226: Co-Podcast from Mumbai! Introducing The Geek Voice with Parth and Hussain

Welcome to the first of six podcasts I recorded in Mumbai as DrupalCon Asia 2016! It pleasure to record this conversation with an old Drupal friend and Acquia podcast guest--Hussain Dehgamwala (aka Hussain Abbas)--and a new Drupal friend and guest--Parth Gohil--both from Axelerant. And it was my privilege to be the first guest on their new podcast, The Geek Voice! We’re releasing this conversation together. Be sure to go check out Episode Zero of their show to see what else they have up their sleeves ... and what they said about me when I wasn’t around ;-)

In my part of the audio and video of this recording we touch on how Drupal and IT in India are evolving, and the many facets of contribution on today’s Drupal and open source landscape. When The Geek Voice takes over and turns the microphone on me, they ask me about my activities as Acquia’s Developer Relations Evangelist, we talk about the Drupal 8 Module Acceleration Program, and my Acquia origin story.

Thank you, Indian Drupal Community

I have been to a lot of DrupalCons in the last decade ... wow, yes, feels funny to say it, but I have actually been going to DrupalCons since 2006 ... and I’d honestly say DrupalCon Asia in Mumbai was my personal favorite. I was impressed with the Indian Drupal community and I see great things in the future of this group of young, diverse, and dynamic people. Thank you for everything you do, Drupal India people! Can I be on your team? :-)

Interview video - 28 min.

What’s going on with Drupal in India?

jam: Can you talk about what’s going on in Drupal and Open Source in India a little bit?

Hussain: Sure. For what you say about excitement definitely we have been waiting for this Con for years, actually years. We’re so happy it’s finally here. Well in India a lot of great things are happening in Drupal since forever, I think. I mean we had our first meet up in 2005 in Ahmedabad. Am I right?

Parth: Yes. The first camp happened around 2009, but yes.

Hussain: Yes. In Bangalore we have been having regular meet ups camps. We had a great camp last year and I know Deli, Mumbai, Hyderabad, they have been having camps since 2011.

jam: So, in a lot in Europe and places in America, a great camp, has 80 people, 200 people, 300 people, right? There aren’t very many that are above 350. Let’s say BADCamp--the NYCamp in New York City. London, 600-700 people. What’s a normal average size of a camp in India?

Parth: Five hundred plus :-D

Hussain: Otherwise it’s not called a camp. It’s a big meet up. We had a mini camp and we saw about, what? We had about 100 registrations and I don’t remember how many turned up but--yes.

Parth: I think about 80.

jam: Eighty is a really nice size though. One of the reasons why I love going to camps--DrupalCon is very important and obviously, I like it but for me so much more of the grassroots stuff happens at the camps now. When you spend two or three days with 80 people, you get the chance to talk with so many more people directly and on a personal level and really spend time with people you want to talk to.

Hussain: Yes. That’s why we pay a lot of attention to meet ups. We keep it--we treat it as a very important thing. We have it monthly at least we try to. A lot of companies sponsor it also. About the minicamp, yes, you’re completely right definitely. The last minicamp we had, like I said, around 80 people turned up. There’s this person who turned up and since then he has been a regular contributor to all the events. In fact he has pulled together the community like we have not been able to in a few years. He has created WhatsApp groups and he’s pulling people from different companies and like asking them to follow up. So, our WhatsApp Group is like around 200 people now.

Code and beyond - All contribution counts

jam: We were in a panel discussion yesterday about the transformation of Indian IT and Open Source and what have you. One thing came up and I think this is relevant too, is to let everyone in. Bring everyone in. Let everyone come and see what’s going on because you never know what skill someone is going to have. They could be a great coder, right, but we need so much more than that.

Parth: Yes. Well, if you ask me, I am not a coder myself and I’ve been part of the Drupal community since three years now and I haven’t written a single line of code. There’s a good balance of people that we should have, coders and non-coders and I think the conclusion was that will automatically balance itself. I mean the demand and supply will automatically balance it out. So yes, as many people as we can gather in the community is always good.

jam: So, you both work for a company called Axelerant. Hussain is India’s number one code contributor to Drupal 8 (thank you!). Is that right? And Parth, your contributions are completely different. You’re a Community Manager at Axelerant. What does that involve? What do you do?

Parth: I help support the local communities do their camp’s meet ups. I help them get the word out, entertain them while they’re there--something like a mini jam maybe. Yes, I support the community to organize events basically. I’ve been organizing camps since three years and I think under my belt I have Drupal Camp Delhi, two years in a row, Mumbai last year then Drupal Camp Hyderabad, Drupal Camp Bangalore, Drupal Camp Pune. So I’ve done all the camps. I’ve been on the Core Committee of all the camps.

jam: Wow, that’s awesome! Well thank you for doing that. Now tell me, Axelerant hired you to do this and pays you to do this. What are your goals? What do you have to tell your manager that you succeeded, and what sort of business value does Axelerant get from having a community organizer on staff?

Parth: This is not more of a business move for us, to be very honest. It’s more of a branding effort and elevating the community from the ground up. I mean, we’ve been sponsoring each and every camp since 2013 from what I know. So basically, my effort also goes to spreading our culture, throwing the right image for Axelerant to our prospective employees if you will. I think my company likes me and they trust me with what I’m doing. So they’re like, “Go! Yeah, go ahead. Yeah, whatever you do, we’re fine with it.” As long as I’m reaching out to as many people as I can, they’ll help me.

Hussain: Another thing is as far as code contributions are concerned, he organizes monthly sprints in Axelerant. From the code contributions part of other things, so I’ll have many roles at Axelerant. We are very dynamic that way. We keep switching. In the middle I held a role called Full-Time Code Contributor. When I started out with that, it was a new role for the company as well, for the organization as well. When I started out I was trying to figure out the same thing what you’re just asking like, what is the company looking to get out of this? When I had this discussion, they said, “No, just jump into it. We’ll see. We’ll see where it goes. Just jump into it. There is no concrete objectives defined yet but we’ll work upon it on the way. We don’t care about numbers. We don’t care about commit mentions or issue credits or anything. Just go there."

jam: “But we need Drupal 8 out, so please help those people.”

Parth: Yes. Exactly.

The Geek Voice Episode Zero poster

Geek Voice Takeover!

The Geek Voice is ...

Parth: Yes, episode zero. Let me take over. Yes. All right, let me take over and I’m going to be asking jam who is now ...

jam: Evangelist Developer Relations, Acquia.

Parth: And before?

jam:I was Community Affairs Manager, and then we had an interim thing called Open Source Evangelist, but as we figure out our part in contributing to Drupal, beyond paying full-time core contributors and what have you, right now, it was a very natural progression for me. I have a strong affinity with our community.

Anyway, it seemed like a natural alignment for me to be doing a job to help developers in their day-to-day life. If I can connect you with a bit of information that’s important or introduce you to a new idea or show you that your work as a developer makes a difference out in the world or changes how people are thinking, that’s what I’m focusing in on now and it’s great. It’s great. So far. It’s new. I’ve only been doing it technically for about six or seven weeks. It’s very similar to what I was doing before anyway so it’s a pretty happy place for me.

Parth: All right. That’s sweet. I mean the way you’ve been weaved into the community, you’re like a role model, if you will. Yes and ... so this is something that was new to me when I came in and the first thing that Ankur [Ankur Gupta, Axelerant CEO] told me was, “Hey, look at what jam does and we should do something similar and be awesome.” and that’s why I am the Community Manager at Axelerant. I’m so awesome because I’m following his footsteps.

jam: Wow. I’m really not sure what to say now but ... thank you.

Hussain: Okay. When you say Evangelist in Developer Relations, can you give us an instance very developer centric something which you set up recently?

jam: We’re doing a couple of things that have tied together nicely recently. We’ve got a series called The Drupal 8 Module of the Week. Now that Drupal 8 is out, the contributed module space is behind. That’s not a bad thing. It’s normal for our releases but Drupal 8 is much more ready to use than any previous release of Drupal so early and we wanted to highlight the fact that people really can jump in and go. We wanted to instill confidence in the platform by showing all these modules are actually ready, right? Right now, every week with a colleague of mine, we’re publishing articles about Metatag, about BigPipe, about things that are ready to go and making your sites better for your clients. So we’ll say who wrote it, why did they do it, what was the situation, what it solves, how it benefits the client, how it benefits a developer and I love that. One of the ones we did recently which was BigPipe ... which is amazing ... We happened to do a webinar with Wim Leers who’s one of the maintainers of that at the same time. So I was able to put together a package of information of two webinars and the little interview with him all talking about BigPipe and then everybody should now know that this is out there and available. You just install it and you go. That’s a simple example.

Hussain: Okay. That sounds cool. How does anyone reach you if they want to? If they’re working on a module and if they want to put it in the Module of the Week, how does anyone reach you?

jam: That’s pretty easy. I’m quite easy to find online. If you to @horncologne on Twitter it’s probably the simplest way to find me and get in touch with me. My email is [email protected] Just go ahead and write me. I’ve got a nice pipeline of articles coming. It’s not the only project I do. I’m really, really interested in highlighting people who are succeeding with the technology of Drupal. So, if you have a great case study, if you have a great project, if you have something that you’d really like to show off, if I can, I’d love to do something about it. Maybe it’s a podcast, maybe it’s an article or if it doesn’t fit in in any of my formats I would also be very happy to connect you with maybe someone else who could on another platform or whatever. I’m really, really interested in making developers lives better by connecting them with good information.

Hussain: Yes and personally I can vouch for that. You always responded on Twitter. So, yes, that's the easiest place to reach you.

Drupal 8 Module Acceleration Program

Parth: At Acquia you have program where you’ve come up with funds for reporting modules for D8. Can you tell us more about that?

jam: So, I’ve been in with Acquia a very long time. I was the 18th employee and one of the reasons why it’s been so great is I come out of the Drupal trenches. Drupal’s my project. It’s my Open Source love. Right from the beginning Acquia has made incredible contributions. We’ve screwed up. We’ve made mistakes. We’ve upset people. I’ve seen us really try and make it right, really apologize, whatever, but in terms of how much we try to give to the platform, I’m just so proud to be in the place where they send a guy around the world talking about Open Source, to a place where there are [roughly] 12 [paid, full-time]core contributors and so on.

It completely – so, knowing all of that, a couple of months when I heard that we were going to put a half a million dollars straight into Drupal 8 module upgrades, I was pretty blown away. So, what we’ve done at Acquia, the guy who’s organizing the program is called John Kennedy. He is also the product owner of our Drupal distribution which is called Lightning which is really cool. Check out Lightning. It’s like a base platform for building enterprise Drupal sites with a lot of opinionated architectural choices so that you can get commonality across big sites and make smart choices about workflows and so on.

Because we need to get Lighting into Drupal 8, we realized “Hey, we gotta get more modules moving faster so we can use it, too,” ... And this principle of enlightened self-interest is very important in Open Source ... We made a calculation along the way. This is pretty simple. If we invest this much money we’re going to get huge returns out of it and so will the community. The idea is John has been in touch with a lot of different people, a lot of maintainers, a log of project owners in the Drupal community and all the stuff that we considered important for Lightning and a few other things, the maintainers have all agreed to work at a community rate so it's not at a commercial level. It’s not like what you’d get on a big client project but real money, good money that you can live on. We’re paying that rate and so they give us an estimate of the hours, what they need to port a module to Drupal 8 and we’ve been pushing that out and it’s really, really great. I’ve talked with a couple of the maintainers who’ve been doing it and it’s just ... This is really a feel good moment and I think this is one of the best investments that we’ve made in a long time. I’m really, really proud that we can do something like that.

Hussain: It’s amazing. It’s incredible. Thank you for that. Thank you.

jam: It wasn’t me but you’re welcome. :-D

Parth: Next, tell me more about how you got engaged with Acquia. How many years ago again?

jam: I started with Acquia in August 2008. The short version is that I had been doing Drupal consulting and my first Drupal event was DrupalCon Brussels in 2006 and there were 200 of us there. At registration, you walked in the door and you handed Dries €20.00 and you got a t-shirt and you were in. I had meet Dries then and before I was working in Drupal apart from being a professional musician, I worked as a translator and a writer, and he engaged me to write all the texts and the legal disclaimers and the API documentation for Mollom--that was his other startup when he brought out Acquia. I did all of the text of Mollom. We had worked together a little bit because we knew each other sort of second-hand through the community and at some point Acquia needed a--the position was called Senior Writer. I knew Drupal and I have been doing professional writing for 10 years basically. It seemed like a really good fit and I wanted to move on from my situation and this little startup sounded like a good idea.

Parth: Little startup!

jam: Well, I was the 18th employee. This was a small company and you have to imagine that everybody did everything. I worked on acquia.com and I was the most junior person in Engineering. I documented Drupal Gardens when we built it. I documented our first hosting platform, I did testing, bug reports and all that stuff. Over time, I transitioned. 2011 I transitioned into the Marketing Department because I was getting better known in the community and I was given a very, very nice budget to go and help the community and I sponsored--in 2012, I sponsored 84 Drupal Camps. I don’t think any single person has sponsored that many. Now, it wasn’t my money but I think it’s also money well spent, and did a lot of community investment through that and then as time goes on this is has transitioned to an Evangelist job. I mean it’s been a good ride.

Parth: All right, one more thing. You’ve always told me in our conversations in the past week, you do this because you want to be true to the heart and you don’t want to do anything that you don’t stand behind. Can you tell us more about that ideology that you have when you work in the community?

jam: Yes. I’m going to try and tell you a really very short version. In the last 10 years, I’ve been forced to grow up. I’ve had to become an adult. I mean I have children. Friends and relatives have died and I’ve had to deal with that. People my own age have gotten sick and it’s all--it’s real life. It can be really hard. As I’ve gone through some of these hard times ... I’ve been doing Drupal for 11 years so in the same time frame as I had to face up to facts and become an adult, I got involved in Drupal and involved in Open Source. The changes in me, inside me they feel completely tied to the Open Source values: transparency, honesty, sharing, paying if forward, paying it back, all that stuff that we practice. We don’t just say it would be nice to do that. We live that in our communities. Because these things were happening at the same time, for me somehow, it’s just one. When you see me doing stuff, when you hear me doing stuff, it’s actually really me. This is not--I’m not putting on a show or something. So, it would be really, really hard for me to take a job that wasn’t helping people. I think I can imagine being in other jobs, other companies, that happens. I think if you make something that make people’s lives better, it doesn’t even have to be developers, right? It has to be something I can believe or I would really have trouble doing it. Expressing that in what we do today: I mean, I deeply admire our community and our technology and that’s what I’ve been doing for a long time but it could apply elsewhere too. I guess that’s the shortest version of that.

Hussain: That’s really, really inspirational.

Parth: Yes, yes. Exactly and so I was super inspired with that and that’s why I’m like--you have to mention that on the podcast.

Hussain: You heard it first here.

Parth: First. We do a lot of firsts and we’re going to do a lot of firsts in our coming episodes, so you better follow The Geek Voice!

jam: Thank you so much. It was really a privilege to be on your podcast. I really enjoyed that and you brought up stuff that I wouldn’t just bring up on a normal basis. Thank you for taking the time to have me on your podcast. I really, really enjoyed it.

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