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Content First, Technology Second

· Drupal,Community,Code,Content

Many years ago, I was going for a morning stroll in New Jersey with my dad. We walked past a complete stranger and my dad said, “Hello.” My parents are divorced and I lived (mostly) with my mom in Brooklyn, so I spent the majority of childhood in a place where no one says hello to strangers. I was bewildered so I asked him why did we just said hi to a complete stranger and he said...

Saying hello is easier than saying f*ck you.

That is truly what he said and I can honestly say, it is the one and only time I have ever heard Sheldon Rockowitz swear. He broke his polite demeanor to emphasize to me the importance of saying hi.

Fast forward 20 years. I am now a father and my four-year-old son is complaining that he has no one to play with. I point to the closest child his age and tell him to go up to the kid and say 'Hi, my name is Ben'. He did it and discovered the concept and value of initiating a greeting with a complete stranger. And he made a friend for the day at the playground.

Two years ago, we were on a summer trip in Montreal and hanging out in a playground. Like many parents, I was laying low on the sidelines, observing my child's interaction with other kids. Ben walks up to a kid on the swing set and says, "I am not sure what language to say ‘Hi’ in, but my name is Ben." Ben's natural ability to adjust his approach blew my mind because he not only found a way to communicate with a complete stranger who might not be comfortable speaking his language, but he also shifted his method based on what he knew - and this is equally important - what he didn’t know. Kids are the future, and they teach us valuable lessons all the time.

Ben taught me..

No matter how difficult or challenging it is to approach someone, you should still find a way to say to hi, to be the first one to launch a connection. And you should do that even if you’re not sure of what the outcome will be. Taking the risk means you’ll gain something; doing nothing adds nothing new.

The Drupal community and software needs to say "Hi" and make people feel comfortable

Improving the evaluator experience has become one of our communities initiatives. There are many approaches and plenty of awesome people contributing to improving this experience. Providing a single command to install & run Drupal is critical, however I feel that we the Drupal Community should not lose sight of the importance of saying "Hi" and making someone feel comfortable who is installing Drupal for their very first time. It’s something that only takes a moment but works wonders in easing barriers - it acknowledges your presence and opens the door, ushering you in. Helping someone feel comfortable with using the command line can be a make or break user experience. I have a huge amount of faith that the Documentation working group will collaborate and continue to provide a first-rate getting started guide. I hope after the initial patch is committed, we’ll aim to further improve the evaluator experience by congratulating someone on installing a piece of fantastic Open Source software for their first time using CLI, which by the way, means Command-line interface.

Hopefully, we can even take the time add some cool colors to the below message.

For anyone that is already a command-line ninja, the above message would only be seen once, but I would never expect a command-line ninja to be executing `drupal quick-start` because they have already progressed in their journey to installing Drupal using a recommended local server setup.

Making it easy for people to learn more about our community and our principles

Our community is massive, and is overwhelming. Many people have acknowledged the problem and Drupal Association's new homepage is now addressing personas to better direct visitors.

We have a great community and the below saying is part of Drupal's credo.

Come for the software, stay for the community

This was my experience ten years ago when I first downloaded and installed Drupal. I feel that we should recognize the comma between the "Come for the software" and "stay for the community" because it represents what I am going to call, "the journey from the code to the community." There is a problem in our code; it is not a technical one; it is content one. We need to value and think about every user experience and the messaging and content around every new feature we add to the software.

We are collaborating on creating the single most important piece of content in our community, it is our "Values & Principles" I want to ask you the community…

Where should our values & principles live?

We can learn a lot from other communities

Before DrupalCon Nashville, I blogged about the potential threat of WordPress. At DrupalCon Nashville, I attended the Community Summit, which was also attended by two amazing members of the WordPress community, Andrea Middleton and Jill Binder. They shared with the Drupal Community how WordPress organizes meetups and camps. Andrea and Jill demonstrated to me that Open Source communities should always collaborate and share ideas and solutions. Personally, in the Open Source world, I have come to view all competing projects as sibling projects.

WordPress has principles and they live in their code more specifically the software's admin user experience. Their approach is very straightforward and begins with a clickable logo in the upper right-hand toolbar which opens to a What's New, followed by Credits, Freedoms, and Privacy.

WordPress About Section

To use a Picasso’ism, we need to do more than copy this approach; we need to steal it (in a friendly way) and make it our own solution.

Community in Code

Before I even start discussing any possible approaches, I need to quote one of our values to help guide this discussion... 'embrace change'. In other words, here is my idea of how we get started: Let’s work together to make it better.

Personally, I feel that limiting this content to three key pillars of information is a better way to consolidate our information.

The three pillars I recommend are...

  • Getting involved in our community

  • Recognizing who is involved in our community

  • Discover our community’s values and principles

The Drupal logo should be the same drop logo as the one on Wherever possible, we should pull content and design elements from

Getting involved in our community

I am betting that aside from our values and principles, this going to be the most challenging content to create because it requires aggregating content from 100's of Drupal pages into a single page. Taking the new personas from's recently redesigned home page could help orient new and existing members of our community. For example, we should encourage developers to contribute code, marketers to help coordinate events and materials, and agencies to contribute and/or sponsor development.

Another feature we should learn from Wordpress is to promote upcoming Drupal events, especially DrupalCons, since we now know these dates so far in advance. Ideally, we should pull in a feed from Drupical but realistically we need to start with an MVP (Minimum viable product) approach and just link resources like Drupical, the Drupal Association newsletter, Drupal Planet, and Drupal Groups.

There is plenty of other content we can add to this page. We should focus on the immediate messaging and accept that creating and maintaining this type of content is an iterative process.

Who is involved in our community

I feel this could be a game-changing feature because we can visually give credit to core contributors and contributing organizations. We need to push ourselves on this page to give credit to everyone while inspiring new contributors and organizations to get involved.

We also need to highlight core initiatives; this will provide a clear statement that the "Drop is always moving" and we are continuously seeking to improve the software and grow our community.

Most people know that I am a passionate advocate of pushing people and organizations to support the Drupal Association. I also respect that some people have reservations about this. One thing I want to push for is that the Drupal Association staff deserves equal credit for their contributions to supporting and the Drupal community.

I am envisioning that each contributor has a card that says...

{name} does {work} for {project} and {works for company} and they like {something}.

Citing what someone is doing acknowledges their contribution. Recognizing their company (aka sponsor) helps improve sustainability. Allowing contributors to append something personal to their card adds a "being human" aspect to each profile. Further, recognition puts a name to the work, cultivates accountability and fosters a healthy sense of competition, it drives us all to do better and connects us in a way that anonymity never accomplishes.

For example, my card would say...

Jacob Rockowitz (jrockowitz) maintains the Webform module and likes Portuguese Water Dogs.

BTW, I wouldn't want my card to include a company because no one is currently sponsoring my work. Maybe in a (much) later iteration, we could add a 'sponsor my work' link to my card.

Let's admit that there is no better advertisement for a contributing organization than their company's name, logo, and URL in the software. BTW, I only want to see organizations that sponsor (aka pay or employ) an individual person contributing to Drupal, highlighted in core, hence why I want to call them a "contributing organization" instead of a "sponsoring organization".

I found it a little disconcerting that all the diamond sponsors of DrupalCon Nashville were hosting companies, but not all these hosting companies have an equivalent amount of developers contributing to Drupal core and contrib. If they have enough money to appear on stage at DrupalCon promoting their product, shouldn't they also be committing similar funds to writing the code?

Understanding and recognizing who is contributing to Drupal is a very challenging subject matter.

For now, I would like to clearly distinguish that "sponsoring organizations" are giving money to Drupal to get their name recognized and help to fund the Drupal Association ongoing work maintaining and the community, while "contributing organizations" are contributing resources, money and people to help support the ongoing development of Drupal. It is important to note that many companies sponsor and contribute to Drupal.

The question is not should they contribute, but how they contribute.

Discover our community’s principles and values

Our value and principles are still in alpha releases and they will be ready when they are ready.

I look forward to helping add our value and principles to this new user experience to Drupal core. At the same, it’s important that we don't rush the finalization of our values and principles.

I don’t have any strong opinions about our values and principles except to keep it simple. My friend, Kaleem Clarkson, made me realize that our written values and principles are just words on a piece of paper or a computer screen, which are meant to guide our community. Ultimately, it is what we do and how we interact within our community that make these words a reality. Our behavior is the true barometer of our values.

How can I help make this happen

The actual technical implementation of a clickable logo linking to three tabs is definitely a lot easier than any core initiative. I am 100% committed to making this happen. I know it is going to require several discussions and few iterations.

One of many valuable lessons I learned at Adam Goodman's Teamwork and Leadership Workshop was that it’s okay in Open Source to have an exit strategy, and it’s something that can even help the community. My exit strategy for this proposed "micro-initiative" is that I am committed to seeing a stable implementation in core while clearly stating that people will need to contribute and take over future iterations.

Getting some initial feedback

Please post comments below. Hopefully, everyone’s feedback can help me better define the problem, solutions, goals, and even the implementation. Once I have enough information, I will follow up by creating the needed ticket on


I want to sell this idea to our community, and yes this may sound cliche, but our values and principles statement should be our Statue of Liberty; what followed the gift of the statue was finding a place to put it and an equally monumental effort to fund a pedestal. The most important part of this analogy is the Statue of Liberty represents freedom and is always saying "Hi" to new people entering into a safe harbor in a new place. Regardless of what language you speak, she’s greeting you, ushering you in, letting you know you are welcome and you have value. I’ve lived in New York City my whole life - her presence never ceases to inspire.

Statue of Liberty

Finally, the one thing we, the Drupal community, should always seek to improve is how we...

Say “Hi” and welcome everyone to our diverse and inclusive community.

Thank you, everyone, for your feedback.

I have created a Google Doc scoping out the overall idea and have begun working on figuring out how best to proceed in adding this to the 'Drupal core ideas' issue queue.

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