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My.FCC.gov and web services

If you watch the stream of new modules going through drupal.org, it's easy to miss those with special meaning. So you might not have noticed the appearance of Content API, an add-on to the Services module. The module was born of efforts by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make 350,000 of its documents more available to the public, as part of a site that will enter public beta in a few weeks, My.FCC.gov. Like many government agencies, the FCC has been enthusiastic about Drupal lately, attracting a detailed write-up about its "reboot as an open government platform" on O'Reilly Radar last April. (FCC.gov also uses web services extensively, although without benefit of the Content API module.)

Seabourne Consulting in Washington, DC led the development, publishing a preview video of My.FCC.gov's prototype last May. Seabourne's Mike Reich told me that Drupal let them go from concept to working prototype in three weeks because they could leverage its existing features and add-ons, such as the Services module.

I consider web services to be a crucial area for improvement in Drupal 8. In fact, I made it the second Drupal 8 initiative back in April, and am very happy that Larry Garfield (aka Crell) has agreed to take on the challenge. In the meantime, the Content API module will give organizations like the FCC easier access to the power of web services right now, and its development could help guide efforts toward putting such tools in Drupal 8's core.

State of Drupal presentation (August 2011)

Three weeks ago, at DrupalCon London, I gave my traditional State of Drupal presentation. In good tradition, you can download a copy of my slides (PDF, 37 MB) or you can watch a video recording of my keynote.

My presentation was based on the results of the State of Drupal survey, which got over 3,000 responses from people all over the world. Because I didn't have time to talk about all the survey questions in my keynote, I've decided to make a summary of all the survey results (PDF, 160 KB) available as well. It gives a more complete view on the survey results.

However, 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 name and company information. If you decide to analyze the raw data, consider sharing your findings with all of us.

DrupalCon London was a blast and I would like to thank everyone for making it such a great event.

Does Acquia suck up all the Drupal talent?

A number of concerns have been voiced from the community about the substantial growth Acquia has achieved since its inception, the number of key contributors who are now employed by Acquia, and the subsequent influence that this allows Acquia to have on the project.

While some of these concerns have validity, I also think there is also a fair share of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) being spread. So, let's clear up a few points.

In terms of growth, Acquia currently employs about 150 people. However, fewer than half of Acquia's employees work directly with Drupal; the majority of Acquians work in sales, marketing, hosting operations, finance, HR, etc. In a way, this makes us smaller than Phase2, Node One, Forum One, Propeople, Capgemini, and dozens of other shops in terms of Drupal staff. We have a different mix than most other Drupal shops.

In terms of influence, Acquia employs fewer than 10% of the contributors to Drupal core. Admittedly, on a "per Drupalist" basis, Acquia probably contributes significantly more code and magnitudes more dollars to the Drupal community than any other organization. We are investing in expanding the Drupal community through major learning initiatives. We sponsor more DrupalCamps, where new people are introduced to Drupal, than anyone. We sponsor more interns than perhaps the rest of the community combined, where high school and university students learn how to build a career in Drupal. Not to mention we contribute a lot of code.

I like to believe that is a great thing for Drupal and that not doing so would be a big loss for all of us.

It certainly helps to have venture capital money when making investments in the community, but it is not a magic bullet either. It is not free money. I've explicitly chosen to give up part of my equity in Acquia in exchange for money so that I can invest it back into the Drupal community to help Drupal advance.

I understand that my involvement with Acquia is tricky because its well-being is intertwined with Drupal's. But I help drive the decision-making process at Acquia, and I set those directions with the best interests of Drupal in mind at all times. Making Drupal successful and Drupal's well-being is my primary concern, regardless of the "hat" that I wear. We want Drupal to power as many sites as possible, both small and large. We want lots of Drupal entrepreneurs to thrive in a growing ecosystem. If you look at Acquia's actions, you'll see tons of contributions here. We sponsor DrupalCamps and DrupalCons, and pay employees to improve Drupal modules and themes.

Recently, our acquisitions of Cyrve and GVS have been a topic of debate. I'd like to point out that acquisitions are a two-way street: they don't happen unless both parties are really excited about it. Contributors come to Acquia for different reasons. Sometimes they would rather hand things like business development, sales, and support off to someone more set up for that, so they can stay focused on doing things they really enjoy. Others thrive more in a larger team of smart people working on interesting things, rather than toiling away on their own. Still others have put in huge amounts of their own personal time over a sustained period to help improve Drupal, often at great personal sacrifice, and are looking for an arrangement that makes this commitment to the project more sustainable. Painting these contributors as "bad guys", or the company who allows them to pursue a career that they love as "bad guys", is not healthy for our community, or the individuals involved.

The clear solution to the influence concern is to grow our community, particularly our contributor community. If more individuals and Drupal shops are contributing in a bigger way, this mitigates the risks of any organization, Acquia or otherwise, from exerting too much influence on the overall project.

So as a community, we need to re-frame this question. We need to be asking ourselves: (1) What can we do to grow the community? (2) Why aren't more people who depend on Drupal contributing to it? and (3) How can we encourage Drupal shops to contribute back?

Why Acquia acquired Cyrve and GVS

As followers of this blog, you might have read that Acquia acquired two Drupal companies; security specialist Growing Venture Solutions and migration expert Cyrve. We wanted to do these acquisitions because they create a win-win-win situation; it is beneficial for the Drupal community, our partners and our customers. I personally championed and led those acquisitions so I want to take a moment to explain why.

How do these acquisitions affect Drupal?

I believe these acquisitions benefit Drupal by expanding its reach. Migration from legacy systems (like Vignette, RedDot and Interwoven) and from expensive enterprise solutions (like Jive Software, Adobe CQ5 and Sitecore) represents some of Drupal's biggest opportunities -- if not the biggest. My hope is that by acquiring and expanding Cyrve, we'll be able to bring more projects into Drupal. That leads to more site building work, more contributed module patches, and more people talking about their Drupal successes.

Similarly, Acquia's involvement in GVS gives it the resources it needs to pursue new security initiatives that will make Drupal more attractive to everybody. As always, we'll continue to return many developments to the community.

How do these acquisitions affect Acquia's customers?

Acquia's customer base has been growing rapidly, both in number and size. We plan to use these acquisitions to provide our customers with more product options and more experts. We will:

  • Offer automated, self-service security tools as part of the Acquia Network.
  • Integrate the services of both companies into our Professional Services group. We'll be expanding our security and migration teams, both by training existing consultants and by bringing new employees into the fold.
  • Incorporate their curricula into our existing materials so we can help train many more experts on Drupal security and Drupal migrations.

All of these are good for Acquia's customers. But they're also good for the Drupal community at large: we need more migrations and security experts in the community.

How do these acquisitions affect Acquia's partners?

Many of our partners build Drupal websites, but few have in-house security or migration expertise. With Cyrve and GVS, we can all approach joint customers with more-complete offerings. This enables our partners to go after bigger projects.

In short, I believe these acquisitions are beneficial for Drupal, our partners and our customers. However, some people have expressed concerns that, with these acquisitions, Acquia is sucking up a lot of the Drupal talent. Because that concern is not limited to these acquisitions, I've decided to address that in a separate blog post: Does Acquia suck up all the Drupal talent?.

Half a billion spam attempts blocked

We've just reached another huge milestones at Mollom: we blocked our 500,000,000th spam message!

Furthermore, Mollom is currently protecting close to 50,000 active websites, that is a 75% increase since the beginning of the year 8 months ago.

It's sad that our websites get bombarded by idiots. But the fact that Mollom blocked half a billion of their attempts, actually makes me feel a lot better!

Statistics august

Screenshot of the scorecard section on Molom.com.

Issue queue thresholds for Drupal core

In the ongoing efforts to build on lessons learned during the Drupal 7 cycle and fast-track Drupal 7 bug fixes, a new policy has been introduced to help ensure stability of the code base, based on recommendations by key members of the core contributor team, most notably Nathaniel "catch" Catchpole.

During my keynote at DrupalCon Chicago, I introduced a new "cap" of 15 on the number of critical bugs. If the number of critical bugs creeps higher than this, no new features or clean-up patches would be committed until the bug count went back down below the threshold. This would ensure that serious bugs are able to be addressed without having to "chase" the code base due other patches performing major under-the-hood refactoring.

However, it became clear that this was not sufficient. Despite heroic efforts on bringing the number of critical bugs to zero before launch, Drupal 7 still shipped with several hundred "major" bugs. While this situation has dramatically improved since launch, it is important to keep this number down, so that when Drupal 8 is released it is stable and ready to go. Additionally, sometimes bugs are fixed or features introduced that do not perform requisite refactoring of underlying systems, and we accumulate "technical debt". This technical debt makes the code base more complex and difficult to understand, and makes Drupal harder to approach for new developers.

Going forward, new features and other major refactoring patches will only be committed to Drupal 8 if the following conditions are met:

See also the Drupal core code freeze, code thaw, issue queue thresholds documentation page for more information. The "Contributor links" dashboard block on Drupal.org now also contains these counts for easy reference.

The hope is that this will allow us to strike a balance between innovation in the future Drupal release, and stability in the stable Drupal release of today, which will in turn help increase Drupal 7 adoption.

State of Drupal 2011 survey

The last time I organized a State of Drupal survey was in 2008. The results of the 2008 survey were instrumental in shaping Drupal 7 as well as directing the work of the Drupal Association on drupal.org.

Now three years later, I created a new survey. The results of this survey will guide thousands of people in the Drupal community over the next two years.

Take the State of Drupal 2011 survey now.

It shouldn't take more than ten minutes to fill out. Don't worry if you're new to Drupal: every voice counts!

I'll present the results during my DrupalCon keynote in London; the video and the presentation slides will be downloadable after. Please do tell us what you think these days about Drupal: your views will shape Drupal 8 and beyond. Thanks!

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