Web architect Cleaver Barnes makes websites do interesting and useful things, which is to say he focuses on the code more than the visuals. His first major use of open source was Linux in the mid-'90s. It allowed him to do things that weren't possible in Windows at the time. Since then he has worked building web apps with Java J2EE and other technologies.
In 2007, he started working with Drupal. Three years later he started Verge Interactive to focus on it. I had the chance to get Cleaver's take on Drupal and development tools shortly after he returned home to Toronto from DrupalCon Los Angeles.
How would you explain Drupal to the uninitiated?
Drupal is a toolkit. You could compare choosing something like Drupal to picking out tools at the store: There's simpler tools, there's more expensive tools, some tools may be more suited to a particular job. But for starting an ambitious web project, Drupal is one of the best toolkits.
What was your opinion of DrupalCon Los Angeles?
I've been to eight previous DrupalCons, but Los Angeles more than any other felt like drinking from a firehose. For each session I attended, there were several others that I wanted to attend. I'll be watching the recorded videos for some time.
How will the inclusion of Symfony components in Drupal 8 (D8) change Drupal?
To use the toolkit metaphor, with Symfony, Drupal becomes more like a socket set where you can easily plug in different attachments because everything is more standardized. In the past, we wasted too much time as a community inventing our own unique solutions. Now we can build upon what other projects are doing.
Which local development environment and IDE do you prefer?
One thing I can't live without is a good debugging tool to step through code as it runs. PhpStorm has a good debugger and is faster than the other IDEs I've tried.
What about Drush? Talk to us about that in the context of the day-to-day development you do.
For me, a single command is much easier than clicking through multiple screens. Every site I start begins with a Drush makefile to download all modules I need in one operation. I was raised on the command line in DOS and Unix, so typing commands is second nature. With D8, I think we may be using Composer and Drupal Console to do many tasks, but Drush will probably stick around for a while longer.
Is there a software package from days past that you miss the most?
A lot of the old Unix utilities I used are still around, and some, like Vim, are even fashionable. The one tool from the DOS days I miss is Turbo Pascal 3. It had an editor and compiler all in one and the whole thing fit on a single floppy disk. It was so fast and easy to use compared to the other tools of the day. That was when I first became passionate about writing code.