Episode 250  on December 18, 2017Behind the Screens

Behind the Screens with Thom Toogood

Thom Toogood hails from Melbourne, Australia, where he's been working on making Composer easier for all of us by means of FaaS Composer.  Composer can do all it's magic in the cloud as a background process, so you don't have to sit and wait for updates.

We talk Drupal South, and Thom's dream camp, DrupalCamp Fiji, which may not be as far from a reality as you would think.

Thom shares some gratitude with Greg Anderson, and spills on his what his life would be like if Drupal went away.

Transcript

Chris:
I'm going behind the screens now with Thom Toogood. Thom, you made it all the way to BADCamp here from Melbourne, Australia.
Thom:
Yes, sir.
Chris:
Tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do, and why you decided to make the trip.
Thom:
Yeah, so I've been using Drupal for quite a while now, almost 11 years. I saw BADCamp has been running for quite a while and I've heard really good things about it. People tell me it's a bit like the Drupal days of the US, and being the last day, it really is. It's been an awesome event. I'm really happy to have come.
Yeah, but coming from Australia, I usually go to a Drupal event every year, and I missed both DrupalCons this year, and thought, "Hey, you know, let's hit up BADCamp this year."
Chris:
Awesome.
Thom:
Yeah.
Chris:
So, how's been your experience so far?
Thom:
It's been super awesome. Like really, really cool people here. Managed to find some really cool techniques. One of the best sessions I was at, was at the DevOps Summit, which was a full day of stuff that I'm really, really interested in so, yeah.
Chris:
Very cool. Do you have any really interesting projects you're working on related to that now?
Thom:
Yeah. I'm working on a project, it's called FaaS Composer, FaaS, F-A-S-S. It's a way to actually run composer as a service on a remote server, so basically it's a small little functionless API, or serverless API that you can push up your composer.json file. It results to [inaudible 00:01:28] in the cloud. A really, really fast network with [inaudible 00:01:33] and is able to send back down your composer.lock file with your updates, which you're able to install luckily on your projects.
It's just a perfect concept stage at this stage, but they've been talking to some people here about it, and I managed to meet up with Nils, the Packagist co-founder while I was in San Francisco for Symfony Live. It's really encouraging. We've got some ideas on where to take it. Hopefully it will land in Composer version two, but let's see.
Chris:
Wow, that's pretty incredible. So, what are some of the applications? What would be the reasons for doing that in the cloud instead of locally?
Thom:
So, one of the big things is around the speed of running updates. So, when you do it locally, it requires a lot of memory. It also requires very fast network latency, so, when you push it up to a cloud service, it should run a lot faster, so that's the one benefit, but it also could allow Drupal to be out and connect into the service and tell you what package updates are available without actually running Composer on Drupal. So, yeah, which is pretty cool.
Chris:
So, all those times when we run Composer update and then walk away for half an hour to go have a snack or a nap and come back and it's still not done. This could alleviate that down time.
Thom:
It should alleviate that. It should convert that half an hour run time into two to three minutes maybe.
Chris:
Wow.
Thom:
Yeah.
Chris:
That would be amazing. You were talking to me earlier about having that be also a benefit if you're in a place that has really slow network speeds.
Thom:
Correct, yeah, yeah. I frequent a place called Fiji quite a bit, and over there networking is pretty flaky. The last time I was there running updates, it would take over an hour, so that's really how I sort of jumped into the issue, asking like, "How can this be resolved," and, yeah, we've got a proof of concept, it's working, it's up on my GitHub. I don't know if I could provide the link, but if anyone's keen to help out, I'd love to hear it.
Chris:
Absolutely, yeah. So, you're also helping to organize DrupalSouth, is that right?
Thom:
No, I can't take credit for that. The team and the Drupal team in Auckland, are actually helping to organization, but I've been a big supporter of DrupalSouth being our local Austral-Asian Drupal event with [inauduble 00:03:58]. And this year it's in Auckland, New Zealand, which is really cool 'cause it's the first time a major Drupal event has been hosted in my hometown. If you're keen to check out New Zealand, it's a good way to come meet the Austral-Asian Drupal people and check out a beautiful country.
Chris:
Very nice. So you were saying earlier, like last night we were talking. You were able to find a really cheap ticket to get back and forth between the two. Is there-
Thom:
Yeah.
Chris:
What's your secret? What's your travel tips?
Thom:
Travel tip is try and get alerts. I often have an alert just running just to let me know when the prices are good. Yeah, sometimes like layovers can help, so on the way up I spend actually a day in Fiji going there and back. It extended the travel time, but-
Chris:
You got to spend two days in Fiji.
Thom:
Yeah, that was cool. Yeah, that was the downside, which is kind of a good side. I'm off here tomorrow to go home, and another day, which also helps with the jet lag to be honest with it.
Chris:
Oh, yeah. For sure.
Thom:
Yeah, yeah.
Chris:
So, speaking of Fiji, you were also talking a little bit last night about an idea that you've been playing around with for a while.
Thom:
Yeah, yeah. People who know me will have probably heard this before. It's one thing, it's been a dream of mine for a wee while to actually run a DrupalCamp in Fiji. My folks have been living there for the last 10 years, and I go out there quite a bit. I love the place. It's a beautiful country. The most beautiful people in the world, I guarantee it, the Fijians. But, if we can pull off a DrupalCamp there, right on the beach, and enjoy all the fun things in my life, which is Fiji, beach, water, Drupal, it'll be a dream come true, basically.
Chris:
So the logistics of that must be really tricky. In a recent episode that I did with the guys who put on DrupalCamp Cape Town, one of their piece of advice was get the location. That's half the battle right there.
Thom:
Yep.
Chris:
So, do you have anything in the works so far about that?
Thom:
Yeah, I do. I have been thinking about this for a while, and I've found a pretty nice place. It's sort of like some backpackers, but it makes it cost effective. There are options around because it's a resort area, so there's other accommodation options available, but what I thought was really cool was if we can actually book out a whole resort for a couple of days and basically take over, yeah, with a pool and a bar, and a beach. Yeah, everything you need, and a Fijian style conference center, so, yeah, yep.
Chris:
That sounds pretty great. What would it take to get something like that going? You need some more grass roots works.
Thom:
Yeah, I guess it's just about getting some commitment around people coming and I'm happy to lead on the ground there. I get up there every few months, so I can organization the logistics and that sort of stuff, but I guess it's around marketing, promoting, yeah, really seeing the benefits and hopefully getting a bit of sponsorship to help along the way.
Chris:
Yeah, sponsorship's a big part of that. I think I heard Lee Walker say he was just gonna move DrupalCamp Chattanooga to Fiji next year.
Thom:
Oh, wow. Well, I think I'm gonna be talking to him about that.
Chris:
Yeah. Find Lee. He'll help you out along the way there. If not, he'll charter a helicopter or something very nice.
Thom:
We did discuss chartering a plane from the states and just flying everyone over, but you know.
Chris:
Yeah, there you go. Sounds simple.
Thom:
Yeah. There's always a solution.
Chris:
Right?
Thom:
Yeah.
Chris:
Yeah, especially in this community. We'll figure it out, right?
Thom:
Exactly. Exactly.
Chris:
Very cool. So, Thom, when you're not doing Drupal stuff, if everything dried up tomorrow, no more internet, what would you be doing?
Thom:
Basically, what I've said, I'd probably be in Fiji. I'd probably have a yacht, and I'd be doing a lot of sailing. I just love sailing. It's my passion outside of tech. Love the water, love fishing, love diving, yeah, just love that. So, that's what I'd be doing, traveling the world, based in Fiji.
Chris:
Yeah. Man, that sounds like the way to go right there.
Thom:
Yeah.
Chris:
So, when we get through booking in Fiji go, and you can take us out on the water.
Thom:
I'd love to.
Chris:
That'd be fun, man.
Thom:
Yeah.
Chris:
Very nice. So, you've been working with the composer project, and really it's kind of cutting edge stuff. Like you're pushing boundaries with these sorts of things. If somebody is new to Composer, is new to this workflow, is trying to figure out what to do, and now there's this other things you could think about, what's one piece of advice you would give to somebody just trying to understand Composer and get it to work, or what's a big hurdle that you've overcome with that, that you could just share?
Thom:
Yeah, okay. I guess the best advice I'd give is, obviously try to find a good example project. Don't try to learn it all at once, basically. Try to find a good example. Try to sort of reverse engineer how that uses Composer and what the pieces of the puzzle are. And then before jumping in and actually starting your own project. So, there is already a really good example, a Drupal Composer project. It's out on GitHub. It's a really good starting point. It's really not as hard as you think, but I think what would really help is some improved documentation on Drupal.org, so that's something that, you know, hoping to resolve.
But, at the end of the day my project is the idea that we're gonna try and abstract this as much as possible to remove the need for anyone to know Composer to begin with, so that's the end game of this project in itself.
Chris:
That'd be great. So, anyone can come in and use it with a Composer based workflow and get it running without having to know ... [crosstalk 00:09:50]
Thom:
They don't even know that it's actually running Composer underneath. It's just fully abstracted away.
Chris:
I really like the way you're thinking, Thom.
Thom:
Yeah. Yeah, so, that would be the advice is just wait. Hopefully we can get this done soon, but, yeah, yeah, we just gotta overcome a few challenges.
Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Thom:
Yeah.
Chris:
Cool. So, I think we all got here with a little help from somebody somewhere along the line. Is there anybody you'd like to say thank you to or share some gratitude with, who really gave you a push when you needed it, or really inspired you?
Thom:
Well, I mean definitely someone like Greg Anderson, who I've been lucky enough to meet at this conference. I'm a big fan of his work, you know, obviously is a Drush maintainer and things, but also a big fan of his philosophies around automation and things like that so, yeah, I'd love to thank Greg. If it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't be doing this and doing these sorts of projects, which are those cutting edge sort of stuff. Definitely just inspired to learn about those tools like Robo and Drush and some of the stuff he's been doing. That sort of helped out with what I've been into. But, thanks to Greg.
Chris:
Yeah, I talked to him earlier and Drush 9 is on the verge of having RC come out, and there's a lot of changes under the hood for that one.
Thom:
Yeah, and there's a lot of work that's been going on in the background around that with the likes of Probo as other project ... Robo, sorry, as other projects. So, yeah, I'm really excited about how much improved Drush 9's gonna be, so it's really cool.
Chris:
Exciting. Thom, thanks so much for taking some time to talk. I'm really excited for DrupalSouth. There's so much going on in the next month, and I can't make any of them. I'm really disappointed. It's on my radar to do, but Fiji-
Thom:
Yeah.
Chris:
We need to start rallying the troops, so if people wanted to reach out and help support that in some way, what's the best way to do that?
Thom:
Probably Twitter, actually. I'm just Thom Toogood., T-H-O-M T-O-O-G-O-O-D. Just reach out on Twitter. I'm also quite often in the Drupal Slack channel. My name is 8thom, yeah.
Chris:
Excellent. Alright, thanks a lot, Thom.
Thom:
Yeah, thanks.
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