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A decade of Drupal

An article from ComputerMinds - Building with Drupal in the UK since 2005
15th Oct 2019

James Williams

Senior Developer

Last month I begun my second decade of working with Drupal! How crazy is that? I started at ComputerMinds in 2009. Drupalcon Paris was my first week on the job - I just remember taking so many notes, as if it were a university course! I had a lot to learn then, but now I can look back with a much more experienced head, hopefully wiser, with some sort of perspective.

Conference room before the keynote at Drupalcon Paris 2009
The conference room before the keynote at Drupalcon Paris 2009, when my career with Drupal began.

 

My first steps with Drupal were on Drupal 6. It could do a lot (at least once CCK and Views were installed), and Wordpress was much smaller so the two were still occupying a similar space in the market. Most of the sites we built were trying to be a mini social network, a blog, or a brochure site, sometimes with e-commerce thrown in. There were rounded corners everywhere, garish pinks, and some terribly brittle javascript. Supporting Internet Explorer 6 was a nightmare, but still necessary.

It's probably only over the last few years that it became clear that Drupal's strength is its ability to be turned to just about anything that a website needs to do. That has meant that whilst alternative products have picked up the simpler sites, Drupal has been brilliant for projects with complex requirements. Integrating with CRMs and all sorts of other APIs, handling enormous traffic loads, providing content for apps - this kind of stuff has always been Drupal's jam. You just have to know how to get it hooked up in all the right places!

Speaking of hooks, it's been interesting to see Drupal move from its famous magical hooks, towards event-driven architecture. For me, that single shift represented an enormous change in direction for Drupal. I believe the events/subscriber pattern, as a part of a wider effort in Drupal 8 to deliberately use existing well-defined design patterns and solutions, is a sign of a much more mature and professional platform. Most coding problems have been solved well elsewhere, we shouldn't reinvent the wheel! (Although I know I can be guilty of that!) That's just one example of how the Drupal ecosystem has become more professional over the last ten years. Formal testing is another example. Many people have felt left behind by this shift, as a need in the enterprise world that Drupal could meet was identified. 'Enterprise' gets used as a dirty word sometimes - but to be frank, there's more money and more suitable opportunity there!

That is something the Drupal community has to be honest about. It is rightly aiming to champion diversity, and be as accessible as possible for as many as possible across the world (I especially love that Drupal is now so good for multilingual projects). It's not like Drupal is suddenly inappropriate for smaller projects - in fact, I'd still suggest it's far ahead in many aspects.

But money makes things happen, and gives people their livelihood. I appreciate seeing honesty and innovation about this coming from community leaders. Thankfully those kinds of values are what drive the Drupal project, even if money is often the facilitator. As a community we must always fight to keep those things in the right relation to each other: money has an inevitable influence that we must accept, but it must be led by us and our values, not the other way around. I should add that I am very aware that I am privileged to be a developer in a leading Drupal agency, so my opinion will be shaped by that position!

To end with honesty and innovation myself, I would love to see the following carried into the Drupal project's next 10 years, which I saw the community espouse over the last decade. I know I need to grow in these things myself!

  • Maintain excellence, even as the make-up of the community changes.
  • Deliberately listen to under-represented portions of the community, as an intentional force against the skewing effect of money/power.
  • Keep watch for what competitors and other relevant products are doing, to incorporate worthwhile things wherever possible.
  • Reflect on the strengths & weaknesses of Drupal (and its community) with honesty. Let's make the most of what makes Drupal what it is and not be afraid for it to focus on that; the same goes for us as individuals.

I'm proud to work with Drupal, long may it continue!

Hi, thanks for reading

ComputerMinds are the UK’s Drupal specialists with offices in Bristol and Coventry. We offer a range of Drupal services including Consultancy, Development, Training and Support. Whatever your Drupal problem, we can help.