Josef Dabernig: Drupal not just a software, but an ecosystem
Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Learn who are the people behind Drupal projects.
This week we talked with Josef Dabernig. Read about his move to Switzerland, why he believes Drupal in a role model for other Open Sources, what his master thesis is about and his extreme Tour De DrupAlps.
1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?
Hi, I'm Josef, I'm an active Drupal community member since 2007. I grew up in Vienna where I studied computer science and moved to Switzerland in 2014 to work with Amazee Labs. I work as an Agile Consultant to coach our development teams on agile processes and consult our clients with the goal that they get the most out of their web solutions. Over time, my focus has shifted from development to managing people, and over the last year, I have transitioned from being a manager to being a consultant. Besides Open Source and Drupal, I am passionate about outdoor activities such as cycling or hiking, photography, travels, as well as wider web industry topics such as diversity & inclusion.
2. When did you first came across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, software or the community, and why?
When prepared for a social service abroad in Nicaragua, Alex Barth from Development Seed introduced me to Drupal, as my task was to rebuild the website for the cultural center in Nicaragua that I was going to work for. I already had been building other websites in Adobe Go-Live, HTML, CSS and later PHP since I was 12 years old. Drupal was the first time for me to successfully collaborate in an open-source environment. I especially remember when Nedjo Rogers from Canada came down to visit us and he showed me how to create my first patch to contribute changes to the Drupal project.
I was using Drupal mostly self-taught as a Site Builder. I was able to realize a lot without the need to write the code myself. Over time and given my background in computer science, I also learned how to write more complex code, thanks to the support and guidance of mentors like fago and klausi who taught me a lot about being an active contributor and writing clean code since the beginning.
I try to connect with the community as much as possible. That's probably just how I like to work - bringing together people from different perspectives and collaborating on a shared goal is what I strive for in a lot of the initiatives that I participate in. So in Nicaragua, I started teaching Drupal to kids and students that came to our cultural center for my Drupal classes. It was also in Nicaragua, where I was able to attend the Encuentro Del Software Libre Centroamericano - a conference up in the mountains in Esteli, which was the first encounter for different Open Source Communities across all Central America from Panama up to Guatemala and Mexico. This was a very inspiring moment for me because I was surrounded by all these young people from all over Central America, who were discussing the concepts behind Free and Open Source Software. I had intuitively resonated with them, but I was never really reflecting how and why Open Source works so well. We had people debating Ubuntu vs. Debian and I even met activists that were working against repressive regimes, who aligned the values behind Open Source with the values they see for their society.
Based on these encounters, I built a network with contacts around Central America and decided to travel for a month after my social service in Nicaragua. In my Drupal Tour, I have visited different Central American Open Source Communities to teach them about Drupal, and I ended up with 14 workshops in a month that lasted from 2 hours to 2 days. By sharing a tiny bit of my expertise, I met all many many inspiring and enthusiastic open-source people.
3. What impact Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?
Drupal has been a constant source of inspiration and new challenges over the last 11 years. I have met so many inspiring people from all over the world. I was able to develop myself and my career by working together with so many individuals. Connecting with others in the Open Source Community always made me happy.
The DrupalCamp Vienna in 2013 was definitely a milestone experience. You work half a year almost full time until you finally get rewarded by seeing 300 people from 25 different countries showing up and enjoying a two-day conference, each having an individual experience that you were able to contribute a part too.
I would also like to thank Michael Schmid (schnitzel), who gave me the opportunity to come work with Amazee Labs and move to Switzerland. In these last 4 years, I was able to learn incredible things thanks to him and the rest of the team.
4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?
With a smile on my face, I would say Drupal is a bit like a religion. We believe in an Open Source and share common values, principles and goals. We regularly gather at events and work together for a higher purpose. We share everything that we do. Sometimes people can get suck into Drupal or Open Source even too much and this will create burn-out. The good thing is, everyone has something to share and sometimes it’s just the story of how to take care of yourself and others.
5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?
When I started working with Drupal, it was already a thriving community that offered a powerful web solution. For me, it was never only a software but also the ecosystem, the community around it. Back then, the Drupal Association had just been founded. People were discussing fundamental questions around Drupal’s direction such as “small core vs. big core”.
Today, the software is certainly not the most innovative anymore. But Drupal is constantly trying to stay ahead of the curve. Drupal opened up by building bridges to other communities. In my opinion, the fact that Drupal adopted Symfony components was a big step towards “getting off the island”. Drupal is now a much more complete product out of the box, and it’s getting better everyday. Our internal Drupal starter kit needs a lot less modules compared to the Drupal 7 days. With the rise of decoupled architectures, I think Drupal is moving in a good direction by focusing on the very flexible content of modelling and advanced editorial workflow with features it can provide.
Within the last 10 years, I think Drupal as a community has evolved to be much more grown up. Recently, I have been speaking about Drupal initiatives. As the project has been growing, the processes have adapted and got a lot more mature. Drupal as I understand it, can be seen as a role model for successful open source collaboration at scale. I very much appreciate seeing initiatives such as Drupal Diversity & Inclusion, the CWG and many other initiatives that foster the health of the community such as Dries posting the Values & Principles and opening them up for collaboration.
6. What are some of the contribution to open source code or community that you are most proud of?
The Facet API Pretty Paths module was a great milestone for me, as it tried to integrate nicely with two competing solutions back at the time - Apache Solr and the Search API modules. I tried to create a little code as possible to solve the problem and a good amount of people was using the module. I was also really happy to finish my master thesis on the Geocluster module, which allows to visualize millions of points on a map and helped me get a scholarship to travel to DrupalCon Portland.
In terms of community contributions, the Drupal Tour Central America was certainly a milestone, as it kind of kicked-off my involvement with the community. As I was pretty active with mapping modules for a while, the most memorable moment there was organizing my first sprint at Drupal Dev Days in Barcelona. With 25 sprinters it felt great to be able to bring together so many folks working on similar things. In the same area, the #d8rules initiative was an exciting effort to raise funds and move porting the Rules module to Drupal 8 forward.
I think the best experience was the projects we realized together with Drupal Austria. As a group of engaged individuals, we organized regular meetups, the Drupal Austria Roadshow (where I met Agiledrop cofounder Iztok Smolic) and DrupalCamp Vienna.
7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?
Unfortunately, we were never able to really complete the #d8rules initiative. We have achieved a lot of good things, but we ran out of personal resources to finish the project. As Rules is one of the top Drupal modules being used, I would be really happy to find a new initiative lead.
8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavorment.
With my move to Switzerland, I started doing sports a bit more intentional. Cycling the alps in a month as part of my DrupAlps tour was a very exciting experience for me. I don’t really have particular sports plans at the moment and try to focus most of my energy on family and work. But sports has always been a great way for me to activate the brain, so I am definitely looking forward to keep doing sports and will see what’s next there.
For the future, I would like to learn more about UX and PeopleOps. With regards to technology, I haven’t touched much code recently. Solving higher-level problems and my whole involvement in Agile is also a bit like coding, but I am keen to touch code again, maybe in a couple of years.