Our team is a bunch of great developers and Drupal experts. This time, we want to put Daniel Sipos, one of our Lead Drupal developers, in the spotlight. Why?
We know Danny to be an established and prolific writer. His personal blog Web Omelette is well-known in the Drupal community. His latest writing has led to a book Drupal 8 Module Development, released by Packt Publishing.
We sat down with Danny to talk about Drupal and his book-writing experience.
What prompted you to write a book? And why did you pick module development as a central theme?
To be honest, I had never thought about writing a book. I was always quite active in the Drupal community, often writing articles, and there are quite a few people who know me for this and appreciate it. This publication came about after I was approached by Packt Publishing to write the Drupal 8 version of the module development book. The previous one (for D7) had quite the prolific authors, so I had some big shoes to fill. But I took on the challenge and (I hope) it paid off.
For whom did you write this book? And what did you aspire to?
The most obvious audience for this book is novice Drupal 8 developers. This is because it starts from the basics. This can include Drupal 7 developers, site builders, but also PHP programmers from other communities. However, the target group is even larger than this. It can be very useful for intermediate Drupal 8 developers as well, because the range of functionalities covered is quite broad. My aim was to build a journey from the basics to quite advanced topics, to provide a comprehensive coverage of the most important APIs and subsystems.
How do you see the future for Drupal, where do you think it's headed? What's your vision for it?
I was happy to hear that during his DrupalCon Vienna keynote, Dries finally admitting that Drupal 8 is better suited for larger and more complex applications (mid to high market) than the smaller blog-like websites (small market). I agree with that and I think most of the community already knew this, but definitely some did not want to accept or admit it. Drupal 8’s new architecture allows building highly dynamic and complex platforms and at the same time can be quite the overkill for smaller websites.
the book is 500 pages and 18 chapters long, so it was definitely a challenge. But I’m glad I did it, I learned a lot of new things.
What was the biggest challenge for you in writing this book about module development? Was there a learning curve for you?
I think the biggest challenge for me was to build this reader journey I mentioned earlier. Many people jokingly asked me: so are you just going to compile a bunch of your website articles into a book? And I really didn’t want to do that. I wanted the book to have a logical flow, its chapters to build one on top of the other, the level of difficulty to progress naturally and to cover everything I deemed important for the scope of this book. So yes, I have quite a lot of writing experience but none of this magnitude. I mean the book is 500 pages and 18 chapters long, so it was definitely a challenge. But I’m glad I did it, I learned a lot of new things (both about Drupal 8 and about organising a book), so I am generally happy with the undertaking.
Was there a specific subject that interested you in particular? Why?
Typically, I am most interested in learning about APIs and subsystems most people don’t know very much about. If everybody knows how to do X or Z, what is my added value? This also allows me to help my colleagues when they have questions regarding things they cannot find information about on their own. So, for example, I enjoyed learning about low level stuff like the TypedData API and things related to data modeling and storage.
Tell me more about the writing process. How long did you work on it?
I think writing the book took a few months to complete. The most impressive thing has been the impact it had on my life. I work for Wunderkraut full time and have my own activities on the side. Not to mention family life and things like that. So it took quite a toll. There were people who did ask me: “how do you do it?” I really don’t have an answer. Except maybe a supporting wife.
Moreover, I found that writing is not something I can do in the same way as I code. For example, if I have 15 minutes free on the train I can easily grab my computer and do work on a project. But when it comes to writing, I need to have some good rested hours to dedicate at a time. And still, some days words just shoot out of me and others it’s like trying to squeeze blood from a stone. Luckily though, the research part did feel more like coding.
What was it like to work with a publisher in a tech-specialised domain?
To be honest, it was quite easy. I was always on my own doing the research and writing, always trying to stay ahead of the schedule to account for times in which I couldn’t work (holidays, etc). And, at the end, there were expectedly a bunch of remarks from the publisher that needed my attention, but it was quite organised, so it went by quickly.
What I did find a bit weird was that before even doing anything, I had to come up with the entire plan mapping out ALL the chapter titles and their approximate lengths. That can be daunting, always thinking: “what did I forget?, What if I need a new chapter? Can I fill up 40 pages on this chapter?”. I obviously didn’t know from the beginning any of this for sure, but in the end it turned out ok. And the publisher was definitely not rigid in deviating from that.
What's your next project? You think you will take on a writer's carrier? Maybe even teaching?
Nothing is for sure, but I am not thinking of any such projects for the moment. I do like teaching, so I will continue writing on my website and passing on knowledge that I learn myself. And perhaps, even come up with a training programme. You never know.