For years, SimplyTest.me has provided a once-and-done tool for testing Drupal, and Adam Bergstein has recently taken over maintainership. In this episode we find out why, how you can help, and coffee!

Our community is a lot more than pushing commits into code repos.

This Episode's Guest

Adam Bergstein

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Adam is passionate about solutions that connect people, technology, and solve problems. He is an Acquia Certified Grand Master and prolific Drupal contributor, primarily in backend development, DevOps, CI/CD, and security.

Transcript

Transcript

Chris:
I'm here kicking off DrupalCon Seattle, with another episode of Behind the Screens. Coming back for a second time, Adam Bergstein. Welcome back to the podcast.
Adam:
Thank you, I'm honored to be back a second time. Thank you for having me.
Chris:
Absolutely. So, the last time we talked, you were working for CivicActions, and doing a lot with DKAN and open data. Recently, you've started working with SimplyTest.me. So, for somebody who's new to the community, who has not heard of SimplyTest.me, how would you describe that to them? What does this service provide for the community?
Adam:
It really takes all the complexity of installing Drupal, or testing out modules, or loading patches, and the great thing about that is that you don't have to worry about, "Oh, how do I install this? How do I load the code? How do I enable a module? How do I do these things?" And all the things that I think people take for granted, it does it automatically.
Chris:
So, it gives you... If I were to go to SimplyTest.me, what do I see when I get there? What is it doing for me as a Drupal user, if I wanted to test out a module, say like, "What does this module do," or, "Does that work?" What's actually happening there? What is that service providing for me?
Adam:
So, you basically type whatever you want, and usually it looks for module names, or theme names, or even Drupal itself, so if you just want to run core. Another great example is it does give you the ability to run distributions, which is a little tricky in Drupal 8, it doesn't always work, but it does give people kind of an out of the box experience with Drupal, that just is easy and just runs. So, you type whatever you want. Say I want to test the password policy module, right? I type that in, and I've got a running site with it enabled.
Adam:
I think one of the really more recent things that people have been leveraging SimplyTest for is with Umami. Now that you have a real out of the box Drupal core demo system, with content, with all the great features enabled media, and layout builder, and all these other things, you can really quickly stand up an Umami instance through SimplyTest. A few simple steps, click a few options, hit a button, and you have a brand new site that is totally at your... That you can configure, you can log into it, you can use it, you can change it, so I think it's been really, really helpful for testing things, like I want to test a patch, or I want to test a new branch. It's been helpful for evaluating modules. I want to see, “Hey, how does this thing work? Does it meet my needs? Can I leverage this thing that already exists out there?”
Adam:
But it's kind of a soft launch into the community, and I feel like there's not anything else out there that does that. There's not really any other equivalent.
Chris:
So, if I wanted to try Drupal, or test out this module, I go to SimplyTest.me, it spins it all up for me. How long does that site last? Is it a permanent site for me? Or does it eventually tear itself down?
Adam:
It tears itself down. It's a 12 hour instance. We have it setup that way to make sure that we're not overwhelming the infrastructure behind it right now, and respectfully, I think when you're really trying things out that it's intended to run, you don't need a lot more than that. There's times I think people have asked like, "Oh, I've set up a SimplyTest site, and I've configured it, and I want to demo it in a few days," and it's like that's not really what it's designed to do. I always try to work with people, and if they have any advanced needs, if there's anything that I am able to do to help them out, but it's not really part of the service.
Chris:
So, what sort of infrastructure are you running behind the scenes? How does this work to spin up a full Drupal site, and add a module to it, and then have it tear itself down? That sounds like a lot of work on the back end.
Adam:
It's an extreme amount of work on the back end, and it's actually a system that's been around for... Oh, my. For quite some time. I think if I last checked, I think it was nine years old or something, or 10 years old. It's definitely... It's beginning to show a little bit of wear. It's got two primary components to it. It's got the web front end, which is a Drupal distribution, and it has the ability to pull all the metadata from Drupal.org, and load the projects, so you can really quickly type in the name of a project, and load it, and pick the version you want.
Adam:
But then on the back end is a big giant lamp server, like a really, really big server. Lots of memory, lots of hard drive space, lots of processing power, and that... It spins up virtual hosts, and spins up new databases, and it does all the magic behind the scenes, but that's really where a lot of the maintenance comes in. Any time there's a new version of Drupal that comes out, sometimes we have to go in and load certain packages, or we have to update the version of Drush, or we have to install security updates to that, and there's definitely a lot of work behind the scenes, to make sure that all of that goes smoothly.
Chris:
So, you said we a number of times. We are working to make this happen and that happen. Is it just you running this project, or are you working with some other people to try and keep this up? And as a follow up to that, is this a kind of like a labor of love for you? Is it your way of giving back to the community? Or is this a paid service?
Adam:
Great question. I've been very lucky to be able to ping very specific individuals that I know have expertise in certain areas, who volunteer their time to help out as needed. It's not... I try to minimize that as much as possible, so I tend to do a lot of the work, but I have my own limitations. But folks like Elijah Lynn, and Greg Boggs have been really instrumental in picking up where I feel like I can't, and that's been really great to have those two pitching in. It's been really helpful.
Adam:
And it is a labor of love. It absolutely is a labor of love. It's not, I don't... There's no financial incentive for me. It's not... It's really something I just feel that is an important thing to do. I didn't want to see the project die. I feel like it was serving... had a lot of value, and serving people well, so I'm happy to put the time in. It does take a lot of time. Sometimes things go down. Sometimes there's networking problems, or someone says, "I can't install this version of Drupal anymore." And I have to go in and investigate it, right? And it's a lot of things, and it's totally free, so there's no money exchanged. We've got some wonderful sponsors, that are basically paying for all the servers and everything like that, and it makes it so convenient. It's really nice. It doesn't... There's really zero dollar exchanges.
Adam:
I'm not... There's not payment for me, or Elijah, or Greg, or anything, but it is a really unique and wonderful way to contribute back to the community.
Chris:
If somebody was interested in helping you out with any of these issues that happen to come up, new versions of Drupal come out, need to be tested, or if for some reason something happens on the server, or... Are you open to taking additional help if people were to reach out to you, what are you looking for, and how should they go about doing that if they're interested?
Adam:
Wow, I think you just asked the million dollar question. So, I look at where we are today, and the infrastructure, and the code, and the tools are all... I don't want to use the word bespoke, but they've all been very highly customized, and it's been around for a really long time, and every version of Drupal has had incremental improvements, and it feels very fragile right now, the infrastructure, and so... And we don't really have a great development infrastructure, because it is so fragile and bespoke, it's really, really, really hard to actually build a solid development environment that mirrors it, the production environment, 100%.
Adam:
I would... I think my primary goal as a maintainer is to do what I can to make the system more friendly for contributors, and I have a lot of initiatives in place to try to make that happen.
Chris:
So, are you looking for... Are you actively seeking people to volunteer to help out? Would you accept that should they come in?
Adam:
Yes, and I think there's some really key focused areas and ways that I would look for that contribution to happen right now. The first way is that we recently have agreed to use Tugboat.qa, which is a product offered by the Lullabot team. We've recently agreed to use their services as the new back end for SimplyTest, and there are tremendous benefits of doing that. First is that every instance that is spun up is disposable, so there is no sense of a giant, monolithic architecture anymore. And the other great thing is that anybody can pay for either a fairly cheap Tugboat account, or even use a free one, and they could... The way that I have it architected right now, I've already been able to make some progress on this, is they could drop in their own API keys, and basically have all of the back end already automated for them to contribute to SimplyTest.
Adam:
And that was a huge barrier for people to be able to do that. It doesn't... It's not launched yet, so it's not actually matching or mirroring what is currently running right now, today, but we have made some great strides. We're very close to being able to probably offer that in a beta setting, where we could spin that up and allow that to be the new back end. And what that will afford with the existing infrastructure is we can really, truly have a front end, or a production system with a development server. We can get both of those environments set up, and with 100% parity the people can contribute to either the front end or the back end.
Adam:
But the other big initiative that we're looking to do is to switch SimplyTest from a Drupal 7 to a Drupal 8 one, and we've got a lot of great architectural things that we'd like to move forward with that. People are more than welcome to contribute to that, and some folks already have. And so, we're at some state between... I would say about 50% done with getting that moving, and we'll now have to roll in some of the new Tugboat improvements that I think will make that even more plausible to launch Drupal 8 sooner, and I'm really looking forward to that, and I think if anybody wants to contribute, that'd be great.
Adam:
We also have, we've submitted a Google Summer Code project, through the Drupal umbrella, and that will allow some students to be paid to work on SimplyTest as part of... They'll get to work with me and some of the other mentors, to learn certain things, and we are exclusively going to have them focus on Drupal 8. And so, the wonderful thing about that is the vision that I've put forward has a lot of diverse components to that, so we have a REACT front end. We still have all the project importing and all the metadata from drupal.org, which changed from the previous infrastructure to GitLab now, which is phenomenal.
Adam:
So, it's the... The Drupal Association did an amazing, an amazing job of moving their infrastructure, and SimplyTest will reap the benefits of that. There is no question about it. We're able to hit the APIs from GitLab. It was a great move, and very digestible ways and formats that are tech friendly, and we're, I think across the board, really trending upward.
Chris:
Wow, that's amazing. That's a lot of pieces that are all coming together there. So, if somebody wants to help out, what's... How do they contact you to get involved? Either Drupal Summer of Code, or to just reach out directly to participate in something that you're organizing with SimplyTest.me? Where should they go to?
Adam:
There's a few ways you could reach out to me directly, either on Drupal Slack, or on Twitter. I'm happy to find a fit there. And one thing I'm a little bit behind on is I need to go through and create a bunch of issues, to spell out what's going to move us forward with Tugboat, and also what's going to move us forward with Drupal 8, and I need to get that flushed out in such a way that people could go directly to the issue queue of SimplyTest, because it is an open source project. For me personally, I believe very, very strongly in open source, and the community behind it, and I really want to make it in such a way that people can contribute, so I will do my best to try to get the issue queues groomed and cleaned up as soon as possible.
Adam:
We'll probably make a roadmap issue for the Drupal 7 system, to finish up the launch blockers for that, to get that done and completed for Tugboat, and then what we'll also look to do would be to try to get the same level of granularity for the Drupal 8 system, to have that ready to go when it's convenient, when it's ready.
Chris:
We're here at DrupalCon, it's Sunday, but I want to flip it away from the work a little bit like I tend to do. So, the last time that we talked, you told me you are a coffee snob, and a craft beer snob, and we are enjoying some great beers right now. We had our coffee earlier. The thing that we did before that, though, was we ran a race, just in a town called Everett, north of Seattle. What made you want to do that? Why was that important to start DrupalCon off with something non-nerdy? Something... You get out on your feet, even though it's Seattle, and it's rainy and cloudy.
Adam:
That is a very, very good question, and probably one that is a little deeper than I might be able to answer in one podcast. I mean, I believe really strongly in balance. That's something I learned during my time at CivicActions. They're very heavy advocates for that, and balance is not just work related, right? And DrupalCon is a very energy intensive event. There's always a lot going on, and you see everybody that you know in the community. I'm giving two sessions.
Adam:
Starting off this event, and having the ability to really take care of my physical health, and try to offset all the coffee, all the beer, all the food, and the great dining experiences, and even just the leveling off any kind of anxiety I have around giving talks, or doing anything like that, it felt like a really great start to the event. That's really one of the things.
Adam:
And you know, I say this all the time, and I don't think people... People are probably tuning me out now, but our community is really a lot more than pushing commits into code repos, and that's just another example of that. I mean, having an opportunity to run a race with you, and really anybody that would want to come and join us, is... That's an opportunity wasted if you don't do that. And I greatly enjoyed it, it's a wonderful way to connect just beyond the day to day, and the typical stuff. Much like I view the coffee exchange that we do now and things like that, it's just fun. It's meant to be fun, it's meant to be light hearted, and this was just a great way, a real great way to start the week.
Chris:
And a couple things that I'd like to plug real quick. You mentioned the coffee exchange, so I want to ask you just some quick details about that. This will probably be released well after DrupalCon, but you can look for it at the next DrupalCon, or at other events. This happens a lot of places, a lot of times, I've seen it more than once. And the other thing I'd like to plug is that there are a couple people, namely Last Call Media, a couple guys, or a couple people from that team have started organizing group runs at DrupalCons now in the afternoons. After your sessions, before you go to dinner, and there are signup forms on the events, on the DrupalCon page.
Chris:
So, I know a few people who are doing that. I'm going to try and get in on as many of those as I can, provided my legs still work after running an almost half marathon this morning, but I just think that's a great way outside of the code to just get together. Running through a city is an extremely fun way, for me at least, if you enjoy running, to see a city. But just give me a quick plug on the coffee exchange, and what people could expect from that if they happen to be coffee people and just not know that this exists.
Adam:
So, the Drupal coffee exchange is the ability, really, for anyone to grab, say a local roast, or something they really enjoy, and the intent is to send it to somebody else, and there's two ways that that happens. We do that a lot at events. We've done that in Florida this year, MidCamp, we're going to try to do that here at DrupalCon, and people bring bags of coffee. They put it out on a table, and DrupalCon specifically, especially being here in Seattle, we're going to line up some local roasts. We're going to make sure that people can come have a really good cup of coffee, just talk to each other. I mean, it's so... There's nothing behind it. It's not... You know, it's not fancy.
Adam:
But the other great thing is that throughout the year, every quarter we have a registration system that I set up, that people can go in, and they can pair up with another community member, and they can send each other coffee. They just order it online. They plug in the address. I send all the information out to each person, based on who they're paid with, everybody supplies their coffee preferences, so they get something they like, and it's like... It's a great fit. Yeah.
Chris:
Yeah. We're all people. We have common interests outside of just the code, so it's a way of celebrating that. I've got a couple more questions. I want to keep this from getting too long. What's one thing you think the community celebrates very well, and maybe one thing you think that it could do a little bit better?
Adam:
In terms of what we're doing well, I mean, I think that today, we are finally beginning to realize a real vision around building tools and technology that is helpful for people. Not just a... I'm going to contrast that by saying that I think in many years past, we have done a great job of building a very technically relevant product, but one that is definitely technical focused. I think with what I'm seeing today, through the work of these UX initiatives, and Christina, I believe is her name. She's phenomenal, and layout builder, and all the work that has gone into that, to build an experience of content management that is easy to use. It's focused on usability. It's focused on UX and accessibility, and trying to take these old conventions of Drupal that I don't think have scaled well.
Adam:
Like our competitors are really, really killing it in some new and innovative ways, like editing a medium blog post, right? Has a certain editor, a certain feel to it, right? There's new and cool things. They're not bounded by a legacy infrastructure. Anytime you have a big project like this, you have to be extremely careful about how you change it, how you scale it, how you grow it. If you do it too drastically, you lose people, or you... It just becomes very chaotic, right? And I think we've done a great job of trying to stay the course of what keeps us Drupal, but also now we're really starting to focus on what matters, and what matters to me is the people. We have to focus on these experiences that make the Drupal system easier to use, better to use, more competitive.
Adam:
Layout builder is a great example of that, and I think we still have ways to go. We have some... I think some polish that we need to build into the system. Maybe a little bit more consistency in some of the architecture between features, and core, and things like that. But we're getting there. I really, I feel like it's heading in a good direction, especially approaching now with Drupal 9, I've been really, really impressed with a lot of the work that's gone into Drupal 9 so far, to get the solid foundation in place, to really keep that momentum moving.
Adam:
So, that's what I see, so that's what I feel like is going well. What I think maybe is not going well, if I understand the question properly, or what could we improve on? Yeah, and it's a wonderful question, and I was having a good conversation when I was in Florida with Mike Anello, and I said, "You know, wouldn't it be nice if there were 10 Aaron Winborn awards? Wouldn't it be nice if we had other ways to recognize people?" And I actually think that there is both a community aspect to it, and a personal aspect to it, that I think we, as community members, need to do our best to recognize the work that we think is important, and what is adding value, and having impact, and all of these things that are critical for us to be around.
Adam:
We need to recognize people. We need to say, "You know what? You're doing a fantastic job." And really call out things that we value. I think that's really, really critical, for all of us as people inside of the community. But really, from a community perspective, honestly, I would really like to see us come up with new ways to recognize people ongoing, like throughout the year. Doesn't just have to be at DrupalCon. More frequency to that. There's people doing so much great work, I mean they're really, really truly is.
Chris:
All right. Let's get down to rapid fire here. I haven't done this one in a long time, because I don't normally have notes in front of me, but I was smart enough to remember to make notes this time, so here we go. Five questions, rapid fire, Adam Bergstein. Toilet paper, hung over or under?
Adam:
Oh, over. No question. Drives me nuts.
Chris:
Marvel or DC?
Adam:
Oh, Marvel. No question.
Chris:
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Adam:
Star Trek.
Chris:
Oh, interesting. All right, you're a craft beer guy. IPA or stout?
Adam:
Depends when you ask me, and depends on the variant.
Chris:
Very craft beer nerdy answer. And because of that, you're getting this question. If 100 hippos and 100 rhinos fought on a mixed terrain of land and water, which animal would win?
Adam:
Neither, they would cancel themselves out.
Chris:
I'll take it. Let's go with that. All right, and of course I couldn't end this episode without asking, if you could pick one or two people to say thank you to, give a little gratitude for helping you along the way, anybody come to mind?
Adam:
Yeah, I recently met someone, met her at Florida, and we had another nice interaction at MidCamp. There's a new community member, her name is Qymana Botts. She gave a session, she really told her story. I really resonated with it. She's a gem. She is unquestionably one of the coolest, funnest, really great story, new community member that... I mean, I was just... It was such an honor to meet her. Her presentation was fantastic, it really resonated with me, and I also think it's remiss not to acknowledge and recognize all the hard work that goes into this DrupalCon event, and I feel like there's such a deep commitment from communities, and community members, and the DA of putting on this huge event.
Adam:
I mean, they deserve so much recognition. It is so much work, and the scale of it is huge, but I know how hard people work towards getting their sessions together, and all the companies that put on these phenomenal parties, and these sponsorships, and it's just such a community wide commitment to do this. And I'm sure Dries himself, I know how hard he works at these Driesnotes, and there's just so much there. I just had to say that, too, because we're here, right? And honestly, these people... I've seen sometimes they take hits on things, that sometimes they're trying to experiment with stuff, and try to get just the best experience they can, and stay financially solvent, and all these things. But they just do so much work. I mean, they're really great. They deserve a lot of recognition.
Adam:
And I know it's... We're here before the DrupalCon, the day before. I'm really excited about this year. I know it's going to be phenomenal, and I know how much work has gone into this for a lot of people. So, thank you, from me.
Chris:
Here, here. It's definitely one of those jobs, those positions where when everything goes well, you don't hear anything about it, but when something goes bad, your ears start ringing, and it's... So, think about every little thing that happens when you go to a DrupalCon. The hotel is there for you, the sessions are lined up, there's coffee, there's... The rooms are all there, there's people that tell you how to get there. Heck, when we were at DrupalCon Dublin, there was a person at the bottom of the escalator putting a cap on your coffee cup for you, so you could ride the escalator without spilling your coffee. Who does that?
Chris:
So, every time something goes right, look for all those little things, and think someone at the DA, or some member of the community made that happen. I love that, and we're definitely keeping that in.
Chris:
Well, all right. I think we've talked enough. Adam, my first repeat interview on the podcast. It sounds like you're doing a lot of really great things, and I look froward to seeing where SimplyTest.me goes. Thanks for stopping by.
Adam:
Thank you so much. Again, it was a pleasure.

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About host Chris Albrecht

Chris Albrecht
His backend brings all the nerds to the code. Skilled in Drupal development and architecture, you can often find him running through the Colorado wilderness and hosting the Behind the Screens podcast.