Note: Paul Johnson wrote a great blog post, Working in Drupal is a real job, really?! It started a great conversation and we thought it would be cool to encourage blog posts connected to the theme. Then when we get ten of them we will do a bit of a collation and get Drupal.org to respond. If you want to write a blog do it and let myself or Paul know. We are not after a critique on what will or won't work so much as capturing priorities and insights people have on opening up the Drupal community. Here's Pauls original twitter thread if you want to join in there too.Thank you for contributing.
Serendipity works when you have people with the ability, networks and opportunities to come into contact with people regularly, until “right place at the right time” thing eventuates. It’s a numbers game; hit something enough times, something will land.
So it’s romantic, but unbalanced. It’s not a reliable way to build community, yet creating the conditions for fortuitous interactions to occur is. Take DrupalCons, enormously successful at building community and encouraging participation. They work for the people that can get there, that feel like they should go, or want to go.
When you don’t use multiple strategies you start to homogenise your community; it might be evident in gender, age, interest etc. In established communities it becomes evident in the individuals that are in it and what their roles are. It doesn’t take long to realise who the people that have been in the community a long time are. It’s not a criticism – it is like a family and that’s nice – but have you ever tried to be accepted into another persons family? (I think there is another blog post on the analogy of family and how to have difficult conversations that could be written too).
Across the networks I hear a lot of solutions on how to build community in Drupal. (I’d also like to hear a little more on building business and support for marketing strengths to customers, but conversations about community I’m always happy to hear). Open Source has been a community inspiration to me; it’s the product of committed people building something to be released into the world. But the voices I hear about Drupal are from developers, and they offer developer solutions, and developer reservations.
One of my favourite quotes is from a person I used to work with in the area of strengths based community development; which is basically talking about your needs and what you don’t have won’t get you anywhere, talking about your strengths, capabilities and assets will. The quote is (an Aussie Rules reference btw):
“Community development is like a game of football, where 36 000 people that need the exercise turn up to watch 36 people that don't”- Peter Kenyon
I think of this quote in relation to the Drupal community a lot. I see a serious need to get those 36 000 standing up and exercising.
Although I think serendipity is unbalanced and less likely to be fortuatous for some than others, I actually like it. And over the past year I’ve thought about my career and the ability I have to facilitate serendipity. Three recent reflections are on encounters I have had with people through circumstances you could pin to serendipity are with:
Bec – in her 20’s living in rural South Australia, she’s taught herself to code. I picked up her business card in a cafe and I've made a commitment to myself to help young women in IT where I can. This girl got talent. I saw her yesterday after a couple of months. Know what she’s been doing? Teaching herself how to theme Drupal 7 from scratch. She started on 8, but the help and past info etc for 7 is much stronger.
We need to identify a path to get her direction and support to code beautiful Drupal 8 sites as fast as we can.
Amy – I met on twitter (the modern say serendipity enabler?) she told me she “didn’t have any skills” but she could copywrite. In two months has managed a Drupal 7 campaign site with over 400 news sites, nearly 500 user submitted stories, and manages IA. She has just started post grad studies in digital copy editing and web stuff.
We need to identify a path to get her direction and support to have her support organisations get the most long term capacity out of their Drupal sites as fast as we can.
Jess – Jess codes websites from scratch and creates snitch hunts and cryptogatherings and other amazing stuff. Never getting paid. I made her show me her resume, it’s as sad as old boots. She doesn’t take stock in her experience as being seen as valuable.
We need to identify a path to get her direction and support to have her eaning a living out of working on Drupal sites as fast as we can.
Jess and I had this interaction yesterday on twitter:
Me: If you want me to show you Drupal - I know you like to code but there are flippin jobs everywhere - and I'll be a reference.
J:Thanks for the offer. That's so nice. Im a little cynical about coding jobs as without professional experience I can't get past the recruiters.
Me: You don't need to code, many of them are content and structure and IA and understanding the language and how to direct the tech. Recruiters are dumb.
J: What are the job titles?
Me: haha good question. Recruiters ask for developers when the last thing an org needs is a developer
“Haha good question”? She had me stumped. What are the job titles? I pretty much see three “developer”, “front end developer”, “website manager”. Snore me a river. This is not sustainable. This is enabling the belief that every site needs to be built by a developer and that career options are limited.
I can’t stress how much we need Bec, Amy and Jess in the Drupal community.
I think it’s time to have honest conversations about why we need them. We need the conversation because communities that don’t invigorate and welcome new people become stale, and sometimes they die. We need the conversation because the pressure to move from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 has been immense, and the speed at which things need to move forward will be unknown and uncomfortable for some. The game has changed. Boom and bust and burnout cycles is a thing. This isn't just about Drupal and the Drupal people, this is about the position of Drupal in a complex global market.
But who laid down the rules on how open source would work and why it was necessary? The community. We know so many elements of the what, we need to keep working on the how. The next stages are just an extension of building a software platform from scratch using volunteers, but with a broader field. Maybe we need to approach this as if we were crowd sourcing to build an entire organisation? It would certainly shift the focus to the macro and ensure elements were connected.
Developers don’t need to have all the solutions in this. An organisation of developers has a limited scope indeed. And developers don’t need to be the ones to do all the work, nor should they.
We do need community buy in to guide and tell people how the next chapter of Drupal should be built. I feel it's time the 36 players stopped the game, turned to the crowd, told them to get up out of their seats and directed them on what to do next. Because it's the ones in the seats watching that really need the exercise.