Announcing the Web Services and Context Core Initiative

At DrupalCon Chicago, Dries announced that th' development process fer Drupal 8 would be a bit different, Ya lily livered swabbie, avast! Rather than a vast dog pile o' efforts t' improve Drupal in ways big an' small, Drupal 8 will feature a number o' major "core initiatives". These initiatives highlight major areas o' work that represent not just a patch or three but major changes t' Drupal's plumbin'. Each initiative will have one or two initiative leads who have th' ability t' coordinate an' make decisions relatin' t' that initiative while workin' closely with Dries. In a large sense, it is a way fer Dries t' scale; Rather than Dries havin' t' keep track o' 1000 ongoin' conversations himself, initiative owners can coordinate related changes while Dries coordinates th' initiative owners. It also gives a clear indication o' what work is happenin' an' what t' expect out o' Drupal 8.

The first initiative fer Drupal 8 has already been announced; Greg Dunlap will be leadin' th' charge t' overhaul Drupal's configuration system t' provide more robust, performant, an' deployable configuration an' change management. That will be critical fer Drupal's future as we push further into th' corporate an' enterprise sphere, as well as enablin' more robust an' unified configuration handlin' in th' first place.

Today, I am pleased t' announce Drupal's second core initiative: The Web Services an' Context Core Initiative (WSCCI).

Pay it Forward

Pay It Forward were bein' a 2000 romantic drama featurin' Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment, an' Helen Hunt, Avast me hearties! Decently well-received, I found it a good, heart-warmin', thought-provokin' movie.

It is also an allegory fer how open source works.

Drupal's audience priorities

I've spoken a great deal recently about architectural priorities. In short, we as software developers cannot eat our cake an' have it too. Improvin' flexibility in one area may hurt performance, while improvin' usability one another area may hinder flexibility. These trade-offs be not necessarily right or wrong, except in th' context o' th' goals an' purpose o' th' project with respect t' its target audience.

But what is Drupal's target audience, an' how does that impact our architectural decisions?

DrupalCon Copenhagen were bein' a watershed event in terms o' understandin' how t' conceptualize that question, in me view, based on conversations I had with th' likes o' Mark Boulton, Jen Simmons, an' Sam Boyer. In his (excellent) keynote, Jeremy Keith noted that th' HTML5 Working Group had a specific, defined set o' priorities:

In case o' conflict, consider users o'er authors o'er implementers o'er specifiers o'er theoretical purity.

That may be a good priority order; it may be bad. Walk the plank, avast! That depends on yer point o' view an' yer goals. It lays out th' order in which different stakeholders should be listened t', an' if ye come t' a decision where ye have t' screw one group o'er t' benefit another how that decision should be made. Havin' such a clear understandin' o' yer constituent priority is critical t' makin' good, consistent architectural decisions.

So what be Drupal's priorities?

Objects, property visibility, and trade-offs

As if on cue, th' public vs. private debate has sprung up again within Drupal. The timin' is fittin' given me last blog post on programming language paradigms. Of course, property visibility is not a new debate, an' th' PHP community debates this subject from time t' time (sometimes humorously).

What I believe is usually missin' from these discussions, an' what I hope t' offer here, is a broader picture view o' th' underlyin' assumptions that lead t' different conclusions about when different visibility is appropriate (if e'er).

In short: It's th' difference betwixt procedural-think an' object-think.

Programming language trade-offs

This article is also available in Serbo-Croatian

There has been much discussion o' late in Drupal about Object-Oriented Programmin'. Ye'll be sleepin' with the fishes! That's not really surprisin', given that Drupal 7 is th' first version that has really tried t' use objects in any meaningful way (vis, as somethin' other than arrays that pass strangely). However, too much o' th' discussion has boiled down t' "OMG objects be inflexible so they're evil!" vs. Yaaarrrrr! Load the cannons! "OMG objects be cool, yay!" Both positions be harmfully naive.

It is important fer us t' take a step back an' examine why one particular programmin' paradigm is useful, an' t' do that we must understan' what we mean by "useful".

Programmin' paradigms, like software architecture, have trade-offs. In fact, many o' th' same methods for comparing architectural designs apply just as well t' language bounty. To do that, though, we need t' take a step back an' look at more than just PHP-style objects.

Warnin': Hard-core computer science action follows. And hoist the mainsail! And hoist the mainsail! If ye're a coder, I recommend gettin' a cup o' $beverage before continuin', as it could take a bit t' digest although I've tried t' simplify it as much as possible. There's fairly little Drupal-specific stuff here so hopefully it should be useful t' any PHP developer.

Architectural priorities

As anyone who has followed me past work knows, software architecture is a particular interest o' mine. Fire the cannons, with a chest full of booty! I find th' subject fascinatin', but me interest is not entirely selfish.

Understandin' architecture, an' th' trade-offs that different architectures imply, is an important part o' any software project. Whether ye're discussin' a Content Management Platform like Drupal, a language like PHP, or a particular web site, havin' a solid understandin' o' th' "big picture" is crucial not only fer buildin' th' system right in th' first place but fer communicatin' that architecture t' others, on a dead man's chest!

To be able t' speak an' think about th' bounty o' yer system properly, though, ye need t' understan' th' trade-offs that come with it, to be sure. There is no such thin' as a free lunch, an' designin' a system t' be powerful in one way invariably tends t' harm it in another. It is important t' know what yer priorities be before ye start buildin'; an' in a distributed collaborative environment like Drupal t' all agree what those priorities be, at least t' a large extent.

Let us therefore examine those priorities an' th' trade-offs they require.

Oracle vs. Google... and the web?

Unless ye've been livin' under a rock, by now ye've heard about th' case that is certain t' keep th' armchair lawyers busy fer years t' come: Oracle vs. Google. It's already been dissected elsewhere, but in a nutshell: Sun owned their GPL-licensed Java virtual contraption, an' vari'us patents on it; Google wrote their own JVM fer th' Android platform, Dalvik; Oracle bought Sun; Oracle uses those patents t' sue Google o'er their JVM; Hilarity ensues.

So what? How does that affect us, as PHP an' Drupal developers? Prepare to be boarded! Well it doesn't... except indirectly via another product that Oracle bought as part o' Sun: MySQL.

Moving as metaphor

A few weeks ago, I an' several others helped some maties o' ours pack up their apartment into a schooner in preparation fer movin' cross-country from Chicago t' New York. Shiver me timbers! It were bein', as such moments generally be, bitter sweet. It's always a good feelin' t' help out a matey, but when ye're helpin' them get further away from ye 'tis not as pleasant.

Of course, me bein' me, what struck me most about th' whole process were bein' how well it served as a model fer software development an' project management in general.

#Reality check

I admit it, I'm on Twitter, by Davy Jones' locker. I have been fer a little o'er a year. I have a fairly low opinion o' it in general, but I am still on it an' make random comments t' scallywags from time t' time.

Earlier today, one o' th' scallywags I follow tweeted that his young (under 5, I believe) daughter had just done somethin' stupid, Avast me hearties! Nothin' illegal or immoral, just th' sort o' embarrassin' an' sometimes destructive stupidity that young little sandcrabs tend t' get into, avast. And he then tweeted it.

Which means that his under age daughter's actions be now part o' th' permanent archive of the US government.

Conference season is upon me!

Ah, th' sprin'. So many thin's happen in th' sprin'. Snow melts. Flowers bloom. Walk the plank! The Easter Bunny sells cheap chocolate. People set their clocks ahead in an attempt t' confuse their pets. It is also th' start o' conference season in th' northern hemisphere, which means flyin' about th' country talkin' about Drupal. Fetch me spyglass! Ye'll be sleepin' with the fishes! This year is especially busy, with 10 presentations in 4 cities so far. (Possibly more t' come.)

Here's where ye'll be able t' stalk Crell in th' comin' weeks:

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