Speaker Highlights: Larry Garfield

Larry Garfield has been building websites since he was a sophomore in high school. At Palantir, Larry is a Senior Architect and Community Lead, developing solutions for medium to large cultural and educational institutions. Larry is an active Drupal core contributor, including the principle architect of the Drupal 7 database system and the Drupal 8 Web Services Lead.

He is a co-author of “Drupal 7 Module Development” from Packt Publishing. In the following interview he shares his thoughts on Drupal as a whole and Drupal 8 in particular as well as conference experience and talks.

What is the three best new things about Drupal 8 that you can point?

First, we’ve heavily refactored most systems in Drupal to be more in-line with modern PHP practices. That means most of the code base is now Object-Oriented, most systems are using dependency injection to make code unit testable, most new systems have clearly defined interfaces, etc.  That not only makes the system more approachable for experienced PHP developers (or developers of any other similar OOP language), it makes the internal APIs far more consistent and learnable than ever before.  As part of that process we are also leveraging a large number of 3rd party libraries from Symfony, Zend, Guzzle, and other projects, embracing the new wave of collaborative development in the PHP community.

Second, while Drupal 8 has a large number of new features I think the most important one for most users is the new Configuration Management system.  Drupal’s strength has always been its configurability through the UI, but with configuration stored in the database that makes deploying changes to production quite challenging.  Drupal 8 includes a centralized, robust configuration system that modules can leverage that handles full round-trip import and export of configuration, making deploying configuration changes via Git a simple and straightforward task.

Third, Drupal 8 includes a much more robust suite of tools out of the box.  Drupal 7 core was, by design, very minimalist.  In essence it wasn’t a complete CMS, but a skeleton with which to build a complete CMS using well-known contributed modules.  Drupal 8 brings most of those standard tools into the core system, offering an out-of-the-box experience that is ready to use immediately without any additional add-ons (although many are still available!)  That includes the almost universally-used Views module for content assembly, a more robust suite of field types (including dates, links, and entity references), as well as a cleanly-integrated rich text editor in the form of CKEditor 4, among others.  All of those are bundled in the core system and ready to use.

What are the main advantages of Drupal over other popular CMS systems?

Drupal tries to strike a balance between advanced features and functionality and accessibility to a wide audience.  It offers professional, enterprise-grade content modeling and management features but strives to make them accessible and usable to even many casual users.  We believe very strongly that both Fortune 500 companies and 5-person non-profit organizations deserve to have the very best tools at their fingertips, and that those tools should be as easy to use as possible.

Just as important as the functionality, though, is the community and ecosystem behind it.  Drupal’s supporting community is vast and world-wide, with a commercial ecosystem that touches every corner of the globe.  Drupal’s developer conference, DrupalCon, is one of the largest in the development community at over 3000+ for the North American events.  We believe very strongly in mentoring and community building, which gives Drupal a community energy that I have never seen anywhere else.

On average how many conferences per year do you attend?

I don’t know that I have an average, but in 2014 I spoke 29 times at 20 different conferences.  This year, I think I’m on track for only 15, but that is subject to change. (Hm, I need to find more conferences!)

And which one is your favorite in respect of organization?

That’s a dangerous question. I don’t know that I have one single favorite. DrupalCon is a well-oiled machine at this point. The Twin Cities DrupalCamp in Minneapolis is as well.  Sunshine PHP in Miami is always a class act, with everything just-working and a beautiful venue. I collected some advise and shout-outs for conferences on my blog last year.