Published on
June 12th, 2016

This post is the third in a series about migrating from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. It is a direct follow-up to yesterday’s post about migrations and canonical databases.


The full story

Right after I published a blog post yesterday about putting off a canonical Drupal 8 database I hit a bug that challenged that decision. Upgrading the Drupal 8 codebase to the latest stable version (8.1.2) resulted in an unexpected Behat failure related to taxonomy term migration. I ran the migration locally, signed into to the site, and indeed there were no taxonomy terms listed in the UI. But drush migrate-status told me that 74 terms had been migrate. And the taxonomy database tables had records. Odd.

Wanting to get on with my Saturday, I decided to make a new directory for failing tests so that CircleCI could pass with the still-working tests. I reopened my original GitHub issue which tracked taxonomy migration. If I had a canonical Drupal 8 database, these taxonomy terms would already be in that database and I doubt I would have noticed this bug.


Coming back to the issue later night I tried a few things:

  • I looked through the Drupal core and migrate-related contrib issue queues. I even found the issue opened in response to the bug I eventually found. The patch didn’t work for me. Not realizing how close I was to the problem, I kept digging.
  • I tried just updating the migrate-related contrib modules.
  • I went back to 8.1.1. That worked!
  • I did a git diff on the tags. I looked at the changes in migrate module. Nothing jumped out.

Isolating the problem commit

I decided to try just checking out commits between the 8.1.1 and 8.1.2. Easier said than done. My repo does not have a direct shared history with since it is from Pantheon’s Drops 8 repo. It has commits per core tag rather than bringing over every single commit from Pantheon’s Drupal 7 repo does bring over each core commit which I always found more distracting than helpful.

Composer-based “Drupal Project” to the rescue

Needing a way to run my Drupal 8 site on more granular commits between 8.1.1 and 8.1.2 I decided use the situation as an excuse to restructure my repo with the Composer-based Drupal Project. (Sure, I could have just switched over to the repo, but what’s the fun in that?) Drupal Project treats Drupal core as a dependency of a project’s repo rather than as being the whole project repo. With Drupal Project I knew I could use Composer to specify the exact core commits I wanted to run. So I made a new branch with the Drupal Project structure and I replaced the "drupal/core": "~8.0" with "drupal/core": "8.1.x-dev#a5d3f14db87ef953d227fb411489bada1afbb0a8"That hash is from a the subtree split of Drupal core that Drupal Project uses rather than from’s own repo. I could update that hash and run composer update to jump to specific points in history and then rerun my install and tests locally with a series of terminal commands I built up as I went:

chmod 777 web/sites/default/settings.php
cd web
drush si -y config_installer
drush cr
drush mi --all
drush uli --uri=
cd ..
./vendor/bin/behat --config=private/testing/behat/behat-local.yml   private/testing/behat/features/failing-migration-tests/ --strict

This task was made more difficult by migrations failing completely due to a bug in a different migrate module change that was committed and reverted between 8.1.1 and 8.1.2. But that’s the reality of using experimental core modules. Eventually I realized I didn’t even need to keep run composer update to move between hashes. (I think) Because Composer saw core as requiring a development branch, it brought the full history of the subtree split into my local copy so that I could cd into the web/core directory and git checkout specific commits.

Bugs come with the territory

Maybe I should have written this into yesterday’s blog post, but running into these kinds of bugs is something I expected. Migrate is still an experimental module. It is no surprise that an experimental module has bugs. Running my personal projects in such a way that they find bugs missed by core’s tests is a way for me to find core issues where I can help.

What now?

I’m not sure. I don’t want to merge the restructuring of the repo as a Drupal Project into master until Pantheon has more direct support for Drupal Project. Lucky for me, that’s a topic I get to work on as part of my job there.

It is not critical for me to have this taxonomy bug fixed right now. Maybe I’ll post a patch that simply reverts the core commit that added the bug. I don’t necessarily expect that revert to be committed, but I, and anyone else blocked by it, could use the patch. I’ve commented on the issue that should fix this bug. But I don’t even understand yet how the code change in question resulted in the taxonomy migration failing.

I think the main lesson I’m learning here is that I do still need regression tests for my migrations. At MidCamp a few years ago I did a presentation on using a hacked SimpleTest to regression test migrations to Drupal 7. Writing migration tests in SimpleTest was inefficient and cumbersome. But Behat feels like the wrong tool too. The README file for my directory of Behat tests explains some of my thoughts on potential Behat misuse. I’ll expand that into a blog post at some point. Until then, Behat has shown it can catch migration regressions and I’ll keep rolling with that.