Pantheon's Agency and Community Training Manager, David Needham tells us what's new with Pantheon's deployment workflow, how he gets by without a car, and his go-to board games when traveling.

Mentioned in this Episode

  • Pantheon Training
  • Integrating with Circle CI and MultiDev
  • Quicksilver to automate scripting in workflow
  • Developer relations for Pantheon
  • Pantheon is free to try, all tools included!
  • Being a minimalist traveler
  • Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms board game
  • Gone car free

Things

  • ​GitHub
  • BitBucket
  • Circle CI
  • MultiDev
  • Terminus
  • Quicksilver
  • Carcassonne
  • Yuba Mundo
  • Ubercart
  • DrupalCon

People

  • Tim Ferriss
  • Matt Mullenweg
  • Mr. Money Mustache
  • Steven Merrill
  • Brian McMurray
  • Ryan Szrama
00:00  / 
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Transcript

This Episode's Guest

David Needham

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David Needham is the Agency & Community Training Manager at Pantheon and serves on the board of directors of Enjoy Creativity. David has been a public speaker since 2008, and an entrepreneur since 2000. David is based out of Champaign IL, enjoys photography, and playing board games with his wife and kids.

Transcript

Transcript

Chris:
On this episode, going behind the screens with David Needham from Pantheon. Hey, David.
David:
Hey. How's it going?
Chris:
Good. So we're here at DrupalCamp Atlanta. You came out from the Chicago-land area to give a training yesterday. How'd that go?
David:
Went very well. We talked about development workflows on Pantheon. We kind of stepped through the concept of using Dev, Test, and Live environments. We talked about using feature branches. Then using configuration management, touching briefly on what it was like on Drupal 7, and then going through some demos in Drupal 8 with the new configuration management system.
Chris:
Excellent. Is there anything new with Pantheon these days. I know you guys tend to move really fast with some of the tools you're coming up with. What's something we should know about working with Pantheon?
David:
Yeah. Some of the high demand, cutting edge of what we've been working with lately have to do with some advance workflows for teams that want to use Composer with Drupal 8. We have this technique working with third party systems where you can host all of your code in a bare repository in something like Github or BitBucket and then use continuous integration. You've been working with Circle CI lately to, basically, build out your website on-demand whenever you make a commit or a pull request or anything like that, spin it over into a Pantheon MultiDev environment so you can test it and go through the usual QA process. Once your Senior Dev or whomever has approved it and actually merged the pull request in, the Circle CI will go through the process of doing testing and actually deleting the MultiDev environment, actually merging it into Dev in Pantheon. It helps automate the process of a team going through code reviews, and doing testing, and automatic QA, and stuff like that.
Chris:
Wow. That is a huge bonus to the workflow, having all that run behind the scenes. Something I heard that is also being incorporated, and it's something that I've wanted for a long time, that ... when we had clients that were working with Acquia we could implement these webhooks so that when you were pushing code between an environment, or bringing files or databases between environments, these hooks would fire automatically at the process. Is there something like that now with Pantheon as well?
David:
Yeah, it's actually been around for a few years now, but it's called Quicksilver. With Quicksilver on Pantheon you're able to write scripts that execute between different workflows. For example, whenever you clone your database from live to the dev environment, or whenever you deploy code to whichever environment, you can execute this code, which would do things like maybe import your configuration, or talk to a third party service like notify you on Slack, or update a Jira ticket. Any of those things are possible.
Chris:
Wow. That's amazing. That is definitely something I'm going to be looking more into. I've been wanting to do something like that for a long time now, because we always have a relatively similar workflow between projects where you either want to revert all your features, or clear the cache, or any number of those things. Now with Drupal 8, the configuration management, you want to absorb your configuration into the database, synchronize your configuration. So you could have all those scripts set up to run automatically instead of having to manually do these deployment steps for each push.
David:
Right. A lot of people know Pantheon for the hosting. Hosting is a big part of it, of course, but we really like to focus on the tools that we provide for development teams. And specifically, I see my role as developer relations, where I can help developers of any size for any organization be more successful by automating, by leaning on the tools that we have so that you don't have to reinvent the wheel over and over again and do things the tedious, manual way.
Chris:
Yeah. So tell me a little bit more about your position with Pantheon? What is your title and what do you specifically do with that?
David:
Yeah. So my official title is Agency and Community Training Manager. Part of what that means is the community part means I go to conferences, and, whenever I can, give talks. We do trainings. We do things like that. And part of the agency side is, whenever possible, I meet with agencies and train them how to be more effective on Pantheon. So it involves a lot of training, but I also help run our team of engineers who like to focus on training and helping developers just be more successful.
Chris:
That's great. Does that require a lot of travel of you?
David:
I have a family, and so when I was looking at the position originally, I told them up front I'm not going to be able to travel a ton. But that what we came down to is about once a month for anywhere from three to five days, typically. And they honor that. It's really nice.
Chris:
That's awesome. Yeah, I know Lullabot has a great relationship with Pantheon. We love you guys. We've worked together on a lot of stuff. I think we get along really well because we have very similar values from the top down at the company. So that's really great that they can do something like that for you and still make that work.
If somebody is trying to figure out, like, they need a good host, but they also are really interested in some of these tools, what's one piece of advice you might give somebody to get started if they've got an existing site out there, they're thinking about Pantheon? Something maybe that you've come upon recently that was sort of like, "Oh yeah. We should be doing that." Or, "This is the best way to go to get into it."
David:
One of the things that you can do with Pantheon is all of our sandbox sites are free. You could create a new website, you could even migrate your existing site if you want to check it out, see how it's going to perform, and how the workflow's going to work, and things like that, and actually try it out before you go live with it. Anyone who's thinking about what tools might be available, or what level of hosting is appropriate for them, you can just come and try it out and see what it's like.
Chris:
Cool. So that it's free to get started up, and you get one of those obscured domain names.
David:
Right.
Chris:
And get your own domain name yet. But are all the tools available on those sandbox sites?
David:
Yeah. All of the developer tools are available. In some cases you might have to sign up as an agency in order to have some of those tools unlocked for you. However, we kind of define agency as someone who does work for someone else. Or if you are working with lots of sites, multiple sites, or things like that ... really anyone could sign up to be an agency and get MultiDev and Quicksilver and our command line tool, Terminus. All of those things are available.
Chris:
Wow. That's wonderful.
I like to flip it around a little bit after we talk about the work and the code and some of that. Tell me a little bit about yourself. Since you do travel a bit for work, do you have any really good travel tips, or something that along the way that's like, "I couldn't travel without this now."
David:
Yeah, that's a really great question. I've always been fairly minimalist. I find a lot of satisfaction in being able to pare down and kind of do as much as I can with as little as I have. So traveling ... for this trip it's three days, four nights, something like that. I just have my backpack, and my backpack carries all of my clothes. I have this nifty zippered pouch where I can put everything into, and it keeps it really tidy. Yeah, travel light. Carry as much as you can. It makes it easier so you don't have to lug your luggage through, worry about overhead bins. You don't have to worry about checking anything. You just pick up and go and it's on your back. It's easy.
Chris:
How do you get away with traveling with so few things? I feel like for ... I'm getting better about this myself, too, but I remember those days you're like, “Oh, what about this and that. I might need this, and it might rain, and I might have that." What's your trick for paring all that down?
David:
It's tricky. I certainly still over-pack. For this trip, for example, I brought a board game that I haven't played yet, and I don't know if I'll have time to play. I brought a coat that I need for Chicago when I left and came, but it's all packed away now. I don't need it for here at all, of course. Part of it's checking the weather and taking a gamble whether or not you need to bring a raincoat, shorts, or whatever for the trip. But ultimately, I've taken enough trips now that I know I've taken this thing, whatever this thing is, on so many trips and I've never used it. I'm just going to leave it behind this time.
Chris:
Yeah. All those what if items start to dwindle in size.
David:
Right. And I'm a big fan of Tim Ferriss and even Matt Mullenweg. They both have some really great blog posts about travel, and about what they bring in their carry-on bag and stuff like that. I follow their post that they do on that every year, and kind of see what they pack, and what tools they use and can't live without. That helps me prepare for doing the travel I do now.
Chris:
Yeah, I will definitely reinforce that Tim Ferriss recommendation. So what board game did you bring with you that you may or may not be able to play?
David:
It's called Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms. It's a board game that is ... a full-featured board game like we would expect to find in a really big box, but it comes in a size of a normal deck of cards. So in a normal deck of card box, it has some tiny wooden cubes, it has ... maybe half of it is actually cards. And then some other little things in there. So basically it's my travel game. It's the game I bring with me, because it doesn't take up a lot of space. But it's a game that could take a couple of hours to play, maybe. You can play with five people, or I can play it solo. It's really flexible.
Chris:
If you could have one board game and that was it, everything else you had to get rid of, what board game would you keep?
David:
That's really heard, because there's a lot of board games I enjoy playing a lot. But when I think about what game to play, or what game to bring to an event, or what game to bring with me when I travel, I have to consider what other people enjoy too. So if it’s a game that's easy to teach and something anyone can jump in and play, probably something like Carcassonne would fit that bill. You lay tiles, it's really simple, people pick it up pretty easily. If it's something that's just for me, one of my favorite games, probably either Race For the Galaxy or Roll For the Galaxy, which has a little bit of a role-based system. You spend cards to level up your nation or your world, or whatever, and kind of grow ... Anyway, it's a more complicated game, but I find a lot of fun.
Chris:
Yeah. Outside of the board games, and if you woke up tomorrow and the internet was gone, it was out, what would you do?
David:
I do think about this from time to time. In addition to Tim Ferriss I also follow Mr. Money Mustache. He's a really great money guru and advocate for living the life of financial independence. Reaching a point where you're financially independent, and then what do you do with your time when you could do anything and not worry about getting paid for it. So I've occasionally daydreamed what it might be like someday when I can achieve that. I don't know that I have the answer yet, but I like working with my hands. I don't do woodworking full time, but I like the idea of it. I think I would enjoy it. I don't have a super satisfying answer for that yet, but I'm still working on it.
Chris:
You'd mentioned earlier, you're also a cyclist.
David:
Yeah. My wife and I have lived in a few different places, San Francisco, Minneapolis/St. Paul. And both places are highly encouraging of a car-free life, culture thing, with an emphasis on biking and public transit. And we sort of fell in love with that. So when we moved to San Francisco we gave up our car, because we had to. There wasn't a way for us to have a car in downtown San Francisco, and we just decided to keep with that. So as we've lived ... moved across the country, now we live in central Illinois, we decided to keep a car-free lifestyle and pick up biking as primary way to get around town.
Last year, we bought a Yuba Mundo, which is a long bike. It's sort of a cargo bike that has an extra long wheel base in the back so we could fit our kids and even groceries on this bicycle. It's my wife's baby. She loves riding it. It's a bright yellow, so she really likes that. But it's just a way for us to get around town with our kids and still have a "normal" life, but still not have a car.
Chris:
Yeah. So you don't own a car at all now?
David:
Not at all. No.
Chris:
Wow. That's pretty impressive. That's a hard thing to do. Once you ... It's just taking that step, I think. Once you finally take that first step and try it, you get over that fear. The fear is in the change, not in the event itself.
David:
I agree with you 100%, Chris. That's exactly the point. Once you get over the step of how will you live with this new change, it's actually a lot easier than you think it is. So when we went car free, we were like, "Oh, man. What are we going to do?" We were like, "I guess we have to take public transit. It's so inconvenient. How are we going to do this?" And as long as you make the time to ... It's going to take longer, but that's okay. It ends up costing you a lot less. You end up being able to do things like I'm going to read for the next hour instead of drive.
Or when we were moving from public transit to let's start biking everywhere, you start realizing a lot of psychological benefits. You start becoming a little bit more ... your body responds in positive ways to that. You start to become a little bit more healthy. You start to enjoy biking, such that I think if I had a car I would still choose to bike. Winter's coming up, and I think that's going to maybe will flip it back the other way. It can be difficult sometimes, but it's good. It's not as hard as most people think it is. You just have to give it a try and commit to it for a while.
Chris:
Yeah. I always end the interviews by asking if there was somebody that along the course of your career maybe gave you a push when you needed it you'd like to say thank you to or share some gratitude with. Is there somebody that comes to mind?
David:
Yeah, there's a lot of people, actually. I was first introduced to Drupal when I was still in college by my professor at the time, Steven Merrill. He's worked for Treehouse and Phase 2, and lives in New York. He still is doing Drupal stuff, and he helped give me the confidence to pick up Drupal. He helped take me to my first camp and give my first talk. So him and Brian McMurray were both influential in my Drupal upbringing. As well as Ryan, who helped with the keynote today. Ryan Szrama. He and his business partner, when they're first doing Ubercart and stuff, gave me a free room in their hostel for my first DrupalCon. They helped me as a poor college student get to DrupalCon and really experience the Drupal community really early in my experience. So both were highly influential for me.
Chris:
Wow, that's a great story. I love that.
David:
It can be especially intimidating when you're coming from working online in the issue queue, where the maintainer might be under a lot of stress, he might be doing this in his free time, it might be late at night. And he's being maybe short or rude, it feels a little aggressive. But when you meet them in person you find out they're just real people. They're passionate about what they do, they're excited, they're happy to help, and they're happy to have you there to help them make their job easier too. Whenever possible, go to local Drupal events or whatever. Go to the regional camps. Go to DrupalCon if you can. Just get out and meet people in the community.
Chris:
Yeah. That's great advice. Well, David, thank you very much. This was awesome.
David:
Yeah. You're welcome. Thank you.

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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.