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Looking to Drive Change in Your Company? Acquia Engage May Be The Solution

28 September 2016 - 10:49pm

We’re a little over a month out from Engage, and I couldn’t be more pumped. This year, I’ve been given the honor of running one of our tracks: The Politics of Digital. Given the chaos of the election season, this track couldn’t be more timely. While we won’t be discussing Donald Trump’s tweets or Hillary Clinton’s emails, we will take a deep look at the politics involved in any digital transformation project and how to Get S#%t Done.

Every single session in this track was designed to help anyone embarking on digital transformation within their own organization. One of the sessions is aptly titled “Technology is the easy part,” because for a lot of organizations it is (sort of). There are TONS of resources available, from Forrester analysts to agency partners to technology peers that will help your organization choose and implement a technology. The really hard part (that no one seems to talk about) is what happens within the walls of an organization. What happens before the analyst briefing is scheduled or before the agency brief is written? How do you take a great idea, like designing a new web presence, and get leadership, peers and partners on board? Then how do you organize around this new technology to get the most out of your investment?

In this track we’ll address all of these questions using real examples from real Acquia customers who have been there and done that. There will be no product pitches, no agency pitches, nothing but idea sharing and success stories. The sessions are full of clients from all industries, and all walks of life. For example, the YMCA will talk about how they brought digital transformation to a 160-year old brand. The City of Boston will talk about how they are actively including citizens of Boston in their digital transformation project. And Emmis Radio will tell their story about how Drupal was the catalyst for changing their entire sales and business model.

And there’s so much more. Including (drum roll please) a panel discussion run by yours truly featuring change agents from 5 different industries, all sharing stories on how they overcame the challenges faced by any organization.

While I may be a bit biased, I think this track is going to be the most practical, valuable, and interesting track we have this year. You’ll hear great stories, and come away with tips and tricks you can start using today (or rather, November 4th) to ensure success in your digital transformation journey.

Categories: Drupal News

The transformation of Drupal 8 for continuous innovation

28 September 2016 - 4:46pm

In the past, after every major release of Drupal, most innovation would shift to two areas: (1) contributed modules for the current release, and (2) core development work on the next major release of Drupal. This innovation model was the direct result of several long-standing policies, including our culture of breaking backward compatibility between major releases.

In many ways, this approach served us really well. It put strong emphasis on big architectural changes, for a cleaner, more modern, and more flexible codebase. The downsides were lengthy release cycles, a costly upgrade path, and low incentive for core contributors (as it could take years for their contribution to be available in production). Drupal 8's development was a great example of this; the architectural changes in Drupal 8 really propelled Drupal's codebase to be more modern and flexible, but also came at the cost of four and a half years of development and a complex upgrade path.

As Drupal grows — in lines of code, number of contributed modules, and market adoption — it becomes harder and harder to rely purely on backward compatibility breaks for innovation. As a result, we decided to evolve our philosophy starting after the release of Drupal 8.

The only way to stay competitive is to have the best product and to help people adopt it more seamlessly. This means that we have to continue to be able to reinvent ourselves, but that we need to make the resulting changes less scary and easier to absorb. We decided that we wanted more frequent releases of Drupal, with new features, API additions, and an easy upgrade path.

To achieve these goals, we adopted three new practices:

  1. Semantic versioning: a major.minor.patch versioning scheme that allows us to add significant, backwards-compatible improvements in minor releases like Drupal 8.1.0 and 8.2.0.
  2. Scheduled releases: new minor releases are timed twice a year for predictability. To ensure quality, each of these minor releases gets its own beta releases and release candidates with strict guidelines on allowed changes.
  3. Experimental modules in core: optional alpha-stability modules shipped with the core package, which allow us to distribute new functionality, gather feedback, and iterate faster on the modules' planned path to stability.

Now that Drupal 8 has been released for about 10 months and Drupal 8.2 is scheduled to be released next week, we can look back at how this new process worked. Drupal 8.1 introduced two new experimental modules (the BigPipe module and a user interface for data migration), various API additions, and usability improvements like spell checking in CKEditor. Drupal 8.2 further stabilizes the migration system and introduces numerous experimental alpha features, including significant usability improvements (i.e. block placement and block configuration), date range support, and advanced content moderation — among a long list of other stable and experimental improvements.

It's clear that these regular feature updates help us innovate faster — we can now add new capabilities to Drupal that previously would have required a new major version. With experimental modules, we can get features in users' hands early, get feedback quickly, and validate that we are implementing the right things. And with the scheduled release cycle, we can deliver these improvements more frequently and more predictably. In aggregate, this enables us to innovate continuously; we can bring more value to our users in less time in a sustainable manner, and we can engage more developers to contribute to core.

It is exciting to see how Drupal 8 transformed our capabilities to continually innovate with core, and I'm looking forward to seeing what we accomplish next! It also raises questions about what this means for Drupal 9 — I'll cover that in a future blog post.

Categories: Drupal News

API-first Drupal: Innovating from Digital Experiences to Digital Ecosystems

27 September 2016 - 11:28pm

Recently, Acquia CTO and Drupal project lead Dries Buytaert touted Drupal as the optimal solution for “ambitious digital experiences.” But what constitutes an ambitious digital experience these days? Many of the digital experiences we encounter on a daily basis are no longer web-based, nor do they rely solely on web technologies at all.

Indeed, content touchpoints are multiplying at a fast clip as consumers seek increasingly diverse and distinctive means of interacting with content, like the Internet of Things (IoT), digital signage, conversational interfaces, and devices that employ machine learning to adapt to our characteristics. This calls into question: Is Drupal truly ready for our expanding milieu of devices, interactions, and experiences that we must contend with?

Luckily, last year’s release of Drupal 8 introduced a variety of capabilities allowing you to use the ever-powerful content management system (CMS) as an API-first content repository. Simply put, this means that Drupal is resolutely no longer for standalone digital experiences. In short, Drupal is well-positioned — and becoming even better — for entire digital ecosystems.

From digital experiences to digital ecosystems

Here’s a bit of a thought experiment. Think of the very first website you ever visited in your life. How was the experience of using that website? Now think of a contemporary website today. How has the experience changed over the years? When we do a comparison across decades like this one, the colossal diversification of digital experiences becomes more perceptible.

If we scrutinize digital experiences more incrementally over time, we can illuminate where touchpoints have entered the picture. The quadrennial Summer Olympics provide excellent temporal reference points to examine what exactly defines a digital experience. For instance, what were digital experiences for content like in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics?

Chances are that more likely than not, your content was delivered to your consumers through a single site in a single browser. Touchscreen smartphones were still a novelty, and many of the devices which we take for granted today were as yet prototypes in a subterranean research lab. But in 2012 in London, we begin to see a gradual proliferation of devices, each equipped with its own browser. Meanwhile, on smartphones, native mobile applications begin to partition walled gardens for consuming content.

In 2016 for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, we witnessed an explosion of touchpoints and devices. Spectators in Rio and beyond relied on a bevy of applications and devices which all enabled more personalized and intimate interactions with content. For instance, the Olympics website of the American broadcaster NBC, built in Drupal, achieved over a billion minutes of video streaming over the course of the Games.

This is no small feat. But what about Tokyo in 2020? The Japanese government has already confirmed its plans to stage the most futuristic Olympics of all time, including robotic ushers, instantaneous translation between languages, and autonomous taxis to ferry spectators between events. All of these discard the foregoing model of consumption of content in favor of rich interaction with content.

In short, we are witnessing nothing short of a wholesale paradigm shift in how organizations think about content. The digital experiences we are accustomed to are no longer disparate touchpoints built by siloed teams, united solely by brand. Today, digital experiences constitute digital ecosystems which increasingly require centralization and orchestration.

From consumption of content to interaction with content

Consider for a moment how your personal experience of the Olympics might shift in the coming years as devices continue to enter the market at a blistering pace. What might a typical day look like during the Tokyo Olympics?

When you wake up in the morning to your smartwatch’s alarm, you peer sleepily at the screen and see various news notifications about the previous day’s swimming races, preemptively requested the night before. Then, when you rise to begin your day, you ask the Amazon Echo perched on your nightstand what happened the previous day in cycling, and Alexa responds with a curated list of news catered to your athletic interests.

As you eat breakfast, a small screen on your refrigerator depicts yesterday’s American medal winners and the overall medal standings across all participants in the Games. And as you walk to your car, bus, or train, your Google Glass pushes some notifications about the women’s gymnastics team into the corner of your lens. Finally, during your grocery shopping at the end of the day, you receive a notification on your smartphone about a sports drink on sale in the adjacent aisle based not on your browsing habits but rather how you’ve interacted directly with your content.

Of course, upon imagining this “typical” day four years from now, you may conclude that these possibilities are still remote and as yet unachievable. You might contend that realizing and articulating these myriad digital experiences requires a complicated and unwieldy architecture that current technologies are underprepared for.

In fact, all of this is possible and achievable in the short term with Drupal’s help.

Interacting with content, powered by Acquia

To demonstrate this, Acquia already has many compelling case studies in this area, especially around conversational interfaces and the Internet of Things (IoT). For instance, consider that Drupal 8 already has an open-source module available for Amazon Echo and that an integration with Alexa is not only possible but already very real, as you can see in the demo video below.

Holding a conversation with Drupal is certainly impressive, but it is by no means the only futuristic project that has leveraged Drupal 8 for forward-looking ideas. In New York City, Drupal 8 powers screens on information kiosks which show upcoming trains and service advisories, significantly ameliorating the waiting experience for passengers on platforms.

Drupal 8 also supplies data to a Tesla mobile application for Tesla vehicles, and Lufthansa is currently constructing in-flight entertainment systems which will consume content and data served by Drupal 8. All of these new applications open the door to even more new use cases and unfathomable opportunities for the audiences of our content.

API-first Drupal is free and open-source

What all of these innovative experiences have in common is Drupal as the centerpiece of each digital ecosystem. Today, you can use one Drupal repository to power IoT applications, chat applications, native mobile and desktop applications, single-page applications, set-top-boxes, and even other back ends.

Drupal 8 is API-first, which means that it is optimized for exposing content for the benefit of applications. Nevertheless, Drupal isn’t alone in this space. API-first content-as-a-service platforms, such as Contentful,, CloudCMS, and Prismic, are quickly infiltrating this new market. These are platforms which specialize in the broadcasting of content to other applications but do not display content themselves; in other words, they are headless. These API-first platforms generally charge to use their repositories in the cloud and often limit the number of requests you can make for content based on your subscription.

But Drupal has one key advantage in this age of new devices and touchpoints: It’s an API-first CMS that is free and open-source from end to end. This means all layers, including accessing and retrieving data, exposing that data, and consuming that data through software development kits (SDKs), comprise free and open-source software.

At Acquia, we are working hard to make Drupal even more API-first. Acquians are supporting ongoing efforts to shore up Drupal’s API-first capabilities as part of the API-first initiative in the community. In the upcoming weeks, Acquia team members will also be releasing Waterwheel.js 1.0, an SDK that helps accelerate the development of Drupal-backed JavaScript applications. This is just one part of the emerging Waterwheel ecosystem, a growing set of SDKs that bridge the gap between Drupal and other technologies such as Swift.


Think once more about where your digital experiences are today — your websites, your mobile applications, and all of the other content experiences you provide. Are they ready for the new world of content? Are they prepared for the constant upheavals in how we reach and understand our audiences? Are they equipped for the market trends that will redefine digital experiences as digital ecosystems and consumption of content as interaction with content?

How can you transform your digital experiences into a digital ecosystem that is ambitious, innovative, and uniquely competitive? Acquia has an excellent answer to that question. Stay tuned for an important announcement from Acquia next month about how we can collaborate to conceive, accelerate, and cultivate a compelling vision for your content. Together, we can take your content to the next level.

The contents of this blog post are adapted from a session delivered at the Brazil Innovators Summit in São Paulo entitled “Inovação na Acquia: Ampliando ecossistemas de conteúdo para novos espaços” (“Innovation at Acquia: Expanding content ecosystems to new spaces").

Categories: Drupal News

Machine Learning's Not Magic, but It Can Work Wonders

26 September 2016 - 11:09pm

There’s a fairly common tendency to use the word “magic” when talking about Machine Learning (ML). In some ways this word is appropriate given the amazing feats being accomplished using ML techniques, but in other ways it’s an unfortunate choice of words as it suggests these things are impossible for us to understand. If we believe that, then we can also be led to believe that “anything’s possible” when it comes to ML, and we lose our ability to be skeptical about claims being made about it.

The “anything’s possible” idea can also lead to unwarranted fears about an imminent Singularity, where the exponential rate of technological growth brings about a so-called superintelligence and the subsequent subjugation of the entire human race.

This post is about celebrating some of the most important successes of Machine Learning in a way that hopefully gets across how unmagical but nonetheless remarkable and full of promise these ML techniques are. It is the second post in our series on ML (you can read the first one here) which aims to spread interest and enthusiasm, not hype, about the great potential of Machine Learning in solving real problems.

Google’s AlphaGo has beaten the world Go champion

This story, more than any other from the past year, is probably responsible for a lot of recent converts to the idea that the Singularity must surely be near. Here are some of the reasons why AlphaGo’s victory against Lee Sedol, world Go champion, was such a big deal:

  • The number of legal configurations of a Go board is greater than the number of atoms in the universe
  • The branching factor of Go, i.e. the number of legal moves from a given position, is 250 (chess has an average branching factor of 35), which makes any kind of brute force (purely search-based) approach impossible
  • In 2014, AI researchers working on the problem thought it would take at least another decade for an AI to be able to beat the best humans at Go

So how did AlphaGo do it? The full technical details are provided in a paper in Nature but on AlphaGo’s website the approach is described as combining “Monte-Carlo tree search with deep neural networks that have been trained by supervised learning, from human expert games, and by reinforcement learning from games of self-play.” We talked a little bit about deep neural networks as a form of supervised learning in the last post. In this case, the networks were trained on game board configurations from real historical games played by human experts, so they could learn the probability of a win for a given move from a given position. And AlphaGo then got to hone its skills by playing against itself over and over. So it played - and learned from - more games of Go than any human ever has. And that was the secret to its success.

As remarkable a feat as this is, it is important to bear in mind that AlphaGo cannot do anything besides play games of Go. It is another example of narrow or weak AI, focused on a very narrowly defined task.

Big Data is helping researchers understand cancer

Genomics, the study of entire genomes of organisms, needs to analyze extremely long sequences of characters representing the building blocks of DNA. Because these sequences form a double-helix, the size of genomes is given in pairs of characters (so-called base pairs) and the size of the human genome is estimated to be about 3.2 billion pairs. Researchers investigating the genetic foundations of cancer now have access to two petabytes of cancer genome data that they can train ML models on in order to identify drivers of tumor growth or predict the most effective treatment for specific cancer types, for example.

Both supervised and unsupervised learning techniques are used in cancer research. So far in this series we’ve only touched on supervised learning; unsupervised learning is about looking for patterns in data without having a specific outcome you’re trying to predict. One example is clustering: given a batch of data with various features, figure out meaningful ways of dividing it into clusters, based on those features. In cancer research this technique can be used to identify different types of cells exhibiting particular characteristics that prove to be significant in driving tumor growth.

Elsewhere in cancer research, Deep Learning is helping reduce the error rate in breast cancer diagnosis by a staggering 85%.

Bigger than Big Data: Astronomical Data

If you’ve ever wondered what the biggest data is, it is the data of space. The Square Kilometer Array telescope which is due for completion in 2024 will produce an exabyte of raw data per day. That’s 10 18 bytes, or one million terabytes. Machine learning techniques such as dimensionality reduction are required right from the start in order to be able to throw away just the useless data and retain a manageable amount of relevant data. But ML finds all kinds of uses in the study of space. NASA held a competition in 2011, via the ML competition site Kaggle, where the challenge was to “create a cosmological image analysis program to measure the small distortion in galaxy images caused by dark matter.” Within a week, the current state-of-the-art algorithm for this task had been beaten. The winners used an Artificial Neural Network to recognize patterns in the 100,000 image dataset.

The statistical approach to language translation beats all others

As mentioned briefly in the first post in this series, one of the main tasks the early AI researchers focused on was solving Machine Translation (MT): creating software that would take as input a sentence in one language and produce as output that sentence translated into another language. After decades of mediocre results from translation systems that attempted to use syntactic rules to translate from one language to another, the data-driven approach emerged and quickly left rules-based approaches in the dust.

Google researchers wrote about this in 2009 in an articled entitled The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data. They noted that far from being one of the simplest tasks in Natural Language Processing (NLP), MT is in fact one of the hardest, but the reason the data-driven approach was so effective was due to the availability of massive amounts of data to train on: text is translated every day by humans from one language to another. The general trend seems to be that once you throw enough data at any NLP problem, the data-driven approach will eventually win out over rules-based approaches. As we noted before, the availability of large amounts of data has been a driving factor in the huge uptake of ML in recent years, and this is as true of NLP as it is of any other problem space.

At Acquia, we’re excited about many of the possible applications of ML, from unsupervised learning for understanding user data to predicting traffic spikes to optimize our Cloud service. And we’re particularly excited about applications in Natural Language Processing because the data they’re concerned with is text, i.e. content. In the next post, we’ll look more closely at NLP and some of the techniques used to analyze text data.

Categories: Drupal News

Why Website Personalization Is Harder Than You Think

22 September 2016 - 9:59pm

Over the past 3-5 years I’ve been hearing a lot about website personalization. I have battled a lot with personalization over the years, and to be honest, good personalization can be difficult to execute. I’ve taken some time to reflect on the difficulties of personalization, and have uncovered three main factors that make personalization challenging:

  1. Resources/Time
  2. Reporting
  3. Expectations from management

Resources and Time
Properly executing personalization on your website is hard and takes a lot of time. For example, let’s say we want to personalize a section of our homepage by audience. After we decide how we will target the audiences, we then need to ensure we have content for each audience. Once we have those two items completed, we need to know what our goal is so that we can track success against these personalized items. If you want to personalize a banner on your homepage, how would you measure a success event? By clicking on a button? Once you have determined all of those items, you then need to implement all of these things in a personalization tool. This could require a few days’ worth of work before you have personalization running on your site. Then, you need to leave it running for a length of time so it can gain statistically significant data before you can deem it successful. After the test has run for a while you will need to go in and evaluate your data and the results. This takes a lot of time.

The next phase is reporting, which will help you determine if personalization has improved your web content. Reporting can vary, as I’ve done tests that were straightforward and others where there was not enough definitive data to determine if the new personalized versions were successful over the default. So when you are determining goals for your new personalization campaign, what should take priority? Should it be more clicks? Click ratio to your audience? Navigation to other sections of your homepage? Or do you directly compare it to the default you are testing it against. The answer is: all of the above. (I didn’t say personalization would be easy!)

When I build out personalization campaigns I actually nest an A/B test within each personalization so that I can see if my personalization for each audience does better than the default. But this is where reporting gets tricky. Some tools can’t nest a test within a personalization, and even if the tool can do that, it can also add a lot of complexity to your reporting. Before you know it, you’re looking at audience success and A/B test results at once. It is a full time job to set up and report on personalization campaigns, and a lot of companies make the mistake of adding this task to someone’s current job responsibilities. Multi-tasking personalization won’t allow it to be successful in your business. Hire someone.

Expectations from Management
Once you hire someone to run personalization on your site, you also need to set expectations with your leadership team and co-workers on what you can and cannot be accomplished Some teammates think the solution to all arguments is “just test it” or “can’t we set up a website personalization campaign for this?” But personalization experts will know that most of the time, just running tests and campaigns isn't a possibility. Yes you can set up basic A/B tests to help solve some arguments, but personalization needs to have a larger strategy tied to it and you need to be able to target an audience. Defining how we do that is much more challenging than it sounds. Your target audiences should be set and defined up front with the larger team, and then these audiences can be recycled to make new campaigns move faster.

Additionally, set the expectation that personalization won’t drive traffic to the website, but that it will help keep quality traffic on your site longer. When dealing with personalization you need to look at a different set of metrics, one that your leadership team might not be accustomed to. You’ll need to help drive that new way of thinking. Have I convinced you that this is a full time job yet?!

All in all, personalization can be an important and exciting element of your site, but it is not as easy as it sounds. To properly execute personalization, you need to strategize, and build on the right foundation.

Categories: Drupal News

4 Weeks, 4 Events - Where’s Drupal in mid-2016?

21 September 2016 - 11:28pm

Drupal is way more than websites and our community is thriving and making a difference all around the world. That’s the shortest way I can sum it up.

4 Weeks, 4 Events

It’s September, 2016 and DrupalCon Dublin is on next week! In the last four weeks, I’ve had the privilege of visiting and speaking at Drupal “SaunaCamp” Helsinki, Drupal Camp Costa Rica, and Drupal Camp Ghent. I was also part of the team of Acquians and Acquia-partners at dmexco 2016 (a 50,000+ attendee digital-marketing and -advertising trade fair held every year in Cologne, Germany). It made for an intense four weeks!

Selling Drupal without selling Drupal

Drupal is way more than websites now. It is behind digital marketing packages, running mobile apps, powering digital kiosks and signage, helping charities run better, and a lot more. Everywhere I have been the past month, I’ve seen people using our open source toolset to improve their world in some way; to improve their own organisation, to help others improve theirs, to work, sell, or govern better. I wanted to avoid buzzwords, but Drupal is behind many instances of what I can only call “digital transformation.” More and more of us are using Drupal to drive change in our own companies or for our clients, but it’s not about Drupal:

“It’s about marketing and business challenges, it’s not about the nuts and bolts, it’s about what people are trying to achieve.” - Jim Bowes, Manifesto, at dmexco 2016.

Drupal powering digital marketing - At Drupal Camp Ghent, I attended a presentation by Dominique De Cooman, CEO of Dropsolid, who really impressed me because Dropsolid sells marketing-as-a-service for small and medium businesses, including: analytics, campaign planning, analysis, and so on (part of their package offering is a website tuned for inbound marketing … hello, Drupal!). Online marketing is something that many business people are beginning to understand they need, but have no idea how to get started with. With Dropsolid, Drupal has a foot in the door, small businesses can do better business, the Drupal footprint increases – win for us!

Acquia’s stand at dmexco 2016 did not say, “COME BUY SOME DRUPAL!” It said, “Personalization Happens” and featured “live personalization” in the form of a hairdresser and tattoo artist (real, actual tattoos). I asked Acquia’s Central European Country Manager, Michael Heuer why the word “personalization” (and a tattoo artist) were more important than the word “Drupal” at our stand.

Drupal is at the heart of everything we do, but people are not interested in technology, they are interested in doing something with it. We’re not trying to work from the fact, ‘Here’s a piece of technology. We’ve enhanced it and built some services around it.’ It’s more about ‘What do you want to do?’ For example, a lot of companies want to do personalization. So they’re thinking about personalizing content, personalizing the shop experience; they think about personalizing the emails they send out. They want to utilize all kinds of information. We were thinking about how we could get this across. We have a really good personalization technology here, which is based on Drupal and connected with Drupal ...” [And it works with all kinds of other web systems, too, not just CMS’s.] “I wasn’t expecting that so many people would volunteer spontaneously to get a tattoo [11 people did in the course of the 2-day event]. So the first most-asked question was ‘Are those real tattoos?’ and the second was ‘What does Acquia really do?’ And this was what we wanted. It gave us the chance to talk with them.” - Michael Heuer, Acquia

tl;dr: By selling personalization and services that are not about which software we use, we’re still opening the door for Drupal. Start a conversation. Listen to their needs. Help them solve their problems.

Community and business - creating transformation hand-in-hand

There is no dichotomy between “community” and “business.” Drupal Camps and Cons are for the nuts and bolts; how we want to build our futures. But when we’re working with organisations elsewhere, it comes down to understanding their needs, giving them a vision of what they can achieve, and then helping them do that – which we obviously want to do using Drupal somehow.

When I asked him why we weren’t selling Drupal at dmxeco, Manuel Pistner, CEO of Bright Solutions summed up the difference between a tech conference and a business event like dmexco: “Because this is not an exhibition for technical [people]. It’s for more than just coding Drupal or building applications. It’s about digitalizing processes, digitalizing the customer experience.”

I saw example after example of how this alleged business-community gap is being bridged:

  • Dropsolid is a great example of a business need generating more Drupal business over time.
  • Drupal in advertising and more - In Helsinki, the community is the glue between everyone from a global advertising agency centering on Drupal solutions – Mirum – to an individual freelancer who supports his family by contracting out to clients including other Drupal agencies (shout out to Juho!), and everyone in between.
  • Drupal in banking - Drupal Camp Costa Rica was inspiring. Just like in India, the community seems to be young, enthusiastic, and growing. But it wasn’t just students; the largest bank in the region, BAC|Credomatic Bank, was there talking about how Drupal helped them grow their business and reduce costs at the same time... And after my session, we got to talking with them about what they might be able to do with Drupal 8, too!
  • Drupal in everything! - At Drupal Camp Ghent, in the heart of Drupal’s origins in Belgium, people clearly have a deep emotional bond with Drupal and feel connected to its roots. But at the same time, I met people offering (and selling) innovation services, marketing, accessibility and other kinds of value built on Drupal tools, but not selling Drupal!

Drupal Camp Costa Rica 2016 - Pura Vida!

Thank you!

Thank you, friends in the Costa Rican Drupal community for making it possible for me to be part of your camp. My wife and I felt so welcome in your country and at the camp. Thank you, Belgian Drupal community for inviting me to speak at your camp. Though my home in Cologne isn’t far from Ghent, the trip couldn’t have happened without your help. Thank you, Mirum and the Finnish Drupal community for the welcome in Helsinki. Thanks to the Acquia team and our partners at dmexco for an amazing and educational two days. And finally, thanks to my employer, Acquia, for enabling me to do my part for our technologies and our community.

Categories: Drupal News

Sneak Peek: A Look at Our Upcoming Blog Refresh

15 September 2016 - 4:45am

In last week’s blog I talked about our iterative design and development approach, so this week I wanted to show this method in practice and share a recent project that I’ve been working on: refreshing the blog section of our website.

Why are we redesigning our blog?
A lot has happened in our blog strategy since the last time we updated the design. The current blog design was done about 2 years ago with a very different plan and target audience in place. We’ve made a few minor updates along the way to align the blog landing page with our current goals. These changes include the placement of our blog newsletter, how we market to target audiences, and the layout of the site.

The first example is our blog newsletter. This item was added about a year ago, and in order to properly fit it into our site today, our new design will have a well thought out placement for the newsletter sign up.

We have also drastically changed our targeted blog audience in the past 2 years. We built for our developer audience and moved all developer related posts to that website. The blog now is oriented toward a buisness audience. Our blog offers posts on topics like thought leadership, strategy, and how-tos for the marketing audience. This change helps our users in both audiences to get what they need quickly and easily without having to dig through content that isn’t relevant to them.

Finally, when we started thinking about the visual style of our blog, we wanted the update to mirror the latest look and feel improvements that have been executed on other pages within our site to maintain consistency. For example, this past month we updated our Resource Center with a more visually appealing layout, which we wanted to mimic in the layout of our blog. Our visitors are responding well to this imagery, so we wanted to make it a bigger part of our design.

What are we removing?
We want to streamline our content on the main blog landing page, so we are removing the intro text on blogs and just showing the headlines. This will make it easier for users to browse our blog content. However, this could turn out to be a mistake and is something we will need to watch closely. The thought behind this decisions is that if the headline doesn’t capture you, the blurb won’t add much. This provides us the ability to make the page more uniform in addition to making our images bigger. We also removed the right side bar on the blog landing page. We haven’t deleted those items, but instead we made them more integrated into our design. We moved the series tags under the headline story, so that they would be more prominent.

The other thing we are paring back on is info about the author on the individual blog pages. Currently we offer some fun facts about the author, which are primarily developer focused insights and don’t add much value to our business audience.

What are our goals?
With this redesign, we are looking to enhance the experience of our blog. We want to limit the superfluous extras and bring the value to you, the reader, faster. We don’t anticipate these changes will increase traffic — our content needs to do that for us. But we want to help boost the value of the content by amplifying the vivid imagery that adds value and excitement to the experience of reading our blogs. Lastly, we want our blog to match the look and feel of the rest of our website, and determined that it was a section that needed an update. Come back in the next few weeks to see it live in action. In fact, this very post will look different in just a few weeks’ time!

Categories: Drupal News

Acquia Announces Launch of Acquia Cloud Site Factory Stacks

14 September 2016 - 2:15am

Acquia is proud to announce the release of a new, breakthrough capability within Acquia Cloud Site Factory. Available today, Acquia Cloud Site Factory Stacks brings ubiquitous multisite delivery, management and control, empowering different brands, regions, and teams to manage their own digital experiences.

Acquia’s solution for multisite management is now the industry’s only digital experience platform that can deliver strong governance along with the flexibility to support multiple development teams, multiple regions, multiple brands, multiple compliance standards, and multiple versions of Drupal, all with a single solution.

With this release, Acquia Cloud Site Factory now has the capabilities to deploy and manage multiple Stacks; enabling groups of sites to be spun off from multiple codebases, all within a single instance of Acquia Cloud Site Factory, regardless of site complexity. This evolution expands Site Factory’s functionality, regional deployment, and governance while opening up many new possibilities including:

  • Different teams within an organization can now deploy their own sites on the Stacks solution, yet all sites can be managed from a centralized console.
  • Support for dramatically different sites that require unique digital experience functions or infrastructure can now be delivered and managed centrally.
  • Drupal 8 sites may be independently managed alongside Drupal 7 sites within a unified management console.
Helping Digital Marketing and IT Deliver Experiences Together

Realizing multiple digital experience sites at global-scale takes teamwork. Digital marketers and IT teams need the right tools in place in order to effectively work together to deliver the applications, the content, and the site management infrastructure that together define an organization’s digital experiences. Marketing controls the brand, the look and feel, and the overall experience of each site where IT manages and maintains the backend. Marketing values time for creativity and automation that does not slow down the process of delivering the experience. IT is focused on ensuring uptime and performance, mitigating security risks, and powering continuous innovation and development across brands, regions, and experience teams. Each team needs to execute with hyper efficiency to enable both to run at the speed of today’s global digital businesses.

Acquia Cloud Site Factory has long provided excellent delivery and governance tools for satisfying the needs of both marketing and IT teams. Now with Stacks, both teams have more flexibility to deliver and manage multiple digital experience applications and sites based on the brand, experience, and deployments while making it easy to centrally manage and control.

ACSF Stacks brings the following benefits to the digital experience team:

  • Faster, hassle-free campaign launches: Stacks increases creative freedom without sacrificing speed. The reduced burden on DevOps means that those technical resources can focus on new features and improvements instead. This also reduces total cost without impacting the experience.
  • Speed time-to-market and performance assurance: Acquia will handle spikes in traffic when a marketing campaign takes off and succeeds so you never worry about performance.
  • Mitigated security risk: By using dedicated multisite infrastructure, centrally accessed and controlled from a unified management console, security features and patches can be applied to multiple sites at once, minimizing risk across the board and reducing vulnerabilities.

As the demand for digital business and marketing increases, digital experience teams in marketing and IT are facing many challenges to achieve success:

  • The need to lower the costs of website delivery and management
  • To close the widening skills gaps in executing new digital approaches
  • To transition to IT service providers to enable continuous, efficient digital business operations

ACSF Stacks provides digital experience and platform owners a common platform and governance approach which translates into lower site costs, managed complexity, and a proven IT service provider ready platform.

Categories: Drupal News

Engage 2016: A Peek at This Year's Talk Tracks

9 September 2016 - 11:45pm

The beginning of September marks not only the end of summer for most, but the beginning of Engage season! With less than two months to go until our annual customer conference, we’re kicking things into high gear.

We’ve got some great speakers lined up — including Dan Lyons, author of the book Disrupted, and Filippo Catalano, Chief Digital Operations Officer at Nestle — and our full agenda is now available online for a peek into what your an expect this year.

This week, I’m especially excited to announce our talk tracks for 2016. We’ve settled on three high-level topic areas: success stories, tech, and digital politics. Read on below for a deeper look at what you can expect from each of these tracks!

Steal This Idea
Ever wonder how your peers are building exceptional digital experiences, what's moving the needle with their customers, what their business motivations are for implementing change, and the strategy they employ that brings those ideas to life? We were pretty curious too, so we rounded up an outstanding group of forward thinking digital experts to tell their stories of embracing change and the digital evolution. Our customers do amazing things, and we think there’s a lesson to be learned from each of them.

Tech Talk
Discover the technology behind how customers and partners built their next-level digital experiences. Technical peers share best practices and the secrets to how they did it using Acquia products and Drupal 8.

The Politics of Digital
Learn how others have successfully harnessed people and processes to drive success with digital initiatives. Get more done — more easily, with less friction — by learning from peers about overcoming challenges related to people, process, governance, and organizational alignment, and how to tear down the common barriers that exist at every organization.

With this year’s agenda, we’re confident we have a little something for everyone, regardless of your role or level within your organization. So come join us and find out!

In the coming weeks, we’ve got loads more to divulge on the Engage front, from our conference wrap-up activity (historically we’ve done both a beer tasting and a whiskey pairing, just to give you a hint!) as well as a closer look at our list of speakers, pre-conference sessions, and more.

Don’t want to wait another day to confirm you’ll be joining us? Register now!

Categories: Drupal News

JIRA for Marketers: How It Works and Why We Picked It

8 September 2016 - 10:28pm

What’s your plan for managing your enterprise content creation strategy? If it’s “attempt to keep track of everything in a spreadsheet,” you’re going to have some problems — trust me, I’ve tried!

It’s a given that large enterprise organizations produce and maintain a large library of assets, but implementing and maintaining a system to keep the process of creating and managing it can be a major challenge. About a year ago, we determined we needed to better handle our content management woes. With an expanding marketing team and an even faster growing global company, we were really struggling to maintain a system that could track all open content projects, new project requests, and project statuses that were searchable and viewable by anyone across the organization.

Before embarking on a full-fledged search for a solution, we created a list of must-have functions and features. We started by looking at our current system — a very manual process dependent on Google Docs — and noted the struggles and missing capabilities that we would need to addressed in our future solution. Some of these needs included the ability to:

  • Manage items in several different asset types, including blogs, product pages, and ebooks.
  • Handle requests from any source, including our product and sales teams, any individual within the global organization, or externally from partners and customers.
  • Ensure that items are created on schedule and meet deadlines.
  • Use automation as much as possible to reduce menial tasks and send updates regarding any item’s status automatically and on request.
  • Be transparent, to ourselves and to our internal customers.

We considered many options — from third party platforms and Drupal plugins like Workbench, to even overhauling our current Google Docs-based process to see if we could make it more efficient and effective. When none of those options seemed to be exactly what we were looking for, we looked at other tools already in use at Acquia and realized that Atlassian JIRA might be a possibility. As someone entirely unfamiliar with JIRA, I was resistant at first. It seemed to me to be a tool for developers and more technical practitioners. But our internal JIRA champion gave us a walkthrough, and after much back and forth, we decided to give it a try.

Why use JIRA for content marketing project management?

For our organization, JIRA primarily made sense because every Acquia employee has access to it, and we had an internal JIRA champion who could help onboard us and customize the system to meet our needs.

(We also determined that by using JIRA in marketing, we could be more collaborative with our engineering department, since they already used JIRA on a daily basis, giving us more credibility and another avenue for collaboration with them.)

That said, at first it wasn’t easy to get our content team to adopt JIRA. As a tool that isn’t built for marketers, it felt unnatural and foreign. Some of its terminology (like issues, boards, and components) used language that wasn’t a part of our marketing team’s vocabulary, so we had to train ourselves to recognize what the terms mean in our world. For example, issues are individual projects, boards are visual collections of projects, and we used components to provide features and facts about each project. One how-to doc and a training session later, and we were up and running.

How we’re using JIRA for marketing

To get an overall sense of what we’re working on, we use a specialized board that displays information about all of the content items in progress. The board is like a matrix, with the columns and the rows providing specific, useful information.

The columns indicate where an issue is in its life cycle. Everything starts as an Open project, and then moves through Researching, Writing, Editing, Localization, Design Layout, Ready to Publish, and, ultimately, Done.

The rows on the board are called swimlanes by JIRA, and they group the projects based on when they’re due. For example, we have rows for Due in Less than 7 Days, Overdue, and Everything else.

Each of the projects are also sorted vertically in each column, with the projects due sooner being listed at the top.

For submitting new projects, users within Acquia can submit them directly through JIRA, but we’ve also created an email address that users across the organization can use to create new project requests via email, simplifying the process.

Everyone at Acquia has access to this board, and they can use it to both see what we’re working on, as well as track how their projects of interest are doing (without having to send us an email or swing by our desks — a huge improvement!)

What kind of projects can you track in JIRA?

Because JIRA is flexible and customizable, we’re using it to track all content projects, including:

  • Blog
  • eBook
  • Data Sheet
  • Creative
  • Case Study
  • White Paper
  • Video
  • Partner
  • Podcast
  • Press Release
  • Web
  • Task
  • Other

Filters and Reporting
In addition to being able to track projects as they’re in-progress, JIRA also has extensive filtering capabilities that allow us to look at any number of things, including an individual’s workload, production times for certain project types, the number of discrete assets we create in a defined timeframe, and much more. This has helped members of our larger marketing organization on tracking and reporting on deliverables on a monthly and quarterly basis, but also helps us gain insight into where we’re spending the majority of our time, and the lead time for certain types of assets.

How we’re doing
As with any attempt to change how you do things, we’ve had our successes and failures, but I think we’re heading the right direction. Understanding that content creation has a lifecycle and tracking that transparently has enabled us to get a much greater sense of what we’re doing, and then plan accordingly.

Since we started using JIRA on the content team, our Marketing Operations team also adopted it as their main request management tool, which helps to make us even that much more aligned and successful.

JIRA isn’t my favorite tool I use, and it’s not always the favorite tool within our content marketing team either, but it doesn’t have to be. It keeps us accountable, on track, and transparent to the rest of the organization, which is exactly what we needed to achieve with our new content tracking tool. For those reasons, I’m happy we picked it, and our team will continue to use it going forwards.

The most critical tidbit you should take from this post is: you don’t have to use JIRA, but you can, and it works. What’s more important is to have a plan in place to manage your content throughout the entire production lifecycle, and using a tool like JIRA to help you with that can be so worthwhile.

Categories: Drupal News

Iterative Design and Development: Update Your Site Without Doing a Redesign

7 September 2016 - 11:26pm

Amazon’s website looks completely different than it did a few years ago, but did you ever notice it changing? I think they do the best job at making small adjustments over a long period of time. This means they avoid killing user experience and make site adjustments manageable for their business. Not only does completing a full site redesign kills your web team’s velocity, but it can also be very intimidating and costly for large enterprises.

At Acquia, we implement a similar approach but we also mold it to fit our business. We call it Iterative Design and Development. Our approach is simple: we select sections of our site every quarter (a three month period) to optimize and re-design. The goal is to enhance user experience, increase site conversions, and update our design to match our latest branding standards. This allows us to have small wins throughout the year instead of waiting months for one big site update. I find this elevates team moral and keeps us motivated because we can see the impact of our changes right away.

This year we started by jumping on our site header. We consider this a section of our site because you cannot change your site-header on just one page. We updated the colors of our site header and the footer site wide from black to white. This one change made a huge difference to the feeling of our site without causing users to be lost when they next visited. Now we are looking to update our main site navigation, but the key is to not change the site header and navigation at the same time. Simultaneously implementing site alterations like these could seriously confuse users.

The next step for us was our homepage and key conversion landing pages. Those were the most trafficked pages and also important for the goal of our site so we started there. The process for us is more complicated than just a “look and feel update.” Our development team needs time to clean up our CSS and JavaScript files while they are moving from the old to new designs. This is important for site performance and long term maintainability of your site. If you want to read more on site performance please read: What Digital Marketers Need to Know about website Performance.

To help you execute Iterative Design and Development for your site, we’ve outlined the high level process:

  • Define your key site sections (header, homepage, conversion pages, etc.)
  • Start with small adjustments such as color changes
  • Tackle page redesigns based on your sections from step 1
  • Optimize for usability separate from large design pattern changes

For other easy adjustments, you could add change colors, update your buttons, try a new font (though beware of how that affects the font-size sitewide), or try adding full width background images to differentiate sections of content. Small and interactive modifications like these can have a big impact on your site design.

This will help with Drupal 8
Iterative Design and Development will also be very strategic for when we move to Drupal 8 in the near future. Our goal is to update our current website with great designs and layouts before we move to Drupal 8, so that we are working on infrastructure changes and enhancements after the move, and not redesigns and copy edits. This simplifies our migration to Drupal 8 in a bunch of ways:

  • It doesn't impact the user experience because the design does not change
  • It keeps our organic search engine rankings intact because we won’t be changing the content on our site (that has already been done)
  • Our development team can focus on module selections and implementations instead of building new page designs
  • There are no added design costs during the migration
  • It guarantees faster delivery - redesign and new content will only add onto your migration timeline.

Managing a B2B website requires a lot of planning and organizing, so I hope that these ideas help keep your site manageable and moving in the right direction. Adopting Iterative Design and Development is important because if your site doesn’t change and evolve over time, your business will suffer. To read more about maintaining your content please read: Building a Content Maintenance Strategy.

Categories: Drupal News

The Time is Now

7 September 2016 - 4:23am

As I near the one year anniversary of my arrival at our regional headquarters in Sydney, I had a moment last week where, despite 3.5 years at Acquia HQ, l was reminded about the journey Drupal (and Acquia) has had around the world.

It’s easy to think that a certain technology reaches a critical mass at a certain point everywhere, especially when it’s used by some of the world’s globally leading organisations, especially in your own country. However, I found myself again on a learning curve about the kind of help, questions, and objectives that organisations in Australia need and have as they contemplate their digital journey.

Together with one of our rapidly growing digital partners, Ogilvy, we hosted a ‘Drupal as an Enterprise CMS’ Executive Luncheon in Melbourne, VIC, last Friday, to address some heritage perceptions that linger about whether Drupal is enterprise-ready.

We invited one of our highly valued long-term customers, Jamie Glenn from Flight Centre, who joined us to share his honest experience of using Drupal in the amazing success story that is Flight Centre.

We were delighted to welcome a number of senior executives from well-known organisations in financial services, online gaming and wagering, retail, media and entertainment, travel and transport, energy and utilities, consumer goods, and higher education.

My observations from this session:

  1. The seniority and brand representation at the event shows how seriously Australian organisations regard a CMS and associated tools within their marketing strategy mix, and their business transformation.
  2. Technology doesn’t really feature as part of the ‘why,’ it mostly features as an post-sales question about the ‘how.’ From Head of Marketing, to General Manager of Marketing, to Business Transformation Manager, aside of a CIO, there were no specific technologists in the room.
  3. Open source technology is regarded with great interest, and as a reason to use Drupal, instead of something to mitigate as part of a project.
  4. There is currently huge opportunity for partners to grow their Drupal + Open Source practices with Acquia and work on some of the best transformation projects going.
  5. There’s never been a better time for Drupal developers, and future Drupal developers, and that’s only set to grow.
  6. I am super excited to say that we are at the tipping point of Drupal being recognised as a serious contender in the enterprise space in ANZ.

Jamie will also be speaking at our global customer forum, Engage, in Boston, MA, on November 1-3, 2016. We just hope everyone in North America gets his Aussie sense of humour enough to enjoy his very candid approach to Flight Centre’s digital transformation journey :) You can see a video of Jamie here.

Thank you to everyone who came last week. We’ll be looking to host something similar in Sydney soon, and in the meantime, we encourage everyone to keep asking questions and keep being curious because that helps us break down the legacy (mis)perception that Drupal is not enterprise-ready. Interest in the room, and projects we are rolling out this year show that it clearly is.

Categories: Drupal News

Who sponsors Drupal development?

6 September 2016 - 11:39pm

There exist millions of Open Source projects today, but many of them aren't sustainable. Scaling Open Source projects in a sustainable manner is difficult. A prime example is OpenSSL, which plays a critical role in securing the internet. Despite its importance, the entire OpenSSL development team is relatively small, consisting of 11 people, 10 of whom are volunteers. In 2014, security researchers discovered an important security bug that exposed millions of websites. Like OpenSSL, most Open Source projects fail to scale their resources. Notable exceptions are the Linux kernel, Debian, Apache, Drupal, and WordPress, which have foundations, multiple corporate sponsors and many contributors that help these projects scale.

We (Dries Buytaert is the founder and project lead of Drupal and co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Acquia and Matthew Tift is a Senior Developer at Lullabot and Drupal 8 configuration system co-maintainer) believe that the Drupal community has a shared responsibility to build Drupal and that those who get more from Drupal should consider giving more. We examined commit data to help understand who develops Drupal, how much of that work is sponsored, and where that sponsorship comes from. We will illustrate that the Drupal community is far ahead in understanding how to sustain and scale the project. We will show that the Drupal project is a healthy project with a diverse community of contributors. Nevertheless, in Drupal's spirit of always striving to do better, we will also highlight areas where our community can and should do better.

Who is working on Drupal?

In the spring of 2015, after proposing ideas about giving credit and discussing various approaches at length, added the ability for people to attribute their work to an organization or customer in the issue queues. Maintainers of Drupal themes and modules can award issues credits to people who help resolve issues with code, comments, design, and more.

A screenshot of an issue comment on You can see that jamadar worked on this patch as a volunteer, but also as part of his day job working for TATA Consultancy Services on behalf of their customer, Pfizer.'s credit system captures all the issue activity on This is primarily code contributions, but also includes some (but not all) of the work on design, translations, documentation, etc. It is important to note that contributing in the issues on is not the only way to contribute. There are other activities—for instance, sponsoring events, promoting Drupal, providing help and mentoring—important to the long-term health of the Drupal project. These activities are not currently captured by the credit system. Additionally, we acknowledge that parts of Drupal are developed on GitHub and that credits might get lost when those contributions are moved to For the purposes of this post, however, we looked only at the issue contributions captured by the credit system on

What we learned is that in the 12-month period from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016 there were 32,711 issue credits—both to Drupal core as well as all the contributed themes and modules—attributed to 5,196 different individual contributors and 659 different organizations.

Despite the large number of individual contributors, a relatively small number do the majority of the work. Approximately 51% of the contributors involved got just one credit. The top 30 contributors (or top 0.5% contributors) account for over 21% of the total credits, indicating that these individuals put an incredible amount of time and effort in developing Drupal and its contributed modules:

RankUsernameIssues 1dawehner560 2DamienMcKenna448 3alexpott409 4Berdir383 5Wim Leers382 6jhodgdon381 7joelpittet294 8heykarthikwithu293 9mglaman292 10drunken monkey248 11Sam152237 12borisson_207 13benjy206 14edurenye184 15catch180 16slashrsm179 17phenaproxima177 18mbovan174 19tim.plunkett168 20rakesh.gectcr163 21martin107163 22dsnopek152 23mikeryan150 24jhedstrom149 25xjm147 26hussainweb147 27stefan.r146 28bojanz145 29penyaskito141 30larowlan135
How much of the work is sponsored?

As mentioned above, from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, 659 organizations contributed code to Drupal is used by more than one million websites. The vast majority of the organizations behind these Drupal websites never participate in the development of Drupal; they use the software as it is and do not feel the need to help drive its development.

Technically, Drupal started out as a 100% volunteer-driven project. But nowadays, the data suggests that the majority of the code on is sponsored by organizations in Drupal's ecosystem. For example, of the 32,711 commit credits we studied, 69% of the credited work is "sponsored".

We then looked at the distribution of how many of the credits are given to volunteers versus given to individuals doing "sponsored work" (i.e. contributing as part of their paid job):

Looking at the top 100 contributors, for example, 23% of their credits are the result of contributing as volunteers and 56% of their credits are attributed to a corporate sponsor. The remainder, roughly 21% of the credits, are not attributed. Attribution is optional so this means it could either be volunteer-driven, sponsored, or both.

As can be seen on the graph, the ratio of volunteer versus sponsored don't meaningfully change as we look beyond the top 100—the only thing that changes is that more credits that are not attributed. This might be explained by the fact that occasional contributors might not be aware of or understand the credit system, or could not be bothered with setting up organizational profiles for their employer or customers.

As shown in jamadar's screenshot above, a credit can be marked as volunteer and sponsored at the same time. This could be the case when someone does the minimum required work to satisfy the customer's need, but uses his or her spare time to add extra functionality. We can also look at the amount of code credits that are exclusively volunteer credits. Of the 7,874 credits that marked volunteer, 43% of them (3,376 credits) only had the volunteer box checked and 57% of them (4,498) were also partially sponsored. These 3,376 credits are one of our best metrics to measure volunteer-only contributions. This suggests that only 10% of the 32,711 commit credits we examined were contributed exclusively by volunteers. This number is a stark contrast to the 12,888 credits that were "purely sponsored", and that account for 39% of the total credits. In other words, there were roughly four times as many "purely sponsored" credits as there were "purely volunteer" credits.

When we looked at the 5,196 users, rather than credits, we found somewhat different results. A similar percentage of all users had exclusively volunteer credits: 14% (741 users). But the percentage of users with exclusively sponsored credits is only 50% higher: 21% (1077 users). Thus, when we look at the data this way, we find that users who only do sponsored work tend to contribute quite a bit more than users who only do volunteer work.

None of these methodologies are perfect, but they all point to a conclusion that most of the work on Drupal is sponsored. At the same time, the data shows that volunteer contribution remains very important to Drupal. We believe there is a healthy ratio between sponsored and volunteer contributions.

Who is sponsoring the work?

Because we established that most of the work on Drupal is sponsored, we know it is important to track and study what organizations contribute to Drupal. Despite 659 different organizations contributing to Drupal, approximately 50% of them got 4 credits or less. The top 30 organizations (roughly top 5%) account for about 29% of the total credits, which suggests that the top 30 companies play a crucial role in the health of the Drupal project. The graph below shows the top 30 organizations and the number of credits they received between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016:

While not immediately obvious from the graph above, different types of companies are active in Drupal's ecosystem and we propose the following categorization below to discuss our ecosystem.

Category Description Traditional Drupal businesses Small-to-medium-sized professional services companies that make money primarily using Drupal. They typically employ less than 100 employees, and because they specialize in Drupal, many of these professional services companies contribute frequently and are a huge part of our community. Examples are Lullabot (shown on graph) or Chapter Three (shown on graph). Digital marketing agencies Larger full-service agencies that have marketing led practices using a variety of tools, typically including Drupal, Adobe Experience Manager, Sitecore, WordPress, etc. They are typically larger, with the larger agencies employing thousands of people. Examples are Sapient (shown on graph) or AKQA. System integrators Larger companies that specialize in bringing together different technologies into one solution. Example system agencies are Accenture, TATA Consultancy Services, Capgemini or CI&T. Technology and infrastructure companies Examples are Acquia (shown on graph), Lingotek (shown on graph), BlackMesh, RackSpace, Pantheon or End-users Examples are Pfizer (shown on graph), (shown on graph) or NBC Universal.

Most of the top 30 sponsors are traditional Drupal companies. Sapient (120 credits) is the only digital marketing agency showing up in the top 30. No system integrator shows up in the top 30. The first system integrator is CI&T, which ranked 31st with 102 credits. As far as system integrators are concerned CI&T is a smaller player with between 1,000 and 5,000 employees. Other system integrators with credits are Capgemini (43 credits), Globant (26 credits), and TATA Consultancy Services (7 credits). We didn't see any code contributions from Accenture, Wipro or IBM Global Services. We expect these will come as most of them are building out Drupal practices. For example, we know that IBM Global Services already has over 100 people doing Drupal work.

When we look beyond the top 30 sponsors, we see that roughly 82% of the code contribution on comes from the traditional Drupal businesses. About 13% of the contributions comes from infrastructure and software companies, though that category is mostly dominated by one company, Acquia. This means that the technology and infrastructure companies, digital marketing agencies, system integrators and end-users are not meaningfully contributing code to today. In an ideal world, the pie chart above would be sliced in equal sized parts.

How can we explain that unbalance? We believe the two biggest reasons are: (1) Drupal's strategic importance and (2) the level of maturity with Drupal and Open Source. Various of the traditional Drupal agencies have been involved with Drupal for 10 years and almost entirely depend on on Drupal. Given both their expertise and dependence on Drupal, they are most likely to look after Drupal's development and well-being. These organizations are typically recognized as Drupal experts and sought out by organizations that want to build a Drupal website. Contrast this with most of the digital marketing agencies and system integrators who have the size to work with a diversified portfolio of content management platforms, and are just getting started with Drupal and Open Source. They deliver digital marketing solutions and aren't necessarily sought out for their Drupal expertise. As their Drupal practices grow in size and importance, this could change, and when it does, we expect them to contribute more. Right now many of the digital marketing agencies and system integrators have little or no experience with Open Source so it is important that we motivate them to contribute and then teach them how to contribute.

There are two main business reasons for organizations to contribute: (1) it improves their ability to sell and win deals and (2) it improves their ability to hire. Companies that contribute to Drupal tend to promote their contributions in RFPs and sales pitches to win more deals. Contributing to Drupal also results in being recognized as a great place to work for Drupal experts.

We also should note that many organizations in the Drupal community contribute for reasons that would not seem to be explicitly economically motivated. More than 100 credits were sponsored by colleges or universities, such as the University of Waterloo (45 credits). More than 50 credits came from community groups, such as the Drupal Bangalore Community and the Drupal Ukraine Community. Other nonprofits and government organization that appeared in our data include the Drupal Association (166), National Virtual Library of India (25 credits), Center for Research Libraries (20), and Welsh Government (9 credits).

Infrastructure and software companies

Infrastructure and software companies play a different role in our community. These companies are less reliant on professional services (building Drupal websites) and primarily make money from selling subscription based products.

Acquia, Pantheon and are venture-backed Platform-as-a-Service companies born out of the Drupal community. Rackspace and AWS are public companies hosting thousands of Drupal sites each. Lingotek offers cloud-based translation management software for Drupal.

The graph above suggests that Pantheon and have barely contributed code on during the past year. ( only became an independent company 6 months ago after they split off from CommerceGuys.) The chart also does not reflect sponsored code contributions on GitHub (such as drush), Drupal event sponsorship, and the wide variety of value that these companies add to Drupal and other Open Source communities.

Consequently, these data show that the Drupal community needs to do a better job of enticing infrastructure and software companies to contribute code to The Drupal community has a long tradition of encouraging organizations to share code on rather than keep it behind firewalls. While the spirit of the Drupal project cannot be reduced to any single ideology-- not every organization can or will share their code -- we would like to see organizations continue to prioritize collaboration over individual ownership. Our aim is not to criticize those who do not contribute, but rather to help foster an environment worthy of contribution.

End users

We saw two end-users in the top 30 corporate sponsors: Pfizer (158 credits) and (132 credits). Other notable end-users that are actively giving back are Workday (52 credits), NBC Universal (40 credits), the University of Waterloo (45 credits) and (33 credits). The end users that tend to contribute to Drupal use Drupal for a key part of their business and often have an internal team of Drupal developers.

Given that there are hundreds of thousands of Drupal end-users, we would like to see more end-users in the top 30 sponsors. We recognize that a lot of digital agencies don't want, or are not legally allowed, to attribute their customers. We hope that will change as Open Source continues to get more and more adopted.

Given the vast amount of Drupal users, we believe encouraging end-users to contribute could be a big opportunity. Being credited on gives them visibility in the Drupal community and recognizes them as a great place for Open Source developers to work.

The uneasy alliance with corporate contributions

As mentioned above, when community-driven Open Source projects grow, there becomes a bigger need for organizations to help drive its development. It almost always creates an uneasy alliance between volunteers and corporations.

This theory played out in the Linux community well before it played out in the Drupal community. The Linux project is 25 years old now has seen a steady increase in the number of corporate contributors for roughly 20 years. While Linux companies like Red Hat and SUSE rank highly on the contribution list, so do non-Linux-centric companies such as Samsung, Intel, Oracle and Google. The major theme in this story is that all of these corporate contributors were using Linux as an integral part of their business.

The 659 organizations that contribute to Drupal (which includes corporations), is roughly three times the number of organizations that sponsor development of the Linux kernel, "one of the largest cooperative software projects ever attempted". In fairness, Linux has a different ecosystem than Drupal. The Linux business ecosystem has various large organizations (Red Hat, Google, Intel, IBM and SUSE) for whom Linux is very strategic. As a result, many of them employ dozens of full-time Linux contributors and invest millions of dollars in Linux each year.

In the Drupal community, Acquia has had people dedicated full-time to Drupal starting nine years ago when it hired Gábor Hojtsy to contribute to Drupal core full-time. Today, Acquia has about 10 developers contributing to Drupal full-time. They work on core, contributed modules, security, user experience, performance, best practices, and more. Their work has benefited untold numbers of people around the world, most of whom are not Acquia customers.

In response to Acquia’s high level of participation in the Drupal project, as well as to the number of Acquia employees that hold leadership positions, some members of the Drupal community have suggested that Acquia wields its influence and power to control the future of Drupal for its own commercial benefit. But neither of us believe that Acquia should contribute less. Instead, we would like to see more companies provide more leadership to Drupal and meaningfully contribute on

Who is sponsoring the top 30 contributors? Rank Username Issues Volunteer Sponsored Not specified Sponsors 1 dawehner 560 84.1% 77.7% 9.5% Drupal Association (182), Chapter Three (179), Tag1 Consulting (160), Cando (6), Acquia (4), Comm-press (1) 2 DamienMcKenna 448 6.9% 76.3% 19.4% Mediacurrent (342) 3 alexpott 409 0.2% 97.8% 2.2% Chapter Three (400) 4 Berdir 383 0.0% 95.3% 4.7% MD Systems (365), Acquia (9) 5 Wim Leers 382 31.7% 98.2% 1.8% Acquia (375) 6 jhodgdon 381 5.2% 3.4% 91.3% Drupal Association (13), Poplar ProductivityWare (13) 7 joelpittet 294 23.8% 1.4% 76.2% Drupal Association (4) 8 heykarthikwithu 293 99.3% 100.0% 0.0% Valuebound (293), Drupal Bangalore Community (3) 9 mglaman 292 9.6% 96.9% 0.7% Commerce Guys (257), Bluehorn Digital (14),, Inc. (12), LivePerson, Inc (11), Bluespark (5), DPCI (3), Thinkbean, LLC (3), Digital Bridge Solutions (2), Matsmart (1) 10 drunken monkey 248 75.4% 55.6% 2.0% Acquia (72), StudentFirst (44), epiqo (12), Vizala (9), Sunlime IT Services GmbH (1) 11 Sam152 237 75.9% 89.5% 10.1% PreviousNext (210), Code Drop (2) 12 borisson_ 207 62.8% 36.2% 15.9% Acquia (67), Intracto digital agency (8) 13 benjy 206 0.0% 98.1% 1.9% PreviousNext (168), Code Drop (34) 14 edurenye 184 0.0% 100.0% 0.0% MD Systems (184) 15 catch 180 3.3% 44.4% 54.4% Third and Grove (44), Tag1 Consulting (36), Drupal Association (4) 16 slashrsm 179 12.8% 96.6% 2.8% (89), MD Systems (84), Acquia (18), Studio Matris (1) 17 phenaproxima 177 0.0% 94.4% 5.6% Acquia (167) 18 mbovan 174 7.5% 100.0% 0.0% MD Systems (118), ACTO Team (43), Google Summer of Code (13) 19 tim.plunkett 168 14.3% 89.9% 10.1% Acquia (151) 20 rakesh.gectcr 163 100.0% 100.0% 0.0% Valuebound (138), National Virtual Library of India (NVLI) (25) 21 martin107 163 4.9% 0.0% 95.1% 22 dsnopek 152 0.7% 0.0% 99.3% 23 mikeryan 150 0.0% 89.3% 10.7% Acquia (112), Virtuoso Performance (22), Drupalize.Me (4), North Studio (4) 24 jhedstrom 149 0.0% 83.2% 16.8% Phase2 (124), Workday, Inc. (36), Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (4) 25 xjm 147 0.0% 81.0% 19.0% Acquia (119) 26 hussainweb 147 2.0% 98.6% 1.4% Axelerant (145) 27 stefan.r 146 0.7% 0.7% 98.6% Drupal Association (1) 28 bojanz 145 2.1% 83.4% 15.2% Commerce Guys (121), Bluespark (2) 29 penyaskito 141 6.4% 95.0% 3.5% Lingotek (129), Cocomore AG (5) 30 larowlan 135 34.1% 63.0% 16.3% PreviousNext (85), Department of Justice & Regulation, Victoria (14), amaysim Australia Ltd. (1), University of Adelaide (1)

We observe that the top 30 contributors are sponsored by 45 organizations. This kind of diversity is aligned with our desire not to see Drupal controlled by a single organization. The top 30 contributors and the 45 organizations are from many different parts in the world and work with customers large or small. We could still benefit from more diversity, though. The top 30 lacks digital marketing agencies, large system integrators and end-users -- all of whom could contribute meaningfully to making Drupal for them and others.

Evolving the credit system

The credit system gives us quantifiable data about where our community's contributions come from, but that data is not perfect. Here are a few suggested improvements:

  1. We need to find ways to recognize non-code contributions as well as code contributions outside of (i.e. on GitHub). Lots of people and organizations spend hundreds of hours putting together local events, writing documentation, translating Drupal, mentoring new contributors, and more—and none of that gets captured by the credit system.
  2. We'd benefit by finding a way to account for the complexity and quality of contributions; one person might have worked several weeks for just one credit, while another person might have gotten a credit for 30 minutes of work. We could, for example, consider the issue credit data in conjunction with Git commit data regarding insertions, deletions, and files changed.
  3. We could try to leverage the credit system to encourage more companies, especially those that do not contribute today, to participate in large-scale initiatives. Dries presented some ideas two years ago in his DrupalCon Amsterdam keynote and Matthew has suggested other ideas, but we are open to more suggestions on how we might bring more contributors into the fold using the credit system.
  4. We could segment out organization profiles between end users and different kinds of service providers. Doing so would make it easier to see who the top contributors are in each segment and perhaps foster more healthy competition among peers. In turn, the community could learn about the peculiar motivations within each segment.

Like Drupal the software, the credit system on is a tool that can evolve, but that ultimately will only be useful when the community uses it, understands its shortcomings, and suggests constructive improvements. In highlighting the organizations that sponsor work on, we hope to provoke responses that help evolve the credit system into something that incentivizes business to sponsor more work and that allows more people the opportunity to participate in our community, learn from others, teach newcomers, and make positive contributions. We view Drupal as a productive force for change and we wish to use the credit system to highlight (at least some of) the work of our diverse community of volunteers, companies, nonprofits, governments, schools, universities, individuals, and other groups.


Our data shows that Drupal is a vibrant and diverse community, with thousands of contributors, that is constantly evolving and improving the software. While here we have examined issue credits mostly through the lens of sponsorship, in future analyses we plan to consider the same issue credits in conjunction with other publicly-disclosed Drupal user data, such as gender identification, geography, seasonal participation, mentorship, and event attendance.

Our analysis of the credit data concludes that most of the contributions to Drupal are sponsored. At the same time, the data shows that volunteer contribution remains very important to Drupal.

As a community, we need to understand that a healthy Open Source ecosystem is a diverse ecosystem that includes more than traditional Drupal agencies. The traditional Drupal agencies and Acquia contribute the most but we don't see a lot of contribution from the larger digital marketing agencies, system integrators, technology companies, or end-users of Drupal—we believe that might come as these organizations build out their Drupal practices and Drupal becomes more strategic for them.

To grow and sustain Drupal, we should support those that contribute to Drupal, and find ways to get those that are not contributing involved in our community. We invite you to help us figure out how we can continue to strengthen our ecosystem.

We hope to repeat this work in 1 or 2 years' time so we can track our evolution. Special thanks to Tim Lehnen (Drupal Association) for providing us the credit system data and supporting us during our research.

Categories: Drupal News

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence: A Primer

1 September 2016 - 1:34am

The technology press is abuzz these days with stories about Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) — every other week it seems we’re hearing about a new AI surpassing human ability at some task or other, and just as often we hear about exciting new start-ups revolutionizing traditional problem spaces using machine learning. We also see the odd notable AI failure every now and then.

It can be hard to conceptualize what people are talking about when it comes to AI; and of course there’s also the question of the so-called Singularity (an artificial “superintelligence” arising and causing runaway technological growth): just how near is it?

This post is the first in a series on machine learning, and aims to bring some clarity to the subject, explaining how the concepts of machine learning and artificial intelligence relate to each other. It also describes at a high-level how basic ML works today to solve problems.

We are starting to use ML techniques here at Acquia both internally and to enhance some of our products, and we are incredibly excited about the possibilities. With this series of posts we hope to spread the excitement, not the hype, about these technologies.

A Little History

In order to understand the way the terms “Artificial Intelligence” and “Machine Learning” are used today, it’s worth taking a quick look at the history of the respective fields. AI research, which started back in the 1950s, was originally about building machines that could “think” — it was about mimicking human intelligence, in all its flexible glory. So problems such as translating text from one language to another were tackled in ways that assumed that all kinds of intermediate steps were required, like imbuing the machine with an “understanding” of the rules of language. Researchers had some early successes (although notably not in the area of translation) that led to great optimism, which in turn led to great disappointment when things turned out to be much harder than originally thought.

One thread of AI research back in those early days broke away from the rules-based approach and is of particular significance in the story of what we now call Machine Learning; it centered around something called a perceptron. This was an algorithm that had been inspired by the way neurons work in the brain. It learns the weights to apply to input neurons in order to produce a correct binary response in the output neuron.

Deep Learning

This idea was the seed for more complicated “Artificial Neural Networks,” where hidden layers of neurons between the input layer and the output enabled great flexibility in tackling different types of problems. The direct descendents of the lowly perceptron are right now enjoying the most celebrated successes in problems like image classification and speech recognition under the umbrella term of “Deep Learning.”

Developments along this particular fork in the path of AI research moved away not just from the methodologies traditionally employed (using rule-based learning), but also from the broader goals of those earlier systems. It was no longer about producing something that could think like a human, but was instead simply about solving practical problems.

The development of Deep Learning suffered its own specific setbacks that led to years during which the very mention of the term “neural network” was almost taboo. But breakthroughs involving the clever application of some tricks from Calculus eventually put it back on track as a theoretically sound approach to answering questions with data.


Specifically, it was focused on classification problems: learning to classify examples as belonging to one class or another. One very early and very successful application was training a neural network to recognize handwritten digits. Here, each possible digit 0-9 is a class and the network needs to take an image of a digit like the one pictured below as input (raw pixel data) and output the correct class (digit):

The way it works is that the network is shown thousands and thousands of handwritten digits and told what each one of them is, and it needs to learn the features that distinguish each one. Once it has been trained to do this, when it sees a brand new image of a handwritten digit, it makes a prediction about which class it belongs to (which digit it is.)


Meanwhile over in the world of statistics, statisticians had for decades been using techniques such as Linear Regression for making predictions about real-valued quantities (i.e., estimating numerical values as opposed to categories) of a dependent variable from one or more independent variables. For example, trying to estimate the sales of a product as a function of advertising spend.

Of course, this approach can be used to make predictions based on many more variables. For example, predicting sales based on advertising spend per channel, per market segment, and at different times of day. This information can help marketers make day to day decisions that increase sales while reducing spend.

Supervised Learning

Both regression and classification are about taking labeled data — examples where you have the answer (“this image is of the digit 7” or “the sales figure for x advertising spend was y”) — and using it to train a model that can then be used to make predictions about new data. This general method is referred to as supervised learning. The dependent variable is often referred to as the outcome, and the independent variables are referred to as predictors or features.

A new field is born

Up to now we’ve talked about the Deep Learning (DL) researchers working on classification problems and the statisticians working on regression problems, but the field of statistics had also developed methods for doing classification. In fact, the DL folks found themselves reinventing techniques from statistics and data mining as they worked to improve their neural network algorithms.

Gradually, the overlap in these fields became a field in its own right, that of Machine Learning.

The general idea is about defining some loss function, which outputs a measure of how wrong your statistical model is about your data, and using optimization algorithms to adjust the model so as to minimize that loss (a.k.a cost or error). Many more algorithms have been invented for solving both classification and regression problems. Examples include “tree-based” methods, whereby the decision to classify an example (or estimate its real-valued output as lying within a particular range) depends on the answers to questions asked of the predictors at each branching point in the tree.

For much of the ‘90s the various approaches were on a relatively even playing field — some were better for particular problem types but worse for others. Then some developments not directly related to this field of research led to the DL approach, i.e. using sophisticated neural networks, really taking off.

Deep Learning Takes the World by Storm

The algorithms involved in DL had certainly developed in sophistication over the years, but they suffered from certain drawbacks: they required a lot of data and a lot of computing resources to train to a level of accuracy competitive with that of other types of algorithms.

Well, if the story of computing over the last couple of decades hasn’t been all about greater processing power (cloud computing, GPUs) then it has been about Big Data. That’s right: the very two things that DL needed more of in order to flourish are things that have seen spectacular growth in recent years. There are unprecedented amounts of data available to train classifiers with: just think of all the tweets being tweeted, and all the images being uploaded to the internet every day. And with cloud computing and various technologies enabling massive parallelization of algorithms, training on these massive datasets is vastly speeded up.

Deep Learning has seen tremendous successes in the last decade, particularly in the areas of image classification and speech recognition. It’s what Facebook uses to identify faces in your photos, what Siri uses to understand what you are saying, what Google image search uses to show you images related to your search terms. And the wonderful thing is, these and other large machine learning companies are falling over each other to open source their Deep Learning libraries: there’s TensorFlow from Google, DSSTNE from Amazon, DeepText from Facebook. It is an incredibly exciting time for anyone looking to get started in the field, not to mention companies looking to leverage these powerful technologies to solve their business problems.

Where does this leave the broader field of AI?
Not everyone has abandoned AI’s original goal of mimicking human intelligence, but we use the term Strong AI to differentiate that endeavour from the (weak) AI that most researchers are working on these days. A good rule of thumb is, when you hear the phrase “Artificial Intelligence” and it has not been qualified by the term “strong” or “weak”, it is most likely weak AI. Nobody has solved strong AI and so it is only ever talked about theoretically.

Even in cases where we talk about “an AI,” meaning “an artificially intelligent entity,” such as Siri or Alexa, we are still talking about weak AI; it’s just that it has been packaged into something you can interact with in human-like ways. Speech recognition, where Siri and Alexa figure out the words you are saying based on sounds, is one ML task that then feeds into the next task of Natural Language Understanding (NLU), i.e. figuring out the intent of the utterance in order to know how to respond. The tasks are combined together to give the illusion of an artificially intelligent entity. But make no mistake, Siri and Alexa are a long way from “waking up” as sentient beings ;)

The AI may be weak, but the force is strong

Just because the current state of AI is not producing robot overlords does not mean it isn’t doing amazing things. In the next post in this series, we’ll take a look at some of the ways AI is being put to use to achieve spectacular successes in a wide range of different fields, solving real-world problems.

Categories: Drupal News

What a digital marketer needs to know about website performance

31 August 2016 - 3:33am

Website performance is one of those things that keeps me up at night. How do we improve our performance? When is our performance bad? Does it affect our user experience? These are all questions that run through my head in regards to our website, and I’m here to help you get answers for your site. Performance discussions can get very technical very fast, so my goal in this post is to maintain a balance between high level and informative so you can go to your dev team and ask the right questions.

Do you know what cache is?
Caching is a way to store small amounts of data so that the next time it is needed, it can be served quickly. For web pages, this means that the first time the page loads it will take longer, but every load after that will be faster because the data can be grabbed from the cache. When editing and managing a website, we ask our developers to “clear the cache” during development so our changes can be seen quickly. Since the cache stores a copy of your page, you may not see your changes immediately, and instead you’ll see the cached version. However, the caches will clear themselves after a set period of time.

Caching helps ensure your pages load quickly for all users. If you don’t use cached pages, you could be sacrificing higher website performance.

Different types of cache
For websites, you will typically encounter 4 types of cache: Server Cache, Browser Cache, Page Cache and Page Element Cache.

  • Server Cache: This is when your site is cached closest to its original location on your server. If a version of your site can’t be retrieved from your page cache or browser cache, it will then look to server cache before going back to its original location. We use Varnish Cache for our server level caching. Varnish is known as a best practice for Drupal sites, and your developers can set this up and also clear it if needed.
  • Browser Cache: Your browsers will store versions of your web pages by default, so when a user hits the back button the page loads faster. As site managers, we need to be aware of this on our sites. For example, if you’ve made changes to your site and they are not appearing, consider clearing your browser cache as well.
  • Page Cache: This is a more targeted approach to caching and is best done on pages where the displayed content is the same for all users
  • Page element cache: Page element caching is another way to refer to the block caching used in Drupal. Blocks are smaller chunks of content that can be reused throughout your website. Since these can be added to pages dynamically, they require a different type of caching in order to speed up delivery time longer term.

Image size and compression:
Another important piece to web site performance is understanding image size and compression. I wrote a blog post on this topic a few weeks back that could be helpful if you need a refresher. To ensure that load time is faster for your user, all images used on your website should be compressed to the smallest size possible.

It is also important to load regularly used images through your CSS files ahead of time.
As a digital marketer, knowing how to compress images on your site isn’t necessary, but understanding why it is crucial to performance and making sure your dev team can execute is important.

As marketers we tend to use lots of services that make our jobs easier. A lot of these services require you to add a snippet of code to your website. A single snippet doesn’t do much to affect your performance, but as time goes on, adding many snippets will cause big issues with load times. You might have your analytics tracking snippet, your ad tracking snippet, your personalization software snippet, your heat mapping snippet, and the list goes on. I haven’t found a magical solution for alleviating this code snippet drag yet but understanding the impact that each one adds is important. You need to weigh each new service carefully and understand the hit your site performance will take. Don’t trust the vendor, and ask your developers opinion on how it will effect your site. Vendors will typically tell you their service won't affect anything, it will load asynchronously, and that it all will be fine. This isn’t always the case, so make a habit of asking your dev team before adding any additional scripts to your production site.

Performance is very important, and you can dig even deeper than I’ve done here today. I’ve reviewed some key high level things you need to know, but if you're interested in digging into more of the backend details, check out these assets and resources:

Categories: Drupal News

Open Source in Practice: Moving Off of a Proprietary CMS

25 August 2016 - 6:10am

Guest blogger Jenna Bos is the Senior Marketing Manager at Blue Coda, an Acquia Partner. Blue Coda is an agency focused on ROI-driven website development. Jenna believes in generating results through the combination of creating outstanding content and implementing a smart digital strategy.

The implementation of an open source solution for an end-user involves a combination of the available software and the people who know how to implement the software in a way that is tailored to the client’s needs.

Blue Coda has worked with Acquia for the past five years, during which we have tackled mid-to-large sized projects together. The main verticals for these projects have been healthcare, education and non-profit. Blue Coda won “Acquia Site of the Year in 2015” for the Shared Value Initiative website. The website for the National Apartment Association (NAA), a joint project of Acquia and Blue Coda, won Best Community Site from the Drupal Commons Community in 2014.

Putting Security First

When it comes to security, the more eyes there are on a product, the more opportunities there are for developers to catch, and then fix, any security vulnerabilities. Open source solutions like Drupal have an entire community ready and able to address any security vulnerabilities, making them the safest choice.

There is also an element of trust inherent in the way vulnerabilities are shared and managed. The community is immediately made aware of any vulnerabilities so that teams can work to protect their clients.

Proprietary solutions contain vulnerabilities that can exist for extended periods of time before anyone notices them. These proprietary solutions also then rely on their developers to resolve the vulnerabilities and are limited to the talent of these developers.

As security continues to be a top priority for our clients, we evaluated whether or not we should continue to use proprietary solutions, ultimately deciding to use open source solutions going forward.

Switching from Ektron to Open Source

Blue Coda is proud to be part of the open source community and an Acquia partner,, so we knew that the transition to using exclusively open source content management systems would be easy. The next step would be to transition any clients that were using proprietary solutions to open source, requiring our team to not only be well-versed in open source solutions, but in some proprietary solutions as well. Of particular concern to the Blue Coda team was Ektron, a platform that the development team knows well.

Recent rumors surrounding Ektron’s acquisition by an equity firm and subsequent merger with EpiServer had Blue Coda reconsidering their ability to continue to recommend Ektron as a solution for their clients. The merger caused some hesitation due to the precedence set by acquisitions across all industries which have put the needs of the health of a merger over the needs of the end-user.

The potential merger of EpiServer and Ektron seemed likely to leave Ektron customers without the requisite level of service they would need to continue to host their websites at the quality and security they had come to expect.

Because of the turnover associated with a merger of this size, Blue Coda was left wondering about the security and stability of their websites on Ektron. More troubling was that there was no smooth migration path from Ektron to Episerver—there was no lift and place solution.

It made sense for Blue Coda to rethink proprietary solutions altogether moving forward. If a site rebuild was necessary for Ektron users anyway, it was time to think about using an open source solution for current Ektron customers.

“Our values have always aligned to the needs of our clients, and that means being knowledgeable of and aware of the latest and greatest technologies available to them. As we saw the direction of our proprietary content management software (CMS) partner, open source CMS seemed to be the only solution that we could really, honestly, without reservation, recommend to our clients. This meant reevaluating our relationship with Ektron and looking into forging a partnership with Drupal and Acquia.”
-Jason Schaffer, CEO, Blue Coda

In the next post, we’ll talk about options for those looking to make the leap from commercial CMS to an open source CMS solution using a combination of Acquia and Drupal. We will use our experience with Ektron specifically to demonstrate how the migration occurs. In the meantime, let us know in the comments—have you switched from a proprietary solution to open source? What was your experience?

Categories: Drupal News

When to consider the move to Drupal 8

23 August 2016 - 10:05pm

Question: “When should I move to Drupal 8?”

Answer: “It all depends.”

You thought you were going to get an easy answer? I wish! Even with my own sites I’ve had to evaluate and spend time determining the best plans for migration. But when it’s time to figure out what to do with your site, here are my suggestions.

If you are building a website for a new project or idea, I would create it using Drupal 8. In my opinion, Drupal 8 has progressed enough that building a site with Drupal 7 will cost you more money, because you will need to rebuild it on Drupal 8 within the next year.

But if your site is currently on Drupal 7, then deciding when to move it to Drupal 8 is still something to consider. Here are some things to think about.

Drupal 8 enhanced features
Drupal 8 has added a lot of great features into their “out-of-the-box” experience, such as a built in WYSIWYG editor, which makes it easier to manage and edit content. There is also better language support for your multilingual site experiences, extensive support for accessibility (which you can learn more about in my latest blog), responsive design, and much more. These awesome features make a convincing case to build your site on Drupal 8.

Time, budget, and resources
When you move to Drupal 8 you will need to rebuild and migrate your site, which is more than just an upgrade. Drupal 8 differs from Drupal 7, such as core modules and the platform framework. So while Drupal 8 gives you great feature enhancements, it comes with a more difficult migration process. You will need to consider hiring an agency or ensuring that you have the development staff on hand to rebuild your site. This will also consist of content migration, theme migration, and module migration if needed. For your migration to be successful, these things will need to be planned out, in addition to considering the cost associated with them.

The advantage of rebuilding is that you get the chance to change things and re-architect your site. I look at this as an opportunity to clean out the old, and build a better performing, more streamlined site.

Module availability
The next big consideration is whether the modules you need to run your website are available in Drupal 8. This is very important. When I consider a migration, I need to ensure that the way I conduct business will not be affected. If you don’t have what you need, both your business and site visitors could suffer.

The good news is that Acquia spearheaded an initiative to help accelerate module development for contributed modules, which means that many of the modules that you’ll need are already available. There is also a tool you can use from D8upgrade, which will email you a report with the results of your contributed modules.

Note that if you have any custom-developed modules, you will also need to evaluate and update them to Drupal 8.

Shelf life of your current site
Is your current site running on Drupal 6? If so, you should consider moving to Drupal 8 ASAP. Because support for Drupal 6 has ended, you will no longer receive security updates for the platform, and modules won’t be maintained.

If you are on Drupal 7 and your site is running well, there isn’t a rush. Drupal 7 will continue to be supported until 3 months after Drupal 9 is released, which means you should be good through 2018 or later (there is no date for Drupal 9 yet). Of course, there’s no time like the present to consider when your budget, modules, and timing will be right to migrate your site using the tools and recommendations I’ve provided.

When you finally make the move...
Moving to Drupal 8 is a big project and shouldn’t be considered without a lot of planning and resources. That being said, I’m excited about Drupal 8, it’s opportunities and advancements, and I hope that you are too.

Here are some other great tools and articles to take a look at:

Categories: Drupal News

Drupal 8.2, now with more outside-in

23 August 2016 - 3:10pm

Over the weekend, Drupal 8.2 beta was released. One of the reasons why I'm so excited about this release is that it ships with "more outside-in". In an "outside-in experience", you can click anything on the page, edit its configuration in place without having to navigate to the administration back end, and watch it take effect immediately. This kind of on-the-fly editorial experience could be a game changer for Drupal's usability.

When I last discussed turning Drupal outside-in, we were still in the conceptual stages, with mockups illustrating the concepts. Since then, those designs have gone through multiple rounds of feedback from Drupal's usability team and a round of user testing led by Cheppers. This study identified some issues and provided some insights which were incorporated into subsequent designs.

Two policy changes we introduced in Drupal 8 — semantic versioning and experimental modules — have fundamentally changed Drupal's innovation model starting with Drupal 8. I should write a longer blog post about this, but the net result of those two changes is ongoing improvements with an easy upgrade path. In this case, it enabled us to add outside-in experiences to Drupal 8.2 instead of having to wait for Drupal 9. The authoring experience improvements we made in Drupal 8 are well-received, but that doesn't mean we are done. It's exciting that we can move much faster on making Drupal easier to use.

In-place block configuration

As you can see from the image below, Drupal 8.2 adds the ability to trigger "Edit" mode, which currently highlights all blocks on the page. Clicking on one — in this case, the block with the site's name — pops out a new tray or sidebar. A content creator can change the site name directly from the tray, without having to navigate through Drupal's administrative interface to theme settings as they would have to in Drupal 7 and Drupal 8.1.

Making adjustments to menus

In the second image, the pattern is applied to a menu block. You can make adjustments to the menu right from the new tray instead of having to navigate to the back end. Here the content creator changes the order of the menu links (moving "About us" after "Contact") and toggles the "Team" menu item from hidden to visible.

In-context block placement

In Drupal 8.1 and prior, placing a new block on the page required navigating away from your front end into the administrative back end and noting the available regions. Once you discover where to go to add a block, which can in itself be a challenge, you'll have to learn about the different regions, and some trial and error might be required to place a block exactly where you want it to go.

Starting in Drupal 8.2, content creators can now just click "Place block" without navigating to a different page and knowing about available regions ahead of time. Clicking "Place block" will highlight the different possible locations for a block to be placed in.

Next steps

These improvements are currently tagged "experimental". This means that anyone who downloads Drupal 8.2 can test these changes and provide feedback. It also means that we aren't quite satisfied with these changes yet and that you should expect to see this functionality improve between now and 8.2.0's release, and even after the Drupal 8.2.0 release.

As you probably noticed, things still look pretty raw in places; as an example, the forms in the tray are exposing too many visual details. There is more work to do to bring this functionality to the level of the designs. We're focused on improving that, as well as the underlying architecture and accessibility. Once we feel good about how it all works and looks, we'll remove the experimental label.

We deliberately postponed most of the design work to focus on introducing the fundamental concepts and patterns. That was an important first step. We wanted to enable Drupal developers to start experimenting with the outside-in pattern in Drupal 8.2. As part of that, we'll have to determine how this new pattern will apply broadly to Drupal core and the many contributed modules that would leverage it. Our hope is that once the outside-in work is stable and no longer experimental, it will trickle down to every Drupal module. At that point we can all work together, in parallel, on making Drupal much easier to use.

Users have proven time and again in usability studies to be extremely "preview-driven", so the ability to make quick configuration changes right from their front end, without becoming an expert in Drupal's information architecture, could be revolutionary for Drupal.

If you'd like to help get these features to stable release faster, please join us in the outside-in roadmap issue.

Thank you

I'd also like to thank everyone who contributed to these features and reviewed them, including Bojhan, yoroy, pwolanin, andrewmacpherson, gtamas, petycomp, zsofimajor, SKAUGHT, nod_, effulgentsia, Wim Leers, catch, alexpott, and xjm.

And finally, a special thank you to Acquia's outside-in team for driving most of the design and implementation: tkoleary, webchick, tedbow, Gábor Hojtsy, tim.plunkett, and drpal.

Acquia's outside-in team celebrating that the outside-in patch was committed to Drupal 8.2 beta. Go team!
Categories: Drupal News

Developer Relations: Let’s Talk About reddit

23 August 2016 - 2:34am

Writing great content for developers is, well, great and all, but if it’s not distributed properly, how will they find it? In the world of content distribution, the mantra is simple: go where the people are... because they probably aren’t coming to you. However, once you enter their world, you need to remember there are rules and other subtle cultural norms to follow. Not just community rules but parameters set up by certain sites to keep marketers and others from spamming. One of these sites is reddit.

In the off-chance that you’ve been living on a remote island for the last 11 years since the company was founded, reddit is a social media and social news aggregation, web content rating and discussion website. The dedicated community of 542 million monthly visitors (234 million unique users), creates and curates popular threads or subreddits with various things from news and current events to the most ridiculous images / memes / gifs on the Internet. Users determine what content makes it to the top of the page via “upvotes.” In addition, reddit has also gained popularity with celebrity Ask Me Anything sessions (AMAs), with everyone from K-Pop star Psy to President Obama. As of 2016, reddit is the 26th most popular website in the world.

This is what looks like

With stats like that, it seems like an ideal place to communicate to developers (there’s even a Drupal subreddit). But before you start populating the site with all your latest developer content, there are some things you should know.

First: going blindly into any community of passionate participants with the explicit goal of promoting yourself / your product / your company will quickly earn you the scorn of that community. Remember, long before reddit or Hacker News, or Facebook or LinkedIn or even Livejournal, at the dawn of the commercial Internet, there was a very reddit-like precursor known as USENET. Just like present-day reddit, there were thousands of special discussion groups on everything from cats to Unix. Then came the infamous Green Card advertisements and thus spam was born, amidst a huge community uproar. Ancient history aside, if you enter a forum or social network with marketing and promotion as your agenda, you won’t last very long.

However, there is a way to influence people without acting like a blinking neon sign. That means participating before promoting, sharing before taking, and knowing that no bad deed goes unpunished in the unforgiving world of developer relations.

No Thread Hijacking Allowed

It’s great to get colleagues involved in the promotion of content but spamming or trying to game the voting system isn’t going to fly here. reddit isn’t naive; it logs your IP address and if you try to keep upvoting or try to organize your colleagues to join the cause, reddit’s algorithm will actually remove upvotes and bump you down as a penalty. The right way to engage reddit is to designate one person to post your new content when it goes live and instead of sharing the link with your colleagues to the specific post for upvoting, share the forum instead.


Encourage people to join relevant subreddits if they want to (as an individual, not on behalf of the company). Instead of trying to upvote only your company's posts, encourage colleagues to upvote other posts they enjoy or find informative. Put together guidelines and best practices or even hold a short demo session to give them the rundown on how reddit works.

The goal of reddit is to be a forum for new content for you to evaluate; you’re not supposed to come in looking for a specific post but rather browse through many and build your own trail through the morass of content and special interests. Plus it’s interesting to see the content your company is creating in the context of other posts. This can also give you a window into what’s on the mind of developers, thus helping you to create relevant content in the future.

Beware the Rabbit Hole

And a word of advice; be careful not to go down the rabbit hole that reddit can quickly turn into. We’ve all done it; gone to a site like Wikipedia to look up something specific and then an hour later you find yourself reading some bizarre, delightful, but totally unrelated entry and forget what you were doing there in the the first place. With reddit, what can start out as a simple research mission to see what is going on in the Drupal community can quickly turn into a long discussion of everything that’s wrong with Suicide Squad, whether or not Michael Phelps is an alien and/or merman, adorable gifs of baby animals, etc. reddit is super fun to explore but if you’re someone who easily loses focus, maybe wait until you finish up work before clicking through threads. Just trust me on this one.

Categories: Drupal News

Vote for making a difference - SXSW 2017 session selection

23 August 2016 - 12:19am

Vote for open source, open culture, and making a difference. Community voting is open until September 2 for the SXSW 2017 conferences. I've been looking through the proposed session catalog and I've picked out a few that I really like and care about.

You go vote, too!

I encourage you to go have a look and vote, too, since I discovered last year that community voting is 30% of the selection process. You’ll need to register on the SXSW Panel Picker to be able to vote. It only took me a few seconds and the info asked didn’t feel too invasion-of-privacy-y to me ... ymmv, up to you.

Sessions that make a difference

Below is a selection of what I found that looks promising, important, or otherwise interesting to me. From more then 5000 sessions (!), I've voted for seven so far. The ideas represented all have in common that they could make the world a better place somehow. And given my background and predilections, there's a focus on openness, sharing, and the connection between the digital and the physical in all of these. I've put in notes explaining what each proposal is about and why I think they're important and vote-worthy. I make no claims to being comprehensive or impartial :-)

You should go register, try searching on key words that interest you, and vote, too!

Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: Panelists from respected institutions exploring sharing in culture, including Charlie Reisinger (Penn Manor School District) Aria Chernik (Duke University) and Alicia Gibb (Colorado University, Boulder), will discuss, "the challenges and rewards of some specific efforts to implement open source/free culture in education."
  • Why: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Open source and free culture approaches are old ideas that we urgently need to revive in our societies. The traditional way to master a (creative) skill through much of history was to imitate, copy, and eventually eclipse one's teachers. This was true in visual art just as it was in music. The very new idea that someone can own someone else's creativity long after the creator's death benefits neither creators nor later generations. Another recent idea--that someone can own a certain chord progression or melody in a limited system of sounds like there are in western music--is almost certainly stifling creative learning and expression as it had been practiced for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I'm very interested to see what this panel has to offer in the way of approaches and solutions to today's challenges on the intellectual property front.

Supporting Sustainable Open Source Communities
  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: From the session proposal, "This session will talk about how open source projects like Drupal have successfully adopted codes of conduct and developed governance structures to help support and maintain a friendly and welcoming environment for a large and diverse community of contributors from around the world. We’ll explore some of the tools and techniques these communities use to create a more level playing field that supports positive participation by all."
  • Why: Codes of conduct are like contracts: you make them in the good times because you'll need them in the bad times. They're expressions of good will and a tool you hope you'll never have to use. I feel they also send a message to the world about your project, saying, "We're trying to be grown ups about this. We recognize that it takes a lot more than pull requests to make a healthy open source software platform and community." For my money, the Drupal project's size and success are signs of its long term commitment to treating people right. There's a long way to go still, but there's a lot to learn here.
  • Full disclosure: The presenter, George DeMet is a really smart guy from the Drupal community :-)
Share or Die: Is Future Manufacturing Open Source?
  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: From the session proposal, "How can manufacturers open source their design and products without losing their unique value proposition? This panel debates the challenges of designing open source-based business models for manufacturing and looks at the future of production in a new era. An era increasingly defined by not only the technology of the maker movement, but also its major underlying currents of knowledge sharing, co-creation and crowdsourced innovation. A future where manufacturers and designers will have to learn to share - or die."
  • Why: In the free- and open source software communities, we have been thinking about this problem space for decades. The question of business (or practice) models comes down to how and where to differentiate versus how much to share and collaborate. The answers in the software world have been many and varied. In the physical world, there are already parallels such as freely available (and compulsory) construction standards used to build creatively differentiated structures--compare a prosaic highway or railway bridge to Calatrava's bridges around the world. Open standards used in differentiated solutions to the same problem. But how do you apply this to the physical world when you're not funded by a government to put up a bridge? How and where do you share and how and where do you collaborate with your peers? I am very keen to see, hear, and participate in this discussion.
A 3 Word Wireframe For the World

My favorite place to exercise in Cologne is currently:

  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: A neat way of including the whole world in a universal address system.
  • Why: Having been in India a couple of times this year, I am fascinated by the mix of high-tech and tribal knowledge that makes it possible for a place like Mumbai ("Maximum City") or New Dehli to function. While a cab might rely on Google Maps or similar to get you many places, others are not reliably on the map. And if you want to take an autorikshaw, you need to announce your destination to the driver or group of drivers who might pick you up. If the driver doesn't know the place, he takes off and you start waving into traffic hoping to snag the next one. When speaking with a group, after a few seconds of intense discussion, you're presented with the driver who knows that part of town and off you go. Fun times, but even as a tourist, you need to build up knowledge about major landmarks around where you're staying if you want to get around effectively. what3words is a fascinating take on this problem!
Dawn of the Labs: The Next Gen of Tech Innovation
  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: A panel of folks from some companies known for innovation and sharing their ideas come together to talk about the "codified skunkworks" (my description) that are the "labs" where engineers and others are allowed to move fast and break things along the way while coming up with solutions to interesting problems.
  • Why: Nowadays, we hear the word "innovation" and "innovative" so often in advertising, we can forget how important it is. A company fresh out of ideas is a company not long for today's world. So whether large or small, companies need to innovate, bring something new to the table. That's what labs are for. Startups fighting to survive and make something of themselves are practically the freestanding innovation labs of the economy. The names of the successes (and some of the failures) are legends. Once companies are large and established, it's hard for them to foster evaluation in the face of the pressures of maintaining the parts of the business that fund their prosperity. The panelists' companies--Acquia, PARC, HubSpot, and Fast Company--have all run labs operations of one sort of another. I'm keen to hear them compare notes about what worked and why.
  • Full disclosure: One of the panelists, Preston So, also works for my employer, Acquia.
Computers, We Should Talk: The Conversational Web
  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: From the session proposal, "How will voice interfaces become the next big thing for the web, and what needs to happen from a consumer standpoint?"
  • Why: Conversational tech is already here. I ask Siri to set timers and alarms for me every day. What would a dinner party be nowadays without someone fact checking someone else via Google? Talking with our computers hasn't been around that long, but it already feels natural. There must be something to this language thing! The makeup of this panel is fascinating and I can't wait to hear how their perspectives on this clash or harmonize: Dries Buytaert, Drupal Project Lead, who is making a strong push for Drupal as the backend glue behind the internet of things and other digital systems, Chris Messina (Drupalist!) from transport technology enabler Uber, Joshua Brustein's with the business angle from Bloomberg Businessweek, and tying it all together, Gela Fridman from the Huge Inc. agency.
  • Full disclosure: One of the panelists, Dries Buytaert, founded both my home-base open source software project, Drupal, and the company I work for, Acquia.
3 Models for Civic Hacking in an Open Source City
  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: Volunteers around the United States are joining a "civic hacking movement" where they collaborate with government to create solutions for their community. Red Hat and's Jason Hibbets has been at the forefront of this.
  • Why: I am very interested in ways that technologies can leap the digital/physical boundary and be used to make our world a better place. Jason Hibbets has years of experience in this area. This session is likely to be informative, pragmatic, and inspirational and I can't wait to see it.
Categories: Drupal News