IOHeckle - Q&A from DrupalCon Sydney

One the third day of DrupalCon Sydney, all the Drupal 8 initiative owners conducted a Q&A with attendees in Sydney. Some of us were there in person, and some connected via Google Hangout. In a moment of weakness, I sent a message on Twitter to request questions via the cheeky hashtag of #IOHeckle. There were so many questions from (and discussion with) the audience that we didn't get to most of the Twitter questions, but they were generally really interesting so I decided to answer them anyway.

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions!

What are all of your plans for maintaining your new code/subsystems after 8.0 release? Any new features mid-cycle before D9? - Dave Reid
I don't really know how involved I will be. After my funding runs out I am planning on getting a full time job again, and to some extent it will depend on how that works and what kind of time I have available. I do plan to take a break from day to day core work after release but we'll see what happens going forward at that point. As far as mid-cycle features for Drupal 9, I'd like to see some enhancements to the import UI and site building tools. I think there's more we could have done there but we ran out of time.

What is 1 thing that you didn't get to in 8 that you want to change 9+? - Dave Hall, Dave Reid
At DrupalCon Munich several people got a presentation from Bernhard Schussek, maintainer of the Symfony forms system. He talked about how Symfony forms work and how their approach compares and contrasts to Drupal's Form API. I left the presentation really impressed with Symfony forms and wishing we had the time to investigate whether they would be a good replacement for Form API. Anyone interested in that presentation can download the PDF from http://drupal.org/node/1447712#comment-6497818. Ultimately this just happened too late for anyone to have time to do anything about it, but I'm pretty sure we'll get to it in Drupal 9.

Are you worried about how fast major version releases affect the Enterprise community, since they're almost always slow to adopt? - Domenic Santangelo
I answered this to some extent in the presentation but there are a couple things I didn't get to bring up that are really important to consider. I'm a huge advocate for a faster release cycle for a variety of reasons. Obviously technology is changing at a brisk pace and it is important to keep up as much as possible. However our release cycle also places enormous burdens on us that are not always plainly obvious. For instance, it makes fundraising for core development much more difficult than it would be if we released more often. The most common refrain I heard from people I approached for funding was "We can't invest in something we aren't going to be able to use for two years." Another problem we have is that our long development cycle puts a lot of pressure on people to get things 'exactly right' because they know they'll have to live with it for six more years. This is actually a huge cause of many issues that become embroiled in architectural purity or arguments over differing approaches. If we knew we could adapt and improve iteratively, a lot of this pressure would disappear. This of course opens up backwards compatibility questions (which are discussed in the video) but I think the gains we would get are well worth it. I'd love to see us on six month release cycles for Drupal 9.

What is the one most important thing you would tell a D9 initiative owner that you wish you had known? - Dave Reid
Build a multi-functional team from the start. This is the thing the Views team got right, and its a huge reason why they were successful. They got four people together with differing but also overlapping skill sets, all of whom agreed to work together and stay on top of the things for the long haul. This is so important, and its something I never really had. I have had contributors who have been active for most of the project (most notably Daniel Kudwein and Alex Pott) but it was never a 'team', we never really coordinated much amongst each other, we never sat down and made a roadmap or raised funds as a group. Two years ago I wish I had gotten a core group together and just fundraised for the lot of us to work for the next two years. It would have been phenomenal.

"If you could send a message to yourself-one-year-ago, what would it say? - Cathy Theys
Build a team right now and start fundraising for all of you.

If you were to receive a message today from yourself-one-year-in-the-future, what do you hope it would say? - Cathy Theys
It was all worth it.

What was the best (got results) method of communicating the top priorities and asking people to help with what you most needed? - Cathy Theys
I feel like I never got a handle on this. Gábor did an amazing job with his D8MI website (http://www.drupal8multilingual.org/), and I know it has served him well. In my case, I feel like every time I tried to communicate my own priorities I didn't get a lot of results, and I also feel like my priorities didn't mesh well with the priorities of others working on CMI issues. Around the end of the original feature freeze I thought it was enormously important to get our admin functionality done so that people could test the system as it was intended to be used, but I feel like other people thought that perfecting the underlying architecture was more important, even if it meant we shipped with no user-facing functions at all. I have also been hampered by a lack of issues that novices could get involved in, which has been a problem from day one. Most of our issues are just thorny and hard.

Who mentored you in how to be an initiative lead? What did they do? - Cathy Theys

  • Angie Byron has always been my ideal of what a community leader should be. She has inspired me immensely over the years.
  • David Strauss was really great to work with. While he has been too busy to be involved in the project extensively, he always made time for technical discussions when I needed a sounding board, and has an uncanny way of clearing a path through really thorny problems by looking at them from fresh angles.

Beyond that, I think all the initiative leads have acted as sort of one bug support group, inspiring each other in different ways.

  • Gábor Hojtsy is incredible at organizing and getting the word out about his initiative, making it as easy as possible for people to get involved.
  • Larry Garfield never gives up on his technical vision and has fought incredibly hard on things I would have long since given up on, including the integration with Symfony which I view as the single most important and revolutionary change in Drupal's history.
  • Kris Vanderwater has an incredible breadth of understanding around his subject area, which has allowed him to work fast and identify pitfalls others would have missed and thus cost weeks or months of work.
  • The Views team ... I don't even have words. Incredible people accomplishing an impossible task in record time. An amazing demonstration of the power of teamwork.
  • John Albin is just one of my favorite people, funny and passionate and driven even while being 18 hours around the world from everyone else.
  • Throughout the dev cycle Shannon Vettes has attempted to organize and manage us to work more efficiently, a thankless task if ever there was one.

During initiative efforts, what was the saddest day? What got you through it? The most fun day? - Cathy Theys
I don't know if there was one specific saddest day, but the worst days were the ones where people are actively being jerks to you. When people say your work sucks, that you're ruining Drupal, that the whole system should be torn out of core, or that you're an elitist core dev unconcerned with the needs of users ... I don't know about anyone else but my initial reaction is to give everyone the finger and go live on a farm with 15 cats. One thing Angie has said which I try to always remember is that these reactions are borne out of passion for the project and people who want things to be as good as they possibly can be. This helps conceptually, but it doesn't do much about the raw feeling in your gut.

The most fun days were the code sprints, when you are surrounded by your favorite people in the world hammering away on the big problems to solve. In particular I remember when Alex Pott brought me my custom made CMI shirt at DrupalCon Munich. That was really special.

What are you most proud of? - Cathy Theys
I'm actually really proud that I figured out a way to raise funds for core development which I hope can serve as a model for future initiatives. As I've said many times before, Drupal is in a place where it has all of the business and economic pressures of a large commercial software project, but none of the resources. If we can't figure out a way to scale core development, then the future prospects for the project are grim. There is a lot of interesting work being done to look into this problem and I don't think there is any one answer. Acquia's Large Scale Drupal program is attempting to fund development through subscriptions from large Drupal users. I took a more grass roots fundraising model. I would love to see a world where companies that rely on Drupal are funding people to work on core full time, as a business investment. Hopefully all these and more will lead to a future where developers can focus more on Drupal and less on paying the rent so they can work on Drupal with what is left.

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I wrote two chapters of this book - Drupal 7 Module Development and I co-wrote it with Matt Butcher, Larry Garfield, Matt Farina, Ken Rickard, and John Wilkins. Go buy a copy!
I am the owner of the configuration management initiative for Drupal 8. You can follow this work at the dashboard on groups.drupal.org.
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