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The UV Video Podcast | Recursive Business #14: Ale MadLei on Drupal & the Community

The UV Video Podcast | Recursive Business:

Today, United Virtualities’ chief wordsmith Morgan Friedman stretches out his legs and flicks up his laptop screen to call Alejandro Madrigal Leiva (or Ale MadLei as we affectionately call him here at UV) to talk about developers getting their names out there, the platform wars of Drupal vs WordPress, certifications, the software community, plus more!

You can join Ale MadLei’s sessions here:

(… If videos are not for you, and you prefer the written word, we’ve got you covered. Check out the transcript of the interview below. Enjoy!)

Morgan Friedman: Good morning, everyone! Welcome to the latest edition of Recursive Business, the UV podcast. And I’m honored to have a special guest today, AleMadLei, as he’s known by his Slack handle within the company.

<Intro>

MF: Ale good to have you today.

AleMadLei: Thank you for inviting me, and by the way, great pronunciation of my nick because usually English speaking, is usually pronounced like “AliMadLi” which is weird so congrats on getting it right on the first try!

MF: I get a gold star! Although “AliMadLi” sounds funnier, so I may have to just start saying that.

AML: Please don’t…

MF: Ale MadLei is one of my favorite developers at UV for the following reason: I always think developers should get their name out there and create videos and create content and create articles, and of course, I like doing that – you’re watching the podcast. Now AliMadLi, now I have to use that pronunciation, sorry. You shouldn’t have told me that. AleMadLei, however, has his own series of videos, and it gets his name out there all the time and I think it’s awesome. And before we discuss our usual topic of a client situation or story, that’s interesting to talk about, we have to talk about your videos. Please summarize what the videos are about and what your series is for everyone listening.

AML: Okay so thanks for the invite, first, I would like to thank you for that. Of course it’s going to give me exposure also for the personal project that I’m doing right now, which is the videos that you’re mentioning. Okay, so what are they all about? Okay, so for the past 12 plus years I have been a Drupal developer and I have seen many people banging their heads when working on Drupal projects because it does have…

MF: Me 12 years ago

AML: It has quite a steep learning curve and that usually scares people off . So, I mean these videos, it’s like I try to summarize all that I have learned for the past 12 years, and with the goal of getting the Acquia certifications for Drupal. So basically each week I join with a friend and we basically stream sessions. He’s a junior developer so this also allows me to train him into the Drupal ways of stuff. Now because I also want to get the certification I decided that it would be a good idea if I could, like, archive this process in a series of videos, that would actually help people to also get the justification if that is what they are aiming for. I also tried to do, like, free consultations I know that when I initially started working with Drupal there were so many questions that I had and no one to turn for help so I said “Well, I could try helping people if they’re having issues getting started with Drupal” and that’s basically why I also enable those, like, last 30 minutes of each session to see if someone connects and asks any questions related not only to Drupal but also web development in general because as a CV, so to speak, my main work is on Drupal but I also do WordPress, random development and back-end development. And yeah that’s pretty much it.

MF: I think this is awesome. I… listening to it… I almost want to go get myself Drupal certified, although not that much. One argument that I always make to anyone who will listen to me is: the easiest way to create content is just talk about what you’re already doing. Because you’re already doing it, you’re thinking about it, and that’s 80% of the content creation process itself. So my heart is warm to learn this backstory, that, that the origin of your certification series is you getting certified yourself, and seeing this, and as long as you’re going through the process, why not share what you’ve been learning?

AML: Correct and it’s also part of the heart of the Drupal community to be able to contribute in different ways which is also something that I’m trying to communicate as part of the videos that I’m doing. Even if you’re just getting to share small details with people so that they can grow, that’s a way to contribute back to the community.

MF: Love the community focus and I think it’s wonderful. Okay, I’m going off script here, and originally we’re gonna talk about a client situation, those are fun we may or may not get to that soon, but I have to ask you something. Drupal, what’s up with that? So Drupal has a pretty bad reputation among the cool kids and you’re really into it, you’re good at it, I would love to hear the… like what is that makes Drupal special or good? Like, something attracts you to Drupal which is why you do it. So I want to learn to see Drupal from the eyes of the people that are into it. Tell me about it.

AML: So I’m going to say something that might make some people angry because this is a matter…

MF: We’re gonna get millions of views, viral hit. Let’s go!

AML: Okay so, I’m probably going to get hate mail… this is a personal opinion and sorry. It’s been something that I have been feeling for years and it’s true to me from the day that I started development up until this day. Okay so, personally I know that WordPress has a lot of backers, so to speak, a lot of people are using it. They basically have a lot of respect for the user experience and I agree with that; the user experience is great. However, as a developer, my motto, so to speak, would be “WordPress was designed by designers but it was also programmed by designers” whereas “Drupal was programmed by programmers and sadly designed by programmers, too”. So, how usually do I see this? I mean the UX experience in WordPress I won’t argue at all that it’s great. I love it. It’s so intuitive, it’s easy to see, to use. I love it. UX is great. The problem comes when you start developing for it, there are a lot of decisions into how it was developed that I usually “Why the hell would they do that? I hate it. I don’t like it”  and for the past years I have worked in many projects both in Drupal and WordPress and usually I have to bang my head a little bit more when I work with WordPress projects, and I have to do very specific things for clients. That is my personal experience. In the case of Drupal, I mean it does have a steep learning curve, it’s not easy right away. But once you get how stuff was programmed, you say like “Oh my god,  this is great,” like dependency injection in Drupal 8, the way that you store configuration the way that… for instance when you develop a WordPress site, at least the ones that I have worked so far, when you configure stuff you have to replicate so many things manually when you do deployments. You can like create custom scripts, but the thing is that with Drupal you have a set of libraries that are included in the core in particular Drupal 8 and Drupal 9, and you can basically spin up a new site just from the configuration files and just that part, to me, that is awesome. I mean one of the things that I was showcasing people in the latest videos, how from a single configuration setup that I had, I just spawned a new site with the same setup, same fields, same listings, same thing but I didn’t have any data. I could start from scratch and basically this means that I could always create a test environment in any server without too much of a hustle. That is part of it. I mean the way that things are done, I just love it. How things have been improving over the years, I just love it. I can’t get enough Drupal to be honest.

MF: This is great, I’ve never heard the side of Drupal Drupal from a Drupaler’s eyes, I love it. I think we should do another podcast one day with you and JJ or Marco on the Drupal versus WordPress.

AML: Sure, I would love it.

MF: The final showdown, that might get that might become even more viral and I think i’m to steal your line about how Drupal, WordPress was designed by designers and programmed by designers and the reverse. This is great. Question: I know that a decade ago when I was actively developing as Drupal, WordPress, that Drupal and WordPress were head and head as like the main open source content management systems. In the last decade WordPress has gone to become huge and Drupal is still around. So I just know very little about the progress in Drupal, there’s still… I’m assuming based on what you said, they’re still active new versions, are they doing new cool modern things, are there plugins or extensions with the main infrastructure out there like WordPress has… Tell me about the state of Drupal.

AML: Okay, so we’re now with Drupal 9 and we’re aiming for Drupal 10 in a couple of years I believe. Currently we’re sort of phasing out Drupal 7. Basically due to Covid they extended the end of life support, but yeah in general terms, Drupal 8, Drupal9 is what most cool kids are doing right now, migrating from Drupal 6, Drupal 7, to Drupal 8 and Drupal 9. A lot has changed, I mean semantic versioning is like the new approach that they’re doing. 

MF: What is… what is semantic versioning?

AML: Okay so in the past we were using, like, very specific version format for stating the release version of each module. Like, it was, like, for instance 1.8.  something and then when there was like a major upgrade it was like 2. Something. It usually was a match regarding it if the model was for Drupal 7 or if the module was for Drupal 8 or if it was for the basics. Because now with Drupal 8 there has been like a new approach regarding how everything is coded. We’re using more object-oriented programming for different kinds of features. The way that versioning of the new models and Drupal Core has changed, because it also allows us to use Composer which is also one of the cool things that I now enjoy about working with Drupal. In the past you would, like, have all the copy from the different modules that you were using – the themes and stuff. Now you just use a Composer log file and a Composer.JSON file and it keeps the reference from the specific versions of the different modules that you were using. So that means that your code repository is a lot smaller compared to in the past, and you can actually create, like, a CDCI workflows to get everything from their sources and just deploy it to a final server, which is to be honest something that I enjoy. I hate downloading ripples that are too big because of all the code that is available somewhere else, so yeah, that has been a huge change and, of course, different development techniques, I mean one of the greatest features of Drupal 8 is dependency injection, the way that it’s used to basically export services and by using just interfaces you know that it should behave from the specific way no matter which service you’re using. Which implementation, sorry, for that service you’re using.

MF: I hadn’t known about that. Question: one of the best things about WordPress is their plugins to do all main… I mean you wanna accept PayPal? Plugin for that, and so on. Does the Drupal community have a wide variety of plugins as well?

AML: Yeah it does. I mean if you go and search for “Drupal module” about anything like PayPal, Payoneer, Stripe, you’re going to find something. Even if you don’t find something right away, there might be something in development and the great thing is that if there is none available, you can always roll out your new module for that feature and share it with the community. Because that is the main goal. In general terms, and this is something that I really like about the Drupal force, so to speak, is that you don’t charge, per se, for providing a module, but you provide, you charge, for providing customizations like if someone likes your module but they need like a very specific picture “Okay, I can roll out that but it is not… it was not in my original plans so if you could sponsor it then I would gladly do it.” I mean you will give back to the community, as a company because you’re sponsoring the Drupal development. It also gives you, like, a spotlight where you can say “Hay I have supported these projects, the community is growing because of me.”

MF: So based on what you’re saying, there’s something else that sounds cool about Drupal that just me interpreting what you’re saying, WordPress 10-15 years ago, had a lot of this early internet ethos, like the community people building these free tools was great and over the last few years (I say as a WordPress lover) unfortunately it’s been taken over by a lot of companies trying to make money, all the plug-ins that…every good plug-in now has paid subscriptions and there’s now a lot of people, there’s a new Gutenberg black library and there’s a lot, who’s promoted like it’s it’s turning into something like a corporate front and the way you talk about the Drupal community is it comes off to me like it has that early 2000s internet culture, where people building things, loving it, into it, and frankly I think I and a lot of people miss that spirit.

AML: Yeah, I remember a long time ago where whenever you wanted to do something that was already a free plugin for it and, I mean, I understand the videos business model. I have my own business, I know that you need to make money out of it in a way. I usually tend to prefer the ones that have, like, a free version and then a pay subscription for additional features, that’s the ones that I prefer the most. But yeah, I mean it’s understandable that you need to make money somehow I mean that’s the word we’re living, right?

MF: I mean to emphasize the point that different communities have different prioritizations. Like we could hypothetically talk about some countries where everyone is really focusing on making money and hypothetically, on average, hypothetically other, other national cultures where the average person is more focused on their family (I’m not gonna name many names here – this is being recorded)…. So it’s interesting to see that reflected in the divergence of the WordPress versus Drupal communities over time. I like that old community spirit. I almost want to go write some PHP in Drupal now. This was so, so interesting. We didn’t even make it to the original subject but I think this means we’ll have to do another, another interview. But, congratulations on your series, and in the notes below the video, we will put a link to it, so everyone can go watch if you want to get certified in Drupal you can watch the videos, and even show up when he’s doing it for the last minutes, and get some get some free advice from the expert!

AML: Yeah, the certification is going to be the trial by fire. I mean I have to get it because that’s the whole idea of the show, right?

MF: And when is your certification exam?

AML: I think next week I’m going to have my last session. We’re going to finish the last details regarding the study guide from the site builder certification and then I’m going to take a couple of weeks, because I have to edit the old videos, and that’s something that I owe the community. So as soon as I get those ready then I will start taking a look at the process to, like, buy the certification vouchers, see what information they give me… like try to document whatever I can, so that eventually I can pinpoint all of those stuff to the community and then my timeline is that I might be doing the test by the middle of April. I’m going to take a couple of weeks to not stream any sessions, doing any additional preparation based on the recommendation that I find. Do it. Hopefully I get it the first time and then roll out a new video regarding this experience!

MF: This is so exciting! Your experience is like a telenovela. It’s building up; I wonder what happens, what’s gonna happen in the end. Maybe you will end up falling in love, with, with your housekeeper and run away.

AML: Let’s see how it goes! I mean the plan in the long run, is that if I manage to get a certification and then I start also with the next certification, which is the developer and once I get that, move with the front-end specialist and back-end specialist, and of course also stream the study sessions providing tips and such. 

MF: I love it. There’s always another certification.

AML: Yeah.

MF: This is wonderful and let us know what happens. We’ll definitely do another interview and we’ll get to the original interview topic eventually. Thank you everyone for watching, I’m going to stop recording now.

AML: Thank you.

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