Matt Obert on AI-Assisted Programming and the Paradox of Legally Stealing Your Car | NEDCamp

Matt Obert
Hotwebmatter

The New England DrupalCamp 2022 has started, and today is Sessions day. 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. The twelfth and final interview in this series is with Matt. 

A committed Open Source evangelist, creative technologist, and Acquia Certified Drupal 8 Site Builder with more than twenty years of experience building and hosting websites, Matt Obert, aka hotwebmatter, is a Linux system and database administrator since the late 1990s and became an early adopter of content management systems like Drupal and WordPress in the early 2000s. He is also the Vice President of Providence Community Radio. Matt currently works as the Director of Screening at Esteemed Inc. He will discuss Creating DrupalCode Projects: Drupal ATS by Esteemed in Room: Massachusetts (Gaige 204) from 03:00 pm to 03:45 pm this Saturday, November 19, 2022, as part of the New England DrupalCamp 2022, happening at Rhode Island College, Providence, RI. Let us read what Matt has to say: 

TDT: [1] The community parlance is that ‘you come for the code but stay for the community.’ How did you first get introduced to the community? 

Matthew Obert: I discovered Linux and Free/Libre/Open Source Software in the late 1990s at AS220, a non-profit center for the arts in Providence RI where I lived and worked between 1998 and 2005. My mentors, Shawn Wallace and Brian Jepson, were both writers for O’Reilly Media (the books with the lithographs of animals on the covers) and introduced me to LAMP server maintenance. I’ve been an Open Source evangelist ever since—although my anti-Microsoft views have softened over time.  

TDT: [2] A brief introduction about yourself and your work in Drupal 

Matthew Obert: While working as a system administrator for AS220, I maintained a server with hundreds of shell accounts and only a few dozen users who knew what to do with their public_html directory. As a result, I was an early adopter of LAMP stack CMS (Drupal, WordPress, and others). But it wasn’t until I worked with Oomph, Inc (2017 - 2019) that I really got excited about coding to Drupal APIs. Working with Esteemed has given me further opportunities for community contribution, including the Sessionize Embed Block contrib module I developed for DrupalCamp NYC in 2021.

TDT: [3] Everyone is waiting for the Drupal 10 release this December. What is the most exciting feature of Drupal 10 for you?

Matthew Obert: Well, I love the new Olivero front-end theme and Claro administration theme in the core, but then I have already been using them as contrib themes since Drupal 8. The replacement of classy with a new starterkit theme is a great approach that should make it easier for newcomers to create custom themes. The Decoupled Menus initiative is pretty exciting—shout-out to my Esteemed Colleague Liam Hockley for his work on that project. But I think the most exciting innovations are the project browser and automated updates—features that have been in WordPress since the beginning.

TDT: [4] 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 to date. 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?

Matthew Obert: Off the top of my head, I can think of three good options: First of all, there will be Vendor Extended Support (D7ES) options, so people stuck on Drupal 7 don’t need to worry too much. I have supported Drupal 6 sites way past D6 EOL (e.g., for small non-profits that could not afford a complete migration), and at least they can still get security updates. Beyond that, organizations stuck on D7 might want to consider exporting to a static site and keeping the full D7 offline. (I participated in a DevOps Summit panel on this topic last year with NEDCamp organizer John Picozzi.) Also, depending on the nature of your Drupal 7 project, it may be easier to migrate to Backdrop CMS. (It does not hurt that I presented an Esteemed Lunch & Learn about these options last year!)

Drupal 7’s end of life is scheduled for November 28th 2022. With the deadline looming, are you struggling with determining your Drupal 7 end of life plans? In our latest Lunch and Learn, Drupal Developer Matt Obert will offer an overview of options available to you and your sites. We’ll take a look at some of the common scenarios and ways of managing these projects so you can focus on your business, and worry less about Drupal 7 EOL. Topics covered will include: Migrate API: rebuild D7 site in D9 with full or partial content migration Custom Migration: rebuild D7 site in D9 with full or partial content migration Backdrop CMS: rebuild D7 site in Backdrop; full or partial content migration Other CMS (WordPress, Contentful, Wagtail, etc.) with full or partial content migration Other MVC (Symfony, Laravel, Django, Flask, Ruby on Rails, etc.); full or partial content migration Static site export with D7 behind firewall REST API rebuild using D9 or other About the Speaker: Matt Obert is the Director of Screening at Esteemed. He is a creative technologist and Acquia Certified Drupal 8 Site Builder with more than twenty years of experience building and hosting web applications. He has worked in both corporate and non-profit environments, always utilizing the latest technology to support art, design, commerce and philanthropy. About Esteemed: Best-in-class, Esteemed is the fastest-growing AI-powered talent management and career solutions provider delivering frictionless hiring and talent incubation for digital professionals. We help job seekers succeed in their chosen careers and employers scale their businesses with quality tools and resources to thrive within the changing global landscape.

TDT: [5] Responsive design and mobile-first approaches rule the roost when coming to designing websites. Do you consider the megalith structure of Drupal as a dead weight in designing so? If not, why? If yes, is headless your option?

Matthew Obert: I’m not an authority on decoupled or headless Drupal sites. Although I’ve implemented several API integrations, they tend to go the other way—from a complete Drupal site to an external RESTful API, rather than a decoupled front-end to a content API provided by Drupal. I rely on CSS tricks like Flexbox grids to make my sites mobile-friendly. That said, I’m a big fan of JavaScript frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue. (We are building the Esteemed Colleagues platform using Nest.js, but not with a Drupal back-end.) I’d be glad to work on a headless or progressively decoupled project, but I haven’t had the opportunity!

TDT: [6] You are a committed open-source evangelist and a Linux administrator. Do you see the pair programming tools, such as Copilot, as a bane to the FLOSS ecosystem?

Matthew Obert: Copilot is built on OpenAI Codex, a third-generation Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT3) that has been trained on billions of lines of code from tens of millions of public code repositories on GitHub. If you wanted to train the Codex on all the Drupal modules (and themes, why not), all you’d need to do is mirror all the public repos from git.drupalcode.org to public repos on github.com—the Copilot would train on them automatically. There’s nothing stopping anybody from doing this; I don’t think the GPL explicitly prohibits this yet (though the next GPL might). However, it’s extremely problematic to train an AI on code that is covered by Open Source licenses (just because gee whillikers, we wonder what would happen) and then allow people to release this copiloted code without licensing compliance. Remember those commercials about software and DVD piracy—“You wouldn’t steal a car!” Now imagine if it were illegal for me to steal your car but perfectly legal for me to program a robot to steal your car just because of a loophole in the law. Some open-source developers believe that’s exactly what’s starting to happen with AI.

You wouldn't steal a policeman's helmet and go to the toilet in it...

The Piracy Warning featured on Series 2 Episode 3 of The IT Crowd!

TDT: [7] Tell us a bit about what you present in the New England DrupalCamp 2022 and who should attend your session. 

Matthew Obert: I’ll be presenting in the Massachusetts Room (Gaige 204) at 3 pm on the topic of “Creating DrupalCode Projects: Drupal ATS by Esteemed.” The talk is for anyone who has ever wanted to create an official community-contributed Drupal module but didn’t know how to start. It addresses some of the lessons I have learned by leading the effort to build the ATS (Applicant Tracking System), a community-contributed module project, along with some of the “Drupalisms” that can make official Drupal projects more intimidating than just creating a GitHub repo. The talk will be suitable for all audiences.

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Join Matt Obert at NEDCamp 2022 for the session, ‘Creating DrupalCode Projects: Drupal ATS by Esteemed’ in Room: Massachusetts (Gaige 204), from 03:00 pm to 03:45 pm on Saturday, November 19, 2022, at Rhode Island College, Providence, RI. Click here to Register.

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