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Alex Ross on Drupal, module maintenance, NYC DrupalCamp, and getting kicked out of 30 Rock -20 Years of Drupal - Tag1 Team Talk
Episode 9916th August 2022 • Tag1 Team Talks | The Tag1 Consulting Podcast • Tag1 Consulting, Inc.
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Tag1’s 20 years of Drupal series continues with Alex Ross (bleen | Drupal.org), Sr. Director of Software Engineering at NBC Universal. Alex’s long experience with Drupal starts like many others - where he fell into it almost by accident. From his beginnings as a ‘dumpster diver’ in the issue queue, to becoming an organizer for Drupal Camp NYC, Alex has contributed to Drupal and the community in significant ways.

Join Tag1 Managing Director Michael Meyers as he and Alex talk about the history of NYC Drupal Camp, Alex’s journey with and beyond Drupal, and the ups and downs of the changes that have come to Drupal over the last 20 years. You’ll also hear about being a module owner and maintainer, and get a first-hand account of working with the Drupal Security team!

Transcripts

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Hello, and welcome to Tag1 Team Talks, the vlog and podcast of Tag1

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Consulting .We're celebrating over 20 years of Drupal with an interview

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series, featuring community leaders talking about their Drupal experience.

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I'm really excited to have Alex Ross on the show today.

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Alex is the senior director of software engineering at NBC Universal, but you

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may also know him bleen on drupal.org.

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Alex, welcome, and thank you so much for joining us.

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Absolutely.

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Thanks for having me.

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To give everybody a little bit of background.

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Um, Alex has been a member of the community for around 16 years and he's

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contributed in countless ways to Drupal and the Drupal platform and the Drupal

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community, uh, today we're gonna touch on what he likes about the platform,

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uh, what he'd like to see change, uh, his role as a module maintainer.

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Uh, his many projects include reCaptcha, dart, uh, advanced image crop, Akamai

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ESI, uh, just to name a few as well as how his contributions have changed over time.

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We're also gonna talk about his role as the co-organizer of the

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New York City Drupal meetup.

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It's not only one of the best run and most well attended meetups I've been to.

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Um, and I've been to a ton of Drupal meetups around the world.

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Uh, it's also one of the most gorgeous meetup settings hosted by NBC U

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at the famous 30 Rock headquarters in a beautiful conference room,

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overlooking Rockefeller Center.

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So if you're ever in New York City and they're running

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them, please go check 'em out.

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I'm Michael Meyers, the managing director of Tag1 Consulting.

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Tag1 is the number two all time contributor to Drupal.

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And we build large scale applications for Fortune five hundreds and large

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organizations in every sector with Drupal.

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As well as many other technologies.

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Dries, the founder of Drupal once said is really the Drupal community

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and not so much the software that makes Drupal what it is.

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And so our goal with this interview series is to introduce you to community

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leaders, talk about their stories and in sharing these stories, we hope

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that they will inspire you to get more involved in open source communities.

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So, Alex, when did you first discover Drupal and, you know,

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do you recall your initial assessment or thinking at the time.

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Yeah, I, I actually remember it pretty well.

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Um, I was working at a nonprofit called Do Something and it was my first job

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really after I finished grad school.

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And I was trying, trying to figure out which way was up.

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And, um, we had an intern, a high school intern, Andrew Levine,

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um, who to this day is one of the smartest people that I, I ever met.

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And I'm still waiting for my call so that I can go work for him one day.

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But, um, he came in my office and we were trying to figure out, um,

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how to put the new website together.

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And he said, you know, have you heard about this Drupal thing?

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And I was like, I have no idea what you're talking about.

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And so I went over to his desk and he started kind of, you

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know, giving me the guided tour.

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And he was trying to explain to me what a node was versus a module.

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Um, and they, at that moment, I actually remember that conversation really well.

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I had a really hard time distinguishing the difference between a node and a

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module, because this was back in Drupal 5.

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When a node, uh, you know, to, to kind of define a new node type

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was basically create a new module.

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Um, and it, it was a very confusing time.

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Um, but I remember that really well.

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And, and I said, I don't know, this seems like overly complex.

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All we need is a simple website.

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Um, and then two days later he walked into my office and said,

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okay, I made you a simple website.

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And that was kind of like, no, surely not.

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I mean, we had to have, um, you know, a, a certain set of, of features

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and there's no way you could clearly have made everything that we need.

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And he, you know, he walked me through it and it didn't have

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everything, but it had a lot.

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Um, and so we kind of started there and, and played with it for a while.

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And I finally figured out the difference between a node and a module.

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And, uh, the rest is history.

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They issues entities and always,

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Oh yeah.

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Then entities became a thing and it was great.

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So, you know, you went from discovering Drupal.

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Um, how did you get engaged in, uh, contribution?

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Uh, and do you remember what your first contribution is?

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Mm-hmm so when, um, I don't remember exactly what I was trying to do.

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Um, but I was, I was trying to do something and we were, you know, running

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into a wall and I was searching through all the, the various posts on drupal.org.

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And, um, I found an issue that had nothing to do with the

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problem that we were having.

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But I'm like, oh, I have that same issue.

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And, and that, it was actually like a defining moment for me.

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It suddenly occurred to me that I'm not the only person that's using this thing.

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There are, I hadn't been introduced to other open source projects.

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I wasn't really into it.

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And, and it suddenly dawned on me.

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Oh, wait a minute.

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Some, some guy in, in, you know, Portland was having the

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same problem that I was having.

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And if I start to read through and I was able, it was something else that I,

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you know, I wasn't trying to solve at that moment, but it was something else.

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And by reading through that issue, I was able to really understand, oh, okay.

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So he tried this and this and this.

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Well, I tried this and this and this.

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And so I put a comment in there that was just like, oh, I tried this other thing.

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And that didn't work either.

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Anybody you know.

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And eventually someone else commented and someone else commented, which was amazing.

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Um, it hadn't dawned on me that that could happen.

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Um, and then skip ahead a little bit of time before I actually was like, okay,

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I've looked at enough of these and I've read through enough of these now that

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I, I feel like I could take something.

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So I went, I, I actually went dumpster diving in the issue queue

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and just found something that I thought was simple enough that I

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could do without embarrassing myself.

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Um, and it was, they were working on the, the shortcuts module at the

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time, um, which I don't even think exists anymore, but it, it was there

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and it was great at the time and they were trying to get it into Drupal.

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I think they were trying to get it into Drupal 6, but didn't manage to get it

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there and it ended up in Drupal seven.

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Um, uh, but there was a, um, like a, a.

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An issue with the little icon that showed up next to it being totally out

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of place in a certain circumstance.

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And I was like, I know how to fix that.

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Um, and I won't embarrass myself doing it and I did it and, and, you know,

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webchick committed it ultimately and made some comment about tar and feathering

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me, and I thought it was hilarious.

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And, and then I just.

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I, I got like a, a, you know, an adrenaline high from that.

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So I said, oh, I'll do another one.

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And I did another one and I did another one.

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Then I suddenly like, you know, decided, wait a minute, I should probably

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do these for things that I actually like need to focus on and, and, you

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know, try to scratch my own itch.

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I, I love the concept of dumpster diving in the issue queue.

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Yeah.

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um, and just to remind people, like, you know, we got involved

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in Drupal almost 20 years ago.

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Um, Open source, you know, it was there, you know, Linux, you know, was around,

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but like almost everything I had done and built was in proprietary software.

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And I had a very similar experience.

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It was like transformative, of course, nowadays it's, you know, GitHub,

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you know, it's sort of the norm.

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Um, but you know, it's, it's, it's interesting to, to see how

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long it took to get to this point.

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Um.

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I, I agree.

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I, I remember trying to convince once I, once I left this nonprofit that I was

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working for and I was working for kind of more, you know, larger corporations

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and what, and trying to convince them about open source and what the value

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of it was to even a big corporation.

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Well, it was an uphill, it was an uphill discussion, cuz if, if, if you couldn't

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point them to the company that they had to write a check to, you know, so that

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they can yell at them when something didn't work, then they didn't want it.

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And that was a, that was a weird conversation with them is like, no,

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no, no, you don't have to write the check, but you have to make sure

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that everybody has, um, the freedom to go in and like spend the time to

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fix the issues that you want fixed.

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Um, that was a very confusing thing to the corporate types that I was, I

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started to work for back in the day.

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Um, how did you end up with 'bleen' as your username?

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So there's a, there's a real story.

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When I was, I must have been 12 or something and AOL

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started to become a thing.

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Um, and you had to pick your AOL username in order to IM people.

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Um, and I had very recently played a joke on a friend of mine based on a there's

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an old George Carlin routine, actually, where he's reading the, the fake news.

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And one of the fake news stories is scientists at Caltech have discovered

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a new number, the number is bleen they claim it comes between six and seven.

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And I thought this was like the funniest thing I had ever heard.

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And I convinced a friend of mine in middle school that it was true.

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And like, just for like, like a couple of hours during the day.

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And I convinced her, it was real and she's sitting there

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like, well, but wait a minute.

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Then what comes after 16 and I'm like 'well, bleenteen'.

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I'm just trying to like go with it.

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Um, and it happened that that was the week that I needed to pick my AOL IM

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name and, you know, so there it was and it stuck and it's been bleen ever since.

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So that is the origin of bleen.

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Is AIM around anymore?

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I don't think aim is around anymore, but yeah, that was, that was me.

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I was bleen67 on aim.

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Oh, it was good times.

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I love that you've kept that since 12, that's amazing.

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Yep.

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That's just been my online persona and, and it's, it's increased in meaning

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since then, like there was an episode of, uh, for you kids out there, there was a

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show called Married with Children, which was, uh, you know, kind of Al Bundy.

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Um, and there was an episode of that where, um, she discovered a

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new color, which was bleen, which is a mix between blue and green.

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And there was, you know, so, and then there was a, a Russian pop group that, uh,

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uh, started called bleen and they stole bleen.com before I could get ahold of it.

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So, oh, well, ah,

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Gotta monitor that and grab it.

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Um, so how did you go from.

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Making individual contributions to becoming a module

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maintainer.

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Yeah.

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Um, the, the first, I don't remember which one it was, but the first module

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I started maintaining, I, I started kind of co-maintaining a module that

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existed and was out there in the world.

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Um, but I know that I did it because I was very dogmatic when it came to, if I

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patch a module, I want that patch to be in the module so that I don't have to like

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care and feed for that patch any longer.

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And so I posted my patch up to, I don't remember which one it was, but

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up to whatever the issue queue it was for that module, suggesting that

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it get, um, that it'd get committed.

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And the, the person who was, um, maintaining the module just wasn't

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responsive and, and whatnot.

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So I.

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Kind of kept stalking him and said, you know, if you let me put this

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patch in I'll co maintain the module.

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And he's like, oh, thank God.

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And, you know, cuz he, he was done with this particular module.

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Mm-hmm.

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Um, and so I did and, and you know, so I, I, I got to commit my patch

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in and make sure I didn't have to, to worry about it anymore.

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Um, and then, you know, I, I, I liked the, um, the activities that were kind of

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involved with evaluating other people's suggestions and patches and whatnot.

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And so I got to play in that sandbox for a little while.

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Um, and then, you know, once you do that, then you get to be, actually,

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this was back when you had to like, get permission from someone to

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maintain a module, um, like to start a module, you had to like, know someone.

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Um, and, uh, uh, I was at, I don't remember where I was, but one of, one of

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the, the folks that I had been working with, um, you know, knew the right person

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and, and got me got me in so I could have, um, maintainer permissions on drupal.org.

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Um, yeah, but that's how I got into it.

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And then once I started like kind of creating my own modules,

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that would actually be useful.

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I was like, all right.

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I think, you know, one of the most amazing things to me about ju is, is, and this is

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inextricably linked to the success of the software, but, you know, the size of the

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community has grown so much over time.

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And we had to evolve from the had to know someone who knew someone to now there's

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all these like rules and regulations and formal processes, you know, and,

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and that's critical to, to scaling, um.

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But I think that, you know, not only did the community build great

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software, but they did a really great job of sort of fostering that growth.

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Mm-hmm.

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You know, in context,

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I'll say I miss it.

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I miss the little bit more of the wild west that it started at, right.

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When we first got in there was, and I understand all the reasonings, why it

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has, you know, kind of evolved how it has, but I, there was a little bit of

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a sense of, um, or there was a little bit more of a sense of I'm just gonna

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go in there and I'm gonna fix that.

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And I, and, and so I did, whereas now it's, I'm gonna go in there and fix that.

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But I'm gonna talk to these three people first and I'm gonna come up

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with a plan and we're gonna like, you know, schedule it in for something.

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And, and it's, it's just a little less, um, you know, just, I don't even know

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the word, but it's, it's just, there's a little bit less of that, uh, ownership,

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even I would say on the part of just an individual who's just jumping in.

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Yeah, no, I mean, it, I, I agree a hundred percent.

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It impacts everything from like the pace of innovation of the community.

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Yeah.

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Because we have to go through this, you know, whole process it's, uh, for me it

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is so frustrating, you know, like the length of time, like it, like, if you

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think about how we build software at work, uh, even if we end up open sourcing it,

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like, it's, it's a very streamlined, you know, if not very aggressive process,

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um, and, and, you know, um, Then you go into the community now with all

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sorts, you know, it's because it's so mature, you know, I wonder if that's

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impacting, you know, people's desire to contribute because it's a totally

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different world than it was, you know?

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Yeah.

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I, no, I, I agree.

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I think that it is a lot harder now for someone to just make that leap

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and say, um, you know, oh, I just found an issue that I, you know,

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uh, uh, that I think I can handle.

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I'll just throw a patch in there.

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You know, I think it's, I think if there's a bigger barrier

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entry for that, for that person.

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Much more so now than there was

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Yeah.

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You have to really care about it to navigate the issue queue and fight for it.

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Yeah.

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It's not a casual affair anymore.

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Yeah, but, but on the flip side, you're, you're, you know, less kind of, less

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bad code gets in now, you know, that you're gonna have to like, uh, uh,

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worry about in two years, how are we gonna unwind this mess kind of thing?

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Yeah.

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It is a very thoughtful process.

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And again, it's, it's probably a big part of why things are still around after 20

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years is because that, you know, so it's, it's, it's the, the trade offs, I guess.

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Um, you know, you mentioned something, you know, you you're, you know, you

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went to the module maintainer, he was so thrilled that you wanted to take it over.

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You know, there's sort of a life cycle of being a module maintainer, where

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it gets to the point where like, it becomes this, you know, thankless task

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and everybody wants you to do something.

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And like, you know, , um, you know, having maintained so many modules, you know, uh,

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and looking back, is there any advice that you would give a module maintainer, you

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know, for their sanity, for their success?

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Um, yeah, I, I mean, I would say that, um, one thing I would say one

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mistake I made early on is thinking I needed to do everything that

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was suggested in the issue queue.

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Like there was very early on, especially I would, someone would propose, oh, it would

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be really great if it had this feature.

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And so suddenly I'm like, oh man, I have homework now, you know, like, okay.

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And I gotta, I gotta like figure out how to help this person's use case.

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Um, whereas today it's much more so, um, you know, I, I, I, I have much more of my

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own opinion about how the module should be used or, or, you know, what the, the

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right, you know, the right way to, to, uh, decide what, uh, what feature is actually,

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um Applicable in that particular case.

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And I've said, no, you know, that it took me a long time as a module

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maintainer before I was like, no, I don't think that's the right thing to do.

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I mean, you gotta be nice about it and you want to, you know, you

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know, you don't wanna be just an obnoxious, like, no, I hate you.

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Um, but, uh, but you should have your own kind of point of view of,

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of your module and where it, where it should go, where you want it to go.

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Um, you know, that's, I'd say that's advice.

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Awesome.

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Um, you know, uh, we, we all know that, um, successful, open source

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projects are, are more than code.

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You know, I mentioned at the opening, you know, uh, Dries's' quote that I love.

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Um, you were a big part of the New York city meetup.

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Uh, I lived in New York city for most of my life.

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Um, you know, um, How did you first get involved in New York city meetup?

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Uh, you know, uh, had it, was it already established, uh, when you came it really?

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Yeah, it was established when I came along.

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Um, so my kind of, um, the first person, I really kind of like looked up to

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that I was able to meet in person in the Drupal community was, uh, was, was

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Robbie the geek, um, uh, Robbie Holmes.

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And he was running it at the time that I kind of joined and it was being, uh,

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it was meeting up at the World Trade Center actually, um, in World Trade

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Four, if I remember, I remember the conference room really well, it was at

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some magazine publisher was supposed to

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Fast company.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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I think that was it.

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Yeah.

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Um, and, um, and I remember having a similar experience to what I described

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before is I, I kind of walked in this room, um, and there were 50

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other people who knew the thing.

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I knew that.

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I didn't think other people knew, you know, and, um, they presented a bunch

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of, you know, interesting stuff and Hey, I'm working on this module or someone

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else presented on, um, you know, at the time I forget what it was called.

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There was a fork of Drupal 6, um, that like allowed for like

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caching to work properly, um,

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Pressflow.

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Press flow.

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Yeah.

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And someone was, you know, someone was presenting on like, what were

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the things they actually changed in Pressflow, like make it work.

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Um, because prior to that, and, and I remember prior to that, it was to

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me again, I, I became very dogmatic about open source, even though I didn't

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really understand it to its fullest.

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Um, and to me, the idea that someone had forked Drupal itself and made

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some changes was like forboden.

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That's awful because now every time there's an update, I'm gonna have to

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worry about the fact that, um, there's a new version of Drupal 6, but there

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are these little tweaks and changes that I have to worry about over here.

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What's gonna happen there.

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I didn't realize at the time that the people who were running Pressflow were

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basically like the kind of pinnacle of Drupal, and I didn't really have to worry,

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but until I saw that presentation at that meetup, um, I, I really had no idea.

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Um, but I was also, I was very surprised I had the number of people that were there.

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It was like 50 or 60 people that were there all stuffed into

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this conference room that was not meant for 50 or 60 people.

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Um, And I just, you know, then, then it just became about,

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I like these people, right?

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These are actually some, some pretty cool people.

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I enjoy spending time with these people.

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So I would go regularly and you know, this one moved and that one

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got a different job and whatever.

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And eventually like, you know, you, you fall into this thing.

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Nobody, I don't think anybody grows up and says, I wanna run

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the Drupal meet up when I grow up.

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I think you, you just kind of become one of the, uh, the organizers.

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Um, and we were able to do it at, at 30 Rock for quite some time.

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Um, but, uh, unfortunately, um, you know, uh, there was a period,

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actually, it was right before COVID where, uh, the Rockefeller center

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security folks decided that they were no longer gonna allow us to do it.

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So it did end at Rockefeller center a couple years ago.

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Um, and then since then, uh, it's been largely taken over by a couple

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other people and they've been doing remote meet ups, um, which is great.

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And it's allowed certain people to kind of come back who were part of the community.

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And, um, you know, they.

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Oops.

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Um, they were able to, uh, you know, kind of rejoin a little bit.

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Um, but yeah,

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Um, I, uh, I vividly remember the, uh, the World Trade Center, that conference table.

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That big, long table.

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You

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. Yep.

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Uh it's.

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It's crazy.

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When you said that, like the memories just came flooding back to me.

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Um, and I also remember every time you'd go to the 30 rock conference,

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you had to like be escorted from the lobby to the room by a page.

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I,

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Kenneth, Kenneth, the page was there to like walk you through your Drupal meet up.

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It was very cool.

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You literally were not allowed to go anywhere if you weren't escorted.

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Uh, it was pretty funny.

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Um, I think, uh, I think the Pressflow folks would prefer you call it a spoon

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cause the fork is such a dirty word.

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It is.

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I know.

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Um, and it, and it really wasn't such a fork.

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It really was like, I remember it was like 14 lines of code that had to change

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in two files, um, just to allow for caching and I, I, you know, but I I'd

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never heard the term, uh, that they, they prefer, I call a spoon rather than a fork.

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I like that a lot actually.

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Definitely going to steal that.

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Moshe Weitzman taught me that.

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I learned spoon for Moshe.

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Um, Fun fact, uh, that was, uh, so Pressflow was created by Tag1 with

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David Strauss, who, you know, is the CTO and co-founder Pantheon, uh, Tag1

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still maintains Drupal 6 Pressflow.

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Wow.

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really?

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Yeah.

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Isn't that crazy?

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Right?

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I mean, I guess there's, there's definitely some sites out there.

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You guys wouldn't be doing it.

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That that's amazing.

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We, uh, yeah, we're the only provider that's left.

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Uh, there are only two, uh, of, uh, Drupal 6 long term support.

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Mm-hmm , we're gonna end it, uh, at the end of this year.

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Um,

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Congratulations.

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it's been like eight years.

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Yeah.

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Uh, but I love that Pressflow is still around.

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Oh, GRA.

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Wow.

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You know, you talked about, you know, the, the maintainer of a, a, you know,

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a module owner is sort of the life cycle and you know how you are, you

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know, how things change over time, you know, the meet up and how that changed.

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Um, your community contributions are similar, right?

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Just like the maturity of the platform.

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It's been a really long time.

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Uh, I'm curious, you know, how have things, you know, uh, have

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things changed over time for you, with your community contributions?

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Yeah.

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Um, definitely.

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And, and, you know, I would say over the last couple of years

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in particular, I've been less involved with the Drupal community.

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I mean, I, I still, I still like it there, so I still kind of poke my head in.

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Um, and I still try and keep in touch with some of the folks that I keep in

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touch with, but in terms of real, you know, uh, substantial contributions.

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It has been a few years.

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I, I think that there's a few reasons why that at least in my case, why that

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happened, um, the most, you know, obvious and, and the easiest to talk about is that

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my team within NBC kind of started moving away from content management in general.

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Right?

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So we, we kind of, there was a reorg of a reorg as, as things

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go in large corporations.

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Um, and my team ended up in a world where we were much more concerned about,

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um, kind of moving, moving our content around to, you know, licensees and, and,

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you know, when Netflix or Hulu writes us a big check, we gotta give them the

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content and, and that sort of stuff.

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Um, and there wasn't so much, um, you know, publishers coming in and like

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curating content and, and hitting save and, and expecting it to show

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up on a site or on a, on a web app or something along those lines.

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Um, so in that sense, it makes a lot of sense, um, uh, that I- my participation

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has dropped because my day to day just doesn't use it so much anywhere.

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We do still have one, um, system that that is in my world

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that's a Drupal based system.

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And I, I love, you know, just checking in with them every so

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often still, but it's just not as much, and it's not as high profile.

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Um, but the other thing I would say is, and we, we touched on this a little bit

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earlier, but I, I think that, um, some of the ways in which the community,

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um, or not the community, but the, the project itself has changed and become more

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complex, um, just to get involved in it, it's become more complex to handle things

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like issue queues and, and handle that sort of, you know, I, I just don't think

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that I had in my personal life, right.

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So if I'm not gonna do it at work, then my only other choice is to

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kind of keep doing it on my own.

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I don't think in my personal life, I had the bandwidth to really

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kind of tackle those things.

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And because they were getting harder and not easier, cuz they were taking more time

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and not less, it, you know, it, it, it was that much more difficult to continue.

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Um, I do still play around, um, in with one of my modules with some regularity,

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which is the Focal point module, which has always been my favorite.

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Um, you know, parents are not supposed to say they have a favorite, but I do.

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Um, and uh, you know, so I, I am in there still, um, just to keep

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myself, you know, up to date and, and know what's going on and I, I

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really enjoy working on that module.

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So I, I kind of play around in there still, but.

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it's definitely less, which is sad, but it's okay.

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Yeah.

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The Drupal community is, you know, of the technology, you

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know, communities and meetups and whatever that I've been part of.

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There's something special about it.

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Mm-hmm there are all these amazing people.

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Um, You know, that I don't get to interact with is as frequently, but

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fundamentally open source is about scratching your own itch, right?

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Yes.

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On altruism and, and, and, you know, it makes total sense.

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Um, you touched on something there, uh, Focal Point.

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I, I saw that you, uh, were credited with a security advisory

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around focal point at one point.

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Mm-hmm.

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And, um, you know, not many people have been involved in the, you know, Drupal.

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Security team, the Drupal security team process, you

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know, it's a pretty small group.

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Yeah.

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You know, do you remember what, what, like, what happened?

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Like what that process was like?

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I, I definitely, I, I believe that the, oh, I think I remember what it was.

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um, I think there were- so Focal Point just to like super high level.

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It allows the user to just, you know, click once on the image once

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they've uploaded and say, here's the important part of the image so

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that whenever the image is cropped later, it crops in the right place.

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And as soon as part of that module, it includes a preview.

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So you hit, you know, preview under your image and it will show

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you of your, um, image styles.

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Oh, these are the five that use focal point.

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And it'll look like this based on, you know, so you may

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have one that's really long.

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We have one that's this way and so on.

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Um, uh, I think that the issue was, if you click that link,

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you could, DDOS a site, right?

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If you, right.

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If you not, if you click the link, but if.

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Um, if you manipulate that link, you could, DDOS a site and try and generate

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like every image a million times for, you know, on, on the entire site or

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something, something along those lines.

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And that's, you know, that's bad.

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Right.

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We, we don't want that.

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Um, and so I worked with, um, the security team, um, on adding a token to the link

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that was then checked on the way in.

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And if that token wasn't there.

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You know, the, um, uh, the, the request would just get denied

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in some fashion or other.

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Um, but I read the process was pretty, it was very similar and very straightforward

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to a normal issue, queue process, um, where someone just reports a bug.

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It was, it was very similar to that.

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Um, you just had, um, a, you know, a, a, a small, but mighty group of

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superheroes who were there helping you like review the patch and whatever it was.

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And they weren't very interested in, does it work?

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They were only really interested in does this solidly very, very specific

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security issue that was brought up.

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Right.

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Um, they're not, they're, they're not looking for the function of

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the, you know, of the module.

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And is it still doing what it's supposed to do, but does it

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prevent a DDOS attack on your site?

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Yes.

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Okay.

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Then we're fine with this patch.

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Um, the rest is up to you sort of thing.

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Um, and then the only other part that was really different is when is when you

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release it, you're kind of at, whereas normally when you're a module maintainer,

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you wanna create a release, you just wake up that morning, you kind of go like

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that, start typing and you have a release.

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Um, whereas with this, you kind of have someone holding your

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hand a little bit along the way.

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Um, and they're like, don't release it now.

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Not now.

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Okay.

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And go, and then, you know, you kind of have a little bit of that start and stop.

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Um, but once you do it, it's just a normal release and you know, then it's out there.

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The, uh, the Focal Point module is really popular.

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And in particular with, with major media companies, I remember, you know,

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working with PAC 12, they loved it.

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You know, it solved two problems for them.

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So I wonder if like your biggest contribution to Drupal was like DDOSing

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every major media company in the world,

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, it is entirely possible.

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I, I actually, I never heard of a situation where it actually happened,

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but someone did, you know, kind of pick up, pick up on it one day and,

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uh, and bring it to my attention.

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So, yeah.

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We, we were talking about, uh, meetups and, you know, I, like I said, I just

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vividly remember that conference room and, you know, even, even conversations

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I had with people it's so crazy.

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Um, do you have like a favorite, uh, memory or experience?

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Um, you know, uh, over the

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years.

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Well, I can tell you this isn't my favorite memory or experience over

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the year at all, but I will tell you that there was a very particular

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reason why we had to stop doing the meetups in the world trade center.

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And it was because of me.

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And there, there was there.

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I, I, and I felt terrible about this, but it happened, there was a, um, there

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was one meetup one night where, um, the, the doors were locked already.

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And you had someone who on the inside had to like wave at the

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motion sensor to unlock the door for the next person to get in.

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And I just, for no reason whatsoever, I decided to jump up and wave

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at the, at the thing, just like that jumped on, wave the thing.

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And there was some woman who worked at fast company in, in the lobby and saw

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me do this and was incensed that I would jump up and fool around during this thing.

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And the next day we got a call that they will no longer allow

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us to host the meetup there.

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So it's definitely not one of my favorite memories, but I do know that

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I am definitely the reason why we had to stop having them there, which is

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part of the reason why I think I felt really guilty and made sure that we

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could have it at NBC, um, afterwards.

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So there you go.

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Um.

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Amazing.

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It was an upgrade.

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That room was way too small for the,

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it worked out at the end, but, um, no, I think, I think one of my

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favorite memories was we used to do, um, Drupal, Drupal camp NYC over

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in Brooklyn at, um, Brooklyn Tech.

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And I, I, my first, one of those, I remember it was before I'd ever been to a

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Drupalcon and I remember going there and I got my white, you know, I Heart Drupal,

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you know, t-shirt, uh, no, I I Drupal NY t-shirt, which I still have if I go in the

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other room, um, it's old now and it's kind of ratty, but it, I still got that one.

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Um, and you know, I, I was just like, you know, session after session, after

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session of really good information, it was still at that stage where

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I was a sponge for this stuff.

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And I, I remember that conference more than any Drupalcon I was

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at more than any other NYC camp or Drupal NYC or any of those.

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And it was terrific.

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It was just a lot of fun.

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It was great people.

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I enjoyed it.

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That was that's my best memory of, of these kind of

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meetups and things like that.

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It was good stuff.

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Yeah, yeah.

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Yeah.

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The whole, uh, camp process is, uh, has been a lot of fun

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there, there some amazing ones.

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Um, what's your favorite and least favorite aspect of Drupal the software?

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Oh, um, I mean, my favorite aspect of Drupal the software is, is definitely

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easier, which is it it's built even, even way back when, but still, obviously

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today it is built from the ground up with the expectation of being changed

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and modified and improved for the user, you know, for the use case.

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And that's not unique to Drupal.

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I mean, there's other, obviously other, other open source

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projects that are like that.

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Um, but it's very consciously done in that way.

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And therefore it's, it's it's primary.

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It's kind of like raison d'être.

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I am here to be the beginning, not to end product.

Speaker:

I'm here to start you off so that you don't have to write the user login

Speaker:

thing again, because we've all, you know, I mean, everyone who, everyone

Speaker:

who makes websites or, you know, Drupal, you know, kind of based sites

Speaker:

and, and apps, like we've all written 10 user login systems before we

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finally get to Drupal sort of thing.

Speaker:

Um, and nobody wants to do that again, like nobody on earth ever wants to

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write one of those agains so you don't have to worry about that, but it's

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there and it's prepped and it's primed for you to sit there and go, but I

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really do need something that does this unique thing from my use case.

Speaker:

And, and it lays it out for it's like it kind of just unfolds, um, which is

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definitely, you know, that that was its, its, you know, uh, Uh, kind of

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biggest asset as far as I'm concerned.

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Now, that was the thing that, that really sucked me in and hooked

Speaker:

me in there is, is, oh, I don't have to worry about this stuff.

Speaker:

I don't really wanna worry about, I could just worry about my needs in

Speaker:

terms of what's, you know, what's difficult or, or what I dislike.

Speaker:

Um, I know I personally had a really hard transition between, uh, Drupal

Speaker:

7 and Drupal 8, and that was when, and I'm not alone in this, but

Speaker:

that was when it became, um, like the scales tipped a little bit.

Speaker:

With Drupal seven.

Speaker:

It was much more for kind of, I don't wanna say hobbyists cuz it wasn't, but

Speaker:

like someone who could be really just self taught, I figured this stuff out

Speaker:

myself and I'm I, I can just dive in and within a few minutes I could get going

Speaker:

and know what I'm doing to a degree.

Speaker:

Drupal eight is when that switched.

Speaker:

You really needed to understand certain concepts of like computer science or,

Speaker:

or not formal formal programming, more so than just I can jump in and do it.

Speaker:

And I had a tough time with that.

Speaker:

I remember when, when Drupal eight first kind of was starting to get developed.

Speaker:

And I had a similar moment where I'm, I'm gonna go dumpster diving in the issue

Speaker:

queue, and I'm gonna see what, you know, something small that I could just work on

Speaker:

to like, see what Drupal 8's all about.

Speaker:

And it was, it was something super, super small.

Speaker:

And I wrote one line of code as a patch.

Speaker:

And I was like, look, it works.

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And it did.

Speaker:

And it passed the tests and everything worked, but it was like

Speaker:

10 pages of, of code reviews on it telling me why, well, this isn't

Speaker:

the way that we're doing it anymore.

Speaker:

Like, that's you, you need to write a listener that first does this and,

Speaker:

and you need, this is gonna clearly doesn't need a whole new class.

Speaker:

And I, and I'm sitting there going, yeah, but.

Speaker:

But in this one line, I can get done what the intent of this is.

Speaker:

Um, and I felt at that moment, I felt like it was, it was, you know, it lost some

Speaker:

luster at that exact moment in my eyes.

Speaker:

That was a hard thing, but eventually I got it and eventually I figured

Speaker:

out and, and once I did it, it made sense again, but it took a lot longer.

Speaker:

Um, I felt bad for the person who was coming into Drupal 8 as their first.

Speaker:

You know, introduction to Drupal versus someone coming in at Drupal 5 or Drupal

Speaker:

6, where you could just read the code and it was almost just a flow, you know?

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

No, it's what we talked about earlier.

Speaker:

It used to be so much easier to contribute and not only did it get more

Speaker:

complex, but like extremely verbose.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

In the process.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

Um, ultimately, you know, I always struggle with the fact, you know, uh,

Speaker:

Drupal 7 appealed, I think to a much broader audience because of that factor.

Speaker:

Mm-hmm.

Speaker:

Small nonprofits, you know, individuals even, um, now it's, you know, migrated

Speaker:

more into the enterprise domain because of this maturity and, and, and complexity.

Speaker:

Um, ultimately, do you see, uh, you know, on some, you know, on one hand

Speaker:

it may have been necessary, right?

Speaker:

It may not have stayed relevant as a platform.

Speaker:

If we didn't evolve, you know, evolve to include these tool chains and build

Speaker:

processes and everything, and, um.

Speaker:

On the other, it dramatically changed, you know, um, other

Speaker:

aspects, barrier to entry, users.

Speaker:

Um, ultimately, do you think that it was, uh, a good change?

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Um, I don't know.

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Cause sometimes, you know, if I, if I put on my, my corporate hat, yes.

Speaker:

Right.

Speaker:

Because what was being brought in and you know, what that change kind of

Speaker:

led to was exactly what, what we're saying, which was the ability for, a

Speaker:

big corporation, a big enterprise to, to not only be able to use the thing,

Speaker:

but be able to integrate it into the larger processes that were in place.

Speaker:

When if you have a whole separate team that's working on monitoring

Speaker:

and alerts and deployments and things like that, which some companies

Speaker:

have and are able to do that a nonprofit's never gonna have, right.

Speaker:

It's just not gonna be practical.

Speaker:

Well, you know, you, you need to be able to hook into all of those things

Speaker:

and be able to have certain, a certain level of expectation to make it work.

Speaker:

Now, on the other hand, I'm gonna put on my I'm a member of the PTA

Speaker:

at my kid's school hat and my kid's school really needed a new website.

Speaker:

And I was like, well, I can do that.

Speaker:

I mean, I'm.

Speaker:

Hmm.

Speaker:

And I just broke out, you know, what I thought was like

Speaker:

a simple D8 site at the time.

Speaker:

And it was a slog.

Speaker:

It, it, it, it wasn't, it wasn't the right tool for PTA website anymore.

Speaker:

I did it anyway because you know, it was, it was a nail and I had

Speaker:

a hammer kind of thing, but.

Speaker:

It wasn't any longer that the right tool for, Hey, we just wanna be able

Speaker:

to put up a couple new announcements every week and have a, you know, a

Speaker:

sign up for the base bake sale form.

Speaker:

Like it, it, it was too much.

Speaker:

Um, and, um, it was too difficult to like, Keep up, even with, with all of

Speaker:

the, um, new versions of everything, like as, as module, you know, would be

Speaker:

improved and there was new release or new whatever, um, it wasn't practical

Speaker:

anymore for that kind of a world.

Speaker:

So was it a good thing?

Speaker:

Depends on which hat I'm wearing.

Speaker:

Yeah, totally.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

It's become an enterprise platform.

Speaker:

Um, yeah, I, I run Drupal for, for two personal websites, um, just to run Drupal.

Speaker:

It's like ridiculous to do it for this purpose.

Speaker:

Actually, it's a really great fit for one, um, because you know, the

Speaker:

content types, ease of creating things, but anyway, um, just.

Speaker:

Updating the software upon releases yeah is a pain in the ass for me.

Speaker:

Um, you know, I wish that, you know, I know Pantheon has autopilot, you know,

Speaker:

there are some solutions that are coming out, but it's like, um, yeah, literally

Speaker:

just updating the software is, you know, too much for me, for these like for

Speaker:

personal usage, it's just, you know, yeah.

Speaker:

It's not it really one thing I've, it's not meant for one person anymore.

Speaker:

That's part of the issue is it is the expectation is that you have a team and

Speaker:

that team might be two or three people, but you have a team of people working on

Speaker:

a site, um, in terms of like the, the, the care and feeding and maintenance of it.

Speaker:

Um, and that's not everybody, everyone has.

Speaker:

There are, there's a thousand use cases we can come up with right now

Speaker:

on sites that need to be out there.

Speaker:

And, and we, where we would've thought when it was Drupal seven,

Speaker:

that it was Drupal was the perfect solution for that, you know, use case,

Speaker:

where it just really isn't anymore.

Speaker:

And that's hard.

Speaker:

Yeah.

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Yeah.

Speaker:

I wish there were more tools like autopilot, you know, whether they were

Speaker:

commercial tools like that, or, you know, things in the community, I've

Speaker:

always wished there would be like some sort of layer of abstraction.

Speaker:

So you could have your cake and eat it too.

Speaker:

Like, is there a way that I could easily contribute to eight, you know, eight,

Speaker:

nine or 10 while having to get into, you know, the crazy complexity, but

Speaker:

the reality is as a community, we can barely, you know, handle eight, nine

Speaker:

and 10 and we're keeping seven around.

Speaker:

And so, you know, those are sort of.

Speaker:

It's just impractical for an open source community to, to do.

Speaker:

Um, but you know, that's what would make it approachable for, for me,

Speaker:

you know, as a personal person.

Speaker:

I, I agree.

Speaker:

I also, I mean, I, I think that that's, you know, I don't know if it's like a,

Speaker:

you know, not a great topic to bring up, but I think that's where Backdrop came up.

Speaker:

I mean, it really, they saw the fact, I think that enough people agree

Speaker:

with us and it's not a big surprise.

Speaker:

I dunno, people do it enough.

Speaker:

People agree with us that that was, there was a vacuum all of a sudden,

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and that's where they tried to step in.

Speaker:

Um, and you know, I'm sure it's, I haven't, you know, focused, I

Speaker:

haven't really played with it, but yeah, I'm sure it's great.

Speaker:

I'm sure it can kind of.

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You know, continue to sit in that space where I need to make a site for my PTA.

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And, and you know, maybe that maybe that's the right tool.

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That was a fork.

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That was a fork.

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Yes, no spoons there.

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Very big sharp fork.

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Yes.

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Um, so.

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Where do you, you know, for Drupal to continue to be relevant, you know,

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five, 10 years down the line, uh, what do you think needs to happen?

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You know, do, do you think that's possible?

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And if so, you know,

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I, you know, it's interesting, I'm not sure.

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I think that one in a weird way, one of the things that Drupal is, is kind

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of fighting as far as headwinds go, is just the fact that it's PHP based.

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And that alone is a, that it's a tough one.

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I mean, yes, PHP is still out there and it runs whatever 60% of things and whatever,

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you know, the stats are these days and that's fine and well, and good, but.

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I've, in my current role, I interview lots of people, you know, for,

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for various development roles.

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And, and I'm very involved at NBC in some of our kind of like

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rotational early career programs.

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Um, and which I love doing.

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I highly encourage everybody to check out the Comcast rotational programs.

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Um, and then, uh, but I, I interview a lot of like early

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career people because of that.

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And no one, no one is coming outta school and going, Ooh, I wanna get

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myself involved in a PHP project.

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Right.

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It's just not, you know, it doesn't have the, the longevity, um, as a kind

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of a relevant language, um, in five or 10 years, will it still be around?

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I think so a hundred percent it will still be there.

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Um, but I just, I think that it will be harder and harder to find

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people that are willing to like dive into a project like that.

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Um, I also think that it has a reputation of, you know, continues to

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have a reputation of really being too monolithic in a world where, you know,

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People are probably going too much in the, you know, kind of microservices

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type direction, whatever, in certain cases, I think there are cases to be

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made for a monolithic application.

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Um, but because that is the, you know, I mean, it's not even new anymore,

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but over the last several years, that's kind of where the industry has

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been going and where a lot of the, the applications have been going.

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I think that that's another tough hurdle for Drupal to, to overcome.

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Um, I think they've been taking steps.

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I think that there are, you know, um, you know, a lot of the efforts

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around decoupling the front end and the back end been huge and that's

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a big, important, you know, piece.

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Um, but, um, I think it's gonna tough.

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In 10 years to to think that Drupal is still a relevant product.

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Um, I hope it is.

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Um, one thing that Drupal has been good at and the community has been

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good at is, is adjusting and adapting.

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Um, but it does take a long time and those two things don't work great.

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Right.

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We're good at adjusting, but it takes us a while to do it.

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Um,

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Yeah, no, I, I, I, I, I share all those sentiments.

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I mean, WordPress based on PHP powers like 40% of the internet.

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And so, you know, yeah, it's, it's extremely prevalent, PHP,

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but unfortunately, you know, younger generations kind of view

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it as, you know, Fortran, like what, you know, like , you know?

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Exactly.

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That's my, that's my grandfather's programming language, you know, this

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. Um, so yeah, that, that's a huge

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contributors into the community.

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You know, we had an experience with a, a fortune 500 company where we built a

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mission critical application and we handed it off to an internal team and they came

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in and were like, we're not using PHP.

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Like, you know, , you know, they, you know, I won't get into it, but like

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that was their, you know, their, their biggest, you know, so visceral, you know,

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mm-hmm,

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, didn't matter.

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Like it wasn't about DRAL, you know, you know, they're like, wow, it's amazing what

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you did in such a short period of time.

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But like, PHP?

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Yeah.

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I have a, uh, we're running outta time.

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We gotta wrap up, but I'll share this real quick.

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I remember, uh, Drupalcon Copenhagen and Rasmus Lerdorf

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was the keynote speaker one day.

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And someone asked him, you know, during the QA, like where do you see yourself?

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You know, or, you know, in, you know, you know, you know, with

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PHP in, in like whatever years.

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And he is like, oh my, you know, effing God, if I'm still doing this and you

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know, in five years, like, you know, just shoot me , you know, and that

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was, you know, 10 plus years ago.

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Yeah.

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Uh, and there's the creator of PHP, but I think that has to do more with like

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leading an open source project and right.

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You know, that community has had its struggles than the language itself.

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Yeah.

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I, I mean, it's yeah.

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I I'm, I'm actually very, very curious to see what will be in, in 10 years.

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Um, cuz I don't think that I have.

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Um, I mean, nobody knows, but I don't think, I know.

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I think that there's some, some pieces of the puzzle that I'm, that I'm missing.

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So we'll see, we'll find out together

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I'm hopeful, you know, it's lasted 20 years, you know, which is, you

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know, well beyond most technologies, well beyond most technologies.

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And, um, so I'm hopeful, like you said, we've always adapted.

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There's always been change.

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Um, I don't know what the future will be.

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Um, I like to ask every guest to pass the torch.

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Um, if you know, uh, you know, who should I interview next?

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Who should you interview next?

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Um, well, of the, of the folks that I've been interacting with most

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recently, um, Uh, uh, Jake who runs the, who owns the Webform modules

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has been doing a ton of stuff.

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I don't know if you've talked to him already on this, but, um, I

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think he's a, he's, he's got some really fascinating views on how to

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sustain open source in a world where it does take a ton of your time.

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And it does take a ton of your energy and resources.

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Um, so I would, I would point you in that direction.

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I, uh, Rockaways Jake.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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I had, uh, leaving one of the 30 rock, you know, New York city meetups.

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I had a conversation with him, you know, probably for 20 minutes.

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We didn't even make it to the bar.

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You know, we just got stuck in, uh, you know, talking about, you

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know, what you mentioned, open source contribution process.

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And, um, that's a really great recommendation.

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I would love to chat with him more about that.

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Yep.

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All right.

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Well, consider the torch pass.

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This has been a lot of fun.

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Thanks.

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Yeah.

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Thank you.

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Uh, really appreciate you, uh, joining us for all our viewers.

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We appreciate you joining us as well.

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Uh, please remember to upvote, subscribe, share it out.

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Uh, you can check out all our interviews in this series at tag1.com/20,

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uh, 20 . You can also check out our Tag1 Team Talks and the latest

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technology topics at tag1.com/talks.

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Uh, as always love your feedback.

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Please reach out with topic suggestions, folks you think we should interview.

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Uh, you can reach us at talks@tag1.com.

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That's TAG1.com.

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Uh, Alex, thank you so much again, and, um, we'll see everybody soon.

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All right.

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Thanks a lot.

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