Accelerate Drupal 8 by funding a Core Committer

Fingers on keyboard

We have ambitious goals for Drupal 8, including new core features such as Workspaces (content staging) and Layout Builder (drag-and-drop blocks), completing efforts such as the Migration path and Media in core, automated upgrades, and adoption of a JavaScript framework.

I met with several of the coordinators behind these initiatives. Across the board, they identified the need for faster feedback from Core Committers, citing that a lack of Committer time was often a barrier to the initiative's progress.

We have worked hard to scale the Core Committer Team. When Drupal 8 began, it was just catch and myself. Over time, we added additional Core Committers, and the team is now up to 13 members. We also added the concept of Maintainer roles to create more specialization and focus, which has increased our velocity as well.

I recently challenged the Core Committer Team and asked them what it would take to double their efficiency (and improve the velocity of all other core contributors and core initiatives). The answer was often straightforward; more time in the day to focus on reviewing and committing patches.

Most don't have funding for their work as Core Committers. It's something they take on part-time or as volunteers, and it often involves having to make trade-offs regarding paying work or family.

Of the 13 members of the Core Committer Team, three people noted that funding could make a big difference in their ability to contribute to Drupal 8, and could therefore help them empower others:

  • Lauri 'lauriii' Eskola, Front-end Framework Manager — Lauri is deeply involved with both the Out-of-the-Box Experience and the JavaScript Framework initiatives. In his role as front-end framework manager, he also reviews and unblocks patches that touch CSS/JS/HTML, which is key to many of the user-facing features in Drupal 8.5's roadmap.
  • Francesco 'plach' Placella, Framework Manager — Francesco has extensive experience in the Entity API and multilingual initiatives, making him an ideal reviewer for initiatives that touch lots of moving parts such as API-First and Workflow. Francesco was also a regular go-to for the Drupal 8 Accelerate program due to his ability to dig in on almost any problem.
  • Roy 'yoroy' Scholten, Product Manager — Roy has been involved in UX and Design for Drupal since the Drupal 5 days. Roy's insights into usability best practices and support and mentoring for developers is invaluable on the core team. He would love to spend more time doing those things, ideally supported by a multitude of companies each contributing a little, rather than just one.

Funding a Core Committer is one of the most high-impact ways you can contribute to Drupal. If you're interested in funding one or more of these amazing contributors, please contact me and I'll get you in touch with them.

Note that there is also ongoing discussion in Drupal.org's issue queue about how to expose funding opportunities for all contributors on Drupal.org.

We have 10 days to save net neutrality

Cable squeeze

Last month, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, released a draft order that would soften net neutrality regulations. He wants to overturn the restrictions that make paid prioritization, blocking or throttling of traffic unlawful. If approved, this order could drastically alter the way that people experience and access the web. Without net neutrality, Internet Service Providers could determine what sites you can or cannot see.

The proposed draft order is disheartening. Millions of Americans are trying to save net neutrality; the FCC has received over 5 million emails, 750,000 phone calls, and 2 million comments. Unfortunately this public outpouring has not altered the FCC's commitment to dismantling net neutrality.

The commission will vote on the order on December 14th. We have 10 days to save net neutrality.

Although I have written about net neutrality before, I want to explain the consequences and urgency of the FCC's upcoming vote.

What does Pai's draft order say?

Chairman Pai has long been an advocate for "light touch" net neutrality regulations, and claims that repealing net neutrality will allow "the federal government to stop micromanaging the Internet".

Specifically, Pai aims to scrap the protection that classifies ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Radio and phone services are also protected under Title II, which prevents companies from charging unreasonable rates or restricting access to services that are critical to society. Pai wants to treat the internet differently, and proposes that the FCC should simply require ISPs "to be transparent about their practices". The responsibility of policing ISPs would also be transferred to the Federal Trade Commission. Instead of maintaining the FCC's clear-cut and rule-based approach, the FTC would practice case-by-case regulation. This shift could be problematic as a case-by-case approach could make the FTC a weak consumer watchdog.

The consequences of softening net neutrality regulations

At the end of the day, frail net neutrality regulations mean that ISPs are free to determine how users access websites, applications and other digital content.

It is clear that depending on ISPs to be "transparent" will not protect against implementing fast and slow lanes. Rolling back net neutrality regulations means that ISPs could charge website owners to make their website faster than others. This threatens the very idea of the open web, which guarantees an unfettered and decentralized platform to share and access information. Gravitating away from the open web could create inequity in how communities share and express ideas online, which would ultimately intensify the digital divide. This could also hurt startups as they now have to raise money to pay for ISP fees or fear being relegated to the "slow lane".

The way I see it, implementing "fast lanes" could alter the technological, economic and societal impact of the internet we know today. Unfortunately it seems that the chairman is prioritizing the interests of ISPs over the needs of consumers.

What can you can do today

Chairman Pai's draft order could dictate the future of the internet for years to come. In the end, net neutrality affects how people, including you and me, experience the web. I've dedicated both my spare time and my professional career to the open web because I believe the web has the power to change lives, educate people, create new economies, disrupt business models and make the world smaller in the best of ways. Keeping the web open means that these opportunities can be available to everyone.

If you're concerned about the future of net neutrality, please take action. Share your comments with the U.S. Congress and contact your representatives. Speak up about your concerns with your friends and colleagues. Organizations like The Battle for the Net help you contact your representatives — it only takes a minute!

Now is the time to stand up for net neutrality: we have 10 days and need everyone's help.

Massachusetts launches Mass.gov on Drupal

This year at Acquia Engage, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts launched Mass.gov on Drupal 8. Holly St. Clair, the Chief Digital Officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, joined me during my keynote to share how Mass.gov is making constituents' interactions with the state fast, easy, meaningful, and "wicked awesome".

Since its founding, Acquia has been headquartered in Massachusetts, so it was very exciting to celebrate this milestone with the Mass.gov team.

Constituents at the center

Today, 76% of constituents prefer to interact with their government online. Before Mass.gov switched to Drupal it struggled to provide a constituent-centric experience. For example, a student looking for information on tuition assistance on Mass.gov would have to sort through 7 different government websites before finding relevant information.

Mass gov before and after

To better serve residents, businesses and visitors, the Mass.gov team took a data-driven approach. After analyzing site data, they discovered that 10% of the content serviced 89% of site traffic. This means that up to 90% of the content on Mass.gov was either redundant, out-of-date or distracting. The digital services team used this insight to develop a site architecture and content strategy that prioritized the needs and interests of citizens. In one year, the team at Mass.gov moved a 15-year-old site from a legacy CMS to Acquia and Drupal.

The team at Mass.gov also incorporated user testing into every step of the redesign process, including usability, information architecture and accessibility. In addition to inviting over 330,000 users to provide feedback on the pilot site, the Mass.gov team partnered with the Perkins School for the Blind to deliver meaningful accessibility that surpasses compliance requirements. This approach has earned Mass.gov a score of 80.7 on the System Usability Scale; 12 percent higher than the reported average.

Open from the start

As an early adopter of Drupal 8, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided to open source the code that powers Mass.gov. Everyone can see the code that make Mass.gov work, point out problems, suggest improvements, or use the code for their own state. It's inspiring to see the Commonwealth of Massachusetts fully embrace the unique innovation and collaboration model inherent to open source. I wish more governments would do the same!

Congratulations Mass.gov

The new Mass.gov is engaging, intuitive and above all else, wicked awesome. Congratulations Mass.gov!

An update on the Workflow Initiative for Drupal 8.4/8.5

Over the past weeks I have shared an update on the Media Initiative and an update on the Layout Initiative. Today I wanted to give an update on the Workflow Initiative.

Creating great software doesn't happen overnight; it requires a desire for excellence and a disciplined approach. Like the Media and Layout Initiatives, the Workflow Initiative has taken such an approach. The disciplined and steady progress these initiative are making is something to be excited about.

8.4: The march towards stability

As you might recall from my last Workflow Initiative update, we added the Content Moderation module to Drupal 8.2 as an experimental module, and we added the Workflows module in Drupal 8.3 as well. The Workflows module allows for the creation of different publishing workflows with various states (e.g. draft, needs legal review, needs copy-editing, etc) and the Content Moderation module exposes these workflows to content authors.

As of Drupal 8.4, the Workflows module has been marked stable. Additionally, the Content Moderation module is marked beta in Drupal 8.4, and is down to two final blockers before marking stable. If you want to help with that, check out the Content Moderation module roadmap.

8.4: Making more entity types revisionable

To advance Drupal's workflow capabilities, more of Drupal's entity types needed to be made "revisionable". When content is revisionable, it becomes easier to move it through different workflow states or to stage content. Making more entity types revisionable is a necessary foundation for better content moderation, workflow and staging capabilities. But it was also hard work and took various people over a year of iterations — we worked on this throughout the Drupal 8.3 and Drupal 8.4 development cycle.

When working through this, we discovered various adjacent bugs (e.g. bugs related to content revisions and translations) that had to be worked through as well. As a plus, this has led to a more stable and reliable Drupal, even for those who don't use any of the workflow modules. This is a testament to our desire for excellence and disciplined approach.

8.5+: Looking forward to workspaces

While these foundational improvements in Drupal 8.3 and Drupal 8.4 are absolutely necessary to enable better content moderation and content staging functionality, they don't have much to show for in terms of user experience changes. Now a lot of this work is behind us, the Workflow Initiative changed its focus to stabilizing the Content Moderation module, but is also aiming to bring the Workspace module into Drupal core as an experimental module.

The Workspace module allows the creation of multiple environments, such as "Staging" or "Production", and allows moving collections of content between them. For example, the "Production" workspace is what visitors see when they visit your site. Then you might have a protected "Staging" workspace where content editors prepare new content before it's pushed to the Production workspace.

While workflows for individual content items are powerful, many sites want to publish multiple content items at once as a group. This includes new pages, updated pages, but also changes to blocks and menu items — hence our focus on making things like block content and menu items revisionable. 'Workspaces' group all these individual elements (pages, blocks and menus) into a logical package, so they can be prepared, previewed and published as a group. This is one of the most requested features and will be a valuable differentiator for Drupal. It looks pretty slick too:

Drupal workspaces prototype

I'm impressed with the work the Workflow team has accomplished during the Drupal 8.4 cycle: the Workflow module became stable, the Content Moderation module improved by leaps and bounds, and the under-the-hood work has prepared us for content staging via Workspaces. In the process, we've also fixed some long-standing technical debt in the revisions and translations systems, laying the foundation for future improvements.

Special thanks to Angie Byron for contributions to this blog post and to Dick Olsson, Tim Millwood and Jozef Toth for their feedback during the writing process.

An update on the Layout Initiative for Drupal 8.4/8.5

Now Drupal 8.4 is released, and Drupal 8.5 development is underway, it is a good time to give an update on what is happening with Drupal's Layout Initiative.

8.4: Stable versions of layout functionality

Traditionally, site builders have used one of two layout solutions in Drupal: Panelizer and Panels. Both are contributed modules outside of Drupal core, and both achieved stable releases in the middle of 2017. Given the popularity of these modules, having stable releases closed a major functionality gap that prevented people from building sites with Drupal 8.

8.4: A Layout API in core

The Layout Discovery module added in Drupal 8.3 core has now been marked stable. This module adds a Layout API to core. Both the aforementioned Panelizer and Panels modules have already adopted the new Layout API with their 8.4 release. A unified Layout API in core eliminates fragmentation and encourages collaboration.

8.5+: A Layout Builder in core

Today, Drupal's layout management solutions exist as contributed modules. Because creating and building layouts is expected to be out-of-the-box functionality, we're working towards adding layout building capabilities to Drupal core.

Using the Layout Builder, you start by selecting predefined layouts for different sections of the page, and then populate those layouts with one or more blocks. I showed the Layout Builder in my DrupalCon Vienna keynote and it was really well received:

8.5+: Use the new Layout Builder UI for the Field Layout module

One of the nice improvements that went in Drupal 8.3 was the Field Layout module, which provides the ability to apply pre-defined layouts to what we call "entity displays". Instead of applying layouts to individual pages, you can apply layouts to types of content regardless of what page they are displayed on. For example, you can create a content type 'Recipe' and visually lay out the different fields that make up a recipe. Because the layout is associated with the recipe rather than with a specific page, recipes will be laid out consistently across your website regardless of what page they are shown on.

The basic functionality is already included in Drupal core as part of the experimental Fields Layout module. The goal for Drupal 8.5 is to stabilize the Fields Layout module, and to improve its user experience by using the new Layout Builder. Eventually, designing the layout for a recipe could look like this:

Drupal field layouts prototype

Layouts remains a strategic priority for Drupal 8 as it was the second most important site builder priority identified in my 2016 State of Drupal survey, right behind Migrations. I'm excited to see the work already accomplished by the Layout team, and look forward to seeing their progress in Drupal 8.5! If you want to help, check out the Layout Initiative roadmap.

Special thanks to Angie Byron for contributions to this blog post, to Tim Plunkett and Kris Vanderwater for their feedback during the writing process, and to Emilie Nouveau for the screenshot and video contributions.