the right reasons. The web is for everyone and, as such, everyone should be able to use it effectively, no matter their physical ability. Sites that are inaccessible automatically prevent a large number of people from using them.

We’ve already written a series of blog posts on Drupal and accessibility - you can check them out here: part 1 & part 2. As you can probably glean from these two posts, Drupal offers a lot of accessibility features out-of-the-box, e.g. the requirement of alt text for images in Drupal 8 (another strong case, by the way, for migrating to Drupal 8 ASAP). 

The second part of the series also takes a look at a few contributed modules with which you can further improve the accessibility of a Drupal website. During the time since the blog post’s publication, however, there have been many more accessibility-focused modules contributed to the Drupal project - and these are what we’ll take a closer look at in this post. 

Accessibility toolkit (& Accessibility)

While only available for Drupal 7, the Accessibility toolkit (the a11y module) is an invaluable resource for Drupal developers that are tasked with building user-friendly and accessible sites. It allows for: dyslexic font support, high contrast mode, inverted colors mode and text scaling. 

On top of that, it also provides support for simulating specific disabilities. Since it’s quite difficult for an able-bodied person to put themselves in the shoes of a disabled person, these simulations greatly help developers to feel empathy by reproducing the symptoms of certain disabilities such as dyslexia or colorblindness. 

If you’re looking for a module with similar capabilities that can also be used in Drupal 8, the Accessibility module is the one closest to the a11y module - it’s geared more towards content editors and site maintainers, though. It provides a set of available accessibility tests that check the content published by your editors and other users for any accessibility errors, such as a missing alt text (granted, with Drupal 8 this is already automatic). 

So, for a Drupal 7 site, these two modules can be employed in tandem: one is used for ensuring accessibility in development, while the other is used in the live environment to make sure that the content and design meet accessibility standards. Just a disclaimer, though: the Accessibility module is not covered by Drupal’s security advisory policy, since it uses the QUAIL jQuery plugin which is no longer supported.

A11y

Accessibility

Accessibility Scanner

Accessibility Scanner is a relatively new module; the first development version was released in March, while the latest alpha version was released just about two months ago (June 20). With this module, you can use Drupal together with achecker to perform web accessibility scans directly in the Drupal admin interface. 

Accessibility Scanner

Style Switcher

The Style Switcher module provides incredibly useful functionality for visitors that suffer from color blindness. It allows themers to create themes with alternate stylesheets, and site builders to add other alternate stylesheets right in the admin section. 

A site visitor is then presented with all those styles as links in a block, and they can choose the one that they prefer, e.g. one with the optimal contrast for their specific type of color blindness.

The module is available for both Drupal 7 and 8, but the Drupal 8 version is still only in alpha.

Style Switcher

Block ARIA Landmark Roles

This module was already mentioned in part 2 of our series on web accessibility in Drupal; it’s available for Drupal 7 and 8. It allows you to assign ARIA landmark roles and/or ARIA labels to a block, which makes it easier for screen readers and other assistive technologies to identify the type and purpose of a certain piece of content. This greatly simplifies site navigation for visitors using such technologies. 

Block ARIA Landmark Roles

Text Resize

While it’s quite easy to resize the text of a page using the keyboard (‘ctrl’ and either ‘+’ or ‘-’), not everyone browsing the web is aware of that. The Text Resize module, available for both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8, allows visitors to change the font size of a text through a special block. It also comes with a ‘reset’ option which has to be enabled from the admin page.

Text Resize

Automatic Alternative Text

With this Drupal 8 module, you can automatically generate an alt text for an image for which the user hasn’t provided any. This is done using the Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services API.

It provides one or more descriptions of an image which are ordered according to their confidence. The default descriptions are in English, but it is also possible to translate them into other languages. 

Providing an alternative text is crucial for blind or visually impaired visitors using screen readers, as it is pretty much the only means for them to take in the full content of a page. On top of that, images with the provided alt text are more SEO-friendly and thus help with your site's search engine ranking.

Even though Drupal 8 demands alt text by default for content creators, content submitted by users should also include it, and this module enables just that.

Automatic Alternative Text

Fluidproject UI Options

The UI Options module by Fluid enables users to modify a page’s font size, line height, font style, contrast and link style according to their preferences. All changes made are retained thanks to cookies. 

The module does have some limitations, however. Bootstrap themes, for example, need some additional CSS for font-sizing and line heights to work as they should, and elements that use CSS gradients can’t have their contrast settings changed. 

Fluidproject UI Options

htmLawed

This is a very useful module not just in the context of accessibility, but also security. It restricts and purifies HTML code so that it complies with the site administrator policy and standards and security best practices. 

Using this module, you’re able to autocorrect and beautify HTML markup as well as restrict HTML elements, attributes and URL protocols in the input. Moreover, it also balances tags and ensures that HTML elements are properly nested, transforms deprecated tags and attributes, etc. 

htmLawed

HTML Purifier

A very similar module to the just mentioned htmLawed, the HTML Purifier filter library is again perfect for meeting both security and accessibility requirements. It removes malicious code from your website while also ensuring W3C standards compliance. 

HTML Purifier is a great fit for Drupal as it works really well with WYSIWYG editors. With it, you get a lot of options, such as custom fonts, tables, inline styling, and many more. It’s available both for Drupal 7 and 8.

HTML Purifier

Conclusion

This was our list of modules for Drupal 7 and 8 that take care of different aspects of web accessibility. Depending on what security measures you’ve already implemented and what your team’s best practices are, you likely won’t need to employ every single module on this list.

Still, we wanted to give an overview of different options so that you can pick and choose the one that best fits your needs. These modules provide accessibility resources for both developers and content editors, as well as visitors using the site, so you’re sure to find a combination that works for you.

If you're still experiencing accessibility issues or are in need of a complete accessibility overhaul, give us a shout out and let our experienced and proven developers help you make your site accessible to everyone.
 

Aug 08 2019
Aug 08

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

In our latest interview, Ricardo Amaro of Acquia reveals how his discovery of Drupal has enabled him to work on projects he enjoys and that make a meaningful impact. Read on to learn more about his contributions and what the Drupal community in Portugal is like. 

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

My name is Ricardo Amaro. I live with my wife and 2 kids in Lisbon, Portugal. I’ve been working for Acquia since 2011 and recently promoted to Principal Site Reliability Engineer where we deal with all the challenges of helping ~55k Drupal production sites grow every day.

I’ve been contributing in several aspects to the Drupal Community and sometimes that effort goes beyond. An example of that is the published co-authoring of the “Seeking SRE” book (O’Reilly) with my chapter about Machine Learning for SRE, since that main idea came out of a presentation I did at DrupalCon Vienna 2017 explaining how automation and machine learning could help increase reliability on Drupal sites. 

Other projects I’ve initiated in the past within the Drupal community include:

On the local front I founded the Portuguese Drupal Association 8 years ago and I am its current elected president. That same year we organized our first DrupalCampLisbon2011. Nowadays we organize DrupalDays and Camps all over the country and meet regularly on Telegram and video-conferences. Last year we organized DrupalDevDays Lisbon 2018 which was a really good turn out for the entire community.

My main drivers are a passion for Free Software and Digital Rights. That started back in the 90’s when I found myself struggling with the proprietary/closed software available at the time, and installing Linux/Slackware in 1994 was an enlightening moment to my own question “isn’t there a better option?”. But I only switched all my machines to Linux in 2004 and that’s what I’ve used up to now. Because I think the GNU/Free Software ecosystem, where Drupal was able to grow, is fragile and needs to be nourished by all of us.

I have a degree in Arts and a second one in Computer Science & Engineering and I’m now taking a master in Enterprise Information Systems.

Before Acquia, I worked both in the public sector and in the private sector in Portugal, applying Agile techniques and encouraging the DevOps culture. I’ve managed teams, development projects and operations also in South Africa and around Europe. 

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

I came across Drupal in 2008, when searching for an OpenSource CMS software in order to create some Media Publishing sites for the company I was working for back at that time. My role as an IT Director was not easy, since the company was struggling with funding, so Drupal 6 was an amazing tool that enabled us to grow several of the sites and particularly create a self service on our main classified advertisement sites.

I found the Drupal Portuguese community at that time struggling to have a legal entity and to be able to grow and organize events inside the country. Portugal has always been mostly monopolized by large corporations like Microsoft and Oracle, while Free software has always been seen as “experimental” solutions, at best.

I took upon myself the commitment to bring the local Drupal community the pride and success they all deserve. I’ve grown a friendship for each and every person in our community and now I couldn't imagine myself without them, as I couldn't imagine myself without Drupal.

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

Putting it simply: Drupal changed my life! Drupal brought justification to my values and aspirations. I honestly couldn’t have imagined, in a world that is more and more inclined to monopolistic visions, being able to exercise and contribute to the Free Software community and make a living out of it.

The particular moment I felt this more strongly the first time was around 2011 when some decision makers from one of these large corporations asked me if I could bring my Drupal presentation to them at the time, because they wanted to know what this Drupal thing was all about. So I organized a few of my usual slides and took them with me.

This was in a very fancy Vila in one of the most expensive areas near Lisbon. I did my pitch and by the end they seemed very impressed with what Drupal had to offer for free, so many powerful features, so much commitment. Naturally one of their questions was how they could make their proprietary software, that started having a descent curve, embark on this positive wave of growth. My obvious answer was “release your code as open source”. They looked at me in discredit of course and still invited me for a boat ride which I declined politely. 

I went back home and from time to time thought about that episode until it started to look like a mirage in the past. To my surprise, in the most recent years, that same corporation has started releasing open source code, created community projects and apparently changed their minds… 

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

Drupal lets you turn big ideas into digital realities. An innovative web platform for creating engaging digital websites and experiences. Drupal is the world's most popular enterprise-class web content management system. It’s developed by more than 46,000 people that are part of the 1.3 million users registered on drupal.org.

Last year we had about 1,000 companies with 8,000 code contributions and this is reflected in millions of websites with 12% market share, plus an annual growth of 51%. If these people still had some more time I would present them the Drupal Pitch Deck. :)

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

From my perspective Drupal has been always growing and even making positive bonds with other Free Software initiatives out there.  One of the most interesting ones happened last year at Drupal Europe 2018 (11-14 Sept)  where we had the founders of RocketChat and Nextcloud met and they ended up announcing a partnership on the 17th of September…  

We should follow that example and support more interaction and collaboration with other projects in our ecosystem. For starters we should make an effort to use tools like RocketChat (see https://drupalchat.me) and grow awareness that companies like Slack have 0, or even less, to do with our values and we don’t gain anything with crossing our arms and letting people be driven there. The future is open, the future is community and inclusion.

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

For sure the ongoing effort that I do on the Drupal Portuguese Association to keep people motivated, things organized and events happening is the first one. The highlight of this was DrupalDevDays Lisbon 2018. The second one was the DrupalCI which was of major impact for Drupal8’s final release.

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

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

I’m most excited about Containers and the power behind them. That is only possible because there is Gnu/Linux operating system supporting them. Kubernetes in particular is also of interest since it follows the reasoning of auto-scalability that we need for distributed systems. Drupal is flying to the future already with its headless/decoupled capabilities. I’m seeing containers even being applied to support machine learning algorithms and neural networks. 

Another thing that I’m particularly interested in is investigating better ways to make communities grow and ensure that they have the necessary tools to make that happen.  

My personal endeavor is, in the end, to see my kids grow in a healthy environment, rich in possibilities, and for that I need to keep information available for them and help the Free Software ecosystem stay alive. After all, what else is there that can guarantee our future human independence from “blackboxed” technology? If you can’t see, study or change the source, what role is left for you? 

 Drupal DevDays Lisbon 2018

Aug 06 2019
Aug 06

At the start of every month, we gather all the Drupal blog posts from the previous month that we’ve enjoyed the most. Here’s an overview of our favorite posts from July related to Drupal - enjoy the read!

5 Reasons to Upgrade Your Site to Drupal 8, then 9

Our July selection begins with a blog post by Third & Grove titled “5 Reasons to Upgrade Your Site to Drupal 8, then 9”. Since the upgrade from Drupal 8 will be a smooth and simple one, the best thing to do is to make the move to D8 now and start benefiting from its superior capabilities, as the author of this blog post, Curtis Ogle, also emphasizes. 

In this post, Curtis thus presents his top 5 features of Drupal 8 that make a very strong case for the upgrade. These are: configuration management right in the core; RESTful APIs; twig templates (his personal favorite one); all the contrib modules from D7; and, lastly, the fact that D8 is future proof, with all future upgrade paths considerably smoother than with previous versions.

Read more

The Top Four Benefits of Building a Site on Drupal 8 

Still very much in line with the previous post, this next one was written by BounteousChris Greatens and outlines the main benefits of choosing to build a website in Drupal 8. With an abundance of different CMS solutions, the ones that hold the obvious advantage are those who offer both excellent authoring and administrative features, as well as development capabilities. 

According to Chris, there are 4 main features that make Drupal stand out among other CMS: flexibility, scalability, security and, exactly as in the previously mentioned blog post, the ability of future-proofing. All of Drupal’s additional capabilities only add to this, making it a viable platform for various use cases.

Read more

Prepare for Drupal 9: stop using drupal_set_message()!

Next up, we have a blog post by Gábor Hojtsy reporting on the most recent state of deprecated code in preparation for Drupal 9, which contains two important findings.

The first one is that as much as 29% of all analyzed instances of deprecated API uses can be attributed to drupal_set_message() - so, basically, no longer using this API means you’ll already be 29% on your way towards Drupal 9 readiness.

Gábor’s second finding is that 76% of deprecated API use (47% other API uses beside drupal_set_message()’s 29%) can in fact already be resolved now, 10 months before the release of Drupal 9. This gives project maintainers and contributors plenty of time to work towards D9 compatibility. 

Read more

5 Reasons to Attend and Sponsor Open Source Events

A really great post from July that had us recall the awesome Drupal community is “5 Reasons to Attend and Sponsor Open Source Events”, written by Promet Source’s Chris O’Donnell. He answers the question “Is it worth to keep sponsoring DrupalCamps and other events?” with a hard “Yes” and five (well, six, actually) supporting reasons.

These reasons are: it’s good for business; you (as a company) owe it to the community; you’re able to find new talented developers at these events; you learn a lot; there are various fun activities; and, the sixth bonus reason, you meet many amazing Drupalists and forge new friendships. This last reason alone is actually enough to justify going to at least one or two ‘Camps a year.

Read more

Drupal + Javascript: Exploring the Possibilities

Hook42’s Emanuel London’s introduction to the exploration of the possibilities of Drupal in combination with JavaScript is another post from July that we enjoyed. Excited as he was about the plethora of emerging JavaScript frameworks and the flexibility they offer, Emanuel was a bit disappointed by the fact that the Drupal community hasn’t kept up-to-date with all these technologies, and thus decided to remedy this in a series of blog posts. 

Future posts in the series will explore some of the tools for native mobile app development, e.g. ReactNative, as well as some Drupal tools, modules and distributions, such as ContentCMS. By the end of the series, we’ll hopefully be better prepared for Drupal-powered mobile app development and maybe even compete with WordPress in that area.

Read more

Eight reasons why Drupal should be every government’s CMS

It is a well-known fact in the community that Drupal is the go-to choice for government websites, thanks in large part to its security and multisite capabilities. Anne Stefanyk of Kanopi Studios further underlines this with six additional reasons why governments should choose Drupal as their preferred CMS.

Besides security and multisite/multilingual support, Drupal’s advantage also lies in: its mobility, accessibility, easy content management, ability to handle large amounts of traffic and data, flexibility, and affordability.

These are all aspects crucial to the experience of a government website. As such, Drupal truly is best suited for this role, as is also evidenced by the over 150 countries relying on Drupal to power their websites.

Read more

Getting Start with Layout Builder in Drupal 8

Nearing the end of July’s list, we have a post by Ivan Zugec of WebWash, essentially a tutorial on using Drupal’s recently stable Layout Builder. It contains all the basics you need to get started with this powerful new functionality. 

The first part of the post covers using the Layout Builder to customize content types, with Ivan working on the Article content type as an example. It details how to create a default layout for articles, as well as how to override it for a single article.

The second part then deals with using the module as a page builder, customizing the layout of an individual piece of content, from creating a custom block to embedding images. The post concludes with links to some additional modules and a FAQ section. 
 
Read more

An Open Letter to the Drupal Community

We round off July’s list with J.D. Flynn’s open letter to the Drupal community. This is a very interesting post which deals with a recent positive addition to drupal.org and how it can be exploited to “game the system” - namely, issue credits. 

The problem with the issue credit system is that it can be used to amass hundreds of credits with fixes for simple novice issues, which leaves fewer of these novice issues to fledgling developers trying to get their foot in the door, as well as gives unjustified credibility to the person or company in question and demoralizes other developers. 

J.D. presents four possible solutions to this: weighted credits; mandatory difficulty tagging of issues; credit limits; and a redistribution of credits. He finishes with a call to action to new developers to seek out help and to seasoned developers to offer mentorship to newcomers.

Read more

We hope you enjoyed our selection of Drupal blog posts from July and perhaps even found some thoughts that inspired ideas of your own. Don’t forget to visit our blog from time to time so you don’t miss any of our upcoming posts! 
 

Aug 02 2019
Aug 02

A few days ago, on Wednesday, July 31st, Acquia held a webinar on digital experience titled “Think Bigger: Your Digital Experience is More Than Your Website”. 

The two presenters were Justin Emond, CEO of Third & Grove, and Tom Wentworth, SVP of Product Marketing at Acquia. 

They talked more generally about the experience economy and the recent important changes in digital experiences, and more specifically about digital experience platforms (DXP); namely, why an open DXP is the best solution and how Acquia’s services can serve as the foundation for an open DXP.

As with all Acquia webinars, a recording will be publicly available soon for anyone who wasn’t able to attend it or who wants to revisit certain points. In the meantime, we hope this recap will fill in enough gaps to make the wait easier or maybe even compel you to start rethinking your digital strategy today in preparation for the future.

Experience is everywhere

As Tom states, we are now in the “experience economy”, with 1:1 personalization a necessity for brands that plan to win in this economy. 

Today, everything is essentially an experience; we’re surrounded and bombarded by them. Competition among brands, too, works mostly on the basis of customer experience, which means brands need to constantly focus on delivering the best possible experience if they want to stand out. 

The physical world is full of amazing, memorable experiences (Disney, for example, has decades of them under its belt and is hence able to focus on all their minor details). But - what about the digital? What are our most memorable experiences in the digital sphere?

For both, it holds true that it takes a lifetime of great experiences to create an iconic brand. In the digital, however, you can undo a lot of positive experiences and even destroy a brand with a single bad experience, from which it is extremely difficult to come back. 

Why is it so hard to create great digital experiences?

The recent explosion of channels has made user journeys hard to predict, as they interact with brands through various channels, some of which didn’t even exist a few years ago, while those that haven’t yet been invented will also become touchpoints with brands.

Current martech systems are siloed. They each focus on different parts of the customer journey and, by consequence, each have their own view of this journey. But, not only are the tools siloed - the very organization of the teams is siloed as well.

This kind of organization makes it impossible sometimes to deliver an integrated customer experience. And the problems becomes even worse at scale, with even greater technological and organizational limitations to delivering a great, 1:1 customer experience. 

So, how can you tackle this and win out in the experience economy?

Well, the most important thing is - breaking down the silos, both on the technological and organization level. In order to deliver an integrated digital experience, you need one common view of the customer which is consistent across all channels. 

This brings about obvious advantages: the ability to come to market and take advantage of new channels faster, more consistent user experiences, reusable content, automated decision making, more governance, etc.

In the “old” internet, every brand needed a website - this is also the reason why the CMS was created, as a better way to manage these websites. But, today, a website alone isn’t enough; today, every brand needs a digital experience platform - an open DXP.

Planning your optimal DXP

Well, but, isn’t a DXP essentially the same thing as a CMS? It’s true that a DXP is a product, a platform, a solution - but, at the bottom line, it’s a strategy of how you’re going to interact with your customers to achieve desired goals. 

So, a DXP is a strategic perspective on how to approach this problem, whereas a CMS is a tactical solution. 

Web content management

The web CMS is still the basis for any DXP (“content is king”). The focus, then, should be on specific use cases from which you can work. Some of the most common of these are:

  • Multichannel delivery: this use case rests on the perception of content as a service, content in the sense of enabling people and making their lives easier. An API-first strategy is vital for this, as you need to be open with distributing and sharing content with other platforms.
  • Cross-channel strategy: a bit more complex than the previous point, here the focus is more on mapping the customer journey and figuring out how the customer moves through multiple touchpoints of interaction and what the entire integrated story then is.
  • Campaign management: the most important thing here is to be aware of how the CMS, personalization and marketing tools all interact. They need to work really well together in order to get the most out of the campaign.
  • Commerce: the recent emergence of cloud commerce platforms, such as BigCommerce and Shopify Plus, has made it possible to invest less into the backend (since it’s in the cloud) and allocate a bigger part of your budget to other areas, such as marketing. 
  • Customer data: what you do with data is more important than how you collect it or store it. The question here is: how are you going to extrapolate the insights and how can you best leverage them?
  • Work backwards: the future is uncertain and unpredictable. If you acknowledge that, you can work backwards from it, starting with the realization that your DXP will have to be adaptive to change and new tools; we are in an era of unprecedentedly fast digital innovation, after all.

Trends

1. If you want agile marketing, you need high developer velocity.

In software development, agile has completely replaced the waterfall approach. Now we’re starting to see this as a marketing trend as well: small releases, continuous iteration, better insights on the performance of a campaign and consequently the ability to adapt faster. But the catch is - successful agile marketing demands high developer velocity.

2. If you need cutting-edge commerce, you need to be disruption-ready.

With e-commerce becoming the most popular form of shopping, innovations in this sphere will be particularly important for brands, hence they will have to be especially adaptive in this area. Commerce cloud applications mentioned earlier are an example of these very recent breakthrough technologies.

3. If you need a decoupled or headless approach, don’t go with a technology that wants to do several different things at the same time. 

Very likely, such a tool won’t do any of the things as well as you would need it too. Because of this, a microservices approach is becoming more and more popular, using for example a JavaScript framework on the front-end in combination with one (or more) CMS.

Open DXP is the only DXP that has it all

Because of all the considerations and trends just discussed, you need to embrace an open architecture for your DXP, one without the restrictions of a lock-in.

Unified content and data create a seamless 1:1 customer experience. Acquia is helping their clients with bringing together all the data obtained from their customers, connecting all that data together in order for a single, unified view of the customer, and getting the content to the customer through whichever channels they interact with a brand on. 

Acquia Open Experience Platform

The Acquia Open Experience Platform consists of two parts: the marketing hub and the experience factory. The latter is built on the Drupal CMS and then extended with preconfigured features that are ideal for mid-market organizations. 

So, with all the advanced integrations such as Mautic or Acquia Lift, how can you achieve better business outcomes? In what way do they empower you? The answer is: they enable you to connect the right person at the right time with the right content on the right channel.

The “open” refers to more than just open source; it’s about being an open platform. In this context, this means utilizing Acquia’s open DXP alongside competitive products; whatever technology their clients need, Acquia wants to make all these different technologies work better together. 

In this sense, Acquia’s DXP is positioned as an open alternative to proprietary platforms such as for example the Adobe Experience Manager or Salesforce’s Lightning Platform. 

Some additional resources

Q&A session

Q: Can an organization get started with only Acquia Lightning and then add on other services later?
A: Absolutely; there are some foundational investments you really need, such as Lightning. Then you can add on Lift to extend your Drupal site with personalization, then Mautic for marketing, etc. Think of your DXP as a journey, not just as a touchpoint on that journey.


Q: Can Acquia Lift be integrated with other CMS platforms or does it only work with Drupal?
A: Yes, it does work with other platforms; it was designed as CMS-neutral.


Q: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve encountered when helping your customers move to a DXP?
A: There were two crucial mistakes, actually. Firstly - not accepting that the future is unknowable and that things change; and, secondly - a lack of discovery (the discovery checklist linked above is an excellent starting point).


Q: What does a digital experience look like in 2025?
A (Justin): It’s going to be similar, in the sense that there will still be a website, but also different in terms of the way people will interact. There will be an even greater focus on mobile experience, but voice is more limited in its use cases, so it likely won’t be as important as the hype predicts.
A (Tom): Because the pace of technology has never advanced faster, it’s hard to predict what the digital experience will look like even next year. New platforms are emerging every day and we’ll likely continue to see this; the winners will be the organizations that are able to successfully reach their customers with personalized content across all channels. The most important thing will be constant innovation; it will need to happen on a monthly basis. This is true for both the platforms themselves as well as for the organizational aspect. 

Conclusion

We hope this recap has given you a better understanding of what an (open) DXP is and why a focus on the digital experience will continue to be more and more important thanks to technological advancements. 

A lot of brands already demand a multichannel and cross-channel experience for their customers, but the only integrated solutions are expensive and limited proprietary tools. 

Now, Acquia’s positioning itself as the only open provider of these services has the potential to completely change the name of the DXP game. We’re excited to see how their upcoming tools, e.g. Content Cloud, will act as further disruptors of the industry.

We conclude with the one major takeaway from all this: because the future is uncertain, you need to set a strategy that will allow you to adapt to any new technologies in order to stay in the game.
 

Jul 30 2019
Jul 30

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

We had an amazing talk with the super friendly Maria Totova, a driving force behind the Bulgarian Drupal community, organizer of various educational events, avid speaker and co-founder of Drupal Girls. Have a read and learn more about her numerous interesting projects and her love for Drupal. 

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

My name is Maria Totova and I am a back-end developer from Bulgaria. I have been using Drupal for the last 4 years and I absolutely love it! I work as a Drupal developer at trio-group communication & marketing gmbh, a leading German brand and communication agency, where we create individualized marketing and business solutions.

I am also a board member at Drupal Bulgaria, a non-profit NGO and the official Drupal foundation in my country, as well as an education manager, community leader & instructor at Coding Girls, a non-profit NGO and an international movement. Last, but not least, I am very happy to be a co-founder of Drupal Girls, a subdivision of Coding Girls, devoted especially to raising the interest towards Drupal and growing a strong and diverse community.

Being part of all these amazing institutions, I have the great pleasure to organize and conduct different kinds of events: meetups, workshops, courses and camps. I do my best to spread some Drupal love in high-schools and universities as well by teaching and mentoring students there. I especially love being a speaker at Drupal conferences and I always try to contribute and share what I have learnt. 

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

When I came across Drupal, I was a freelancer using WordPress to build rather tiny websites for small companies. So, I can say that I discovered Drupal at a stage of my life when I was searching for a change, for something more. And I found it. I started working with big brands on larger, more complex projects for great companies.

What I particularly like about Drupal is that it brings many challenges and opportunities. It's never boring. I learn a lot and do different things every day, develop all kinds of various functionalities all the time.

But most of all, thanks to Drupal I have met and continue meeting so many exciting people! I've got amazing colleagues, so smart and really crazy! :) I have found great mentors who have been helping me grow as a developer and I have made friends for life.

Indeed, the Drupal community is full of awesome people, inspiring folks, so open-minded and always ready to help. I love that! I have found the place where I fit in and feel safe and comfortable.

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

I remember my first encounter with Drupal. :) It was not really a love at first sight... When a friend of mine, who, funny enough, hates Drupal, mentioned it, I decided to take a look. I visited drupal.org, went briefly through the quite strange, full of unknown terminology D7 docs, thought the themes were not so appealing but still decided to install it and dive in a little deeper.

Then, I encountered the content types and modules, and I was like: “Gee, I want to use this!” :D Of course, I went on learning Drupal, built my portfolio website in the process and a few months later I applied for a Drupal job.

Guess what? They called me and hired me on the very next day! I was over the moon! Since then, I have been absolutely enjoying my work every day at every company! How has Drupal changed my life? Phew, it has turned it upside down and inside out but in a very, very good way. I love it and I am happy. Thank you, Drupal! :)

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

I always enjoy explaining what Drupal is to my friends and students. I start by underlining the fact that Drupal is not only a CMS but also a powerful framework. On one hand, you have the full capacity to structure your data and become a great content modeler without even realizing it.

On the other hand, you can build various complex custom solutions via Drupal APIs. I tell them how easy it is to install it for less than 10 min. Then, you receive a solid base that you can build on with only the functionalities you need, depending on the type of your project and without any unnecessary stuff. I describe what an impressive technology Drupal is and focus on its main features: modularity, security, performance, reliability, flexibility, multilingual support, mobile-first approach and so on.

Of course, I don’t forget to highlight the significance of the Drupal community: all the contributions, support and the amazing events that it brings along. In the end, what persuades them best is simply seeing my enthusiasm and understanding that Drupal brings real fun. :)

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

When I started with Drupal, it was version 7. Previously, I had experience in writing object-oriented PHP using CodeIgniter (they have the best docs ever!) and I loved the MVC pattern. It took me some time to understand the drupalisms but soon I grew fond of the hook system and everything.

However, the changes in Drupal 8 brought pure delight. The OOP paradigm and Symphony have made a huge difference. I am eager to see what the future brings, especially in terms of decoupled Drupal and consumer applications. Having in mind our great community, I am pretty sure that Drupal will continue evolving and shining!

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

The Drupal Girls project is one of the things I am quite proud of. The idea behind it is to promote Drupal among ladies and bring more diversity to the Drupal community. We do this by organizing workshops, events & courses and inviting girls to join us in a safe, supportive and inclusive environment. Our main target group is high-school & university students, but we are also happy to work with teachers, instructors and developers using other technologies.

Since our vision is based on integration, we are always happy to have men at our events as well. We all know that men and women think in a different way and this is actually a very good thing! We find out different aspects while working on projects and complement each other.

In fact, more and more companies are starting to realize how important diversity is and how beneficial it is to their organizations. I am very happy that Trio, the company I work for, supports our mission and provides us with the space and everything we need for our events. I hope that more people and organizations will consider joining our initiative by establishing a local community in their city.

Since we are part of the Coding Girls family, a non-profit & non-government organization, all our work is completely volunteer. Thus, we are constantly looking for more mentors and instructors willing to educate and encourage girls to get started with Drupal.
 
The Drupal 8 Companion Guide is another project that is part of Drupal Girls and which I presented at Drupal Europe in Darmstadt last year. It has still some work in progress, but I will do my best to publish it soon. It is a structured and portable reference manual to various Drupal materials which both learners and instructors can adopt anytime, anywhere.

It aims to help beginners focus on the important concepts without losing too much time in a prolonged research and before they give up. I have been using it for conducting our workshops and courses as well as for building a curriculum for our Trio internship programs for university students. We are planning to provide it to high schools this autumn, too. Of course, the guide can also be used in a self-paced & self-study manner by newcomers on their journey through the Drupal realm.
 
In the meantime, I enjoy being a speaker at Drupal conferences and sharing my knowledge, experience or lessons learnt with the folks there. I particularly like the lively discussions at the end of the sessions, and I am always looking forward to them. One of the local camps that is especially important for me is Drupal Bootcamp Plovdiv and I am very proud to be among its organizers.

It is a two-day conference for total beginners that consists of various presentations, discussions, quizzes and workshops. At the end of the conference, every participant has their own project and a good basic understanding of Drupal.

We have been doing it for a third year in a row and I absolutely love to see new eager-to-learn eyes every time! In addition, thanks to the latest changes on community projects on drupal.org, I am also happy to give credits to our great speakers and mentors!

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

Ah, there are so many great Drupal initiatives and projects that I simply cannot list them all. Of course, the first three that come up to my mind are the Drupal 9, the Admin UI & JavaScript Modernisation and the Documentation strategic initiatives. These folks are doing a wonderful job and they deserve our respect.

As a developer, I am deeply interested in the D8DX: Improving the D8 developer experience community initiative. Since I come from a Drupal 7 world, and I remember the multi-language combinations and struggles there, I cannot forget to mention how impressed and grateful I am to the Multilingual initiative!

Finally, the Promote Drupal initiative is really important to us all and should definitely be highlighted!

As for projects, I am particularly fond of Thunder: we have been using it as a foundation for developing our own distribution and I enjoy being one of the devs working on it. I also like Drupal Commerce and I am always happy to see new e-shops built on it. Most definitely, every project on drupal.org deserves a recognition for all the efforts of their maintainers and contributors!

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

When I am not busy with Drupal, I volunteer the rest of my time to Coding Girls as an education manager, instructor and mentor. Coding Girls is an international organization promoting an increased presence of girls and women in technology, leadership and entrepreneurship. We have communities in different cities around the world and are constantly growing.

I am the community leader of Coding Girls Plovdiv in my hometown, where we have been organizing free meetups, courses, workshops and all kinds of tech events for more than two years. Apart from the summer break, we are quite busy as we have an event almost every Thursday. This is how I have gained solid experience in organizing events and I enjoy it a lot!

Besides, now I have the chance to do the thing I love as much as programming – teaching. I know how important mentorship is and I am happy to do it for other people, to pay it forward. :)

Jul 09 2019
Jul 09

Here’s a quick recap of our blog posts from last month. Check it out and revisit your favorite ones!

Interview with Mario Hernandez of Mediacurrent: Contributing to Drupal through workshops and training

We began with another interview in our Drupal Community Interviews series; for this one, we talked with Mario Hernandez, Senior Frontend Developer at Mediacurrent. He was first acquainted with the power of Drupal in 2007 when he was working for the Federal Government.

Even then, during version 6, he was impressed with Drupal’s powerful backend which allowed him to focus on the frontend with which he has more experience. One of his favorite recent developments is the shift from PHP templates to the Twig template engine.

But Mario’s proudest contribution doesn’t have that much to do directly with code - what he enjoys the most is actually providing training and conducting workshops, especially at smaller events where people are very eager to learn. Mediacurrent’s plan is to expand their offerings and start providing custom training that goes beyond just Drupal. 

Read more

Burnout: Symptoms of developer burnout & ways to tackle it

Moving on, we have a somewhat longer blog post that deals with burnout; namely, how to spot the symptoms of burnout when managing a team of developers and what measures to take to prevent burnout from occurring and/or alleviate it when it does occur. 

While burnout is a general problem for workers, it’s especially relevant in the development industry, with higher and higher demands for developers (and from these developers). The first step to preventing it is to be on the lookout for its symptoms, such as lack of energy/motivation, isolation, a decreased quality of work, etc. 

Other preventive measures include a pleasant working environment, enough exercise and motivation, as little overtime as possible and generally a healthy work-life balance. On the individual level, the most important thing is enjoying your work and knowing your limits.

Read more

Interview with Cindy McCourt, Drupal trainer and author

Our second community interview in June featured Cindy McCourt, consultant at IDCM Innovations, Drupal trainer and author. Even when she discovered Drupal in version 4.5, Cindy knew that Drupal was going in the right direction by offering what she calls a data management system rather than a page management system. 

Having managed numerous HTML pages, she knows the importance of code and content reuse, as well as the power of databases and what it takes to integrate websites and databases. Because of Drupal’s powerful capabilities in this area, choosing to work with it was a no-brainer for her.

As a trainer, Cindy emphasizes the importance of good and respectful communication within the Drupal community, pointing out that Drupal is free because a lot of people have dedicated their free time and effort to the project, without necessarily having to. 

Read more

Recap of Acquia's webinar on Content as a Service

The last post we wrote in June was a recap of Acquia’s webinar on content as a service, titled “Shifting from Single Channel to Multichannel Content”. Dries Buytaert and Jake Wilund talked about the challenges of multichannel content and presented Acquia’s upcoming CaaS solution, Content Cloud. 

Since people consume content through different channels across their digital journey, it’s important to produce content that works and is relevant across all these channels. There are three steps crucial to this: standardizing content structures across systems and channels; auditing existing content repositories; and defining the roles and responsibilities involved. 

Some of the features that stood out the most from the Content Cloud demo were API-first, easy inclusion of rich media and easy maintenance of content through multiple systems. If you can’t wait for the official release, you can sign up for beta access here.

Read more

We hope you liked revisiting our content from June. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts, make sure to check our blog every once in a while - we’re sure you’ll find something that interests you!

Jul 05 2019
Jul 05

Just like every month, we’ve been reading a lot of interesting content related to Drupal and have prepared a short selection of our favorite Drupal-related posts from June. It wasn’t exactly a straightforward task, what with so many quality blog posts, but we’ve managed to narrow it down to the following list. We hope you enjoy the read!

Promote Drupal Status Update

The first post on June’s list is an update on the status of the Promote Drupal Initiative from the Drupal Association’s blog, written by Tim Lehnen who has just finished with his role as the interim executive director of the Association in June. 

The post begins with the conception of the initiative, as well as its purpose, which is to provide decision-makers with helpful material for the adoption of Drupal. Then, Tim provides an update on the progress of the first two phases of Promote Drupal which are well on their way to completion. 

Finally, he outlines some next steps of the initiative and finishes the post with a CTA inviting individuals and agencies to dedicate some of their time to participating in the initiative and promoting Drupal.

Read more

Adventures with Drupal's Layout Builder

The next post that stood out to us is Fuse Interactive’s Adventures with Drupal’s Layout Builder. The Layout Builder had been, until the recent 8.7 release, an experimental module that entered the Drupalverse in version 8.5. Now that it’s a part of Drupal’s core, it makes sense to start using it as much as we can to discover all its capabilities. 

In this post, Niall Morgan from the Fuse Interactive team relates their experience with using the module and provides some guidance for setting it up, even including a section on creating your own layout templates. He concludes the post with some points for further discussion, e.g. custom styling to blocks and sections via config options and utility classes.

Read more

Boost your speed with lazy images

Another post that caught our attention was one by James Williams of ComputerMinds on lazy loading images. With such a high pressure on websites to load everything super fast, it’s become crucial to optimize our images for our websites and web applications.

A really efficient way of doing this is making images load lazily. That means that they’re only loaded when the image is scrolled up into the user’s view. This is achieved by first using the data-src html attribute instead of the regular src, then loading the image with JavaScript when it’s observed as being in the view. 

James provides the code for setting up an intersection observer in Drupal, as well as some tips for further customization, such as including placeholder images.

Read more

The distributed CMS: How the decoupled CMS endgame will impact your organization

While not exactly a Drupal-specific post, this next one has such important implications for the future of content management systems in general that we felt it definitely deserves a mention. It was written by Preston So and discusses the fourth wave of content management systems - the distributed CMS.

He begins with some basics concerning the current channel explosion and a brief overview of modern web development, then goes on to explain the decoupled CMS and outlines three reasons for its widespread popularity: pipelined development, interchangeable presentation layers and API convergence. 

Finally, he describes the emerging distributed CMS, or content mesh, in which the presentation layer itself as well as the services within this presentation layer are both interchangeable. A great example of a technology which enables this is Gatsby.

Read more

An Overview for Migrating Drupal Sites to 8

As its title already suggests, the subject of this post written by Lullabot’s Juampy NR is migration to Drupal 8 from previous versions of Drupal (namely, D7 in the examples given by Juampy). 

The post first explains migration files and the different approaches to migrating configuration and content. Migrations can be done in two ways: either by automatically generating migrations with the Migrate Upgrade module or by writing them by hand, which is the better choice when the content model undergoes significant changes. 

All in all, Juampy’s post provides all the basics you need to know when migrating your existing Drupal site to Drupal 8. The Migrate Upgrade module really simplifies this process, so he advises to make use of it even when writing migrations manually. 

Read more

Announcing a private beta of Acquia Content Cloud

Moving on with our list, we have a blog post by Dries announcing Acquia’s new content-as-a-service solution called Acquia Content Cloud. It’s an invaluable resource for marketers and content editors to effortlessly create content than can be reused and published across numerous channels. 

Content Cloud is especially handy for larger organizations with a large number of sites or applications and content creators. It allows for easy governance of these content creators and easy synchronization of content across channels. 

This new product was unveiled at the Acquia Engage conference in London and is currently in beta phase; you can get a taste of it by watching the demo video included in Dries’ post and/or signing up here for the private beta.

Read more

Looking good Drupal, looking good!

Drupal’s authoring experience used to be quite lacking, especially when compared with a CMS such as WordPress where the authoring experience is really intuitive. This changed, however, with the arrival of Drupal 8. 

In this post, Glenn Hodgkinson of Thinkbean looks at the three main areas of the improved AX in Drupal 8: the Gutenberg editor adopted from WordPress, the Layout Builder which has just recently become a part of core, and better management of media entities. 

Thanks to these newly introduced features, content creators now have a lot more control over their content and don’t need to rely so heavily on developers, which brings Drupal’s authoring capabilities on par with its technical capabilities. 

Read more

The Myth of Inaccessible React

Finally, we have a post by Mediacurrent’s Ben Robertson in which he dispels the myth of React having very poor accessibility. It’s a common misconception that JavaScript libraries have accessibility issues and, with React being one of the most popular ones, it often takes the blame. 

However, this is not the case in Ben’s experience. In his blog post, he explains how developers can use the accessibility tools available to React to greatly diminish the number of accessibility errors in their code. Specifically, he takes a look at linting tools, the react-axe library and Storybook. 

If you just want to see first-hand how things work or need to set up a project quickly, Ben also provides a Gatsby starter with all these tools already built in.

Read more

This concludes our list of the top Drupal posts from June. If you enjoyed it, feel free to visit our blog and check out our other posts!
 

Jun 30 2019
Jun 30

On Thursday, June 27, 2019, Acquia held a webinar on the topic of content as a service, titled “Shifting from Single Channel to Multichannel Content”. 

Speakers Dries Buytaert and Jake Wilund presented the challenges of multichannel content and what a content-as-a-service (CaaS) platform looks like, topped with a sneak peek into an upcoming new feature of Acquia - Content Cloud. 

While the slides and video will be available publicly in the coming days, we wanted to provide a way for everyone who missed the webinar to get some insight into what it was all about without having to wait for said slides and video, or without having to watch the entire video if they don't have the time.

For this reason, we decided to write up a recap of the most salient and relevant points from the presentation and the subsequent discussion. So, if you were unable to attend the webinar or just want a refresher, this blog post is for you.

We’ll make sure to update it as soon as the slides and videos are available so that you’ll have all the information easily accessible from one place (which is very much in line with the topic of the webinar). 

Challenges users face with relation to content

A user experiences a brand and its content through different channels along their digital journey. This means that every touchpoint you have with your customers is a chance to strengthen the relationship they have with your brand - or to weaken it.

Basically, we’ve moved beyond simply the web; we’re now in a multichannel world. Because of this, organizations must deliver great customer experiences across different channels: experiences that are relevant, personalized, easy to navigate and work across different devices. 

Content is the fundamental building block of a good digital experience, so you need to make sure that the content you produce is of a high quality and experientially relevant. 

Multichannel content challenge

A multichannel approach, naturally, demands that more content is created for more channels, and the creation of this content needs to happen at a faster pace. 

Additionally, each new channel means a new system for both authors and developers, which translates into more time and resources needed for onboarding. Because of this, having a single source of truth for the latest content is critical, as is the use and reuse of this content. 

Reducing complexity is a cross-organization problem. With a lot of authors working across numerous sites, it’s hard to keep track of and reuse content, as well as manage all of these content creators across different platforms. 

Working in silos creates disjointed digital experiences. Each time you add a channel, you need a new technology system which supports that channel (e.g. e-commerce -> Magento). These solutions are independent platforms, disjointed already when there’s just a few of them - but what if there are hundreds of these technology systems?

Best practices for multichannel experiences

There are three key steps to starting the shift from single to multichannel experiences from a content perspective. They are:

  1. Standardize content structures across all systems and channels. Experience builders and authors need to have consistency, so make content structures uniform across channels.
  2. Audit your existing content repositories. It’s already been pointed out that content reuse is imperative, but if you don’t know where the content is located, it’s easy to miss it.
  3. Define the critical roles and responsibilities involved in content creation. You need standardization and governance of your content structures, so that you always know who’s responsible for creating and/or publishing content.

Content-as-a-service platform (CaaS platform)

A CaaS platform provides simplified, headless content creation that is independent of delivery channel, which enables organizations to support multichannel digital experiences with the “COPE” model (create once, publish everywhere). 

Structured content is the content that can be used to power digital experiences. A CaaS platform should enable a great authoring experience. 

Sneak peak into Acquia Content Cloud

Attendees of the webinar even got a sneak peek into Acquia Content Cloud, an upcoming new tool for content creators to easily create headless experiences and integrate APIs. 

If you’re eager to give Content Cloud a try, you can apply for a private beta. In the meantime, here are the features that stood out to us from the presentation and the demo video:

  • Marketers can write, edit and approve content, independent of where it will be used.
  • Content can be maintained through multiple disconnected systems.
  • It allows for easy inclusion of rich media: images, videos, animations, etc.
  • API-first means that it supports decoupled/headless experiences on any channel. 
  • It integrates with new and existing Drupal sites, allowing for easy content syndication. 
  • It’s built for teams and enterprises to streamline content creation. Enterprises need a lot of control over who gets access to what content, so governance capabilities are a priority. 

In a nutshell, Content Cloud provides a SaaS-based content authoring experience. It caters to the different desired capabilities of managers, who want governance and insights into authors, and developers, who need to build content-driven applications and need fast headless capabilities. 

Q&A session

Q: Is Content Cloud built on Drupal?
A: Yes, Acquia started investing heavily in headless Drupal, and this investment can be carried forward into this project. But, not to worry - you won’t need to install and set up Drupal when using Content Cloud, you’ll have everything already enabled.

Q: How does Content Cloud support integrations with other channels?
A: Any piece of content authored in Content Cloud can seamlessly flow into any other existing Drupal 8 application - it will provide a central authoring experience. Out-of-the-box JSON:API functionality will be included. The long-term goal is to build more native integrations, but the team must first determine which of these will have the most impact, as maintaining them can be very costly.

Q: Which version of Drupal is Content Cloud built in?
A: It’s built with the newest versions of Drupal - the beta is in 8.7, for example. But, since it’s CaaS software, customers won’t need to worry about the version.

Q: Does Content Cloud replace the need for a CMS for each of your websites?
A: No, Content Cloud is a content repository, but it still needs to be displayed out in the web. It doesn’t replace websites per se, but it does simplify them and makes it easier to maintain them - all the authoring happens in one place, the website then functions only as the presentation and interaction layer. It can also help accelerate new site builds, since configuration is also retained. A channel is essentially a destination for content, and CMS will remain just that.

Q: How will Content Cloud integrate with the personalization solution Acquia Lift?
A: Any piece of content authored in Content Cloud will be stored in the Acquia Content Hub, which is the source of personalization; this means that any piece of content authored in Content Cloud will be immediately available in Acquia Lift. The view mode will also be stored in Content Hub.

Q: What’s the difference between decoupled and headless CMS?
A: Dries uses these two terms interchangeably, though, technically, they aren’t the same thing. Headless means no head, it is an API-only platform to which you need to add the head. Decoupled, on the other hand, means that there is both an API and a head. You can use APIs to build a new head or additional heads. Content Cloud is headless as it has no presentation layer for the content. The newly emerging terms “CaaS” and “Agile CMS” also overlap with these two definitions. 

Q: Will there be a data analytics component to Content Cloud?
A: Analytics is a key piece of Acquia’s vision, they want to give content creators insights into the performance of their content. The long-term vision is to build tools for content creators to create better, more effective content. This doesn’t just include analytics, but also guidance to authors while they’re creating content (real-time suggestions, e.g. if something won’t work well for SEO, or if something is off-brand). The goal is to create an authoring experience that outputs really good structured content, something that is perfect for authors and marketers. 

Q: Can Content Cloud post directly to a Drupal 8 site?
A: Generally speaking, publication will be orchestrated across channels via releases, but technically it can also post directly if the workflow is such. 

Q: Is there a predefined set of content types? Or can you create your own?
A: It will be shipped with some default content structures (primarily a predefined set of media types), but all the other content types are going to be completely customizable.

Q: When will Content Cloud be available to the general audience?
A: The plan is to ship it at the end of the year, but the insights they learn from the beta phase might push back the release date. 

Conclusion

Well, this is it for our recap of Acquia’s webinar. We hope you were able to get a better grasp of the topic and the capabilities of Content Cloud, or rediscovered something that you missed or that has slipped your mind since the webinar. 

The shift to multichannel content is likely to become an important topic as the technologies and devices via which we consume content become more and more diverse, so it makes sense to start planning for it now rather than wait until the last possible moment.

We can probably expect a lot more content on the subject matter. Preston So's idea of a "distributed CMS" is also very much in line with multichannel content and the Caas platform; check out his blog post if you want to find out more about it.

As promised, we'll update this post when the slides and video are available. Hopefully this recap has given you enough food for thought until then.

Jun 28 2019
Jun 28

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

For this week's interview, we spoke with Cindy McCourt, consultant at IDCM Innovations, Drupal trainer, and author and co-author of several books ranging from Drupal to fantasy fiction. Give it a read to see what drew her to Drupal and why she thinks it'll continue to be a great solution to site builders' and developers' needs.

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

Professionally, my passion is empowering future site owners to understand their options for creating a Drupal site. Then, if I can’t be in on the front end, I help site owners learn how to use their new site. The books I have authored and co-authored on Drupal reflect my desire to help as well. 

As for the community, I do what others do. I give back using my skill sets. Coders give code. I am a builder, so I teach people how to build sites with Drupal as part of the Drupal Global Training Days

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

I discovered Drupal 4.5 when performing an open source content management system review for a client. Of the 20+ systems that I reviewed fourteen years ago, I chose Drupal for my own use. I felt that Drupal offered what I like to call a data management system, versus a page management system. I liked where Drupal was going with this idea and haven't been disappointed. 

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

When I found Drupal, I walked away from HTML pages and Dreamweaver. I’ve never been one that looks for the opportunity to code. It’s just not my thing. I like tools that help me get a job done. 

For example, if you've ever managed hundreds or thousands of HTML pages, like I have, you know that code and content reuse is required if you want to be efficient. Drupal offers that.

Also, if you have ever built an online data management system, you know the power of databases and what's required to integrate web pages and said database (even if coding is fun). So, to have that done for you, for free? To me, selecting Drupal is a no-brainer. 

As for a moment in time that I remember, the day I installed Drupal on my server to test it for my client. That was a game changer for me, as you can guess from my comments. Today's version of Drupal might be light years from D4.5, but even back then Drupal's concepts were where websites needed to be.

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

"Drupal is an open source content management system used to build websites and online applications." I assume I heard this somewhere from someone, or something similar. Anyway, I usually get nods of understanding with that statement. 

If someone is interested in knowing more, I let them guide the discussion based on their needs. Given I can fill many pages of a book, I can also go on and on about several aspects of Drupal if you let me.

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

Like I mentioned before, I saw Drupal as a data management system and over the years, it has exceeded my expectations. Nothing has happened to make me believe that Drupal will not continue to provide site builders with the micro tools needed to create what they need.

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

Compared to the actual coders in the community who enabled Drupal’s success, I have nothing to brag about. I do my best to submit observations when I see something wrong. I try to be respectful when asking for help. And, when I teach Drupal classes, I speak firmly on the fact that there is no room for curt and disrespectful behavior when communicating with the community. Drupal is free because a lot of really smart people have contributed their time and know-how to make it so. They didn't have to.

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

I am talking with a developer colleague and friend about writing a Drupal 9 how-to book. 

If we can come up with something fresh, it will be a combination of a planning and click instruction book with insights based on the 20+ cumulative years of experience between the two of us. The development approach being used as Drupal moves towards D9 offers us a chance to plan now for next year.
 

Jun 21 2019
Jun 21

Burnout is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem, especially in a field as fast-paced as development. With more and more businesses undergoing a digital transformation, the demand for experienced developers has never been higher - and with it, naturally, come higher and higher demands from these developers.

This is further accentuated by the work- and career-oriented mentality we see widespread today. You can frequently spot people on social media either bragging or complaining about how hard or how long they’ve worked, but, even in the first case, such a workflow is certainly not sustainable. 

It’s true that more work yields more profit; but what good is profit when one’s mental health, and by consequence also physical health, suffer on account of work overload?

Another reason for burnout that should also be mentioned, besides excessive working hours, is a general dissatisfaction with how the work is done and a suboptimal workplace experience. 

In fact, we could argue that monotony or having very little control over one’s work is even more detrimental than working really long hours. Put the two together and you’re practically calling for burnout to arrive. 

In this post, we’ll explore how you can spot the symptoms of your developers burning out and how you can mitigate or even prevent developer burnout. 

In the first part, we’ll focus on the symptoms of burnout; in the second, we’ll take a look at how to reduce the risks of burnout as a developer, as well as what measures to take as a manager to reduce those risks in your team and mitigate burnout when it happens.

Symptoms of burnout - and how to spot them

Let’s start with the symptoms of burnout. Logically, it’s easier to spot these through self-reflection (e.g. you notice a lack of energy and/or motivation, you start suffering from headaches, etc.), but it’s even more crucial for managers to be able to spot them in their employees. So, let's take a look at what signs to look for as indicators that your developers are burning out.

  • They’re lacking energy and/or motivation: this is likely the most obvious symptom of burnout, but should nonetheless be mentioned. If you notice that certain developers on your team constantly seem sleepy and unmotivated, especially in a more hectic period, this should be a red flag that something is wrong.
  • They’re frequently late to work: in line with the previous point, sleepiness and late working hours may result in sleeping through morning alarms and consequently arriving late. The first instinct would be to scold or punish the person in question, but a deeper investigation may reveal other reasons for it - especially if they still seem lacking in energy after arriving late, and this happens on a relatively regular basis.
  • They’ve isolated themselves and stopped talking to coworkers: this can be difficult to spot in employees who are more introverted by nature, or those who work on specific projects that don’t require as much collaboration (or even disallow it altogether, e.g. when working under a very strict NDA). This means that you need to be extra mindful of these employees so that potential signs of their burnout don’t go overlooked. 
  • They’ve stopped participating at meetings: this point is similar to the previous one in that it concerns a kind of isolation. If someone is physically present at meetings, but “not really there” in the practical sense, it can either be because they have so much on their mind already, or because they’re too tired to actively participate. Both of these can be signs of burnout. 
  • The quality of their work has decreased: if you notice an increase of bugs and mistakes in a certain developer’s code, or if they take longer than usual to solve relatively simple tasks that involve familiar technologies, this could indicate that they’re suffering from burnout. Make sure to thoroughly explore this possibility before you sanction them.

Granted, some of these are almost impossible to spot if you have a freelancer or a team of developers working for you remotely. In such a case, you should also look for the following indicators: a remote worker fails to do certain tasks, or delivers them very late, they stop responding to calls and direct messages, they fail to track their time, etc. 

A word of warning, though: most of the points we’ve discussed here can be indicators of other issues, not necessarily burnout, but also personal issues such as family troubles and health issues (but, again, these could be the result of burnout, so it’s a bit of a “chicken-and-egg” situation). 

Nevertheless, if you are an open company that has a healthy company culture and a pretty good grasp of the goings-on in the lives of your employees (without being too Big Brother-y, of course), you can assume these are symptoms of burnout - especially if they start appearing in periods that demand more, or more difficult, work than usually. 

As a manager or a CEO of a smaller company, you need to communicate frequently and clearly with your subordinates and establish a trusting relationship with them. This will make it more likely that they’ll be willing to open up to you about their work and any difficulties they might be facing, and getting to know them will help you spot that something is off.

This holds true for teammates as well - be mindful of changes in your coworkers’ behavior that may indicate that they are overworked and on a path towards burnout. It’s much easier to spot something when you’re aware of it and know what you’re looking for. 

A very useful tool for collecting feedback from your employees, which we at Agiledrop also make good use of, is Officevibe. By guaranteeing anonymity, it gives those individuals who don’t want to expose themselves a chance to voice their opinions and/or dissatisfactions. With it, you’ll be able to get honest feedback and therefore a better overview of your team.

How to prevent or mitigate burnout

Well, the first thing you can do to deal with burnout is to know how to spot it - we already discussed this in the previous section. The problem here is that this is only possible once someone is already suffering from burnout, so it’s not really a preventive measure. 

In this second part of the post, we’ll take a look at some ways of effectively preventing burnout and also dealing with it when it does occur. We’ll start with what you can do to prevent yourself from burning out and how to recover from burnout; while this is primarily aimed at developers, it can apply to anyone, in particular everyone working in the digital. 

What you can do as a developer

  • Find a job you enjoy doing at a company which respects you: this is some of the best advice even outside the context of burnout and is as such a no-brainer. If you enjoy your work and get a sense of accomplishment out of it, even longer working hours become less of a problem. In contrast, doing something you don’t enjoy or take pride in will likely lead to burnout even with a regular 8-hour workday. 
  • Understand that some days are harder than others: if you expect too much from yourself and always want to give 110%, you’re setting yourself up for dissatisfaction. Don’t beat yourself up if you perform a little less optimally on certain days. If you maintain an overall high quality of your work, your manager will know that you’ll more than compensate on other days. 
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew: this coincides with the previous point to some extent. If you want to please everyone, people start to take advantage of that, often completely subconsciously. Things then quickly pile up and, before you know it, you’re swamped with tasks that give you less time to do the really important things, resulting in worrying and the inability to separate work from your personal life.
  • Maintain healthy habits: this helps both with preventing burnout as well as alleviating it once it’s already there. If you eat well and get enough sleep and exercise, you’ll be able to start each day fresh enough to tackle your daily tasks even in the more hectic periods. When you feel that you’re already burning out, you can do a lot by reestablishing a healthy sleep cycle and taking a short exercise break during your work. 

The bottom line is essentially this: the better you feel, the less likely you are to burn out. If you take proper care of yourself and enjoy what you do and the workplace experience in general, you’ll have already greatly diminished the chances of burnout occurring. 

Know your limits and remember that your company also benefits from you putting yourself first, so don’t overwork yourself in the belief that it’s beneficial to business. Chronic fatigue can be a very nasty thing - it’s relatively innocuous, but stubbornly everpresent. In extreme cases, it can even lead to short- or long-term illness, paving the way for even more health issues down the road. 

What you can do as a manager / CEO

Ok, we’ve outlined some of the things you can do to prevent yourself from burning out. Let’s now take a look at what measures to take as a manager to reduce the risks of burnout occurring in your team or, if it does occur, how to at least alleviate it. 

  • Provide a good working environment: naturally, employee well-being starts with a pleasant working environment. This includes healthy snacks, coffee, an agreeable atmosphere and good working conditions. A very important thing here is ergonomic equipment, which goes a long way towards improving at least the physical health of your employees.
  • Encourage and allow exercise: unfortunately, even ergonomic desks and eye-friendly displays aren’t enough for someone who has to spend countless hours hunched over their keyboard. You should encourage exercise, in and outside the workplace; it doesn’t have to be long, just something that stretches the muscles (especially the back!) and breaks the monotony. 
  • Allocate certain times of the day for breaks: you can connect this to the previous point - allow for short breaks in the workplace which developers can use either to get coffee, some exercise or for a non-work-related chat among colleagues. This should be available on a daily basis.
  • Organize teambuilding activities that encourage interaction and participation without forcing them: for longer stretches of time, organize events and teambuilding activities that bring the whole team together. We at Agiledrop frequently have common themed lunches, short presentations by developers on specific topics (not obligatory in any way, but always rewarded), group sports and other activities - next weekend, for example, we’re going kart racing! 
  • Motivate your employees with regular constructive feedback and praise for a job well done: lack of motivation in one’s work is one of the major causes of burnout. In contrast, feeling motivated and getting the deserved recognition can help weather through even the toughest days or weeks. If you acknowledge the hard work of your employees, you’re showing them that their extra effort is appreciated and not simply taken for granted. 
  • Reduce overtime and weekend work: in a perfect world, we’d all have weekends to ourselves, reserved for some quality family time or simply a break from a hard week’s work. Sadly, though, industry demands make the total elimination of overtime a hopeful utopia. At Agiledrop, we understand how crucial this time-off is for our employees and consequently to our overall work culture. We try to keep overtime to a minimum; even when it’s necessary, we coordinate it with the developer well beforehand. 
  • Allow for flexible working arrangements: for someone working on-site, the opportunity to work from home every once in a while can be extremely rejuvenating, especially in a period with a lot of work where the commute itself is already exhausting. But, be careful: while working remotely can mitigate burnout, it can also accentuate it, as the lines between work and free time become more blurred, especially for individuals who are very work-oriented. Ben Robertson of Mediacurrent has recently written about his very efficient solution to dealing with this.
  • Ensure a healthy work-life balance of your employees: while a lot of the points in this section are directly tied to this, a healthy balance between work and free time is so vital to preventing burnout that we believe it deserves its own slot. Guaranteeing our employees’ happiness and ensuring this balance are among our top priorities at Agiledrop. We wrote briefly about work-life balance and motivating our team in this blog post
     

Conclusion

While burnout is admittedly a persistent problem, there exist a number of ways of effectively preventing and tackling it. Being aware of it and implementing preventive measures into your very work culture is already half the battle. 

We hope we were able to shed some light on the issue of burnout and provided some guidelines, or at least inspiration, to counteract it. Have any more ideas on how to deal with developer burnout? Or have you spotted other symptoms of burnout in yourself or your team? If we missed something, please let us know! 

Jun 18 2019
Jun 18

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

Meet Mario Hernandez, Senior Frontend Developer at Mediacurrent. With over 10 years of experience in Drupal, Mario has seen the CMS evolve significantly throughout the years. Read on to find out more about some of Mediacurrent's most interesting projects and what aspect of his work Mario enjoys the most.

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

I am a Senior Front End Developer at Mediacurrent and the majority of my contribution to the Drupal community is around conducting training workshops and writing blog posts. In the past I’ve contributed to the Out Of The Box initiative and also helped with the implementation of the Simplify Menu module.

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

Back in 2007 I was working for the Federal Government in Los Angeles as a developer and was tasked with building an Emergency Preparedness website which would provide access to resources to employees for disaster recovery in the event of a major disaster. I looked and tested several content management systems and ultimately decided on Drupal as it was the one which provided the most flexibility and ability to scale.

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

I believe after building the website I cited above, I realized the power of Drupal. As a Front End Developer with minimum programming experience, I realized Drupal could do all the heavy lifting for me in the Back-End while I focus on my area of expertise, Front-End. Nowadays and for the past 20+ years I’ve been making a living building Drupal Websites for some of the most well known brands in the world.

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

First I find out if they are familiar with content management systems at all and tell them Drupal is like one of those but for enterprise level websites. If they know about WordPress or Powerpoint I draw some kind of comparison such as being open source or written in PHP. I also share examples of high profile websites built with Drupal. Best example is The Weather Channel website which most people use and I tell them we at Mediacurrent built it. (shameless plug).

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

I started working with Drupal 6 back in 2007 and it is great to see how far Drupal has come. As a Front-End developer going from PHP templates to Twig was a huge improvement. Mobile first and accessibility have improved drastically from the old days. Other significant improvements are APIs, Layout Builder and Configuration Management. Lastly, the promise of a better upgrade path will be a big win for people building websites as well as site owners when Drupal 9 is released.

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

Although I have made code contributions to the Drupal ecosystem, my proudest contribution is being able to provide training and technical resources for others to consume. I personally enjoy conducting training workshops at small camps where people are eager to learn. In most cases this contribution is free of charge but it is the most rewarding experience for me personally.

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

Mediacurrent recently introduced our own Drupal Distribution called Rain, which is an Enterprise Distribution. We have worked and continue to work very hard on providing a turn-key solution for anyone looking to build an enterprise level website. In addition to hand-picked modules and functionality, the Rain distribution provides an optional Decoupled front-end which runs on Gatsby. We are very proud of Rain and are excited to see what people build with it.

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

We at Mediacurrent are working hard to take our training offerings to a new level. We have great plans for providing custom training for teams and the community and are very excited to make Mediacurrent the go-to agency for training that goes beyond Drupal.  

Jun 18 2019
Jun 18

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

Meet Mario Hernandez, Senior Frontend Developer at Mediacurrent. With over 10 years of experience in Drupal, Mario has seen the CMS evolve significantly throughout the years. Read on to find out more about some of Mediacurrent's most interesting projects and what aspect of his work Mario enjoys the most.

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

I am a Senior Front End Developer at Mediacurrent and the majority of my contribution to the Drupal community is around conducting training workshops and writing blog posts. In the past I’ve contributed to the Out Of The Box initiative and also helped with the implementation of the Simplify Menu module.

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

Back in 2007 I was working for the Federal Government in Los Angeles as a developer and was tasked with building an Emergency Preparedness website which would provide access to resources to employees for disaster recovery in the event of a major disaster. I looked and tested several content management systems and ultimately decided on Drupal as it was the one which provided the most flexibility and ability to scale.

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

I believe after building the website I cited above, I realized the power of Drupal. As a Front End Developer with minimum programming experience, I realized Drupal could do all the heavy lifting for me in the Back-End while I focus on my area of expertise, Front-End. Nowadays and for the past 20+ years I’ve been making a living building Drupal Websites for some of the most well known brands in the world.

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

First I find out if they are familiar with content management systems at all and tell them Drupal is like one of those but for enterprise level websites. If they know about WordPress or Powerpoint I draw some kind of comparison such as being open source or written in PHP. I also share examples of high profile websites built with Drupal. Best example is The Weather Channel website which most people use and I tell them we at Mediacurrent built it. (shameless plug).

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

I started working with Drupal 6 back in 2007 and it is great to see how far Drupal has come. As a Front-End developer going from PHP templates to Twig was a huge improvement. Mobile first and accessibility have improved drastically from the old days. Other significant improvements are APIs, Layout Builder and Configuration Management. Lastly, the promise of a better upgrade path will be a big win for people building websites as well as site owners when Drupal 9 is released.

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

Although I have made code contributions to the Drupal ecosystem, my proudest contribution is being able to provide training and technical resources for others to consume. I personally enjoy conducting training workshops at small camps where people are eager to learn. In most cases this contribution is free of charge but it is the most rewarding experience for me personally.

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

Mediacurrent recently introduced our own Drupal Distribution called Rain, which is an Enterprise Distribution. We have worked and continue to work very hard on providing a turn-key solution for anyone looking to build an enterprise level website. In addition to hand-picked modules and functionality, the Rain distribution provides an optional Decoupled front-end which runs on Gatsby. We are very proud of Rain and are excited to see what people build with it.

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

We at Mediacurrent are working hard to take our training offerings to a new level. We have great plans for providing custom training for teams and the community and are very excited to make Mediacurrent the go-to agency for training that goes beyond Drupal.  

Jun 13 2019
Jun 13

Burnout is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem, especially in a field as fast-paced as development. With more and more businesses undergoing a digital transformation, the demand for experienced developers has never been higher - and with it, naturally, come higher and higher demands from these developers.

This is further accentuated by the work- and career-oriented mentality we see widespread today. You can frequently spot people on social media either bragging or complaining about how hard or how long they’ve worked, but, even in the first case, such a workflow is certainly not sustainable. 

It’s true that more work yields more profit; but what good is profit when one’s mental health, and by consequence also physical health, suffer on account of work overload?

Another reason for burnout that should also be mentioned, besides excessive working hours, is a general dissatisfaction with how the work is done and a suboptimal workplace experience. 

In fact, we could argue that monotony or having very little control over one’s work is even more detrimental than working really long hours. Put the two together and you’re practically calling for burnout to arrive. 

This two-part series explores how you can spot the symptoms of your developers burning out and how you can mitigate or even prevent developer burnout. In the first part, we’ll focus on the symptoms of burnout; in the second, we’ll take a look at how to reduce the risks of burnout as a developer, as well as what measures to take as a manager to reduce those risks and mitigate burnout when it happens.

Symptoms of burnout - and how to spot them

Let’s start with the symptoms of burnout. Logically, it’s easier to spot these through self-reflection (e.g. you notice a lack of energy and/or motivation), but it’s even more crucial for managers to be able to spot them in their employees. So, let's take a look at what signs to look for as indicators that your developers are burning out.

  • They’re lacking energy and/or motivation: this is likely the most obvious symptom of burnout, but should nonetheless be mentioned. If you notice that certain developers on your team constantly seem sleepy and unmotivated, especially in a more hectic period, this should be a red flag that something is wrong.
  • They’re frequently late to work: in line with the previous point, sleepiness and late working hours may result in sleeping through morning alarms and consequently arriving late. The first instinct would be to scold or punish the person in question, but a deeper investigation may reveal other reasons for it - especially if they still seem lacking in energy after arriving late, and this happens on a relatively regular basis.
  • They’ve isolated themselves and stopped talking to coworkers: this can be difficult to spot in employees who are more introverted by nature, or those who work on specific projects that don’t require as much collaboration (or even disallow it altogether, e.g. when working under a very strict NDA). This means that you need to be extra mindful of these employees so that potential signs of their burnout don’t go overlooked. 
  • They’ve stopped participating at meetings: this point is similar to the previous one in that it concerns a kind of isolation. If someone is physically present at meetings, but “not really there” in the practical sense, it can either be because they have so much on their mind already, or because they’re too tired to actively participate. Both of these can be signs of burnout. 
  • The quality of their work has decreased: if you notice an increase of bugs and mistakes in a certain developer’s code, or if they take longer than usual to solve relatively simple tasks that involve familiar technologies, this could indicate that they’re suffering from burnout. Make sure to thoroughly explore this possibility before you sanction them.

Granted, some of these are almost impossible to spot if you have a freelancer or a team of developers working for you remotely. In such a case, you should also look for the following indicators: a remote worker fails to do certain tasks, or delivers them very late, they stop responding to calls and direct messages, they fail to track their time, etc. 

A word of warning, though: most of the points we’ve discussed here can be indicators of other issues, not necessarily burnout, but also personal issues such as family troubles and health issues (but, again, these could be the result of burnout, so it’s a bit of a “chicken-and-egg” situation). 

Nevertheless, if you are an open company that has a healthy company culture and a pretty good grasp of the goings-on in the lives of your employees (without being too Big Brother-y, of course), you can assume these are symptoms of burnout - especially if they start appearing in periods that demand more, or more difficult, work than usually. 

As a manager or a CEO of a smaller company, you need to communicate frequently and clearly with your subordinates and establish a trusting relationship with them. This will make it more likely that they’ll be willing to open up to you about their work and any difficulties they might be facing, and getting to know them will help you spot that something is off.

This holds true for teammates as well - be mindful of changes in your coworkers’ behavior that may indicate that they are overworked and on a path towards burnout. It’s much easier to spot something when you’re aware of it and know what you’re looking for. 

A very useful tool for collecting feedback from your employees, which we at Agiledrop also make good use of, is Officevibe. By guaranteeing anonymity, it gives those individuals who don’t want to expose themselves a chance to voice their opinions and/or dissatisfactions. With it, you’ll be able to get honest feedback and therefore a better overview of your team.

Conclusion

Hopefully, we’ve shed some light on the main signs of developer burnout and how to spot them. If you want to learn more, make sure to check back early next week for part 2 of the series, in which we’ll dive into some ways of reducing the risks of burnout occurring or even preemptively preventing it. 

Other posts in this series:

  • Part 2: How to prevent or mitigate developer burnout (coming soon)
Jun 07 2019
Jun 07

May marked another important month for the Drupal community, with a new minor version of Drupal being released on May 1st and Acquia acquiring the open source marketing platform Mautic. In case you missed any of these important pieces of news, here’s an overview of the top Drupal blog posts from May.

Drupal 8.7.0 is available

Let’s start with the most salient piece of news - the release of Drupal 8.7.0. On the same day as it was released, Gábor Hojtsy already published a blog post presenting the new features of version 8.7.0 which also contained helpful information on what the release means for sites running on older versions. 

One of the most notable novelties in this release is a stable Layout Builder, but the now stable support for JSON:API should also be mentioned, since it’s a key milestone towards making Drupal API-first. Other features include improvements in the experimental Media Library, revisionable menus and taxonomy terms, and a more accessible Umami demo showcasing a greater number of features out of the box.

Read more

API-First Drupal: what's new in 8.7?

This next post is very similar to the previous one in that it presents some of what’s new in the newly released 8.7 version of Drupal. This one, though, written by Wim Leers, focuses more on the improvements in the context of API-first Drupal (as the title already makes clear). 

So, Drupal 8.7.0 has introduced improvements to both the REST and JSON APIs, with the latter receiving more and bigger improvements. One of the things that was fixed in both of these modules were the datetime and daterange fields, which now respect standards. While the REST module is still maintained on drupal.org, new releases of Drupal will only see new features for JSON:API.

Read more

Static searches with Drupal and Lunr

Moving on, we have a post from Samuel Mortenson’s blog on static search in Drupal with the JavaScript-based search engine Lunr. In this post, Samuel describes how he tackled the integration of Lunr with Drupal and what kinds of problems he encountered, one of the major ones being performance issues with large indexes. 

Another usability problem were facets, since Lunr lacks the ability to search by complex conditions and condition groups. Samuel’s solution was to make two separate queries, one for the search terms and one for all the fields, then finding the intersection of both results. The Drupal Lunr integration is now ready to be tested and put to use, and Samuel encourages everyone to try it out.

Read more

Sponsor a Feature

The fourth post on this month’s list is Jacob Rockowitz’s Sponsor a Feature, in which he describes the process of sponsoring features of open-source projects. He starts with the four vital steps: communication, documentation, agreement and payment, and explains each of them in further detail. 

The common understanding of open source as being free doesn’t mean that developers contributing code shouldn’t receive any payment. Sponsoring their work enables a greater number of people to start contributing while also making their work more sustainable. 

Since companies also benefit from open-source software contributed by volunteer developers, it makes sense to sponsor the work of these volunteers. This in turn also strengthens and diversifies the entire community.

Read more

Drupal 8 Configuration

Next on our list, we have a five-part series of posts by Jay Friendly of Morpht exploring the Drupal 8 Configuration API. The posts in the series cover the basics of the API, how it works and how to use it, how to extend it with contributed modules, and how developers can manage, declare and debug configuration in custom modules. 

Because Drupal is much more complex today than it used to be, with Drupal projects now running on multiple environments, consistent code should be used for all the site copies. Jay Friendly’s series gives helpful information on the Configuration API, making this effort easier. (Each post contains links to all the other parts, so we won't link all of them here.)

Read part 1

Why we no longer use Display Suite on new Drupal 8 projects

With Layout Builder becoming stable in Drupal 8.7.0, some previously useful modules have lost some of this usefulness and become a bit redundant. Saul Willers of PreviousNext gives the example of Display Suite, which is mainly used to position fields into layouts. Layout Builder now provides the alternative of using blocks to create layouts.  

As for the use case of Display Suite to control field markup, a good alternative is the Element Class Formatter module used in combination with Twig templates. As such, when starting a Drupal Project from scratch, it makes sense to use Layout Builder together with other solutions instead of Display Suite.

Read more

Acquia acquires Mautic to create the Open Digital Experience Platform

Acquia’s acquisition of Mautic was great news for both Drupal and the broader open-source community. For anyone not familiar with Mautic - it is an open-source alternative to proprietary marketing automation platforms such as Adobe’s Marketo

In this post, Dries stresses the importance of organizations having Digital Experience Platforms rather than simple websites and gives three main reasons why Acquia and Mautic are such a great match. 

Namely, the two platforms share the same technology stack and business model. And, thanks to this acquisition, Acquia can now disrupt the marketing automation market as the only open-source solution. Additionally, since Mautic is loved by both marketers and developers, it’s more open to innovations via integrations, which makes for a better customer experience.

Read more

The Giving Tree Called DrupalCon

The last post from May that we wanted to include is Kalamuna’s The Giving Tree Called DrupalCon. For this year’s DrupalCon in Seattle, they decided to put the money that’s typically used for swag to better use and do something good for the environment instead.

To this end, they partnered up with One Tree Planted and sponsored the planting of 450 trees in parts of California that were damaged by forest fires. They got the Drupal community involved by inviting them to plant stickers on the wall of their DrupalCon booth, and every sticker then turned into an actual tree planted. 

We love seeing examples of how we can make the world a better place by coming together. We wanted to round off this month’s list with one such example. Here’s to hoping that Kalamuna’s efforts inspire more people and businesses!

Read more

This was our selection of the most interesting Drupal blog posts and pieces of news from May. If you enjoy these recaps, make sure to check back early next month for a list of June’s posts. Till then - enjoy!
 

Jun 05 2019
Jun 05

Missed some of the blog posts we wrote in May? You can catch up on those you missed or revisit your favorite ones in this quick recap that we’ve prepared. We hope you enjoy!

Interview with Tim Lehnen: When you're trying to make a mark in the digital space, Drupal is your best choice

For the latest post in our Drupal Community Interviews series, we got a chance to talk to Tim Lehnen who has just finished with his position as the interim Executive Director of the Drupal Association, letting Heather Rocker assume the mantle. 

Tim believes Drupal has the potential to be used in any kind of ambitious digital experience, not just the web, but also trending new technologies such as VR and AR. This is also due to its leading position among omnichannel and decoupled solutions. Because of this, it will only continue to evolve and improve.

But our favorite part of the interview was probably what Tim remembers as one of the most notable moments within the Drupal community, when the Canadian company Evolving Web used their DrupalCon sponsorship time for a totally different purpose rather than for commercial promotion. Check out the whole interview to see what they did.

Read more

Optimizing Images with Drupal 8 Core Features

Next up, we have a post on optimizing images with the core features of Drupal 8, written by our developer Tjaša. Tjaša encountered the problem of having to optimize some images in Drupal and discovered that not much had been written on the subject. Staying true to the spirit of Drupal, she decided to share her solution with the community in a blog post that anyone can always have on hand. 

Out of the box, Drupal provides a great tool for optimizing images, called Image Styles. An image with the Scale image style assigned to it will load faster than one with no image styles, as the file size will be reduced; but this might also result in some loss of quality on a Retina display. For such screens, we should use an image style that’s twice as big as the first one.

We can achieve even faster loading times by adjusting the image quality. With the Responsive Images module, we can even fit the dimensions of an image to the specific screen type on which it’s served. For some additional optimization, we can also use lazy loading.

Read more

7 questions you're probably asking yourself when considering Open Social

The third post we wrote in May presents the Open Social Drupal distribution created by the GoalGorilla team. Open Social allows anyone to quickly and easily establish an online community, either with the paid SaaS version or the free open-source one. It offers a wide range of features, the usual as well as the more innovative ones, and a number of extensions for the SaaS option. 

The Open Social team provides a lot of helpful material for using it effectively, e.g. a blog section on community management and a free guide. As a user of the software, you even get a say in the project’s roadmap. 

A number of notable businesses are already using Open Social to empower people from the entire planet to collaborate, for example the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). The project’s co-founder Taco Potze excellently sums up what Open Social is all about in a quote that we’ve included - you’ll have to go look at the whole post to see what he had to say!

Read more

Interview with our developer Peter, one of the release managers of PHP 7.4

Our final post from last month is another interview - but this time not a Drupal Community interview. Peter Kokot, one of our developers, is a release manager of PHP 7.4 which is coming next week, and he was able to take the time to answer a few questions regarding the role and the new release.

Having always been interested in computers and related stuff, he felt drawn to open source and discovered PHP very early on in his programming career. Apparently he was doing something right, since members of the community actually nominated him to be one of the two release managers

He presented the responsibilities of a PHP release manager, new features that we can expect in the new release (as well as a spoiler for next year’s 8.0 major release!) and some challenges of this release. He also gave us some insight into the RFC voting process of the PHP community. We suggest you go read the whole interview and learn about the upcoming release straight from the horse’s mouth.

Read more

These were all of our blog posts from May. Tune in again next month when we’ll be doing a similar overview of this month’s posts. Cheers!
 

May 29 2019
May 29

Our developer Peter is one of the release managers of the upcoming PHP 7.4 release. Even though he has a lot on his plate right now, he was able to take the time to answer a few questions and give us a glimpse into what new features we can expect. Enjoy the read!

1. How did you first get involved with programming, in particular with PHP?

I got involved with programming during my time at university; I’ve been always interested in computers and this hacky, programming stuff. I discovered PHP very soon since it was very popular on the web development scene and so I started building websites with it. 

Back then we were using all kinds of spaghetti code frameworks and some first CMSes such as Mambo (which was then forked and became Joomla!), then we moved to open source frameworks, starting with PHP as early as in version 4. Following that, I started working with PHP more and more - and now here I am. 

With the arrival of GitHub and its impact on open source, I felt very drawn to open source. GitHub allowed people to connect on a totally different level, enabling easier collaboration of people from all over the world; it’s so widespread that people from anywhere on the planet can help and contribute patches to open source projects and this is also how I started contributing to PHP.

This was all on my own initiative; I was very interested especially in the open source framework Symfony which presented a huge leap for PHP and improved the PHP ecosystem drastically. Then I also got more interested in PHP in particular, i.e. the core and what is happening behind the scenes in PHP, and I started submitting patches there as well because I found some bugs and tried to fix them. 

2. How did you then get to the position of a PHP release manager? Did you volunteer?

No, I didn’t volunteer to be one of the release managers. Rather, I got nominated by the PHP internals community members. I do enjoy it, though. This is my first time as a release manager, so I’m still quite a newbie. Some people from the community also jokingly call me “newcomer”.

It’s quite a challenging project. There are established workflows and teams behind it so a lot of knowledge is needed to participate efficiently. On top of that, constructive and quality cooperation to get along with other community members and their workflows is essential.

3. What are the responsibilities and tasks of a PHP release manager?

A PHP release manager works periodically where he or she creates PHP distribution packages (tarballs) for the release candidate (RC) and stable releases every 2 weeks. With each release it needs to be checked if all tests pass and if changelogs are updated, and certain files needed for further compilation from the end users’ side need to be generated. Release announcements also need to be made over the mailing lists with each release. It is a very “long-distance” task, lasting for several years (minimum 3 years for the period of the particular PHP branch support). 

Here, I have to point out that I’m actually one of the two release managers - the other one being Derick Rethans, author of Xdebug, who is more familiar with PHP internals. This week we had our first meeting where we discussed and synced our workflows.

It can however be a very stressful task, since people expect a lot from you for tasks on an open source project. It all depends on people’s free time, because they usually have their daily lives with work and thus need to coordinate their time very well. Of course, the community expects the release to be done on the exact date, and everything needs to work without any problems, so that Drupal and other PHP projects work with the new version as flawlessly as possible.

So, we could definitely say that the role of a release manager entails both the more tech-oriented and the marketing aspects.

4. Did you encounter any challenges with the development of this minor release? What about with version 8.0 which is coming next year?

The 7.4 version is a minor, less important and mostly a boring release - this is good because upgrades will also be very simple from previous PHP 7 versions. The next major release, PHP 8.0, will have a bigger impact but it’s not yet certain which exact new features will be included, because the plan contains many of those which the community isn’t yet familiar with.

For PHP 7.4, however, there have been a lot of new features, e.g. the integration of the FFI (Foreign Function Interface) extension - a completely new extension. FFI opens up a new, broader world to PHP besides web development. For example, machine learning and similar. There are still some bugs though so it is still marked as experimental. It should get stabilized over time before the PHP 8 release.

So, with the current plan, on June 13th we’ll see the first alpha version of PHP 7.4. This one won’t be a feature freeze milestone yet. That one is planned for July 23rd. Up until that point we can include new features, not only bug fixes, but also new functionality.

This is where RFCs (Requests for Comments) come in. An RFC is a document for proposing changes to the PHP language.

The RFC process includes discussing a request on the mailing list and then it goes to a voting phase for 2 weeks if the initial feedback looks promising. So, for example, less than two weeks before the feature freeze we can no longer expect the RFC to appear in the PHP 7.4 version. In this case, it should then target the PHP 8.0 release.

In PHP, while this is an official process, someone who has been involved with a project for a very long time might still veto a certain RFC. This is something that happens very rarely though, but it did happen with one of the RFCs targeting the 7.4 release (deprecation of the short opening tags) - the community might not be super happy about it, but let’s see what comes out of it. There might still be other ways of solving this using a different deprecation way and future changes.

5. Besides the stuff we already discussed, what other new features can we expect in next month’s release? What about in PHP 8.0?

The 7.4 version actually has a lot of new features; they’re also listed here. There are some backwards incompatible changes which means that code will need to be tweaked a little in some cases. Strictly speaking, minor versions shouldn’t contain any backward incompatibilities. These should happen in the major release. However PHP seems to allow minor BC breaks here and there, so the language can progress further.

Besides the previously mentioned new FFI extension, an interesting new feature is preloading. It means loading PHP classes or functions directly into the memory. When you run the program, it works faster compared to usual autoloading approaches. This is a relatively small but important feature as it has long-term potential to be used instead of the autoloading in certain cases.

There are a ton of new features and some extensions were removed since they are no longer properly maintained. Typed Properties is another big thing, very useful for object-oriented programming.

One of the major new features in the next major release PHP 8.0 will certainly be JIT - Just-in-time compiling. It was planned for the 7.4 release but based on the RFC voting it was decided it’s still a bit too early to release it and more time is needed for thorough testing. It’s quite a different concept of compiling PHP code internally and in combination with the FFI extension it enables some really cool stuff because it opens up a whole new world of possibilities to PHP beyond just the web. 

6. What does it mean to you that the community has selected you as one of the release managers for this version?

It’s a very interesting role, so it’s interesting also from the point of view of experience and a chance to see how other open source projects are run, and most of all a chance to directly help out PHP the best I can.

I’m definitely happy with being chosen. In fact, I must admit that in the beginning it was mostly other people that were proud, but I quickly realized that this really is a big thing. You have to put a lot of work into it. Performing a task at specific times of a month is very very very exhausting; luckily, there are a number of people who feel very at home doing this, they can help out or even fill in. E.g. someone who’s an expert in a certain field can step in, so for example a 7.2 release manager can help out with the 7.3 release if someone goes on vacation, has to take a leave or something like that.

The new version has to be released, but there are of course human errors, it takes a lot of synchronization and good communication, as well as getting along with other people working on the project - if you don’t get along, you can’t collaborate effectively. 

7. Now that you’ve broken the ice, do you think the community will nominate you to be the release manager of a future release, maybe even a major one? Do you perhaps even plan on volunteering?

I’ll definitely continue contributing to PHP the best I can. I see PHP’s progress more through the extensions and PHP libraries contributed by the community, not so much through the core. I think the entire community is a vital part of PHP to function as it should and to be a successful language further on.

Oh, next week we’re hosting a local PHP meetup in our offices in Ljubljana, where I’ll also be presenting an interesting PHP topic, i.e. the upcoming PHP 7.4 version - you guessed it, right? :) It'll be a short presentation about the features of PHP 7.4, how to upgrade and what to expect. I’ll also briefly explain some PHP internals things. We’ll do our best to make it fun and interesting. :)

May 24 2019
May 24

There has been a lot of hype recently about emerging innovations in the digital field, with buzzwords such as AI, IoT, blockchain, AR & VR, 5G … and many more. 

But, looking from the other end of this fast-paced digital evolution, there’s another buzzword that’s quickly gaining ground: community.

In an era of ever-greater connectivity, interacting with like-minded individuals from anywhere in the world has never been easier. Some of the major tech giants of today have long since capitalized on our desire for human interaction and forming communities - we don’t even need to call any names (*cough*Facebook*cough*).

The community that’s best known to us is, of course, the Drupal community. Anyone who’s been in contact with Drupal knows at least a thing or two about its community, and has probably heard the now famous saying “Come for the code, stay for the community” (we know, we know, it’s getting kind of worn out - but it's very relevant here!).

Simultaneously leveraging Drupal’s open source code and contributing back to it, it is a very powerful, while also a very welcoming community, one that’s based on inclusivity and acceptance.

But what if Drupal’s versatile CMS could be extended to not benefit only its own community, but any community, anywhere in the world?

Enter Open Social - a Drupal distribution that enables anyone to quickly & easily set up a platform for their own community, no matter its size or needs. It comes out-of-the-box with a plethora of useful features; and, it’s open source, which means that if you’re at least somewhat familiar with development and CMS, it’s practically free to set up. 

1. What will I get if I decide on Open Social?

Open Social offers a wide range of useful features; they are too numerous to list all of them in this post, so we decided to just pick and showcase a select few. You can get more information about all its features on their website. Here are the ones that stood out to us the most:

  • Users can log in via social login, with accounts they have set up on other social networks such as Facebook.
  • Users can enhance their profiles with tags indicating their company and their role within the company.
  • Users can further connect and collaborate through creating events and groups.
  • Site managers can make use of analytics to track users’ behavior; on top of that, integration with Google Analytics is very easy.
  • Community managers can send bulk emails to community members.
  • Users’ email addresses are encrypted on the server, adding an extra layer of protection.
  • Thanks to its advanced risk analysis techniques, an Open Social community is safe from spam accounts.
  • The performance of an Open Social platform and all its pages is super fast (and we all know that the #1 reason for users not using a website is its poor performance!).

Of course, all the essentials, such as management of personal data and social features, are all also present in Open Social. If you go through the detailed list of features that we linked above, you’ll quickly be able to confirm that the team really took every little detail into consideration. 

What’s more, due to the platform’s open source status, you have way more control over yours and your users’ data than when setting up your community on one of the existing social platforms - we’ve all heard of the Facebook - Cambridge Analytica scandal

A bit later on, we’ll see how Open Social is a community effort in the truest sense of the word - and, logically so, since it was born out of a community as inclusive and welcoming as the Drupal community. 

2. How can I get even more out of Open Social?

But its countless features are not at all everything you can do with Open Social - if you opt for the enterprise package, you can customize your platform even more through its extensions. 

Again, rather than just copying and pasting all available extensions (which you can find listed here), we’ll focus more on the ones that appealed to us the most. So, to give you a taste:

  • WYSIWYG for Comments: community members don’t need to rely on markups to stylize their comments, but can instead leverage the what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor, familiar to all who have been working with CMS.
  • Google Translate: thanks to the integration with Google Translate, Open Social is the perfect fit for a multilingual and/or international community.
  • Crowd Innovation: likely the most interesting and innovative of all of these extensions, this feature allows communities to ideate and solve challenges together, through a true collective effort.

As you can probably surmise from these first two points alone, Open Social is much more than just a basic social platform. Its unique features account for every aspect of a great user experience, while at the same time making it as close as possible to a real-life community.

3. So far so good, but ... Is Open Social even the right fit for my community?

Well, based solely on the two previous points, it’d be more difficult to find a community for which Open Social isn’t a great fit. 

Basically, its high customizability makes it ideal for any type of community by enabling its members to exchange ideas, collaborate and ideate together. Open Social efficiently solves a paradox of social networks and online communities: users want the features that they’re used to using, but, at the same time, they want innovation. Open Social delivers in both of these aspects. 

Its wide range of available features and extensions allows you to tailor the platform to the specific needs of your community, while also retaining basic ones such as social sharing. Whether you need a platform for your thriving volunteer community, an extranet connecting stakeholders outside your organization, or a simple social network, Open Social will more than satisfy your needs.

If you’re at least somewhat familiar with development and CMS (Drupal in particular), there’s practically no reason not to give Open Social a shot. The only case where you should consider a different solution is if you lack development experience and/or have a small, self-contained community that isn’t focused on growth and needs just the basic social features.

4. Ok, then it just has to be costly and difficult to set up, right?

Aha - now we’ve come to the salient part that you’ve probably been eagerly anticipating! In this section, we’ll answer questions such as: How difficult is it to set up and integrate Open Social? Is it a long and expensive process? Do I need to be a developer to effectively use Open Social?

Let’s first address the primary concern: no, you don’t need experience with Drupal development if you want to use Open Social. However, the code is open source and is available for free on drupal.org, which means that setting up Open Social incurs no additional costs for those who are versed in Drupal. 

So, if you or your team possess adequate Drupal expertise, you won’t have to worry about monthly fees; you will however need to invest a little bit more into maintenance, since you’ll need to handle all updates manually. 

But not everyone who wants to have an awesome community platform can be expected to know Drupal. Fortunately, Open Social is also available as SaaS, with three very affordable packages:

  • The Basic package offers all basic features and costs €195 a month. You even get the option of a 30-day free trial before committing - no credit card required at this stage!
  • The Premium package, listed as the most popular, is a bit more costly, with €495 a month. Same as before, you get a 30-day free trial, but it also comes with huge benefits of a much larger number of users, as well as the ability to import these users from existing platforms.
  • The Enterprise package is the most expensive, at €1,250 a month. As the name suggests, this is ideal for enterprises who want to build a large global community. With this package, you can have as many users as you want, and even benefit from API integrations as well as all the features and extensions exclusive to this package.

In contrast with the open source solution, by opting for one of the paid SaaS options of Open Social, you’ll only need to worry about the monthly fee - security and feature updates will all be automatic. Owing to this flexibility, Open Social really is a great fit for different needs and backgrounds.

5. Ok, I've set up Open Social, but I'm having some trouble with it - how & where can I get help?

Considering how the Open Social team take every minute detail into account, it’d only make sense if they also provided top-notch guidance and support to anyone who wishes to use the software for their community, right?

Well, you can actually educate yourself on the ins and outs of Open Social before you even have to decide on a package or start your free trial! There’s a standalone website available to help you jumpstart your community, as well as a free guide on their website. Moreover, their blog section contains a lot of content that’s geared towards community management

But, not to worry - you’ll also be able to get help and support once you’ve set it up and started using it. Even the basic package comes with support via email, while the enterprise one also offers support by phone with guaranteed response times. 

If you’ve chosen the path of open source, you can find help on Open Social’s page on drupal.org. You get a lot of information just by visiting the page, but you can also check out the project’s issue queue, where you’ll either find the answers you seek, or be able to contact someone who has worked on a particular issue and get more specific help from them.

6. Alright, I'm almost convinced, it's just ... How can you reassure me that Open Social will be as useful in the future as it is today?

We’ll see your concern and raise you this: not only will Open Social continue to be useful - it’ll only keep getting better and more suited to the wants and needs of its users! 

How so, you ask? Well, you actually get a say in the project’s roadmap! This means that your input and ideas can help shape the future of Open Social. You’re able to make suggestions on which all participants can then vote. Your feedback is thus taken into account when developing new features.

This is all done through Open Social’s Roadmap tool. As you can see, you get a neat overview of what’s planned for a certain period of time and even to some extent track the progress of the suggestions. 

So, even if you disregard the rapid pace of digital innovation (which presupposes continuously better technologies), you can safely assume that this receptiveness to feedback will lead to a software progressively catered to its users’ needs.

7. *sigh* You're really giving me no choice, are you? Alright, final question: who's actually using Open Social?

You can check out a list of showcases on Open Social’s website. Apart from that, there are some additional businesses using Open Social listed on the project’s page on drupal.org. Among the most notable ones are:

Moreover, what served as the initial inception of Open Social was Greenpeace’s Greenwire project. Launched in 2011, Greenwire was born out of the desire to make the world a better place by bringing people together and enabling them to better collaborate. 

Drupal’s open source was thus the perfect fit for an active volunteer community. Based on the platform’s success, the GoalGorilla team realized their solution can help even more communities worldwide, and so Open Social came to be. If you want to learn more about the Greenwire project, you can also check out GoalGorilla’s case study or the one on drupal.com.

Conclusion

We hope we’ve successfully answered your questions. You can always get more specific information by visiting Open Social’s website or by contacting their team - they’re very open and very social (pun definitely intended), so there’s really no need to be shy.

Of course, there’s still much more that Open Social has to offer. The best way to discover more of the platform’s powerful capabilities is to do some exploration of your own, either by opting for the free trial or tinkering with the software downloaded via drupal.org. 

Hopefully, we’ve given you enough of a jump-start to know what to focus on and make the process of exploring a fun one. We wish you lots of success in building and growing your own community!  

May 21 2019
May 21

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

Optimized Image

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

Adjusting Image Dimensions

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

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

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

Configure image styles

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

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

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

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

Create image styles

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

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

No image style

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

Image style 970

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

Image style 970 comparison

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

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

Image style 1940 comparison

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

Defining Image Quality

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

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

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

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

Image style 1940 toolkit

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

Image style 970 toolkit

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

Image style 970 toolkit comparison

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

Image style 1940 toolkit comparison

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

Responsive Images

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

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

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

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

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

Retina settings

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

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

Conclusion

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

May 16 2019
May 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 13 2019
May 13

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

VideoDrupal.org: A new site of Drupal videos tutorials

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

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

Read more

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

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

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

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

Read more

The privilege of free time in Open Source

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

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

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

Read more

State of Drupal presentation (April 2019)

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

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

Read more

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

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

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

Read more

Enabling headless Drupal Commerce while improving its core

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

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

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

Read more

Learn to Theme with Hands-On Exercises

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

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

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

Read more

Drupal Association appoints Executive Director

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

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

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

Read more

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

May 08 2019
May 08

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

6 remote staffing challenges and how to tackle them

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

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

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

Read more

Our brand new Ljubljana office

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

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

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

Read more

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

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

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

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

Read more

5 key benefits of remote staffing

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

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

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

Read more

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

Apr 26 2019
Apr 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Scalability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Redundancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Flexibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Faster acquisition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Specific, but diverse expertise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In conclusion

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

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

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

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

Apr 17 2019
Apr 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 11 2019
Apr 11

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

#DrupalOriginStories

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

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

Read more

Drupal's Angela Byron On Building A Diverse Community

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

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

Read more

JSON:API lands in Drupal core

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

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

Read more

Additional info in Wim Leers’ post

Webform module now supports importing submissions

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

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

Read more

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

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

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

Read more

Headless Drupal, decoupling Drupal

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

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

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

Read more

The Big, Bad Layout Builder Explainer

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

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

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

Read more

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

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

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

Read more

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

Apr 09 2019
Apr 09

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 04 2019
Apr 04

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

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

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

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

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

1. Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Culture and location

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Monitoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Cost and ROI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Unexpected and uncontrollable factors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In conclusion

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

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

Mar 22 2019
Mar 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dates are the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. The Drum Awards

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable mentions

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

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

Mar 19 2019
Mar 19

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

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

Well, let’s get right down to it!

Basing our company culture on cooperation and knowledge-sharing

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

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

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

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

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

Balancing the happiness of clients and developers

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

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

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

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

Boosting morale and keeping the team motivated

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

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

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

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

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

Providing clients with our collective knowledge

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

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

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

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

(This is not) a conclusion

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

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

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

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

Other posts in this series:

Mar 14 2019
Mar 14

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

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

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

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

Read more

A Security Checklist for Drupal 8 Sites with Private Data

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

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

Read more

Announcing the New Lullabot.com

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

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

Read more

Find out more in a podcast by Lullabot

Testing your Drupal code base for deprecated code usage with PHPStan

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

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

Read more 

Drupal Pitch Deck at 60+ case studies

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

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

Read more

Optimizing site performance by "lazy loading" images

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

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

Read more

Related blog post by Dries

Headless CMS: REST vs JSON:API vs GraphQL

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

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

Read more

My 2019 Aaron Winborn Award Nomination

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

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

Read more

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

Mar 11 2019
Mar 11

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

Druplicon.org: In Search of the Lost Druplicon

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

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

Read more

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

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

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

Read more

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

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

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

Read more

Top 6 SEO Modules for Drupal 8

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

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

Read more

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

Mar 07 2019
Mar 07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Johnson giving his talk on the Promote Drupal initiative

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

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

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

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

Feb 22 2019
Feb 22

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

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

Drupal SEO Checklist

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

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

SEO Checklist

Pathauto

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

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

Pathauto module

Redirect

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

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

Redirect module

XML Sitemap & Simple XML Sitemap

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

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

XML sitemap module

Simple XML sitemap module

Metatag

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

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

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

Metatag module

Google Analytics

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

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

Google Analytics

Conclusion

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

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

Feb 20 2019
Feb 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register for DrupalCon Seattle!

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

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

Feb 13 2019
Feb 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 11 2019
Feb 11

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

2018 in review

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

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

Read more

Interview with Shawn McCabe, CTO of Acro Media

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

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

Read more

Best Drupal 8 Security Modules

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

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

Read more

Interview with Gabriele Maira of Manifesto Digital

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

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

Read more

The Story of Agiledrop: Cultivating Strong Relationships with Clients

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

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

Read more

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

Feb 07 2019
Feb 07

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

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

Druplicon version Delta from 2013

The Official Origin Story 

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

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

... And the Actual One

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

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

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

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

Memory Game

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

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

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

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

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

Druplicon.org memory game example

Staying True to the Spirit of Drupal

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

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

The Power of the Community

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

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

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

Call to Action

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

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

Joan Miró i Ferrà: Zephyr Bird

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


 

 

Feb 05 2019
Feb 05

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

Drupal Pitch Deck initiative update and call for Case Studies

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

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

Take a look

Refreshing the Drupal administration UI

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

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

Take a look

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

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

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

Take a look

6 Tips to Rock Drupal 8 SEO

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

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

Take a look

How to decouple Drupal in 2019

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

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

Take a look

Getting ready for the Drupal Global Contribution Weekend

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

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

Take a look 

Happy eighteenth birthday, Drupal

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

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

Take a look

The Webform module for Drupal joins Open Collective

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

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

Take a look

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


 


 

Jan 30 2019
Jan 30

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

The Challenge

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

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

Playbook

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

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

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

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

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

We're Your Remote Partners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feast or Famine? Not with Agiledrop

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

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

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

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

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

Cultural Breach - What's That?

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

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

Your Privacy Is Safe With Us

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

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

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

Hire 1, Get Access to 30

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

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

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

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

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

Jan 22 2019
Jan 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Pages

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web