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Hey Drupal: Don't forget about the little guy…

· Drupal,Webform,Drupal Association

DrupalCamp Atlanta was such a great experience -- I can't decide if it was a great end to a good year or the beginning of even a better year. My last blog post was about organizing and presenting the Webform training materials, which was in preparation for my three-hour Webform training at DrupalCamp Atlanta. Suffice it to say, it was an enlightening experience. Not to mention I learned a few things...

First off, I am in awe of all the people in the Drupal community that are 'professional trainers'. The ability to understand and explain something as complex as Drupal is no easy task. The 14 attendees at my Webform training had various skill levels. Because my leg did not nervously shake at all during my three hours at the podium, I can finally say my comfort level with public speaking is increasing. I also came away with some invaluable, practical information. Prior to attending DrupalCampAtlanta, I had completely underestimated how hard it is to coordinate people to do hands-on exercises, like installing and building a webform. After the first hour of the training, I took a break and decided that the hands-on exercises were going to be impossible to accomplish in the remaining two hours, and that the training should instead focus on walking through all the material while answering any questions. I haven’t given up hope on being able to do hands-on exercises, however, I do need to rethink my approach. Fortunately, I was able to attend other sessions, watch some 'profession trainers' in action, and learn a few things.

Michael Anello (ultimike) at DrupalEasy is a 'professional trainer'. He knows how to talk Drupal to people that don't yet "grok" Drupal. I attended Mike's Drupal 8 Configuration System Basics presentation and it was a perfect example of how to do a K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) presentation. My understanding of Drupal's Configuration System is pretty solid yet, Mike managed to convey the most important aspect to working with Drupal's Configuration System, which is that the development team needs to define a clear agreed-upon process for exporting, importing and updating a Drupal site's configuration. Knowledge is one thing; being able to relate that knowledge is the real stuff.

Over one of many 'Drupal' beers, I told Mike that I want to sit in on his training so that I could learn from a 'master'. I’m specifically intrigued by his Drupal Career Online for individuals; It's a 12-week, instructor-led online course that goes deep and broad into the technology, community engagement, and hands-on exercises to give you a rock-solid foundation for a successful Drupal career.

 

Mike's helping Drupal newbies become Drupal rockstars. He’s helping to grow the Drupal community by inspiring and helping individual developers to join our community. "He is helping the little guy in our community."

I am 6'3" and still feel like the little guy in the Drupal Community. This was especially true during the Keynote Contrib Panel discussion that I was part of with Ryan Szrama and Damien McKenna. Ryan and Damien are both passionate Drupal contributors, who as part of their jobs get paid to contribute to Drupal. Ryan is the CEO of CommerceGuys, Damien is the community lead for MediaCurrent. And then there is me; the guy who created the Webform module for Drupal 8. I admire both Ryan's and Damien's role in the Drupal community and when you watch the video, you can see me hunched over, listening and deciding, nodding and shaking my head in accordance with what points I agree with or see differently. Please understand, I don't disagree with anything talked about in our panel discussion; I just have a disparate perspective which I can sum up and explain as "don't forget the little guy."

 

During the panel discussion, Ryan and Damien talked about their contributions to Drupal as part of their current employment. However, all three of us started out in the Drupal community as individuals making contributions to Drupal after hours. Drupal's community is changing and many aspects of Drupal is being built and maintained by paid contributors working for companies and organizations. You should read Who sponsors Drupal development? (2016-2017 edition) to get a better understanding of the Drupal community. Yes, I was surprised that I was the number 1 individual contributor in the Drupal community and one of the few people who is not making "paid contributions" to the Drupal community.

Right now, I have the time available and experience to be able to make a sizeable contribution to Drupal. Early on my Drupal career, Dries Buytaert (the guy who started Drupal) discussed how the Drupal community is a "do-ocracy"; where individuals and groups of people decide what needs to be done and then they just do it. As an individual, as well as in many ways a little guy in the Drupal community, I decided to do ‘something,’ which became the Webform module for Drupal 8. It’s something that has, in turn, become something that I’m passionate about, that I’m eager to see grow and change. And not just personally - it’s a passion that extends to the Drupal community and everyone involved.

I feel that the Drupal community might be forgetting about the little guy, which we can't afford to do. Little guys (aka individuals) have started and built out most of Drupal key modules and themes. Most Open Source projects started out with an individual writing and sharing their code and dreams. Dries, who is ironically very tall, started Drupal as a little guy. He was a college kid in a dorm room, and now he is the project lead to the largest Open Source community and CTO of Acquia.

Drupal is a major project with a massive community built by individuals, including myself. Our community definitely needs corporate sponsorship to support events and major initiatives. At the same time, we need to remember that our community is built one developer at a time. Maintaining the proper balance between individuals and organizations within the Drupal community is an ongoing challenge. Since I am a "little guy', I am interested in seeing more individual developers become part of the Drupal community.

As a follow up to Promoting paid services within the Drupal community and What "About" the Webform module and the Drupal Community? I have decided to start encouraging individual developers to join the Drupal Association with a simple banner in the Webform module's UX that says…

My hope is that individual developers (aka little guys) will join the Drupal Association and the Drupal community.

I strongly feel that Drupal Association is the backbone of the Drupal Community. As the Drupal Association grows, it needs to remember and help the little guy. Who knows? Maybe even provide scholarships to Michael Anello's Drupal Career Online for individuals.

For now, I am going to embrace my "little guy" status in the Drupal community and just keep plugging away at the Webform module for Drupal 8.

Well, that and focus on keeping my leg from shaking whenever I speak in public.

In closing, I want to encourage you to join the Drupal Association as an individual while reviewing and/or writing a patch for the Drupal community.

Every little bit helps.

Photo by: Utzu Logigan (https://www.recallact.com)

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