David Pierce

UP Global, now Techstars, Seattle, WA, USA

Full transcript

LocomotiveCMS: Hello David, can you please introduce yourself and your company?

David Pierce: Hi, my name is David Pierce. I’m the Technical Director here at UP Global. UP Global exists to improve the global human condition by empowering entrepreneurial communities. We do that by providing networks, education opportunities and overall resources to community leaders to make entrepreneurship more accessible to everyone.

LocomotiveCMS: How did you first hear about Locomotive?

David Pierce: I found out about Locomotive mostly by searching around on the internet. We had a upcoming big site build that I needed to plan and provide resources for. I knew that the technologies we had available weren’t really going to fit all of our problems and so I spent a lot of time researching on the internet. Most of the CMS landscape is very much dominated by PHP solutions but I was really interested in seeing if we could find something that was powered by Ruby. By doing that I’d found a couple more solutions and just researched more and after a while I found out that Locomotive actually really fit a lot of our needs.

LocomotiveCMS: What other tools/products did you use before are being replaced by Locomotive?

David Pierce: Before Locomotive, we used a wide range of tools to build our different sites. I’m a huge proponent of making sure that we find the right tool to fit the problem and so from static site generators all the way up to things like Wordpress, I use a lot of different tools on the dev team to accomplish the right goal. Like I mentioned, we did a lot of just handcrafted static sites and there’s different tools for that but for this discussion, we spent a lot of time and investments in Wordpress because it’s kind of one of the better known solutions out there for building sites that have a lot of content management problems.

LocomotiveCMS: What were your greatest challenges when creating websites for yourself or your clients before?

David Pierce: One of the biggest challenges that we found before was again finding a tool that could be as flexible and as complex as the business problems that we wanted to solve for. What I really mean by that is Wordpress is a great tool and it’s good at what it does but after a while you’d start to run into challenges trying to make Wordpress do things it wasn’t designed to do. Now Wordpress does have some good extensions for custom post types but I’d often would be encountered with business problems that had the model data that just hadn’t really been considered before and so that was really one of the biggest challenges. Then another big challenge I wanted to solve for managing all that complexity and being as flexible as we needed to be while also keeping our developers happy. We’re mostly a JavaScript and Ruby shop here and we could have done a lot of the PHP solutions and made it work but ultimately our developers are happy when they’re using tools that are Ruby based or JavaScript based and so those two big things, developer happiness and then honestly business happiness, those are two things that I really want to be sure that I was solving for appropriately and again, Locomotive really helped us find that good mix.

LocomotiveCMS: How is Locomotive different from comparable solutions you’ve used before? What problems does LocomotiveCMS solve for or does it make easy?

David Pierce: The thing that helps Locomotive stand out for me is considerations to how developers think, how they work and what their workflow looks like. I really hadn’t seen a CMS or any platform before that’s so elegantly divided: business concerns and developer concerns and so through its use of tools and the separation of concerns, we’re allowed to really keep environments that keep everyone happy. That thing really stood out to me.

The other thing that really stood to me is its commitment to open source. A lot of frameworks that I’ve looked at are open source as well but finding something that was as polished for the business users and had so much design consideration built into the back office but then also too had a lot of really good elegant decisions put into how developers work. That was great and being able to crack open the code and see how it worked and see how I could contribute back to the community so that other LocomotiveCMS users could also benefit from what I’ve learned and that was really attractive to me as well.  

LocomotiveCMS: what has changed about your work since you started using LocomotiveCMS?

David Pierce: My experience so far, it’s actually been pretty positive. It’s been flexible enough and intuitive enough for my business users but it’s also been the kind of thing that if I’m having to bring in developers or extra help or resources into the problem, you don’t have to learn the entire CMS to contribute to a site build. If all that you really want to learn is how to work with CSS, SaaS or JavaScript, Wagon is really nice in that you don’t have to learn the entire stack to contribute to a site. It’s made it really easy to be flexible with how I pulled resources into a particular site, ranging from a very big site that needs a lot of investment to just kind of a small site that I need to kick out a couple pages, I can really be flexible with that.

The other thing that I really enjoyed about this is Locomotive does content modeling very well and so I can sit down with the business users and really understand what structured editable content needs to look like, what parts of the page they might need to change, just how flexible the back office needs to be and so that’s really great that I can just sit down and think about all of that and know that that directly match the things that Locomotive are very good at.

LocomotiveCMS: How do you use LocomotiveCMS in your work?

David Pierce: The way that we use it now is I usually start by sitting with … My clients are internal clients so I start by understanding their business needs, what problems that they’re trying to solve, what kind of message and story they want to tell and really what I’m looking for is what structured content do I need to make available in the back office. When I sit down and understand all the requirements and say does this fit within the range that Locomotive will excel at? If it’s a smaller site that just needs not … like pretty static content then I can direct them in other places but once they start figuring out the stories that they want to tell and what data goes into that I can start mapping that out to models and we can start designing basically what all the requirements are and then we just build out the page or pages and then I can sit down and say like, “What is missing? What extra things do you need?” Since Locomotive is so flexible, we can add those back in. It’s very cheap. It’s not as time consuming to sit down and make changes. That makes the developer and business interchange pretty quick.  

LocomotiveCMS: What feedback have you gotten from your clients for the LocomotiveCMS back office? Do they find it easy to use?

David Pierce: Yes, the latest feedback that I’ve gotten, because I check in with my business users quite a bit is that it’s intuitive in that it’s flexible. If something isn’t there that needs to be there, it really doesn’t require much of a code change to make it happen and what’s really nice about that is I can take those requirements back over to developers. We add in some code and we push it to production and it all just works.

The business users really like that flexibility where they don’t have to adjust their paradigm to kind of suit the framework. The framework adjusts to fir their paradigm. Again, that’s the best thing that I can really offer to my business users is that each back office for each problem that we solve is custom-tailored to the problems that they’re trying to solve. That’s been really good. It’s like a system that grows and learns with them and it’s what they expect to see when they log in and have to manage their content.  
LocomotiveCMS: What was your aha moment, the moment you knew you loved LocomotiveCMS?

David Pierce: I was first really inspired to explore Locomotive a lot more when, as I was coming through its features and what it could do, I realized that I can actually look at the code and see how it works and just seeing that it was Ruby. It was understandable and I really liked to think about the fact that under the hood, it’s just Rails and it can do what I want it to do and there’s a lot of really good best practices and knowledge built up around it. Knowing that I can use standard industry tools like New Relic and various distribution and deployment platforms, that’s all really compelling.

Also seeing the commitment to design and seeing a lot of the contributors onto the project and seeing that designers that I … names that I knew and recognized were contributing to the success of that project, that was a really good aha but really what’s inspiring and this is all inspiring to developers what was really inspiring was knowing that I could custom tailor the backend and make it as close to my colleague’s problems as possible and knowing that I could really deliver something that was very rich and faithful to my non-technical colleagues. That was really exciting too and again, the open source part, there’s lots of reasons that I fell in love with Locomotive pretty early on.

There isn't a single aha moment or me it’s just to further that the more that I spent time looking at Locomotive and what it could do and how it was built and the different philosophies that it committed to, all of those really kind of came together and really helped inspire me to pursue that further.    

Our plans for Locomotive as we grow as a company are just effectively to continue using it as we’re using it now. It’s part of my toolkit that I can bring to the table when I’m considering problems and how we want to solve them. It’s really good. It’s fitting a good sweet spot for smaller to medium-sized builds. It’s also really helpful when I’m considering a lot of managed content for our business users and so it’s going to continue to be a pretty strong player when I’m considering alternatives to help solve our problems internally.

I also expect to find and exploit more of the ways that we can save a lot of our infrastructure costs. There are really smart ways that I can host multiple small sites on one installation with Locomotive. What I’m thinking as a technical director, that saves our company money, that saves us maintenance costs and I can really can share and spread out a lot of the costs of maintaining websites into one place and so that’s really exciting too.

The other ways that I expect our company to grow is to continue to contribute back to help be a part of making Locomotive better for engineers but also for business users and just being a part of the Locomotive community as well.