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Open Social’s Alexander Presents Some Lessons Learned at Decoupled Days 2020

One of Open Social’s amazing developers, Alexander Varwijk, was invited to present a talk on Open — continue reading
Posted by Adela Kalkantova
July 29, 2020

One of Open Social’s amazing developers, Alexander Varwijk, was invited to present a talk on Open Social’s move to a headless platform at Decoupled Days 2020 on the 23rd of July 2020. Alexander’s presentation had a unique focus on what we’ve learned so far throughout this exciting new development processes, prompting many questions from the audience.

What is Decoupled Days 2020?

Decoupled Days is a unique conference for software developers and architects, entrepreneurs, startups, and innovators focusing specifically on the implementation of decoupled CMS (such as Drupal or WordPress) architectures. It is the only conference that is specifically about the future of CMS, headless CMS, and decoupled CMS.

Decoupling refers here to the process of separating the front-end from the back-end of a software system, making the platform faster, more dynamic, customizable and flexible. You can read more about what decoupling means here.


Decoupled Days 2020


Decoupled Days 2020 was the fourth edition of this event and took place on July 22 and 23, 2020. Although the conference was scheduled to take place in New York City, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it took place entirely online. However, this did not mean that the event was any less interesting – as it allowed participants to attend and present from anywhere in the world, including the Netherlands where Open Social’s Alexander Varwijk lives.

Moving to Headless – The learnings of a transition

The title of Alexander’s talk was “Moving to Headless – The Learning of a Transition”. During this presentation Alexander covered the ongoing decoupling project at Open Social and went through all the open questions that have arisen from the technical decisions made during this ambitious development process.

As Alexander stated during his opening remarks: “I would like to talk to you about what it takes to move to a decoupled setup. This talk won’t have all the answers […] But hopefully it will have most of the questions you should ask yourself when you start this project.”

The presentation included questions, such as: When is a good time to move to a decoupled system; why decoupling makes sense; how to decouple; what front-end library will you use; what server side framework (if needed) will you choose; what are you going to do for browser and Javascript support; and more.

With new projects, it is much easier to decouple when you don’t have a lot of content that changes often and visual control still lies with developers. The further along, and more complex, your project is the more difficult it becomes to move to a decoupled setup. Alexander gave great tips and insights from Open Social’s own experience with decoupling.

Alexander presentation


During the presentation Alexander covered the main reasons why Open Social is moving to a headless setup, including creating better user experiences with more interactive designs and more dynamic content. Decoupling also makes it easier to create new front-end interactions without being constrained by the best way to store the data in the back-end. This avoids the tension between front-end and back-end needs for a Drupal entity architecture such as Open Social.

He also focused on the process of, and reasoning behind, shifting to new software frameworks such as React, ReasonML, and GraphQL during the decoupling process. This included talking about the importance of serving the Drupal and open-source community as we shift to new technologies and how we can contribute to the ongoing debate about Drupal and how it fits within a decoupled paradigm through doing that.


Alexander's presentation


A well-attended event

After the presentation Alexander said that he was pleased to see how well-attended his talk was and he enjoyed the respectful but informal atmosphere. “I was very happy with the amount of attendees,” Alexander said, “I received lots of questions at the end.”

Alexander quote

With conferences like this, it is also an opportunity to see what your peers in the industry are doing, and to learn from them as well. As Alexander stated: “Overall during the conference it was interesting to see what everyone was working on.”

This is, after all, the reason why Open Social is proud to work with open source Drupal software in the first place. It is all about making excellent online community software, and being part of a community of inspiring developers while we do that.

We plan to publish Alexander’s full presentation as soon as it is made available online – as well as a more technical blog post on the decoupling process at Open Social – so don’t forget to subscribe to our blog or follow us on Twitter!


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