I really enjoyed being interviewed by Michael Meyers from Tag1 Consulting about my contributions to Drupal over the past 16 years.
Some of the interesting stories I got to tell:
- Calling the police to report a Drupal security bug #truestory
- The true genesis story of Commerce Guys and therefore also Platform.sh
- How I broke the rules to make sure Webchick could join the Drupal community
- Gratitude to Dries and Drupal for making it all possible
Enjoy the video and transcript!
[00:00:00] Michael Meyers: Hello, and welcome to Tag1 Team Talks, the blog and podcast of Tag1 Consulting. We're commemorating the 20th Anniversary of Drupal with an interview series, featuring community leaders talking about their Drupal experience. I'm Michael Meyers, the managing director at Tag1.
We're the number two all time contributor to Drupal and we build large scale internet applications for Fortune 500s and organizations in every sector with Drupal as well as many other technologies. We're also one of the official providers of Drupal 7 Extended Support and can help you continue to run and build on Drupal 7 after it reaches end-of-life next year. I'm joined today by Robert Douglass. Robert is the author and a technical editor of several books, including one of the first ever books on Drupal: Building online communities with Drupal, WordPress, and phpBB, which was published in 2006. He's contributed to over 50 modules. He's a really well-known community organizer who helped create the Drupal Association and has [00:01:00] organized many community events.
He's also worked with most of the top names in Drupal. He's been one of the earliest employees at Acquia, director of products at Commerce Guys, a VP at Platform.sh. I'm really excited to dig into that, but this interview is also really meaningful to me personally, because Robert is the first person that I ever worked with in the Drupal community back in 2004 - 17 years. Robert helped me.
[00:01:29] Robert Douglass: Fist bump!
[00:01:32] Michael Meyers: You know, I just wanted to do a personal thank you. I hope I've said this many times before, but you know, you helped me launch my startup you know, which led to us raising you know, over $10 million dollars and the first ever venture backed Drupal based company, which went on to become the first top 100 website to run on Drupal.
You introduced me to so many amazing people who helped make that happen. [00:02:00] Alan Evans, a dear friend who I love to this day. Same thing with Charlie Negyesi, Chx, one of the most prolific contributors to Drupal. You're a key reason that I'm here today and, and, and what's happened in my career.
And so from the bottom of my heart I can't thank you enough for introducing and helping me get started with my Drupal journey. And I really appreciate you joining me today to talk about your Drupal journey.
[00:02:31] Robert Douglass: Wow. Thank you, Mike. It's always been a pleasure working with you too.
And that was a wonderful introduction.
[00:02:39] Michael Meyers: So you've been a member of the Drupal community for 18 years. I, I think since the, the D4 days back in 2003 , but I don't, I don't know. I, I was wondering how did you first discover and get involved in using Drupal?
[00:02:57] Robert Douglass: Well, I had been laid [00:03:00] off from my first ever tech job because the market had collapsed around 2003 or 4, not even sure.
And I wanted to recreate some of the things that I saw in that software so that I could build a CMS. For musicians, which was an utterly stupid idea I learned later, but I was looking and I asked a really smart person, Hey, what should I use? And they named several pieces of software and Drupal was the first one that I looked at and I didn't look any further.
So it was really quite interesting because I saw the potential in Drupal to become as powerful as the system that I had learned on my job, which was proprietary and really cool. To an extent, Drupal fulfilled that promise of reaching those powers.
[00:03:53] Michael Meyers: Wow. There are so many ways to contribute to Drupal you know, code, documentation, [00:04:00] writing books, organizing events.
And as I mentioned, you've done all of them, which, which is amazing and rare. You know, a lot of people specialize in one and, and you've contributed so much. Do you remember your first ever contribution to Drupal and, and what motivated you to do that?
[00:04:20] Robert Douglass: Actually I don't. So prior to the meeting and Antwerp, the first DrupalCon that Dries, organized prior to that, I'm sure that I commented on issues in the issue queue or the forums on drupal.org, but discounting that. My first real contribution was in fact then the book which, which grew out of my very first meeting with Dries in Antwerp, we were walking down the sidewalk from the venue to where we wanted to eat food which is coincidentally, where I met Chx for the first time, like 20 minutes, [00:05:00] like after this.
Very good conversation that I'm describing. And I said, Hey, Dries, nice to meet you. I'm Robert. I drove over from Germany. Somebody should write a book about this. And he said, yeah, do you want to? And I said, sure. And like a week later an editor was talking to me from Apress that Dries had referred in my direction because people are asking him who's going to write these books.
And he just referred that to me. And that's how the book came about. And I would say that was my first significant contribution, right there.
[00:05:34] Michael Meyers: And I, I should have mentioned that you were one of the few attendees or there's like 15 people or so to the first ever DrupalCon.
[00:05:42] Robert Douglass: Which was Alan Evans was there and Chx was there as well.
So, and Moshe Weitzman was there. And so many people who are still involved with Drupal in some way were there. And that was the original gangster meetup. It was fairly amazing. [00:06:00] Looking back on it from those at 30 people, actually something like that. We had to book another room. Uh you know, how that developed from, from that core and how very few people who showed up to that meeting dropped out of the community quickly before at least making some amazing contribution John van Dyke CCK and Fields in core and all of that.
There were some really, really heavy hitters in terms of what shaped Drupal right there.
[00:06:38] Michael Meyers: Yeah. You've been a part of so many. I mean, amazing moments in Drupal History among them you know. Speaking of Dries, you joined Acquia shortly after it was founded, which you know, Dries created as I'm sure, almost everybody knows it's gone on to become a multi-billion dollar company, which is [00:07:00] insane in its own right. What was it like to be one of the first employees at Acquia? And to get that off the ground?
[00:07:08] Robert Douglass: That was really amazing. And I'm very grateful to this day for that opportunity, especially because the timing for me was quite incredible. I had worked at Lullabot prior to that, which was also an amazing experience.
Um, but it didn't work out well. I was their remotest, remote employee, and I was struggling getting the SOLR module out the door. You know, they didn't feel it was a good fit for a reasons. And they actually let me go. So and it's, it's funny, Jeff Robbins, if you're watching this, I love you, man.
He fired me. He's the one who called me and fired me and he said, it's not working out. You're fired. And Jeff now consults on remote teams. I told him he should get me on his podcast because I could be the first remote person he ever fired. But he didn't do that, but [00:08:00] I told Dries that day that I'd just gotten fired from Lullabot. You should be the first to know Dries, this horrible, terrible thing just happened to me.
And I'm kind of like at loose ends. Well apply for Acquia and I did. So it was not only a great moment in terms of being able to be. An incredible team with lots of excitement and help set the direction for what that company eventually became. But it also came to me personally what could have been a very bad moment, but then turned out to be barely a blip.
[00:08:37] Michael Meyers: I love that you share that because I think it's really important for people to know that you think about like, the career ladder and all of the success that you and, and you know, that you see these amazingly successful people. And you think that the career ladder is this like, straight up path.
And the reality is, everybody has moments where we go down and up again and down and up again. And so for the folks [00:09:00] listening, if you were to look at Robert today you, everyone, I think would just imagine that it was this skyrocket blast, and I think few people are willing to share those moments.
And that's also a really great story. So after Acquia, you, I believe went to work with product Commerce Guys as the Director of Products.vAgain, talk about, you know, being part of key moments in Drupal history. They're largely responsible for creating the foundation of Drupal's e-commerce capabilities and Drupal success in the e-commerce world, which has been instrumental in its growth.
Um, what was it like to be part of that especially as the director of product and, and, and, and having a key influence on that.
[00:09:53] Robert Douglass: Well, I think it's interesting if, if, if you'll allow me to actually tell that story from the beginning. So Commerce Guys was founded by [00:10:00] a guy named Mike O'Connor who lives in Jackson, Michigan.
The very astute observers will note that I was born and raised in Jackson, Michigan, and Mike is what I call my, not my brother-in-law. He, he married my brother's ex-wife. So my brother got divorced. She met a new guy and that happened to be Mike. Now in an unusual turn of events, Mike and his new wife, my former sister-in-law and their niece moved in with my parents while my brother the divorceor in this case, refurbished their house.
So they could move into it because we're like that, we're really cool. You know, like no tension there whatsoever. So while Mike was living in my parents' house, he actually found the book building online communities on the shelf unread, my parents hadn't made it past the introduction[00:11:00]
and he said to my parents this, this guy that I haven't even met yet in your family wrote this book that I'm really interested and I'm reading it and we eventually met of course, because he was living in my parents' house and we started, you know, doing Drupal talk. And we, we, we eventually got banished from the kitchen because it's like permanently.
We couldn't talk about shop in the kitchen. My mother would go crazy. She was like, leave now. So Mike founded a company, led Christmas lights, something, and then moved on and then founded Commerce Guys. And I was his first advisor at that point. And at one point I helped him hire Ryan Szrama. Hm. And at another point, I helped him evaluate an offer that he had gotten from a company called AF83 in Paris to buy his company.
I advised him not to take the offer, [00:12:00] which led to him getting a higher price. So he bargained and said, yeah, no, it's gotta be a better deal. And eventually sold the company and the brand name to split off from AF83, which became then Commerce Guys SARL, which is the company that I then worked for 2012. And at that point, when they acquired Mike's company, You became the United States CEO or the North American CEO while Fred Plais was the French CEO.
I came on as an investor and a technical advisor for the company at that point, became a shareholder and started regularly coming to Paris to be on the technical advisory board for the company. And that lasted, I don't know, two or three years until 2012, at which point they said, Hey, there's this really Robert shaped opening on our lineup. We've just secured some funding. Do you want to join now? And I said, yes. And that's when I became onto Commerce Guys as a product owner for [00:13:00] the three key products that they wanted to develop,
[00:13:03] Michael Meyers: The connections, I, that's an amazing story, serendipity connections but, but that's also amazingly the way that that careers develop and form.
You mentioned Fred. Fred went on to become the CEO of Platform.sh which is where you are today. That's the connection. I assume that that transitions you into platform?
[00:13:31] Robert Douglass: Well, I mean, that, that was kind of an organic transition because Commerce Guys, which was, you know founded by you know, after Michael Connor founded it, then it was founded again in France by Fred Plais, Dameon Tournoud, and Ori Pekelman. the three products that I came on to be the product owner for were the Commerce Kickstart distribution, which then quickly became the most popular [00:14:00] distribution on Drupal, ever. I think still the commerce marketplace, which was partnerships with like PayPal and other payment and marketing and email tools that accelerate Drupal commerce and a hosting platform that was meant to be the best hosting platform for Drupal commerce that could possibly be built.
[00:14:22] Robert Douglass: So at some point we had a hosting platform, which was the very best hosting platform that could possibly be built for Drupal Commerce. Let's just run with that instead. So we divested the Drupal commerce into a Commerce Guys, USA that Ryan Szrama still runs now rebranded as Centarro and Fred Plais was then the a CEO of the rebranded Commerce Guys, which rebranded as Platform.sh.
So, I mean, we kept the same incorporation documents and shareholder agreement and everything. So it was continuity. And I, and [00:15:00] I, I could've gone in either direction at that point, but I was really interested in the platform as a service aspect.
[00:15:06] Michael Meyers: Yeah. And it's, it's become such an amazing company.
You talk about another startup with, you know such growth and success. Platform has gone on to from its early days with Drupal and Drupal Commerce, you guys support so many technologies. Now it's a really robust platform.but you're still one of the biggest supporters of Drupal.
And I was curious, you know we want to get more businesses to support Drupal. Why is that Platform is such a big supporter of Drupal and, and, and what do you see as the benefit to the organization?
[00:15:47] Robert Douglass: Well, we still run a very major Drupal commerce website. Our billing system for Platform.sh.
So all of those Platform.sh [00:16:00] plans and everything are still run through Drupal Commerce. So we have quite a significant Drupal team. And we also have quite a significant customer base who run Drupal. So it's, it's just really in everybody's best interest that we support Drupal, that we we try to be at you know, all the major conferences.
Um, we try to engage with the community and with the Association in the best ways that we can. And honestly, coming off the leadership meeting that we had a couple of weeks ago for Platform.sh and looking at our direction and all of that we actually feel like we've been doing too little and we'd like to step it up a little bit more maybe we've wandered from our roots a little bit too far.
So we, we feel that it's the type of community that you only get as much out of, as you put into, right. So we want to put more in and be better citizens.
[00:16:58] Michael Meyers: You guys do so much, and I'm, I'm [00:17:00] thrilled to hear that, that you plan to do even more you know, personally through your own time, you've made so many contributions to Drupal the books, the the code, the the, the DA, everything I talked about professionally, you've been part of so many amazing companies that have been critical to, to what Drupal has become.
What are you most proud of?
[00:17:31] Robert Douglass: I should have read your questions in advance than I would have a good answer right off, because there are so many things. If you know I, I really, I think that I have to say that if you take, first of all, all the people that I was able to pull directly into Drupal in some way. And then all the people that I was able to indirectly do that by hiring them while at Acquia and a Platform.sh, [00:18:00] I would say that's my largest contribution because I was never the smartest guy in the room, but I was the one who saw where things could go.
If only the smart people would put their minds on it. So I, I corralled a lot of smart people. So you mentioned Alan Evans you know, and I. I'm sitting 200 meters away from a Starbucks in Cologne, Germany, where Alan and I met when he revealed to me that he wanted to leave the world of classical music and Oboe playing and get into PHP development.
Much like I had done. He had watched me as a model. I think I can help you with that. Here are a couple Drupal module gigs that need to be done and a little money behind it. So go do these and see how it works out. And then Allen ended up working for Now Public shortly after that. And then Acquia after that, where he still is.
And Jeffrey McGuire," jam". A lot of people watching will remember him from the days that you used to walk around at conferences with balloons tied to his [00:19:00] belt, to all of the Drupal prenotes that we did, where we dress up in silly costumes and sing songs to invigorate the audience. Prior to Dries' Keynote, which was why it was called the Prenote.
So bringing people like that into the fold has been really essential. But if I were to name one person who then went on and really absolutely just made immeasurable contributions to Drupal, it was Angie Byron, "web chick". And you know, Angie might have eventually come into the Drupal fold with, without my involvement.
But I'm, I'm really proud of the fact that when the, the first Google Summer of Code ever was announced that I jumped in and stepped up to organize the Drupal involvement with that. And I was the final judge, so to speak of all the applicants we got, and we got a lot of [00:20:00] applicants. I don't remember for 20 spots, we have hundreds of applicants and the, the, in the final ranking Angie's application was the 21st.
And number 20 was actually somebody in the ranking was somebody who might've been an awesome DrupalContributor, but we'll never know because that was for my project. They were going to work on my quiz module that I was very passionate about. And Angie and this other person had both applied to work on that module.
So I felt at Liberty to just flip them. Because I kind of wanted to work with Angie after reading her material. And she did, and I was her mentor for that project and she hit the ground running and never looked back. And you know, the rest is history. I mean, without Angie Byron Drupal would not be the Drupal it is that we know today.[00:21:00]
[00:21:01] Michael Meyers: Oh wow. That's, that's an amazing story. I had no idea your connection to Angie. I'm interviewing her in a week or two, and I'm looking forward to the actually you said, you know there is no Drupal without Angie, she's had such an impact and I, I love your answer. Dries I forget where or when Dries said it, but it's one of the things that has stuck with me the most.
Um, and he said something to the, like someone asked him, like, what is he most proud of with Drupal. And he said the impact that it's had on people's lives and careers, and the fact that so many people have gone on to be successful and make a lot of money and build and raise families and, and just the
[00:21:45] Robert Douglass: Dries, if you're watching this.
[00:21:49] Michael Meyers: Yeah. I mean, you know much love he's I think has impacted us all is such a humble and, and brilliant guy. And, and I dribbled, there's no way to, but [00:22:00] whatever, be what it is forget about the code, but you know, his approach to fostering and growing the community and the way that he approached you with the book that he has this really great way about himself.
Well, why don't you do that? You know, there's no doubt that, you know he is what, what foster Drupal, but it's people like yourself that had an impact on my career. So I love that answer because it is what, like I said, at the start of this helped me get going. And it's amazing it really it's really great to see that and it must be fulfilling really fulfilling you know, given the unbelievable impact you've had, you know with all of these amazing people.
[00:22:43] Robert Douglass: Thank you.
[00:22:45] Michael Meyers: So favorite Drupal memory or experience, and again, I'm sure this is hard to pull out. You know, we've had so many, so much fun at conferences and events. You've been part of all of these amazing companies, you know is [00:23:00] there, you know something that really stands out looking back w where you're like, wow.
[00:23:06] Robert Douglass: Yeah, I'm going to mention two things. So I'm very, very proud and thrilled that the idea that I got for what we could do with the Drupal Prenote actually turned into something for quite a long time that we had a good run. They don't do it anymore, but and a nice stop to doing them myself personally, sometime before they stopped altogether, but the Prenote was always meant to welcome new community members to DrupalCon and be the first experience that they had and show that software didn't have to be boring. And that we weren't just like technical lectures being projected on slides, but we were real people. So we did a whole number of things like we had Drupal superheroes where we got Dries up on stage and we wrapped them in a million issues.
Only they were tissues. He was wrapped up in the tissue queue and we couldn't release [00:24:00] Drupal 8 because Dries couldn't do the Git commit to release Drupal 8 because he was wrapped up in the tissue queue and we had to reduce the tissue queue for him to be able to commit. And we had superheroes come up and try to Lord Over-engineering had done that to him and we'd had superheroes come up and try and free him. And then eventually the only thing that could finally release Drupal 8. Teaching everybody in the audience, how to use Git together, which we did by teaching them the Gitty Pokey. Push your code and your push, your, pull, your code out, you put your code in and you merge it all about something like that.
So we had a lot of fun with these, you know we, we, we did a Disney themed operetta basically in Los Angeles and a game show and, in Portland. And we had, we did Charles Dickens, a Christmas Carol only, you know DrupalCon past, present and future where the Ghosts in London and on and on and on, [00:25:00] we had so many cool ideas and sang songs and dressed up in silly costumes.
And I'm really proud of that. And I thank you. All the people who participated in those and made those really fun, who showed up early in the morning to watch them. The other thing is that I would like to, I would like to tell you a story, which. I just don't want to risk that the story gets lost in the annals of time when people look back at Drupal back in the early days, Dries and I used to talk on Skype a lot, like chat.
Okay. like literally Skype, if you can believe that I'm not even IRC. We did that too, but like personally it was Skype. And one morning before Drupal was famous, before it had made its mark. Okay. Before it was a certain thing that would become a big deal. He, I woke up and Dries had pinged me.
Look what launched last night. It was something like developers.yahoo.com [00:26:00]. You said, this is a Drupal site built and launched and run by Yahoo. I was like, wow, that's big. That's clearly the most famous company that's ever launched a Drupal site. And as I, and I was, I was going to write a blog post about it.
So I started preparing my blog post. And as I was doing that, I was poking around at the site. And all of a sudden, I don't know what I clicked, but I ended up on the user 1 account page authenticated. I was like, wait a minute, pause on the blog post. What can I do here? Can I install modules? Ooh, yes. Can I change the password on this account?
Ooh, yes. Can I see every other account on this system? Am I really the super user on a Drupal site? Launched by Yahoo? Yes. So I said, okay, this is going to hit the shit's going to hit the fan really quickly with this one. So what did I do? I'm in Germany. It's 2:00 AM in California, where Yahoo is. I look them [00:27:00] up, I try and get their phone number.
There's one phone number published for Yahoo globally. And it's like, if you're having trouble finding what you're looking for with your search results, try this type of support for customers searching. So nobody answered that phone anyway. So one of the, I find the the daughter company for Yahoo in London, they're awake, I'll call them.
So I called them and actually got a human. I was like, you guys have got to reach out to the people in America and wake them up right now because they just launched a site that is going to get hacked really fast. And they were like, let me put you on hold for a second. Crickets.
Big listing. I tried in the next person, same spiel. And by the time the fourth person answered the phone, I could hear them communicating with each other in the office, that crazy guy again. [00:28:00] So different approach was needed. So I did the only thing that a rational human being could possibly do in such a situation.
I called the police. In Sunnyvale, three in the morning. I said, listen, there is a security breach at Yahoo. Oh, yes, sir. What's going on? What do you see? It's not what I see. It's a digital security breach. I need you to drive over to the nightwatchman at Yahoo campus and tell him to call Rasmus Lerdorf. Now for those of you who don't know Rasmus Lerdorf, he worked for Yahoo at the time.
He's the creator of PHP. He's the only person I knew at Yahoo. So in fact, the police drove over, told the nightwatchman to call Rasmus Lerdorf, and they did. And Rasmus woke [00:29:00] up at three in the morning and found the person responsible for the site and told them to fix it. And they reached out to me still before 4:00 AM and we talked about it and they did something and they fixed it and nothing bad happened.
And they said they were going to send a t-shirt and they never did. Yahoo. I still want my t-shirt!
[00:29:22] Michael Meyers: That is insane. I don't know how I've never heard that story. That's crazy.
[00:29:27] Robert Douglass: Well, you're giving me the platform to tell the story. So, that's good..
[00:29:32] Michael Meyers: And they went on to do the Sunnyvale CMS conference, I think
[00:29:38] Robert Douglass: where Jay Batson met Dries. And I met Jay Batson as well. So that was the beginning of. Acquia forming.
[00:29:47] Michael Meyers: Amazing, amazing.and the Prenotes, I have to say the embodiment of the community they were so much fun. So creative. I mean, you guys did an amazing job. I mean, they, [00:30:00] they were like, I mean, you could just hear you tell the story. It was what you guys came up with was just brilliant and they were so much fun.
For me, like I said, it was the embodiment of the Drupal community. You know, that's what makes Drupal special is people, their passion, what they put into it. And I love the fact that you could come to this conference and you could see that, not just experience it online, but you could literally see how much fun and how much passion people put into it and how much they wanted you to be a part of it.
[00:30:30] Robert Douglass: Yeah. And I think that was important then for people, especially if they were checking Drupal out to really see that it's a person, people oriented project and not just about code.
[00:30:43] Michael Meyers: Yeah,
I DrupalCon initially, like in the early days was where a lot of Drupal happened and, and, and major decisions was made.
And in later years it's become this giant commercial conference. That's all about promoting your wares. [00:31:00] And I, and I always put it in the back of my mind, was that like, one of the reasons that there isn't a Prenote anymore like Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, all these like major companies come there and they're - W what is this? Like like, would they appreciate it the same way that we did? Or was there another reason that, you know that they're not there anymore? It was just it took so much effort and passion to do it that.
[00:31:28] Robert Douglass: I don't know, but they, every company that you just mentioned should appreciate those because I sold Drupal to them.
I was on the initial sales calls for like all of those engagements. They better not complain about the Prenote.
[00:31:43] Michael Meyers: I hope not. but yeah, I've always wondered about that because they were, they were a really special part of DrupalCon and again, you know the community. So we we've talked about so many amazing things about Drupal.
Um, what is [00:32:00] your least favorite thing about Drupal?
[00:32:05] Robert Douglass: Hmm, that's hard. And I mean, to be quite honest, I believe that Dries has an opportunity to get delegate even a little bit more, and it's a sensitive topic, but I, I think that as a. You know, standing from a distance. I see the triumvirate of being the the head of Acquia, the head of the association and the head of the code project.
All at the same time. It is a very hard role to play and he does an amazing job. And I don't want to be overtly, overly critical of Dries because I really appreciate him. But I, I see, I see. Two out of three of those roles actually is being stronger for Drupal than all three at once..
[00:32:55] Michael Meyers: Yeah, no, I, I would, I would agree.
I mean, he's sacrificed and done so much [00:33:00] for Drupal. I think that you know, anyone probably would, would struggle to do one of those jobs. the fact that he's been able to do all three for, for so long is is, is unbelievable. And scaling Drupal is a lot about delegation and you know, I think that everyone would benefit from.
From making that happen and I think he would agree with you I so I think that's a really fair point.what do you think the biggest threat to Drupal is right now?
[00:33:37] Robert Douglass: That's interesting.and I'm not sure I'd even frame it in a threat, like. You know, if you want to do a SWOT analysis where threat is one of the quadrants then?I would say the opportunities would be more interesting to focus on and the opportunities have [00:34:00] shifted a little bit.monolithic programs web two programs in general are less interesting.
They're not irrelevant, but they're just less interesting today than they used to be.a lot of work is being done on decentralization. A lot of work is being done to put things out to the edge. Computing at the edge is, is bigger and bigger. And a lot of work has been done to make things composable and modular in a way that You know, it was always part of Drupal to have modules.
You compose your Drupal site, out of modules, but now people compose their larger applications out of many, many other things.and I think that the. You know, the best thing Drupal did recently was to focus on headless and actually secure a seat at the table to be in the [00:35:00] headless zone, headless player arena it's now competing against a lot of headless native systems, whether the CMS systems or e-commerce systems but at least Drupal is there.
And it's functional in that space. And a lot of. You know, Drupal sites that would otherwise migrate onto completely different stacks are able to not migrate off Drupal. Just replace their front end and get some of the benefits of JAMstack, that's come along in that way. And, and, and maybe like make the integration point for Drupal, more defined, right?
Like Drupal does do everything. It's not your entire internet presence anymore. It's but it's one thing. So I think that Drupal has a very long life ahead of it and that it was very smart to focus on the headless aspect. Even though there was a lot of criticism of that decision, especially in years, one, two and three after the direction was set, but it was quite [00:36:00] forward-looking in the end.
I can tell you that what I see on the market from my perch on Platform.sh is that we talked to headless this, that, and the other all the time, like headless CMS. Headless product management, headless CRM headless, e-commerce, headless everything. Every, every, everybody wants their front-end experience to be reduced to a view component or a react component.
And they don't want to be bound on the presentation layer on the user interface layer to any backend system whatsoever. So Drupal made a very big strategic bet on that. And it was smart.so the opportunity still exists there, but what we consider to be interesting on the internet is growing in many ways that Drupal can't follow.
You know, I mentioned de-centralization and, and, and, and for people who care about that, Drupal's just never going to be an answer. So, [00:37:00]the, the entire playing field is getting bigger and the, the portion that Drupal occupies. Might also be getting bigger, but not as fast as everything else. So like its overall relevance overall is, is bound to just become more focused.
[00:37:19] Michael Meyers: Well, you have had an impact on, on so many people and engage so many people in Drupal thinking back to the earliest days, because I know that it is going to be hard to name even just a few people. But thinking back to the earliest days, when you first got involved is there, you know a person or, or one or two people that you would want to thank for getting you started on your Drupal journey?
[00:37:49] Robert Douglass: Well, that has to be Dries. And I know we've come back to this guy over and over and over again. And, and lots of people were helpful, but, [00:38:00] Dries in particular was there for me personally, at many critical junctures in my career. And even recently has reached out to congratulate me on becoming a father and has discussed Companies that were looking at it together and stuff with me recently.
And that is very meaningful that it's a very current relationship that stretches all the way back.I will though mention one very wonderful memory that I have. I think it was in Vancouver apropos, Vancouver we, we recently in Drupal 8, I think removed the Van code functions which were for creating materialized views for ordering comments in Drupal.
And it was called Van code because it was conceived and written that in Vancouver at the conference there. So your point about, you know, DrupalCons being the place where a lot of Drupal happened is really true. I always loved that as an example, like for Trivia Night, you [00:39:00] know, what's van code, how do you use it?
What's it for? Where did it come from? Great stuff. But at that same conference, there - one of the things we'd like to do at those conferences where stay up all night hacking. So we have little hackathons and at one of the hackathons, since that conference was a pan CMS Conference WordPress was also present very small in comparison to the number of Drupal of people there.
But that evening there was just this amazing group of people at the table hacking, including Matt Mullenweg and Dries and Moshe Weitzman, Angie Byron, maybe James Walker and Boris Mann, where both of them might've been there as well. And me and I was sitting next to Earl Miles. Who nobody knew he was completely anonymous.
Like Earl Miles was like the unknown, quiet person at the table, [00:40:00] but I had pegged Views as being able to solve something that I wanted to do. And I actually wanted to present about it the next day. And I said, Earl, I don't. I get what it wants to do. I don't get how to do it. Would you walk me through this?
And he gave me my first ever walk through about Views. And I, and, and, and helped me build the presentation. I built the presentation I gave up the next day. Don't even remember what it was, but I've got this great picture that somebody took and sent of all of us sitting there. And Earl is just like, and I'm so intent, listening to what Earl was saying is he's talking my ear off about Views and showing me how to use it.
And that was just amazing because of course it Views then went on. You know, really made Drupal a great utility for all sorts of things. It's now a Core component, but it was, it was really missing functionality at the time that Earl had spotted and had a solution for, and worked really hard to implement before anybody even realized what it could do.[00:41:00]
[00:41:00] Michael Meyers: Wow.that's pretty amazing. The, the, the Vancouver CMS Summit predated DrupalCons. And I forgot about that. Like Matt Mullenweg, like, could you like sitting at a table hacking with Dries and Matt Mullenweg, applications WordPress powers, 30% of the internet or more right now it's, it's, unbelievable.
And to have Earl Miles, the table next to you you know, all of these people have gone on to do amazing things. My, my final question, I always like to ask people to pass the torch.if you had to pick one person for me to interview next, who would it be?
[00:41:46] Robert Douglass: I would say Jeffrey McGuire. jam. And the reason is that he's been just intimately involved in my own Drupal journey.
And, [00:42:00] and, and vice-a-versa, and I believe that the, the spirit of jam has. Made a profound impact in how people perceive the project and the community.and he still to this day makes great contributions to open source and to the communication aspect of that. And there are lots of people who did great code stuff, but if you want to talk to somebody who focused almost exclusively on the communications aspect then Jeffrey McGuire would be my choice for that.
No better evangelist for Drupal than Jam. He tirelessly traveled the world and participated in everything from local communities and meetups with the same passion that he brought to conferences with thousands of people. I had an opportunity to work with him briefly at Acquia, and he is a [00:43:00] tour de force and a lot of fun.
Um, so I'll definitely reach out to Jeffrey. That's a, that's a really great recommendation. Robert, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to meet with me today. This was amazing, so many awesome stories, insane stories. I can't believe I haven't heard some of these. This was, this was a really fun interview and You know, I look forward to catching up more in the future to our viewers.
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