The Support I Felt from the Boston Drupal Community Only Grew the More I Engaged: Mike Miles | NEDCamp

Mike Miles

The New England DrupalCamp 2022 is in this weekend. We asked between 5 to 8 questions to every speaker at the camp via email/slack. Some questions were common to all, and some were specific. We also gave them a choice not to answer any particular question. The Drop Times got written responses from most of the speakers. We are publishing those short conversations as a series. Here is the seventh interview.  

Michael Miles, popularly known as Mike Miles, is the Director of Web Development at MIT Sloan. He is one of the organizers behind the New England Drupal Camp. On Friday, November 18, you can join Mike’s training session, ‘Intro to Automation for Drupal Projects,’ in Room: Connecticut (Craig-Lee 205) from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. He is also presenting another session, ‘How to Manage Releases using Git Tags and Semantic Versioning,’ on November 19, Saturday, at Room: Massachusetts (Gaige 204) from 11:00 - 11:45 am. Let us see what he has to say. 

TDT: [1] A brief introduction about yourself and your work in Drupal

Michael Miles: I have been working with Drupal for the past 14 years. I spent a large portion of my Drupal career in digital marketing, working my way up to the V.P. of Technology for a digital marketing agency in Boston, where I was focused on building world-class websites for world-class clients. In 2020 I transitioned into the world of higher education, moving into the role of Director of Web Development for MIT Sloan, where my team and I are focused on building and maintaining the public-facing web properties for the school (the main one, being built on Drupal 9). I speak at a wide variety of technical conferences around the world; I am the lead organizer of the Boston Drupal Meetup and one of the organizers of the New England Drupal Camp.

TDT: [2] The community parlance is that ‘you come for the code but stay for the community.’ How did you first get introduced to the community? 

Michael Miles: I was first introduced to the Drupal community when I started attending Drupal Meetups in Boston around 2009. Back then, I was new to Drupal and needed a lot of support and questions answered as I worked on learning this (new to me) system. The Boston Drupal community was (and still is) very welcoming and supportive to people of all experiences. The support I felt from the community only grew the more I engaged, both online and in-person, at other meetups and conferences. 

TDT: [3] Tell us about what you present in the New England DrupalCamp 2022 and who should attend your session. 

Michael Miles: For the NEDCamp training day, I am presenting a half-day training on how to get started with automation for Drupal projects. The training focuses on those new to automation tools, such as GitHub actions and CircleCI, who repeat many of the same processes on their Drupal projects. The training aims to teach attendees how to identify tasks ideal for automation in a Drupal project and how to use common tools to do so.

For the NEDCamp session day, I am presenting a talk on how to manage releases using Git tags and Semantic Versioning. This presentation is for two audiences, those who want to better understand semantic versioning numbers and those who are looking to establish a standardized methodology for managing the production releases of their codebases.

TDT: [4] Everyone is waiting for the Drupal 10 release this December. What is the most exciting feature of Drupal 10 for you?

Michael Miles: I have always been, first and foremost, a PHP developer (I started building with it in high school), so I am most excited about the move to Symfony 6 and the required support of PHP 8.1. The introduction of Symfony in Drupal 8 completely changed how I developed in Drupal (for the better), and I’m excited to learn how to utilize the updated structures and features in Symfony 6 and PHP 8.1.

TDT: [5] After multiple extensions of Drupal 7 end-of-life, a final sundown is set for November 2023. It has been around for a decade and is the most popular Drupal distribution. Even after extending the deadline, there are a lot of websites that still run on Drupal 7. What is your advice for people staying on Drupal 7?

Michael Miles: For people staying on Drupal 7, my advice is to take the time to determine and assess how much risk you are comfortable taking on because sticking with Drupal 7 after the EOL comes with many risks, technically and personally.  

For the technical risk, with no security support and inability to update systems to newer versions, the longer you remain on Drupal 7, the greater your risk of being exploited by security vulnerabilities, potentially exposing the sensitive data of your users, clients, and systems. It won’t be a matter of if that will happen but when. As hosting providers drop support for Drupal 7 system requirements (PHP 7, for example), you will find your hosting options limited in the future, which may require you to move to a home-grown, unstable system. It will again open up your system to attack and increase system failure—the monitoring and mitigation will consume most of your time or require a higher cost.

As for personal risk, those developers, site builders, and themers who stick with Drupal 7 are basing the future of their development careers on a framework that was only out for 4 years (Drupal 7 was released in 2011 and Drupal 8 was released in 2015). While the pool of available projects to maintain may be large now, the size will dwindle (as projects either upgrade or migrate off of Drupal), and these developers will find fewer opportunities and options. 

Those sticking with Drupal 7 should take the time to consider all the risks associated with doing so and whether it is best for you, your clients, and your projects in the long run.

TDT: [6] You were hosting dev(up); podcast, where you extensively discussed the non-technical side of being a developer. But the career advice stopped with the third season of it, with the last podcast on February 2020. Why did you decide to stop it abruptly? Can you share some experiences from the subscribers of your podcast? 

Michael Miles: When I wrapped season three of the DevelopingUp podcast in February 2020, I had planned on taking a month off and starting the work for season four (I had already lined up some guests). But as we all know, the world changed drastically in March/April of 2020 with the global pandemic. I suddenly found myself with a number of changed priorities and responsibilities. Since the podcast was a passion project, where I was doing everything myself, sadly, it was something I had to give up to make room for everything else going on in my life. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue the project because it gave me a chance to talk with many amazing developers at different stages in their careers. What I learned from it is that, regardless of where you are in your career as a developer, there are always others you can turn to for advice, support, and encouragement, as well as peers in your circles who will benefit from you doing the same for them.

TDT: [7] Being the director of web development at one of the top business schools, how do you foresee Drupal’s future and how people interact with websites? 

Michael Miles: Since its onset, the web has always been about providing people with the ability to access information easily. Fundamentally this is a concept that is never going to change. People are going to use the web as a way to query for information. How that information is delivered always has and will be in a state of change. From the devices used to access the web and the protocols for delivering information to the “best-practice” methods for displaying the information to end users, these will always be changing. The future of Drupal continuing to be a tool used to deliver information on the web rests where it always has with the community. As long as the Drupal community is willing to experiment with new methods, frameworks, and technologies and openly share that knowledge, then I see a long future for Drupal.


Join Michael Miles at NEDCamp 2022 for the half-day training’ Intro to Automation for Drupal Projects’ from 1.00 pm to 4:00 pm on Friday, November 18, in Room: Connecticut (Craig-Lee 205) and a session, ‘How to Manage Releases using Git Tags and Semantic Versioning’ at Room: Massachusetts (Gaige 204), from 11:00 am to 11:45 am on Saturday, November 19, 2022, at Rhode Island College, Providence, RI. Click here to Register.

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