Pantheon Community

WebOps Wednesday AMA: David Needham

Hello! My name is David Needham and I’m a Developer Advocate at Pantheon.

I’ve been building Drupal and WordPress websites for about 12 years, but I’ve had many more opportunities to contribute since joining Pantheon ~3 years ago. I help organize events (including WordCampUS and MidCamp), speak, run training workshops, and help mentor new members of the community.

I take what I learn by being active in the community back to Pantheon so that we’re staying relevant and building tools that are solving real problems. On an average day you’ll find me working on Pantheon’s training curriculum or leading a workshop. Training is a shortcut to success, and I love helping people be susccessful!

Away from the computer, I enjoy board games, experimenting with productivity, and hanging out with my bicycle-loving family. I also volunteer with The Girl Who Wore Freedom, a WWII documentary telling the stories of the French people and the veterans who liberated them.

Ask me anything! I’m happy to talk about all of the above, as well as my perspective on Pantheon, what exactly “WebOps” means to me, or where my favorite life hacks. (I recently put together a presentation on “Tips, Tricks, and Tools” related to presenting that hasn’t been used, so I’m rearing to share that!)


Hi, David! Thanks for hosting today.

I’d love to hear your life hack for all your life hacks–I’m always impressed by what appears to be continuous improvement in the way you do things. How do you track all the awesome ideas you hear about? How do you come across so many awesome ideas in the first place?!

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I’d love to hear more about the Mac apps you use to optimize your computing experience. There’s always something new out there and I’m sure you have some smart ideas!


I love board games too, so I know how this could be a tough one, but what’s your favorite board game? Or, to help, what is your current favorite?

And seconded on the above questions about what apps you use for productivity.


I don’t remember where I heard this from (probably one of the links I reference) but awhile back I started ruthlessly unsubscribing from emails and podcasts that don’t bring me joy or give me inspiration. Here are the notable things that are left:


Podcast (truncated to those relevant to self-improvement)

Naval once said “inspiration is perishable” and he encourages folks to run with an idea when you’re excited about it. I embrace that for productivity ideas / life hacks because no one technique will work forever.


Thanks for your question @katie.richards! Here are the top three you’ve probably never heard of:

Shush is the app that I use for press-to-talk / press-to-mute. This is essential for training when I need to cough or are working from a loud environment.

Clipy is one of those apps that virtually nobody has heard of but I can’t imaging using a computer without. It helps me manage my clipboard history. Check out my blog post for more info.

Jiggler is an app that keeps your screen from going to sleep. This is important in training or at a booth where you’re projecting and want something to stay on the screen for a long time.

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Thanks for writing in @CodeChefMarc!

My all-time, most constant favorite board game is Race for the Galaxy (though Roll for the Galaxy and the much shorter Jump Drive give it a run for its money). It plays well all the way down to two-players, includes a simplified version of role-based perks from Puerto Rico, and it has an good mix of random (never sure what you’re going to get) with strategy (you can forge your own path once you see the cards that you’re drawn).

My most recent favorite is Railroad Ink. Each game is fast, simple to pick up, and it’s fun for everyone to draw maps (and compare at the end).


Clipy looks incredibly helpful as someone who is often juggling multiple types of copied content! I’ll have to take a closer look at it.

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Random aside, our family knows MMM and Brian has done work for him in the past! It’s a small, small internet :grin:

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It is! It’s especially useful writing content when you need pull in multiple sources and rearrange things. But it’s also invaluable for coding for exactly the same reason. Copy code from here and here, paste this there, and there and there. Also filling out lots of forms (like session submissions) where you re-use the same few blurbs of text multiple times.

And I’m pretty sure MMM is hosted on Pantheon!

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Now to figure out GitHub enough to make clipy work!

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Oh! And Clipy also makes it easy to “paste as plaintext”. If you’ve ever copied something from Google Docs or a website, and when you pate it the text is all huge, or a weird font, or color, then you know the pain that this solves. Paste as plaintext = pasting in the format of the text around it. Problem solved quickly.

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Hey @david.needham :wave:

Thanks for sharing! I am interested in learning how you got started with training. I myself really enjoy training but I am definitely not the most confident when it comes to speaking in front of large groups of people. Maybe you can share some public speaking tips? :woman_shrugging:

I am also interested in hearing your thought on tutorials VS live trainings. I am a big fan of online tutorials–especially on social.

Anyways thanks again for sharing!


Hi @McKennaR! Thanks for asking. :slight_smile:

I first got into Drupal because someone was willing to spend time with me to figure things out. I help and contribute back because of the investment they made in me.

They also encouraged me to present at my first camp even though I didn’t feel like I knew anything. Beginner topics are important because everyone benefits from seeing how people get around problems. It’s a shortcut to success that saves folks hours of struggle. Everyone has a beginner topic they can present on, even if it’s something you just did last week, and especially if you’re not an “expert”.

Check out Delivering Great Presentations. This is a talk I gave at WPCampus 2018 and covers many topics around public speaking including imposter syndrome, improving slide quality, improving the clarity of your message, and more.


Regarding live raining VS self-paced tutorials, it all comes down to the way you learn. I personally want to watch a live workshop over a pre-recorded video or written guide because I’m a visual learner who likes to ask lots of questions. Other folks prefer to jump in and do something right away. For them, a written guide is going to work better.

At Pantheon we’re intentional about trying to incorporate all of the different ways people learn so that no one is left behind (but there’s always room for improvement). I can’t vet the source, but here’s an article that describes this in a little more depth (with examples):

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Thanks @david.needham that is super helpful! I am mustering up the courage to deliver my very first session at a WordCamp this year! A personal goal of mine :slightly_smiling_face: I’ve got some topic ideas that I will surely run by you when I am ready!


Thank you for sharing! I can totally relate to that. I am also a visual learner & prefer live trainings because you have the opportunity to ask questions when they arise–total bonus!

I can’t help but wonder if we should dip our toes into providing short tutorials for social? Would love to connect you with on this! First thing that comes to mind are Instagram stories–really popular & tutorials always seem to be an immediate attention grabber.

Regardless you do a STELLAR job at providing in depth trainings for every learner. Personally speaking, as someone who was fairly new to the open source space & Pantheon [months back], your

Getting Started with Pantheon

training was a game changer!


Thanks @McKennaR. Let’s chat about both your new presentation and providing training in new and creative ways!


I know I’ve played Race for the Galaxy but it has been a while! We just visited a new place in Petaluma called Wine or Lose and it was really fun and highly recommend it. They have tons of board games you can try out and they serve food, wine, beer, etc.

That trip, my first introduction to Lanterns, Sagrada which is a dice manipulation building a stained glass window and the Bob Ross board game which is surprisingly fun. Good stuff!

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