In my past few years, I’ve become something of a “Drupal developer.” However because of my recent experiments with MVC frameworks, Ruby on Rails in particular, I have since been left wanting with Drupal. And anybody who knows what a “Drupal developer” is knows it’s not necessarily a compliment. I’ve spent so much time in Drupal land that I most certainly am not growing my skills as a web developer as much as I should be. I can write a Drupal hook or a custom module with ease, but these are only skills that will help me with Drupal.
There’s also something of a stigma, or a joke within the Drupal community, about Drupal’s insane learning curve. The above linked image hilariously, albeit a bit morbidly, illustrates a feeling that is all too familiar to Drupal developers. I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with my reasons (if there are any) for devoting so much time and effort towards something that kicked my ass so much in our early relationship. Who knows, maybe I’m a closet masochist. Whips, chains, and leather anybody? Whoa, never mind. Maybe too much information.
With all of this in mind, I was excited to learn about some of the planned features and framework changes going into Drupal 8, in particular the heavy integration Drupal will have with the Symfony2 PHP development framework. If Drupal 8 were to adopt more of the development standards found in other cutting edge MVC frameworks learning it would be much more worthwhile for developers looking to stay on top of industry trends without falling behind. In a blog post by Fabien Potencier, the creator and lead developer for Symfony2, he shares two videos that expand on this integration. Of particular interest to me were the sections in Dries Buytaert’s keynote video about what the (Drupal) creator himself felt were the current shortcomings and weaknesses in Drupal. I won’t go over them, but it was refreshing to hear Dries admit to his own CMS’s faults, and made me believe Drupal is headed in the right direction.
The second video is Fabien’s own session during DrupalCon Denver 2012. He gave a very high level overview of how Drupal 8 plans on implementing parts of Symfony2. If it were up to me I might like to see even more adoption than what was slated at the time the video was made, which may already be the case, and less concern about backwards compatibility. While it is marginally honorable that Drupal is still thinking about their stuck-in-the-past developers, this isn’t a good enough reason to stick with an antiquated method (programming-pun intended). One thing that both videos made clear is Drupal cannot afford to fully adopt everything Symfony2 has to offer, at least in this version. Making things too complicated would limit the amount of developers who would be capable of starting with Drupal, and a shrinking talent pool of Drupal developers simply doesn’t make business sense for an open source application. But at the same time Drupal cannot cease to innovate, or they risk losing out to a hot new CMS looking to fill their shoes (hot new CMS as yet to be named). It’s like watching an old lion trying to defend his harem against a brash newcomer on the Discovery channel, you just don’t need to cover your kids’ eyes at the end.
At this point any move for Drupal towards a more future friendly framework is a good one. I’ve reached a point with Drupal that I have almost lost sight of our future together (I really need a girlfriend, don’t I?), but with these changes I can begin to look forward with optimism, and hopefully this time without the whips. They hurt.