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135 Writing the Book Drupal 8 Configuration Management with Anja Schirwinski and Stefan Borchert - Modules Unraveled Podcast

Photo of Anja Schirwinski and Stefan Borchert

Writing a Book for D8

  • What’s it like writing a book for a piece of software that isn’t even officially released yet?
  • How long did the writing process take?
    • Packt publishing sent us a proposal to write this book in December of 2013. We got started quickly, sending them an outline of the chapters and an estimated page count in the same month. The original estimated page count was 150, it turned out to be around 120. We received a pretty strict time line, having to finish a chapter every two weeks, starting in December of 2013.
    • We managed to finish most chapters in two weeks, but some of the longer ones took a little longer since we also started one of our biggest projects we had had until then, also in January. That was pretty tough because that project took up way more than a regular full time job, so we ended up having to write all of the chapters late at night and on the weekends. In May, all of our chapters then went to the editors and we didn’t hear back from the publisher for a really long time.
    • We also told them that we will have to rewrite a lot of the chapters since there was so much work in progress with the Configuration Management Initiative and they were changing a lot about how it worked, like going from the file based default to the database default. I think it was in January of 2015 when chapters came back with some feedback and we started rewriting every chapter, which was pretty painful at the time. We were able to update some of the documentation at with the changes we found. It felt good to contribution at least a small part, when with our project and the book we had no time left to contribute code to Drupal 8 like we usually do.
    • We spent around 40 days on the book between the two of us.
    • In December, Packt asked the first publisher to review the book. We had recommended them one of our team members at undpaul, Tom, who has a similar amount of Drupal knowledge as Stefan. We really wanted to have someone from CMI to review the book, like Greg Dunlap. They had turned down reviewing the book after the first chapters were written, because too much would still change. Then after the changes went in we kept recommending Greg but I never heard anything back, maybe he was busy or they didn’t bother to ask. At the beginning of this year they told us the book was planned to be published by March. We recommended waiting because we didn’t expect a release candidate before the European Drupalcon and we would have rather had someone like Greg take the time to review, but Packt had another opinion :) Since most of CMI changes were finished, we didn’t feel too uncomfortable about the time of publishing, and it was also kind of nice to finally be done with this thing :) So it took a little over a year from start to finish. It was published on March 24th.
  • Do you expect to need to rewrite anything between now and when 8.0 is released?

The Book: Drupal 8 Configuration Management

  • What do you cover in the book?
    • We start of with a basic introduction to what Configuration Management in Drupal means, because it is a thing in Software development in general, that doesn’t usually refer to what it is in Drupal, where it basically just means that configuration is saved in files which makes deployment easier. In the first chapters, we make sure the reader understands what Configuration Management means and why version control is so important. We mention some best practices and then show how to use it for non-coders as well, since there’s a nice backend non-technical folks can use, even if you don’t use version control (which of course we don’t recommend). We also have a part that describes how managing configuration works in Drupal 7 (Features!) and then dive into code examples, explaining schema files, showing how to add configuration to a custom module, how to upgrade Drupal 7 variables to the new system and cover configuration management for multilingual sites.
  • Who is the target audience of the book?
  • Why did you decide to write about Configuration Management?
    • We have used Features to deploy configuration changes for a very long time, I don’t recall not using it since we started the company 5 years ago. We have talked about it at several DrupalCamps and Drupal User Groups and always tried to convince everyone to use it. We were really excited about the Configuration Management Initiative and thought it was a very good fit for us.
  • Before we started recording, you mentioned that there is a companion website to the book. Can you talk about what content we’ll find there, and what purpose that serves?
  • Are you building any sites in D8 at Undpaul?