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Last week it was Red Nose Day, a UK-wide fundraising event organized by Comic Relief every two years. A combination of television programs, local community events, social media and Drupal websites were used to raise £75 million ($113 million) in one day. On Red Nose Day everyone is encouraged to cast inhibitions aside, put on a Red Nose and do something funny for money. The money is used to make a difference to the lives of countless people across Africa and the UK who are facing terrible injustice or living in desperate poverty.
Rednoseday.com and Comicrelief.com are built in Drupal and the Acquia team have been supporting their talented web team with Drupal expertise and use of the Acquia Cloud to ensure a stable and massively scalable platform.
During the live show there were massive peaks in website traffic and every hour there were special heartfelt appeals within the program which results in a frenzy of donations. To deal with the sudden, massive spikes (they call them 'slams'), we had to employ 24 load balancers, 28 web heads and 2 database servers. We had an additional 12 load balancers and 2 web nodes ready for failover. This happens so quickly that it would not give you enough time to spin up additional servers once the traffic starts to ramp up. Along with the hardware, Acquia had 11 people helping with the infrastructure the night of the event.
As you can imagine, there is nothing like a live, six-hour televised national charity event where millions of dollars are at risk, to put fear into the hearts of any web team. To be able to do help inspiring charities such as Comic Relief gives the entire Acquia team an exceptional sense of accomplishment. I am very proud of their dedication and commitment to this project.
In fact, we've been doing our bit with some Harlem Shake videos from both our Reading (UK) and Burlington (US) offices to raise donations. It's not too late to help this tremendously worthwhile and life changing cause: https://www.rednoseday.com/donate.
Today I'm excited to announce that we've released the next generation of Mollom - our Content Moderation Platform. For the past five years, we have worked hard to help companies stay ahead of the curve when it comes to content moderation. With today's release, I feel like we've secured our place as the leading enterprise-ready content moderation system.
With over 2 years in development, and 600 beta users, the new content moderation platform is built to help companies handle extensive amounts of user generated content with ease. The main features of the Content Moderation platform are:
- Easy team management. Site admins can add moderators, assign privileges, and monitor how moderators are performing - keeping an eye on productivity while trusting that no malicious content is making it to their site.
- Fast moderation. If we know it's spam, your team never sees it. If we're sure it's good content - we'll publish it to your site. For the content we're unsure about - moderators now have a very easy user interface where they can view the contributor, their comment, and their reputation, spam, and profanity score all within seconds. They can approve or decline, and even take bulk actions to speed things up.
- Custom filters. The system allows each user to create custom filters so they can focus on a specific subset of commenters. If they only want to see users with low spam and profanity scores - creating a filter takes just a couple seconds and they now have a customized view.
- Multi-site management. All customers can have from one to hundreds of sites in their system - which makes moderation for big brands with multiple site properties very easy. Adding a site takes just a couple minutes, and customers can view analytics separately across all site properties.
I'm really excited to finally show this off to the world, and continue to help more companies embrace social without fear!
We just celebrated our two year anniversary of Acquia's expansion into the European market. It has been a phenomenal two years and as a result, we have grown to over 50 employees in Europe. Our UK office is bursting at the seams so we're about to move into our new digs in Reading. We also have a growing presence in the Benelux, France and Germany.
We are looking for more great talent, no matter what level you're at. If you are passionate about working on some of the most challenging Drupal projects alongside other talented Drupalists, we want to talk to you! Please stop by Acquia's booth at DrupalCamp London, or contact us at email@example.com. We currently have vacancies for Client Advisors, Customer Support Coordinators, Customer Advocates, as well as Sales and Marketing roles.
When we first announced the Spark authoring experience initiative for Drupal in May of last year, we chose Drupal 7 as our target in order to develop the features and get them in front of testers as quickly as possible. After DrupalCon Munich in August, the team shifted efforts towards Drupal 8 core instead, in order to more directly improve the experience of Drupal itself. Since then, we have successfully worked with the community to drive home a redesigned and mobile-friendly toolbar, support for draft revisions, in-place editing, numerous mobile improvements, and have WYSIWYG and unified in-place editing on the way.
This has kept the team pretty busy, however, and so the Drupal 7 version of Spark has not been receiving many updates in the meantime. Olivier Friesse (noisetteprod) of Radio France graciously offered to sponsor work to help things along. Thanks to this sponsorship, we were able to have Théodore Biadala (nod_) of Acquia's Professional Services team spend 3 weeks on getting the in-place editing feature production-ready for Drupal 7, including:
- Full backport of Drupal 8 code, including Create.js/VIE.js integration
- Integration with CKEditor module to provide WYSIWYG support for rich text areas, which resulted in numerous upstream improvements
- Removed requirement on jQuery 1.7 so that Edit module can work on stock Drupal 7 installations without jquery_update module
- Removed requirement on PHP 5.3 so Edit module can also work in PHP 5.2 environments
- Basic support for Views/Panels in-place editing
- Numerous bug fixes to help further stabilize the code base
Working towards a stable release for Drupal 7 naturally identified bugs with the Drupal 8 implementation of inline editing, which are being tracked in this issue: https://drupal.org/node/1894454.
In short, the needs of Radio France have brought tremendous value for the entire community, in both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8. If you'd like to try out the work that we've done, download the 7.x-1.0-alpha7 release of Spark or Edit 7.x-1.0-alpha6!
Thanks once again, Olivier and Radio France, for your support! If other companies would like to sponsor further work on Spark, please let me know.
For Acquia, 2012 was a great year. In many ways, it's been our best year.
Last year, we saw more evidence of Drupal continuing to become a growing part of the mainstream. While this trend has been apparent for some time, in 2012 we were being adopted at a faster rate by more and more enterprise businesses and government agencies. Acquia, in many ways, has risen on the tide of this acceptance. Maybe we helped build this momentum. And along the way, as we've grown, we have worked to keep the philosophy of open source as the guiding philosophy of Acquia.
The Open Source Way
The concept of being guided by the philosophy of open source, which I call the Open Source Way, is reflected in Acquia's approach to our products and services. For example, we believe it is important to provide the capability to easily transfer data from one platform or solution to another, and not be shackled to proprietary vendors' platforms. The solutions we offer, whether PaaS or SaaS, allow innovation and agility by following the open source way, eliminating lock-in. We've coined the terms OpenSaaS and OpenPaas to refer to this.
This approach has resonated with enterprise business. This is reflected in our growth metrics for 2012. Our growth was reflected in our sales bookings, which grew at a record rate. We finished the year with 15 consecutive quarters of revenue growth, surpassing even our own aggressive goals.
Acquia grew by more than 160 employees last year, and now totals about 280 staff. In addition to Acquia's base in Burlington (Boston, MA), we have 28 employees in the UK office, 14 in our new Portland office, and 82 working remotely. Success poses many challenges. Hiring so many people is difficult. On one recent Monday, we have about 20 new staff undergoing orientation in our Burlington office. We've met the challenge of hiring, though, and we've assembled a staff of talented, passionate people. They are the reason for Acquia's success.
Our core strength is our ability to accomplish the aggressive goals we set for ourselves. This ability is the result of both the collaboration and the passion the Acquia staff brings to everything we do. Acquia's culture, in which collaboration and passion are key, also reflect the Open Source Way. We bring this passion and collaboration to our customers as well, and we work hard to ensure every customer's success. In 2012, the number of customers renewing with us was up, returning that commitment and loyalty.
Landmarks and trends
As we moved through 2012, we saw the growing acceptance of cloud computing. No longer was it "should we be on the cloud", but businesses asked "how best to move to the cloud". More often, the open, elastic cloud computing offered by Acquia was the answer. Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) both continue to gain further acceptance and grow, again providing that ability to react to business needs rapidly, putting a larger portion of resources into building exactly what is needed when it is needed, rather than investing in expensive infrastructure and maintenance. The success of our cloud products means that Acquia will continue to invest and expand in this area in 2013, especially as we saw the trend last year that having many microsites, often one for each product or service, is quickly becoming the rule rather than the exception.
Other landmarks in 2012 were the growing number of health/pharma businesses moving to Drupal and the cloud, joining financial services companies and government agencies also making the move. Until recently, these industries were wary of open source and cloud-based services, fearing that these solutions weren't secure or reliable enough. The reality that the cloud can also be fault-tolerant and highly available, and that security and government compliance requirements can be met with confidence, opened up the cloud to more and more enterprise businesses in 2012. Their move to the cloud in 2012 reinforced the fact that freedom of innovation and agility of open solutions are driving factors for large-scale business as well as smaller organizations.
As the public moves rapidly to mobile platforms of all kinds, including smart phones and tablets, the need to provide a great user experience on these platforms is becoming increasingly important. UX also became important in 2012 as marketing rather than IT became the driving force behind more and more websites. Acquia responded with the creation of our Spark team, which took shape as a five-person team made up of some of the world's best Drupal experts.
Also in 2012, Acquia acquired Mollom, a company I created to address the challenge of managing social spam on websites. With the tremendous growth of user-generated content as part of the social media explosion, unwanted content has become a more important issue to take on. As a SaaS tool, Mollom fits in with Acquia's existing services.
In 2012, Acquia continued to invest in the worldwide Drupal community in a number of important ways. First, we sponsored over 82 Drupal events around the world in 2012. These events brought new people into Drupal and helped existing Drupal users learn new techniques. We employ more than 110 Drupal specialists, most of whom are significant contributors to the larger community. We've sent our Drupalists to more than 30 of these events (as well as hosted sprints ourselves at Acquia) to collaborate with others in the community on important problems for Drupal.
We also grew Acquia's Office of the Chief Technical Officer, or OCTO, in 2012. OCTO includes a dedicated team who work on Drupal full-time, on projects that include:
- Drupal core architecture issues.
- Authoring experience improvements via Spark.
- Spearheading process changes that help the community work better together.
- Forming the Large Scale Drupal program, which helps pool resources of numerous enterprises to provide solutions the benefit the entire community.
This year, like 2012, will be a key year for Acquia as we continue to develop products and services built on the open source philosophy.
Life-cyle management applications will be an increasing focus for Acquia in 2013. These applications will help craft great digital experiences by providing the tools to monitor and optimize digital content.
Of course, we'll continue to nurture and expand our vision of OpenSaaS and OpenPaaS. We'll continue to make the move to PaaS even easier, providing solutions that offer all of the functionality needed, but in a simplified package. We'll accomplish this by combining PaaS, Drupal services and Application Performance Management to produce comprehensive solutions that continue to make Acquia a no brainer when it comes to choosing a PaaS provider. PaaS platforms that embrace an open ecosystem provide faster business value, as many of our customers have discovered. We are working with our growing number of partners to help them build customer solutions on our open cloud platform.
As we start down the road of 2013, we enter the year just having raised $30 million in Series E financing, the single largest financing we have done to date. As we have grown and matured during 2012, these funds will assure sustained growth and success in 2013. No matter how rapidly we grow, or how large the Drupal community becomes, Acquia will put its open source philosophy at the core of all the work it does. In the end, the people of Acquia and the Drupal community, following this philosophy, are building the future of the digital experience. The Open Source way.
A major focus of usability efforts in Drupal core has been around making it easier to edit things on your site. In Drupal 7, we introduced the Contextual links and Overlay modules to make it simpler for content authors and site builders to jump directly to the parts of the administration that relate to the things they see directly on the page, such as blocks or menus. Drupal 8 has now upped the ante with the new in-place editing feature, which allows for direct modification of content on your site, within the context of the page it is displayed on.
The next logical step is to take in-place editing to the next level by unifying contextual editing paradigms: combining the concept of "edit mode" with the ability to contextually edit more than just fields on content, in order to allow for contextual editing of everything on the page, in a mobile-first way.
Specifically, we need to address the following challenges:
- Conflicting patterns confuse users: There are contextual gears to edit content, local tabs to edit content, and "Edit mode" to edit content. These patterns need to be streamlined.
- Tasks are not intuitive enough: Seemingly simple tasks can often result in "pogo-sticking" around in the admin backend trying to locate where to change a given setting.
- Unnecessary information slows users down: Drupal forms tend to be long and full of advanced/confusing options, which can overwhelm users trying to complete simple tasks.
- Interactions don't work with smaller devices: With Drupal 8's Mobile Initiative, it is critical that these tools be as easy to use on the desktop as they are on a smartphone or tablet.
Here is a video showing what we'd like to propose for solving these problems in Drupal 8 core:
We've now performed several rounds of internal usability testing on this functionality, and it has tested really well so far, with a high emotional value: in general, people can't believe this is Drupal. :-) Check out the prototype yourself at https://projects.invisionapp.com/share/U2A4IAGX.
I'm very excited about these changes, and feel that if we can get this into Drupal 8 it could be game-changing. But what do you think? If you like it, we'd love help with implementation and reviews in the core issue at http://drupal.org/node/1882482.
I'm proud to announce Acquia's newest member of the team, the LEGO Druplicon, courtesy of DataFlow (now ONE Agency). It all started on a hot August day at DrupalCon Munich. On that day, I stopped by DataFlow's booth to look at this amazing piece of art. Obviously I am a bit partial to the Druplicon and the innovative and creative ways people around the world are creating branding for Drupal.
Little did I know some lucky DrupalCon attendee was going to win the Druplicon by guessing how many bricks DataFlow used to build it. After asking a couple of questions, such as “Is it a solid structure or hollow?”, I entered my guess (along with 94 other Drupalists). My mathematical equation brought me to the answer of 12,222 blocks, which was 9 blocks over the correct number of 12,213. I won!
DataFlow went to great lengths to ship the delicate, yet massive structure from Belgium to the United States. After contacting numerous courier companies and hearing the Druplicon needed a special Visa, VAT and insurance documents, as well as it needed to be fumigated (sigh, it's just LEGOs), they found one company that was willing to take on the task. About a month and half later, a pallet jack wheeled into our office and dropped off a 4 foot crate.
Unfortunately due to my travel schedule I wasn't able to open the crate for about a week, which created quite the buzz around the office. We had to schedule the unveiling and make sure we had a crowbar and hammer on hand to open it. Coincidentally this was on my birthday, so it was quite the gift!
I'm happy to report that the 12,213 LEGO Drupalicon made it intact (just a few pieces came loose) due to the wonderful packing material of Belgian toilet paper! I probably don't have to buy toilet paper for a year now. :-)
A huge thanks goes out to DataFlow who spent the time replicating the Druplicon in LEGOs, as well as shipping it over the Atlantic. We are in the process of finding a permanent spot for it in the Acquia office, so it's on display for everyone to see.