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Drupal Stories Kick Off: My Own Drupal Story

It’s no secret that Drupalists are in high demand. I’ve blogged about the need for training more Drupalers and getting to them earlier in their careers previously, but that’s just one aspect of the greater topic which merits a closer inspection as a cohesive whole.

Lonestar PHP 2014

I had the privilege of attending Lonestar PHP 2014 in Addison, Texas a couple weekends ago. It was an amazing event full of amazing people and valuable sessions. For those of you who know me, I typically spend a lot of time in the hallways just talking with and meeting new people, however I did attempt to attend some sessions and the calibre of sessions being presented was ridiculously high. The PHP community that attends these events is really obviously close knit. It was a bit like going to a large regional Drupal event.

SANDCamp

We're proud to be a gold sponsor of SANDCamp 2014!

Stay tuned for more information on sessions & trainings.

Drupal, MODX: Open Source Communities, Vendors, and Giving Back [April 5, 2013]

Submitted on
Vrijdag, 5 april 2013
,
CMS Report

By Bryan Ruby

This week, I received an email from some marketing folks that Acquia was announcing they are open sourcing their mobile application code for posting content to Drupal sites. For those that don't know, Acquia is a commercial open source software company that provides products, services, and technical support for Drupal. This isn't the first time Acquia and other Drupal vendors have given code back to the Drupal community and you can be assured it won't be the last.

Honestly, I had not been following the development of Drupal Create so it's taken me some time to better understand the significance of this story to open source. SparkPR's Eric Sokolsky explained it to me in his email this way:

Today, Acquia released source code that will allow Drupal website content owners and developers to create their own customized mobile content publishing apps. These apps – the first of their kind on the Drupal platform -- will enable developers to create or curate content on their iOS phones and publish it directly to their existing Drupal-based sites – without being tethered to a laptop or desktop computer.

If I didn't know any better, I would have thought Acquia was eavesdropping on some recent discussions I've had regarding my observation on the potential conflicts between open source vendors and open source communities. Their action alone suggests that perhaps I worry too much. Let me explain.

Drupal How-To: Find great beginner tutorials on Drupal 7

In my first blog post, I outlined the main sources for fresh news and info about Drupal. In this post, I’ll round up the best blog sources for tutorials in the Drupal community.

Great Beginner Blogs Round-up

There’s such a large volume of great content coming out for Drupal lately for both new and experienced Drupal developers.

Global Drupal Learning Day

Global Drupal Day

Friday, June 22 has been designated by the Drupal Association as a "Global Drupal Day" - a day in which we will encourage as many people as possible to learn a little Drupal.

The goal here is to bring Drupal to the masses! One of the Drupal Association's 2012 goals is to educate more people on the Drupal project.

Drupal start-up Acquia competes on community [March 15, 2012]

Submitted on
donderdag, 15 maart 2012
,
Information Age

Dries Buytaert, founder of open source web content management system Drupal, says his company helps enterprises tap innovation from the Drupal community
Dries Buytaert wrote the first version of Drupal, the open source, PHP-based web content management system, in his university dorm room back in 2001.

Originally a message board system, Buytaert and his fellow volunteer developers used the software itself as a platform to collaborate on the project.

“We built our community on top of our own software,” he says. “We had to be open and transparent in order to build the software together, which meant that we needed it to have features that allowed us to be open and transparent. Those features are now part of the reason that people use Drupal.”

And use it they do. According to Buytaert, 2% of the world’s websites are built on Drupal. These are not just hobbyist developers – Drupal users include US telco Verizon, whose 90,000-user intranet is built on the platform, and the White House.

Until 2007, when Drupal already had many thousands of users, Buytaert did not receive any money for his invention, instead working as an embedded software engineer and later on his computer science PhD. He would stay up all night on conference calls with US end-user organisations “because it was just so much fun”, he recalls.

That year, however, he decided that it was time for a commercial venture based on Drupal. “For Drupal to be successful as a project, I felt that it needed to be successful in the enterprise,” he explains. “And for Drupal to be successful in the enterprise, there needed to be a company that could offer service-level agreements and contractual guarantees.

“Plus, I wanted to have a job,” he adds.

Enterprise guide

The result is Acquia, a venture-backed start-up that describes itself as “your enterprise guide to Drupal". One of Acquia’s business lines is based on the support networks offered by commercial open source suppliers Red Hat and MySQL (now part of Oracle).

Subscribers to the Acquia Network receive technical support, provided by engineers that Acquia has hired from the Drupal community.

“The beauty of having the Drupal community is that I don’t have to interview these people: you can see the quality of their work, and how they work with others,” explains Buytaert, who is Acquia’s chief technology officer.

Where Acquia differs from Red Hat and MySQL is that it does not sell an ‘enterprise’ version of the software. “There is only one Drupal,” Buytaert asserts.

Another business line is Acquia Cloud, a hosting service based on Amazon Web Services that is optimised for Drupal websites. “Organisations building websites will usually have a workflow that includes a development environment, a staging environment and a production environment,” says Buytaert. “Acquia Cloud provides them additional development tools.”

The third is Drupal Gardens. This is a hosted service that allows organisations to design, stage and host Drupal websites using a browser-based graphical interface.

Buytaert describes Drupal Gardens as ‘open SaaS’ (software as a service).

“Most SaaS companies won’t let you export your data, but Drupal Gardens allows you to export a .zip file with the MySQL database dump plus all the source code,” he explains. “This allows you to switch hosting provider if you wish, so there’s no lock-in.”

One of Acquia’s core principles, says Buytaert, is to act in the interests of the Drupal community. “The central investment thesis behind Acquia is that we will not be successful unless Drupal is successful. We’re tied at the hip.

“That means that we always put the community first, because the community is what makes Drupal innovative,” he adds. “The community means that if a popular new social web service is launched tomorrow, some developer somewhere will build a Drupal extension for it. At a conventional software company, it would take months before it would even get on the roadmap.”

There have been cases when putting the community first has cost Acquia time and money. “When we developed Drupal Gardens, we made several usability improvements that we could have kept to ourselves, but instead we submitted them to the latest version of Drupal,” explains Buytaert. “That meant going through the community approval process, which made it three times as expensive.”

Acquia is designed to make money, like any business, but Buytaert plans to do so by respecting the open source ethos, he says. “Open source leads to collaboration, which leads to community, which leads to innovation.”

Drupal start-up Acquia competes on community [March 15, 2012]

Submitted on
donderdag, 15 maart 2012
,
Information Age

Dries Buytaert, founder of open source web content management system Drupal, says his company helps enterprises tap innovation from the Drupal community

Drupal: How a dorm room tech project became a global phenomenon [Feb 15, 2012]

Submitted on
woensdag, 15 februari 2012
,
Tech Republic

While open source content management system Drupal now underpins a huge number of websites around the world, it was created, according to its founder Dries Buytaert, “sort of by accident”.

The software which now powers 7.2 million websites – including sites for the White House, Whitehall, Nasa and Greenpeace, was devised in a college dorm room in Antwerp, Belgium in 2000.

”All I wanted to do back then was create a message board so I could share messages with the other people in my dorm,” said Buytaert.

Rather than use an existing message board system Buytaert decided to build one himself using the then relatively new technologies of PHP and MySQL.

”I figured that I would spend a few nights building my own so I could learn these technologies, so that’s effectively what I did, although I ended up working on this for 12 more years,” he said.

That’s because Buytaert didn’t stop at building a message board, but instead started moulding Drupal into a more sophisticated offering.

”I got hooked on the web and I started watching a lot of new trends and adding these to my message board. For example, RSS feeds were just being defined back then and I was one of the first people to implement RSS feeds. Another is I saw public diaries becoming a phenomenon, so I added a feature so that people could maintain a public diary. The phenomenon became blogging,” he told TechRepublic.

”Eventually what happened was that little message board that was an experimental platform to play with MySQL and PHP evolved into an experimental platform to explore different types of emerging web technologies.”

Upon leaving university Buytaert took the decision to make his message board publicly available via the internet, so that he and his friends could stay in touch.

After going public the board attracted an audience interested in the emerging web technologies that Buytaert was building into the site, and who would suggest additions and tweaks to the CMS.

”I said ‘Instead of me implementing all of your suggestions why don’t I make it available as open source and you can use it as your own experimental platform’. I spent 30 seconds thinking about a name and uploaded to my site expecting maybe a dozen people to download and use it.”

But the community of Drupal developers didn’t stop at a dozen, and as the user base grew so did the size of organisations relying on the software: the point Buytaert realised Drupal had transcended its hobbyist origins was when he received a call to say that Nasa had begun using the CMS platform.

”It was a wake-up call, this realisation that there was this serious organisation using Drupal. I felt it was for real now because, these organisations have an important goal and are using my software to fulfil their mission.”

The importance of open source

For Buytaert, Drupal owes much of its success to being open source, which has allowed thousands of developers to produce plug-ins that extend the abilities of the platform.

Drupal has some 15,000 plug-ins, known as modules, that extend its functionality and is sometimes described as a “no-coding” platform, a reference to the fact that the skill in using Drupal lies with knowing which module to choose to deliver a feature, rather than always programming a module yourself.

While Drupal’s community of developers help keep the platform up to date with the latest technologies – a Google Plus module was available within 12 hours of the social network being released – Buytaert says that the breadth of plug-ins can be confusing without guidance.

”It’s very difficult for customers to figure out which of these modules they should use. For instance, if you want to build an image gallery the good news is there’re 12 different image gallery modules, the bad news is how do you pick one.”

To help guide Drupal potential and existing users Buytaert set up Acquia in 2007, a US-based firm that bundles Drupal and its modules into packages that are easy for enterprise to match to their needs.

Buytaert credits Acquia, which also provides support and cloud hosting, with boosting Drupal’s use by enterprise and national government.

”We helped get the White House on Drupal and did some amazing things that helped to get the ball rolling across the world. About two per cent of all the websites in the world run Drupal today. Things have been going extremely well. Acquia has grown from just two people when we started to 180 people today.”

However the wider growth of Drupal, Buytaert said, stems from the ecosystem of companies, which employ more than 100,000 people, building and hosting Drupal sites. These companies “have invested back in Drupal because they’re invested in the technology”, he said.

Growing pains

In some ways Drupal is a victim of its own success, Buytaert said, with demand for Drupal experts to build and support sites using the CMS currently outstripping supply.

”The biggest challenge that we have right now is scaling. The demand for Drupal is so high that we need more Drupal experts in the world,” said Buytaert.

”That’s a challenge, but if you are a Drupal developer you are in a good spot because many of them make a lot of money because of the high demand.”

Other challenges for the Drupal community relate to continuing to update the core Drupal platform. The next release, Drupal 8, has promised to introduce native support for HTML5 and improve the CMS’s ability to output content in multiple formats such as XML and JSON.

Drupal also faces competition from proprietary CMSes, such as OpenText’s web content management software, SDL Tridion and Sitecore, as well as fellow open source CMS WordPress.

The effect of success

Buytaert’s long-term goal for Drupal is nothing less than for it to “be the dominant platform for building websites”, with a more immediate aim of driving up use in Europe with the aid of Acquia.

And Buytaert ambitions for the platform doesn’t mean that he isn’t appreciative of the success that Drupal has had so far.

”You see large organisations like Amnesty or Greenpeace and governments all around the world, from Whitehouse.gov to data.gov.uk, and they are all using Drupal. It’s very rewarding for me to help enable them to fulfill their mission.”

And although it has been a long time since Buytaert was the sole curator of Drupal in his dorm room in Antwerp, he says he still plays an active role in the community.

”In the early days I did everything myself, I wrote all of the code, I maintained the website, wrote the documentation. Today it’s literally thousands of people who are helping. I’m still the project lead and lead technical architect but I’m also the spokesperson behind Drupal, so do a lot of marketing things. There’s a lot I don’t do anymore and I do miss writing code as a software engineer, but it’s just not the best use of my time. My time is best spent enabling others to write more code,” he said.

”As long as I keep learning I think I’ll keep having fun.”

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