Technical Thoughts, Tutorials, and Musings

Moving to a new Platform

After my last post, a number of people asked if I was leaving Drupal all together. Perish the thought. :-) However, after a decade at Palantir.net and the five-year Wagnerian Saga that was the Drupal 8 development cycle (complete with singing), I have been asking myself "What next?"

Well, what do I like to do? I like to build. I like to teach. I like to make things better. I like to work with smart people, as colleagues, as community partners, and as customers. I want to be able to have an impact in making something better for other people.

To that end, I am pleased to announce that today is my first day as Director of Runtimes, Integrations, Engines, and Services for Platform.sh.

The end of an era

Today is the end of an era. After just over ten and a half years, this is my last day with Palantir.net.

The past decade has seen Palantir grow from a company of 5 to a company of over 30. From a company that wouldn't touch the GPL with a ten foot pole to a strong advocate for Open Source, Free Software, and Drupal in particular. From a company that did mostly subcontracting work for design firms to an end-to-end soup-to-nuts agency. From having two desktop screen sizes anyone cared about to an infinite scale of screens from 3"-30". From a world where IE 5 for Mac was considered a good browser to one where once again, the latest Microsoft browser is actually good. (Everything old is new again, I suppose.)

After ten years with the same company (which in Internet years is about a millennium) I certainly have stories. There's plenty I could say about Palantir, most of it good. :-) In the end, though, there's one thing in particular that has kept me here for so long.

Palantir.net is the kind of place that has your back.

On contempt

A few weeks ago, I went on an uncharacteristic Twitter rant. At the suggestion of a follower or two I've turned it into a blog post for posterity. The following is a direct repeat of that Twitter stream, very lightly edited and paragraphed.

Composer vs. Linux Distributions: A Mental Model Battle

Recently, Gentoo documented what they view as the Composer Problem: Basically, PHP projects using Composer can't be packaged the way they want to package it, with system-level shared libraries. This is not a new complaint; Other distributions have complained about Composer's impact before. But fundamentally I think the issue stems from having the wrong mental model of how modern PHP works when viewed from a distribution or sysadmin perspective.

Giving Back in 2016

Three years ago, I ended 2012 with a call to the Drupal community to Get Off the Island. Mainly I wanted to encourage Drupal developers to prepare themselves for the major changes coming in Drupal 8 by connecting with other PHP projects and with the broader community, and called on people to attend non-Drupal conferences in order to visit and learn from other communities.

Anyone can code

One of Pixar's best movies is the 2007 "Ratatouille", the story of a rat named Remy who teams up with an unskilled nobody human to become a gourmet chef. Toward the climax of the film (spoiler alert!), the uber-critic Anton Ego visits their restaurant and is blown away by the quality of the food, producing the next day a genuinely humble and reflective review. While the whole review is one of the highlights of the film, there's one segment in particular I want to call out:

In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto, "Anyone can cook." But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist can come from anywhere. [emphasis added]

It's one of the central themes of the film, and Pixar I believe captures that line beautifully. It's true, not everyone is a good cook. Not everyone can be a good cook. However, good cooks come from a myriad of sources and backgrounds (and apparently species).

And the same concept applies to almost any skilled field, including that of programming.

Drupal 8: Happy, but not satisfied

Two weeks ago (hey, I've been busy and trying to sleep for once), after 1716 days of work by more than 3312 people the Drupal community finally released Drupal 8, the latest release of the best community-driven web software in the world. The blogosphere is already filled with congratulatory blog posts celebrating the immense accomplishment, and deservedly so.

A number of people recently have asked me how I feel about Drupal 8's release, especially around the PHP community. Overall, my answer has to be that I'm happy, but not satisfied.

Why I speak

A few weeks ago I gave a keynote presentation at PNW PHP in Seattle. It was the second time I'd given that particular talk, Eating ElePHPants, a quasi-history and lessons-learned of the process of rebuilding Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.

Overall reception was good, and afterward I was appraoched by a woman who was trying to push for better development practices and refactoring a legacy code base at her company. We've exchanged a few emails since, as she goes about trying to subvert her company's development process for its own good to introduce testing, refactoring legacy code, decoupling, and other concepts that many of us on the conference circuit take for granted.

In the course of that email conversation, she had this to say:

When I first started with this entire effort about 2 months ago, I thought I will never succeed, and I thought I had set myself up to failure - until I heard you speak about your experience. Your talk was highly inspiring and got me excited to invest more time into what I was doing and I believed in myself for the reasons I chose this effort.

And later...

All the tech talks helped me realize that I can get somewhere, made it seem within reach, but you and Adam Culp [who also gave a session on refactoring] left me inspired.

Visiting other islands this fall

In case you hadn't heard yet, Drupal 8 RC 1 is out. And there has been much rejoicing! I'm going to save my own lengthy celebration-and-thank-you post for the 8.0.0 release, so for now I will just point everyone at Campbell Vertesi's post and say "what he said!".

But it's also a good time to consider the impact that Drupal 8 has had on the PHP community. The "off the island" movement has grown large, and people outside of Drupal are echoing the same message. In fact, not one but two conferences this fall are actively trying to build bridges between PHP sub-communities: ZendCon and php[world].

Just how insular is the PHP community?

Periodically, there is a complaint that PHP conferences are just "the same old faces". That the PHP community is insular and is just a good ol' boys club, elitist, and so forth.

It's not the first community I've been part of that has had such accusations made against it, so rather than engage in such debates I figured, let's do what any good scientist would do: Look at the data!

Update 2015-08-25: The Joind.in folks have given me permission to release the source code. See link inline. I also updated the report to include a break down by continent.

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