Episode 252  on January 8, 2018Behind the Screens

Behind the Screens with Angie Byron

Angie "Webchick" Byron explains what OCTO is and what happens at the high levels in Acquia.  On occasion she hijacks children at the mall to read to them, and Drupalist is her favorite flavor of nerd.

Transcript

Chris:
We're here going behind the screens with Angie Byron of Acquia. Hi, Angie.
Angie Byron:
Hello. How are you, Chris?
Chris:
I'm wonderful. How are you doing?
Angie Byron:
Great.
Chris:
How are you enjoying BADCamp so far?
Angie Byron:
Great. It's actually one ... I haven't been here in a couple of years, and it's actually really great to see all of the smiling faces, cause BADCamp's one of the oldest running camps, and so seeing some people that I've known since like, I don't know, 2008, 2009, still kicking it in the Drupal community has been pretty, pretty awesome.
Chris:
Yeah, it is a big group here, and it is fun just to get caught up with all the people you haven't seen in a while, and-
Angie Byron:
Yeah, exactly.
Chris:
It's such a great atmosphere. The weather has been pretty great, with aside from a little rain last night.
Angie Byron:
Yep.
Chris:
It's just, it's fun. It's really positive, I feel like, this year.
Angie Byron:
Yep, we also all got woken up by a fire drill this morning, so we had an extra spring in our step today, so yeah.
Chris:
Yeah, oh yeah. I heard about that. I didn't make it. I was a little late. I think I just missed the earthquake drill.
Angie Byron:
Oh, wow. Nice. [crosstalk 00:00:48]
Chris:
I heard about it though. I'm like that's ... I'll wait til that's over, and then I'll show up.
Angie Byron:
Good, good call.
Chris:
Yep. What's new in your world? What's going on at Acquia these days?
Angie Byron:
Yeah, so at Acquia, my role is I work in the office of the CTO, which means Dries Buytaert, the project lead, is my boss, so no pressure at all there. Our role is to help the community be awesome, effectively, and work on kind of Drupal's biggest problems, and try and clear blockers and that sort of thing. Octo is set up in sort of three divisions. There's the UX division. We work on stuff like layouts and core, media and core, things like that, trying either to do direct development in the case of layouts. Or, we do sort of like more of project management, and enablement, and empowerment stuff, like we do in the case of [inaudible 00:01:34], where we'll help run meetings for them, or we'll help promote the work that they're doing, try and find fundraising for them, this kind of thing.
There's the decoupled team. What they work on is the API First Initiative, so clearing out technical debt from the REST API, working on getting new features like JSON API into core, and anything around essentially making JavaScript and Drupal work a lot more seamlessly with each other, making Drupal a great backend for any kind of front end you want to throw at it, that sort of stuff. Then the third group is the release and community management team. This team makes sure that things like security releases go out on time, and when patch releases go out they don't break your sites, and stuff like that, and managing the minor releases that go out every six months, and making sure they are backwards compatible. We put out release notes with any gotchas and this kind of thing.
Then also, on the community management side, it's about analyzing: how is the velocity of Drupal going, what are the key contributor blockers, how can we make headway on some of those things? We'll do things on that team like promote things to the Drupal Association as items that are blocking people from getting things done. In the past, one of my jobs was to get better distribution tools on drupal.org, for example. We'll also do things like find additional people that we don't have enough of, so say committers for core, or subsystem maintainers, or this kind of thing. My role on that team is a little bit hovering above all of those. I work with the UX team. I work with the release and community management team.
I essentially work with Dries to kind of set a roadmap of like we sit there at the beginning of the quarter and we say, "What's the biggest, hairiest problems that Drupal has right now," and then go figure them out. That's basically my job, so it changes all the time, but it's very exciting. I love that it gets to help other people do awesome things.
Chris:
What's one of the biggest challenges that you've had to face recently with ... That sounds like a lot to handle. Is there any one in particular that sort of stands out as like: this is really a prominent thing, and we're not sure exactly how to approach it yet. What's a big challenge that you're facing?
Angie Byron:
I mean, a big challenge we did have was getting Drupal 8 out the door. That was a really challenging thing where it was ... We had been very ambitious, and kind of did an all you can eat buffet kind of thing, with changing this, that and the other thing, adding this feature and that feature. Then, when we had actually shipped the thing, that was a long slog, and so there was a lot of trying to help people who were burning out, and figure out better ways to do things. The good news is, on the other side of that, we manage everything a lot better than we used to. We learned a lot of lessons from that. Lately, I think the thing I've been spending a lot of time on is trying to accelerate the contributed module space around Drupal 8, so taking a hard look at what are the things that are blocking people from adopting Drupal 8.
Some of it is module X isn't ready yet. If you really are in need of a specific module, and that's not ported yet, you either have to port it yourself or wait until it's done. Some of these modules are sort of like infrastructure modules, so like, say, the rules module, or feeds, or these kinds of things are a little bit more impactful when they're not done. Trying to figure out how to either channel in community resources, or funding, or something to accelerate those things, as well as the migration path from 7 to 8, and some of the other ... There's a lot of really great stuff. People are building new sites on Drupal 8 all the time, and they're doing great, but we want to make sure that the bulk of the community that's on Drupal 6 and 7, mostly 7, can move to Drupal 8 and take advantage of all the new, cool stuff that we've got.
Chris:
Excellent. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Most of it's there. You can build a pretty great site with Drupal 8 core right now.
Angie Byron:
Yeah.
Chris:
And, even with a few contrib modules, it's amazing, the site builder experience, how much it's changed since 7, so a lot of really hard work, I'm sure, went into all of that. Like you were saying, it was a huge task to try and get that all out the door. How has the community involvement been, or the community response been, since 8.0 came out, oh, what was that, two years ago now?
Angie Byron:
Yeah, November of 2015.
Chris:
Yeah. How have you seen the community change since then? Has it been a good response? Has the adoption still been good? What would you feel is the overall tone?
Angie Byron:
I think right now, in 2017, where we stand, it's actually really good. There's a lot of great momentum around Drupal 8. The contrib ecosystem is flourishing. The business ecosystem, they're for the most part using Drupal 8, or about to, or this kind of thing. Dries did a keynote in Vienna where he covered some of these statistics. I would say the six-month release cycles seem to be working really well for us. That's a new thing, where instead of Drupal coming out whenever it's ready, we actually tell you when it's gonna come out, but I think a lot of people haven't quite gotten used to that cadence yet. We'll still catch people who, like the day before we're about to release a new minor version, they're like, "Wait, what's happening with [inaudible 00:06:22]," or this sort of thing.
I think there's still some work to educate people around being aware when release dates are happening, and backing up two months before that so that you can be testing stuff early, and make sure it's not gonna break, and these kinds of things is important. Yeah, so those are some of the challenges. I think the energy though, overall, is really positive with Drupal 8. I see new contributed modules coming out all the time. I see some of the old [inaudible 00:06:48] contributed modules that people always used, like say Webform, have new life breathed into them by Drupal 8.
I hear developers who've gone over that learning curve from 7 to 8, just being like, "Oh, my God. This is amazing," like, "I wrote this amazing thing, and it only took me 100 lines of code, because it was all plugins, and this, and this, and this." It's really validating that the amount of work we put into Drupal 8, to move it into the next phase of its evolution, seems to be paying off pretty well.
Chris:
Yeah, I agree with that completely. There is that big hurdle if you're coming from the Drupal 7 world, as far as a backend developer goes.
Angie Byron:
Correct.
Chris:
I've experienced that myself, firsthand, where I've been working in Drupal 7 for so long, I'm like, "I can do any ... You throw any task at me. I know how to do it in Drupal 7," and all of a sudden it's, [woosh 00:07:29], rug pulled out.
Angie Byron:
Yep.
Chris:
"Okay, I'm back at the bottom again. Now I've got to start over," but once you get past that learning curve, that initial hurdle, it is amazing how easy it is to accomplish some of those things.
Angie Byron:
Yeah. I'd also say it's not completely pulling the rug. I know it feels that way, but a lot of the concepts that you had to come into Drupal and learn, like about nodes, or entities, or fieldable things, views, all that, all of that translates really well. As far as like it used to be this hook, or this special leading function to something else, there definitely is a learning curve there. On the flip side, I remember when I first came to Drupal, I had to unlearn all of that. I was a .net, Java, whatever developer, and it was like, "Oh, this thing uses specially named function thingies," and so I had to kind of unlearn all that knowledge. Now it's like re-dusting that off and trying again, so it's interesting.
Chris:
Yeah, that's ... Wow, that's an interesting ride to take, definitely. It's like back in time, forward in time.
Angie Byron:
Yep, yeah.
Chris:
Yeah. If, let's say, somebody is trying to figure out whether Drupal is the right option for them, they're maybe a developer who's trying to set something up on their own, and they wanna learn how to participate, write a module or get into the community, what's ... If you could give one piece of advice to somebody new walking into that, with a development background, what sort of advice would you give them to get started?
Angie Byron:
Honestly, the best advice I could give them, and I realize this isn't accessible to everybody, but it would be go to a place like this, where real life Drupal people are, that you can talk to in person- [crosstalk 00:08:54]
Chris:
Wait, I can talk to real, live Drupal people, face to face.
Angie Byron:
I know, I know. It's like you can talk to another human being about Drupal, and they don't go, "God, bless you," because they don't know what you're talking about. Sorry. No, it's ... That is single handedly the best way to kind of deeply immerse yourself in the community, how it works, what the best practices are du jour, or whatever. I found the difference between me participating remotely in the issue queue ... I did a lot of that. I hung out on what would be Slack these days, but IRC back then, talking to the community, making friends, and working hard and stuff, but coming to an event where there were real life Drupal people there was just mind changing and life altering, honestly. It altered the trajectory of my career. I made lifelong friends through that. It's just like it's amazing.
If you can get to a Drupal event near you, or at a DrupalCon, or something like that, I would highly recommend that. Or, look in your area to see if there are local user group meetings, cause that is another avenue where you can meet people in your own town or surrounding town that knows what Drupal is, and kind of that idea of like working together with somebody that you can actually see and joke around with when things get frustrating or whatever is like really good.
Chris:
Yeah, there's emotion beyond an emoji. There's like actually-
Angie Byron:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), exactly.
Chris:
You can see the expression on their face, and people are actually happy to help. They're open to new people coming in. I don't think I could speak for anyone here and say like, "We don't want new people. Get them out of here. We're all our old curmudgeonly selves." [crosstalk 00:10:22]
Angie Byron:
No, no, no, nothing like- [crosstalk 00:10:23]
Chris:
It's so exciting to have new people come in, and want to learn, and ask the questions, and I think a lot of people can be very intimidated because we've all been doing this for like ... I hit 10 plus years on my Drupal-versery recently, but a lot of us-
Angie Byron:
High five, yeah.
Chris:
... have been here for a long, long time, and it can feel very clique-ish maybe, to a degree-
Angie Byron:
Yeah.
Chris:
But that shouldn't let you ... That shouldn't dissuade people from jumping in, and asking the questions, and-
Angie Byron:
No, it really shouldn't. That's another reason I advocate for in person events, because then you've talked to Webchick, and you find out she's just this huge dork who likes playing Nintendo games, or whatever. You know? It helps break down those kind of barriers that you might have from the outside, about certain people being rock stars. If I can recommend two things for that question?
Chris:
Sure.
Angie Byron:
Also, there's a Drupal diversity inclusion group on Drupal Slack and various other places. They are working on putting together little teams to work on projects together, for women, people of color, queer, other marginalized folks, so that would be a good avenue as well, because we're hoping to make our community very friendly, and welcoming, and open to all types of people, and so that's one avenue. If you find getting into the larger community a little bit intimidating, that might be an avenue for you.
Chris:
That's a great advice, great advice. You kind of mentioned it here a little bit. Let's flip this. We've been talking a lot about work, and a lot about the community here, but I wanna know about the people who are making up this community outside of the code. If you woke up tomorrow and the internet has gone away, it has disappeared ... I know.
Angie Byron:
Sorry. I'm on the floor now and gasping for air. No.
Chris:
What would you do with your time?
Angie Byron:
I would have a lot more time, that's for sure.
Chris:
Yeah, you would.
Angie Byron:
You know, that's funny. I think what I probably would do is work with kids. I have a daughter who's four and a half, and she's the light of my life. I love her so much. It's funny, because I go on special adventures with her, or whatever, but frequently other kids will just come up and start talking to me, because you know, like why not? I'm a weirdo with blue hair, and I guess that's it. There's been times when I'm reading her a book in a mall or something, and all of a sudden there's this crowd of like 16 other kids behind, all listening to the story. I think I'd really love to explore that and see what that's about, because I, yeah ... Maybe teach it. Well, couldn't teach kids programming, I guess, cause there's no internet, but you know, like yeah.
But, teaching kids how to build, I don't know, something, robots, out of like kinetic parts, since we can't use electricity, whatever, but like yeah ... I think kids are amazing. They learn things like that. They have such great questions, and seeing how they fit it into their worldview is really fascinating to me, so I think I would do something like that.
Chris:
That would be pretty cool. I would love to see that sometime.
Angie Byron:
Yeah.
Chris:
Just walk into a mall, and there's Angie reading, and a whole bunch of- [crosstalk 00:13:06]
Angie Byron:
A whole bunch of ducklings are all, yeah ...
Chris:
All the parents are like, "Where'd our kids go? Oh, they're talking to the blue-haired lady. Okay."
Angie Byron:
Yup, it happens.
Chris:
How funny. I always finish up the episodes this way. I really think it's important to acknowledge the people who have helped us along the way in our careers, cause every one of us has gotten a push at some point. Is there somebody that you would like to say thank you to, who maybe gave you a push at a time you needed it, or gave you an opportunity that you might not have otherwise had?
Angie Byron:
Can I say thank you to two people?
Chris:
Yes.
Angie Byron:
Okay, thanks, okay. The first one would be Chx, Karoly Négyesi. He's a longtime Drupal contributor who totally mentored me when I was first getting started, and showed me the ropes of the hook system, cause I could not figure that out at all to be honest. I was an object oriented developer, so what? He lives in my town, and he's like one of my best friends, and just has continued to be like a really great person and help me through many things, both personal and professional, and so I wanna say thanks to him. Then also thanks to Dries, cause as I mentioned, he is my boss, and he has just ... He's really great at challenging people to do their best, but not getting in their way, and trusting that they're gonna get their stuff done. He's also been incredibly supportive.
I had a rough couple of years, personally, really rough, and he has supported me a lot through employment and just, personally, as a friend and stuff. Those would be the two that immediately come to mind, but there are hundreds of others that I'm sure I could mention.
Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), that seems to be the common theme with that question. Everyone has a hard time narrowing it down to just one or two.
Angie Byron:
Yeah, yeah.
Chris:
That just goes to show you the power of the community. We've all been here to help out, either mentoring at a sprint, or participating at a sprint, or just a hallway track of some type. It is a really energizing feeling being around all of these people who are just here to make it all better, make the code better, make the project better, and to help each other. It's very, I want to say unique, but I've heard from a lot of people who've spent time in other communities that it is a shared sort of thing when you have that common bond. But Drupal, being as large and diverse as it is, I think it's very unique in its sense, that we can still come together and just be like, "Oh, hey. It's you from that country that's all the way around the other side of the world. I haven't seen you in a year. You wanna go get a drink? Let's go get a drink."
Angie Byron:
Yeah, yeah. I think also Drupal, like most open source communities, has a lot of really smart people in it, but I find our flavor of smart people tend to be a lot less like, "Oh, you don't know the blah blah module? Well, whatever. You're, you're insignificant." They're more like, "You don't know the blah blah module. Let me tell you about it, cause it's awesome." You know, like there's a lot of excitement to share what people know, as opposed to trying to hoard it or make people feel bad. That attitude is not welcome in our community, and I love that about our community. I love that we're open. We're welcoming. We wanna share knowledge with each other. We really believe in that idea that if we just make this thing that we're building better, it's gonna benefit everybody.
Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I completely agree. I like that. My favorite ... Our flavor of smart people-
Angie Byron:
Yeah, our flavor of smart-
Chris:
I like that.
Angie Byron:
They're a little crunchy on the outside, but they're sweet on the inside.
Chris:
Right.
Oh, that's great. Well, Angie, thank you so much for taking some time. This was great.
Angie Byron:
Thank you, Chris. Yeah, this was great. All right, have a good day. Bye, everybody.
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