Jozef Toth talks about the Drupal 8 CWI - I got the chance to follow up on my conversation with Dave Hall and Dick Olsson about the Drupal 8 Content Workflow Initiative (Podcast: Drupal 8 Content Workflow Initiative - Part 1). This post includes the video and full transcript of our conversation, as well as links to many of the people and topics we touched on!
Mentioned in the conversation
- Drupal security release process infographic
- Acquia Podcast: Drupal 8 Content Workflow Initiative - Part 1
- Dick Olsson
- Dave Hall
- Workbench Moderation Module
- Workflow Initiative community home: Drupaldeploy.org
Video interview - 27 min.
jam: My standard joke in all the podcasts lately ... and I apologize because I’m doing it over and over again ... but welcome to glamorous Nové Zámky in the Slovak Republic. Jojo Toth and I just had quite a nice weekend in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, at the DrupalCamp CS. Among other hats, you’re the head of the Slovakian Drupal Association.
jam: Talk about who you are, what you do, and talk about DrupalCamp CS.
Jozef: My name is Jozef and I work as a user experience designer at Pfizer, and as you said, part of what I do as my volunteering time is leading or trying to help with the organizing of DrupalCamps in Slovakia and also organizing the entire Slovak Drupal community. I’ve been working with this for about seven years now, and we had five camps total so far, and many good events, smaller meet-ups, trainings.
jam: One of the really interesting parts of the Slovak DrupalCamp - so in real time, it’s June the 1st today that we’re speaking. The camp was at the end of May. One of the interesting things that happened at the camp was the launch of the Czech Drupal Association at the – well, the CS Camp is supposed to be unified, right?
jam: Is everybody still friends between the Czech Republic and Slovakia? Is it okay to do that sort of thing?
Jozef: Yes. I would say that most people are still very good friends. Actually I think it’s more like brothers, and definitely to me it feels that way. Really, from the beginning when we started organizing camps, our two communities which are not really big, we cooperated a lot together, did a lot of events together. Slovaks have been active in Czech Drupal Forum. Czechs have been active in the Slovak Drupal Forum, so it was just natural that for the last two years, we’ve decided to do a joint event and now it’s officially not DrupalCamp Slovakia, but CS which is Czechoslovakia. Actually, what you have on your T-shirt is Drupal Without Borders, so we were sort of reuniting Czechoslovakia again through Drupal.
jam: Okay. Are you going into politics next?
Jozef: I might consider that. I’m so sorry. I can’t deny nor confirm that.
jam: Now you and I have known each other for a number of years. I am absolutely certain that we worked together the first time in 2011. I’m not sure if we had met before that, but you used to run - among other things, you used to run a design agency, and we worked together to produce among other things a really fun infographic about the Drupal Security Process which I’m still really, really proud of and I’m going to link to again because it’s cool.
jam: How and when did you discover Drupal?
Jozef: That is a long story, so to make it short, and it was a long time ago, I think it’s like 11 years now. I was traveling on a train to my daily job where I was basically doing designs and trying to create some websites – some static websites, and my friends kept asking me, “Can you create a website for me?" then another friend, another friend ... I ended up looking for something which can help me to do it in a more sustainable way I would say, so I wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel every time when I create a website so I discovered the word “content management system,” and then I discovered Drupal and I was actually comparing it to several other options. What really helped me was I found a very good resource. It was like a training blog post, “How to Build Your First Drupal Website,” and it basically convinced me that Drupal is the way how I should move forward and it’s been a successful journey so far.
jam: Your background is in design, so I imagine people were asking you for websites because you would make them pretty.
jam: All of these years you’ve been doing Drupal and by my count, that’s got to be at least six, eight?
Jozef: Since 2007, so it’s ...
jam: Wow. Nine years now. You don’t consider yourself a coder or a developer. From your perspective, with your design background and so on, what’s your favorite thing about Drupal and what made you stick with it all these times? When I say that, you made websites with Drupal, you had a Drupal agency, and now you work for Pfizer still on Drupal, so all this time that’s been a really common thread. What’s your favorite thing about it? Why did you stick with it?
Jozef: It may sound funny, or maybe everybody is telling that, but one of the things was actually the community because really I made very good friends in the community. I also found people or members of the Drupal community being these nice, good people, so when I had any issues or I didn’t know what to do or where to look, I knew that I can reach out to these people or ask on these forums and they would very quickly be people who would answer my questions. Definitely, community was one thing which kept me working with Drupal, but also the flexibility of Drupal where it was capable of supporting very small websites which I was building for my friends, to large portals or even distributions which we were building for probably the largest known non-profit organization which exists in the world. This big scale of different products which can be built with Drupal was another thing which definitely kept me.
jam: Your specialty over time has become UX especially. What are your thoughts about Drupal 8’s architecture in terms of the loose coupling between the backend where all the business logic happens and the ability to add any number of front ends whether they’re apps or other front-end frameworks and so on?
Jozef: Actually, this is one of the things which I am probably the most excited about Drupal 8. Obviously you were able to do something similar with previous versions of Drupal, but it just really got so much easier here, and I’m really excited to see how - for example, the market or the use cases will explode now, how we’ll see many different, not only iPhone or the mobile applications, but really how Drupal will be powering many different used cases which we haven’t really even maybe dreamt of or dreamed of ... Connected devices, wearables, applications in different systems which maybe are not even applications right now, but I think that it can really help disrupt some of the industries or some of the new ideas even. I really enjoyed the demo which Dries showed in New Orleans, and I really think that this is one of the key strengths of Drupal.
jam: Yes. I’m really excited about the "web beyond websites" - I’m starting to think of it that way whether it’s the internet of things and wearables, and we still all have computers and telephones and what have you. How the internet is connecting all of that and how Drupal as this web-services-content-management-engine can be behind that and power that sort of things, and that demo that Dries did in New Orleans was really, really cool essentially if I recall the details correctly, it was a store that’s kind of monitoring its inventories and pushing out specials and offers to entice people to come in and shop, and then people could also place orders through their Amazon Echo that would shoot through Drupal and go to the logistics system and there was never a front end, but it was all powered by Drupal and APIs.
Jozef: Yes, and awesomesauce.
jam: And awesomesauce! One of the things that Dries set up and made happen in many ways during the Drupal 8 initial – the long initial release cycle was the idea of initiatives. For the first time when he announced Drupal 8, he announced some sort of a roadmap that was more than, “Give me what you people need and we’ll put it together,” and said it needs to be mobile-first and it needs to be fully restful and web-services-oriented and a whole series of things: the configuration management initiative, and all these different aspects, and they went really well and now he’s come up with this idea of, “Let’s keep going with initiatives,” but he’s looking for the community to source the ideas again. The very first one of those that’s set up is the Content Workflow Initiative and you’re part of that along with a few other people. I spoke with Dick Olsson and Dave Hall about this in New Orleans. Why don’t you give me your perspective on what the initiative is, and what its goals are?
Jozef: Basically, I think the easiest way how to describe it is trying to make some of the things which people are, or Drupal users were always trying to do with Drupal and had to use several other tools for that basically just making their life easier. By adding parts of, let’s say Workbench Moderation to the core and just maybe changing some very small details from the user experience, I think it’s just making Drupal 8 out of the box more intuitive and more user-friendly when it comes to content authoring, content editing, and workflows around content.
jam: Who’s the target audience for the improvements that the Content Workflow Initiative is thinking about, and how are they going to benefit from sort of what you’re doing?
Jozef: The Workflow Initiative is oriented on content editors, people who maybe as part of their daily job work with content. They do moderations, authoring, publishing, and doing some edits, et cetera.
jam: Right. And to be fair, once we’ve architected and built a website, these are the people who live and breathe and work in the products that we’ve produced like day in, day out. They end up living with our sites much, much longer and more intimately than we ever do, right? You’re trying to make their experience better?
Jozef: Yes. We are basically trying to make their professional life easier.
jam: Would you say, as a UX person, do you have a – one of the reasons that usability and documentation is hard for regular developers and users is that a lot of us get used to how something work very, very quickly and then we just do it. As a UX person, how do you catch yourself from just getting used to a solution because it’s always been that way and keep your eyes fresh looking for improvements?
Jozef: You said in the beginning that I don’t consider myself being really a programmer or a developer or a coder. Actually, I think sometimes it helps when working with Drupal, and basically with many other tools or solutions as well because I can probably see some of the user interfaces from a completely different perspective than a developer who basically just wants to – and I’m not trying to decrease the value of developers obviously here – but their focus is on basically putting this item in that place. What we as user experience designers try to do is to help them maybe place it in a position, or on the place where people are usually looking for that, or we are in different situations, we are trying to come up with a position where people should be trying to look for that. I don’t know if this answers your question.
jam: Yes. I like the point about having a different perspective. I recall trying to introduce people to Drupal back – it doesn’t really matter, but [in the Drupal] five, six, seven days and it was perfectly obvious to me why one particular menu item was under a "Content" and another one was under "Structure", and another one was maybe under "People" or "Users" or whatever we called it that month, because I was aware of what subsystem was generating this bit of interface and then it makes perfect sense to group things by subsystems. Now, if you don’t know the underpinnings of Drupal, that doesn’t have to make any sense at all to you, right? That’s a good point.
Jozef: Yes. Obviously I love Drupal. I know there are thousands of developers who basically volunteer for uncountable number of hours, and work on it. As you said, I really love how it can basically fill the needs of an amazing amount of people. It’s like we have this 95% done, and we just need this finishing touch on that. It’s like when you produce a car, you let people drive it and test it and if there are few small things which just needs to be improved, and then they improve it and the final product is there for everyone to use. This is how we can help how user experience designers can contribute even when they are not developers.
jam: This is something that’s really interesting to me about your situation. You are part of a group that is potentially going to make a significant impact on Drupal Core itself going forward over the next couple of years as Drupal 8.2, 3, 4, 5 come out. Talk about being a contributor to Drupal Core who’s not a coder, and tell me how many other non-coding core contributors do you think there are at this point?
Jozef: I definitely think the number could be higher. Are you asking me about a specific number?
jam: Or your impression ...
Jozef: Yes. Through the years, when I was working with Drupal, I think the number should definitely be higher. We know that Drupal was basically a development-centric product if I can call it that way, and it’s incredible to see that actually the more when I’m attending DrupalCons and sprints there, we are always seeing an increase of people who are not developers, who are for example, just testers or they write documentation, or they are training others or even designers, people who want to bring in some maybe more strategic ideas to the board, but I think this number could still be higher and more people could get actually involved in contributing.
jam: Do you have any trouble getting developers to trust you on this soft stuff about the button placement or the user interface stuff? Did you have to work to get an effective working relationship going?
Jozef: No. What I found is that when they trust you or when they know you, they trust you with your judgment and they actually ask, especially when I work with my colleagues at Pfizer, they often come to me for recommendations for some of the work which they are working on, and I think it’s really important that we have this trust between the two worlds which exist: developers and basically everybody else because together we can make a very good product together. Also for several years or when I started to work with Drupal from the beginning, I realized that probably my biggest skill will never be developing or programming. I was looking for other ways how I can contribute to Drupal, and sometimes it has been difficult or I couldn’t find really a way how maybe a designer can help, and probably the problem was that I was just not looking enough.
jam: I think that that’s a parable for anybody who’s involved in Drupal. “I can’t contribute” is probably not true. Everyone in our community has at least something - some unique skill or knowledge, and in my experience everyone who’s tried has been able to make a difference. And literally there are people – I like the example of the Drupal community in India which is an amazing bunch of people and it’s really sprung up. It’s really exploded in the last five years, and right out of the gate they’ve got contributors who run camps or know where to get T-shirts printed right, or a whole set of other skills. It’s a very, very rich experience and I remember the early days of Drupal community when it was developers only like you were saying.
Jozef: When I actually started to look for opportunities, suddenly I saw that there are so many things which I can do even just helping with maybe marketing of Drupal. We started designing some of the infographics which actually, like the first one, I got an email from some university teacher if he can put it into a textbook because he liked that so much, and I also had the privilege to help designing Drupal 7 logo and then design the Drupal 8 logo as well, so the opportunities are there. We just need to sort of find our way into the community. There is also the "usability" tag in the issue queue which people can just look through and find design-related issues which they can help.
jam: You and Dick Olsson and Dave Hall all work for Pfizer, and Pfizer has a big investment in Drupal – probably thousands of websites. You’ve got time at work to work on this initiative. How does this content workflow initiative, how does that benefit Pfizer?
Jozef: Basically, many of the solutions which are a part of the content workflow initiative, they already exist as a contrib. modules, and you can find or learn more about it at drupaldeploy.org. There is a list of modules which work with Deploy, and we at Pfizer use many of these or even many of these have been created as a part of the work which we do to manage our own websites and how we deploy content across different workspaces or websites.
jam: Give me some examples of specific improvements that you’ve identified that you want to bring into this.
Jozef: Yes. Part of the concept for the workflow initiative is having workspaces. This is actually somewhere towards the end of the roadmap which we have for the workflow initiative, but it’s also one of the most visible places where people can see the results and the idea is that you have a collection of content entities which is a workspace, and you can synchronize content entities between these two workspaces. Sometimes when you work with a lot of data, a lot of information, a lot of content, and you need to do the same thing at some other workspace or website, let’s say, then it’s, for example, confusing, “Am I on this website or am I on this website?” One of the things which the initiative is proposing is to have a workspace switcher, for example where you can quickly see which workspace I’m currently working on, what moderation state it is in, and there is a very easy to use dropdown toolset how you can actually moderate the workspace itself. Another area is when you are, let’s say a content author and you work together with editors as a team, you may not have enough permissions for example to do the actual deployment, so you can submit your work, what you did for review, and then somebody else will review it. If it’s okay, he will deploy it. To know that something that like this happened, I came up with the idea of having notifications, so it can be a small icon maybe with a number in the toolbar which you can expand and see notifications related to your work, and actually I think this is something which would be beneficial to let’s say, entire Drupal, not only just the Workflow Initiative, but there are many things where notifications can be useful, like for example, showing you that your site is not secure or you need to update your modules.
jam: That is exactly the very first thing that occurred to me, plus new comments, comment moderation, spam, all that sort of thing too, right?
Jozef: Yes. I’m actually surprised that there isn’t a central notification place in Drupal.
jam: You’ve just embedded the notifications API, you realized?
jam: Cool. Hey, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. Thanks again for a wonderful Drupal Camp in Bratislava, and I am looking forward to seeing you again somewhere soon, maybe DrupalCon Dublin?
jam: Perfect. Wonderful. Thanks, Jojo.
Drupal Security Release process infographic
Jozef and I put this together a few years ago. I think it has held up well over time.