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WTF: What's The Future Drupal?

· Drupal,Contribute,Sustainability

Half of the people can be part right all of the time
Some of the people can be all right part of the time
But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time
I think Abraham Lincoln said that
-- Bob Dylan

I love these lyrics from "Talkin’ World War III Blues" because it reminds us that it’s impossible to get all of the people to agree on what is “right”. The best we can hope for is a fair and reasonable discussion followed by a compromise.

Two weeks ago, I published a blog post that stated the Webform module now depends on the Contribute module with a reasonable explanation as to why I was making the change. Some people aggressively pushed back about this approach, especially in the Webform module's issue queue. I completely agree that long-term change on what message is communicated as well as how the Drupal community presents itself in the actual software is going to happen in the issue queue on and at DrupalCon. The fact that people consider me promoting the concept of joining, becoming a member of the Drupal Association, and contributing back to Drupal an "ad" or "SPAM" is troubling. I view "code as content". I feel that the Drupal community and Open Source needs a push in a more sustainable direction and I’ve used the Webform module and my two years of hard work as a 'soapbox' to make an important statement, which is "WTF: What's The Future Drupal?

"WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us

So I just finished Tim O'Reilly's book titled "WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us" and in his book, he passionately talks about how Open Source has shaped the world we see today and the future we see before us. O’Reilly says that Facebook and Google would not exist at the scale they are today without Open Source because both platforms are built on an open source stack of software. To me, that’s huge. O’Reilly’s book explores the key defining technology moments in our past, and how technology in the future is going to impact the workforce, government, healthcare, and politics. We, the Drupal community, are defining a key moment in the evolution of technology and society - definitions that will impact our future and our kids’ future.

Drupal is defining the future

We are the largest open source community building the most tangible and accessible piece of technology available in the world. When I explain to people that Drupal builds websites and anyone has the freedom to use it - they begin to appreciate Open Source. Anyone in the world can use Drupal - they don't need to know how to code, there’s no credit card needed to buy an add-on. becoming a member of our community is the only requirement - and all are welcome. And when you consider all of the vital and useful things out there in our daily lives, most of which are hardly free, that’s pretty amazing.

Of all the Open Source projects out there, Drupal is the only place a completely non-technical person is welcomed with open arms. Everything we do comes with the GPL Freedom. There‘s no competition between projects or "paywalls" in our code. Anyone can use it. We are defining what a global universal collaboration looks like and every single person who has access to a computer understands that we make it possible for anyone to have the freedom to build any type of website or application. In this sense, when the Drupal community calls itself a community, it lives up to the broadest definition of the word.

The Drupal community needs to take the challenge of sustainability head-on

Sustainability has to be the biggest challenge facing the Open Source software community. We have proven the GPL and Open Source works. At the same time, we have seen developers burn out and projects become neglected. It all comes down people being able to make a living writing Open Source Software. There are amazing resources about getting paid for open source work and incredible collaborations discussing the challenges of sustainability.

So many of the approaches for funding open source have relied on a tech company/organization or even a fellow developer helping to crowdfund a project - it simply results in developers who appreciate open source paying other developers. Open source benefits everyone in the world and we need to communicate to all users, big and small, how important it is to contribute something back.

Drupal has potential to educate people about Open Source and change the world’s mindset regarding supporting Open Source software.

It may come as a surprise to many that everyone in the world is already holding Open Source software in their hand when they pick up their phone to make a call. Sure, it would be amazing if every Android and iOS device said "Built with Open Source" on the startup screen. And yet, not everyone can contribute to Android or WebKit. On the other hand, everyone can (and should) contribute to Drupal. Open Source is integral to so many resources in our daily lives but functions quietly in the background.

Changing the world's mindset about Open Source

Recently, my really smart nephew applied to college seeking a computer science degree and has no real appreciation of Open Source, which is both mind-blowing and troubling to me. To my mind, any potential computer science student should feel a responsibility to be involved in open source projects because Open Source is part of their education, craft, and profession. Also, students have the time and passion to make amazing things happen like Drupal.

Dries Buytaert's software powers a million important websites — and he built it from his couch (in college)


I can name a few others that come to mind but I think we’re all fully aware of students contributions to the tech world over the past 20 years.

Honestly, my nephew is still so obsessed with his video games that I’m not sure he would be motivated to go to a software meetup. If we began to change the world's mindset, his mom and dad might be the ones saying to him, "if you want to get into a good computer science program, you need to get involved in the open source software community". Drupal and most open source communities would welcome him with open arms and maybe even give him a slice of pizza and his first beer. But if we truly succeeded in changing the way the world views Open Source, my nephew would call this useful bit of advice not from not just his parents, but also his advisors, his friends and his daily interactions with technology. Ultimately, it would no longer be an issue - my nephew (and other computer science major/college-bound applicants) would already be informed because it would be integrated into his life from a variety of platforms and people

Everyone needs to be pushed in the "right" direction

Yep, I pushed my message in front of everyone in the immediate Drupal community of developers in the hopes that we can see the importance and need to push the entire world in the "right" direction. I apologize to people who are offended. My intentions have been, and remain, good. Of the many lessons, I have learned while contributing to open source is to “respond to criticism with kindness" which is I am saying "WTF Drupal?"

I like to summarize What's the Future Drupal by stating three key points that I hope we keep in mind while we change the world's mindset when it comes to Open Source.

  • Everyone in the world can understand, appreciate, and contribute to Drupal, which means we are the welcoming wagon to people learning about Open Source.

  • Everyone is here for Drupal "the software" and "the software" is our most important piece of content.

  • Drupal needs to communicate and represent the Open Source movement and challenges in its entire user experience.

For the person who just joined, or became a member of Drupal Association, or submitted a patch to the Webform module's issue queue...

You Rock!!!

What's Next for Me & Drupal

Well, I am done for now, and I’d like to go back doing what I do best, which is writing open source code, welcoming new members to the Drupal community, occasionally being preachy, and getting ready to present at upcoming Drupal Camps and conferences. All of these things are my ways of saying not What’s the Future Drupal (WTF) but rather, Drupal is the Future (DTF).

DTF? Drupal is the Future

Yes, I said it and I believe it. It’s why I’m writing this post and it’s why I work as hard as I do writing code, welcoming new members to the Drupal community, occasionally being preachy...okay, I think you see where I’m going.

Drupal is an amazing community with great leaders and passionate contributors who build and maintain software that is changing the world. We need to also change the world's mindset and commitment to Open Source software. The people we need to reach is not the developer sitting next to you and probably not even your boss, it’s everyone and it’s right now. More importantly, it is the future generation and their parents, maybe even their grandmas.

Finally, if your kid tells you they want to go college for computer science, please encourage them​ to go to a Drupal or a software meetup because they are always welcome and we look forward to meeting them. And if they’re not convinced, remember beer and pizza is an easy sell - most of the people will probably agree. The contribution part? I’m hoping we can make that one a no-brainer too.

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