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How a Marketer Built a Drupal 8 site in 1 Day

3 May 2016 - 11:51pm

When I decided I was going to start my own blog of course I wanted to build the site myself. I used to be a pretty technical person previously in my career, but the last time I built a Drupal website from start to finish was with Drupal 5 way back in 2009 for my accountant’s website. Today I manage eight corporate websites built by an engineering team, focused on their performance, optimization and design to support the goals of the business; all of which is very different from building new ones from the ground up.

Going into this project I had a general idea of which files belonged where in Drupal and I knew where I should start, but building it on the latest version of Drupal -- Drupal 8 -- is a full three Drupal versions “newer” than the last time I looked at any file structures or theme folders first-hand. I was pleasantly surprised at how it went. There were a few hiccups that I’ll go through in some detail later, but this post is about how a non-developer web manager built a Drupal blog in one day with no code edits or command line fun needed (well very little command line work as I’ll explain in a bit).

Why Drupal and not Wordpress?

My manager and I had a long discussion on what platform I should use, I know this sounds silly: since I work at Acquia -- which was founded in 2008 by the inventor of Drupal, Dries Buytaert -- we should always use Drupal, right? Well the thought was since this is a lightweight and simple blog maybe Drupal has more features than I needed. The priority for me in addressing the use-case for this project was getting blogs posted and optimizing my content so search engines and you, dear reader, could find it. We discussed Wordpress because they are known to be great for blog websites -- he’s been blogging on Wordpress since it was in beta -- and Wordpress is famously simple and quick to set up. We agreed that if I couldn’t set up a Drupal website within a day, then we would look elsewhere for a solution to meet my needs. Long story short: Drupal is what my new personal blog website is running on today.

Where I started: Step 1: Download Acquia Dev Desktop

I knew I was going to start with Drupal 8 since it is the latest version of the 15-year old CMS. Sure, Drupal 6 is my favorite version of Drupal -- mainly because I really learned the power of drupal while working on Drupal 6 sites but I’ve managed a Drupal 8 site for over a year, and the majority of the sites I’m responsible for are still on Drupal 7 with a planned replatforming to Drupal 8 in the next 12 months.

I started by going to drupal.org and downloading the tar file for Drupal 8. I decided to build this project locally on my MacBook since I didn’t have any hosting solutions in mind and but wanted to start building right away. I went to dev.acquia.com -- Acquia’s Developer Network -- and downloaded the latest version of Acquia Dev Desktop. I knew about Acquia Dev Desktop from working at Acquia, it is a great and very simple-to-use tool that sets you up with a Drupal website running locally on your computer so you don’t need hosting right away. My manager, who has been building sites on his own since 1994 and HTML 1.0, claims Dev Desktop is one of the more impressive web building tools he’s ever used. I agree and think one should actually start with Acquia Dev Desktop because it has many Drupal distributions right in it that one can start with. A “distribution” -- for those new to Drupal -- is a preconfigured version of Drupal’s core that has been customized with modules (Wordpress people can think of modules like “plug-ins) and themes for a particular scenario. There are distributions for publishing, government, intranets. Distributions are a great way to jump start a project for a particular use case.

Using Dev Desktop I had my base Drupal site running on my MacBook within minutes. With the
Installation of Drupal 8 done, now it was time to make it pretty.

Step 2: Choose a theme

I needed a theme for what my site would look like in terms of layout and design. Two columns or three columns? Big hero image in the header or not. Fonts and palettes, all are provided in a theme and contributed to the Drupal.org library by their creators. I’m not a front-end developer and I don’t have the time to design my own site from the ground up, so I went back to drupal.org and started looking through Drupal 8 themes. I found one that caught my eye and downloaded it.

Now what do I do with it? Ok I know there is a theme folder in my new site, I found my folders nicely arranged where they should be in my computer's main sites folder set up by Dev Desktop. There is a core folder in there, so I assume I should stay out of that but I saw there was a modules and themes folder off the root directory. Those looked about right and when I clicked into them they had a “readme.txt file inside with some clear instructions confirming I was right where I needed to place my new theme folder. I downloaded the theme I picked, unzipped the files and dragged them into my themes folder. That didn’t magically apply the new theme. So what else did I need to do? Simple: I loaded up my website (you click a link in Dev Desktop and it brings you to your site, you can manage multiple projects with the tool) and went into “appearance” and here was my new theme with an install link. I installed it, took a look, but didn’t like it, so I went back and repeated the process all over again until I found a theme I could live with.

Step 3: Add modules

The nice thing about Drupal 8 is it comes with a lot of what you need built in, modules such as views which gives you the power to dynamically pull content through your site and some default WYSIWYG editors so I don’t need to worry about those modules. My main concern was SEO, the module I use across all of my other Drupal sites is called Metatag and it was available for Drupal 8 so I downloaded it. This process is similar to your themes, you unzip the tar files and place them into the modules folder, then go to your extend page and check them off to enable them. Here is the list of modules I installed on my blog site:

  • Pathauto: this creates friendly URLs based on the title of your content. The default page URLs in Drupal is node/1 so you understand why this is important for SEO and vanity.
  • Redirect: this allows you to 301 redirect old URLs to new URLs. I didn’t immediately need this module since it is a new website, but if you decide to rename a post or delete old content and point it to newer content, you will need this module. Very handy.
  • reCAPTCHA: since this is a blog site, I wanted something to help prevent against spammers hitting my comments and this is a known module that works well.
  • Acquia Connector: I knew I was planning to start my site on Acquia Cloud Free and you need this to connect to Acquia’s services.

In summary here are my build steps:

  • Download Acquia Dev Desktop from dev.acquia.com
  • Install Drupal 8 from a .tar file downloaded from Drupal.org or through Dev Desktop
  • Find the right theme and modules from the library at Drupal.org
  • Put the theme and modules into the right folders
  • Go to the site and install them (via the “extend” and “appearance” sections)
  • Celebrate a living, albeit local site!
Step 4: Hosting

Next, where do I want to host this site? I honestly was thinking about using Godaddy since that is where I had hosted personal sites in the past and the service is fairly inexpensive. I use Acquia workflow tools in our Cloud product daily and I have come to appreciate the ease of drag and drop and having dev and stage environments for testing. I probably don’t need that for my small blog site BUT they are nice to have and they are what I’m used to. So I decided I would host the blog on Acquia Cloud Free -- Acquia’s free sandbox for developers and builders to test and experiment with. Now how to move my local site off of my Mac into ACF. There is a link in Dev Desktop to make that migration happen. Alas, this is where I ran into issues and my technical abilities started to fail me.

I created my free tier account on Acquia Cloud Free. Easy.

I added the Acquia connector module to establish a connection between Dev Desktop and ACF and enabled it. Easy.

Then I clicked the button in Dev Desktop to launch my local blog on Acquia Cloud Free, and discovered I needed an SSH key. What is an SSH key and what do I need to do with it? An SSH key sets up an encrypted secure connection between your computer and the server you are trying to push code to.

There was a helpful link next to the SSH field in Dev Desktop to some documentation. It walked me through the steps to create my key. I figured it out. I had this long key and a field to enter it into in Acquia Cloud Free but my key file was too large. Why? I thought I followed the steps, but I was stumped and I had to ask for help. Luckily there was another page of documentation on how to do this. It turns out you needed to do the SSH Key via the command line (aka the “terminal window”). Command lines are scary to me, I don’t want to kill my computer with a bad command, after all the graphical interface was created for people like me and that’s what I want to use. There is a 1-click button to launch terminal in Dev Desktop, so I did that, and then I followed step by step of the documentation for compressing my SSH key. It took me six tries before I got it to work. Why six? I was blindly copy and pasting lines out of the documentation and not reading it, because I didn’t know what any of it meant. There was a line there that said [user.name] and I was suppose to replace it with my user name. After some trial and error I realized that it had worked and I finally possessed a compressed key file that was accepted. I was up and running on Acquia Cloud Free. My next step is to share this scenario with the Acquia product team responsible for ACF, (there must be a good reason for it) but man oh man that was almost the end of my site.

Once on Free Tier I now needed a version control tool to push my code from my local environment to my server. My developer here at Acquia says you just use Drush in command line. Oh no I don’t. No more command line please. There must be a nice and easy free tool that can help me. There is: SourceTree does just that. You download it for free, connect your site which was easy and then whenever you update or add new files to your local project, it automatically sees the changes and you can select the files that changed and push a button that says “commit.” You can enter a note as to what you changed or added and you’re all set. I was then able to push code to my dev environments and drag it between dev, stage and prod.

Quick Wrap-up

The tools I am using:

Theme I’m using:

Modules I'm using:

Done, a Drupal 8 site in a day.

This experience was a struggle, but a satisfying and exciting in the end. I pushed my technical abilities, hit some roadblocks, but ultimately I was able to launch a Drupal 8 website pretty quickly using Acquia’s tools. I personally love Drupal and the power and freedom behind it, but also understand there is a bit of a learning curve to getting started, especially if your non-technical. I hope this blog helps guide some folks like myself into kickstarting some websites, but let me know about your experiences, tell me which modules you're using or how you’ve overcome some small Drupal hurdles.

Categories: Drupal News

Acquia Partner Profile: Avionos

28 April 2016 - 2:18am

At Acquia, our partners are an incredible part of our success. In this series, we’ll be profiling some of our premier partners; showcasing who they are and what they do, in their own words.

For our first partner profile, we spoke with Dan Neiweem, co-founder and principal of Avionos, responsible for the Acquia partnership, customer success, and growing the Avionos brand. Avionos is a digital consulting and cloud services firm focused on delivering outcomes in the relationships that brands have with their connected customers.

Avionos Quick Stats:
  • Founded: Late 2014
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Number of Employees: 30
  • Top Clients: Kellogg Company, American Medical Association, Plantronics, US Cellular
  • Partnerships: Acquia, Adobe, Salesforce, CloudCraze, and others.
What are Avionos’ areas of expertise?

Dan explains; We are vertical/industry agnostic, but we typically work with B2B organizations. Our specialties include digital transformations, eCommerce, CMS and CRM. Our solutions span across marketing, sales, and customer care.

Our team consists of veterans in the digital space who have experience delivering large-scale customer engagement solutions. Through experience, we realized delivering these large-scale solutions is not the best way to drive value for our customers. That’s why we created Avionos; we wanted to focus on driving outcomes with decreased time to value. Through a nimble and iterative approach we’ve seen solutions that:

  • Have launched online experiences 3x faster at ¼ the cost of traditional software
  • Achieved ROI in as little as 6 months
  • Run in the cloud and are fully integrated with existing platforms
What areas are you looking to expand or invest in in the future?

“We’re looking to expand our team rapidly; both geographically and talent-wise. This year, we’re aiming to double our team’s size. We’re also focused on investing heavily in our team to build a brand that is synonymous with digital customer solutions along with being recognized as one of the best places to work.”

When potential clients come to you, what challenges do they need your help to address?

“We see that many of the potential clients that seek our services realize the importance of digital customer engagement, but lack the maturity to engage with their customers in a meaningful way.

Traditionally, management of the customer relationship has been split between distinct groups with separate goals, metrics, and tools. Avionos helps our clients understand the connected nature of the customer relationship/experience. We break down and bridge the silos that prevent a clear understanding of our client’s customers.”

What projects / work are you most proud of?

“We were very proud to be named the 2016 Acquia Partner of the Year for the Americas. One of the projects that went into us being selected for the award was the work we did for the American Medical Association. We are currently implementing the Acquia platform to better enable the AMA to interact with their members through delivering engaging and relevant digital content.

Another project that we’re proud of is the work we did with the Kellogg Company. We implemented a unique custom blend granola solution for their subsidiary, Bear Naked in less than 4 months. With our help, Kelloggs has created a new B2C channel that does not conflict with their current distribution channel and brings them closer to their end consumer. The site allows individuals to explore new flavor combinations using non-GMO verified products and share their creation with their friends. If the 1000+ combinations are too overwhelming then the end user can rely on the curated chef’s blends or Chef Watson by IBM for recommendations.”

What would you say sets your agency apart from your competitors?

“Today’s customers expect a relevant experience when interacting with their brand of choice. This expectation requires companies understand their customers better and break down the internal silos that prevent them from acting on that understanding.

Where some firms see disconnects between business units, we see an opportunity to gain further insights on a client’s customers. For example, Marketing and IT groups might not see eye-to-eye on the ownership of a certain platform. At Avionos, we take pride in bringing these groups together to develop a clear vision and a set of goals that will enable both Marketing and IT to utilize their tools in the most effective way.

The fact that we view the customer experience as a connected experience is a key differentiator for us from our competition. Our solutions span across the different business groups in a given organization. Avionos has the unique ability to get our client’s goals aligned across their organization.”

What is most important to you / what do you value most as an agency?

“I want Avionos to be first on everyone’s list when they’re thinking about partners for digital transformation initiatives. As a young company, we’re constantly evaluating our space in the ecosystem. Our value is always going to focus on delivering quality work for our clients. We’re getting to a point where we want our clients to speak on our behalf about the positive impacts we’ve had for their business.”

Why partner with Acquia?

“Acquia’s open cloud platform is aligned perfectly with our business model. Like Avionos, Acquia has a solid client list that is growing rapidly. Acquia continues to be recognized as a leader in digital experience platforms and Avionos alongside Acquia as they gain further recognition. We’re looking forward to deepening our partnership with Acquia and reserving a space on the list for 2017 Partner of the Year.

Avionos is very privileged to partner with Acquia and we’re looking forward to continued success through our partnership. With combined strengths of the Acquia platform and the Avionos approach, we can add value and deliver positive outcomes that our clients are looking for.”

Categories: Drupal News

Acquia Asia Pacific Partner Summits 2016: A Recap

26 April 2016 - 11:57pm

Over the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the adoption of enterprise Drupal in Australia. As Acquia continues to expand its presence in the Asia Pacific region, it has become increasingly important to build and maintain relationships with our partners.

The Acquia Sydney Partner Summit brought together more than 75 partners in attendance to learn, network, and engage with colleagues. Attendees represented a diverse group ranging from independent Drupal developers and digital agencies, to network agencies and global system integrators.

Partner summits help underscore how Acquia and agencies can best work together, identify mutual opportunities, and share news about the latest Drupal offerings and updates.

Sessions included:

  • The Elevated Services Opportunity, Darren Watkins, Channels and Partnerships Director, APJ
  • Building the Funnel and Go to Market Opportunities, Tahlor DiCicco, Head of Marketing, APJ
  • How Acquia Solution Architects Can Help You and Grow Opportunities, Adam Malone, Solutions Architect, APJ
  • Acquia Partner Enablement Journey Overview, Siva Ahilan, Practice Director, APJ
  • The govCMS Opportunity for Partners, Chris Harrop, Director, govCMS

Acquia CEO Tom Erickson and VP of Global Channels Joe Wykes were on hand to help continue to strengthen APJ partner relations.

“The opportunity that the convergence of cloud and open source is bringing to market is huge,” said Darren Watkins, channels and partnerships director, APJ at Acquia. “In light of that, Acquia is evolving into a truly partner-centric business. Now is the time to commit to developing a fully-fledged Acquia practice.”

The event was a big success, with many partners expressing their excitement for what comes next with Acquia.

Jason Davey, head of digital at Ogilvy Australia, echoed Watkins’ comments.

“The Acquia Sydney Partner Summit opened my eyes to a number of significant shifts: the shift in the market toward a truly cloud-based offering, the shift in Acquia’s product portfolio, and a shift in the maturity of our partnering relationship. Ogilvy is excited about furthering our committed relationship with Acquia.”

“Acquia’s commitment to its partners was clear. This was evident in how Acquia has rethought/remodelled the way they go to market and engage with partners,” Salsa Digital said in a blog post they put together on the summit.“ Acquia’s professional services team is now focused on supporting partners to win deals and deliver great work (rather than clients directly) and its sales teams are recognised for supporting partners to help win business.”

We look forward to hosting more partner events in the future and continuing to strengthen the relationship between Acquia and our partners.

Categories: Drupal News

Video: Can we save the open web?

26 April 2016 - 2:50am

In March, I did a presentation at SxSW that asked the audience a question I've been thinking about a lot lately: "Can we save the open web?".

The web is centralizing around a handful of large companies that control what we see, limit creative freedom, and capture a lot of information about us. I worry that we risk losing the serendipity, creativity and decentralization that made the open web great.


While there are no easy answers to this question, the presentation started a good discussion about the future of the open web, the role of algorithms in society, and how we might be able to take back control of our personal information.

I'm going to use my blog to continue the conversation about the open web, since it impacts the future of Drupal. I'm including the video and slides (PDF, 76 MB) of my SxSW presentation below, as well as an overview of what I discussed.

Here are the key ideas I discussed in my presentation, along with a few questions to discuss in the comments.

Idea 1: An FDA-like organization to provide oversight for algorithms. While an "FDA" in and of itself may not be the most ideal solution, algorithms are nearly everywhere in society and are beginning to impact life-or-death decisions. I gave the example of an algorithm for a self-driving car having to decide whether to save the driver or hit a pedestrian crossing the street. There are many other life-or-death examples of how unregulated technology could impact people in the future, and I believe this is an issue we need to begin thinking about now. What do you suggest we do to make the use of algorithms fair and trustworthy?

Idea 2: Open standards that will allow for information-sharing across sites and applications. Closed platforms like Facebook and Google are winning because they're able to deliver a superior user experience driven by massive amounts of data and compute power. For the vast majority of people, ease-of-use will trump most concerns around privacy and control. I believe we need to create a set of open standards that enable drastically better information-sharing and integration between websites and applications so independent websites can offer user experiences that meet or exceeds that of the large platforms. How can the Drupal community help solve this problem?

Idea 3: A personal information broker that allows people more control over their data. In the past, I've written about the idea for a personal information broker that will give people control over how, where and for how long their data is used, across every single interaction on the web. This is no small feat. An audience member asked an interesting question about who will build this personal information broker -- whether it will be a private company, a government, an NGO, or a non-profit organization? I'm not really sure I have the answer, but I am optimistic that we can figure that out. I wish I had the resources to build this myself as I believe this will be a critical building block for the web. What do you think is the best way forward?

Ultimately, we should be building the web that we want to use, and that we want our children to be using for decades to come. It's time to start to rethink the foundations, before it's too late. If we can move any of these ideas forward in a meaningful way, they will impact billions of people, and billions more in the future.

Categories: Drupal News

Thunder, a Drupal distribution for publishers

8 April 2016 - 9:29pm

Earlier this month, the international media group Hubert Burda Media (about 2.5 billion annual revenue, more than 10,000 employees, and more than 300 titles) released its Drupal 8 distribution, Thunder. Thunder includes custom modules specifically tailored to the needs of professional publishers.

This is great news for three reasons: (1) I've long been a believer in Drupal distributions, (2) I believe that publishers shouldn't compete through CMS technology, but through strong content and brands, and (3) Thunder is based on Drupal 8.

Distributions enable Drupal to compete against a wide range of turnkey solutions, as well as break into new markets. The number of vertical distributions that can be created is nearly limitless, and the possibilities are endless. Thunder is a great example of that.

Professional publishing is one of the industries that has faced the most extensive business model disruption because of the web. Many companies are feeling pressure on their revenue streams, yet you'll find that some companies still focus their efforts on building proprietary, custom CMS platforms as a way to differentiate. This doesn't have to be the case – I've long believed that Drupal (and open source, more generally) can give publishers endless ways to differentiate themselves at much lower costs.

The following video gives an overview of the Thunder approach:

Custom features for publishers

Thunder adds a range of publisher-centric Drupal modules to Drupal 8 core. Specifically, Burda added integrations with audience "circulation" counting tools and ad servers, as well as single sign-on (SSO) support across multiple sites. They've also developed a theme which implements infinite scrolling.

Thunder users also benefit from a range of channel- and feature-specific enhancements through collaboration with industry partners. The following extensions are already available or in the final stages of development:

  • Riddle.com provides an easy-to-use editor for interactive content. The data from the resulting polls and quizzes is available to the publisher.
  • nexx.tv offers a video CMS and their video player. And Microsoft will support the video solution with 100,000 free video streamings per month through their Azure cloud.
  • Facebook will provide a module for integrated publishing to their Instant Articles, exclusively for Thunder users.
Smart collaboration

I admire the approach Burda is taking to bring publishers, partners and developers together from throughout the industry to develop the best open-source CMS platform for publishers.

At the core is a team of publishing experts and developers led by Ingo Rübe, CTO for Burda's German publishing operations, and initiator of Thunder. This team will also be responsible for coordinating the continuous development and enhancement of Thunder.

Under Thunder's policy, all features provided by industry partners must be offered for free or with a freemium model; in other words, a significant part of the functionality has to be provided at no cost at all. Smaller publishers will likely benefit from this approach, as they will be able to use a full-fledged publishing solution that is continuously enhanced and maintained by larger partners.

Big brands are already using Thunder

Although Thunder is still in public beta, Burda has migrated three brands to Thunder. The German edition of Playboy (about 2M monthly visits) was the first to move at the end of 2015. The fashion brand InStyle (about 1.8M monthly visits) and gardening website "Mein schöner Garten" (about 1.5M monthly visits) are also running on Thunder. Most of the other German Burda brands are planning to adopt Thunder in the next 12 months. This includes at least 20 brands such as Elle.de and Bunte.de, which have more than 20 million monthly visits each.

You can download Thunder from https://www.drupal.org/project/thunder.

Categories: Drupal News

The Challenge of Keeping Software Up to Date, and What Happens if You Don't

8 April 2016 - 2:51am

The public release of client records hacked from a Panamanian law firm’s web site have led to headline revelations that heads of state and public figures allegedly took advantage of Panama’s banking secrecy laws to hide their assets. According to a report published at Forbes.com, the law firm’s site alleged to be the source of the leaked information, ran on Drupal -- specifically a site running an old, unsecured version of Drupal 7 (any version prior to 7.32.) The site had been left unpatched for over a year despite warnings in late 2014 by the Drupal.org’s Security team that all sites should be upgraded and patched to plug the old version’s weaknesses. Every web application needs to be regularly updated and patched to help ward off known security attacks and vulnerabilities. Apparently, this law firm’s site was unpatched and therefore vulnerable for a very long time.

Known as the SA-CORE-2014-05 SQL injection -- the flaw was announced by the Drupal Security team and then mitigated in October, 2014 by Acquia for its more than 4,000 customers running on the Acquia Platform. We also helped our customers who do not run on our platform, our “remotely administered” clients, update their sites quickly resulting in no interruptions in service or breaches for Acquia’s clients. In a post titled, “Shields Up!” Acquia’s Director of Research and Development Moshe Weitzman described how Acquia developed two solutions to shield its customers from possible attacks, as well as insure those customers remotely administered by Acquia were protected and upgraded as well.

Software security is a difficult, constant challenge that requires vigilance and constant communications with one’s vendor or open source project’s security group. Taking security for granted, or assuming it is being handled by someone else or via automated updates is a recipe for disaster. Securing frameworks like Drupal (or Wordpress for that matter) is hard, but thanks to the power of the open source community, flaws are often quickly detected and patched. At Acquia we take security extremely seriously and take pride in our certifications for security compliance and our record of assisting customers keep their sites current with the latest patches and upgrades. Our vigilance helps maintain peak performance during DDOS attacks or other malicious attempts to degrade performance or even take them offline altogether.

No solution is “unhackable” but sites that are hosted on a “do it yourself” basis, even on a purportedly “secure” cloud service may be more susceptible to breaches. Ultimately those who decide to self-host only have themselves to blame when known security vulnerabilities go unpatched; or application code, because of inattention or the lack of a dedicated support team such as Acquia’s, becomes compromised.

Our Remote Administration service provides expert Drupal site maintenance, rapid response to security issues, and allows a web application team to focus on development and not day-to day administration. Our team provides:

  • core security updates proactively
  • Module security updates proactively
  • Module installation and configuration
  • Weekly scans and automated updates
  • Premium RA clients can request bugfix updates as well
  • Creation and modification of views and content types

More information about Acquia’s Support and Remote Administration services can be found within the documentation in the Acquia Help Center.

Categories: Drupal News

State of Drupal 2016 survey

6 April 2016 - 4:11pm

I've been writing a lot about what I believe is important for the future of Drupal, but now it is your turn. After every major release of Drupal I do a "product management survey" to get your ideas and data on what to focus on for future releases of Drupal (8.x/9).

The last time we had such a survey was after the release of Drupal 7, six months into the development of Drupal 8. I presented the results at DrupalCon London in 2011. The results informed the Drupal community at large, but were also the basis for defining initiatives for Drupal 8. This time around, I'm hoping for similar impact, but also some higher-level strategic thinking about how Drupal should respond to various market trends.

Take the State of Drupal 2016 survey now

It shouldn't take more than 10-15 minutes to fill out the survey. We'd like to hear from everyone who cares about Drupal: content managers, site owners, site builders, module developers, front-end developers, people selling and marketing Drupal, etc. Whether you are a Drupal expert or just getting started with Drupal, every voice counts! Best of all, with Drupal 8's new 6-month release cycle, we can act on the results of this survey much sooner than in the past.

I will be presenting the results during my DrupalCon New Orleans keynote (the video recording of the keynote, the presentation slides and the survey results will be downloadable on my blog after). Please tell us what you think about Drupal; your feedback will shape future versions of Drupal.

Categories: Drupal News

Improving Drupal's content workflow

5 April 2016 - 2:38am

At DrupalCon Mumbai I sat down for several hours with the Drupal team at Pfizer to understand the work they have been doing on improving Drupal content management features. They built a set of foundational modules that help advance Drupal's content workflow capabilities; from content staging, to multi-site content staging, to better auditability, offline support, and several key user experience improvements like full-site preview, and more. In this post, I want to point a spotlight on some of Pfizer's modules, and kick-off an initial discussion around the usefulness of including some of these features in core.

Use cases

Before jumping to the technical details, let's talk a bit more about the problems these modules are solving.

  1. Cross-site content staging — In this case you want to synchronize content from one site to another. The first site may be a staging site where content editors make changes. The second site may be the live production site. Changes are previewed on the stage site and then pushed to the production site. More complex workflows could involve multiple staging environments like multiple sites publishing into a single master site.
  2. Content branching — For a new product launch you might want to prepare a version of your site with a new section on the site featuring the new product. The new section would introduce several new pages, updates to existing pages, and new menu items. You want to be able to build out the updated version in a self-contained 'branch' and merge all the changes as a whole when the product is ready to launch. In an election case scenario, you might want to prepare multiple sections; one for each candidate that could win.
  3. Preview your site — When you're building out a new section on your site for launch, you want to preview your entire site, as it will look on the day it goes live. This is effectively content staging on a single site.
  4. Offline browse and publish — Here is a use-case that Pfizer is trying to solve. A sales rep goes to a hospital and needs access to information when there is no wi-fi or a slow connection. The site should be fully functional in offline mode and any changes or forms submitted, should automatically sync and resolve conflicts when the connection is restored.
  5. Content recovery — Even with confirmation dialogs, people delete things they didn’t want to delete. This case is about giving users the ability to “undelete” or recover content that has been deleted from their database.
  6. Audit logs — For compliance reasons, some organizations need all content revisions to be logged, with the ability to review content that has been deleted and connect each action to a specific user so that employees are accountable for their actions in the CMS.
Technical details

All these use cases share a few key traits:

  1. Content needs to be synchronized from one place to another, e.g. from workspace to workspace, from site to site or from frontend to backend
  2. Full revision history needs to be kept
  3. Content revision conflicts needs to be tracked

Much of this started as a single module: Deploy. The Deploy module was first created by Greg Dunlap for Drupal 6 in 2008 for a customer of Palantir. In 2012, Greg handed over maintainership to Dick Olsson. Dick continued to improve Deploy module for Al Jazeera while working at Node One. Later, Dave Hall created a second Drupal 7 version which more significant improvements based on feedback from different users. Today, both Dick and Dave work for Pfizer and have continued to include lessons learned in the Drupal 8 version of the module. After years of experience working on Deploy module and various redesigns, the team has extracted the functionality in a set of modules:

Multiversion

This module does three things: (1) it adds revision support for all content entities in Drupal, not just nodes and block content as provided by core, and (2) it introduces the concept of parent revisions so you can create different branches of your content or site, and (3) it keeps track of conflicts in the revision tree (e.g. when two revisions share the same parent). Many of these features complement the ongoing improvements to Drupal's Entity API.

Replication

Built on top of Multiversion module, this lightweight module reads revision information stored by Multiversion, and uses that to determine what revisions are missing from a given location and lets you replicate content between a source and a target location. The next two modules, Workspace and RELAXed Web Services depend on replication module.

Workspace

This module enables single site content staging and full-site previews. The UI lets you create workspaces and switch between them. With Replication module different workspaces on the same site can behave like different editorial environments.

RELAXed Web Services

This module facilitates cross-site content staging. It provides a more extensive REST API for Drupal with support for UUIDs, translations, file attachments and parent revisions — all important to solve unique challenges with content staging (e.g. UUID and revision information is needed to resolve merge conflicts). The RELAXed Web Services module extends the Replication module and makes it possible to replicate content from local workspaces to workspaces on remote sites using this API.

In short, Multiversion provides the "storage plumbing", whereas Replication, Workspace, and RELAXed Web Services, provide the "transport plumbing".

Deploy

Historically Deploy module has taken care of everything from bottom to top related to content staging. But for Drupal 8 Deploy has been rewritten to just provide a UI on-top of the Workspace and Replication modules. This UI lets you manage content deployments between workspaces on a single site, or between workspaces across sites (if used together with RELAXed Web Services module). The maintainers of the Deploy module have put together a marketing site with more details on what it does: http://www.drupaldeploy.org.

Trash

To handle use case #5 (content recovery) the Trash module was implemented to restore entities marked as deleted. Much like a desktop trash or recycle bin, the module displays all entities from all supported content types where the default revision is flagged as deleted. Restoring creates a newer revision, which is not flagged as deleted.

Synchronizing sites with a battle-tested API

When a Drupal site installs and enables RELAXed Web Services it will look and behave like the REST API from CouchDB. This is a pretty clever trick because it enables us to leverage the CouchDB ecosystem of tools. For example, you can use PouchDB, a JavaScript implementation of CouchDB, to provide a fully-decoupled offline database in the web browser or on a mobile device. Using the same API design as CouchDB also gives you "streaming replication" with instant updates between the backend and frontend. This is how Pfizer implements off-line browse and publish.

This animated gif shows how a content creator can switch between multiple workspaces and get a full-site preview on a single site. In this example the Live workspace is empty, while there has been a lot of content addition on the Stage workspace in. This animated gif shows how a workspace is deployed from 'Stage' to 'Live' on a single site. In this example the Live workspace is initially empty. Conclusion

Drupal 8.0 core packed many great improvements, but we didn't focus much on advancing Drupal's content workflow capabilities. As we think about Drupal 8.x and beyond, it might be good to move some of our focus to features like content staging, better audit-ability, off-line support, full-site preview, and more. If you are a content manager, I'd love to hear what you think about better supporting some or all of these use cases. And if you are a developer, I encourage you to take a look at these modules, try them out and let us know what you think.

Thanks to Tim Millwood, Dick Olsson and Nathaniel Catchpole for their feedback on the blog post. Special thanks to Pfizer for contributing to Drupal.

Categories: Drupal News

Acquia’s FedRAMP ATO: What Does it Mean for You?

4 April 2016 - 11:06pm

On February 19, 2016, Acquia received an Authority To Operate (ATO) from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and is now a FedRAMPSM Compliant Cloud Service Provider (CSP). For many individuals and organizations operating in the public sector, FedRAMP is a well-known program, but what does FedRAMP compliance really mean?

FedRAMP: What is it?

With a rise in the adoption and proliferation of cloud solutions, finding a way to secure the use of cloud-based IT systems has proven challenging. Historically, the governmental process for risk management was redundant, inconsistent, time consuming, and expensive, so there was a real need to develop a solution that would cut costs and improve efficiencies. FedRAMP became that solution, adopting the “do once, use many times” approach.

FedRAMP, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services.

FedRAMP was brought to life by close collaboration amongst cloud experts from both private industry and the following government organizations:

  • General Services Administration (GSA)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • National Security Agency (NSA)
  • Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
  • Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) Council

It was created to bolster the cloud computing industry, by accelerating the adoption of secure cloud solutions, providing a baseline set of standards for cloud product approval, increasing confidence in the security of cloud solutions, ensuring consistent application of existing security practices, and increasing the automation of near real-time data for continuous monitoring.

How did we secure an ATO?

Acquia had to meet a highly robust and detailed set of FedRAMP security controls based on the NIST 800-53 Revision 4 standard. Our team was put through a rigorous independent third party audit and approval process before getting a FedRAMP Authorization. The audit was conducted by an accredited third party assessment organization (3PAO). The process included three steps:

  1. Security Assessment
  2. Leveraging and Authorization
  3. Ongoing Assessment and Authorization

These FedRAMP processes are designed to help agencies meet the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) requirements for cloud systems, and address the specific challenges that cloud systems face when trying to become FISMA compliant. An agency that begins this process with a FedRAMP compliant platform has already put certain security measures in place that will aide them in securing their own ATO.

If you’re curious to learn more about the process, the FedRAMP website offers a more in-depth look at how the FedRAMP authorization process works.

So what does this mean for you?

FedRAMP offers a number of benefits to federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as other governmental applications. First and foremost, it offers a significant cost and time savings, and provides a uniform approach to risk-based management. It improves real-time security visibility, and enhances transparency between the government and CSPs.

Every government application requires an ATO, but some platforms -- like the Acquia Platform -- can make the process much faster and more affordable. If your organization deploys your application in an on-premise data center, then you’ll require an ATO for the infrastructure, platform, and (3) application. If you’ve deployed your application with AWS, which is also FedRAMP compliant, the controls are only in place through the IaaS level, so your organization is still responsible for platform and application certification. With the Acquia Platform, however, FedRAMP controls are in place up to the PaaS level, so your organization is only responsible for certification at the application level.

Acquia customers are able to leverage a best-in-class Digital Platform that is compliant with Federal security standards out-of-the-box. As explained above, your Certification and Accreditation (C&A) efforts will require significantly less time and cost compared with trying to accredit an on-premise solution, or even a system built on a FedRAMP-compliant IaaS. You get a safe and secure cloud platform to power your organization.

Overall, with FedRAMP in place, your organization experiences improved the trustworthiness, reliability, consistency, and quality of the Federal security authorization process.

Looking for more detailed information on the FedRAMP authorization process? Their Guide to Understanding FedRAMP is a fantastic and exhaustive resource.

Categories: Drupal News

Agile Research Methods for Personalization

4 April 2016 - 10:58pm

This is part five of a five part series.

While having a general framework for coming up with new personalization ideas can be extremely helpful, it will never replace rolling up your sleeves and doing the research and data analysis. Once your personalization program is off to the races though, it’s time to move beyond initial ideas and pure instinct, and take a data driven approach. This can take many forms, from analytics and experimentation, to more in-depth research methods such as user experience testing.

You may be thinking that this was the place to start rather than finish. However, research can be an enormous undertaking, and there’s something to be said about intuition, especially when just starting out.

Research Types

There are many ways to divide the types of research available. One of them is to think about qualitative vs. quantitative research:

  • Quantitative research: Looking at things that are clearly measurable and can be tracked over time. Both analytics and experimentation fall into this category.
  • Qualitative research: Focusing on things that are harder to measure, but may provide even greater value. As an example, asking a customer to rate a product with 1-5 stars is quantitative, whereas asking open ended qu

estions about why a customer likes or dislikes a particular product is much harder to quantify, but can yield the researcher far greater insight.

Not all forms of research fall cleanly into qualitative or quantitative, but having a good idea of whether the research you’re doing leans towards qualitative or quantitative can help when forming hypotheses and working towards generalizable knowledge.

Analytics

The most common form of research into user behavior on the web is most likely web analytics, using tools such as Google Analytics, Kissmetrics or Adobe Analytics. These tools allow for the ability to drill down into these dashboards to understand subsets or segments of the overall audience and how one acts differently from another. They provide an excellent starting place for generating ideas about how to personalize based on actual customer data, especially as you use the more advanced segmentation features and notice patterns of behavior around different segments.

Analytics can also be thought of in several different categories, the simplest of which is called “descriptive” analytics. In descriptive analysis, you are simply looking at the past and seeing what happened. It can be especially tempting to use the trends you observe in these graphs to predict what will happen in the future, but this temptation should be avoided as much as possible, as there are better ways to accomplish this.

Other forms of analytics include predictive, which can be used “to make predictions about future or otherwise unknown events” and prescriptive, which “goes beyond predicting future outcomes by also suggesting actions to benefit from the predictions and showing the implications of each decision option”. These more advanced forms of analytics require more sophistication and often different tools and techniques.

With personalization, you are trying to understand how different offers or experiences will lead people to different outcomes. For this reason, it’s very important to involve your data science or business intelligence teams in personalization efforts wherever possible, or plan to build those functions if they don’t yet exist in your organization.

Experimentation

Running controlled experiments is the gold standard of research in the scientific world. A/B testing and multivariate testing--as experimentation is referred to in many marketing circles--doesn’t always receive the same level of rigour, but if you have an A/B testing tool, you possess the best tool available for determining cause and effect, which again, is exactly what we’re trying to do with personalization.

Not every A/B test is created equal. For meaningful results you’ll need to consider the design of the experiment and factors such as sample size and seasonality. You’ll also need to consider how your audience and your hypothesis fit together.

For example, if you are running an experiment with your entire audience, standard A/B test reports will only show you how an experience affects behavior on average across the entire population. By either running the experiment on a subset of the population (using personalization) or by drilling deeper into the reporting, you can discover the nuances of your audience and drive to better personalization.

User Experience Testing

UX Testing can span both qualitative and quantitative research. It generally involves a trained researcher and a relatively small number of participants who are asked to use a product or service while the researcher asks questions that are carefully formulated to not introduce bias. There may be other observers, but they are often only watching by video or through a 2-way mirror to also avoid bias. A common result of user experience testing, even with a very small group of participants, is that common patterns are identified of language or user interface patterns that don’t make sense to many people. These are often overlooked by the designers and implementers because they are so familiar with the interface.

The output of a user experience test is frequently a written report that will provide a large number of ideas for further experimentation and personalization. Keep in mind that just because several people identify a problem or make a suggestion, doesn’t mean that your entire audience will feel the same way. That’s why it continues to be critical to experiment with these new ideas and to refine and optimize the experience gradually.

Surveys

While user experience testing requires a lot of time and can be quite expensive, surveys are a great way to get quick feedback from a large number of people. A survey can be carried out by a 3rd party organization, sent to your email list using Google Forms, Survey Monkey or similar, or they can be placed directly within your experience using a tool like Qualaroo.

Bear in mind that the design of surveys can also lead to a variety of biases such as response bias and many others. As with experimentation, thinking about the design of your surveys will help you to make the best use of your time and to reach valid conclusions. Running a controlled experiment based on the ideas that come from survey respondents will help even more to validate your findings.

Ethnography

If surveys are a faster and simpler approach to research than user experience testing, then ethnographic research is at the other end of the spectrum entirely. Rather than having someone come to your office or use software to observe them perform specific tasks for 30-60 minutes, ethnographic research involves a researcher traveling to where your customers live or work and observing them in their day to day routines. Rather than answering questions about how a specific page or user experience are working in certain scenarios, you’re observing who people really are and what they do with their time. This level of exploration can lead to insights about things that you would never think to ask about.

For example, Intel has used ethnographic research extensively to discover market trends and identify new business opportunities. When building digital experiences, this level of research can help to determine how your customers differ from one another and suggest further avenues of research--using analytics, experimentation and more--in which to invest time and resources.

Keeping Research Agile

Stick to short iterations and manageable tasks. Any single category of research above could easily be taken on as a one year project by a large team. This will undoubtedly produce richer results, but it’s important that we keep tasks small and manageable. As such, if you’re going to embark on user experience testing, as an example, try to break this down into small chunks that can be accomplished in short periods of time. For example, start with some quick hallway usability testing or go online with something like usertesting.com.

In the first pass, you should be looking for early insights and low hanging fruit, not fully generalizable knowledge. Build on that knowledge with another round of more formal usability testing, or use the first insights to run a series of A/B tests which then roll back into more usability testing. The point is to keep these tasks small enough that you are making rapid changes to your experiences, testing out new personalizations, and continuously gathering feedback as you go.

Whatever system you decide on to manage your personalization backlog you should track research work along with the technical work. This shared list of work helps the personalization owner to prioritize which research work should be done when, and also allows a corpus of knowledge to be built up in a single place that shows others what was discovered, what was tried as a result, what was learned, and finally what was implemented. Many project management tools even allow these links to be made explicitly, so that you can go back and see the life span of any idea that was generated through to completion.

Tracking within this system also ensure that you really are keeping research to manageable chunks, and keeps the researcher closely involved with the rest of the team, helping them to know what questions should be asked and provide further suggestions to the implementation team.

Conclusion

Research is a critical piece of your personalization program. Whichever methods you use and how you build it into your team, keep in mind that it should be agile along with the rest of your program. Researchers and analysts should be working closely with designers and implementers, ensuring that you keep your velocity up and make the best use of all of the learnings that are gathered through every iteration.

Categories: Drupal News

Drupal 8 Module of the Week Recap: Paragraphs, Linkit and Search API

2 April 2016 - 6:00am

The latest Drupal 8 modules to be covered on the Acquia Developer Center are Paragraphs, Linkit, and Search API. Each makes working with Drupal 8 a little easier for developers in some way; by making it easier to make sites responsive, by improving the usability in WYSIWYG editors for content authors, and by providing a toolset for creating searches on Drupal sites.

Here’s a taste of what these particular modules can do.

Paragraphs

Maintainer: Jeroen Bobbeldijk aka jeroen.b on Drupal.org.

What Does Paragraphs Do?


Paragraphs demo site: http://paragraphs.site-showcase.com/

Paragraphs gives you cleaner data structures so you can give more editing power to your end-users. Today’s websites need to be “responsive.” That is, media, images, and other page elements need to change size and position depending on the dimensions of the screen they are being viewed on. It is very hard to take a blob of text and markup that includes embedded video or images and make the media and the layout responsive. Paragraphs Module replaces Drupal’s standard “Body” field with a wide selection of Paragraph types--from a simple text block or image to a complex and configurable slideshow and more--that can be mixed and matched on-the-fly by end users. This gives structure to the data entry, allows developers to reuse Drupal field types as paragraphs and make all the various content items and their layout responsive.

Why Does It Matter?

Replace the standard body field of a node with a paragraphs field and you can use any number of text, image, or video fields and still keep them all responsive. All content is saved in Drupal entities so it is fully compatible with Search API, Views, and services integrations. Paragraph types can also include custom option-fields and do conditional coding in your CSS, JS, and preprocess functions so that end-users can have more control over the look and feel of each item--much cleaner, more maintainable, and more stable than adding inline CSS or classes inside the body field markup. Simply add a paragraph field to any content type and choose which paragraph types should be available to content authors and how many they may place in a node. Authors can add and reorder them at will.

Check out the full Paragraphs profile on the Acquia Development Center blog

Linkit

Maintainers: Known as anon on Drupal.org, the module’s maintainer, Emil Stjerneman, has been a Drupal consultant and developer in Sweden since 2009.

What Does Linkit Do?

Since late 2009, the Linkit module has improved usability in WYSIWYG editors for content authors in Drupal. Emil tells us the problem, "Without Linkit installed, the most common way to insert a link in the WYSIWYG editor is to open the default WYSIWYG link plugin and populate the URL text field by either copy/paste or typing the URL directly into it. The risk inherent in this method is the chance of pasting or typing a broken or incorrect link into the field."

Why Does it Matter?

Including broken or incorrect links in your site content can have a negative impact on your visitors' experience, reduce your SEO ranking, or hurt conversion rates. Depending on the scale and purpose of your website, this can potentially cost you real money from loss of sales, loss of ranking and therefore advertising revenues, and more. Linkit is an effective way to help your content teams avoid errors like this.

Check out the full Linkit profile on the Acquia Development Center blog

Search API

Maintainer: Thomas Seidl and Nick Veenhof (drunken monkey and nick_vh on Drupal.org).

What Does Search API Do?

The Search API module--in use on more than 80 thousand Drupal 7 and 800+ Drupal 8 sites as of March 2016--is a toolset for creating searches on Drupal sites, built to support the complex data-structures you can encounter in Drupal applications. Site builders can use it to create powerful search interfaces for end users. Furthermore, it presents a flexible framework for developers to create new, reusable search-related modules. It is extensible, providing connectors to other search engines and technologies like Apache Solr, for example, which you might choose to improve the speed and relevancy of your search results.

Why Does it Matter?

Using Search API’s standardized, commodity functionality--all the usual building blocks and details of a search implementation--saves developers time and allows them to concentrate on the specific, search-related functionality they want to provide, instead of reinventing search every time. For implementing site-specific functionality, it offers a plethora of hooks and plugin types to customize the module's behavior and functionality.

Check out the full Search API profile on the Acquia Development Center blog

Is there a Drupal 8 module you’d like to see profiled? Let us know in the comments!

Categories: Drupal News

Research Focus: Digital Transformation in Local Authorities

2 April 2016 - 12:01am

In today’s post I’m continuing my series about the results and conclusions from a research project that we commissioned Vanson Bourne to run. From consumer attitudes to technology devices and the way that ‘buyer behaviour’ is transforming the purchase journey online, to the impact of technological advancements in the retail financial services industry, it was an extensive piece of work. Part of the scope of the project involved canvassing opinions from the public about the digital services that their local authority provides and what should change about them.

Within the constraints of the Government Spending Review in England and the equivalent in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the 433 independent and democratically elected local councils never have an easy ride. Providing regularly improved services with less resource and budget is an ever-present challenge. The added requirement to share best practice and work with or in partnership with other local organisations is piling on the pressure. The research conducted shows that digital services in the public sector are reasonably popular for people who want to access information or for simple online tasks, but sharing and recommending those services seldom takes place.

Key research findings:
• Nearly two thirds (63%) of those surveyed have visited their local authority’s website, representing a significant digital audience
• 57% have used a local government site to look for information, such as bin collections, local schools and opening times to amenities
• This largely receptive audience remains consistent across age groups (16 to 65+) with over half them looking for information on their local authority sites
• 86% of people have bought online in the past year, yet less than a quarter (21%) of online visitors have ordered or booked a product or service online (such as a new bin, a school place or a library book)
• 37% of people did not interact online with their local authority once in 12 months
• When it comes to sharing and recommending via email or social media, just 10% have shared something from their local authority and again only 10% have recommended a local authority service.

Socitm, the society for IT practitioners in the public sector, and its local CIO council met in December 2015, after the Government’s latest Spending Review, to cover the implications which result from how little money is available for digital transformation projects. Its recommendations in a draft paper are stark but clear, stating that “there has been a focus on "transactions not relationships," "websites not outcomes for the citizen," "channel shift as opposed to service re-design and digital transformation." It also recommends that members should focus on improving digital platforms to support the departments which receive the largest amounts of money from the council, for example health and social care.

We agree with the view of the CIO council, which is that local authorities have a leadership role in this area. They must find new and creative ways to deliver better digital services to meet the increased demand on the physical services they are required to deliver – within their budget. Cloud-based technologies and platforms can provide the answer in three ways: with fully-customised, semi-customised templated solutions or a ‘solution in a box’, each leveraging the efficiency and security of the cloud.

Whichever one of those three choices is taken in each authority’s case, it’s clear that digital transformation involves not one enormous project but 433 very large ones, each led by a team with their own varied opinions, experience, and budgets.

As a result, IT consultancies and providers have a vital role to play in advising and providing innovative, low-cost services that really improve the digital platforms available for residents and businesses of each authority. Whilst there is merit in picking the services that can impact the most people first, we believe it’s possible to improve the full portfolio of online services and capitalise on the potential for offering self-service digital capabilities to users. To achieve that goal, it’s no longer an issue of deciding which channel(s) to provide, but rather how to design user-centric services more cost-effectively, as opposed to settling for legacy systems which deliver only on simple goals. User journeys that are as familiar to users of private-sector websites, apps, and other digital platforms are also key.

In one of the devolved nations in Great Britain, The Scottish Parliament recently announced the good news that it has doubled and redefined its digital budget by consolidating various separate workstreams. And in Wales, a recent review of digitalisation in Welsh local government calls for ‘leadership, collaboration, and a tight timetable to bring councils up-to-date.’ Our work for Brighton & Hove City Council involved migrating and upgrading their various websites in 2013 into a single platform solution. It was provided by the powerful open source software Drupal, which is central to our operations, and shows that it is possible to enhance digital services for all local Government functions. Starting from a situation where multiple designs, platforms, and infrastructure were in place, we helped a local authority to recreate and manage its new and improved digital operations more easily.

Categories: Drupal News

The Evolution of Media Company CMS Platforms: Big Bets on Custom CMS

30 March 2016 - 2:40am

In our series on media company CMS platforms, we’ve looked at the landscape evolution over the last 5-6 years, from how companies make CMS decisions, to the types of CMSs that companies are using, to the overall industry consolidation. Today we’ll wrap up this series with a greater focus on custom CMSs, and a look towards the future, and burgeoning open source adoption.

Due to escalating costs and scaling development issues, it’s my belief that custom CMS platforms only last a handful of years before they become obsolete, and the efforts to maintain them are terminated. We can see an example of this cycle from the newspaper group Digital First Media (DFM). DFM developed a custom CMS platform, Thunderdome, meant to serve it’s 100+ newspaper titles across the U.S., but then put its newspaper titles up for sale in 2014, subsequently ending the Thunderdome initiative. Digital First Media maintained a blog about the development of Thunderdome which has been archived here, and a technologist on the Thunderdome team offers his learnings from working on the project here. There’s also the tale of BusinessWeek spending $20 million on building a custom CMS platform, only to be tossed out when Bloomberg bought the publisher in 2009.

I’m not sure what technologies The New York Times’ Scoop is built on top of -- Java, I believe -- but regardless, it’s a completely custom CMS and does not leverage open source CMS frameworks like Drupal. The New York Times is a giant in media, however, and can afford to scale their technology team to take on this giant task of creating a CMS from scratch. According to Capital New York, former New York Times CIO Mark Frons and former CTO Rajiv Pant managed a team of about 500 in 2015. The risks with Scoop are the costs associated with retaining top technology talent and scaling the team to build it. In the past year, several key technology executives at the New York Times (beyond the CTO and CIO) departed, including their iOS development lead, and more impactfully Luke Vnenchak, who was spearheading Scoop (article on his Scoop CMS efforts here) up until the summer of 2015. John Niedermeyer, a New York Times deputy editor of digital news design, also left in the same year. Both Niedermeyer and Vnenchak are now leading new media darling Buzzfeed’s product design and engineering teams, respectively.

The Washington Post, while it is NOT building an uber CMS platform, faces similar challenges to those that the New York Times faces in terms of scaling costs and retaining technology talent and knowledge to continue the development of their suite of tools. Additionally, they have other newspaper clients dependent on their CMS suite of tools, Arc, so there’s a lot more at stake. To keep up with their technology development, The Washington Post opened a tech-focused office in New York.

Custom CMS for Newspaper Industry and Beyond

The thirst for digital media has helped silos collapse at media companies, meaning that a company that holds magazine, TV, newspaper, and radio brands is now sharing digital content across the organization that each of these brands produces independently. For instance, a magazine publisher like Conde Nast is no longer just producing magazines, but is now a leader in producing digital video through it’s Conde Nast Entertainment division.

The thirst for digital media has helped silos collapse at media companies. For example, a company like Conde Nast that made it’s name as a magazine publishing giant is now producing digital video, too, through it’s Conde Nast Entertainment division. Companies that hold different brands across magazine, TV, newspaper, and radio are starting to produce a variety of content across different channels, platforms, and mediums, and because of this, are starting to need CMS capabilities that reach beyond what’s required for publishing in just one media segment.

Hearst Newspapers, for example, is now adopting the company’s custom platform Media OS. In fact, the platform will soon be the foundation for all media divisions at Hearst -- newspapers, magazines, television, and digital-only brands. At the start of 2016, Hearst CEO Steven Swartz announced the investment of $150 million into the further development of Media OS -- an incredible investment in the world of media CMS expenditures. The platform was first launched within Hearst’s magazine division at Cosmopolitan Magazine, and was the brainchild of Hearst’s James Welsh, who created this custom CMS for his former employer, Digital Spy, a technology product and news magazine. At that time the platform had another codename, RAMS. According to Hearst:

“RAMS, The Digital Spy publishing platform, was built with a strong focus on empowering editors and offers the velocity and simplicity the team was seeking. Digital Spy demonstrated that the platform could excel for highly trafficked brands and the fact that the system was built by and for editors underscored the ease of publishing quickly and the options for increasing audience engagement.”

The public announcement of a $150 million spend for a custom CMS platform is beyond my own comprehension. But with over $10 billion in annual revenues in 2015 alone, I understand that Hearst’s scale affords them such luxury. There’s not much I can do to compare the investment to other media companies’ plans for platform expenditures, however. For instance, I do not have a price tag on Conde Nast’s custom CMS, Co-Pilot.

Like Hearst, Cox Media Group is a media company with different brands across different segments. Cox Media Group owns TV stations, radio stations, and newspapers in various local media markets across the US. In 2011, Cox Media Group began work on Medley, a single CMS that content producers and editors can use at any of these properties. One of the pushes for the single CMS was the idea that Cox had to create an “all media journalist” or “AMJ” who could report for any of their properties in a market. I understand Medley is built on Django and Python and I have not seen any case studies as to whether Medley has indeed united editorial staff across Cox Media Group’s properties.

Gannett, another organization with multiple media arms, rolled up it’s television, digital, and newspaper brands onto a custom built CMS platform called Presto. Media watcher Poynter covered the transformation in a case study called “Gannett’s monumental task — A content management system for all.” Ironically, in 2015 Gannett completed the split of its television and digital properties away from its newspaper brands, which were put into a separate company, Gannett Publishing. While Gannett Publishing will retain Presto as it’s CMS of record, it’s unclear what will happen to the TV and digital brands of the new company known as TEGNA. Presto, like Cox Media’s Medley, is also built on Django and Python. It’s important to note that Django is not really a CMS, but simply a framework for coding in Python, a programming language.

Instead of building a single custom CMS to address all of the newspaper, TV, radio, and digital properties at a media conglomerate, add-on CMS offerings are starting to pop up in the market to address the syndication of content within an organization across its many subsidiary sites and brands. Acquia’s Content Hub is one solution to address the sharing of content across media brand silos.

Is a Custom CMS a differentiator that can drive media company performance and success?

In this final post of our “Evolution of Media Company CMS series,” we’ve primarily been talking about major media conglomerates and their custom CMS development. But two other “new media” giants, free of traditional media products like radio, TV, or newspapers, are very well known for their custom CMS projects: Buzzfeed and Vox.

Buzzfeed’s custom CMS does not have a name, but it’s analytics system does, and that is known as Pound. Vox Media has dubbed its CMS, Chorus. In 2013, media watcher Felix Salmon argued that Buzzfeed and Vox’s custom CMS projects are competitive differentiators, allowing these brands to excel in the market. Media analyst Jeff Jarvis argued that custom CMS is NOT a differentiating factor for media brands and wrote a reaction piece to Salmon’s titled, “CMS as media salvation. Not.” Fast Company magazine, another media site with a custom CMS, posed the question “What’s So Hard About Building A CMS?

This debate about whether custom CMS is a market differentiator kicked off across the blogosphere about 2.5 years ago, and since then these custom CMS projects have become more entrenched. It can be argued that a custom CMS is a differentiating factor, but to build a truly world class custom CMS platform requires deep investments. Keep in mind, just as the media conglomerates have a big cache to spend on custom platform development, their new media counterparts do, too, and Buzzfeed and Vox continue to receive venture capital investments they can put towards their platform development. For instance, NBCUniversal invested $200 million in both Buzzfeed and Vox in 2015. Interestingly, even though it’s investing in Buzzfeed and Vox, NBCUniversal does not share it’s own technology, like it’s NBCU Publisher custom Drupal-based platform, with either Buzzfeed or Vox. It seems counterintuitive that NBCUniversal is not collaborating on media platform technology with two of its biggest investment partners, however some argue (including Buzzfeed executives themselves) that Buzzfeed and Vox are technology companies, further complicating the debate on CMS as a market differentiator for media companies.

Conclusion

In this series we’ve covered the transitions that media companies have made in CMS technologies from about 2010 until today. We see that both radio and newspaper brands are trying to break away from proprietary media specific CMSs that once addressed most of their particular feature requirements. These proprietary CMS solutions are not easily able to handle the growing amount of integrations required to deliver a digital experience that engages, grows, and monetizes audiences. This is where we see some of the biggest opportunity for Drupal and Acquia, with their virtually unlimited capability of scaling and growth.

In the publishing industry, especially newspapers, there is the additional challenge in that many brands are leveraging two CMS solutions - one for print, and one for digital. The movement now for publishing brands is towards a model where editorial and layout duties can be executed within a single CMS of record.

Meanwhile, media industry consolidation over the past several years has resulted in quite a bit of CMS replatforming, as companies combine various media brands. This shift has driven the need to integrate disparate platforms, and shrink the number of vendors they utilize. The industry consolidation has also forced some proprietary CMS vendors to close up shop or merge with their peers. As a result, the market for media oriented CMSs is less crowded, and open source platforms are growing market share in the industry.

Media conglomerates are also trying to cut down on technology complexity, addressing the challenge of having multiple brands across media silos (newspaper, radio, TV, magazines) that utilize multiple specialized CMS platforms. The media titans are doing so with big investments in large custom CMS platforms (often built internally with lofty code names) that will address the needs of all of their diverse media brands. History however has shown that such investments don’t always pay off, and there’s a litany of expensive custom CMS projects that are now dead.

New media brands that are free of traditional media products like TV, radio, and publishing titles are also investing heavily in internally built custom CMS development initiatives. Their efforts are being applauded by the technology and media industry communities as innovative and impressive. However, there’s been huge venture capital investments in these new media brands and most of that capital expenditure is going to technology platforms and not content development. These new media leaders may find that continually innovating on technology is not scalable and comes at the expense of creating more content to grow, engage, and monetize audiences.

Categories: Drupal News

Choosing the Right Framework for Your Personalization Ideas

29 March 2016 - 11:03pm

This is part four of a five-part blog series on personalization.

If you’ve made it this far in the series, you should now have a personalization team, alignment on high level business goals and strategic initiatives, and a project that your team is planning to work on. On top of that, you’ve aligned on an approach to personalization that involves quick iteration and small, manageable tasks, which you may or may not refer to as “stories.”

Congratulations! If you’ve come this far then you are at least halfway to success, and you haven’t even begun personalizing yet!

The next step is coming up with ideas of what to personalize. Personalization ideas can touch many areas of the experiences you’re creating. You can focus on different audience segments. You can brainstorm ideas for content. You can focus on different areas of the marketing funnel. You can create a list of how to keep existing customers interested and coming back. Or you can start thinking about what metrics you want to pull first to better inform your decisions. Once your team has generated a few dozen, or even a few hundred ideas, you may find that it’s both challenging to organize them all, and that the pace of generating new ideas slows down some. This is where frameworks come in.

There are a few different frameworks that can be used to both generate and organize personalization and optimization ideas to help you stay on target. You can choose to use one or more of these, or find another that works best for you, but having a framework can make it far easier to keep the ideas flowing and organized.

The Mind Map

The idea is simple, and has been around for a long time: Start with what’s on your mind and write it in the center of a piece of paper (or on a whiteboard, or using software, etc. -- you get the idea), then write related things around it and draw lines between them. After the first round, draw more related ideas next to the new words and draw lines between those. The end result is you get things in your head onto paper and trigger some new parts of your brain while you’re at it, making you more creative and capturing the things you’ve been thinking about.

Admittedly, this isn’t truly a framework, but but it’s a good place to start if you have dozens of ideas floating around that have a natural structure to them. For personalization, they may take the form of segments, personalization rules, pages you want to personalize, and so on. If things start breaking into categories, try circling words with different colors or drawing different shapes around each.

If you’ve captured everything you were thinking but then run out of steam, that’s OK. If you’ve been staring at the paper for a few minutes without writing anything else down, walk away for a while. When you come back, go ahead and take those ideas and move them into your task/story collection software, adding additional ideas and more detail as you go.

The Matrix

Not the movie, the spreadsheet kind! In this exercise, you’re going to build a table with rows and columns. On the left column, in the rows, write down your top 3-5 segments. At the top of your columns, write down the journey stages that your customer is going to go through. It will look something like this:

You now have a bunch of blank cells that you can fill in with personalization ideas and research questions. If you’re a online consumer brand that sells home goods like rugs and throw pillows, what content should you show new homeowners who are at the evaluation stage? What should you show college students who may only be in the awareness stage? Write down your thoughts and capture those as before.

Now, you could do this exercise a lot of different ways, and that’s the point! You could try products of interest on the rows and segments in the columns, or geographic regions in the rows and traffic source in the columns. The point is that you want something that reflects a relevant and useful division between your types of customers. Ideally that division is based on the data you already have before starting this exercise, but feel free to try this several times with several different dimensions.

If you want to get crazy, you could even try doing this exercise in a 3 dimensional spreadsheet.

The Customer Journey Map

If you need a more advanced framework, a customer journey map might do the trick. If you’re not familiar with the concept, a customer journey map is a research guided tool that helps you capture gobs of information on different types of customers, including journey stages, activities, motivations, questions, barriers and much more. It is well beyond the scope of this article to talk about all the details, so here are a couple examples:

Once you have a set of customer journey maps in place, the tie-in to personalization becomes fairly obvious: How are you going to help these customers along their journey? Chances are, there are a number of stages where directing them to the right content for their journey stage is going to be incredibly helpful for them. Now all you need to do is capture tasks and stories that help to make that journey simpler and more engaging to your customer.

Summary

Once all of these ideas are captured and catalogued, they go into the backlog and go through your prioritization process. You can start with a single method and go to the next one a few weeks later, or you can continue to revisit these techniques every few weeks or months to generate new ideas each time.

These are not the only places your ideas will come from of course. It is a great idea to have a clear feedback mechanism within your organization so that anyone else can provide their ideas as they come up. You should also capture ideas as you go through your day to day work, as you look at data and review the results of past personalizations, and any other time when the idea strikes you. Keep in mind, capturing an idea doesn’t mean you’ll always do it. The point is to get a lot of ideas down when you’re feeling creative so that you can use them and iterate quickly, and learn what works and what doesn’t.

Categories: Drupal News

Putting Agile Personalization Into Practice

17 March 2016 - 11:09pm

This is part three of a five-part blog series on personalization.

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Author Benjamin Erwin once said, “Building a robot that works involves building a robot that doesn’t work and then figuring out what is wrong with it.” The software world has used terms like agile and lean for this approach for some time. Fast forward to today and agile marketing has also become a hot phrase. The core idea is simply to break large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks, completing some of those tasks, then pausing briefly to reflect on your progress. Learn all you can, then repeat. If you can put this concept into practice in your own organization, the results will astound you.

Personalization is not exact; a lot of it involves trying different things and seeing how well they work. In order to achieve success with personalization, you must iterate quickly. The more you iterate, the faster you learn. The number of elements that you can base personalization on are nearly infinite, so you need an approach that allows you to tackle bite-sized chunks of work while still seeing meaningful results. We call this approach, which allows your team to start small, learn quickly, and achieve meaningful results as early as possible in the process, Agile Personalization.

There are three main components to this approach. The first is individual tasks or short, meaningful chunks of work, which an agile software developer may refer to as a story. The second is a backlog, or prioritized list of those tasks. Finally, there is a fixed period of time in which you plan to iterate, known as a sprint in agile, but is basically just an iteration, or cycle. These three simple pieces form agile in a nutshell, and when applied to personalization, can help solve many of the challenges faced by marketers today.

Tasks

A task is a small, self-contained piece of work that delivers value. These are the central units that you’ll be planning with. Generally, it should be something that one person can accomplish in a few hours to a couple of days. A task could be something like “put a new banner on the home page for returning visitors” or “analyze the results of last week’s A/B tests.” These are manageable chunks of work that deliver value. If the first task you do is also the most likely to move you towards your end goals, then you’re going to see returns on that work quickly.

So where do tasks come from? One of the best ways to come up with tasks, especially when you’re starting out, is just to sit down with your team and other stakeholders and brainstorm things you might like to do. Feel free to capture a bunch of ideas that you might not ever do, as you can prioritize them and determine the best ones to spend your time on later.

Backlog

Remember how you can have an infinite number of tasks? Well, you won’t write an infinite number down, but you need a place to keep all of your great ideas as you have them. There is plenty of technology available for organizing these lists, but for now simply imagine a wall with sticky notes on it. Write down a dozen or so tasks, then prioritize them so that the one you want to do first is at the top, the one you want to do next is right below it, and so on. Prioritizing this list is the responsibility of the Personalization Owner and can be as much art as it is science because you’ll need to balance the priorities of different parts of the business, as well as balance things like expected payoff and level of effort. But don’t let this bog you down. While there are many frameworks and systems for doing this prioritization, just go with your gut to start out with.

If you want a tool to help you do this organization, there are many available. A simple approach is to put all of your ideas in a Google Spreadsheet. Purpose built tools like Aha!, Asana, Trello, or JIRA could all be used for this as well. Remember, don’t worry about the jargon, just get a tool that’s easy to understand and seems to meet your idea of what is easy to use. If your organization already has a project management tool in place that you’re comfortable using, you can start there.

Sprint

A few weeks ago, I spoke with a woman who works at a large financial institution. They are in the process of implementing a personalization strategy and have spent the past nine months reworking the taxonomy terms attached to all of their content, with no return on investment to show for it yet. Now, don’t get me wrong, having a good content strategy and properly tagging all of your content can have a large payoff when it comes to understanding user behavior and personas and implementing personalization. But there are unquestionably smaller projects that could have been tackled with just a handful of terms, or even personalization that doesn’t rely on past behavior at all, such as some simple messaging geared towards customers on mobile devices or from certain geographies. These are relatively simple to set up and could have proven out the value of personalization early on while other larger tasks are worked on in the background.

Two weeks is a good length of time for an iteration, or what Agile developers would call a sprint. It could be anywhere from one to three weeks, but should not be longer than that. The key to a sprint is to have something tangible and of value to show at the end of each one. This allows you to build momentum, show success to the organization, and feel good about the work you’re doing. It is also a huge help for those of us who tend to procrastinate on larger projects. Most importantly though, it allows us to learn quickly from successes and failures and correct course when the work we’ve done is lacking in any way. For example, if you spend two weeks building some tests for a particular persona or segment and then discover that the messaging that you’re using is not increasing any of your key metrics, you can try different messaging two weeks later and you’ve learned a lot and moved towards value. If you spend three months redesigning and implementing your website, ad campaigns, and email campaigns using that failed messaging, then you’ve lost a lot more time, money, and resources. You also have very little to show for those efforts, except for the learning that you’ve produced, which could have been done in two weeks.

There are numerous benefits to having short, planned iterations, one of which is an extremely valuable concept known as the “retrospective.” That’s just a fancy term to say that at the end of each sprint, you sit down with your team and talk about what worked, what didn’t work, and how you can improve the work that you’re doing. This rapid and regular introspection can help to uncover organization bottlenecks, gaps in skills, process improvement opportunities, and more. It also helps you determine how long tasks take, allowing you to plan more effectively in the future.

Putting Agile Personalization Into Practice

As the saying goes; it was time to eat our own dog food. While theoretically discussing the process of agile personalization is informative, it wouldn’t mean very much if we weren’t practicing it ourselves. While the idea for this blog series and corresponding ebook had already been decided, it still took a couple of months to get started. There was a lot to cover and it was a little daunting. But by putting the subject of the series into practice, rather than trying to crank out the Agile Personalization guide as whole, we broke the work down into smaller pieces of work. Then, each piece was drafted, edited, and published individually, building up to the greater asset down the road. We looked at what we could accomplish in a two-week period and planned out enough of them to get the work done. The idea was to take a big project and break it down to deliver useful and meaningful pieces on a regular basis.

In short, the basic ideas here are simply to break big projects into small tasks, prioritize those tasks, and do small chunks of work on a regular basis—learning everything that you can along the way. As you iterate, you’ll no doubt put a bit more process in place and find other ways to help your team get better results, faster.

Categories: Drupal News

SDL Abandons "All-In-One" Customer Experience Cloud Strategy

17 March 2016 - 3:13am

UK customer experience company SDL, in a preliminary filing of its 2015 financial results, attributed recent losses to bad strategy; trying to sell an integrated cloud to marketers who preferred to pick and choose their own solutions rather than an “all-in-one” suite.

In the Executive Chairman’s review of the results, the company stated: “Whilst considerable progress has been made we have been disappointed in the overall results. This was due to SDL's focus of investing in and selling consolidated integrated platforms whereas the market continues to favour the purchase of specialist point solutions. As a result, our CXM strategy has failed to gain traction, resulting in a significant decline in new technology bookings in our CXM business, with a commensurate increase in losses from these products.”

I’ve seen first hand, in my meetings with both prospects and current customers, that very few brands are inclined to buy into an all-in-one marketing cloud solution. The digital marketers I’ve talked to prefer to choose a self-assembled, self-integrated approach to their suite of marketing and customer experience technologies. The reality is that they still need to be able to integrate new marketing tools and connect to their their organization’s legacy systems, custom corporate applications and customer databases to be successful.

This is one reason why open source solutions like Drupal are seeing increased adoption, especially at the enterprise level. Drupal’s API-first, modular approach allows for connections to be made between many different applications. The most popular technologies -- Salesforce, Marketo, Google Analytics, etc. -- already have modules built and available. But we also need to think beyond marketing; an API-first solution allows the freedom to adopt new and emerging technology and connect with customers anywhere very often without a browser-based experience.

Another advantage is these modules are not the sole responsibility of the brand’s own corporate developers but are built, managed and maintained by agencies and individuals in the Drupal community. This takes the pressure off of scarce and expensive internal resources to custom code each integration, patch or band-aid. While you still can technically integrate your choice of technology with proprietary suites like Adobe Marketing Cloud for example, you will be locked into their roadmap and sense of urgency. This can be costly, both in terms of budget -- paying them or a partner to build your connectors-- or time and lost opportunities-- if you wait for the vendor to deliver the integrations or pay to do them yourself.

Brands demand the ability to choose the best-of-breed technology for their business needs. They don’t need to be locked into a single vendor to do it for them via an all-in-one marketing cloud. They need the flexibility to connect a disparate set of tools and tech as they see fit and they are looking for solutions like Drupal that allow them to integrate without added burdens. As for SDL, they’re focusing back on their strengths in language technologies and appear to be stepping back from the all-things-to-all-people model of the marketing cloud.

Categories: Drupal News

The State of Multi-site: A High Level View of CMS Multi-site Capabilities

17 March 2016 - 12:51am

Enterprise organizations maintain an average of 268 web domains. Entities allocate time and money to ensure these websites remain up-to-date from a technology and content standpoint - resources that otherwise would have been utilized elsewhere in the organization. Multi-site alleviates these inefficiencies by providing a web-platform in which a central team can manage remote sites - eliminating redundant systems, unifying appearance, and streamlining content and software updates. Multi-site accelerates management processes and cuts costs.

Users’ demand for multi-site capabilities, regardless of their current content management system, has resulted in a state of feature parity; any enterprise CMS will support multi-site with nearly identical capability. Without true competitive advantages, choosing the right multi-site option should depend on what CMS is the best fit for a given organization - not the tedious differentiators between multi-site features. Organizations should base their CMS decisions on budget, pre-existing expertise and other requirements unique to itself.

A Sitefinity case study applauds the software’s multi-site ability to implement and manage 111 sites - ranging from country sites and product sites to portals. The customer required that their CMS include multi-site, yet fundamentally, they “needed a solution that could be built on .NET.” Once they chose Sitefinity, a .NET content management system, they were able to manage 111 sites, however it was their internal reliance on .NET that made Sitefinity the logical choice.

In a DNN multi-site case study, the University of New Orleans “needed a resilient, flexible content management system that could handle more than 200 websites.” Equally important, however, was the fact that they needed “a content management system that would be easy to install, affordable, and could integrate with systems like Active Directory.” As a public entity funded by Louisiana taxes, the university’s resources were limited, which ultimately lead them towards an open-source CMs without licensing fees. In this instance, a proprietary and more expensive vendor like Sitefinity wouldn’t be an appropriate fit.

BBC uses Wordpress multi-site. Before standardizing on Wordpress, they used a number of systems, which featured one Wordpress blog. When it came time to standardize their content management systems, due to their positive experience with the blog, they selected Wordpress. Since then, they’ve scaled up their Wordpress platform and have “a solid platform that is flexible and constantly being improved.” BBC found a solution that was a match for what they needed and subsequently found the multisite capability to operate on a larger scale.

Sitefinity successfully managed 111 sites; DNN did the same with 200; Wordpress powers one of world’s the largest news broadcasting organizations. Given today’s parity in multi-site capability, organizations should first choose the CMS that best suits its needs and examine multi-site accordingly. Most likely, the selected CMS will have some sort of multi-site offering. If a family of 6 needs a car with 4-wheel drive, they wouldn’t purchase a sports car regardless of how powerful its 4-wheel-drive system is.

Categories: Drupal News

A MAP for accelerating Drupal 8 adoption

16 March 2016 - 5:02am

Contributed modules in Drupal deliver the functionality and innovation proprietary content management solutions simply can't match. With every new version of Drupal comes the need to quickly move modules forward from the previous version. For users of Drupal, it's crucial to know they can depend on the availability of modules when considering a new Drupal 8 project or migrating from a previous version.

I'm pleased that many agencies and customers who use Drupal are donating time and attention to maintaining Drupal's module repository and ensuring their contributed modules are upgraded. I believe it's the responsibility of Drupal companies to give back to the community.

I'm proud that Acquia leads by example. It was with great pride that Acquia created a Drupal 8 Module Acceleration Program, or MAP. Led by Acquia's John Kennedy, MAP brings financial, technical and project management assistance to Drupal module maintainers. Acquia kicked off MAP in mid-October and to date we have helped complete production-ready versions of 34 modules. And it is not just any modules; we've been focused on those modules that provide critical pieces of functionality used by most Drupal sites.

When MAP was formed Acquia allocated $500,000 to fund non-Acquia maintainers in the community. In addition, we have so far invested more than 2,500 hours of our own developers' time to support the effort (the equivalent of three full-time developers).

What is impressive to me about MAP is both the focus on mission-critical modules that benefit a huge number of users, as well as the number of community members and agencies involved. John's team is leading a coalition of the best and brightest minds in the Drupal community to address the single biggest obstacle holding Drupal 8 adoption back.

Drupal 8 has already made a significant impact; in the 90 days following the release of Drupal 8.0.0, adoption has outpaced Drupal 7 by more than 200 percent. And as more modules get ported, I expect Drupal 8 adoption to accelerate even more.

Categories: Drupal News

Drupal 8 Module of the Week Recap: Honeypot, Drupal Console and Coder

11 March 2016 - 7:57am

More and more modules continue to be migrated over from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. This time we’re looking at Honeypot, Drupal Console, and Coder. Technically, only one of these is a true module but the others represent significant contributions to the Drupal community and are important enough to Drupal 8 to be profiled on the Acquia Developer Center.

Honeypot

Maintainer: Jeff Geerling, aka geerlingguy on Drupal.org. Jeff is a technical architect at Acquia, and also a leading expert and book author on Ansible.

What Does Honeypot Do?

“Honeypot is a valuable module to help prevent spammers from submitting forms on Drupal sites. It is currently in use on more than 68,000 websites. It's a little different than most other antispam modules because it doesn’t harm the user experience on the forms; it doesn’t make you decrypt distorted text or do math to submit the form, for example. Instead, Honeypot uses a couple of hidden form fields to determine whether the submission comes from a spambot or a real human and blocks the bots.”

Why Does It Matter?

“Honeypot is one of the simplest and most effective anti-spam modules for Drupal, and it doesn't require any external service integrations. It also has an extremely simple API that allows developers to customize its rules in case spammers are more persistent.

Almost every website that allows user interaction or content submission has to deal with form spam. If you have a form on your website or you allow user registration, chances are you've been overwhelmed by spam accounts and postings at one point or another.”

Check out the full Honeypot profile on the Acquia Development Center blog

Drupal Console

Maintainers: Eduardo García (enzo), CTO at AnexusIT, Jesús Manuel Olivas (jmolivas), Drupal 8 Solutions Engineer at FFW, Omar Aguirre (omers), Drupal Developer at Axtel, and David Flores (dmouse), Tech Lead at Indava.

What Does Drupal Console Do?

“Drupal Console is not a Drupal module per se, but rather a Symfony application that offers a lot to developers working on Drupal 8 projects.

Drupal Console is a command line interface (CLI) tool that helps you as a developer by helping you with Drupal 8 code: generating boilerplate code (aka the basic “scaffolding” you need for every module you write), and interacting with and debugging Drupal 8 code. Drupal Console also lets you download and install modules; create dummy data, tests, and database logs; and debug not just registered services, but also various D8 subsystems like the configuration, routing, and state subsystems--all via the command line."

Why Does it Matter?

“Drupal Console has been designed to increase Drupal developer productivity by helping generate code immediately. Because the Drupal Console takes care of the necessary boilerplate code and other basic functionality, you can focus your effort on the business logic of your application--the part that delivers value to your organization.”

Check out the full Drupal Console profile on the Acquia Development Center blog

Coder

Maintainer: Klaus Purer (klausi on Drupal.org). He does backend development, Drupal architecture, and Devops at epiqo. He’s also a member of the Drupal Security Team and a Code Review Administrator on Drupal.org.

What Does Coder Do?

"Coder is not a module anymore. It is a PHP command line tool that can be installed with Composer to automatically find and fix coding standard violations in your Drupal code. This is important because now you can easily integrate it into your automated testing process and flag errors when a changeset introduces coding standard errors (another example of this is in the Rules Project test configuration). There are also plans to include Coder into the automated patch testing on Drupal.org.”

Why Does it Matter?

Klaus explains, “In order to better understand and read code faster, it is important that collaborating developers settle on a common set of standards for how they write code and what that code should look like. Drupal has its own coding standards and Coder is the implementation of those standards. When you’re writing code, Coder points out any style issues and can even fix most of them automatically for you so you don't have to guess if a piece of code is coding standards compliant. Coder can also integrate into your IDE or editor so that you get coding standard warnings while you write code.”

Check out the full Coder profile on the Acquia Development Center blog

Is there a Drupal 8 module you’d like to see profiled? Let us know in the comments!

Categories: Drupal News

The Digital Experience Academy

29 February 2016 - 6:04pm

Last week, Acquia launched the Digital Experience Academy. We are in the privileged position of working with providers, developers, partners and brands as they navigate all aspects of the digital world. Some come from the technical world and others have a brand perspective. Some are cynical and others have unwavering confidence. Whatever their viewpoint or objective, we always learn something from them (and I hope we help them a little, too). As such we have a great holistic view of digital transformation, from concept to delivery.

We wanted to put all this knowledge and expertise in one place, calling on help from customers, partners and employees to bring digital concepts to life. And that’s how The Digital Experience Academy was born. It’s an online destination for master classes, real-life user testing, interviews with leading practitioners, how-to guides and insights into recent projects. The content aims to support brands at every stage of their digital journey, with advice on strategy, tactics and implementation.

Acquia is known as ‘the digital experience company’ and recent analyst reports support this. More crucially, some would say, this success confirms the assertion that successful customer experiences are central to building better brands.

Despite this, recent research found that while 88 percent of organisations are undertaking or preparing to undertake digital transformation, only 41 percent of them have a clear strategy for doing so. There’s a huge disconnect between what brands know they should be doing and what they are actually putting into place. We hope that the Digital Experience Academy not only becomes the first port of call for those organisations, but also remains an on-going destination for anyone involved in digital transformation, throughout and beyond a project lifecycle.

Naturally, the Digital Experience Academy has been built on Drupal and is powered by Acquia Cloud. We hope it becomes a one-stop resource for anyone involved in marketing, digital and the customer journey. We’d at least like to be part of the many ways that can inspire you to develop, create and deliver great digital experiences.

We hope you like what you find. Please feel free to contact the team if there’s anything you’d like to see on the site – we do love feedback!

Categories: Drupal News