Docksal co-maintainer and BADCamp co-organizer, Sean Dietrich, talks about what it takes to run a camp website, why he became a Docksal co-maintainer, and why we could all use a little more time.

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Sometimes the [DrupalCamp] website can be a full-time job depending on how in-depth it is, so we're trying to figure out how we can make that easier for other camps.

This Episode's Guest

Sean Dietrich

Sean Dietrich

Sean is a strong believer in the open source community at large, and that working collaboratively is best for creating awesome projects. His community work extends into maintaining and building the BADCamp website build, as well as helping to maintain Docksal, a tool used for managing development environments.

Transcript

Transcript

Chris:
Here at DrupalCon Seattle. In this episode, we're going behind the screens with Sean Dietrich, senior operations architect for Kanopi. Now Kanopi is based out in the bay area, is that right?
Sean:
No, so Kanopi is actually a fully distributed company based across all of North America. So US and Canada with a good majority of our staff being in both countries.
Chris:
I see. So you are actually based in that area, though, is that correct?
Sean:
Yes, I'm based in... so outside of the bay and kind of Sacramento, sunny hot Sacramento, California.
Chris:
Got you. Okay. I didn't realize Kanopi was completely distributed like that, so I imagine that gives everyone a little bit of a opportunity to get into different local meetups, different local camps. And I understand you helped to organize BADCamp, which is one of the largest, if not the largest, community run camp in North America. So what kind of a role do you play in that? And tell me about how somebody organizes something that large from the community level.
Sean:
Yeah, so BADCamp is definitely a huge undertaking. It takes probably a good year in advance for us to really... Even longer than that because we have to make sure we can secure a venue. We need to make sure we have a good idea of what's going to happen the following year. So we're almost planning for two events simultaneously because we just have to really figure out what that next place is going to look like.
Sean:
Particularly my main focus is I help run in building the website. Every year BADCamp has a wonderful themed out website with different new displays, different fun things. Last year we did a circus theme. The year before that we did a summer of love theme, and then previously to that we did other things like a spaceship, we did a pirate ship. So we did many different themes. So part of that is to really make sure that's up and running, make sure that we have all of the proper information up there and make sure everything, like all the information is available for people to start looking and reviewing. And securing those dates so they can come out.
Chris:
I know that there were in Drupal seven lots of different distributions or primarily the the COD distribution people were using to set up camp websites. How does that ecosystem look now in Drupal eight? Are you guys pioneering anything new or are you still... Is it a Drupal eight website I'd say for BADCamp or are people still kind of tied into that Drupal seven COD system for standing those sites up?
Sean:
Yeah, so we as a group in BADCamp like to try to be on the cutting edge. So we like to be the example, not just for us or for other developers. We like to be sort of an example for some of the other camps as well. What are we doing? What are some of the things we're trying? What are some of the things we're spearheading? And really trying to make it so that it's an overall good experience for not just the current developer, the one who's been doing it for five, 10, 15 years, but for new developers as well. So what does that look like?
Sean:
So yes, every year it varies based upon whatever the current platform is. So right now it's a jubilate site. We are in the process of trying to talk and figure out what does that look like. A distribution similar to the COD distribution, and we're not finding that there's anything comparable at the moment. We're slowly seeing that that's not necessarily a problem, but we're seeing that it becomes a barrier sometimes for camps to kind of accelerate into that.
Sean:
We also see that sometimes the website can be a full time job depending on how in depth it is. So trying to make that... We're trying to figure out how we can make that easier for other camps because sometimes they don't have a dedicated web person to put on. And they have somebody who can help out a little bit. They have somebody who can do content on the site, and that's what we see with other camps is that they just don't have the technical power to be able to manage that on a constant basis. So that's why they revert to using kind of the same website over and over. It's just, it becomes something that they just don't have the means for
Chris:
Do you have anything in the works in terms of a system or a distribution or a profile that is geared towards making or lowering that barrier to entry for other camps or other groups?
Sean:
So unofficially right now there is some planning going on about trying to create some sort of distribution. We've also heard from the camps that they don't want to. They don't really want to host their own. They want to be able to have maybe a service, and so there's some thoughts being put into that. What would that look like? And once again that goes back to saying they just don't have the people to manage it and sometimes it becomes, as bad as it is to say sometimes, it becomes a little bit of a burden and kind of the... Even though it is one of the most important things to like get the word out there, have people come out to it.
Chris:
Yeah. A burden is... I mean, it can be. It's all volunteer run, so to get it up to maintain it, to keep it going can be a full time job, and if you're not being paid for that, that's a lot of extra time that I think burden is an okay word to use there, to keep that going. We want to try and make it easier for people to volunteer to help, to support their camps and put these things together so the people who take on that extra responsibility. It's a really important thing to recognize and anything we can do I think to help make that easier for people to do is a really great effort.
Chris:
I was unaware that there was talks about doing a service for camp websites. I think that actually sounds like a great idea. That would really make it simpler for people to get things up and running, and get it off the ground and take a lot of that responsibility, that extra burden of maintaining that community piece off of the shoulders of a lot of people. So I'm interested to see how that goes and how to follow up with that. Where are those talks happening if people are interested in participating in that?
Sean:
Right now they're kind of just water cooler talks. So it's basically just people gathering around at things like DrupalCon, different meetups. So right now it's just been happening kind of me and a few others just having these conversations. I know that there's a DrupalCamp organizers meeting that happens once a month and then there's definitely some things happening here at DrupalCon where more camp organizers are getting together, trying to figure out how can we make it easier for other camps to get started? Or resources for them to kind to run existing camps. So as far as the service goes, we're trying to just having those water cooler talks at the moment, but definitely interested in kind of taking this further and working with people to see how could we excel this further?
Sean:
And kind of stepping back for a second, burden was, I mean that was not an easy word for me to choose, but yeah, you did mention that being a completely volunteered, most of these camps are volunteered. They are people who are contributing their time and their effort. Some of them are doing it at the graciousness of their own company, but most of them are, they're working after hours. They're working. They're not even necessarily getting paid by their own company to do this. And they're doing it because they want to see the community excel. So I would love to see if the website was not such a big piece of organizing campaign and that's one thing that could be taken off the shoulders. Love seeing some sort of service or just making it easier in general for them.
Chris:
For sure. Could someone reach out to you to participate in those conversations to help get them started? Or is the best way to go through that slack channel for the camp organizers?
Sean:
Best way I would say is... Yeah. I mean, I'm always available on Twitter, so my handle is seanedietrich. I other ways to get ahold of us is to... You can do @BADCamp, which is also through Twitter. In camp organizers, Slack is locked down to camp organizers, but if you are a camp organizer and you are not in that, definitely we recommend joining because there are many other camps. There's Mid Camp, there's Florida Camp, there's Chattanooga. There's many different camps in there who have gone through similar situations. I'm almost guaranteeing that there's no situation that somebody has not gone through to help other people who are looking to put on camps through that process.
Chris:
Excellent. So I'd actually like to you a little bit about this project that I know you've been working on as a co maintainer, Docksal, which is it's a Docker based local environment set up or product that Kanopi is supporting for you. So tell me a little bit about that project and how that's working.
Sean:
Yeah, so Docksal is a local based development environmental built off of Docker. Its main goal is to help reduce the barrier of entry of a local development environment. Not only that, make it easier so that you could... You don't have to worry about configuration, which seems to be sometimes a huge issue on projects. But as far as my role in it, individually, I am one of the company maintainers of it, along with a few other individuals who help out with that. But Kanopi themselves, they help support my time in that because one of the great things is we are now 100% using it. So it becomes one of those things we can use across all of our projects. It allows for us to figure out where the holes are that allows us to figure out what new features we think would be great into it. So if we think some new library would be great, if we think some sort of performance monitoring tool. And this allows it for us to take a little extra time, be able to put those features in for review.
Chris:
Is it something that is open to the public to also download and start using or is this just an internal tool?
Sean:
No, this is definitely an open source tool. It's available on docksal.io. You can go on there and get tutorials about how to set it up on both Linux, Mac and Windows. And so it is across platform. We are open to actually anybody contributing back. So if you see issues from as big as a new feature or a bug or issues as great as even a typo in our documentation. We're all human. We all make mistakes and sometimes as developers we are rushed. So we definitely appreciate every punctuation fix, we appreciate every bug fix, we appreciate every new feature. And we've even as of our last release, which happened about a week ago, we are starting to recognize that and we're now in our release notes commenting out to those people saying, "Hey, thank you for this fix." And the people who were involved in that, because we as a community, as not just a Drupal community, but as an overall community, we don't excel with open source without other people.
Sean:
But people don't... People love to get recognition. People like to be able to say, hey... It's a good feeling to know, "Hey you did something that was great on this project and we want to recognize that without you that wouldn't have happened."
Chris:
Yeah, that's really great. How would this... I know there's a few Docker based systems that are now in the ecosystem. There's Docksal. We've got DDEV from the Drud team. Lando. How do you feel like that ecosystem is playing out and why did you want to put... I guess I don't know the order in which they all came out. It seems like to me they all sort of came up around the same time. Why is that something that you wanted to do?
Sean:
So I particularly got into Docksal back when I was mainly doing development with Drupal seven and many of the clients were multi sites. And what I found is that none of the tools that I had come across were really great at doing that, managing multiple databases. So I particularly started going to Docksal for that factor. The next thing that brought me on there was speed. So local development and being able to make a change and have it refresh quickly and not be kind of bogged down by speed. And so that was another factor. And the other tools that you mentioned, they're all great. They all do wonderful things. In all of the maintainers of them definitely put long, tiring hours into those tools to make them wonderful.
Sean:
So, that's something I do want to acknowledge is that the tools are great at what they do. They're just... They serve different needs. The one thing that got me really into Docksal is just the ability of being unopinionated about someone's local environment. So in particular, there was a huge performance issue with Docker and Mac, and the syncing. And so as a result of that, Docksal as the platform ended up implementing to be able to use through a VM. So using Docker through a VM and that whole mechanism, which worked out wonderfully. In fact, I know that Docker's done better at that whole syncing, better whole file syncing. But for somebody who's constantly switching files and needs to bring them down or there's just constantly files changing, those few seconds that you spend waiting for those policies to sync are crucial, especially when you need to do bug fixes.
Sean:
And so that was really the big factor for me is just being able to say, hey, I need squeeze it factor for me. I need this to be able to go quicker. And that was main reason why I had always stuck with Docksal. And then I just started to contribute back more and more. It was things from documentation to new features to bug fixes to more documentation. And then at one point the rest of the team had suggested, hey, come on as a co maintainer.
Chris:
I like that passion project that can turn into.., Usually because you enjoy it because you get value out of it and then you get to become part of it. That's really just a microcosm of the way this community works. Yeah, if you have a lot of passion for this, you a lot of time into it and you have the support of your company behind you too, which is wonderful. But if they came up to you and said, take a month off, fully paid to go work on whatever you want to work on, what would you choose?
Sean:
Oh, I am... I'm one of those people who love to develop. I love to develop new things. I love to look at new things. And sometimes say people say that's a gift and a curse. Because it's like, oh, you learn new things. But I think if I was going to do that, it would be trying to work in the tuple issue queue. Trying to help expand the project, help it move further. Or in the Docksal issue queue. One of those two to basically push forward the project.
Chris:
Spend some time and dive deep in and really get your hands into that while you have the time to put client work aside, so to speak.
Sean:
Exactly.
Chris:
Yeah.
Sean:
Well, let's flip it a little bit to make it a little bit lighter. I've got some fun questions to learn a little bit more about you, Sean. If you could pick one household chore that was just always done, you never had to do it ever again in your life, which household chore you're going to eliminate?
Sean:
Oh boy. It would definitely be the yard work. As a homeowner, that is the thing I loathe the most, I dislike the most is having to always cut the grass, always have to make sure everything's looking fine. If that could just be done without me having to do it, that would be amazing.
Chris:
Yep. That's the benefits of having a yard and the curse of having a yard. If you could take any two animals and merge them into one super pet, which two animals do you turn into your pet?
Sean:
Oh boy. I'm a fan of dogs and occasionally I'm a fan of birds, so kind of mimicking off the back of the movie Coco, his spirit animal was the dog with the wings, so I might have to go with that.
Chris:
A flying dog.
Sean:
A flying dog.
Chris:
Okay. I like that. We can go with that. If you could have any super power or mutant power which would you choose?
Sean:
I would have the ability to slow down time. Slow down time because I realize that as I'm getting older, everybody else is getting older, and being able to... Not only that, but realizing how much work everybody, not just in my life, but everybody I come in contact to, has so much things going on. It would be slowing down just overall time in general, not the person themselves, but being able to give them more time to enjoy themselves and enjoy the things without to feel so rushed.
Chris:
I like that. That's a really unique answer and I think we could all stand to have a few extra minutes to put everything aside and take time for ourselves. Slow down time. That's good. That's a good one. Let's see. I'm going to do a little rapid fire. So five questions. They're yes or no, this or that types of questions. So the first question, Marvel or DC?
Sean:
Marvel.
Chris:
Thunder Cats or Voltron?
Sean:
Oh, Thunder Cats.
Chris:
Would you rather attend a school at Hogwarts or have a wardrobe that opens to Narnia?
Sean:
Ooh, that's a stretch. I'll go with Hogwarts.
Chris:
Peanut butter, crunchy or creamy?
Sean:
Creamy.
Chris:
And if 100 hippos and 100 rhinos fought on a mixed terrain of land and water, who would win?
Sean:
I'm going to go with the hippos.
Chris:
Why Hippos?
Sean:
I feel like hippos are more aggressive. I mean, rhinos got the horn going for them, but I feel like hippos are more aggressive, and in a fight I feel like they would win.
Chris:
All right, fair enough. I like those questions. All right. And Sean, I like to wrap it up by offering a little things or gratitude to someone who maybe gave you a hand along the way. I think everyone in the community has experienced a gesture like that at some point. Is there anybody that comes to mind that you'd like to say thank you to?
Sean:
I definitely want to... There's been many people along my journey who have given me kind of a thinks or a hands in general or just help overall. I mean, one of the biggest things is a mentor of mine and who happens to be the CEO, Anne Stefanyk of Kanopi Studios. Definitely, I don't think I would have as much passion for the community if it wasn't for her. She entices a lot of passion in our company individually and as a group to be able to give back, and that's that. Yeah, I'm a huge fan of her. I can think of many others and we don't have time for those. But that's probably the top one of mine.
Chris:
Sean, thank you so much for taking a few minutes and talking today. I appreciate it.
Sean:
Yeah. Thank you very much.

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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.