Posted 03.10.2011 by Jack
Angie "webchick" Byron and Greg "heyrocker" Dunlap engage in conversation about the Drupal community, often acting as devil's advocate to each other's arguments and presenting opinions held by Drupal community members other than themselves.
Why do we need to grow Drupal at all?
- Greg: There's been pushback from Drupal dev community about marketing and intentionally growing community; focus on improving the software instead. Growth can change things in undesired ways.
- Angie: the natural evolution of things in a volunteer community is that people get busy with other stuff. Important to bring in new contributors and collaborators.
- Angie: when you have Drupal as part of your day job, you can have much more focus in the community on building sites, helping users, building modules. Growing business ecosystem feeds into the software and helps make it better.
- Greg: when we talk about marketing and outreach it's not about growing the community, it's about growing Drupal as a product, increasing usage. Business centric, not community centric.
- Angie: that focus is because those are metrics, can be measured, sell biz on Drupal, sell programmers on Drupal. Those indicators are important for biz but also important for contributor audience.
- Greg: current market for Drupal developers is "beyond fairy land." So much demand for Drupal, growing product is important for development.
- Greg: if you accept that we need to grow Drupal, how do we do it? Growing a community is difficult. Growing the infrastructure and growing as people and how we work together.
Growing the Infrastructure
- Greg: recent conflict about whether we should have a centralized or decentralized infrastructure, i.e. focus on having everything done on Drupal.org vs other tools that might meet Drupal's needs better (e.g. D.o forums vs stack exchange)
- Angie: two areas where this has come into play: git migration (why don't we just use Github? That tool does a better job already, is dedicated to that, money, etc.) Decision to keep that infrastructure on D.o because it forms the basis of our community. By having all developers in one "place" it means that you need to learn one set of tools, will help you contribute, innovation and working together is community centric. Also better ability to control culture of dev community, e.g. maintaining the GPL license. Can't do that on infrastructure we don't control; Github doesn't care what licensing you use
- Angie: maintaining that community allows for exponential community growth while maintaining community ethos & core values.
- Angie: Stack Exchange is github of support; we're never going to build a better support system than them because that's their biz, they've got people and funding focusing on that. But it's dangerous, segments newbie community into a separate silo from people who know what they're doing. Put a hard break in there between people who are new and people who can contribute patches, documentations, etc. Psychological break (different sites, URLs, communities) and practical (how do we get those people back on the D.o to collaborate?)
- Greg: Look at how long git migration took to happen; not just actual migration but also agreement that there should be a migration at all. We lost users during that time! With support it's even worse; users have no where to go, we'll lose them without a good support system, maybe better to use something else and keep them into Drupal rather than lose them.
- Greg: another place where we silo users is IRC, e.g. #drupal-contrib vs #drupal & #drupal-support. Should we be siloing devs away from noobs? Isn't it better to get SOMETHING done than to get something PERFECT done?
- Angie: the minute D7 came out, in #drupal-contribute, there was so much excitement, scrolling faster than she could keep track of, huge celebration, congratulations, etc. In #drupal? "How do we make a forum? Hello? Anyone there?" Fundamental shift from D6 release when the excitement was in #drupal. Incredibly dangerous. People who enforce culture and are old school find it's overwhelming from them, withdrawing into protective shell where other people are getting things done. Unless we make explicit outreach attempts to main channel to bring people into contribution community, we're teaching people to jump on the couch, behave in same non-contribution way in other areas of Drupal.
- Angie: not enough to do outreach, also need people to welcome folks, orient them, bring them in.
- Greg: difference between getting contributions and getting contributors. The long tail we see in Dries' keynote is contributions, but people are contributors when they continue to contribute. We need to turn people into contributors, not just people who make isolated contributions.
- Greg: very difficult for major contributors (e.g. merlinofchaos) to enter #drupal without getting bombarded with service demands/requests. People don't respect boundaries.
- Angie: when she tried to get into #drupal-contrib her social chatter was shot down harshly, not so good an approach but she was eventually taught/mentored by more patient people about how to contribute. If we don't take initiative to teach and guide people we will end up in a complete mess. We are in a situation where #drupal has taken on a life of its own, just another support channel where none of the smart people hang out anymore because it's too overwhelming. Conscientious effort of reinforcing community values there, moderate the channel so it's useful for everyone.
- Angie: Drupal rockstars act as lightning rods, people turn to them to set the tone, but by focusing on them we ignore our own power in the communities as non-rockstars.
- Angie: Ferociously guided people who were lambasted in IRC, put a nicer tone on the harsh messages that other people put out there. We ALL need to take on that responsibility, can't leave it to the rockstars.
How do we work together as people?
- Greg: Watching Drupal process is like watching the process of a startup when it succeeds. You've got small group of people who are tight knit, excited about the work, playing field is really level. If your product succeeds, you grow, some engineers move into leadership, other people don't want that role and just want to code and design. As project grows you've got HR people creating rules, money people show up with VC guys in suits, need to wear a tie, can't call CTO on his cell phone at 2am anymore, everything is slow and boring. You end up in a situation where there's bitter cranky developers vs new people who joined a stable company because they need to work. Bitter developers leave. A lot of that in the Drupal community now.
- Greg: response to new people is to some extent a resentment to our growth, they don't think that's a good thing, and that's how it comes out. Lots of pressure on Angie because she's the person who tries to make it nice for everyone. There's been a lot of work in the community trying to keep everything together, We would've lost many developers if Angie wasn't D7 co-maintainer bringing bitter devs back from the ledge and talking them down. How do we deal with that problem? It's not like Drupal is going to shrink, so how do we handle that conflict?
- Angie: pulling people back from the ledge is having them look at the bigger picture. Community has at least doubled in size since Drupal 5 came out. Lots of people are new! Haven't seen that history, when it was smaller and more close-knit. People who were around resent that this huge community of unfamiliar people is now their responsibility. Angie tries to show them the benefit.
- Angie: D7 is an amazing release because culture of community has shifted so much. 2008 UX testing showed that target audiences of tech savvy people were totally lost. General reaction in 2008 was that those people were just stupid; we've gone from that to having a formal usability team to sign off on patches, people care about usability when they're developing. Growing diversity of community greatly increases quality of Drupal the software/product. Accessibility team, movement of designers. Growth strengthens us as a product as well as a community.
- Angie: probably 2/3 of the list of people on Dries' list of big drupal contributors weren't even there a few years ago.
- Angie: need to acknowledge the concerns of veterans as valid while also supporting new community members and growth.
- Greg: A lot of anger about D7 things like Overlay are because we're creating a product more for the users than for the developers. A lot of people feel like that was shoved down the throats of the community, that this wasn't a discussion that everyone had buy-in on. A wedge that has generated a lot of discontent in dev community.
- Angie: (gives history of UX initiative in Drupal.) Big issues with that: core devs believe in meritocracy, earn respect on a patch-by-patch basis, work your way up the respect ladder. The way that Leisa and Mark were brought in was Acquia appointing a design czar. Mark and Leisa were already part of community, had already worked on D.o design process as part of the community. But the number of people who care about D.o is way smaller than people who care about Drupal admin UI, so people were upset about that appointment. Felt non-participatory because they tried to act as design maintainers, like Angie as co-maintainer. People got pissed when they didn't respond to all comments, etc. If we do this sort of major initiative in the future we're going to have to improve this. However their work was very important because it addressed all of the UX problems that we'd seen. Far better than design by committee, which is not design at all.
- Greg: this touches on hierarchy of our community. As Clay Shirky said, just because it's not written down doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Also, corporate control: big companies fund Drupal initatives rather than them being organically grown from bottom up. These are linked because Dries is at the center of both of them. That's only going to increase as companies/people who have been working on core get funding, become more business-oriented.
- Greg: we do have a leader, but he's not dictating; he's listening and doing things. Dries doesn't necessarily push stuff. On the other hand, Acquia funds certain projects and those get pushed very hard by core contributors.
- Angie: When you go into an issue, all you see are blue nicknames, Only way to establish hierarchy is to see whether they have a higher or lower user ID; that's it, other than reading comments and forming personal opinion. You can also look at their profile and see how active/long-standing they are, but in general you only have individual's actions to form an opinion about them.
- Greg: Makes it difficult in two ways: people who are new don't know who they "should" respect because of their contributions; people who are not known get ignored in lieu of the big folks.
- Angie: folks have suggest ranking/karma that's visible to surface and acknowledge hierarchy, but that leads to competition. Prefers systems that elevate things; rate people's work rather than individuals themselves but doesn't address transparency in hierarchy.
- Angie: starting to identify individuals in hierarchy: core maintainers, subsystems maintainers. D7 docs list 45 people. Acknowledge hierarchy explicitly not to hit people in the face with it but to let people know who to talk to.
- Angie; lots of people want to see karma system for acknowledgment for engagement and contribution, but there's a difference between being a culture of collaboration without intrinsic rewards vs being motivated by the shiny badge. Creates a culture of competition rather than collaboration. Interesting to weight pros and cons. Angie leans towards staying with what we've got.
- Angie: Drupal is software, but we need to treat major changes in how our community works we need to consider cultural impact of the change and how it will affect the community.
- Greg: Dries' keynote seemed to suggest a more formal structure of hierarchy and authority. When companies grow middle management comes in. Isn't formalized structure good? Things are clear, lays out rules, establishes people who are explicitly in charge, sets the ground for everyone to work.
- Angie: does like that, value in that sort of thing, but difference between that and karma points. Identifying initiative owners is useful, but you're not saying that person is more important than everyone else working. Angie doesn't think she's more important than anyone else working on D7 core, wouldn't exist if it weren't for all people working on it, but she was delegated to be point person.
- Greg: but Angie did wield a hammer at various points, said no to things.
- Angie: true, but tried to take a hands-off approach. When there's a conflict, try as much as possible to let developers work it out amongst themselves. That builds mutual respect (or hatred). If it works, it's much better than Angie moderating and making decisions in all cases. When it gets ugly, that did have to happen.
Big Money in Drupal
- Greg: big shops, big money, big sponsors. Also, this Drupalcon feels much more like a trade show than others have, and that's intentional. More expensive, more slickly produced. What's the impact on the community? How can we manage that? How do we deal with how money can affect what gets done and what doesn't, what can be sustained and boosted and what doesn't?
- Angie: no good answers, but wants to dispel a few things. Acquia and examiner.com had big impact on D7 but most of it was still individuals getting fired up, making personal sacrifice to see things happen. Acquia driving D7 UX was not first time that a big company moved a big initiative, e.g. CivicSpace and D5 installer. Bryght did multi-site, DevSeed drove a lot. All this is there, that won't stop from happening, biz with vested invest in seeing Drupal improve will do that. Not just a company vs person is also a time thing; someone who's single, no kids, etc has a lot more time than others; that affects the community.
- Angie: all voices need to be heard.
- Greg: if more people are working on core, isn't it just going to be more difficult to come to consensus about this? We don't want Drupal to be driven only be people who are dedicating their lives to it, needs to be balance.
- Angie: it's noisy when everyone has a voice, but it's really important. As we grow diversity we also grow perspectives and we need better tools to support community conversations, consensus.
- Angie: by focusing on making our "office environment" better, we're also going to increase community contributions. Angie's next priority is Drupal.org
- Q: People look to Drupal Association to step up for everything. BoF at 3:15pm on coordinating community projects to make it much easier to suggest ideas and bring resources together and fund them. A: Go to that BoF to combat corporate control, though Angie will caution that bringing money into the picture you have to be careful. When you fund maintainers or project managers, that's better; when you introduce money into development, it does change the dynamic, e.g. project module will never be worked on without paying people to do it. Now that it's not funded, creates interesting dynamics. Be careful about community dynamics that are affected.