The Agile Podcast, Episode 3: Bittersweet Symfony

Okay, so you’re moving out of Drupal 7, that’s great, but where do you go? On today’s episode, Brie and Blake talk about the advantages and disadvantages of staying on the Drupal track. Plus, the BIG change you should know about involving Symfony.

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TRANSCRIPT:

0 (0s): <inaudible> I’m Blake Newman

I’m Brie Ripley.

And this is the Agile podcast where we explore the stories and people behind Agile web solutions. Last episode, we talked about Drupal seven dooms day,

1 (18s): Which is the day when hundreds of thousands of websites powered by Drupal seven will suddenly become abandoned by their makers, but in all seriousness, triple seven end to life will affect over a quarter million websites around the world, which sounds apocalyptic

0 (37s): It’s bad, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. If you plan ahead and get started on moving out of Drupal seven now, and Brie you run a major health organizations, digital presence, and since we’re constantly talking to Agile and because one of the key components that we talk about with Agile is having a prayer,

1 (55s): Right? Agile means not just responding to things, its thinking about longterm goals and not worrying about the small things that pop up along the way.

0 (1m 4s): Exactly. And I want to ask you, what are your priorities in the content management system? What do you want your CMS to do?

1 (1m 11s): I wanted to insert a microchip in my brain so it can read all of my thoughts and I never have to really do anything with my hands. Again, I can just like tap somebody else’s head that I have to train with my head. Maybe that’s like too much boundary. I just want to like be able to teach people quickly, easily how to use an interface and constantly training interns and getting up to speed myself on different CMSs. So, so like what I want really is a simplified interface with options to add text, insert photos, embed videos, maybe show off a flashing gift every now and again.

0 (1m 47s): So just keep those in mind today. We’re starting to talk about the alternatives to Drupal seven and where are you go has a lot to do with your priorities. We know that D seven is going away and organizations running <inaudible> need to make a change. So we’ll look at how to accomplish your goals through a migration. So just to recap, Drupal is a CMS

1 (2m 7s): Or content management system, which is good for sending out info, whether it’s a blog or a more complicated site that displays a lot of data,

0 (2m 15s): Tons of government agencies, nonprofit organizations and member associations and universities used Drupal they’re 15 federal departments in the United States, 11 of those departments have websites.

1 (2m 28s): And last episode we talked about Y go listen to it if you want to learn more, but basically Drupal is relatively easy to stand up, but there’s a lot of sophistication in the custom modules, which are created by Drupal open source community. Yeah.

0 (2m 43s): There’s also custom code, which is the functionality built specifically for your website.

1 (2m 48s): All to say Drupal is a very powerful CMS.

0 (2m 52s): But last week we also talked about how triple seven is reaching its end of life.

1 (2m 56s): And there are around 300,000 still using Drupal seven as we record this episode

0 (3m 4s): And there’s some really big sites using <inaudible> like nasa.gov. And in fact of the 11 department’s in the federal government running Drupal six of them are powered by <inaudible>, including the department of justice, interior health and human services, housing, urban development, energy education, and the department of Homeland security.

1 (3m 21s): Well, and they’re all going to have to move all of them,

0 (3m 25s): Right? And soon people responsible for these websites we’ll need to make some decisions and they’ve got five basic options. One is to stay in the Drupal family, make the move to a new Drupal version like D nine to ten two is to move to a Drupal cousin like backdrop. CMS three is to switch to the dark side and migrate to dribbles arch enemy Plus archenemy yes. Art’s enemy Drupal and WordPress both came out around the same time, early two thousands.

0 (3m 58s): Drupal started out as an online bulletin board system, a BBS like AOL WordPress came out as a blog platform like blogger, which was acquired by Google. They didn’t start out as competitors, but as time went on, they’ve been jockeying for position like Pepsi and Coke, or like a burger King. And McDonald’s like Boeing and Airbus, right? Just like that. But enough about that, the fourth option is to get out of a CMS completely and go to somewhere like Symfony or Python and Django.

0 (4m 29s): And your fifth option is to freeze your sight. In the time capsule get a dedicated server makes you decide to read only moving into a cave, being a triple seven for you

1 (4m 39s): And read only, just so we’re clear, that means you won’t be able to change anything on your site.

0 (4m 45s): Right. That’s why I said read only. So the episode, this episode is going to focus exclusively in option one, staying in Drupal

1 (4m 52s): And if you stay on Drupal, there is one big change you have to know about it and it has to do with the symphony.

0 (5m 7s): So the core engine of Drupal was originally built and PHP But for Drupal eight and all future versions of Drupal. The core has been built on top of another piece of software called Symfony, which is a PHP framework. It’s kind of like Legos or a wedding cake.

1 (5m 21s): No Blake risks going to stick with like us. Okay. So Symfony is a web application framework built with a bunch of PHP blocks Drupal and use the Symfony framework to build the latest version of Drupal eight and nine. They’re just kind of stacking on top of each other.

0 (5m 38s): That does sound like Legos. So there’s these open source community volunteers responsible for PHP yet another open source community of volunteers who used PHP to build Symfony and finally, another community of volunteers who you Symfony to build pupil eight here’s Shefali project manager and Angelina. This version is

1 (5m 58s): A major uplift. They have kind of changed a lot in Drupal. Basically they have change the entire architecture to make it more modern.

0 (6m 9s): So in the past major versions of Drupal, we’re more alike than different think romance languages. Imagine Drupal five being in French, triple six, being a Spanish, triple seven and Italian translating between D five D six or The 67 was not a major exercise. It’s like people who speak Spanish can understand people who speak Italian.

1 (6m 31s): But when they wrote Drupal eight, it was like going from English to Mandarin, huge problems in translation, huge effort, none of the code can be easily translated or automatically translated is going to make migrating and stain. And Drupal a bit more difficult than normal, but hopefully once the symphony migrating will be much easier. Here’s Shefali again, migration from a major version to another is really very time consuming and very intensive.

1 (7m 4s): So that is, I guess, was the biggest is the biggest flow of Drupal they claim that that wouldn’t be the case from Drupal eight to nine

0 (7m 12s): Because of Symfony though Shefali is still has her concerns,

1 (7m 16s): But I would like to reserve my comments and I see it in action. I love Shefali.

0 (7m 23s): Wow. Not holding our breath issue. Okay. So this is a whole new system, a earlier versions of Drupal had life expectancies of like five or seven years. In fact, Drupal seven was around for 10 years.

1 (7m 35s): Wow. That coincides nicely with the life expectancy of an average website.

0 (7m 40s): Right. But with Drupal eight and nine and 10, the life cycles are shorter during the two to three year range.

1 (7m 46s): So organizations are going to need to start upgrading more frequently.

0 (7m 51s): Yes. Right. But the truth, when people keep saying that after Drupal eight upgrading to future versions of Drupal would be seamless. Most of the automated, they say it will make Drupal future-proof.

1 (8m 5s): So in theory, it will be easier to migrate when the future versions of Drupal reach their end of life because they will be all based on the same framework Symfony

0 (8m 15s): So they say, and those future versions are coming up soon. Da goes away in 2021 because something three is reaching its end to fly that year. Denine goes away in 2023 when 74 retires and then D 10 will replace Denine.

1 (8m 30s): So if you haven’t moved out a D seven yet, and you’re going to stay in Drupal, then you will likely need to skip Drupal eight all together and go straight to Drupal on that.

0 (8m 40s): And this all comes down to the symphony framework. Here’s Shefali again,

1 (8m 44s): Symfony has its own upgrade tracks. So basically Drupal eight and have life. You will not be able to extend it. The Drupal community has no control that they are completely dependent

0 (8m 59s): And the seven was supposed to reach and to live in 2021 as well. But the difference is that D seven is not dependent on Symfony. So the troop community was able to decide that <inaudible> support could be extended. So it now, which is a sense of life in 2020 to a year after Drupal eight But seems kind of odd. It’s like outliving your children,

1 (9m 19s): But DEA is not really an offspring of <inaudible> Blake it’s more like a new species. It’s like when humans replaced in the Anderson falls, something like 50,000 years ago.

0 (9m 29s): Well, it’s not exactly like that. And it certainly button 50,000 years ago, although although the many people who’ve only known the seven for the past 10 years, this is a pretty radical change.

1 (9m 41s): Drupal eight was rebuilt from the ground up and is a completely different type of development architecture than D seven. It was built and an object oriented way and object oriented programming is a more modern way of developing code,

0 (9m 55s): Right? Object oriented programming or Oop. So when we save that, oops, so when you say where migrating from DSM to deviate or D nine, the only thing we’re really migrating is the content data and maybe the users and user permissions, everything else needs to be completely rebuilt. Here’s Jon, a back end developer head to Lena basically is completely different. <inaudible> so the way you render content and access the database and so on and so on, everything is different.

0 (10m 26s): There, there were some kind of a legacy thing that they tried to bring over to, I think, ease the transition for developers, but for the most part, it’s a completely different.

1 (10m 34s): So what John’s saying right here helps, PO’s a really big question. Is this what you, as a site manager really wants?

0 (10m 43s): Right? I reached out to Jeff Boris, he’s the communications director of Pulitzer center. His organization migrated out of triple seven and he emailed me his response, which is our producer Hans will read now on our site, which predated me by about a decade was always a Drupal site. It makes heavy use of Drupal is taxonomies. And our best alternative WordPress would have required a significant level of effort to get the CMS, to match our existing functionality. It seemed easier to keep the site in Drupal and migrate to Drupal eight.

0 (11m 14s): WordPress is the best feature Gutenberg is available. Interpolate. We did seriously consider WordPress, but Drupal seemed like the safer bet. I was just gonna say, I think that we’re better readers than Hahn’s. I know, I know. Sorry.

1 (11m 33s): Sustained. And Drupal might be great for you because it’s what you’ve done before. You may have people already at your company who know Drupal

0 (11m 42s): For many organizations running triple seven, which have invested a lot of time and money in training people, how to use Drupal and just maintaining a Drupal site itself. They may want to stick with the Drupal family. Let’s meet Carlos, a senior developer. Jalina my name is Carlos Hernandez. Pilot started as a WordPress developer. Then he learned Joomla while living in Mexico, fast forward to three years ago in my first job here in the U S it was doing a lot of like front end development. It was also I’m a government contractor.

0 (12m 12s): So they had a lot of Drupal sites and not enough people to work on them. So of course they asked Carlos to work on Drupal sites because he had a PHP background. He said, yes. And today, well, I’ll let Carlos I’m basically in love with, with Drupal. And I see myself being a better Drupal developer and, and working on more projects. So Carlos has worked with a lot of different content management systems. He obviously has the Drupal bias, but he has good reasoning.

0 (12m 43s): He loves the capabilities that Drupal has to offer, but that is, it comes out a price why you need to have a, a capable team of developers. And Drupal is very powerful comparing to WordPress, WordPress. I it’s like out of the box, you can install a theme and you can have a, a, a, a site up and running and a few hours Drupal requires a bit more of like configuration or some other setup to make it exactly what you, what you need, it’s really complex.

0 (13m 16s): And that could make maintaining your site more expensive, but it could also be great because you can get exactly what you want. Got a chance to talk to Tim Lennon. He’s the chief technology officer at the tuple foundation. That’s a non profit organization that supports Drupal is open source community. There’s the perception that Drupal is for enterprise level sites, big government agencies or larger news organizations. But Tim prefers to say is for ambitious experiences, which is also a term that triples founder dreams.

0 (13m 50s): And can you specifically uses that word rather than enterprise for, I think a good reason if we’re talking about enterprise experiences, usually what we mean is sort of like large corporate big it team, lots of data kind of scale, and sure Drupal is great for those environments, but ambitious can also mean maybe a startup trying to do something innovative. Like you use Drupal as the content store for both and a, you know, a retail outlet on a normal webpage and also kind of an augmented reality display inside a storefront, right?

0 (14m 26s): Not necessarily something big in terms of scale, but pretty dang ambitious. And I tend to agree with them on this. There’s a lot of content management systems. You can go too that are cheaper and easier to use, but when you’re really thinking about being digitally present with what you’re doing, you start to care about more sophisticated features, users and permissions, content, relationships, different sorts of channels, displaying that contact. And that’s where Drupal comes into its own.

1 (14m 54s): So the effort to stay in Drupal can very well be worth it

0 (14m 58s): Exactly. Now, another reason you might want to stay in Drupal is because of the architecture. Drupal has architectural components called taxonomies content types nodes. They classify everything into these different components. If you move out of Drupal, well, you have to translate everything. And you may have just spent a decade in the Drupal system. WordPress doesn’t have taxonomies or content types per se. It’s a bit simpler, but less complicated. So

1 (15m 23s): It’s a heavy lift to do in WordPress. What you do

0 (15m 25s): You can do in Drupal. Remember, and we talked about going from <inaudible> like translating from French to Italian and going from <inaudible> to D eight. Is that going on from a town to Chinese? Go into the seven to WordPress. It’s like going from Italian to Dothraki game of Thrones or cling on from star Trek.

1 (15m 43s): Yeah. I never watched that either of those Blake 0 (15m 46s): Where have you been

1 (15m 48s): Crayons for star Trek and hanging out near the food at the geo tea parties.

0 (15m 55s): Ah, okay. Well, anyway, if you watch those movies and if you’d stayed in the Drupal family product, you wouldn’t have to deal with all that.

1 (16m 3s): That is why Carlos loves where Drupal is going with. Symfony

0 (16m 8s): I’m excited about Drupal eight and Drupal nine, but not every developer is excited about the changes to Drupal. You can find some Reddit posts and goodbye to Drupal after the move to deviate and the new 70 framework. There’s some pretty angry tweets out there,

1 (16m 22s): You know, for sure. But that happens when literally anything in this world changes.

0 (16m 27s): Yeah. Internet trolls, but still many organizations and people are abandoning Drupal altogether. There’ll be probably fewer D eight sites that <inaudible> probably fewer D nine sites of the DEA. According to Google, triple is spent on a downward trend since this peak around the 2010 here’s John. Again, one of the reasons why we’ve seen the, the lower adoption rate from Drupal said 700 Blake, is there a shift in a community where a lot of people didn’t like the idea of having to relearn a framework from a essentially from scratch.

0 (17m 4s): Having said that many organizations running these seven to leave it’s easier and less difficult to migrate from <inaudible> or The nine then to leave Drupal out together. But is it is easier. Well, probably is a, but here’s the question you needed to ask is staying and Drupal really going to meet your goals. Drupal has got a lot of strengths. There’s the Drupal community, which tends to be very technical, more security oriented, and also a little bit more perhaps altruistic, for example, triple has a very rich selection of those contributed modules.

0 (17m 35s): We talked about in the last episode, they’re built by the community and they’re free. Here’s John vendors are actually not allowed a part of the, the, the opensource license agreement. They’re not allowed to actually charge for Drupal itself. The WordPress. Well,

1 (17m 50s): They tend to be a bit different. Perhaps more enterprising might be the word.

0 (17m 57s): Yeah. Enterprising entrepreneurial. So you know where the triple has modules, WordPress has plugins

1 (18m 2s): And many vendors have created premium plugins, which come at a cost. So WordPress is free, but you have to pay a lot for the adults. It’s not a bad business model, but it’s just a different mindset than Drupal.

0 (18m 16s): And the plugins from WordPress are not fully vetted by the community, which means there could be a lot more security vulnerabilities and maybe even spyware built within them. In fact, most of the security vulnerabilities of WordPress, he likely come in the form of plugins.

1 (18m 29s): Interesting. That’s I mean, compares to Drupal where they tend to be a lot more secure contributed modules tend to be more thoroughly vetted by more tech savvy developers.

0 (18m 39s): And you can create a matrix for some users, have some permissions in some parts of the website, but not in others.

1 (18m 45s): For example, say you want HR people at your organization to author posts and the careers section, but nowhere else on your website, you can do that naturally with Drupal. It is inherently more secure. And since future versions of Drupal will all be billed on the same Symfony platform. Future migrations should be mostly automated.

0 (19m 5s): So they say, Carlos says, this is a lot of advantages to staying in Drupal as a tool. It grew in a lot of ways. It has to become more, a powerful and more easy to use. Not only for I’m the back backend developer, but also for the regular users for the, the web manager or the web, the content manager.

1 (19m 27s): Yeah. That sounds pretty good for this content manager,

0 (19m 30s): Right? But critics have the new Drupal core say that it’s processor intensive, which makes it run slow and consumes a lot of server resources. Some developers were so unhappy with a direction of triple eight and nine that the abandoned it all together and formed a new community backdrop CMS.

1 (19m 47s): Oh yeah. That’s just a version of Drupal seven that people can stay in.

0 (19m 51s): Right. They forked the code. Well, talk about that next week. Yeah. Fork a code. How do you do that? I’ll stick a fork in it. I think I’m done. Another big factor is cost while the code in Drupal is essentially free hiring people to manage your site. Isn’t many government websites powered by Drupal require a team of developers just to maintain, which could cost well over a million dollars per year. Plus we have no guarantee that the new migrations that have a Drupal will be easy. There’s a lot to consider when choosing whether to see and Drupal and move on.

0 (20m 22s): Or as Carlos says, every project is different. Every client is different. I mean, the fact that Drupal is super flexible. Doesn’t mean that WordPress cannot do the job.

1 (20m 37s): Okay. So how do you pick a CMS? 0 (20m 41s): Well, it goes back to Agile and setting your priorities. It might be that you already have Drupal developers working for you. You might like certain features in Drupal, but you also might see this as a chance to get away from Drupal because of is never a good fit from the first place. To be honest, sometimes a Drupal developers kind of like a person walking around with a hammer who views every problem as a nail, or you need a blog. I got Drupal I need an app. I got Drupal. Then you have a light bulb changed. I got Drupal exactly. All problems can be solved with Drupal and its true.

0 (21m 12s): You could build a lot of different things in Drupal, but what’s best for you. The person has to live with the CMS for the foreseeable future. And Brie what were the priorities in the CMS? Again,

1 (21m 22s): Besides the microchip straight into my brain, I would say simplified options to add text photos, embed, video, and add some gifts.

0 (21m 33s): Well, in that case sounds like WordPress could totally suit your needs. Drupal could be overkill, but we also have to take a look at the larger organization itself and understand the needs of other stakeholders could be that there’s some more complex functionality and requirements that would really justify Drupal.

1 (21m 51s): So I can see there are some pluses with staying in Drupal it’s great for complex integrations has an open source community that can help about, and it should be easier to migrate to new versions and it’s just plain powerful, but it also might be too complex. If you’re a small organization with a small budget, you need to hire people who know Drupal and you won’t really get the functionality you need from this CMS. If you’re just standing it up out of the box, that may not be the road you want to go down.

0 (22m 20s): That’s a lot to consider and everyone’s needs are different. And next week we’ll talk about a different road to go down. A fork of Drupals code

1 (22m 27s): Will talk about whatever that means on the next episode. So smash the subscribe button on the Agile Podcast on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

0 (22m 37s): And please leave a review while you’re at it. Thanks for listening until next time.

So long.

Talk to you soon.

The Agile Podcast is produced by Angelina at DC based web development company. To learn more about Angelina, you can visit our website agile.com or sends an email to [email protected] That’s a G I L E a N a.com.

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