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.

Mike Sullivan joins Acquia as CEO

Today, I am excited to announce that Michael Sullivan will be joining Acquia as its CEO.

The search for a new CEO

Last spring, Tom Erickson announced that he was stepping down as Acquia's CEO. For over eight years, Tom and I have been working side-by-side to build and run Acquia. I've been lucky to have Tom as my partner as he is one of the most talented leaders I know. When Tom announced he'd be stepping down as Acquia's CEO, finding a new CEO became my top priority for Acquia. For six months, the search consumed a good deal of my time. I was supported by a search committee drawn from Acquia's board of directors, including Rich D'Amore, Tom Bogan, and Michael Skok. Together, we screened over 140 candidates and interviewed 10 in-depth. Finding the right candidate was hard work and time consuming, but we kept the bar high at all times. As much as I enjoyed meeting so many great candidates and hearing their perspective on our business, I'm glad that the search is finally behind me.

The right fit for Acquia

Finding a business partner is like dating; you have to get to know each other, build trust, and see if there is a match. Identifying and recruiting the best candidate is difficult because unlike dating, you have to consider how the partnership will also impact your team, customers, partners, and community. Once I got to know Mike, it didn't take me long to realize how he could help scale Acquia and help make our customers and partners successful. I also realized how much I would enjoy working with him. The fit felt right.

With 25 years of senior leadership in SaaS, enterprise content management and content governance, Mike is well prepared to lead our business. Mike will join Acquia from Micro Focus, where he participated in the merger of Micro Focus with Hewlett Packard Enterprise's software business. The combined company became the world's seventh largest pure-play software company and the largest UK technology firm listed on the London Stock Exchange. At Micro Focus and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Mike was the Senior Vice President and General Manager for Software-as-a-Service and was responsible for managing over 30 SaaS products.

This summer, I shared that Acquia expanded its focus from website management to data-driven customer journeys. We extended the capabilities of the Acquia Platform with journey orchestration, commerce integrations and digital asset management tools. The fact that Mike has so much experience running a diverse portfolio of SaaS products is something I really valued. Mike's expertise can guide us in our transformation from a single product company to a multi-product company.

Creating a partnership

For many years, I have woken up everyday determined to set a vision for the future, formulate a strategy to achieve that vision, and help my fellow Acquians figure out how to achieve that vision.

One of the most important things in finding a partner and CEO for Acquia was having a shared vision for the future and an understanding of the importance of cloud, Open Source, data-driven experiences, customer success and more. This was very important to me as I could not imagine working with a partner who isn't passionate about these same things. It is clear that Mike shares this vision and is excited about Acquia's future.

Furthermore, Mike's operational strength and enterprise experience will be a natural complement to my focus on vision and product strategy. His expertise will allow Acquia to accelerate its mission to "build the universal platform for the world's greatest digital experiences."

Formalizing my own role

In addition to Mike joining Acquia as CEO, my role will be elevated to Chairman. I will also continue in my position as Acquia CTO. My role has always extended beyond what is traditionally expected of a CTO; my responsibilities have bridged products and engineering, fundraising, investor relations, sales and marketing, resource allocation, and more. Serving as Chairman will formalize the various responsibilities I've taken on over the past decade. I'm also excited to work with Mike because it is an opportunity for me to learn from him and grow as a leader.

Acquia's next decade

The web has the power to change lives, educate the masses, create new economies, disrupt business models and make the world smaller in the best of ways. Digital will continue to change every industry, every company and every life on the planet. The next decade holds enormous promise for Acquia and Drupal because of what the power of digital holds for business and society at large. We are uniquely positioned to deliver the benefits of open source, cloud and data-driven experiences to help organizations succeed in an increasingly complex digital world.

I'm excited to welcome Mike to Acquia as its CEO because I believe he is the right fit for Acquia, has the experience it takes to be our CEO and will be a great business partner to bring Acquia's vision to life. Welcome to the team, Mike!

An update on the Media Initiative for Drupal 8.4/8.5

In my blog post, "A plan for media management in Drupal 8", I talked about some of the challenges with media in Drupal, the hopes of end users of Drupal, and the plan that the team working on the Media Initiative was targeting for future versions of Drupal 8. That blog post is one year old today. Since that time we released both Drupal 8.3 and Drupal 8.4, and Drupal 8.5 development is in full swing. In other words, it's time for an update on this initiative's progress and next steps.

8.4: A Media API in core

Drupal 8.4 introduced a new Media API to core. For site builders, this means that Drupal 8.4 ships with the new Media module (albeit still hidden from the UI, pending necessary user experience improvements), which is an adaptation of the contributed Media Entity module. The new Media module provides a "base media entity". Having a "base media entity" means that all media assets — local images, PDF documents, YouTube videos, tweets, and so on — are revisable, extendable (fieldable), translatable and much more. It allows all media to be treated in a common way, regardless of where the media resource itself is stored. For end users, this translates into a more cohesive content authoring experience; you can use consistent tools for managing images, videos, and other media rather than different interfaces for each media type.

8.4+: Porting contributed modules to the new Media API

The contributed Media Entity module was a "foundational module" used by a large number of other contributed modules. It enables Drupal to integrate with Pinterest, Vimeo, Instagram, Twitter and much more. The next step is for all of these modules to adopt the new Media module in core. The required changes are laid out in the API change record, and typically only require a couple of hours to complete. The sooner these modules are updated, the sooner Drupal's rich media ecosystem can start benefitting from the new API in Drupal core. This is a great opportunity for intermediate contributors to pitch in.

8.5+: Add support for remote video in core

As proof of the power of the new Media API, the team is hoping to bring in support for remote video using the oEmbed format. This allows content authors to easily add e.g. YouTube videos to their posts. This has been a long-standing gap in Drupal's out-of-the-box media and asset handling, and would be a nice win.

8.6+: A Media Library in core

The top two requested features for the content creator persona are richer image and media integration and digital asset management.

The top content author improvements for Drupal
The results of the State of Drupal 2016 survey show the importance of the Media Initiative for content authors.

With a Media Library content authors can select pre-existing media from a library and easily embed it in their posts. Having a Media Library in core would be very impactful for content authors as it helps with both these feature requests.

During the 8.4 development cycle, a lot of great work was done to prototype the Media Library discussed in my previous Media Initiative blog post. I was able to show that progress in my DrupalCon Vienna keynote:

The Media Library work uses the new Media API in core. Now that the new Media API landed in Drupal 8.4 we can start focusing more on the Media Library. Due to bandwidth constraints, we don't think the Media Library will be ready in time for the Drupal 8.5 release. If you want to help contribute time or funding to the development of the Media Library, have a look at the roadmap of the Media Initiative or let me know and I'll get you in touch with the team behind the Media Initiative.

Special thanks to Angie Byron for contributions to this blog post and to Janez Urevc, Sean Blommaert, Marcos Cano Miranda, Adam G-H and Gábor Hojtsy for their feedback during the writing process.

Acquia Engage 2017 keynote

This October, Acquia welcomed over 650 people to the fourth annual Acquia Engage conference. In my opening keynote, I talked about the evolution of Acquia's product strategy and the move from building websites to creating customer journeys. You can watch a recording of my keynote (30 minutes) or download a copy of my slides (54 MB).

I shared that a number of new technology trends have emerged, such as conversational interfaces, beacons, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and more. These trends give organizations the opportunity to re-imagine their customer experience. Existing customer experiences can be leapfrogged by taking advantage of more channels and more data (e.g. be more intelligent, be more personalized, and be more contextualized).

Digital market trends aligning

I gave an example of this in a blog post last week, which showed how augmented reality can improve the shopping experience and help customers make better choices. It's just one example of how these new technologies advance existing customer experiences and move our industry from website management to customer journey management.

Some of the most important market trends in digital for 2017

This is actually good news for Drupal as organizations will have to create and manage even more content. This content will need to be optimized for different channels and audience segments. However, it puts more emphasis on content modeling, content workflows, media management and web service integrations.

I believe that the transition from web content management to data-driven customer journeys is full of opportunity, and it has become clear that customers and partners are excited to take advantage of these new technology trends. This year's Acquia Engage showed how our own transformation will empower organizations to take advantage of new technology and transform how they do business.