In a very short space of time I have grown to love Drupal the software and generally find the community exceptionally welcoming, but at times am frustrated by outsiders perceptions of it and how the community deals with it.
I listen to and read many tech blogs and podcasts, at times you come across positive reactions and opinions to Drupal, but frequently it's perceived negatively, hard to use, ugly and overly complex.
Drupal's perceived complexities are some of it's strengths and creating complex sites that handle, manage and display a lot of data is comparatively straightforward, however, for beginners or basic sites, we're kidding ourselves if we don't acknowledge that Drupal can be overwhelmingly complex.
A dominance of developers in open source communities is nothing unique to Drupal, but other communities do much better at broadening their engaged user base, welcoming them, giving them suitable roles that suit their passions and skills.
Drupal communities love to talk about code, optimising and the latest great features. There is nothing wrong with this at all and the fact that our community is constantly evolving and innovating is a wonderful thing. However, often a lot of these features are discussed with very little context which confounds new recruits as they have no idea how this could help them or be relevant to them.
I go to many technical presentations where I see fantastic ideas presented, amazing features, sold implementations. But I look around and I wonder, where are all the people who would benefit from this, whose lives and businesses would be vastly improved by this. I typically see very few people and worse, the same faces every time.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s that developers, as much as they might not like to admit it, like keeping it to themselves and their peers. But often it's this lack of context that's at fault, there might be great features, but what do they do? What do they mean to me?
There are methods I have tried in the past in other niche/focussed communities to try to broaden and bring relevance to potential new users which is instead of bringing people to our community and talking to them about how it can work for them, we go to their communities and give them case studies, offer them relevance of how we can meet their needs and requirements.
i.e. we run sessions on how to build a site for musicians, press, advocacy groups etc… and what functions and features Drupal has to offer them and match their needs. Case studies, businesses cases, why Drupal works for you, how it can help or enhance what you are doing.
Not all members of the community want to regularly attend (or attend at all) meetups, conferences and mentoring sessions, so how do we also support those interested in the community. Drupal groups and IRC are some methods, but again, they involve the user seeking out what they are looking for, when often they're not even sure what that is. Perhaps we need to equally seek out these people in their own communities. Join web, CMS and other relevant communities on social media and mailing lists, meetups and conferences. Look for those asking questions in related fields and help answer them from a Drupal focus.
Basically, going to potential community members, not waiting for them to come to us.
Again, this all takes time and resources, but it's certainly a task those non-technical enthusiasts can get involved with, so the more on board the more who can help.
I inadvertently came up with an extremely corny and obvious phrase, one so corny and obvious I can’t believe no one has coined it before,
“There are no users without u. But without u there are no users.”
I have been a Drupal developer for a few years now, working as a site builder and creating some basic modules for particular jobs, I also have a reasonable amount of experience implementing Drupal in the NFP sector. Currently a lot of the measure of someone’s contribution to the Drupal community is thorough statistics on their Drupal.org profile, these are fairly developer centric (issues reported, code submitted etc.), firstly I would like to say maybe it’s time we also added statistics (where possible) on other activities. I use this point to illustrate that a lot of my recent contributions have been a little more intangible, such as:
- Helping boost attendance at the Melbourne Drupal meetup
- Talking Drupal and non-profits at ConnectingUp2012, NTC 2012
- Attending CiviCons (CiviCRM module) in London and San Francisco
- Delivering a webinar on Drupal for ConnectingUp
- Demoing Drupal to many individual and businesses
- Preparing several case study seminars on Drupal for meetups around Melbourne
- Encouraging many individuals and organisations to check out Drupal and see if it matches their needs.
- Making connections between Drupal users and developers in Australia and the rest of the world.
- Helping several organisations decide to switch to Drupal and helping them with the rollout