I'm frequently sent examples of how Drupal has changed the lives of developers, business owners and end users. Recently, I received a very different story of how Drupal had helped in a rescue operation that saved a man's life.
The Snowdonia Ultra Marathon website
In early 2018, Race Director Mike Jones was looking to build a new website for the Ultra-Trail Snowdonia ultra marathon. He reached out to a good friend and developer, Rob Edwards, to lead the development of the website.
Rob chose Drupal for its flexibility and extensibility. As an organization supported heavily by volunteers, open source also fit the Snowdonia team's belief in community.
The resulting website, https://apexrunning.co/, included a custom-built timing module. This module allowed volunteers to register each runner and their time at every aid stop.
A runner goes missing
Rob attended the first day of Ultra-Trail Snowdonia to ensure the website ran smoothly. He also monitored the runners at the end of the race to certify they were all accounted for.
Monitoring the system into the early hours of the morning, Rob noticed one runner, after successfully completing checkpoints one and two, hadn't passed through the third checkpoint.
Each runner carried a mobile phone with them for emergencies. Mike attempted to make contact with the runner via phone to ensure he was safe. However, this specific area was known for its poor signal and the connection was too weak to get through.
After some more time eagerly watching the live updates, it was clear the runner hadn't reached checkpoint four and more likely hadn't ever made it past checkpoint three. The Ogwen Mountain Rescue were called to action.
Due to the terrain and temperature, searching for the lost runner on foot would be too slow. Instead, the mountain rescue volunteers used a helicopter to scan the area and locate the runner.
How Drupal came to rescue
The area covered by runners in an ultra marathon like this one is vast. The custom-built timing module helped rescuers narrow down the search area; they knew the runner passed the second checkpoint but never made it to the third.
After following the fluorescent orange markers in the area pinpointed by the Drupal website, the team quickly found the individual. He had fallen and become too injured to carry on. A mild case of hypothermia had set in. The runner was airlifted to the hospital for appropriate care. The good news: the runner survived.
Without Drupal, it might have taken much longer to notify anyone that a runner had gone missing, and there would have been no way to tell when he had dropped off.
NFC and GPS devices are now being explored for these ultra marathon runners to carry with them to provide location data as an extra safety precaution. The Drupal system will be used alongside these devices for more accurate time readings, and Rob is looking into an API to pull this additional data into the Drupal website.
Stories about Drupal having an impact on organizations and individuals, or even helping out in emergencies, drive my sense of purpose. Feel free to keep sending them my way!
The result is that I went from checking Facebook several times a day to once or twice a month.
Facebook can't be trusted
At the time I uninstalled the Facebook application from my phone, Mark Zuckerberg promised that he would fix Facebook. He didn't.
The remainder of 2018 was filled with Facebook scandals, including continued mishandling of personal data and privacy breaches, more misinformation, and a multitude of shady business practices.
Things got worse, not better.
The icing on the cake is that a few weeks ago we learned that Facebook knowingly duped children and their parents out of money, in some cases hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and often refused to give the money back.
And just last week, it was reported that Facebook had been collecting users' data by getting people to install a mobile application that gave Facebook root access to their network traffic.
It's clear that Facebook can't be trusted. And for that reason, I'm out.
I deleted my Facebook account twenty minutes ago.
Social media's dark side
Social media, in general, have been enablers of community, transparency and positive change, but also of abuse, hate speech, bullying, misinformation, government manipulation and more. In just the past year, more and more users have woken up to the dark side of social media. Open Web and privacy advocates, on the other hand, have seen this coming for awhile.
I plan to stay off Facebook indefinitely, unless maybe there is a new CEO and better regulatory oversight.
I already stopped using Twitter to share personal updates and use it almost exclusively for Drupal-related updates. It remains a valuable channel to reach many people, but I wouldn't categorize my use as social anymore.
For now, I'm still on Instagram, but it's hard to ignore that Instagram is owned by Facebook. I will probably uninstall that next.
Since I scaled back my use of social media a year ago, I blogged more, re-subscribed to many RSS feeds, and grew increasingly interested in the IndieWeb — all small shifts back to the Open Web's roots.
I plan to continue to work on my POSSE plan, and hope to share more thoughts on this topic in the coming weeks.
I'd love to see thousands more people join or rejoin the Open Web, and help innovate on top of it.
In a two-week timeframe, the site successfully welcomed tens of millions of visitors and served hundreds of millions of page views.
I'm very proud of the fact that many of the world's largest sporting events and media organizations (such as NBC Sports who host the Super Bowl and Olympics in the US) trust Acquia and Drupal as their chosen digital platform.
When the world is watching an event, there is no room for error!
Many thanks to the round-the-clock efforts from Acquia's team in Asia Pacific, as well as our partners at Avanade!
Every year, I sit down to write my annual Acquia retrospective. It's a rewarding exercise, because it allows me to reflect on how much progress Acquia has made in the past 12 months.
Overall, Acquia had an excellent 2018. I believe we are a much stronger company than we were a year ago; not only because of our financial results, but because of our commitment to strengthen our product and engineering teams.
If you'd like to read my previous retrospectives, they can be found here: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009. This year marks the publishing of my tenth retrospective. When read together, these posts provide a comprehensive overview of Acquia's growth and trajectory.
In 2018, the Acquia marketing team also worked hard to update Acquia's brand. The result is a refreshed look and updated brand positioning that better reflects our vision, culture, and the value we offer our customers. This included updating our tagline to read: Experience Digital Freedom.
Mike Sullivan completed his first year as Acquia's CEO, and demonstrated a strong focus on improving Acquia's business fundamentals across operational efficiency, gross margins and cost optimization. The results have been tangible, as Acquia has realized unprecedented financial growth in 2018:
In 2018, Acquia also witnessed unprecedented success in Europe and Asia, as new bookings in EMEA were up more than 100 percent. This included expanding our European headquarters to a new and larger space with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the mayor of Reading in the U.K.
Acquia also expanded its presence in Asia, and opened Tokyo-based operations in 2018. Over the past few years I visited Japan twice, and I'm excited for the opportunities that doing business in Japan offers.
We selected Pune as the location for our new India office, and we are in the process of hiring our first Pune-based engineers.
Acquia now has four offices in the Asia Pacific region serving customers like Astellas Pharmaceuticals, Muji, Mediacorp, and Brisbane City Council.
In 2018, we welcomed more than 650 attendees to Austin, Texas, for our annual customer conference, Acquia Engage. In June, we also held our first Acquia Engage Europe and welcomed 300 attendees.
Our Engage conferences included presentations from customers like Paychex, NBC Sports, Wendy's, West Corporation, General Electric, Charles Schwab, Pac-12 Networks, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Bayer, Virgin Sport, and more. We also featured keynote presentations from our partner network, including VMLY&R, Accenture Interactive, IBM iX and MRM//McCann.
Both customers and partners continue to be the most important driver of Acquia's product strategy, and it's always rewarding to hear about this success first hand. In fact, 2018 customer satisfaction levels remain extremely high at 94 percent.
Finally, Acquia's partner network continues to become more sophisticated. In the second half of 2018, we right sized our partner community from 2,270 firms to 226. This was a bold move, but our goal was to place a renewed focus on the partners who were both committed to Acquia and highly capable. As a result, we saw almost 52 percent year-over-year growth in partner-sourced ACV bookings. This is meaningful because for every $1 Acquia books in collaboration with a partner, our partner makes about $5 in services revenue.
2018 was one of the busiest years I have experienced; it was full of non-stop action every day. My biggest focus was working with Acquia's product and engineering team. We focused on growing and improving our R&D organization, modernizing Acquia Cloud, becoming user-experience first, redesigning the Acquia Lift user experience, working on headless Drupal, making Drupal easier to use, and expanding our commerce strategy.
I spent a lot of time restructuring, improving and scaling the product organization to make sure we could handle the increased capacity and build out a world-class R&D organization.
As the year progressed, R&D capacity came online and our ability to innovate not only improved but accelerated significantly. We entered 2019 in a much better position as we now have a lot more capacity to innovate.
Acquia Cloud and Acquia Cloud Site Factory support some of the largest and most mission-critical websites in the world. The scope and complexity that Acquia Cloud and Acquia Cloud Site Factory manages is enormous. We easily deliver more than 30 billion page views a month (excluding CDN).
Over the course of 10 years, the Acquia Cloud codebase had grown very large. Updating, testing and launching new releases took a long time because we had one large, monolithic codebase. This was something we needed to change in order to add new features faster.
Over the course of 2018, the engineering team broke the monolithic codebase down into discrete components that can be tested and released independently. We launched our component-based architecture in June. Since then, the engineering team has released changes to production 650 times, compared to our historic pace of doing one release per quarter.
Planning and designing for all of these services took a lot of time and focus, and was a large priority for the entire engineering team (including me). The fruits of these efforts will start to become more publicly visible in 2019. I'm excited to share more with you in future blog posts.
Acquia Cloud also remains the most secure and compliant cloud for Drupal. As we were componentizing the Acquia Cloud platform, the requirements to maintain our FedRAMP compliance became much more stringent. In April, the GDPR deadline was also nearing. Executing on hundreds of FedRAMP- and GDPR-related tasks emerged as another critical priority for many of our product and engineering teams. I'm proud that the team succeeded in accomplishing this amid all the other changes we were making.
Customer experience first
Over the years, I've felt Acquia lacked a focus on user experience (UX) for both developers and marketers. As a result, increasing the capacity of our R&D team included doubling the size of the UX team.
We've stepped up our UX research to better understand the needs and challenges of those who use Acquia products. We've begun to employ design-first methodologies, such as design sprints and a lean-UX approach. We've also created roles for customer experience designers, so that we're looking at the full customer journey rather than just our product interfaces.
With the extra capacity and data-driven changes in place, we've been working hard on updating the user experience for the entire Acquia Experience Platform. For example, you can see a preview of our new Acquia Lift product in this video, which has an increased focus on UX:
Acquia remains very committed to Drupal, and was the largest contributor to the project in 2018. We now have more than 15 employees who contribute to Drupal full-time, in addition to many others that contribute periodically. In 2018, the Drupal team's main areas of focus have been Layout Builder and the API-first initiative:
Layout Builder: Layout Builder offers content authors an easy-to-use page building experience. It's shaping up to be one of the most useful and pervasive features ever added to Drupal because it redefines the how editors control the appearance of their content without having to rely on a developer.
API First: This initiative has given Drupal a true best-in-class web services API for using Drupal as a headless content management system. Headless Drupal is one of the fastest growing segments of Drupal implementations.
Content and Commerce
Adobe's acquisition of Magento has been very positive for us; we're now the largest commerce-agnostic content management company to partner with. As a result, we decided to extend our investments in headless commerce and set up partnerships with Elastic Path and BigCommerce. The momentum we've seen from these partnerships in a short amount of time is promising for 2019.
The market continues to move in Acquia's direction
In 2019, I believe Acquia will continue to be positioned for long-term growth. Here are a few reasons why:
The current markets for content and digital experience management continues to grow rapidly, at approximately 20 percent per year.
Digital transformation is top-of-mind for all organizations, and impacts all elements of their business and value chain.
Cloud adoption continues to grow. Unlike most of our CMS competitors, Acquia was born in the cloud.
Drupal and Acquia are leaders in headless and decoupled content management, which is a fast growing segment of our market.
Conversational interfaces and augmented reality continues to grow, and we embraced these channels a few years ago. Acquia Labs, our research and innovation lab, explored how organizations can use conversational UIs to develop beyond-the-browser experiences, like cooking with Alexa, and voice-enabled search for customers like Purina.
Although we hold a leadership position in our market, our relative market share is small. These trends mean that we should have plenty of opportunity to grow in 2019 and beyond.
While 2018 was an incredibly busy year, it was also very rewarding. I have a strong sense of gratitude, and admire every Acquian's relentless determination and commitment to improve. As always, none of these results and milestones would be possible without the hard work of the Acquia team, our customers, partners, the Drupal community, and our many friends.
I've always been pretty transparent about our trajectory (e.g. Acquia 2009 roadmap and Acquia 2017 strategy) and will continue to do so in 2019. We have some big plans for 2019, and I'm excited to share them with you. If you want to get notified about what we have in store, you can subscribe to my blog at https://dri.es/subscribe.
Like many other organizations, institutions like the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission build upon Free Software to run their websites and many other things. But the Internet is not only crucial to our economy and our administration, it is the infrastructure that runs our everyday lives.
With over 150 Drupal sites, the European Commission is a big Drupal user, and has a large internal Drupal community. The European Commission set aside 89,000€ (or roughly $100,000 USD) for a Drupal bug bounty. They worked closely with Drupal's Security Team to set this up. To participate in the Drupal bug bounty, read the guidelines provided by Drupal's Security Team.
Over the years I've had many meetings with the European Commission, presented keynotes at some of its events, and more. During that time, I've seen the European Commission evolve from being hesitant about Open Source to recognizing the many benefits that Open Source provides for its key ICT services, to truly embracing Open Source.
In many ways, the European Commission followed classic Open Source adoption patterns; adoption went from being technology-led (bottom-up or grassroots) to policy-led (top-down and institutionalized), and now the EU is an active participant and contributor.
Today, the European Commission is a shining example and role model for how governments and other large organizations can contribute to Open Source (just like how the White House used to be).
The European Commission is actually investing in Drupal in a variety of ways — the bug bounty is just one example of that — but more about that in a future blog post.