In memoriam: Opa Koek

Dear Opa,

We just got the news that you passed away while we were in flight from Boston to Amsterdam. We landed an hour ago, and now I'm writing you this letter on the train from Amsterdam to Antwerp. We were on our way to come visit you. We still will.

I wish I could have had one last drink with you, chat about days gone by, and listen to your many amazing life stories. But most of all, I wanted to thank you in person. I wanted to thank you for making a lasting mark on me.

I visited you in the hospital two months ago, but I never had the courage to truly say goodbye or to really thank you. I was hoping I'd see you again. I'm in tears now because I feel you might never know how important you were to me.

I can't even begin to thank you for everything you've taught me. The way you invented things -- first in your job as an engineer and researcher, and later in automating and improving your home. The way you taught me how to sketch -- I think of you each time I draw something. The way you shared your knowledge and insight and how you always kept reading and learning -- even as recent as 2 months ago you asked me to bring you a book on quantum physics. The way you cooked and cared for Oma every single day and the way you were satisfied with a modest, but happy family life. The way you unconditionally loved all your grandchildren, no matter what choices we made -- with you we never had to live up to expectations, yet you encouraged us to make most out of our talents.

There are no words. No words at all for how you impacted my life and how you helped me become the person I've become. Few adults have the opportunity to really get to know their grandparents. I have been lucky to have known you for 37 years. Thank you for our time together. Your impact on me is deep, and forever. You made your mark.

Love,

Dries

Wedding
We heart opa

Demandware acquisition heats up the customer experience market

The battle for the marketing cloud just got way more interesting. This week, Salesforce announced its acquisition of Demandware for $2.8B in cash. It will enable Salesforce to offer a "Commerce Cloud" alongside its sales and marketing solutions.

The large platform companies like Oracle and Adobe are trying to own the digital customer experience market from top to bottom by acquiring and integrating together tools for marketing, commerce, customer support, analytics, mobile apps, and more. Oracle's acquisition of Eloqua, SAP's acquisition of hybris and Salesforce's acquisitions of ExactTarget were earlier indicators of market players consolidating SaaS apps for customer experience onto their platforms.

In my view, the Demandware acquisition is an interesting strategic move for Salesforce that aligns them more closely as a competitor to marketing stack mega-vendors such as Adobe, Oracle and IBM. Adding a commerce solution to its suite, makes it easier for Salesforce's customers to build an integrated experience and see what their customers are buying. There are advantages to integrated solutions that have a single system of record about the customer. The Demandware acquisition also makes sense from a technology point of view; there just aren't many Java-based commerce platforms that are purely SaaS-based, that can operate at scale, and that are for sale.

However, we've also seen this movie before. When big companies acquire smaller, innovative companies, over time the innovation goes away in favor of integration. Big companies can't innovate fast enough, and the suite lock-in only benefits the vendor.

There is a really strong case to be made for a best-of-breed approach where you choose and integrate the best software from different vendors. This is a market that literally changes too much and too fast for any organization to buy into a single mega-platform. From my experience talking to hundreds of customer organizations, most prefer an open platform that integrates different solutions and acts as an orchestration hub. An open platform ultimately presents more freedom for customers to build the exact experiences they want. Open Source solutions, like Drupal, that have thousands of integrations, allow organizations to build these experiences in less time, with a lower overall total cost of ownership, more flexibility and faster innovation.

Adobe clearly missed out on buying Demandware, after it missed out on buying Hybris years ago. Demandware would have fit in Adobe's strategy and technology stack. Now Adobe might be the only mega-platform that doesn't have an embedded commerce capability. More interestingly, there don't appear to be large independent commerce operators left to buy.

I continue to believe there is a great opportunity for new independent commerce platforms, especially now Salesforce and Demandware will spend the next year or two figuring out the inevitable challenges of integrating their complex software solutions. I'd love to see more commerce platforms emerge, especially those with a modern micro-services based architecture, and an Open Source license and innovation model.

Changes with the Drupal Association

The Drupal community is very special because of its culture of adapting to change, determination and passion, but also its fun and friendship. It is a combination that is hard to come by, even in the Open Source world. Our culture enabled us to work through really long, but ground-breaking release cycles, which also prompted us to celebrate the release of Drupal 8 with 240 parties around the world.

Throughout Drupal's 15 years history, that culture has served us really well. As the larger industry around us continues to change -- see my DrupalCon New Orleans keynote for recent examples -- we have been able to evolve Drupal accordingly. Drupal has not only survived massive changes in our industry; it has also helped drive them. Very few open source projects are 15 years old and continue to gain momentum.

Drupal 8 is creating new kinds of opportunities for Drupal. For example, who could have imagined that Lufthansa would be using Drupal 8 to build its next-generation in-flight entertainment system? Drupal 8 changes the kind of end-user experiences people can build, how we think about Drupal, and what kind of people we'll attract to our community. I firmly believe that these changes are positive for Drupal, increase Drupal's impact on the world, and grow the opportunity for our commercial ecosystem.

To seize the big opportunity ahead of us and to adjust to the changing environment, it was the Drupal Association's turn to adapt and carefully realign the Drupal Association's strategic focus.

The last couple of years the Drupal Association invested heavily in Drupal.org to support the development and the release of Drupal 8. Now Drupal 8 is released, the Drupal Association's Board of Directors made the strategic decision to shift some focus from the "contribution journey" to the "evaluator's adoption journey" -- without compromising our ability to build and maintain the Drupal software. The Drupal Association will reduce its efforts on Drupal.org's collaboration tools and expand its efforts to grow Drupal's adoption and to build a larger ecosystem of technology partners.

We believe this is not only the right strategic focus at this point in Drupal 8's lifecycle, but also a necessary decision. While the Drupal Association's revenues continued to grow at a healthy pace, we invested heavily, and exhausted our available reserves supporting the Drupal 8 release. As a result, we have to right-size the organization, balance our income with our expenses, and focus on rebuilding our reserves.

In a blog post today, we provide more details on why we made these decisions and how we will continue to build a healthy long-term organization. The changes we made today help ensure that Drupal will gain momentum for decades to come. We could not make this community what it is without the participation of each and every one of you. Thanks for your support!

Megan Sanicki to become Executive Director at the Drupal Association

This is a time of transition for the Drupal Association. As you might have read on the Drupal Association blog, Holly Ross, our Executive Director, is moving on. Megan Sanicki, who has been with the Drupal Association for almost 6 years, and was working alongside Holly as the Drupal Association's COO, will take over Holly's role as the Executive Director.

Open source stewardship is not easy but in the 3 years Holly was leading the Drupal Association, she lead with passion, determination and transparency. She operationalized the Drupal Association and built a team that truly embraces its mission to serve the community, growing that team by over 50% over three years of her tenure. She established a relationship with the community that wasn't there before, allowing the Drupal Association to help in new ways like supporting the Drupal 8 launch, providing test infrastructure, implementing the Drupal contribution credit system, and more. Holly also matured our DrupalCon, expanding its reach to more users with conferences in Latin America and India. She also executed the Drupal 8 Accelerate Fund, which allowed direct funding of key contributors to help lead Drupal 8 to a successful release.

Holly did a lot for Drupal. She touched all of us in the Drupal community. She helped us become better and work closer together. It is sad to see her leave, but I'm confident she'll find success in future endeavors. Thanks, Holly!

Megan, the Drupal Association staff and the Board of Directors are committed to supporting the Drupal project. In this time of transition, we are focused on the work that Drupal Association must do and looking at how to do that in a sustainable way so we can support the project for many years to come.

Cross-channel user experiences with Drupal

Last year around this time, I wrote that The Big Reverse of Web would force a major re-architecture of the web to bring the right information, to the right person, at the right time, in the right context. I believe that conversational interfaces like Amazon Echo are further proof that the big reverse is happening.

New user experience and distribution platforms only come along every 5-10 years, and when they do, they cause massive shifts in the web's underlying technology. The last big one was mobile, and the web industry adapted. Conversational interfaces could be the next user experience and distribution platform – just look at Amazon Echo (aka Alexa), Facebook's messenger or Microsoft's Conversation-as-a-Platform.

Today, hardly anyone questions whether to build a mobile-optimized website. A decade from now, we might be saying the same thing about optimizing digital experiences for voice or chat commands. The convenience of a customer experience will be a critical key differentiator. As a result, no one will think twice about optimizing their websites for multiple interaction patterns, including conversational interfaces like voice and chat. Anyone will be able to deliver a continuous user experience across multiple channels, devices and interaction patterns. In some of these cross-channel experiences, users will never even look at a website. Conversational interfaces let users disintermediate the website by asking anything and getting instant, often personalized, results.

To prototype this future, my team at Acquia built a fully functional demo based on Drupal 8 and recorded a video of it. In the demo video below, we show a sample supermarket chain called Gourmet Market. Gourmet Market wants their customers to not only shop online using their website, but also use Echo or push notifications to do business with them.

We built an Alexa integration module to connect Alexa to the Gourmet Market site and to answer questions about sale items. For example, you can speak the command: "Alexa, ask Gourmet Market what fruits are on sale today". From there, Alexa would make a call to the Gourmet Market website, finding what is on sale in the specified category and pull only the needed information related to your ask.

On the website's side, a store manager can tag certain items as "on sale", and Alexa's voice responses will automatically and instantly reflect those changes. The marketing manager needs no expertise in programming -- Alexa composes its response by talking to Drupal 8 using web service APIs.

The demo video also shows how a site could deliver smart notifications. If you ask for an item that is not on sale, the Gourmet Market site can automatically notify you via text once the store manager tags it as "On Sale".

From a technical point of view, we've had to teach Drupal how to respond to a voice command, otherwise known as a "Skill", coming into Alexa. Alexa Skills are fairly straightforward to create. First, you specify a list of "Intents", which are basically the commands you want users to run in a way very similar to Drupal's routes. From there, you specify a list of "Utterances", or sentences you want Echo to react to that map to the Intents. In the example of Gourmet Market above, the Intents would have a command called GetSaleItems. Once the command is executed, your Drupal site will receive a webhook callback on /alexa/callback with a payload of the command and any arguments. The Alexa module for Drupal 8 will validate that the request really came from Alexa, and fire a Drupal Event that allows any Drupal module to respond.

It's exciting to think about how new user experiences and distribution platforms will change the way we build the web in the future. As I referenced in Drupalcon New Orleans keynote, the Drupal community needs to put some thought into how to design and build multichannel customer experiences. Voice assistance, chatbots or notifications are just one part of the greater equation. If you have any further thoughts on this topic, please share them in the comments.

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Dries Buytaert is the original creator and project lead of Drupal and the co-founder and CTO of Acquia. He writes about Drupal, startups, business, photography and building the world we want to exist in.

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