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.

Digital trends

The people of New Orleans

I love street photography. Walking and shooting. Walking, talking and shooting. Slightly pushing me out of my comfort zone looking for that one great photo.

Street life

Street life

Street life

Street life

Sunrise

Street photography is all fun and games until someone pulls out a handgun. The anarchy sign in the background makes these shots complete.

Gun

Gun

For more photos, check out the entire album.

State of Drupal presentation (May 2016)

DrupalCon New Orleans comes at an important time in the history of Drupal. Now that Drupal 8 has launched, we have a lot of work to do to accelerate Drupal 8's adoption as well as plan what is next.

In my keynote presentation, I shared my thoughts on where we should focus our efforts in order for Drupal to continue its path to become the leading platform for assembling the world's best digital experiences.

Based on recent survey data, I proposed key initiatives for Drupal, as well as shared my vision for building cross-channel customer experiences that span various devices, including conversational technologies like Amazon Echo.

You can watch a recording of my keynote (starting at 3:43) or download a copy of my slides (162 MB).

There is much more data hidden in the raw survey results, so if you'd like to do your own analysis, you can download a copy of the raw survey results (CSV format or XLS format) and look at the raw data yourself. I anonymized the data by removing the names, e-mail addresses and IP address information. If you decide to analyze the raw data, consider sharing your findings with all of us.

Take a look, and as always feel free to leave your opinions 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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