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“Don’t read the comments.”
That has become a mantra of creators across the Internet. No matter how much time and effort one puts into an article, video, photo, etc., inevitably someone will have something negative to say. Comment sections have become battlegrounds rather than bridges to creators or brands, a haven for spam and hate speech. The ability to anonymously voice opinions and spew whatever comes to mind has directly contributed to the growing practice of trolling: posting deliberately offensive or provocative comments online with the aim of upsetting or eliciting an angry response from someone. A perfect example of this is the the trailer for the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot; here you’ll find a comment section riddled with disdain, fat-shaming, blatant misogyny and claims of ruined childhoods, all over a movie that hasn’t even been released yet.
This was not always the case. At the dawning of Web 2.0, comments were considered critical to success; they were the first real example of two-way conversation between a brand and their online audience. Comments, along with product reviews (which were brilliantly harnessed by Amazon) were the first example of consumers having a direct digital line to voice their thoughts and opinions with brands on formerly one-way web pages. However, consumers were quick to realize the power they wielded. The Age of the Customer brought forth legions of trolls and spammers like orcs out of Mordor. Now there was a venue to openly complain, criticize, battle and belittle anonymously.
Spammers began to see an opportunity as well, deploying automated bots, armed with free Rolexes, work from home opportunities and prescription drug offers. Many a blogger was notified they had comments only to find a horde of spam had invaded their turf.
Spam aside, comments are just too important to relinquish altogether. Turning them off would lead to accusations of being unwilling to answer questions or “engage.” Letting anything go without review meant truly odious words would live under one’s brand and reputation. So brands began to moderate heavily. They set user guidelines and began investing in technology that automatically filtered out both posts that violated said guidelines as well as spam. Despite their best efforts, two things started to happen:
- Commenters figured out new ways to stay vicious while still staying within the guidelines
- Social media began to change the entire digital space and made comments obsolete
Once social share functionality was introduced, the higher quality conversation around articles, blog posts, videos, etc. moved outside of the website. It makes sense if you think about it; would you rather talk to random strangers about an article on that article or have a discussion about it with your family and friends as you share it with them on Twitter or Facebook? Also, if read something and really liked it, would you rather comment on it or share it with others who might also enjoy it?
With the best conversations about a piece of content happening on social networks like Facebook or Twitter, the comments section is losing it former importance. Comments are no longer the preferred place for two-way conversations.
Social isn’t the enemy but a saving grace in a way. Social sharing can lead to an increase in organic audience growth, expanded reach, and as Google factors in the impact of social media on its search algorithm, even improve search optimization. Tools like Disqus allow users to use their social logins to comment instead of creating a new login for every site. But despite this, native comment sections still are a breeding ground for negativity.
In response, several large publications like CNN, Bloomberg, Reuters, and Popular Science have decided to do away with comment sections entirely. In fact, Wired has chronicled the end of commenting; since 2014, more and more news sites have been ditching their comment sections. However, the removal of comment sections has been met with some fierce opposition, especially in a time where there is a lot of backlash at the media and concern around free speech.
This begs the question: does digital media still need comment sections? Personally, I can see both sides of the argument, so I’m not sure.
“I look at comments similar to ecommerce product reviews,” explains Katelyn Fogarty, Acquia’s Sr. Manager, Digital Marketing (and fellow blog author). “It really shows the value and engagement [of a post] if a reader comments.”
Kate also notes that social media has contributed to the lack of engagement with comment sections because it’s easier to take to sites like Twitter to voice opinions.
“I personally think comments are important and we might just need to find ways to encourage users to comment and not skip over [them]”.
A happy medium that sites like Hellogiggles (whatever, I already admitted to technically being a millennial) have been implementing is “selective commenting”; allowing comments on some articles and not others, at the discretion of the publication. But probably the best hybrid approach is using social media plugins to act as the “outsourced” comment section of a website. The best example of this in my opinion is Buzzfeed; who uses the Facebook Comments plugin. Even though native commenting is available, Facebook commenting is the first option users are presented with. It uses Facebook’s own reporting functionality to mark things as spams and report abuse. As a frequent Buzzfeed commenter, I will fully admit to reporting spam and hate speech when I see it. I know, sometimes heroes don’t wear capes.
I, like many people apparently, got Sarah Manning in the ever-important “Which ‘Orphan Black’ Clone Are You?” quiz.
There are some industries where despite some negativity, comments still hold quite a bit of value. In the tech space, where credit, kudos and collaboration are important, so are comments.
For us at Acquia, the ability to comment on posts is particularly important to our audience of technical pros and developers and our engineers who operate in the collaborative model of open source development. The Acquia Development Center sees a lot of quality exchanges between members of the Drupal community. Comment sections on websites with technical content serve as forums, and are a familiar way for audience members to not only communicate with the “brand” but also with each other. While Acquia is far from a major news publication, and doesn’t publish polarizing articles about politics, we need to provide our customers and users and partners with a “place” to share, ask, critique and comment. Both on our own properties but also in the greater digital world outside of our walls.
What do you think? Should comment sections be eliminated in favor of social media discussions? Or do comment sections still have value?
(Yes, that was intentional).
Last winter when we committed to revamping our personalization strategy on the Acquia Developer Center site, dev.acquia.com, we asked the Lift product team if we could be treated like an Acquia customer from start to finish. One of our key product offerings is Acquia Lift, a product built for website personalization. When someone purchases Lift they have the option to purchase a Professional Services workshop to guide their implementation and focus on their personalization strategy, and we wanted to go through that process ourselves on one of our digital properties. This idea worked well for my team who got to participate in an active workshop, and the Lift team was able to use the experience as a training exercise for on-boarding new employees.
What is an Acquia Lift Workshop?
The Acquia Professional Services team helps to build the foundation for our customers’ personalization strategy by using a workshop format. We use the workshop to define the customer’s business objectives, create customer profiles and personas that shape how Lift is configured, identify key tactics, and set milestones on an execution roadmap. This workshop generally takes place during a planning phase, which for new site builds can happen during the design and development process. The workshop is delivered by a Strategy Consultant and a Technical Consultant over (5) consecutive days: four (4) continuous days on site and one (1) remote.
What’s Included in a Workshop?
- Review of all historical data
- Development of an overall personalization strategy
- Development of Lift personas and segments, creation of a consolidated customer profile
- Exploration and definition of personalization tactics to run within a pilot campaign
- Alignment of a technical roadmap to business objectives
What happens before the workshop?
Before our workshop began, we needed to give the Lift team access to our Google Analytics account so they could create benchmarks and get a feel for our historical data. We also needed to determine who on our team would attend the workshop. We wanted our key stakeholders to be present, along with the members of our team who would be using Lift on a daily basis.
What happens during the workshop:
The workshop started by really stepping away from the project at hand, and creating a theoretical situation to work with. We started by mapping out what our ideal hotel experience would look like from booking to checking in. This got us thinking about the experience and focusing on the important pieces of that journey. We were also asked to draw out our experience instead of just voicing it, so that we’d have to move outside of our comfort zone and really think differently. It was a great exercise and a fun way to start off the workshop. Then we took what we learned from our hotel booking journey and started applying it to our current website. We thought about what goals we’d want our users to achieve, and then considered step by step how they would get there. This experience was pretty eye opening because we found lots of gaps in our flow. We were ignoring the ease of use and expecting our users to figure it out. We were so close to the experience from working with it on a daily basis that we didn’t even realize where we were failing.
Once those gaps were identified, we started defining what we really wanted to happen and the steps we might take to get there. Honestly this is where the meat and potatoes was for me in the workshop. In defining the journeys we wanted our users to take, we identified most of the personalization strategies we have put into place. This also identified large areas of our site that we needed to fix and update. I love when the rubber meets the road!
The next big focus was building our unified customer profile. This is always an important step, because the more you know about your visitors’ browsing experience, the smarter you can be in delivering that experience. Step one was collecting the data and making sure we collecting it from every possible touch point in the full customer journey, and not just the one website we were looking at currently. We were focusing on dev.acquia.com, but also needed to consider that the user may have come from acquia.com, or may have been going to other properties such as docs.acquia.com or insight.acquia.com.
Once we had our customer profiles, we started building and segmenting our audiences. We spent a lot of time defining our audiences. Dev.acquia.com dives deep into the developer audience, so we started tagging all content by roles such as back-end developer or front-end developer. That way we could build audiences around those groups of users. Then for each role, we were able to build out a larger content strategy.
Last but not least we needed to define our success metrics. What were the goals that would make us feel like our personalization strategy was successful? We defined these for dev.acquia.com as being:
- Grow our known user in Lift
- Increase webinar registrations
- Increase free tools usage
- Increase loyalty through increased page views
What happens next?
At the end of the workshop you receive a well crafted report of everything that was discussed during the session. For me, this acted as a to-do list. We found a bunch of gaps in our user flows that we needed technically fixed before we started personalizing. We created tickets for those and assigned them out. Next we continued to work with the Lift Ready team to start setting up some of our first personalizations. We created our audience segments during the workshop, and for the Acquia Developer Center website it was based on tagged topics and tagged content personas. We started by attacking our homepage and personalizing the left hand rail by audience. We also identified a drop off in our traffic on our blog landing pages, so it was recommended that we add in content recommendations based on topic to the right sidebar within our blogs. Then we waited and watched the data come in. Internally our next step was to continue this process on our main website acquia.com, and to connect the user profiles to build one unified view of our users. This step is an ongoing project and something that we’ll continue to watch and iterate on regularly.
Long before we knew what it was called, we started relying on cloud- based technology. And it began simply as we all started to manage our virtual email accounts. But this initial introduction to cloud computing only hinted at how reliant we would become on its capabilities 15 years later.
Today, the cloud is with us all throughout the day, most tangibly through our smartphones. From the moment our alarm app wakes us up, we check our Gmail account and the weather at breakfast, before setting up Google Maps on our commute and listening to our library on iTunes. We check our Facebook feed and online bank account at lunchtime, before scrolling Flipboard for an evening recipe. After work, we might go for a run and rely on our Fitbit and iTunes library again. Once back home, we enjoy some online shopping on websites powered by Amazon Web Services, watch our much-loved TV series on a streaming service like Netflix or read the latest Kindle download, before checking our email one more time and setting that alarm app. The cloud and all the infinite possibilities it creates is there from morning until nightfall, helping us with our critical decisions and managing the information we care about the most.
As consumers we benefit from brands leveraging the cloud to entice and serve our needs and desires, anywhere, anytime. Today, our expectations are sky high as we rely on smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, apps, proximity experiences and increasingly, wearables, to deliver relevant, personalised and contextualised digital experiences from our favourite brands.
The journey between the first cloud software services and where we are today has been truly transformational. The first generation of Software- as-a-Service technologies now confidently outperform their on-premise counterparts with the value of the market now due to exceed $112,8bn by 2019 (IDC 2015). These quickly evolved to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), enabling developers to have more flexibility and reliability and access to advanced technologies to produce better digital services for customers, without the responsibility to manage the hardware.
For those organisations requiring robust, high availability and leading- edge digital services to deliver today’s personalised digital experiences that I spoke about earlier, Platform as a Service (PaaS) is now the game changer. Its power lies in providing IT, marketing and overall business benefits in a single, fully scalable digital platform. The seamless integration available with other cloud modules, for example those providing CRM, social media, marketing automation and analytics services, are a marketer’s dream. Today’s businesses are able to respond and adapt more quickly to changes in their markets as a result.
PaaS also brings true operational and development-related agile- working practices to those businesses using it, in turn attracting the top tier of developer talent. According to VisionMobile’s recent survey ‘Cloud & Desktop Developer Landscape’, cloud application and solution development has a higher proportion of professional developers (64%) compared with 51% for desktop. PaaS developers can use increasingly sophisticated architectures to develop the brands they work for at a conceptual level with a lower total cost of ownership (TCO), paying on a subscription-based model as an operating expense rather than a capital investment.
With this latest iteration of cloud experience services firmly established, another benefit is emerging that will increase the rate of its adoption. The data optimisation and analytics that PaaS can feed into a company’s insight department means that developers and marketers can deliver more sophisticated, personalised customer experiences. At a brand level, they are more in-tune to and able to deliver on customer 2 requests in full, and at the same time develop innovative and leading services based on new platforms and channels.
Cloud computing capabilities have come a long way. We now rely on the technologies to immerse, entertain and inform us in our daily lives, as brands continue to push the cloud’s boundaries to create the best customer experiences that they can.
I know, I know, you’ve heard this all before: Every enterprise needs to undergo a digital transformation. Great digital experiences are necessary to win, serve, and retain customers. Personalized omnichannel experiences are the new table stakes in a highly competitive, digital-first world.
My Twitter feed is jammed every day with a stream of eternal truths like this. You get it. Everyone gets it.
But here’s what too many enterprises don’t get: Shifting from current digital state to future digital state is hard. It requires a balance of expertise, culture, and technology.
And, it requires a deep mindshift that many enterprises haven’t yet realized or are incapable of accomplishing.
The idea crystallized last week when I attended the Forrester Forum for Digital Transformation in Orlando. The big reveal: if you want to be successful with digital transformation, you must shift from being a “customer-aware” enterprise to a “customer-led” enterprise.
Every company will say they put customer experience first. But at a time when digital relationships are paramount, successful businesses and brands are building this into their DNA. They’re creating what Forrester calls a Customer Obsessed Operating Model.
There’s no one right way to become customer-obsessed and to build a customer-led culture. But it’s a concept that’s being put into action by many companies driving digital success today.
CVS Health is doing it. Led by Chief Digital Officer Brian Tilzer, the CVS digital lab team has shifted from an enabler of digital strategy (providing tools and tech) to being the driver of rapid digital innovation to benefit customers.
Tilzer, speaking at the Forrester event, described how CVS leverages digital capabilities to redefine the store experience through customers’ eyes. CVS sends text alerts telling you when prescriptions are ready (creating happy customers and cutting phone calls to pharmacy techs). It’s using scanners to capture your new healthcare membership card (saving a few minutes and mitigating long lines). And, it’s running a pilot project at 350 stores for curbside pickup, so elderly customers and parents with a car full of little kids don’t have to go inside. A CVS app enables online ordering of anything in the store; location-based notifications can alert delivery runners when the customer arrives.
Others are doing it, too. Forrester’s Ted Schadler describes how old-school manufacturers, like tractor-maker John Deere, are shifting to a digital-centric, customer-led mindset. Deere is building software to help customers – farmers – be more effective in planting and tending crops based on big data. Companies that are customer-led are putting developers in call centers to listen to customer issues – so they can hear what customers want, but WHY they want it. And, this creates passionate employees who better understand how their work impacts customers and allows product, digital experience, marketing, and support teams to better serve customers and figure out how best to leverage digital means to do it.
These shifts enable a customer-led mindset that can create desirable new products and services, educate customers at the right time, at the right place, and with the right experience. There are hundreds of opportunities to support customer interactions and behaviors to enhance their experience and boost your business relationship.
My takeaway: Digital transformation efforts and the digital customer journeys you create don’t come in a box. The enterprise needs blend of strategy, technology, expertise, and culture, working together. It’s not just one thing. And, it’s definitely harder than jotting down 140 characters worth of buzzwords on Twitter. Creating compelling emotional connections with your digital experiences requires everyone to be led by your customers.
It’s still early in a game in which “digital” as defined in digital transformation, digital experience, and the like, means more than digital marketing. Far more. Digitalization of business, building customer-led enterprises that rely on new digital interaction paradigms – that’s where the big action is happening next. It’s still blue-sky stuff for many brands.
The good news is that there’s still time for businesses and brands to capitalize on this opportunity to win and serve their customers, and to create new products and services that customers want. And, to use digital content as a strategic asset. Digital content, and the platforms that support content, will power the next wave of customer communications and drive the emotional experiences that make life-long customers. There’s ample opportunity to think customer-first and build strategic plans – encompassing digital content applications and platforms, as well as organizational approaches – built around customer needs, going beyond business as usual.
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.
We spoke with Frank Febbraro, CTO and one of the founders of Phase2. Phase2 is a recognized leader in open technology and has designed and built some of the most trusted websites in the world. Through their partnership with Acquia, they continue to utilize their expertise in digital transformation to deliver essential solutions to their clients. Frank’s role at Phase2 includes working to ensure that clients are getting the very best solutions that focus on the root of their challenges. The ultimate goal is to use digital technology to transform how they provide value to their customers.Phase2 Quick Stats:
- Founded: 2001
- Location: Phase2 is headquartered in Alexandria, VA, and has offices in New York, San Francisco, and Portland, OR
- Number of Employees: 130+
- Top Clients: RedHat, The United Nations, Twitter, Johnson & Johnson, and Turner Broadcasting
Industries: Enterprise, non-profit/ NGO, healthcare, sports, retail, media & publishing, education, technology, and government.
Specialities: Digital strategy, design, content strategy, front end experiences, full stack development, and DevOps, all with a focus on value delivery.What areas are you looking to expand or invest in in the future?
Frank explains, “The real value we provide to our clients is staying ahead of the experiences they need to deliver to their customers. We invest heavily in the right creative and technical capabilities to ensure we are always putting our clients a step ahead their competition and delighting their customers.”When potential clients come to you, what challenges do they need your help to address?
“Phase2 clients recognize the opportunities and challenges presented by today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape. They want a partner that will help them use the right strategy and technologies to create meaningful connections with their audiences. Our clients often need to optimize content for omnichannel delivery, enhance collaboration internally and externally, and transform how audiences experience information.”When it comes to technology, what environments do you support? What role do customers ask you to play in technology strategy or selection?
“Everything from on-premise to cloud hosting environments, we provide full stack development across most open source technologies.
Our clients understand that we craft enterprise platforms using a wide variety of approaches tailored to their goals. Our role is to help clients achieve their digital strategies and deliver maximum value to their customers. We partner with our clients from the onset of digital strategy through taking systems and experiences live.”What project / work are you most proud of?
“WhiteHouse.gov was a momentous occasion for Phase2 and open source, a project which strengthened our status and expertise in bringing open source content management to high profile websites. The decision by the administration to build the site on Drupal was a major milestone for open source. It was an indicator that Drupal’s maturity and stability were ready for the most prominent sites in the world. We are incredibly proud of the leading role we played in that transformation.
Recent notable projects include our work in Drupal 8 with Memorial Sloan Kettering, our latest Atrium build for the Urban Institute, and our continued expansion of the MLS platform. Turner Broadcasting, RedHat, and Weight Watchers are other significant partners.
Major League Soccer (MLS)
Phase2 has been an Acquia Partner Site of the Year winner and finalist. In 2015, we were finalists in the Public Sector and Sports categories for our work with San Mateo County and Bassmaster, respectively.”What would you say sets your agency apart from your competitors?
“We occupy the space between the creative agencies who brand and the system integrators that engineer. We combine strategy, development, and creative thinking to meet our clients’ needs at every stage in their digital journey. As our tagline states, ‘We are the creative thinkers you want, paired with the technical team you need.’”What is most important to you / what do you value most as an agency?
“We exist to make our clients more successful. We help our clients achieve their missions by providing strategy and technology focused on the root of their challenges. In everything we do, we always bring it back to our six values: we are dedicated, collaborative, smart, authentic, adaptable, and fun. We seek out clients and team members who embody these values. They are the glue that bonds all of our work together.”What’s one random fact about your agency?
“Our team includes a professionally trained opera singer, a bee farmer, a metaphysics expert, an expert scuba diver, a novelist, an award-winning home brewer, an Emmy Award winner, a Navy veteran, and many more people with diverse talents.”Why partner with Acquia?
“Acquia shares Phase2’s commitment to open source and in particular the Drupal community. By partnering with Acquia, we can work together to champion Drupal as a premier technology solution for enterprises around the world.”
If you’re in the digital marketing business, staying on top of the latest marketing, media, and social trends is considered paramount to survival. Knowing and adopting the latest trends shows that you know what you’re doing, that you refuse to be left behind, that you’re in the know, and that you’re connected. However, while staying on top of trends is generally a good idea, not every trend should be followed. There are some content trends (yeah, yeah, there's that word "content" again) that marketers continue to follow like lemmings to the sea. One of them is clickbait.
Clickbait is lazy
The definition of clickbait makes it sound innocent enough and as a writer, I get it. Writing good articles with catchy headlines that entice someone to read is kind of an artform. It’s a balancing act between communicating what your article is about, and using the right keywords to make the reader feel compelled to click. The competition for ever-shorter attention spans continues to grow, making this progressively harder. But the answer isn’t to throwing a “You’ll Never Guess…” in front of whatever your subject is. That’s just plain lazy.
What’s even lazier is letting a third-party populate the bottom of your website with irrelevant, clickbait-y content. You know that I’m talking about; the misleadingly titled “related links” section, often sites and sources you’ve never heard of, served up by clickbait factories like Outbrain or TK. The recipe is simple: use a picture of a celebrity or something risque, be salacious, promise a fixed number of things -- “10 Celebrity Plastic Surgery Disasters” is a classic -- and you get the picture. These pretty much never have anything to do with the article they are attached to and often the same ones appear on multiple news sites.
Here’s an example of what Revcontent puts at the bottom of a Newsweek article titled “Inside the ‘Triumph and Tragedy’ of Smithsonian’s New African-American Museum”
Another example is what I’ll call email subject line trickery. In lieu of the “You Won’t Believe…”, clickbaiters will use something more person like “RE: Your Vacation Plans” to get you to open their email. Ask yourself: Are you sure you should be using tactics usually reserved for spammers and scammers?
Clickbait is insulting
(The following section contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season six)
I might be getting a little too personal here, but I find clickbait to not just be lazy but insulting. Whenever I see a “You Won’t Believe…” or “You’ll Never Guess…” I feel like I’m being talked down to by the author because chances are, yes I can. I can almost guarantee whatever revelation your article has uncovered, I can wrap my head around. It shows very little confidence in your audience.
The morning after episode two of Game of Thrones, season six aired, every media and entertainment site couldn’t wait to talk about the big reveal. Jon Snow lives! I never doubted it for a second. Now I understand that there was a lot of competition for eyeballs, especially with such a popular show. But if you pair a “You’ll Never Guess What Happened Last Night on Game of Thrones!” with a picture of Jon Snow, you’re treating me, your reader, like I’m an idiot.
Anyone who is a fan of the show can surely grasp Jon Snow, subject of one of the biggest GoT fan theories, coming back to life (in the exact way pretty much everyone predicted he would, no less). In a show that has dragons and direwolves, where main characters can be brutally offed without warning, there’s not much fans of the show wouldn’t believe at this point. Instead of trying to lure them into an article, why not give it to them straight: Jon Snow’s Fate Revealed on Last Night’s Game of Thrones. There’s a headline free of both trickery and spoilers.
Clickbait breaks down audience trust
It’s happened to all of us. You click on an article that piques your interest only to find out it pretty much has nothing to do with the headline. Or the headline makes an article sound much more exciting than it actually is. It’s disappointing.
On the flipside, if you’re a writer, you’ve probably put out at least one piece that could be considered clickbait. A classic example is trying work in a trending topic that has nothing to do with your business; Why Moving from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 is like Tom Hiddleston Replacing Daniel Craig as James Bond. Sure, it’s saying that both things are an upgrade (well, the latter is more of personal preference), but what do the latest Bond casting rumors have to do with building open source digital experiences?
“Click-bait is rarely newsworthy, but it does attract eyeballs. The assumption seems to be that audiences might stay for the ‘serious’ content after gorging on the fluff,” said Jeffrey Dvorkin, former managing editor and chief journalist at CBC Radio in his PBS.org column on the subject. He goes on to say that in reality, the public resents clickbait headlines for wasting their time. Clickbait is becoming so loathed that there is a movement called “bait shaming” where bloggers rip apart the worst offenders. For example, SavedYouAClick, whose (slightly NSFW) Twitter account provides the public service of “saving you from clickbait and adding context”.
As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. If a publication starts using clickbait, their audience starts to distrust them. If they lose trust, they stop visiting their site.
On a more practical security note, clickbait is now being used in malware attacks and phishing scams. This has been especially prevalent on Facebook. As social media security firm ZeroFOX explains, “For the cyber scammer, Facebook offers a couple of huge benefits. The first is virality: if enough people click a malicious link, perhaps one that hijacks your account and reposts itself, the Facebook scam can self-propagate ad nauseum with zero maintenance.” These cyber scammers often use clickbait to entice you. If you’re a legitimate news source, do you want to run the risk of being associated with cyber scammers?
The Internet is vast and there is plenty of room for silliness. There are scores of articles out there that are meant to be lighthearted and funny and not focused on keyword optimization or driving sales leads. However, if your content is tied to specific goals -- audience growth, traffic, revenue, leads, etc. -- then using clickbait is actually a missed opportunity. It’s a missed opportunity to show your audience respect and deliver quality content that meets or exceeds their expectations. Sure, it works for a while, or else no one would use it. But once your audience catches on, that’s the end of it.
In the end, it’s easy to believe, and you’ve probably guessed, it’s just not worth it.
Omnichannel is no longer an option; it’s a necessity for brands to sustain a competitive advantage. To help our customers easily and quickly deliver a piece of the omnichannel experience, Acquia has built a connector between Acquia Lift and Marketo. With this pre-built integration—available at no extra cost to Acquia Lift omnichannel customers—marketers and site builders can augment their web data with campaign data to create segments and deliver personalized web experiences.
Acquia customers can easily pull lead and activity data from Marketo and link it to person and event data tracked by Lift—consolidating it all in a unified visitor profile that provides a single, complete view of every real-time and historical interaction a brand has with a customer.
A Lift visitor profile including Marketo activity data
On Acquia.com, the Marketo connector has been implemented and is pulling data into Lift’s visitor profiles. This data is used to build segments based on criteria—such as whether a user opened an email for a particular campaign or whether their score is above a certain threshold. Those segments are used to personalize content for visitors to Acquia.com. The Marketo lead ID, email address, and Lift tracking ID are synced together in both profiles.
One Acquia customer, a B2B media publisher, uses Lift to drive revenue and increase customers for its advertising business. They use the connector to pull both lead and account-level data into Lift for targeting, ingesting Marketo fields such as job title, job function, company name, company location, and company revenue to personalize based on the visitor’s role and/or employer.
Setting up a Marketo connector in Lift is straightforward. After specifying the credentials for the Marketo endpoint, Lift connects to a customer’s Marketo instance and determines all of the available Marketo fields and activities that are available for import. An intuitive mapping interface allows customers to select the specific Marketo data of interest and specify how to map this data into the Lift visitor profile. Once the connector is enabled—optionally including historical data—Lift will continuously synchronize visitor profiles with new Marketo event and activity data.
Mapping a Marketo lead field to an Acquia Lift data field
In lieu of a separate Lift connector to Salesforce Sales Cloud, the Acquia Lift Marketo connector can also leverage Marketo’s Salesforce connector to give customers the ability to achieve seamless integration between their CRM system, marketing automation tool, and web personalization system. The exchange of data between these connected systems creates the foundation of an omnichannel customer experience.
The key to a successful marketing technology stack is quick, seamless integration. Connecting and exchanging data between marketing tools allows for a more complete view of the customer. The Marketo connector is the first of many integrations on the Lift roadmap. Next up: Eloqua.
Every site manager, marketer, or website owner should care a lot about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is a huge and constant focus for me on acquia.com, and thankfully there are some great tools in Drupal to help me manage it. The more organic traffic you build the more qualified it will be, traffic which you can then convert into an actual audience and not a bunch of anonymous IP addresses leaving a mark on your traffic logs. (To learn more about turning traffic already on your site into an audience read my previous blog.) This post is written for current Drupal user familiar with the tool, and will explain how to get started with the right modules to satisfy their SEO requirements.
Start by enabling clean URLs within your system settings. Drupal by default gives all of its URLs an ID instead of a readable URL, like “acquia.com/node/25”. Enabling clean URLs takes the page title and turns that into a readable URLs. If you’re not using Drupal making sure you have a readable URL is very important for search and helps users remember and return to your page.
Step 2: Module Magic
Now, time to go get some modules from the repository at Drupal.org (the online home for Drupal’s community of module contributors and theme designers) to fill out the SEO toolbox. I’ve listed out the top four modules I suggest putting on your website to help with SEO. These are the ones I use and highly recommend
This modules allows you to put in 301 redirects from old URLs to new ones. Drupal by default does not remove the old or original path if you create an alias, which can cause duplicate content in search engines and negatively effect your SEO efforts. This module is available for Drupal 7 and has an alpha for Drupal 8.
This module allows you to add a custom browser title, description, keywords, and a handful of advanced search options on a per page basis. Having custom browser titles and page titles allows you to tell search engines more details about the content on your page. This module is available for Drupal 7 and has a beta version for Drupal 8.
- Path auto
This module automatically generates your page URLs based on content you define. For example, you can pick a content type such as blog post and always have the URL be /blog/[blog title]. This way the user doesn’t have to manually specify a path alias. And if you give your content keyword-rich titles, your URLs will also contain those high ranking terms to improve your content’s rank with search engines which reward keyword appearances in page addresses. This module is available for Drupal 7 and has an alpha for Drupal 8.
- XML Sitemap
This module creates an XML sitemap for search engines to easily find and index pages on your site. It also allows for you to submit your sitemap to the top search engines. This module is available for Drupal 7 but doesn’t have a release yet for Drupal 8.
There are of course many more modules you can add, and once you’ve set these up and configured them you may have a need for even more. These are the ones I use and highly recommend.
Step 3: Define your keywords
Now that you have all the base modules for SEO, my suggestion would be to define your targeted keyword list. The Google keyword planner shows the number of searches for a specific term. This can tell you if there is any traffic potential from that keyword if you are able to rank for it. Other useful tools include:
- Google Trends – Allows you to see how a keyword has done over the years.
- WordTracker – Provides dozens of tools to help you find the best keywords.
- Moz – This software has tools for reporting, site audits, keyword research, and link building, and is best for a DIY team.
Once you use any of these keyword tools, you should have a list of keywords that will be the focus of your SEO campaign.
Step 4: Pull it all together
In Step 3 you defined your large list of keywords, now in order to start optimizing for each keyword start by aligning a single page to each keyword in your list. This will give you a better chance to rank higher for those key terms. Each page should be the “bullseye” for one or two targeted keywords. This will shows you any content gaps you may have with your keyword list and your current site content. If you have a keyword that doesn’t map to a page you will need to create one or maybe that keyword isn’t quite right for your business. Once your keyword mapping process is done, write page descriptions for each of those targeted pages containing those same keywords, create or update page titles in your metatag module field, and be sure to update page content to include those targeted keywords as well.
Search engine algorithms change all the time, so you’ll want to make sure you have some type of analytics software enabled to watch your keyword trends and your organic site traffic.
Congratulations! You now have a well optimized Drupal website!
How are you optimizing your website? Are there modules you’re using that I could try? I am always excited to try out other SEO modules in Drupal.
Last year around this time, I wrote that The Big Reverse of Web would force a major re-architecture of the web to bring the right information, to the right person, at the right time, in the right context. I believe that conversational interfaces like Amazon Echo are further proof that the big reverse is happening.
New user experience and distribution platforms only come along every 5-10 years, and when they do, they cause massive shifts in the web's underlying technology. The last big one was mobile, and the web industry adapted. Conversational interfaces could be the next user experience and distribution platform – just look at Amazon Echo (aka Alexa), Facebook's messenger or Microsoft's Conversation-as-a-Platform.
Today, hardly anyone questions whether to build a mobile-optimized website. A decade from now, we might be saying the same thing about optimizing digital experiences for voice or chat commands. The convenience of a customer experience will be a critical key differentiator. As a result, no one will think twice about optimizing their websites for multiple interaction patterns, including conversational interfaces like voice and chat. Anyone will be able to deliver a continuous user experience across multiple channels, devices and interaction patterns. In some of these cross-channel experiences, users will never even look at a website. Conversational interfaces let users disintermediate the website by asking anything and getting instant, often personalized, results.
To prototype this future, my team at Acquia built a fully functional demo based on Drupal 8 and recorded a video of it. In the demo video below, we show a sample supermarket chain called Gourmet Market. Gourmet Market wants their customers to not only shop online using their website, but also use Echo or push notifications to do business with them.
We built an Alexa integration module to connect Alexa to the Gourmet Market site and to answer questions about sale items. For example, you can speak the command: "Alexa, ask Gourmet Market what fruits are on sale today". From there, Alexa would make a call to the Gourmet Market website, finding what is on sale in the specified category and pull only the needed information related to your ask.
On the website's side, a store manager can tag certain items as "on sale", and Alexa's voice responses will automatically and instantly reflect those changes. The marketing manager needs no expertise in programming -- Alexa composes its response by talking to Drupal 8 using web service APIs.
The demo video also shows how a site could deliver smart notifications. If you ask for an item that is not on sale, the Gourmet Market site can automatically notify you via text once the store manager tags it as "On Sale".
From a technical point of view, we've had to teach Drupal how to respond to a voice command, otherwise known as a "Skill", coming into Alexa. Alexa Skills are fairly straightforward to create. First, you specify a list of "Intents", which are basically the commands you want users to run in a way very similar to Drupal's routes. From there, you specify a list of "Utterances", or sentences you want Echo to react to that map to the Intents. In the example of Gourmet Market above, the Intents would have a command called GetSaleItems. Once the command is executed, your Drupal site will receive a webhook callback on /alexa/callback with a payload of the command and any arguments. The Alexa module for Drupal 8 will validate that the request really came from Alexa, and fire a Drupal Event that allows any Drupal module to respond.
It's exciting to think about how new user experiences and distribution platforms will change the way we build the web in the future. As I referenced in Drupalcon New Orleans keynote, the Drupal community needs to put some thought into how to design and build multichannel customer experiences. Voice assistance, chatbots or notifications are just one part of the greater equation. If you have any further thoughts on this topic, please share them in the comments.
DrupalCon New Orleans comes at an important time in the history of Drupal. Now that Drupal 8 has launched, we have a lot of work to do to accelerate Drupal 8's adoption as well as plan what is next.
In my keynote presentation, I shared my thoughts on where we should focus our efforts in order for Drupal to continue its path to become the leading platform for assembling the world's best digital experiences.
Based on recent survey data, I proposed key initiatives for Drupal, as well as shared my vision for building cross-channel customer experiences that span various devices, including conversational technologies like Amazon Echo.
Take a look, and as always feel free to leave your opinions in the comments!
Most articles about audience development and search engine optimization will offer advice on how to find, attract, or drive traffic to a website, but how many talk about how to hang onto that new traffic? Not many that I’ve found, and I’ve been looking.
So here are some things I’ve learned over the course of my career in web marketing. Yes, retaining new traffic means first finding and enticing it, but once you’ve got it, the metrics to watch are bounces, time on site and exit rates. These metrics are rough indicators about the quality of the site’s content and if the site satisfies the needs that motivated the new “traffic” to visit in the first place. Driving high volumes of new traffic to a site is good, but not useful unless that “traffic” can be converted into an “audience.” Every site is different so the task of turning anonymous traffic into a “known” audience means defining a primary goal up front. If the site is engaged in ecommerce, the primary goal is generally checked-out shopping carts. If the site supports a musician, the goal might be persuading an anonymous visitor to subscribe to an email fan newsletter. And so on and so forth -- the point is every site has a different model. A news site wants to maximize pages viewed per session to increase the number of ad impressions it sells, and to encourage readers to keep reading. A B2B marketing site supporting a SaaS subscription for large enterprises wants leads which means persuading anonymous traffic to part with a phone number or email address. I am going to use our Developer Center site here at Acquia as my example throughout this blog: dev.acquia.com. I recently did this exercise on that site, and I’m starting to do it on acquia.com now too.
Step 1. Define your primary goal
In order to measure retention, start with a clear goal, and set benchmarks to measure the achievement of that goal accordingly. Dev.acquia.com’s primary goal is to build trust, loyalty, and awareness with our developer audience. We do this by providing daily content for developers by developers on topics they care about. Developers are allergic to lead generation, so gating content such as our product documentation or other technical papers simply won’t work. Our goal is to educate them, explain how our platform works, and eventually persuade them to try our products using our free service, Acquia Cloud Free.
Step 2. Map out user paths
We have defined our primary goal as building awareness with developers, but what do we want them to do on our website once they arrive? There are two kinds of “paths” to a site’s goal: the one you want the traffic to follow and the one they actually take. The latter is kind of like the concept in architecture of “desire paths” and the legend of a new college that didn’t pave the paths across it’s the major courtyards until the second year after the students had worn their own dirt paths across the grass. A good path analysis will reveal the dead ends and navigational “box canyons” on a site, and will also help jump start a discussion about user personas (for another post and another time). A big focus for our developer site is the blog where most new content is published by Acquia’s own developers and engineering team, as well as contributed posts from our partners’ devs. If a user lands on our homepage they can navigate directly into a blog post from the menu option, or they can navigate to our “learn” section where they can filter by topic and then click into the appropriate blog post. By analyzing our web metrics we found that once our users got to our blog, either by navigating to it from the home page or landing directly on that page via a Google search, they bounced away because we didn’t provide them anywhere else to go. A developer would get to the bottom of our blog page and there they could either comment or leave. The obvious solution for us was to give them some additional reading options on related topics that they might be interested in.
Another path we defined was signing up for a webinar, since we host a lot of developer-specific live webinars that we would like our users to register for. When they land on the homepage they can click directly into the featured webinar, or navigate to our upcoming webinars listing page, and then click into a specific webinar. Once on that webinar’s page they can read the description and click on a sign-up button. That sign-up button then takes them to acquia.com and the registration form for that webinar. We originally forced this jump from the dev site to the “main” site because all our forms live there and we didn’t want to place forms on dev.acquia.com. Yet when defining these paths we discovered that wasn’t helpful to the user, it was alarming and a bad user experience to get pushed from one site to another involuntarily.
Step 3. Identify the gaps
Taking my two examples above -- setting a blog path and a webinar path -- let’s identify the gaps.
What do we want them to do after they read a particular blog post?
- Read another?
- Leave a comment?
- Sign up for the blog’s feed?
- Subscribe to our developer newsletter?
We don’t want to leave our readers hanging, and we have plenty of great content on many different topics, yet we were leaving our readers hanging by not sharing that content in context with them while they were actively consuming our content. By answering the question: “What do we want our users to do after they read a blog?” we have identified a gap and we can plan ways to solve for this.
- Will users come back to dev.acquia.com if we take them away to acquia.com?
- Why are we actually taking them away from our site? For our convenience or theirs?
We were doing ourselves a huge disservice by forcing our users to sign up on a different site. It was jarring for them to get whisked away from the site they were on and probably frustrated them. No, they wouldn’t come back to the original site to keep browsing. Instead they would just abandon ship and leave. We needed to make this user-flow easier, and by fixing that we’d keep quality traffic on our site and put the user first.
Step 4. Personalize against your gaps
We know our gaps, how do we fix them? For our blog we chose a few solutions. We listed out our tags at the bottom of our posts. All our content is tagged by topic, persona, and skill level so by listing those characteristics out at the bottom of our post with links to our main listing pages (pages that list out all related items), we could offer the users additional content aligned to the piece they were reading. We also wanted to provide a personalized sidebar next to the main article listing related content. This content is using personalized recommendations offered up by our Acquia Lift personalization product which recommends additional content to a user as they navigate the site based on tagged topics or other attributes we define.
We decided we would move the webinar registration form off of acquia.com and place it directly on the dev.acquia.com site. This way we don’t redirect our users and were able to keep them in the flow and familiar design of the dev site. [Image of updated page] We’ve seen this phenomenon in some of our ecommerce customers at Acquia -- where brand sites were managed and produced by a marketing team, and the online store by an ecommerce team on a different platform. Forcing customers to switch from a brand experience to a store and back again causes things to break and even with the most seamless design standards, customers noticed and abandoned before they completed a purchase or explored more content. If you would like to learn more about content and commerce, check out this blog series.
Step 5. Track and Analyze
In the first step we set the goal and the benchmarks to measure progress towards achieving it. The final step is to track that progress against those original benchmarks in order to see if improvements are working and our traffic is converting into a true audience. Patience is the word because it takes some time after implementing changes before the results can be detected. The changes I described have been running for about a month. I choose to track time on site, bounce rate, and exit rate as my key metrics to measure the issues outlined above in the second, third, and fourth steps. I could also look at returning visitors and pages per session but I will start by focusing on the time on page, bounce rate, and exit numbers. The initial results I’m seeing are:
- Time on site has increased by a little more than 30 seconds.
- Bounce rate is defined at the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page. Since adding personalized content, our bounce rate has decreased by almost .5% which isn’t a lot yet but is a little better, and I’ll keep watching this metrics. If it doesn’t continue to decrease I’ll take a deeper look. Bounce rates vary per website so watch yours to get an idea of normal, in my opinion anything higher than 80% is high but if your site usually has a 30% bounce rate, then something around 60% could be high. (know your metrics)
- Exit rate is defined as the last page a user visits before ending their session, and our exit rate has decreased by 1%. This also doesn’t seem like much, but those are visitors that are now staying on our site when before they were leaving.
Tools I’m using:
We have a ways to go before my team and I will be able to report any significant improvements, but we just started where we were and are committed to continually improving and building one step at a time. This isn’t a one-and-done type of plan. A good site manager needs to keep a close eye on their content and metrics and always be thinking of ways to improve the user’s experience.
So how have you found ways to keep traffic on your site? I’m always looking for new ways to make the experience better for my users. Please share your thoughts with me in the comments.
DrupalCon New Orleans is in full swing and we’re back to recap another three modules from our Drupal 8 Module of the Week series over on the Acquia Developer Center blog. This week we’re taking a look at simpleSAMLphp Authentication, Coffee, and Monolog.simpleSAMLphp Authentication
Maintainers: Balázs Dianiska, who reviewed code and architecture during the upgrade process, and Sven Decabooter, who contributed code and helps organize user group meetings and Drupal Camps for the Belgian Drupal community. Sven also is part of the D8 MAP team (the Drupal 8 Module Acceleration Program).What Does simpleSAMLphp Authentication Do?
Centralized user management is important to many businesses and institutions when they need to control user access for many users across a range of online systems--for example intranets, registration and planning systems, expense tracking, etc. They need to be able to both authorise new users and remove access from existing users quickly and easily. These institutions use authentication technologies, Single Sign-On or similar federated authentication setups (which I’ll refer to as “SSO” in this article), to give each user a single account with a single username/password combination that gives appropriate access to all included systems.
The simpleSAMLphp Authentication module is a “glue layer” integrating your Drupal site with the popular simpleSAMLphp authentication library, “which lets users log in to log into one or more other Drupal sites, for example, as well as other tools and platforms that support this kind of centralized user management. You can set it up to connect to your LDAP or RADIUS server for example, used a lot in enterprises and big organisations,” adds Sven.
Balázs Dianiska speaks from experience, “Many enterprise clients prefer to use some form of SSO solution, and this component allows us to support several SSO variations, for instance Shibboleth, which is very popular with higher education institutions, and SAML, which is widely supported by enterprise identity provider software, such as ADFS.”Why Does It Matter?
SSO was never really an easy topic. It requires solid, technically-validated trust between a third party and our application, which naturally triggered several implementations and approaches. Using this library, Drupal can act as a consumer to many identity provider services, map users to central user accounts, assign Drupal roles and various fields to the users, and so on. To enable more advanced mapping and configuration it can be also extended by various hooks and Rules integration. According to Balász, “This module works reliably and it is supported by several major hosting providers, but the technical configuration and information exchange required between the identity manager and Drupal makes it non-trivial to set up."
Sven Decabooter explains, “The simpleSAMLphp Authentication Module lets you connect your Drupal site with a software package that has a lot of options for authenticating and authorizing users. Alongside the SAML protocol, it also supports Shibboleth, CAS, OpenID (used by Google and Yahoo), OAuth (used by Twitter) and other protocols through modules, so it gives you the flexibility to work with different, common industry authentication standards.
Coffee helps you navigate by keyboard in Drupal. Pressing Alt+d brings up a search box. Start typing and Coffee searches menus (you can configure which menus Coffee searches), admin page titles, and URL paths on your site, and Coffee presents you a list of one or more results. Choose a result with the arrow keys and jump to it by hitting enter. Furthermore, using the :add command, I can go straight to the content creation page for a specific content type. Coffee is also extensible, so you can include anything you need to get to quickly in your Drupal site. Michael explains, “This allows you to find configuration pages and visit them at warp speed without using your mouse or trackpad.”Why Does it Matter?
Hit Alt+d, type, go to page! The URL paths in Drupal 6, 7, and 8 are quite different from one another. When you are developing or working in the backend of sites in multiple versions of Drupal, Coffee lets you search for the configuration pages you need without needing knowledge of the specific URL structure.
“Coffee saves time and frustration for developers working on multiple versions and sites, as well as the content and other teams who work in a site’s backend every day. Once you've used Coffee, you really miss it when it's not installed.” - Michael Mol
Maintainers: Luca Lusso, Paris Liakos, and Monolog creator, Jordi Boggiano. Jordi is also the maintainer of Composer, PHP’s dependency management solution and one of the main enablers of all the interoperability going on in PHP Land.What Does Monolog Do?
The Drupal Monolog Module extends what you can do with logging by integrating Drupal with the very popular Monolog PHP logging library. Very popular you say? Yes! It has more than 27 million reported installs (!) and comes bundled with Symfony, Laravel, and a number of other frameworks. Luca outlines the basics, “Monolog abstracts how a log message is written to a logging backend. It can send logs to files, sockets, inboxes, databases and various web services.” Monolog gives you fully configurable logging, allowing you to define logging levels, actions, and responses to various potential situations in your application. Jordi continues, “In a nutshell, it lets you describe a logging pipeline. Then when it logs something, it dispatches it along that pipeline to whichever files, services, emails, etc. that you defined.”Why Does it Matter?
Drupal core logging is a relatively minimal solution, allowing developers to define a log message type, “attention level,” and then save all log messages to a destination--usually Syslog, but the logging can be redirected to another destination. All the log messages are handled the same way, kept in the same place, and critical problems are listed together with (often buried in) trivial logged information. Drupal core logging doesn’t allow you, for example, to save that trivial information in the database, but send critical log-levels or -types somewhere else.
“When an unexpected problem hits one of our sites,” Luca explains, “we or the site owners need to know what happened to cause it.” Was it connected to content or configuration? Did a user perform a particular action? Was a node created or deleted? “All of this information is written to the log system by Drupal but it can be quickly replaced with newer log messages on an active site. And the messages can be difficult to recover because they all stay in the same log stream along with PHP errors and warnings and all the other types of system logs.”
Monolog allows you to set up solutions like sending critical logs to email (or a Slack instance, or HipChat, or NewRelic, or a whole bunch of interesting other options), normal logs to a persistent backend like Logstash, and info/debug to a simple log file of a pre-defined, limited size. Luca talks about the benefit of this system when working for clients, “This separation of information by concerns dramatically improves our access to the specific log information that is important to us in any given situation. It also helps us get notified--wherever we want--the moment there’s a critical problem on a client site.”
Luca shows how Monolog can enhance the working relationship with your clients: You can set up your Drupal site with Monolog to write CMS logs (operations on content, user actions) to a specific stream, so “a site owner and businesses can access that information quickly and without the burden of all the other log messages. On the other hand, a system administrator can see all system logs on a different stream, and maybe receive critical messages only via email (or Slack, or whatever).”
“There’s this joke,” Jordi pulls out an old chestnut,” that a developer's job is just to write bugs all day. There is some truth to that, most somewhat-complex software eventually goes wrong due to unforeseen conditions. Logging can help you greatly with debugging as it surfaces errors and can also provide context that reduces the time you need to fix those bugs.” Monolog adds greatly to the level of context available to you about your log information.
Is there a Drupal 8 module you’d like to see profiled? Let us know in the comments!
Guest blogger Adam DeGiorgio is a Director at Salsa Digital, an Acquia agency partner. Adam was Salsa’s very first employee back in 2003 and has spent most of his tenure as Managing Director. Recently, he moved into a relationship management role to spend more time working with clients, his true passion. This is part one of a three part series.
Salsa is the go-to agency for enterprise grade digital services without the rigmarole or price tag of the larger players. We're a small team that has tailored our software development skill-set to suit the digital world, and crafted a Drupal development team to rival any in Australia. We also run an enterprise app development team helping large Australian organisations transform typically manual processes to robust software solutions.
We've developed a rigorous methodology to minimise mistakes, manage clear expectations, and deliver quality results.
Salsa is a govCMS partner, and has been responsible for implementing some high profile sites, including the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) site, and more recently Australia’s first state level govCMS project for the state budget - www.budget.vic.gov.au.Salsa and Acquia
Originally, Salsa lost a number of tenders to Acquia and their partners in 2013. This caused us to pay some attention to what they were doing in the marketplace, and with government in particular. It was clear that a partnership would be beneficial for both companies. If you can’t beat them, then join them right? Salsa partnered with Acquia to deliver an incredibly responsive site on time and on budget, and executed high traffic load testing. Salsa migrated http://www.recovery.vic.gov.au/ from Squiz Magtrix to Acquia Enterprise in a rapid timeframe ready for the bush fire season in Australia. One of the biggest challenges was that the site needed to be able to respond to massive spikes in traffic in the case of an emergency. Salsa’s stress testing modelled the Black Saturday demand as well as a demand 10 times that of Black Saturday. 90% and 95% response time frequencies showcased the newly engineered site’s capability to support emergency response demands.
Most recently, Salsa has been working with leading legal firm to define a business case to move away from SiteCore and to Acquia, the first Drupal rollouts for this organisation. When they approached Salsa, they were in need of business case analysis, digital strategy and advice as well as development for their UK graduate recruitment site.Helping a Leading Legal Firm Stay on the Cutting Edge
Our client had been using a large consulting firm for many years, but were after a partner who specialised in Drupal, as they believed open source offered a viable solution to help reduce costs, decrease dependency on software vendors and increase speed to market for solutions. Previously, this organisation had been using SiteCore for many years which had lead to some challenges:
- No ability to spin up sites quickly or using multi site infrastructure
- Each new site, even small, required high license costs
- Developing these micro sites was timely and expensive
- Maintenance was a challenge - patching was manual, and costly
Only a small portion of SiteCore’s platform features were being utilised. It was estimated that only 20% of the capabilities were required, and configuring those capabilities was cumbersome, partially due to the hefty nature of the platform and superfluous functionality. This also made managing several sites at once difficult given the inability to easily share content between sites.
In an effort to help our client better manage multiple sites, Salsa recommended leveraging Drupal’s multi-site infrastructure. The creation of new sites would be fast and less costly, given the flexible nature of Drupal, the availability of resources and partners, and no need for additional license costs for each new site. Maintenance is already covered by Acquia’s enterprise cloud offering, removing a huge risk and inefficiency in managing the infrastructure. Drupal’s modular nature meant the platform could be managed to include only functionality that was required, and not offer an over-powered platform.
Content management was also a concern. In addition to multi-site, our client decided to utilise Acquia Content Hub. This made content management between sites easier and more efficient for administrators and non-technical users.
This organisation had a large suite of sites to deploy. The "Graduate" family of sites, for example, requires a different site for each of the 20+ countries in where they strong representation. Much of the content on these sites is the same, however there may be slight variations. These country sites also have multilingual requirements, further complicating the situation. Also, the Graduate family of sites is soon to be duplicated across two other "laterals", creating 60+ sites!
Acquia Content Hub allowed our client the ability to create content in one place, then share it amongst multiple sites. Each of the sites can be managed to include select content from the hub, but also to contain their own unique content if need be. Without Acquia Content Hub, the content would need to be managed separately across each of the sites, creating a maintenance nightmare, and seriously compromising our client’s ability to deliver on their digital strategy. The absence of a tool like Content Hub may have forced this organisation to tackle the problem in a different way, perhaps rendering unfeasible the requirement of separates sites for each country and lateral.
In our next post, we’ll discuss the details of the Acquia Content Hub implementation; the challenges and the successes. Stay tuned.
More than 3,000 people are in New Orleans for North America’s 2016 DrupalCon, an energetic hub of education, knowledge-sharing and business focused on open source Drupal software.
DrupalCon isn’t just an homage to Drupal; it’s proof of the massive success and continued acceleration of the once-radical idea that many hands can contribute to software that anyone can freely use, modify, and build upon.
In Drupal’s case, hundreds of thousands of organizations worldwide like GE, Pfizer and Cisco, leverage Drupal to innovate, to build great digital experiences, and to drive competitive differentiation. Drupal is supported by a robust global community who devote time, effort and brainpower to constantly make Drupal better. Fifteen years into its existence, both Drupal and its community keep moving forward.
Drupal is just one bellwether that points to massive, expanding momentum in open source software - the reality of which is called out in the fresh results of the 2016 Future of Open Source survey sponsored by Northbridge Partners and Black Duck Software (Acquia is a collaborator on the annual survey).
The survey data supports the idea that open source software is thriving. You might say open source is eating the world.
The business impact of open source software (OSS) is clear and compelling. So too are the reasons that spur open source software adoption; the top four cited by the survey results include:
- Competitive features
- Freedom from vendor lock-in
- Quality of solutions
- Ability to customize and fix
According to the survey data, 90% of respondents say open source improves efficiency, interoperability, and innovation in their organizations. Additional data supports the reality that not only are more companies using open source software, they are raising their participation to help drive open source success for themselves and everyone using OSS.
- 65% of companies in the survey are contributing to open source projects, up from 63% a year ago.
- 67% of companies encourage their developers to engage in open source projects, a compelling factor in developer retention and satisfaction.
Details about the 2016 survey results are available here.
This year’s responses that point to the dominant position of OSS in today’s technology landscape. Among the survey sponsors’ findings, paraphrased here:
Open Source Is The Modern Architecture. Open source is the foundation for nearly all applications, operating systems, cloud computing, databases, big data and more. Open Source development has gone from the exception to the rule.
Open Source is the Engine of Innovation. Open source is driving business because it facilitates faster, more agile development. This means quicker builds, accelerated time to market and superior interoperability. It also supports every developer’s right to have an idea and build it in a way free from the restrictions of the traditional (read: commercial) software industry.
A new generation of companies and business models is emerging. In the next two or three years, the business models that will generate the most revenue for open source vendors are SaaS (46%); Custom Development (42%) and Services/Support (41%). This is great news for enterprises that are beginning to dive into open source solutions and want help to succeed and optimize its benefits.
Additionally, the survey finds that participation and contribution to open source is growing, helping to secure its future. The open source flywheel is cranking; organizations’ investment in open source spurs innovation and delivers exponential value, and the virtuous cycle continues.
DrupalCon New Orleans (like other annual DrupalCons around the world) is a bold reflection of Drupal’s innovation and the value of open source web content management and digital experience software. Acquia, along with its channel partners, exists to help organizations succeed with Drupal. Because of this commitment, Acquia will be leading or participating in nearly two dozen presentations, workshops this week in New Orleans and is driving certification testing for developers for the newest release, Drupal 8.
When it comes to open source, pick your metaphor to characterize the community-centric nature of shared innovation and development: Many hands make light work. A rising tide lifts all boats. You get the idea. Far from a niche or fad, open source is as mainstream as traditional commercial technology has been for the last five decades.
All of this prompts some guidance for organizations to consider, regardless of where they are on their open source adoption journey, as they seek to shift resources, investment and mindshare into OSS.
- We’re at a pivotal point in the digital economy and it’s time to realize even a minor commitment to open source. Involvement in a community supporting an open source project can enable an organization be more innovative, deliver more/better code faster, and create scalable applications to produce better business results.
- Supporting developers who work in open source projects will provide your organization with many benefits including retaining and satisfying developers who want to learn and stretch their skills. If you are using these technologies, provide your developers with educational resources, financial support and allow them to collaborate on new ideas and contributions to the common good.
- Find different ways for your organization to get involved in the open source community and support opportunities, events, conferences, and projects that are propelling our economy into the future. Small steps, like sponsoring code sprints, or hosting regional or national events, are just a few examples of investments that pay off for everyone.
Of course, there’s one key realization that every enterprise technology decision maker must weigh seriously: It’s not a question of whether you start to adopt open source technology, but when.
In the marketing world, buzzwords reign supreme. Often they are words that have already existed for years that suddenly become trendy, and then are used incessantly throughout the industry until they eventually lose all real meaning. One the best examples of this is the word “content.”
Content is everywhere. It’s king, it’s queen, it’s the entire royal family and it’s the key to success! It’s even in my title.
It all sounds so exciting. However, the word “content” simply means any and all information on a website. It’s the flashier lead generation material, it’s product descriptions and user reviews, and it’s the less glamorous stuff like terms and conditions, disclaimers and boilerplates. It’s just a big catch-all for what you fill in your wireframes with; from meticulously researched scientific studies to cat memes."I don’t like the word content. To me, it’s like saying the word ‘stuff.’"
-Marty Baron, editor in chief of the Washington Post in Newsonomics
Using the word content to refer to creative assets such as blog posts, photos, or video (as it often is) is misleading; Somehow, it makes it seem like some sort of brilliant artistic endeavor, and while some pieces might be, in reality they’re still just the things that are used to try and drive a customer to perform a desired action. If you ever read a blog post and signed up for an email, shared it on one of your social media channels, or the holy grail of all marketing, made a purchase, then that brand has won the content game.
The need to fill websites with different assets, media, and information in order to drive customers to “engage with a brand” -- aka “buy more stuff” -- continues to grow. Now there are content specific roles -- content marketer, content strategist, content manager, etc. If content is really all the copy, assets, and media you produce for a website, doesn’t that make ALL marketing content marketing? Aren’t content marketers really just marketers with strong writing skills? Are there any marketers out there that don’t create some kind of content for their organization? In a recent article, Techcrunch took content marketing to task on this: “The tools and channels change, but the process remains the same. ‘Content marketers’ are doing nothing different from what creative teams have always done.”
The term “content marketing’ just sounds a little less slimy than advertising. Ads are bad but marketing is less bad and content is good...right? It makes sense considering consumers are wary of ads; they’ve seen Mad Men, they’ve seen behind the curtain of the Great and Powerful Oz and they’re quick to call BS. On top of that skepticism, they’re becoming increasingly aware that all of their online actions on a website are tracked. That information needs to be put to good use via another buzzword: personalization. This pressure to deliver a custom web experience to every individual visitor, paired with increasingly shorter attention spans has led to content overkill. Quantity replaces quality and in the end, it’s actually making things worse, not better. Now the Internet is filled with completely useless garbage that’s masquerading as valuable information, art, or “what they customer wants.”
Instead of thought provoking pieces, you get blog posts stuffed to the brim with keywords in hopes of boosting SEO. Google has weaponized language, and now marketers are forced to battle each other for premium search engine rankings. You get a million articles that say the exact same thing. You get clickbait. You get sponsored content masquerading as actual articles instead of advertising. You get videos whose sole reason for even existing is the faint hope of “going viral.”
Bob Hoffman has been throwing major shade at the word "content" on his blog, Ad Contrarian. A couple weeks ago, he broke down the mythos of word: “Everything meaningful has a specific designation. So if you write something with meaning and value it's called a book, or a play, or a poem, or an essay. But if you write something that does not have a specific designation -- if it is not a book, or a play, or a poem, or an essay -- if it's just a cluster of words you have gathered to ‘engage’ an unsuspecting reader with your brand or your persona, it's almost certainly a piece of…” You get the point.
Techcrunch echoed Hoffman’s sentiments: “In the end, all marketing is ‘content marketing’ because all marketing uses content. Most people who use the generic word “content” are unsure of what they are precisely doing.”
But it doesn’t have to be like this. When messaging needs to reach your audience, take a moment to pause and think about the best medium to articulate it. Is it a blog post? Is it a paper? Is it a video? Think about if something similar exists. Think about why you need it and more importantly, why your audience needs it... or if they even need it at all. Create responsibly!
I know this; I know all of this. I know it because I have been guilty of the sins of content marketing; writing for the sake of always keeping a website “fresh.” Writing pieces that I knew really had no value to the customer. Writing for the sake of writing. But I’m working to change that, one post at a time. I’m scraping off the frosting. This is the beginning of my redemption.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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
“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.”
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.
- 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. 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 this excitement.
“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.
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.
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.
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.