135: Cathy Theys double header

Give and get good patch reviews session AND bonus SymfonyCon interview! - In a massive Cathy Theys double-header this week, hear parts rescued from our conversation at SyfonyCon Warsaw (which was plagued by technical difficulties) and check out Cathy's insightful session, 'Patch Reviews: Get good reviews, give good reviews. Faster.' It is full of practical advice to take your contribution to Drupal and open source software to the next level.

In the podcast interview, we talk about the opportunities Drupal has given Cathy; some of the benefits of the refactoring that has gone into Drupal 8; joining up with the Symfony community: mutual learning, different styles of contribution, Drupal's new relevance; and the business case for open source contribution and sustainability.

What do you do?

I admire Cathy's energy and passion for contributing to Drupal and I find the patience and force of will she brings to getting new contributors up and running awe inspiring. She describes what she does modestly, "I come to conferences and I try and get people involved in the community and contributing. I also really like to hang out outside of the sessions and meet people and talk to them about the troubles that they're having and see if we can fix those troubles and make things easier for them, especially when it comes to contribution. In addition I work on patches and review patches. I also do mentoring."

Drupal 8 refactoring #ftw!

"I am most excited in Drupal 8 about what all this refactoring and the opportunities that it's given us. One of the things we can do in Drupal 8, that we can't do in other versions of Drupal is translate everything. We can do that because we have the background of unifying things: Things that are entity-like; they're all entities! Field-like? They're all fields now! When our APIs are consistent across all those things, it allows us to translate – across everything! That's a huge deal. We couldn't do that at all without the underlying stuff. It's so incredible."

Contribution: the way forward?

We touched on a couple of different aspects of contribution, including some that are hot topics lately in and around Drupal: Not only how to do it better (make sure you watch the session below), but also the business case for contribution, and looking for ways to make it sustainable.

How professional are we already? "The next big thing is a coming out party for people who are getting paid to work on open source. I think people do it in the closet. People work on issues and it doesn't say at the end of their comment, 'this patch paid for by 10 hours out of my client project for shop X on project Y.' Not all the work gets done like that, but some of it does. I think people are reluctant to say out loud when they do get paid for things. I think we need a lot more information about what's actually going on before we start jumping to conclusions about whether or not it would be good or bad to do them. We need to figure out what is happening now before we try to make decisions about what should happen."

Your contributions are your business card - "Any shop (Drupal service provider) that has developers that work on fixing issues in contrib. or core ... What's interesting is clients who are thinking about hiring people and they have choices. If they have a project [focused on a particular] subject like migration or multi-lingual. If they know the developer that work for their two shop choices, they can look up those developers on Drupal.org and see if any of them have ever worked on a [relevant] issue." This can be a big help when evaluating which service provider to hire. If they don't have this kind of experience, Cathy points out, "It doesn't mean they've never done client work on it and you'd want to have a conversation with that shop and see examples of their work." But contribution can be an indicator of whom you're dealing with and how committed they are to the tools they use.

Sustainable contribution as a business - "We need to be a little bit careful about that. It means that there's more responsibility on the shops and building overhead for contribution into the project cost. It's not fair to demand that you have open source contribution without also wanting to pay for it. There are people who are on such a tight budget (or their lives are on such a tight budget), that they only have time to do their client billable hours and they don't have enough time to contribute. It's our responsibility to build paying for that to be done by your people into the budget. You can't use your employees to build your shop cred on Drupal.org with contribution time. You can't ask them to do that for free and then profit on it because you're now able to get this client project." Drupal services providers and specific client projects should include time for people to contribute as part of their job. As a Drupal service provider, you get incredible software to use for a zero price tag. Compare that to the license cost you'd have to pay to do your project with a proprietary package. Build 50%, 20%, 10% of that savings into the budget as an investment in your professional toolset – as part of your business model.

Patch Reviews: Get good reviews, give good reviews. Faster.

There are over 2000 core issues in Drupal waiting for reviews. We need more reviews faster. A shortage of timely reviews frustrates patch authors, leads to draining re-rolls, and causes some would-be contributors to give up on core. Some reviews, like: “looks good”, lack specific useful information. When core committers review issues, they sometimes point out missing core gates requirements that could have been addressed before RTBC. This drags out the time to commit.


  • Get more reviews.
  • Get faster reviews.
  • Get more useful reviews.

Take aways:

  • How patch authors can get their work reviewed
  • Tools to make reviewing more efficient
  • What informative reviews should contain

Session video

Session slides

Photo credit: Greg Dunlap