Folkbot Drupal 8 Distribution Referencing Standard & Lightning

Folkbot Drupal 8 Distribution

In Part 1 we set-up a Drupal 8 default Git repository with as upstream and Gitlab as our origin for continuous integration.

Drupal 8 Installation Profiles has had a face-lift and we hit the spanking new docs

Lightning & Standard Distribution as Reference has created the excellent Lightning Distribution as a kind of reference and best practice Drupal 8 site while working for Acquia, lets use that as a reference.

Notice the difference between downloading the code vs downloading a tar or zip. The tar/zip is an entire working codebase, whereas the code via git needs to be built with composer and Drush Make and the D8 build tool-chain.

Lets keep it simple and download the tar.gz.

Also, lets rename the folder according to Lightning conventions

Our new folder name is folkbot-8.2-dev-0.01, we can keep the gitlab repo the same and use branches and tags as needed depending on how we work with dev/test/live.

Choose a Machine Name

We are calling this machine name folkbot

[code lang=text]
cd /home/devekko/Projects/Folkbot/drupal8/folkbot-8.2-dev-0.01/profiles/

inside the file we add meta information and also modules we require our custom module called folkbot and our theme folkbot which will be based on the Bootstrap theme

[code lang=text]
name: Folkbot
type: profile
description: 'Folkbot – automation of the people, by the people, for the people'
core: 8.x

# Optional: Declare your installation profile as a distribution
# This will make the installer auto-select this installation profile.
# The distribution_name property is used in the installer and other places as
# a label for the software being installed.
# name: Folkbot TODO make a Distribution

# Required modules
# CORE modules
– block
– block_content
– breakpoint
– ckeditor
– color
– config
– comment
– contextual
– contact
– contact_storage
– datetime
– diff
– dblog
– editor
– entity_reference
– field_ui
– file
– help
– history
– image
– options
– menu_link_content
– path
– quickedit
– rdf
– search
– shortcut
– toolbar
– taxonomy
– views
– views_ui
# CONTRIB modules
– metatag
– node
– search_api_db
– bootstrap_layouts
# CUSTOM modules
– folkbot

# CONTRIB theme
– bootstrap
# CUSTOM theme
– folkbot
# CORE themes
– bartik
– seven

next we add an .install file

[code lang=text]
vi folkbot.install

we use the default basic script snippet and call the core profile buried away deeper in core, and then we take some basic installation functions from Lightning, such as setting logo, homepage, admin user etc.

Looking at the Drupal Core Standard installation we also see we have repeated installation functions, we remove those and we have code below

[code lang=text]
<!–?php /** * @file * Install, update and uninstall functions for the Folkbot install profile. */ use Drupal\Core\Entity\Entity\EntityViewDisplay; use Drupal\field\Entity\FieldConfig; use Drupal\node\Entity\NodeType; use Drupal\user\Entity\User; use Drupal\user\RoleInterface; /** * Implements hook_install(). * * Perform actions to set up the site for this profile. * * @see system_install() */ function folkbot_install() { // First, do everything in standard profile. include_once DRUPAL_ROOT . '/core/profiles/standard/standard.install'; standard_install(); // Restrict user registration to admin role creation. \Drupal::configFactory() ->getEditable('user.settings')<br ?–> ->set('register', USER_REGISTER_ADMINISTRATORS_ONLY)

// Set the default and admin theme.
->set('default', 'folkbot')
->set('admin', 'seven')

// Set the path to the logo, favicon and README file based on install
// directory.
$folkbot_path = drupal_get_path('profile', 'folkbot');
->set('logo', [
'path' => $folkbot_path . '/folkbot.png',
'url' => '',
'use_default' => FALSE,
->set('favicon', [
'mimetype' => 'image/',
'path' => $folkbot_path . '/favicon.ico',
'url' => '',
'use_default' => FALSE,

we see a bunch of profiles in core

[code lang=text]
ls -alh /home/devekko/Projects/Folkbot/drupal8/folkbot-8.2-dev-0.01/core/profiles
total 40K
drwxr-xr-x 10 devekko devekko 4.0K Feb 9 14:39 .
drwxr-xr-x 12 devekko devekko 4.0K Feb 9 14:39 ..
drwxr-xr-x 4 devekko devekko 4.0K Feb 9 14:39 minimal
drwxr-xr-x 4 devekko devekko 4.0K Feb 9 14:39 standard
drwxr-xr-x 4 devekko devekko 4.0K Feb 9 14:39 testing
drwxr-xr-x 2 devekko devekko 4.0K Feb 9 14:39 testing_config_import
drwxr-xr-x 3 devekko devekko 4.0K Feb 9 14:39 testing_config_overrides
drwxr-xr-x 2 devekko devekko 4.0K Feb 9 14:39 testing_missing_dependencies
drwxr-xr-x 3 devekko devekko 4.0K Feb 9 14:39 testing_multilingual
drwxr-xr-x 3 devekko devekko 4.0K Feb 9 14:39 testing_multilingual_with_english


and standard profile

[code lang=text]
tree /home/devekko/Projects/Folkbot/drupal8/folkbot-8.2-dev-0.01/core/profiles/standard

├── config
│   ├── install
│   │   ├── automated_cron.settings.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_account_menu.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_branding.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_breadcrumbs.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_content.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_footer.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_help.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_local_actions.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_local_tasks.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_main_menu.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_messages.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_page_title.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_powered.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_search.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.bartik_tools.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.seven_breadcrumbs.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.seven_content.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.seven_help.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.seven_local_actions.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.seven_login.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.seven_messages.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.seven_page_title.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.seven_primary_local_tasks.yml
│   │   ├── block.block.seven_secondary_local_tasks.yml
│   │   ├── block_content.type.basic.yml
│   │   ├── comment.type.comment.yml
│   │   ├──
│   │   ├──
│   │   ├── core.entity_form_display.block_content.basic.default.yml
│   │   ├── core.entity_form_display.comment.comment.default.yml
│   │   ├── core.entity_form_display.node.article.default.yml
│   │   ├──
│   │   ├── core.entity_form_display.user.user.default.yml
│   │   ├── core.entity_view_display.block_content.basic.default.yml
│   │   ├── core.entity_view_display.comment.comment.default.yml
│   │   ├── core.entity_view_display.node.article.default.yml
│   │   ├── core.entity_view_display.node.article.rss.yml
│   │   ├── core.entity_view_display.node.article.teaser.yml
│   │   ├──
│   │   ├──
│   │   ├── core.entity_view_display.user.user.compact.yml
│   │   ├── core.entity_view_display.user.user.default.yml
│   │   ├── editor.editor.basic_html.yml
│   │   ├── editor.editor.full_html.yml
│   │   ├── field.field.block_content.basic.body.yml
│   │   ├── field.field.comment.comment.comment_body.yml
│   │   ├── field.field.node.article.body.yml
│   │   ├── field.field.node.article.comment.yml
│   │   ├── field.field.node.article.field_image.yml
│   │   ├── field.field.node.article.field_tags.yml
│   │   ├──
│   │   ├── field.field.user.user.user_picture.yml
│   │   ├──
│   │   ├──
│   │   ├──
│   │   ├──
│   │   ├── filter.format.basic_html.yml
│   │   ├── filter.format.full_html.yml
│   │   ├── filter.format.restricted_html.yml
│   │   ├── node.type.article.yml
│   │   ├──
│   │   ├── rdf.mapping.comment.comment.yml
│   │   ├── rdf.mapping.node.article.yml
│   │   ├──
│   │   ├── rdf.mapping.taxonomy_term.tags.yml
│   │   ├── system.cron.yml
│   │   ├── system.theme.yml
│   │   ├── taxonomy.vocabulary.tags.yml
│   │   └── user.role.administrator.yml
│   └── optional
│   ├──
│   ├──
│   ├──
│   ├──
│   ├── responsive_image.styles.narrow.yml
│   └── responsive_image.styles.wide.yml
├── standard.install
├── standard.profile
└── tests
└── src
└── Functional
└── StandardTest.php

6 directories, 80 files


vs Lightning, a more sophisticated distro

[code lang=text]
tree /home/devekko/Projects/lightning-8.x-2.03/profiles/lightning
1291 directories, 3102 files

we create a folkbot.profile

[code lang=text]
vi folkbot.profile
<!–?php <br ?–> /**
* @file
* Enables modules and site configuration for a standard site installation.

// Add any custom code here like hook implementations.

Now when we visit the local dev site in our browser we can install and choose our partly built installation profile

Choose language | Drupal - Google Chrome_001
Choose language | Drupal – Google Chrome_001

and choose profile

Select an installation profile | Drupal - Google Chrome_002
Select an installation profile | Drupal – Google Chrome_002

we make the files directory

[code lang=text]
mkdir sites/default/files

make it writeable with permissions and groups

[code lang=text]
sudo chmod -R 775 sites/default/files
sudo chown -R $USER:www-data sites/default/files

copy the settings file

cp -ar /var/www/folkbot_drupal8/sites/default/default.settings.php /var/www/folkbot_drupal8/sites/default/settings.php

make it writeable with permissions as above

[code lang=text]
sudo chown $USER:www-data /var/www/folkbot_drupal8/sites/default/settings.php
sudo chmod 775 /var/www/folkbot_drupal8/sites/default/settings.php

and we need to create a gitignore and make sure our settings isn’t in our git repo, a good reference is this repo with many specific gitgnores

we need to now install Drush and download the missing modules from the docs

[code lang=text]
[email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫ # Download latest stable release using the code below or browse to[email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫ php -r "readfile('');" > drush
[email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫ # Or use our upcoming release: php -r "readfile('');" > drush
[email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫
[email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫ # Test your install.
[email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫ php drush core-status
Drupal version : 8.2.6
Site URI : http://default
PHP configuration : /etc/php/7.0/cli/php.ini
PHP OS : Linux
Drush script : /var/www/folkbot_drupal8/drush
Drush version : 8.1.9
Drush temp directory : /tmp
Drush configuration :
Drush alias files :
Drupal root : /var/www/folkbot_drupal8
Drupal Settings File : sites/default/settings.php
Site path : sites/default

[email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫
[email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫ # Make `drush` executable as a command from anywhere. Destination can be anywhere on $PATH.
[email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫ chmod +x drush
[email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫ sudo mv drush /usr/local/bin
[email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫
[email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫ # Optional. Enrich the bash startup file with completion and aliases.
[email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫ drush init
Copied example Drush configuration file to /home/devekko/.drush/drushrc.php [ok]
Copied example Drush bash configuration file to /home/devekko/.drush/drush.bashrc [ok]
Copied Drush completion file to /home/devekko/.drush/ [ok]
Copied example Drush prompt file to /home/devekko/.drush/ [ok]
# Include Drush bash customizations.
if [ -f "/home/devekko/.drush/drush.bashrc" ] ; then
source /home/devekko/.drush/drush.bashrc

# Include Drush completion.
if [ -f "/home/devekko/.drush/" ] ; then
source /home/devekko/.drush/

# Include Drush prompt customizations.
if [ -f "/home/devekko/.drush/" ] ; then
source /home/devekko/.drush/

Append the above code to /home/devekko/.bashrc? (y/n): y
Updated bash configuration file /home/devekko/.bashrc [ok]
Start a new shell in order to experience the improvements (e.g. `bash`). [ok]

we can drush dl modules now and copy them to the profiles/modules folder, from help

[code lang=text]
drush dl –help | grep "destination"
If no –destination is provided, then destination depends on the project type:
–destination= Path to which the project will be copied. If you're providing a relative path, note it is relative to the
–destination is also present this option will be ignored.

install modules

[code lang=text]
drush dl metatag –destination=profiles/folkbot/modules
Project metatag (8.x-1.0) downloaded to /var/www/folkbot_drupal8/profiles/folkbot/modules/metatag. [success]
Project metatag contains 14 modules: metatag_dc_advanced, metatag_dc, metatag_hreflang, metatag_app_links, metatag_mobile, metatag_facebook, metatag_twitter_cards, metatag_open_graph, metatag_open_graph_products, metatag_google_cse, metatag_verification, metatag_google_plus, metatag_favicons, metatag.

lets add Bootstrap base theme

[code lang=text]
drush dl bootstrap –destination=profiles/folkbot/themes
The directory profiles/folkbot/themes does not exist.
Would you like to create it? (y/n): y
Project bootstrap (8.x-3.1) downloaded to /var/www/folkbot_drupal8/profiles/folkbot/themes/bootstrap. [success]

and token module

[code lang=text]
drush dl token –destination=profiles/folkbot/modules
Project token (8.x-1.0-rc1) downloaded to /var/www/folkbot_drupal8/profiles/folkbot/modules/token.

we now get a prompt to change settings.php back to a more secure read only setting

[code lang=text]
sudo chmod 555 /var/www/folkbot_drupal8/sites/default/settings.php

We now see a site after we manually change to Bootstrap theme

Folkbot Drupal 8 Distribution
Folkbot Drupal 8 Distribution

We will build the Folkbot theme next

In part 3 we make a custom theme, part 4 a custom module for a rest API.

Install Drupal 8 for Local Development (Alongside WordPress)

Using a Digital Ocean doc as a guide

check the status of the mysql server

sudo service mysql status
● mysql.service – MySQL Community Server
Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/mysql.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
Active: active (running) since Sun 2017-02-05 09:14:49 PST; 5 days ago
Process: 1515 ExecStartPost=/usr/share/mysql/mysql-systemd-start post (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
Process: 1510 ExecStartPre=/usr/share/mysql/mysql-systemd-start pre (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
Main PID: 1514 (mysqld)
CGroup: /system.slice/mysql.service
└─1514 /usr/sbin/mysqld

Feb 05 09:14:48 wordpress-dev systemd[1]: Starting MySQL Community Server…
Feb 05 09:14:49 wordpress-dev systemd[1]: Started MySQL Community Server.

Login to mysql server as root

mysql -u root -p

Create a mysql database

CREATE DATABASE drupal8_folkbot;

Create a database user

CREATE USER [email protected] IDENTIFIED BY ‘your_complex_password’;

Assign this user rights over the database

Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

Flush and exit

Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> exit

This server already runs WordPress, so I have LAMP installed, for that use this doc

Php & SSH modules

sudo apt-get install php-gd php-curl php-ssh2

Make changes for Drupal specific PHP config

sudo vi /etc/php/7.0/apache2/php.ini

and change this setting to

allow_url_fopen = Off

Ensure Apache mod_rewrite is on

sudo a2enmod rewrite

sudo service apache2 reload && sudo service apache2 restart

Now we create a vhost

sudo cp -ar /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default.conf /etc/apache2/sites-available/folkbot_drupal8.conf

and we edit this file

[code lang=text]
<VirtualHost *:80>
ServerAdmin [email protected]
DocumentRoot /var/www/folkbot_drupal8
ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log
CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log combined

<Directory /var/www/folkbot_drupal8>
AllowOverride All

# vim: syntax=apache ts=4 sw=4 sts=4 sr noet

and pull down the code from gitlab

sudo mkdir /var/www/folkbot_drupal8
cd /var
sudo chown -R $USER:www-data www/folkbot_drupal8
cd www/folkbot_drupal8
git remote add gitlab_com [email protected]:folkbot/folkbot_drupal8.git
fatal: Not a git repository (or any of the parent directories): .git
128 [email protected]:/var/www/folkbot_drupal8⟫ git init
Initialized empty Git repository in /var/www/folkbot_drupal8/.git/
git remote add gitlab_com [email protected]:folkbot/folkbot_drupal8.git
git status
On branch master

Initial commit

nothing to commit (create/copy files and use “git add” to track)
git pull gitlab_com master
remote: Counting objects: 525019, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (100744/100744), done.
Receiving objects: 100% (525019/525019), 107.63 MiB | 18.54 MiB/s, done.
remote: Total 525019 (delta 375958), reused 525013 (delta 375957)
Resolving deltas: 100% (375958/375958), done.
* branch master -> FETCH_HEAD
* [new branch] master -> gitlab_com/master

new site

sudo a2ensite folkbot_drupal8.conf
Enabling site folkbot_drupal8.
To activate the new configuration, you need to run:
service apache2 reload
sudo service apache2 reload

add this to vhosts wordpress-dev localhost

Make Cross Device Icons and Favicons.ico using Sketch App

Folkbot Icon Favicon Exporter Sketch

One of the great things about Macs are the creative professionals tools, one of which is Sketchapp which is native to Mac OSx.

For Folkbot I need to create favicons for the Drupal themes, WordPress themes, Phoenix apps etc etc.

Sketch uses a file format that can be shared via GIT and Frederik Jacques has created a template that does this, create an array of favicons for various devices, Mac, Windows, HTML5 etc. He even has the HTML block for the webpage templates for all devices.

Folkbot Icon Favicon Exporter Sketch
Folkbot Icon Favicon Exporter Sketch

exports nicely

folkbot export
folkbot export

and we now have individual favicons for each device type

cross device favicons
cross device favicons

I also have icon set for for Android apps from the same base icon created in Sketch

I also do the same for Mac OSx apps

folk bot iosx
folk bot iosx

Sketch App is a great tool and thanks Frederik Jacques

I have never had so much fun making icons !

Folkbot Drupal 8 Distribution Part 1 – Code Setup

Folk Bot Drupal 8

We are going to build a Folkbot Drupal 8 Distribution, Profile, Module, Theme.

This will connect with the central proprietary and also other Folkbot servers, self hosted, forks etc in the federation.

Or that is the plan anyways.

Drupal 8 Installation Profiles has had a face-lift and we hit the spanking new docs

Download Drupal 8

It’s tempting to set-up a GIT upstream right now from, lets live dangerously

mkdir -p ~/Projects/Folkbot/drupal8
cd ~/Projects/Folkbot/drupal8

note, we are nesting a bit deeper so I can put other working folder and files above the repo as needed

git clone --branch 8.2.x folkbot_drupal8
cd folkbot_drupal8

I am adding the Gitlab remote for Folkbot

git remote add gitlab_com [email protected]:folkbot/folkbot_drupal8.git

and lets remove origin so we dont accidentally pull from it

git remote remove origin 

and we can add it again as drupal_org

git remote add drupal_org

its a nice thing to have two remotes, one upstream from source, and another our customizations

[email protected]:~/Projects/Folkbot/drupal8/folkbot_drupal8⟫ git remote -v
drupal_org (fetch)
drupal_org (push)
gitlab_com      [email protected]:folkbot/folkbot_drupal8.git (fetch)
gitlab_com      [email protected]:folkbot/folkbot_drupal8.git (push)

lets make the branch 8.2.x our master branch, we can make feature branches and tags for our work later, we want to be able to keep upstream branches separate from our own work

git checkout -b master
git status
On branch master
nothing to commit, working tree clean

now lets modify create a

touch ~/
git commit -am "FolkBot docs"

and now we can push to Gitlab

git push -u gitlab_com master

Ubuntu 17.04 Zesty Notes


I am such a sucker for punishment

I am running Ubuntu 17.04 Zesty, due in April and its a little bit kind of broken


Virtualbox is not yet packaged by Oracle so I had to install from source

Searching around I found devmanuals and had to install multiverse repositories

sudo add-apt-repository main
sudo add-apt-repository universe
sudo add-apt-repository restricted
sudo add-apt-repository multiverse


sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade
sudo apt install virtualbox-source
sudo apt install virtualbox-dkms

since this is a new desktop

install apt-vim

apt-vim docs

curl -sL | sh

then install vim-nerdtree

apt-vim install -y

I then had to reboot and install the Virtualbox Extension pack

Getting rich quick with WordPress, or not

The Gem

As a follow-on from my WordPress/Drupal Page Builder post, I bought a license for Beaver Builder for WordPress.

I am exploring the concept of a hyper-local news, community, market site with WordPress, Beaver Builder and a Beaver Builder child theme.  I am doing the development on my home lab server, and using sshfs to access the Ubuntu server web folder share.

I wish I had time to write up more, and I plan to be doing something along these lines in a book project, but for now, I want to simply take some notes of some highlights along the way.

I setup WordPress, on Apache2, PHP7, on Ubuntu 16.04 and used sshfs to do remote shares.

I actually played around with Beaver Builder, more than I document below. It’s a great tool, and if you are in the market for a visual web-design and visual page builder for WordPress, with more flexibility around custom themes, than I recommend it.

However, for myself, I realized I just wasn’t happy. I wasn’t satisfied with Beaver Builder or Divi or the Page Builder experience. It felt like Microsoft Frontpage or Adobe Dreamweaver, it felt shallow.

Don’t get me wrong, for many projects, and many clients, possibly the great majority of the 40% of the worlds total websites, that happen to run WordPress, a Page Builder like Beaver Builder would be awesome. But for me, it felt like the same dynamic as my Page Builder Dark Magic Locked Forever post.

I should also say, I am really sure, I could of made a production grade, release ready, relatively competitive website with Beaver Builder and WordPress and Woocommerce in about a week. This would of included custom CSS, maybe some templates, a logo, banner, content and store. The whole deal. Problem is, anybody else, or maybe 3 billion people, could do the same.

I’ve been told by a tech educator that the tech choice is 1% of the business, and its other factors. I wonder what Google or Facebook or Tesla would say to that. This is a nice idea, and we all like myths and might say that in public. But internally invest massively in R&D and patents and IP.

The 1% tech choice, then becomes the secret sauce, the key ingredient. It’s not like you can just say, I won’t worry about that 1%, I’ve got 99% to work with. Let’s build the next big thing on WordPress or Drupal.

I saw a presentation at Badcamp, maybe three years ago, where Jay Batson, former co-founder of Acquia, the kind of Accenture of Drupal, had just left Acquia with a golden parachute, and was with Y Combinator and was preaching Drupal for startups. The room was full, and there where people there who agreed with him.

Personally, I think its mostly fantasy. I know of, and these are basically user generated i.e. spam, sites over loaded with ads.

There is, which is Drupal, but its really the marketing site for The Weather Channel, cable TV. It’s not really a pure web startup. Weather Underground is way better.

It might be true, like Pinterest which is based on Django, you could build an amazing startup with Drupal or WordPress, but it would be so heavily modified that it would be basically a fork. By this stage, why not use a framework like Rails or Elixir?

Compare this with Bleecher Report, which is Ruby/Elixir and a Javascript app UI.  Or any number of tech startups or SAAS. They are flat out not WordPress sites. Sure they may have blogs in WordPress, or unusually like Pinterest, numerous Drupal blogs.

On a personal level,  after almost 20 years doing websites, yes, I started in 1997, WordPress and Drupal feel really tired, the PHP Web CMS feels like the past, even if they are rock solid and super slick. You can see with the WordPress REST API in core, the WP CLI and the Calypso ReactJS UX for WordPress, the people behind it know this too.

As a web developer and hopeful tech entrepreneur, WordPress and Drupal also feels like and extremely crowded space. If I see another premium WordPress theme for sale I will literally scream profanity out loud like Al Swearengen. If I find another WordPress lead generation, get rich quick scheme I will implode.

Back to the Beaver Builder experience, in short I got a refund. I wasn’t satisfied. I am not a web designer. I stopped being that in 1998.

Beaver Builder, Divi, Carbon all felt easy today, and much, much harder tomorrow. So, I got refunds and backed out of the R&D.

I will continue to use WordPress and Drupal, but will be using them for a much narrower focus. I have plans for custom modules, themes and plugins around my new business project which I will be starting today.

Oh, and one more thing about the promise of WordPress. A WordPress site will not make you rich. A website in general will not make you rich. It’s not a money making machine that you turn on and it money pours in. Most people who claim this are actually selling what they are selling.

I mean, a super star coach selling coaching lessons on how to be a coach via website ebooks and webinars. Or, a WordPress page builder tool (DIVI and Beaver Builder are not doing this, but others do) that sells a WordPress page builder tool for selling.

Making more money than you spend makes you rich, and websites can be a tool. But believe it or not, plenty of people make money without websites. For instance, look at Renaissance Technology. If you don’t know who these people are, your really should look them up.

This is classic Ponzi scheme stuff. Its the reason I left permaculture. The system itself mostly doesn’t work commercially, and the business model is based on permaculture students selling the permaculture practice to new students.

I know you can make money as a farmer and use permaculture ideas etc. Just like you can make money and use a WordPress site. But it’s the 99% that makes the business not just the 1% tech choices.

A big BUY NOW button, wont make people buy a rubbish product, you can trick people, mis-lead people sure, and part of this might be adding a button.

A fellow traveller of WordPress get rich quick, is the dreaded acronym SEO.

Never has so much BS been written and said about a word.

Sure you need a well structured website, with complies to the basics of technical website structure. But, that’s not enough, and plenty of wonky websites are very successful.

Along with technical SEO, the website structure, is content marketing, i.e. editorial and content.

Do you have words and images and other interesting engaging and interactive content on your website that will attract and keep and convert readers into paying customers?

Finally, and most importantly, do you actually have a product to sell, that a customer will want?

Internet Death

I recently listened to a webinar by an SEO company out of Nevada, where the inevitable question was asked, I do all this SEO stuff and nothing works, I don’t get traffic, I don’t get business. The SEO company then spoke about getting paid advertising, or trying new things. They dodged the question imho.

Personally, I think that the real answer is, you are screwed. Your business is screwed, you will go under, get ready.

Doing SEO and doing advertising may well be just accelerating this fact.

I actually think this is more of a systemic thing than we like to admit.

I call it Internet Death. All across the world, thanks to Amazon, book stores are gone, and now its expanding into entire shopping malls, dead malls.

Soon it will be taxi drivers, and truck drivers. Soon it will be domestic workers replaced by robots. Soon journalists will be replaced by robots. Sorry, its Internet Death, and a WordPress SEO effort with Facebook ads and Google Adwords is not going to be enough.

Interestingly enough, the only thing that stopped some of the first “disruptive” innovations, i.e. file sharing of audio and video was legal action by media companies.

Interestingly enough again, some of the exact same people behind the illegal file sharing, yes, its theft folks, are behind companies that are somehow glorious and untouchable and leading the “disruption” today.

The Gem
The Gem


Set-Up Editor

Download, the excellent cross-platform text editor/almost IDE.

Creating a custom Beaver Builder Child Theme

Copy and customize the Beaver Build Child theme

On linux this is cp -ar bb-theme-child sonoma-speaks-bb-theme-child

change the screenshot.png and the styles.css, from the docs

Theme Name: Sonoma Speaks Beaver Builder Child Theme
Theme URI:
Version: 1.0
Description: A custom theme for Sonoma Speaks
Author: Nicholas Roberts,
Author URI:
template: bb-theme

/* Add your custom styles here… */

now Activate your custom theme in the WordPress dashboard

Sonoma Speaks Theme Activated
Sonoma Speaks Theme Activated

Add a Custom Beaver Builder Preset

I want to try to leverage the Beaver Builder preset system and make a Preset

Possibly in the future I will want to create a second Preset for a sub-site or a different version, say the Christmas holidays, or the Fall or the Spring

In the functions.php file of my custom theme I add this block, as guided by the docs

function sonomaspeaks_custom_presets()
FLCustomizer::add_preset('default-sonomaspeaks', array(
'name' => 'Sonoma Speaks',
'skin' => 'default',
'settings' => array(
'fl-body-bg-color' => '#282a2e',
'fl-accent' => '#95bf48',
'fl-accent-hover' => '#95bf48',
'fl-heading-text-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-topbar-bg-color' => '#3e4147',
'fl-topbar-text-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-topbar-link-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-topbar-hover-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-header-bg-color' => '#282a2e',
'fl-header-text-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-header-link-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-header-hover-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-nav-bg-color' => '#282a2e',
'fl-nav-link-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-nav-hover-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-footer-widgets-bg-color' => '#282a2e',
'fl-footer-widgets-text-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-footer-widgets-link-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-footer-widgets-hover-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-footer-bg-color' => '#282a2e',
'fl-footer-text-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-footer-link-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-footer-hover-color' => '#95bf48'
add_action( 'after_setup_theme', 'sonomaspeaks_custom_presets', 11 );

now I have a preset listed in the Customizer which I can force values with code

Sonoma Speaks Presets
Sonoma Speaks Presets

I want now to be able to see easily what each of the colors are and so in I install pigments

apm install pigments
Installing pigments to /home/devekko/.atom/packages ✓

after restarting hex now has colored backgrounds making CSS much easier Pigment Pigment

lets also install Color Picker

apm install color-picker

now we can right click, choose Color Picker and change colors visually

Customize via the WordPress Customizer

Color Picker
Color Picker

Ultimately & sshfs didn’t work, processes grew to 2+GB and crashed my laptop. So, used VNC to remote into the dev VM.

Page Builder Dark Magic Locked Forever

"Love Locks" on Pont Neuf

Page Builder’s for Drupal and WordPress, at first feel like magic, but the Light can soon turn to Darkness.

Web CMS like Drupal and WordPress save development time and this thinking leads to the magic of a Page Builder.

Does complexity and increased total cost of ownership follow this initial simplicity? Are you locked in forever with a Page Builder? Is this bait and switch?

Page Builder Magic with Drupal
Page Builder Magic with Drupal

Saving Time and Money With Page Builders Today

Busy, stressed, want to get a product to market?

Want a website launched quickly?

A web CMS like WordPress and Drupal, offer paid page builders like Divi (WordPress) and Glazed/Carbon (Drupal).  There are also free ones like Panels and Display Suite in Drupal and some others I’ve not used on WordPress.

The overall philosophy of WordPress and Drupal, with their “clickety click” web interface, lead a site owner or site builder, to buy into the page builder route.

Very recently I launched 3 commercial websites in 4 weeks, for a local publisher, with the very excellent WordPress Divi Builder / page builder and the themes Divi & Extra from Elegant Themes.

From an end-user, site builder, no-coding required perspective DIVI and to a lesser extent, the newer Extra theme, are really, really amazing.

In Drupal projects I have struggled with Drupal 7 free page builders like Panels/Panels-In-Place-Editor.  A more magical page builder is the Drupal Distribution Panopoly and the distributions based on it.

It’s genuinely a really amazing feeling to be able to build a site in a day with WordPress & Divi.

You quickly get to the “looks great, thanks for building the website” moment. With gorgeous and functional landing pages. You can build a website in minutes and hours versus weeks to months. But…

But, What About Tomorrow?

The DIVI page builder downside came quickly with a simple request to change the standard functionality of a core Divi Builder module.

Under deadline pressure I looked at the code for the proprietary plugin Divi Builder and the Divi theme, and was overwhelmed by the hundreds of thousands of lines of code.

Seriously, that’s a lot of code. So, what looked like a small change turned into a steep learning curve, with the prospect of a fairly significant programming project.

The light magic of the page builder UX had a dark magic code underbelly.

Any page builder time-saving, looked about to be lost into a coding project of ambiguous value. This created a catch-22 situation which was frustrating and unsatisfactory to all.

Experienced WordPress developers will be shaking their heads and saying “I told you so, page builders are dark magic, page builders are evil”.

No doubt on the other side, Divi experts will also be shaking their heads and saying “dude, its all on you, buy a plugin, or code a custom Divi module, you just haven’t got the skills”.

I started a couple of coding experiments specific to requests. But the Divi Builder code is complex and large, and there was no real budget for this, and it was ultimately wasted effort.

Divi Ecosystem

There is a blogosphere of excellent tutorials and recipes and hacks. There are a few independent after-markets for plugins for the Divi page builder.

You can relatively easily find fixes and extensions and themes. Many of these seem like good value and the ecosystem is real and the community seems great.

But we had clearly left the Divi / Extra magic sweet spot and moved into a different place not so obvious up front with page builders.

Page Builder Locked In Forever

Possibly the biggest downside of Divi, is the intermingling of content and structure and display.

This is the single biggest problem and goes against every tenant of good web content management. Data should be separated from structure and display. Not all mixed up in a huge page of shortcodes.

One way to avoid this, I think, was to develop custom post types, and custom fields. Then use after market Divi modules to extend the Divi or Extra theme to accommodate this. This was not obvious and was not easy.

Locked In By the Magic of Page Builders

Our choices where now;

  • The screamingly obvious choice was narrow the scope of customization and work within the golden handcuffs.
  • Or focus on more fruitful aspects of web publishing.
  • Maybe a heads-first dive into the deep-end of Divi customization.
  • Perhaps swap out or mix-in third party plugins into Divi theme.

High Trust Client-Developer Relationships

It’s a precious client that wants to customize and understands the process and the costs.

When a client has a realistic understanding i.e. this is usually paid discovery, and they have a good sense of process, and this is an investment in time and has risks.

There may well be rabbit holes of complexity. It might be necessary to back out of one line of research and development. It might be better to outsource to a specialist.

Everything is wonderful if there is a high-trust relationship with the client. They have the time and money, understanding, maturity and patience to invest in such paid discovery, or outsourcing, or change in general.

Not a high trust relationship? The client doesn’t have time or money? If they need to get a product to market? If the perception is “my business is failing because the standard Divi module doesn’t work how I want, therefore my website is broken”.

Up goes the Red Flag and now there looms a big question mark over the entire project and the choice of technologies along the way.

Project & Task Management as Contract

Then project management becomes a kind of contract for settling disagreements and if these  project management artifacts don’t exist, well then, Houston, we have a problem.

Startups and Proof of Concepts with Page Builders

On a self-funded start-up R&D project I worked on with a friend we had to own the cost of similar lessons but on Drupal.

The project was based on a Drupal premium theme, which was very similar to Divi, a company Sooperthemes, with premium themes such as Glazed and a page builder called Carbon.

As a paying customer of premium themes from Sooperthemes in the past. I re-discovered Carbon & Glazed when struggling with an ancestor of Panopoly, a Drupal 7, Panels based site. A Panels page-builder website built by a leading agency and and other developers for a government client.

Drupal Panels Page Builder Magic

As the webmaster for this site, which had almost 20 Drupal Content Types, almost 7,000 nodes and a nightly feed via Drush from a JSON API from a custom core enterprise Rails app. This enterprise architecture had numerous iterations and felt like an archaeological dig.

On request, we documented the Panels based Landing Page procedure, for this GPL Panels based Drupal 7 site, and it came to something like 20 steps. Screenshots with many steps, which where counter intuitive. It involved bouncing between different screens and adjusting taxonomies and panel pages etc.

Sure, you can use Drupal 7 Panopoly and its way better than this. But there was no appetite for spending lots of time and money migrating the Drupal 7 site into a new Panopoly setup. Certainly not with 20 content types and 7000 nodes.

WordPress Custom Post Types and Drupal Entities

Also Drupal 8 is the next big thing in the Dries kindgom and seems to be maturing somewhat.

WordPress Custom Post Types / Advanced Content Fields is also a strong contender. A migration to WordPress was tempting as a Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 change is also a migration and not an upgrade.

Custom build-outs in Rails and Angular quietly lurk in the shadows.

At this stage I searched around and discovered Glazed and Carbon by Sooperthemes. When I bought a limited license and sent a colleague, the PHP programmer on the project, his response was “this is the coolest thing I ever saw!”. And in many ways it was.

Being ambitious, and poor, and foolish, I wanted to do a sustainability project website in Drupal 7 with Glazed and Carbon, and decided and make it a rating site.

Drupal 7 is a mature ecosystem, and you get a huge range of modules for free. Glazed and Carbon added a really excellent page builder experience, kind of like Divi.

But I soon discovered that some Drupal 7 modules, like the rating modules are effectively in maintenance mode, and there are long standing bugs.

Also, another Drupal page building style module ecosystem snagged development. Display Suite has some annoyances that I couldn’t troubleshoot via the web interface. Also, the Views for the directory of the rating site where slow and needed a refactored but these where generated originally from the proprietary theme.

A strange netherworld in between

Again, I’d left the sweet, safe magical space of “Page Builders”. This time in Drupal 7 page builders, a combination of free Display Suite and premium/paid Glazed/Carbon.

I had stumbled, blinded by Page Builder Light Magic into a Dark place. A place where the surface simplicity of the Page Builder Magic UX had created monstrously complex code. It felt like frickin Fantasia.

So, after 3 weeks of nearly full time work, including content creation by a friend, I decided reluctantly, that I wanted to do a second version.

A new version with a custom simplified Bootstrap on vanilla Drupal 7. I cloned the site with Aegir, and switched themes to Bootstrap and borked the cloned site. There was too much intermingled proprietary and non proprietary code.

Conversion was going to be complex and time consuming.

A combination of all of the above factors meant a rebuild was on the horizon, not a simple switch in theme.

Click Click Click Click, Refresh,  Click Click Click Click, Refresh

One of the other unsatisfying things about the Divi and Glazed is that the constant click click click. You get this experience site building with Drupal and WordPress in general, but this no coding philosophy is taken to the next level with magical page builders.

Ultimately it hurts, you get RSI, Repetitive Strain Injury. I switch hands with my mouse, change chairs and computers. Buts its stressful. Its a case of too much of a good thing.

Capturing Page Builder Config in Code ?

It’s all configuration via the web interface.

Theoretically,  a lot of these changes could be captured in code, in Drupal 7 that would be Features, and in WordPress the Configuration Management plugins, which I haven’t tried.

But this would untested and involve quite a bit of trial and error and would be in the shadow land between paid and free.

Open questions are:

  • Can I share the code and get community support?
  • Does this break the license if you forked parts of the code and make extensions and share the code?

With completely free i.e. GPL code you would have no issues.

Presumably there would be ways to deal with this.

Straddling is Not a Good Strategy

But the key thing is, you’ve left one business model i.e. paid premium easy page builder.

You are now straddling premium and free and it’s complex.

The overall cost of ownership becomes more than choosing one or the other and working within those constraints.

Surely there are experts in this hybrid of paid/free page builders. They must make a great living doing consulting and selling plugins.

Maybe its an easy fix with a plugin or two from the Divi after market, then again I am not so sure. I wonder how much of the experts work is saving projects from this messy straddling two worlds zone. There must be a lot of client therapy involved.

Proprietary code can be open source. Gitlab Enterprise hosts its proprietary code in public and enforces license payments via the admin UX. So, I assume it would be possible to publicly develop extensions of the code and get community AND company support. Is open source but with a proprietary license. TODO research this.

RMS would not be pleased.

Frustrated, searching the web, I read a blog piece about WordPress Divi, saying, its a great tool, but you better make sure when you use it for a site, its forever.

This article of course was suggesting a competing product and describing it middle ground solution called Beaver Builder. Maybe this was an affiliate link, maybe it was a genuine recommendation AND an affiliate link.

I’ve also had Beaver Builder recommended by two people personally. Beaver Builder has a page builder plugin, AND a Beaver Builder theme, but also advertises the use of ANY THEME.

Alternatives Today

So, this is where I am at currently, I am in the process of archiving my Glazed/Carbon development sites and didn’t renew.

The new version for rich page, rich design, landing page driven marketing sites, does look amazing. Some of the designs look cliched and like every other rich-design, rich-page marketing site out there on the web today. Fashions eh?

Owning the starter license for Divi, but a bit burned out and struggling to think of a site I will use it on. I don’t really want to do more work with it, and am unsure if I could recommend it to a client.

Excellent for a 5 to 10 page site that gets built in a day or a week and has only marginal updates. But if customization or migration becomes an requirement, well its a highly specialized area. It’s an entirely different proposition to the original super easy page builder proposition.

The same with Sooperthemes and Glazed? There is a short term gain, and then possibly you are locked in and its more expensive overall if you want to do advanced work. If I am wrong, please post comments.

A kind of bait and switch?

Super easy and almost free, and cheaper for the beginning stages. But then locked in and super complex on customization. I guess enough websites owners are okay with this, enough to not create a huge backlash.

No doubt I am wrong and there are talented experts out there who will share examples of how to completely avoid all these snares.

Horses For Courses

Plenty of marketing websites are basically traded in and scrapped every couple of years. And if the cost is low, like thousands versus 10,000’s than Divi and Glazed are still good value.

God knows web design is driven by fashions. i.e. scrap those text animations please, remove those rotating gauges please, take off the full width sliders and the luminescent primary colors please.

Anyways, enough vanity griping and verbose monologue.

I am building a hyperlocal startup site for myself with Beaver Builder now and I’ll let you know how I get on.

Do you love the Light Magic of Page Builders? Or are the Page Builders Dark Magic?