Interview with Ricardo Amaro: The future is open, the future is community and inclusion

Published by Tim
on 8 August 2019
in Drupal
Ricardo Amaro Drupal Community Interview cover

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

In our latest interview, Ricardo Amaro of Acquia reveals how his discovery of Drupal has enabled him to work on projects he enjoys and that make a meaningful impact. Read on to learn more about his contributions and what the Drupal community in Portugal is like. 

 

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

My name is Ricardo Amaro. I live with my wife and 2 kids in Lisbon, Portugal. I’ve been working for Acquia since 2011 and recently promoted to Principal Site Reliability Engineer where we deal with all the challenges of helping ~55k Drupal production sites grow every day.

I’ve been contributing in several aspects to the Drupal Community and sometimes that effort goes beyond. An example of that is the published co-authoring of the “Seeking SRE” book (O’Reilly) with my chapter about Machine Learning for SRE, since that main idea came out of a presentation I did at DrupalCon Vienna 2017 explaining how automation and machine learning could help increase reliability on Drupal sites. 

Other projects I’ve initiated in the past within the Drupal community include:

On the local front I founded the Portuguese Drupal Association 8 years ago and I am its current elected president. That same year we organized our first DrupalCampLisbon2011. Nowadays we organize DrupalDays and Camps all over the country and meet regularly on Telegram and video-conferences. Last year we organized DrupalDevDays Lisbon 2018 which was a really good turn out for the entire community.

My main drivers are a passion for Free Software and Digital Rights. That started back in the 90’s when I found myself struggling with the proprietary/closed software available at the time, and installing Linux/Slackware in 1994 was an enlightening moment to my own question “isn’t there a better option?”. But I only switched all my machines to Linux in 2004 and that’s what I’ve used up to now. Because I think the GNU/Free Software ecosystem, where Drupal was able to grow, is fragile and needs to be nourished by all of us.

I have a degree in Arts and a second one in Computer Science & Engineering and I’m now taking a master in Enterprise Information Systems.

Before Acquia, I worked both in the public sector and in the private sector in Portugal, applying Agile techniques and encouraging the DevOps culture. I’ve managed teams, development projects and operations also in South Africa and around Europe. 

 

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

I came across Drupal in 2008, when searching for an OpenSource CMS software in order to create some Media Publishing sites for the company I was working for back at that time. My role as an IT Director was not easy, since the company was struggling with funding, so Drupal 6 was an amazing tool that enabled us to grow several of the sites and particularly create a self service on our main classified advertisement sites.

I found the Drupal Portuguese community at that time struggling to have a legal entity and to be able to grow and organize events inside the country. Portugal has always been mostly monopolized by large corporations like Microsoft and Oracle, while Free software has always been seen as “experimental” solutions, at best.

I took upon myself the commitment to bring the local Drupal community the pride and success they all deserve. I’ve grown a friendship for each and every person in our community and now I couldn't imagine myself without them, as I couldn't imagine myself without Drupal.

 

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

Putting it simply: Drupal changed my life! Drupal brought justification to my values and aspirations. I honestly couldn’t have imagined, in a world that is more and more inclined to monopolistic visions, being able to exercise and contribute to the Free Software community and make a living out of it.

The particular moment I felt this more strongly the first time was around 2011 when some decision makers from one of these large corporations asked me if I could bring my Drupal presentation to them at the time, because they wanted to know what this Drupal thing was all about. So I organized a few of my usual slides and took them with me.

This was in a very fancy Vila in one of the most expensive areas near Lisbon. I did my pitch and by the end they seemed very impressed with what Drupal had to offer for free, so many powerful features, so much commitment. Naturally one of their questions was how they could make their proprietary software, that started having a descent curve, embark on this positive wave of growth. My obvious answer was “release your code as open source”. They looked at me in discredit of course and still invited me for a boat ride which I declined politely. 

I went back home and from time to time thought about that episode until it started to look like a mirage in the past. To my surprise, in the most recent years, that same corporation has started releasing open source code, created community projects and apparently changed their minds… 

 

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

Drupal lets you turn big ideas into digital realities. An innovative web platform for creating engaging digital websites and experiences. Drupal is the world's most popular enterprise-class web content management system. It’s developed by more than 46,000 people that are part of the 1.3 million users registered on drupal.org.

Last year we had about 1,000 companies with 8,000 code contributions and this is reflected in millions of websites with 12% market share, plus an annual growth of 51%. If these people still had some more time I would present them the Drupal Pitch Deck. :)

 

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

From my perspective Drupal has been always growing and even making positive bonds with other Free Software initiatives out there.  One of the most interesting ones happened last year at Drupal Europe 2018 (11-14 Sept)  where we had the founders of RocketChat and Nextcloud met and they ended up announcing a partnership on the 17th of September…  

We should follow that example and support more interaction and collaboration with other projects in our ecosystem. For starters we should make an effort to use tools like RocketChat (see https://drupalchat.me) and grow awareness that companies like Slack have 0, or even less, to do with our values and we don’t gain anything with crossing our arms and letting people be driven there. The future is open, the future is community and inclusion.

 

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

For sure the ongoing effort that I do on the Drupal Portuguese Association to keep people motivated, things organized and events happening is the first one. The highlight of this was DrupalDevDays Lisbon 2018. The second one was the DrupalCI which was of major impact for Drupal8’s final release.

 

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

 

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavor. 

I’m most excited about Containers and the power behind them. That is only possible because there is Gnu/Linux operating system supporting them. Kubernetes in particular is also of interest since it follows the reasoning of auto-scalability that we need for distributed systems. Drupal is flying to the future already with its headless/decoupled capabilities. I’m seeing containers even being applied to support machine learning algorithms and neural networks. 

Another thing that I’m particularly interested in is investigating better ways to make communities grow and ensure that they have the necessary tools to make that happen.  

My personal endeavor is, in the end, to see my kids grow in a healthy environment, rich in possibilities, and for that I need to keep information available for them and help the Free Software ecosystem stay alive. After all, what else is there that can guarantee our future human independence from “blackboxed” technology? If you can’t see, study or change the source, what role is left for you? 

 

Members of the Portuguese Drupal community at Drupal DevDays Lisbon 2018

 Drupal DevDays Lisbon 2018