Moshe Via Incanus On Flickr

Moshe Weitzman, Drupal Pioneer and Director of R&D for Acquia

rustyw

Jun-12 8:14 AM

rustyw

I'm pleased to welcome Moshe Weitzman, Director of R&D for Acquia and Drupal Pioneer to AnswerStage. This interview was conducted in AnswerCast format with both audio and text available for each question. We'll be weaving segments together through AnswerStage and cross-posting the questions and answers on Twitter.
rustyw

Jun-12 8:19 AM

rustyw

This is Moshe's profile page on the Drupal.org site. In addition to his extensive business experience, he has two remarkable credentials: he's been a member of the Drupal project for 14 years 2 months and he has 7127 commits (as of the date of this interview).

rustyw

Jun-13 4:12 PM

rustyw

Q1: You started working on Drupal in 2001. What gave you faith that it would succeed as an open source project?
weitzman

Jun-13 4:12 PM

weitzman

I don’t think there was "faith" in 2001. It was more like a hobbyist's curiosity for the first few years. At that time I was working at Delphi and we had message boards and chat rooms that we white-labeled for third parties and I learned about open source just from reading magazines. I began wondering about who was working on the types of things I was working on but in the open source equivalent. That's how I found Drupal. I downloaded it and managed to install it on my PC and was amazed when I got to look at the code of Drupal. I was amazed that I was allowed to look at the code of Drupal and I could change it. I hadn’t experienced code at that level so I just started dabbling at changing code with Notepad and refreshing the page and noticing the page had changed. I found that to be quite an addicting thing at the time.
rustyw

Jun-13 4:12 PM

rustyw

Q2: Did you ever imagine Drupal becoming as widely used as it is today?
weitzman

Jun-13 4:12 PM

weitzman

I don't think I had any concept that it could get as big as it is today. It was 2005 and 2006 when the first dreams of it getting big were happening. There were still much bigger content management systems around at the time. Vignette was the leader in the space and I can't even remember all of the other ones. I thought Drupal was almost as good as those systems and wondered if people would start picking Drupal. It's still somewhat shocking that Drupal is almost a default choice for a lot of projects. Because we were so small and just a hobbyist thing for the first few years I was working on it.
rustyw

Jun-13 4:12 PM

rustyw

Q3: You mentioned Vignette. Are they even around now?
weitzman

Jun-13 4:12 PM

weitzman

I haven't heard their name for years. I did a lot of data migration work from other systems into Drupal so I sometimes encounter "dead" projects that I haven't thought of for years because people are trying to get off of them and onto Drupal so I'm more aware of the old days than maybe some other people are.
rustyw

Jun-13 4:13 PM

rustyw

Q4: Your title is Director of Research and Development at Acquia. Can you quickly explain how you maintain the balance between a for-profit company and the spirit of open source software?
weitzman

Jun-13 4:13 PM

weitzman

There are a few parts to that answer. Acquia is very generous with its funds. It funds a department within the company called The Office of the CTO. Most of the people within that department are working on Drupal. That's with the support of The Board of Directors. They even encouraged the formation of that group and the did so with the idea that goals of the Drupal project and the growth of Drupal are vital to Drupal and vice versa. So, the founders of this company were smart in setting everything up so both Acquia and Drupal can go in the same direction. It's very rare when someone at Acquia has to choose between the benefit of Acquia and the benefit of Drupal.
rustyw

Jun-13 4:13 PM

rustyw

Q5: Is the term CMS (content management system) still appropriate for what Drupal does?
weitzman

Jun-13 4:13 PM

weitzman

That's a pretty good term for what Drupal does. Acquia has been renaming some of what it does to make it more all-encompassing. If you look at Acquia's web site we talk a lot about digital experiences. The idea is the term "experiences" encompasses more than CMS which, at least to some people, is more of a "plumbing" word whereas digital experiences gets more into analytics, personalization and some features that people would place outside of content management. Drupal is a content management system but underneath it's also a framework for building web applications. So in terms of a framework, I think it's an excellent way to do personalization, A/B testing and analytics which is why Acquia has chosen to move in that direction because Drupal has given us a great basis upon which to build those experiences.
rustyw

Jun-13 4:13 PM

rustyw

Q6: How has the rapid increase in mobile traffic affecting the development of Drupal?
weitzman

Jun-13 4:13 PM

weitzman

It's huge. We released Drupal 7 four and a half years ago and at that time there wasn't nearly the same focus that mobile has now. So Drupal 7 is OK for mobile — you have to add contributed modules and themes to get a good mobile experience. Drupal 8 is completely responsive — both the front end and the back end. We also put in RESTful web services so it could interact well with native apps. So Drupal has put a lot of attention into mobile over the past few years and I'm glad we did because it’s such a huge part of what the web is now and going forward. Even Google has started penalizing web sites that aren't responsive. That’s the kiss of death for old web sites that are ignoring this trend. If you have a publicly available web site you simply have to make it responsive.
rustyw

Jun-13 4:13 PM

rustyw

Q7: If you had met Steve Jobs at a cocktail party, what would you have told him?
weitzman

Jun-13 4:13 PM

weitzman

Well it wouldn’t be like me to approach Steve Jobs at cocktail party because I'd be too nervous. But if I got over my nerves, I'd have certainly expressed a lot of admiration for the products that he's built. I’m very much of a product person and care a lot about bringing to market a product that people love and he was too. Especially when I think about the iPhone. That was a remarkable product from the day it was introduced. I remember the pinch to zoom feature, the beautiful scrolling — which we take for granted now — and the responsiveness of the touch screen which were extraordinary features. So, I'd admire him for his products. Some of the authoritarian stuff that Apple does is frustrating such as the way that they curate the app store, but those are minor details in the overall picture.
rustyw

Jun-13 4:13 PM

rustyw

Q8: And yet Apple is almost the opposite of an open source project. It's a closed/proprietary environment. Doesn't that rub you the wrong way having seen Drupal flourish as an open source project?
weitzman

Jun-13 4:13 PM

weitzman

Open source and Drupal is phenomenal in the way we collaborate globally and build something of value, but the one thing that open source hasn't been able to crack is building user experiences that are as good as the closed source approach. If you look at our successes they're usually plumbing projects. They are web services such as the Linux operating system and Drupal. If you look at the great end-user experiences they've been closed projects. It turns out to make a great user experience you need someone like Jony Ive in the front to define it. Open source doesn't work like that so Apple doesn't rub me the wrong way when we're talking about great end-user experiences.
rustyw

Jun-13 4:14 PM

rustyw

Q9: Is a great developer an artist or a scientist?
weitzman

Jun-13 4:14 PM

weitzman

I think of coders as engineers, and not really artists. There is plenty of beauty in the things that coders create but I find that as distinct from the people I think of as artists and the beauty that a painter or musician creates. So I don't see much benefit in calling developers artists it confuses the term "art" for me, but calling coders engineers is not besmirching them or giving them less worth. We all love the products that developers build for us. Developers built the internet, Google search and Google maps which are incredible gifts to the world but those are different from Ode to Joy and the Mona Lisa and other artistic creations like that.
rustyw

4:01 PM

rustyw

I'd like to thank Moshe for taking the time to talk with us about Drupal, Acquia and open source development. For more updates be sure to follow @weitzman @acquia and @drupal on Twitter.
rustyw

4:05 PM

rustyw

This is the first in a series of dual-format interviews that we'll be producing on AnswerStage and on behalf of clients. This is a link to the audio version of my conversation with Moshe broken up into segments for each question.

Interview with Moshe Weitzman – Drupal Pioneer and Director of RD of Acquia by AnswerStage
rustyw

4:11 PM

rustyw

For more information about Acquia and Drupal, visit http://acquia.com. This video provides a good overview of Acquia and the community that has grown around Drupal.

Drupal: An Open Source Community
rustyw

9:32 AM

rustyw

Photo credit: Moshe at DrupalCon via Justin Miller on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/incanus/4926391676/