Does Acquia suck up all the Drupal talent?

A number of concerns have been voiced from the community about the substantial growth Acquia has achieved since its inception, the number of key contributors who are now employed by Acquia, and the subsequent influence that this allows Acquia to have on the project.

While some of these concerns have validity, I also think there is also a fair share of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) being spread. So, let's clear up a few points.

In terms of growth, Acquia currently employs about 150 people. However, fewer than half of Acquia's employees work directly with Drupal; the majority of Acquians work in sales, marketing, hosting operations, finance, HR, etc. In a way, this makes us smaller than Phase2, Node One, Forum One, Propeople, Capgemini, and dozens of other shops in terms of Drupal staff. We have a different mix than most other Drupal shops.

In terms of influence, Acquia employs fewer than 10% of the contributors to Drupal core. Admittedly, on a "per Drupalist" basis, Acquia probably contributes significantly more code and magnitudes more dollars to the Drupal community than any other organization. We are investing in expanding the Drupal community through major learning initiatives. We sponsor more DrupalCamps, where new people are introduced to Drupal, than anyone. We sponsor more interns than perhaps the rest of the community combined, where high school and university students learn how to build a career in Drupal. Not to mention we contribute a lot of code.

I like to believe that is a great thing for Drupal and that not doing so would be a big loss for all of us.

It certainly helps to have venture capital money when making investments in the community, but it is not a magic bullet either. It is not free money. I've explicitly chosen to give up part of my equity in Acquia in exchange for money so that I can invest it back into the Drupal community to help Drupal advance.

I understand that my involvement with Acquia is tricky because its well-being is intertwined with Drupal's. But I help drive the decision-making process at Acquia, and I set those directions with the best interests of Drupal in mind at all times. Making Drupal successful and Drupal's well-being is my primary concern, regardless of the "hat" that I wear. We want Drupal to power as many sites as possible, both small and large. We want lots of Drupal entrepreneurs to thrive in a growing ecosystem. If you look at Acquia's actions, you'll see tons of contributions here. We sponsor DrupalCamps and DrupalCons, and pay employees to improve Drupal modules and themes.

Recently, our acquisitions of Cyrve and GVS have been a topic of debate. I'd like to point out that acquisitions are a two-way street: they don't happen unless both parties are really excited about it. Contributors come to Acquia for different reasons. Sometimes they would rather hand things like business development, sales, and support off to someone more set up for that, so they can stay focused on doing things they really enjoy. Others thrive more in a larger team of smart people working on interesting things, rather than toiling away on their own. Still others have put in huge amounts of their own personal time over a sustained period to help improve Drupal, often at great personal sacrifice, and are looking for an arrangement that makes this commitment to the project more sustainable. Painting these contributors as "bad guys", or the company who allows them to pursue a career that they love as "bad guys", is not healthy for our community, or the individuals involved.

The clear solution to the influence concern is to grow our community, particularly our contributor community. If more individuals and Drupal shops are contributing in a bigger way, this mitigates the risks of any organization, Acquia or otherwise, from exerting too much influence on the overall project.

So as a community, we need to re-frame this question. We need to be asking ourselves: (1) What can we do to grow the community? (2) Why aren't more people who depend on Drupal contributing to it? and (3) How can we encourage Drupal shops to contribute back?

Comments

Aaron Bauman (not verified):

Acquiring talent is fine.
However noble your intentions, Dries, the potential for exploiting a public asset for private gains is what people are concerned about.

Maybe you could respond directly to sun's recent blog post, or some of the lively discussion that followed.

September 9, 2011 - 22:38
Anonymous (not verified):

The fact that Acquia employs fewer than 10% of contributors is at best irrelevant, at worst misleading, considering that the top 20% of core contributors to Drupal 7 were mentioned in 85% of the commits (source).

Far from being reassuring, it's actually the kind of statistic that should set alarm bells ringing ...

September 9, 2011 - 23:05
webchick (not verified):

I don't see that statistic as misleading at all.

Counting only the folks who received 85% of commit recognition puts us at the top 195 contributors (actually 194, because Gabor's listed twice), according to that spreadsheet.

Of those, the ones who worked at Acquia are david_rothstein, pwolanin, effulgentsia, gabor, rob loach, cwgordon7 (who was an intern during the summers), bjaspan, ksenzee, dries, jacobsingh, robertdouglass, and heather, and meba. That's 14 people, out of 194, which is 7.2%.

Fast-forward 9 months, and an additional 5 people from that list work at Acquia: moshe weitzman, webchick, lisa rex, greggles, and coltrane. Now we're up to 9.7%.

But regardless, I fail to see how this invalidates the basic point that if you are uncomfortable with the idea of one company, regardless of who it is (check the number of examiner.com employees on that list, for example), exerting undue influence over the direction of core, the very best thing that you can do is get involved.

September 10, 2011 - 02:14
Dries:

I certainly recognize that Acquia employs a lot of the top contributors. In fact, I explicitly called that out in my blog post:

In terms of influence, Acquia employs fewer than 10% of the contributors to Drupal core. Admittedly, on a "per Drupalist" basis, Acquia probably contributes significantly more code and magnitudes more dollars to the Drupal community than any other organization.

However, I take pride in providing these contributors with an environment where they can focus on doing what they love, and I think this makes Drupal stronger, not weaker.

September 10, 2011 - 04:02
hgurol (not verified):

In terms of influence, the number of contributors Acquia employs is irrelevant.

The original claim was; the only two people being able to commit changes to core are paid and influenced by Acquia, which obviously presents a serious conflict of interest today and in the long run.

So, in terms of influence it doesnt matter how many core contributors Acquia employs.

You are the only one with commit rights, who makes the final decisions and gives the project the direction. Because of your role in the company, Acquia's influence on Drupal project is likely to be questioned, especially when some of the core contributors are not happy with where the project goes.

September 11, 2011 - 08:28
Berend de Boer (not verified):

The clear solution to the influence concern is to grow our community, particularly our contributor community.

Exactly, the more people use Drupal the more demand there is for Drupal. This is not a typical scarcity based economy at the moment.

September 9, 2011 - 23:36
matt2000 (not verified):

As the owner of a small Drupal shop and an occasional Drupal contributor, I'm glad to have Acquia in the community. Sure, there is some overlap in our goals that makes them a possible competitor, but their contributions to the product and the community have added far more value.

Since Acquia entered the market, my own business has tripled in size, and I'm not an Acquia partner. That's just the nature of the market right now, a market that Acquia is helping to grow. I don't see why anyone should complain. Thanks, Acquia.

September 10, 2011 - 00:13
Ben Finklea (not verified):

I agree that the argument that Acquia soaks up all the top Drupal talent falls flat when you consider how many total "Drupal people" work at Acquia. The fact that they're some of the highest profile and talented people in the Drupal community skews the perceptions, too.

A lot of the sour grapes may be that it is so hard for many Drupal businesses (*) to find great talent. If finding great talent was easy, I think everyone would be happy(er). There are a couple of sessions at Drupalcamp Atlanta and Drupalcon Denver proposed on this very topic.

It's also true that Acquia has more riding on Drupal than most companies. It would be possible (difficult but possible) for a Phase 2 or even Volacci to work on non-Drupal projects. But I think Acquia is pretty much stuck on Drupal. With more at stake, it makes sense that you invest more into the project. Does that mean that others shouldn't? Of course not.

Part of the problem is that Drupal dev rates are through the roof. And rightfully so. Great devs deserve all the $$$ they can get. The choice if you're a junior developer (say 2 years out of college) is to get $150/hour for a Drupal client or $0/hour and 0 recognition for contributing to core code. Double ditto for designer and themers. That's a huge problem to overcome for both Drupal core and for the business owners among us with staffing needs.

The answer to your question about how to get more contributors was partly addressed by Jay Batson in a presentation to Drupal for Design a couple of years ago: We need a much, much better system of recognition for people who contribute to Drupal. It needs to be public and recognize the non-programmers as much as the developers among us. If I can win a badge for bar hopping on 4Square or for winning games on Starcraft 2 or even by doing ski-jump on my Wii, why can't I get a badge for testing a patch or helping someone in the forums or writing documentation? Seems like we could figure this out.

Napoleon figured it out: soldiers love medals.

(*) I hate the term "shop" when referring to Drupal businesses anymore. It makes it sound like we're all a couple of guys tinkering on bicycles or something. ;)

September 10, 2011 - 00:25
Lev Tsypin (not verified):

Acquia can suffocate growing businesses. There's a catch 22 here, in that the potential anecdote to Acquia's influence, developing other large influential companies that can contribute to Drupal, are prevented from becoming influential by Acquia's dominating presence in the enterprise space. Lets face it, if you're about to drop half a million or more on a large and complex Drupal project, why wouldn't you choose Acquia, with it's roster of Drupal all stars, including the Drupal founder, and venture backing?

I see that as the biggest risk to Acquia's rising start. That's not to say that Acquia, and certainly Dries, don't deserve the success they've had so far. Any discussion should be limited to systemic issues and the overall health of the Drupal ecosystem. There's no doubt, at least in my mind, that everyone has the best intentions. It's just that those aren't enough with what's at stake for so many people.

I will add that, with all due respect to Dries, which I have LOTS of, I don't buy that giving up equity in exchange for VC money is an altruistic gesture designed to benefit the community. It's a direct path to a potential multi-million dollar windfall for Acquia shareholders. Which is great, but lets call what it is. I also feel that if/when Acquia goes public, it will fundamentally change Drupal, potentially not for the better, as it will be beholden to anon stock holders, who care only about share price, certainly not the community, open source ethos, etc.

September 10, 2011 - 01:50
Tom Geller (not verified):

Lets face it, if you're about to drop half a million or more on a large and complex Drupal project, why wouldn't you choose Acquia

That's not the usual proposition, though. Rather, it's "If you're about to drop a half a million or more on a large and complex web project...". Those are not jobs that the five-person Drupal shop is going to score, ever. Rather, the buyer (in a world with no Acquia) signs on an enterprise-ready company that'll do it in Vignette. Or Sitecore. Or SDL Tridion. Or some home-grown RoR system. Those are the real competitors for big jobs.

I think the larger shops -- and particularly the consultancies like Capgemini -- can compete quite well on jobs of that size. But they're not Acquia -- they provide a different mix of services. That's why they turn to Acquia for such things as cloud hosting, while Acquia turns to them for site building, among other things.

[Disclaimer: I'm Acquia's Director of Content and Communications. But I'm writing this is li'l ol' me -- tomgeller.com, not acquia.com.]

September 10, 2011 - 04:52
Lev Tsypin (not verified):

That's a really good point Tom. If it weren't for Acquia, and it's promise of support to enterprise clients and proven success with huge sites, most projects that size would simply not consider Drupal at all. And I do agree that, while cliche, Acquia's rising tide has certainly lifted all (Drupal) boats. So now that Acquia's in some way gotten us all here, the question is should anything change? Not sure, but probably a healthy discussion regardless.

September 10, 2011 - 07:11
Eaton (not verified):

"That's a really good point Tom. If it weren't for Acquia, and it's promise of support to enterprise clients and proven success with huge sites, most projects that size would simply not consider Drupal at all."

This hasn't been my experience. Many of the Drupal shops that have been around since 2004, 2005, 2006... have been doing very large scale Drupal sites since before Acquia arrived. Drupal's growth curve -- a growing list of successful, high-profile Drupal sites -- had put it on the radar of large corporations and even "enterprise" clients before Dries finished his thesis.

This is not to say that Acquia hasn't done lots of great work and helped build projects that we can all point to with pride, or that its support services haven't given lots of organizations a safety net that they really needed. Rather, it's to point out that Acquia is riding the Drupal wave too, not creating it. None of us -- not Lullabot, Acquia, Palantir, Chapter Three, Node One, CivicActions, FourKitchens, or any of the dozens, even hundreds of shops out there -- can claim that we're "the reason" a particular type of client considers Drupal.

There's a lot of unreasonable criticism of Acquia out there, but there's also a lot of people giving credit to Acquia for things that the entire community has done. When those instances are pointed out, I've always found that Dries and everyone else there are great about taking quick action to correct the misperceptions or misstatements.

For better or worse, Acquia competes with other Drupal shops in the areas of support, training, hosting, consulting, and development. There's nothing wrong with that -- there's always been a healthy balance of cooperation and competition in the Drupal business ecosystem! We just need to understand and adjust to that, rather than expecting Acquia to act like a Drupal Association That's Allowed To Code.

September 11, 2011 - 03:16
Kevin (not verified):

As a counter-point which supports Tom's stipulation, the large university I worked for would not even consider outsourcing Drupal hosting until Acquia came along, because at the time, no one else was coming close to offering "enterprise" contracts on hosting, or if they were, they certainly were not doing a good job of making it known.

Even when the university did choose Acquia, it was through a procurement process in which any Drupal shop could bid on the contract. However, as far as I know, Acquia was one of the only ones to take the time to put in a bid. And it wasn't hidden away, it was posted on d.o. as well made public via the procurement office.

So, yes I think the environment is more diversified now, and there is more competition for enterprise clients, but for a bit of time it was either Acquia, in-house, or no Drupal.

September 11, 2011 - 10:53
Dries:

"I will add that, with all due respect to Dries, which I have LOTS of, I don't buy that giving up equity in exchange for VC money is an altruistic gesture designed to benefit the community. It's a direct path to a potential multi-million dollar windfall for Acquia shareholders."

Many of Acquia's contributions to Drupal are actually "fairly altruistic".

I want to spend some time on this because I'm really proud of the fact that I'm building a company that is able to "do good and do well" at the same time. It's a big deal for me.

Let's take the example of Drupal 7 usability. Acquia spent a lot of time and money to improve Drupal's usability. We probably spent close to a million dollars to help improve the usability of Drupal core and the usability of important contributed modules like Views, Webforms, Google Analytics, etc. Acquia obviously benefits from an easier to use Drupal -- but so does everyone else.

No one should forget that that money can be invested in different ways.

We can grow Acquia's business in many different ways; making Drupal easier to use is only one of them. Instead of working with the community to improve Drupal for everyone's benefit, we could have kept all usability improvements to ourselves as part of Drupal Gardens. It would have cost us significantly less time and money and it would have helped Acquia grow too. Or, we could have used that money to hire many more consultants that would be immediately profitable. Or, we could have invested that money to add one or more commercial services to our Acquia Network product. Or, we could have used the money to differentiate and enter the WordPress or Joomla support and managed hosting business. Or, we could have chosen to give up less equity, raise less money and simply not to bother with helping to improve Drupal usability; even in such a scenario Acquia would have grown.

In other words, many of our contributions are actually fairly altruistic. And they costs real money. That money comes out of my shares and those of all other Acquia employees.

Why would we do this? Because I want to be part of something bigger; something that affects the lives of many more people. Acquia contributes to Drupal as much as it does because I want to see Drupal fulfill its potential. As a company, we constantly look to create win-win situations that help the community grow. I take a lot of pride in the fact that we can "do good and do well" -- please don't take it for granted.

September 11, 2011 - 15:05
Francewhoa (not verified):

So as a community, we need to re-frame this question. We need to be asking ourselves: (1) What can we do to grow the community? (2) Why aren't more people who depend on Drupal contributing to it? and (3) How can we encourage Drupal shops to contribute back?

I agree. Well said.

September 10, 2011 - 01:55
budda (not verified):

The talk I heard more of around the recent European DrupalCon was the frustration that smaller Drupal businesses have with the time and money spent training up developers in to the Drupal community. Then they go off to Acquia, CapGemini or elsewhere looking for the big salaries that can be paid for by the huge funds available to some companies.

Then the smaller guys need to start taking in PHP devs or graduates and spending months and years working with them on becoming a great Drupal developer, all over again.

I don't have any solution to this though.

September 10, 2011 - 01:57
Dries:

I don't have data to back this up with real facts, but I think there is validity to this. At the same time, I think we need to keep in mind that quite a few of these smaller Drupal companies get a lot of business from the larger Drupal companies. I know quite a few Drupal companies that were able to double or triple in size thanks to the larger companies sub-contracting them. In other words, while small Drupal companies might loose people to the larger Drupal companies, they also benefit tremendously from these large companies.

Last but not least, this is often a great thing for the developers themselves.

September 10, 2011 - 03:48
redndahead (not verified):

I work for a university and we have this problem. The one thing we try to drive home in our developers is documentation. The better documentation we have the faster a new developer can come on-line.

Unfortunately we have to treat ourselves more like a factory. Factories know that they are going to have high turnover. They create an exhaustive workers manual and streamline processes as much as they can. The manual helps them from having to use too much valuable employee time to teach the new worker how to use the machinery and streamlining the processes helps the worker to not have to learn too much to be productive.

The next step is to help the employee see that their needs can be met within the company. Money is a large factor and one that can not always be matched, but there are plenty of reasons why people will stay with a company rather than get paid more money. I think being flexible and innovative in how you relate to your employees needs can go a long way in keeping good talent.

September 10, 2011 - 06:06
webchick (not verified):

Money is a large factor and one that can not always be matched, but there are plenty of reasons why people will stay with a company rather than get paid more money.

It's worth pointing out that, particularly among "rockstar" Drupal developers, "How much time will my employer give me to give back to the Drupal community?" is often an extremely important consideration when evaluating employment opportunities. If the answer is 0 (or > 0, but week over week it ends up being 0 in practice), they will almost certainly look elsewhere for greener pastures.

You don't need to be as big as Acquia to support this, either. Try something as simple as taking Friday afternoons (let's face it, how much work really gets done on Friday afternoons? ;)) and declaring that "Give back to Drupal time." Allow employees to do whatever crazy Drupal thing they want, be that core patches, or maintaining their contributed modules, or working on documentation, or playing Photoshop ping-pong with the usability team, or whatever. Then send around a short e-mail on Monday morning and let the rest of the company know about the cool stuff that was worked on.

Establishing a culture in a workplace that "we depend on Drupal, so giving back is part a fundamental part of what we do" goes a long way toward both employee retention, as well as addressing the concerns of Acquia's influence.

September 10, 2011 - 18:24
redndahead (not verified):

This is important, at least to me. I don't get any extra time to work on my contributed modules. Yet I feel not only a desire to do so, but somewhat of an obligation to do so. This translates into time away from my family. The ability to do this during work hours, even an afternoon a week would be big for a few reasons:

  1. I feel like I am working regularly to meet my drupal contrib obligations.
  2. Now that I feel I am meeting my drupal contrib obligations I can meet my obligations with my family.
  3. Now I am happier person, because both of my obligations are being met.
  4. Soul Profit!
September 10, 2011 - 20:25
redndahead (not verified):

Also letting a user work remotely is helpful too. I live in an area that doesn't have many technology jobs especially in the drupal field. There are some people here who are very good with drupal, but they may not be able to move. This could be because of family commitments, financial commitments (we live in one of the largest areas hit during the housing crisis and foreclosure would be the only option if one would have to move), or a multitude of other reasons.

I think a lot of employers need to look at what they can do for their employee to relieve their stress without cutting too much into their bottom line. The more flexible and creative they can get the better off I think they will be.

September 10, 2011 - 20:40
Kevin (not verified):

Definitely in agreement here, especially having been in the same position as redndahead.

However, I also think it's up to Drupal devs to *ask* for this time. I know developers that went to work for companies where they perceived they would not be allowed to spend time giving back to the community, but they had never even asked, let alone demanded it. When I moved to Kiva, I demanded they give me a contract which stipulated time to work solely on contributing back to Drupal, and they were happy to grant that request.

September 11, 2011 - 10:42
morningtime (not verified):

It's Philipp Ball's power law distribution of businesses: a few giants, many medium sized firms and a gargantuan amount of self-employed/freelancers.

It will always be like that. Of course Acquia has to be one of the top dogs.

See 'Critical Mass: how one thing leads to another'
http://www.amazon.com/Critical-Mass-Thing-Leads-Another/dp/0374281254

The world we live in is extremely predictable. The distribution of Drupal businesses follows a power law, as does the distribution of any business industry.

September 10, 2011 - 02:06
dwalper (not verified):

We're happy to have Acquia around!

Finding good Drupal talent is extremely difficult right now, but that's true for everyone - Acquia included. Demand outstrips supply by a huge margin.

With that said, our focus should be on training good developers and designers on the ins and outs of Drupal. That's something we're working on at Myplanet, aided by our good friend Walkah, with our Myplanet University project. Lullabot and Acquia are making awesome strides here too.

This is a great thing - let's work together to make it even better :-)

-Dustin

September 10, 2011 - 03:42
swentel (not verified):

I've been following the discussion on g.d.o and sun's blog pretty close but haven't commented on them yet, mainly because my mother tongue is not English and I sometimes feel that I can't express fully my thoughts in a clear and efficient way.

However, I'm trying now. Let's hope I don't fail :)

As Dries mentioned, I also feel there's a lot of FUD, even in one of the comments re: the top contributors to Drupal 7. If you just look at the top 5 contributors, none of those people are working for Acquia. Looking at the top ten (correct my if I'm wrong), only two are working for Acquia, where David (correct me again if I'm wrong) is closely related to the Drupal Gardens project, which is/was a great test case for Drupal 7, even when it's still running into beta.

Does overlay suck ? Maybe, but you can disable it. You don't like the toolbar/shortcut ? No worries, you can also disable this as well and install admin menu! Hey, it's Drupal, you can practically disable any module and insert a contrib or your own version of a module. Do I have the feeling those have been forced on me. NOT at all. On the contrary, enabling those modules for clients has been mostly positive at this point and also, I don't have to worry about following contrib themes/admin modules making websites more user friendly for the avarage user, for who we all work for in the first place. I also learned a lot of new insights regarding UX, speaking with Yoroy or Bojhan or others from the UX team. Is it a burden to maintain it in core now ? Seriously, let's be honest, no. We have far more important issues to tackle. What's in now is good, might still become better, but it's already working fine.

Acquia is very active in contrib, before and after the D7 release, it seems like people are somehow forgetting this: the new views UI, media module (which is getting in good shape!), form builder/webform, Google Analytics initial D7 port and there's probably more that I'm forgetting here and I'm sure we'll see more of those in the future. Further more, IMO, Gabor deserves a statue for putting his energy making Drupal more i18n friendly for all his contributions in that area in contrib and leading the multilingual D8 initiative. And he's been doing this way before he ever started working there. Note: *a lot* of people in the Drupal community deserve statues, but I've never heard complaints of Gabor working for Acquia and being a D6 branch maintainer (unless I missed those, but even then ...)

Another thing regarding contrib space. Why don't we ask ourselves the same question there? For instance, take Drupal Commerce. Development is done mostly by the Commerce Guys and it's becoming the standard installation for shops for D7. I don't hear anyone complaining about this? What about the the whole Features eco-sphere that Development Seed has been so active in? The point is, whether it's core or contrib, there's always someone involved/taking lead in some kind of area/expertise with the best intentions. Note: this is *not* some sort of "J'accuse" (hey, I speak French right), au contraire, Commerce guys, as well as development seed (or any other company out there) are housing an incredible amount of insanely talented Drupal people, doing their thing in core and/or contrib, sometimes sponsored, sometimes on free time, whatever. And we all love them, let's praise the contributors in Acquia as well, in whatever timeslot they're giving code back to Drupal.

If there's one thing that I kind of agree with, is the pause after the initial D7 release. There were some quite annoying bugs in it - IMO, only a tiny few are left for making an average Drupal site builder extremely happy - which could have been addressed a bit sooner. However, I feel - and this is my own biased opinion as a developer - we as developers just don't have enough patience. We have a new release, bam, up to the bugs, iron them out, fix them and (even better!) start a new branch. Even before the first commit after the 7.0 release, everyone somehow knew how D8 would look like. Which is great (sometimes insane!), but let's be honest, it took a while before D6 became really adopted. We had to many expectations on the D7 release being flawless, which - any kind of software - never could be.

Sure, Drupal is getting more and more complex, and the community is getting bigger and bigger and the world is watching at us how we grow and deal with all those things. I think we just got out of kindergarten, still making mistakes all over the place. That's the best part of life, otherwise, it wouldn't be exciting anymore to dream about the future to try and make it better.

To end, at times, you kind of get the feeling people are almost blaming Dries running a company making business out of Drupal. Ask yourself this question: "If I would have created an application which is getting popular and widely used, would I want to start a company and make money of it?". Anyone answering no is simply lying.

September 10, 2011 - 04:16
Robert Douglass (not verified):

Excellent comment. Thank you for taking the time to express yourself so clearly.
-R

September 10, 2011 - 12:19
Gábor Hojtsy (not verified):

I'm humbled for the statue proposal! Let's see the background of how was the work possible to get there then :)

First off, I started using Drupal in 2003 because I needed a CMS for a web developer community in Hungary. Drupal had issues being translated, so I started contributing immediately. I was a university student, and could get away for a while slacking at classes, while my parents got increasingly frustrated with me and threatened to cut funding for my university if I didn't finish. They thankfully did not go that far and I finished the 5 year MsC in 8 years. At the end of university I got to work on multilingual improvements for Drupal 6 as part of my thesis work. It was clearly not the most advanced thesis work people would write for MsC, but I wanted to work on something that mattered a lot. When finished university, I won a GSoC grant to work on the code that would eventually become localize.drupal.org.

I was always dreaming of joining a sizable open source company that can spare people to just work in their community (instead of client projects), so I was aiming for Novell, MySQL, etc. the giants of that class at the time. Luckily Dries just started building Acquia, so I jumped on the opportunity to live this dream with Drupal. So I got funded to work on Drupal 6 full time for months, practically until it was released.

Should Dries start his company later I might have easily become a Novell evangelist. Instead working for Acquia ensured that I can keep some of my hours working on freely selected Drupal projects. If it would not be for Acquia community time, localize.drupal.org would never get where it is today. In fact I think this is a testament to how Acquia lets me work on "my stuff". While "at work" in my team at Drupal Gardens we were busy helping improve Drupal 7, I made a point to focus my specific community time on localization.

Since Dries appointed me multilingual initiative lead for Drupal 8, I shifted my community time mainly to that, and spent more free time with this topic ever since. If you ask my wife about it, she will not be singing happy songs, but I'm trying to make a point of not doing it at the expense of our family. Still I'm probably one of the most successful developers at Acquia to lobby for community time, the company goes beyond the officially stated "on community time" sponsorship for the initiative. For example, I'm sponsored to fly out to Montreal for this week to lead a sprint and grow more people to help work on making Drupal 8 more awesome for multilingual sites.

All-in-all I think there are three things that make my work on this level possible: I have an awesome and understanding wife, I work for a great company that goes beyond its promises to let me work in the community and I just keep working on the same problem area for about 8 years now. Many others at Acquia (and in the community in general) just work in multiple areas, which might not make them as visible, but their sum of work could easily outpace mine.

September 12, 2011 - 12:04
Jamie (not verified):

I concur with Robert, excellently thought out comment and analysis on this. 100% agree with this.

September 12, 2011 - 12:25
chx (not verified):

There's a trust issue here. You need to trust the core contributors and the larger community that even when working for a commercial entity we have the greater Drupal good in mind.

Consider this: Drupal 4.6.2 had an XML sechole fixed but after it was released another hole was found and because I was afraid of a third, a fourth and so on will come. We already had a library prepared for 4.7 but I advised to do the XML-RPC library switch in a minor release. But, you know what? That was only possible because NowPublic (which did not even employ me back then) have paid a day's work to convert their rather extensive XML-RPC using module to the new library and I thought, well, if that can be done in a day, all is well. Does this mean NowPublic have exerted influence over core to break everyone else's XML-RPC based site (which is one interpretation of this) or did they sponsor my work to make Drupal a lot more secure? You decide. This was six years ago so hardly matters but it's a good example.

September 10, 2011 - 08:26
Sean Larkin (not verified):

First - Thank you, Dries, for being so open to this conversation. I think that it's important to point out that engaging constructively on this topic is another example of your transparency and leadership in our community.

Two points:

  • Putting you on the spot, Dries, I haven't seen a direct response to the question: What will happen to the direction of Drupal core when Acquia goes public? What happens when all the great talent at Acquia is first and foremost beholden to increasing the profits of shareholders who aren't wedded to our community?
  • Even with the question above, I think that I/we have somewhat hijacked the goal of this post - which was to engage in a conversation about how we can collectively grow the Drupal talent pool. I'd like to see that topic explored more.

Acquia has increased the relevance and legitimacy of our work as Drupal shops. I'm not particularly stoked to see the Drupal vendor community cleave the way it seems to be doing - between micro and macro shops. And I think that the talent sourcing issue makes it difficult to create/sustain a mid-size (8-16 person) shop. But it's really hard to argue that we're all not getting a ton more business since Acquia took off.

This is a great time for our community. There are bumps along the road, but it's exciting to see so much healthy conversation too.

Thanks,
Sean

September 10, 2011 - 17:57
Dries:

What will happen to the direction of Drupal core when Acquia goes public?

It is not 100% clear what you are trying to get at so I'm not sure this reply will address your concerns. If not, please try to clarify your question so I can try to answer it better. :)

Three thoughts come to mind:

  1. The best comparable we have is Linux and RedHat. Did Linux' technical direction change after RedHat went public? I don't think so. Note that Linus Torvalds, Alan Cox (number two kernel developer) and many other top Linux kernel contributors were significant RedHat shareholders. While Linus was not employed by RedHat, he became a multi-millionaire the day RedHat went public.
  2. If Acquia is able to go public, that implies that Drupal is used for many more websites, and that the Drupal community and its commercial ecosystem is healthy and thriving. We must be doing many things right as a community.
  3. There is no direct relation between the direction of Drupal core and Acquia going or being public. Acquia going public is technically just a funding raising event; it is an intermediate step towards building a large, independent, sustainable business. It would mean that Acquia has more resources that could be invested in Drupal.
September 10, 2011 - 20:46
Sean Larkin (not verified):

You answered my question well, Dries. Thank you.

Just to reiterate, I was not at all trying to suggest anything nefarious in raising this question. I don't think that you or anyone else at Acquia "owes" the community anything on any front.

I agree completely with Barry too - every developer has a right and obligation to feed herself and her family. There's no place for us to second guess these very-personal professional choices.

You and the rest of the Acquia team have quite admirably created a culture around your company that opens the door for us all to ask questions publicly about how the success of Acquia will affect the future of Drupal. I choose to think that having a respectful conversation around these issues is actually sign of the trust that Chx mentioned in his post. And I believe that Acquia has greater worth to potential investors because of its open dialog with the community.

Keep rocking out good work, Dries et al.

-Sean

September 10, 2011 - 22:00
Barry Jaspan (not verified):

I know there are many aspects to this discussion about Acquia's influence on Drupal, but there is one that I find particularly offensive: The complaint that people who have been regular Drupal core contributors have started jobs at Acquia, and gradually their core contributions have tailed off.

Clearly, I am one of those people. I do not dispute that my Drupal core contributions have diminished substantially (one might say completely) due to my working at Acquia. What I dispute is that anyone has any business griping about it.

Complaining about my reduced contribution boils down to saying that as a former active core contributor I am not entitled to make employment decisions that reduce the amount of time I have to work for free for the Drupal community. It suggests that the community *owns* me. Probably those making this complaint will counter that they are only doing so because Acquia has pulled more people out of the community in this way than any other single company, and while that *might* be true, it is also irrelevant. If N core contributors decided to work for Acquia, that is their ^!#$%ing decision, because they own their own time and lives.

The objection also makes no sense because it suggests that having a core contributor working for Acquia is somehow worse than having the core contributor leave Drupal entirely to do something else, e.g. work for Google or Facebook or a Ruby on Rails development shop. Let's be very clear: Depending on an individual's career goals and interests, "join Acquia or leave the Drupal community" is a reasonable decision for them to present themselves with. You can't say "if person X didn't work for Acquia, they'd make more Drupal contributions somewhere else" because you don't know that. All you know is they wanted a change. Maybe without Acquia they wouldn't have stayed active in Drupal at all. They aren't required to. IT'S THEIR LIFE.

Finally, I'll add that every engineer working for Acquia is a big net plus for Drupal, certainly a much bigger plus than having them leave the community entirely. I believe that engineers at Acquia collectively contribute enormously more to Drupal overall than those at any other company. So it's not like joining Acquia is a decision to leave Drupal behind; indeed, for some of us, it is a decision specifically to remain with Drupal when in fact we have far more lucrative options elsewhere. Having the community complain about that is just a kick in the teeth.

So please, let's not have any more complaints about Acquia "vacuuming up all the talent". It's a free market and the talent gets to work where it chooses to. No one in the Drupal community has the right to say otherwise.

September 10, 2011 - 20:36
Dries:

Amen, brother! I couldn't agree more.

September 10, 2011 - 21:04
Jacob Singh (not verified):

Heh, I put almost exactly the same post on g.d.o: http://groups.drupal.org/node/170999#comment-580749

I'll take my excerpt here, but there is more if anyone wants to read


We're all doing well. The opposite is a much worse problem. Acquia is not forcing core developers to stop hacking core in their "spare" time. The honest truth is, getting paid and being able to quit at a reasonable hour is a nice thing. I know many people w/o families in their early 20s think I'm crazy (I did at the time), but it's pretty sweet.

The Gardens team does 90% contributed stuff anyway, but internally David, Peter, Gabor, Katherine, Myself, Alex, etc all clamor for more "free" community contrib time and do have arguments w/ management about it. However, the big decrease you may have seen from these people is more to do with them just having full time jobs and families and not wanting to participate in long ass issue queues all night as much. I think that's okay. I don't think any company gives its devs more free time to contrib on the company dime than Acquia. So I'm just saying, it's not Acquia, it's having a full time job which is the problem here and it shouldn't be a problem. We should accomodate that.

As a solution, I propose we focus on mentorship arrangements and training so we can grow more core devs. Chx I know is working on this. Also, the decision making, communication and collaboration models on d.o. don't work well anymore and they require way too much investment to be involved and it's frustrating.

I think those are the real problems worth solving.

September 11, 2011 - 03:01
catch (not verified):

Barry,

If you're not planning to work on core any more, you should consider updating your status in http://api.drupal.org/api/drupal/MAINTAINERS.txt to reflect this. That would be consistent with responsible maintainership.

I just recently removed myself as comment module maintainer because I have no intention of working on it to any extent in Drupal 8, however I do feel obligated to at least keep an eye on components in that file that I'm listed for.

I'm also a bit surprised that sun's post, which simply pointed out a trend (one that Jacob has confirmed was not FUD), has been taken so personally. No-one is trying to complain about any individual core contributor for taking a break or moving on (or if they did I'd be the first to tell them to fuck off), but this doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to point out trends and patterns without offending people either.

There was about 9 months during Drupal 7 (when I was working at a particularly demanding day job) that my core contributions dropped to pretty much only the patches I was working on for work (there were more of these since it was a D7 site, but overall there was a significant tail off), if someone had pointed this out at the time, I'd not have been remotely offended, because it would've been a statement of fact rather than 'griping'.

September 12, 2011 - 05:39
Jamie (not verified):

I would also extremely concur with this. There is something of a dearth of good high level Drupal developers and Drupal technical leads in the UK at the moment and as a result there are some crazy contract level salaries being banded around for jobs ranging from 3-12 month assignments and also very well paying permanent jobs.

If you're one of the privileged few to have the skills and knowledge to qualify for such roles and be able to benefit yourself and your family as a result, even if your contributions back to the community will suffer as a result, that's an individuals decision (and I'd be surprised if deep down anyone ultimately begrudged someone taking the money, they'd most likely do the same if they had the opportunity). I totally agree with the remark above about how some people in the community seem to feel like they "own" individual contributors, they should be grateful that these people are offering their time to help, even if it is as a reduced level than maybe they could before. It's still better than nothing!

I also agree with Webchick's comment about it'd be good if more places would do things like open up Friday afternoon's to be "community" time and that doesn't have to even be Drupal specific. At my current employer's we have a wide mix of Drupal, Magento and Coldfusion projects. I'm sure all of these could benefit from the respective teams having more time to contribute back to the community. There is a lot of stuff I'd like to do to help if I had more time. But ultimately I have to pay my mortgage and other costs first. It's the somewhat sad reality of things (and I imagine that's the case for a lot of people in this discussion). Employer's could create a win-win all round if they allowed something like this as they'd benefit from a better Drupal product with less bugs and better contributed modules due to the time being spent on it by their staff and their staff would also have greater job satisfaction and appreciation due to the fact they've been allowed to work on their community contributions. Again I appreciate this isn't always possible, but even if it was once a month rather than once a week it would be something.

September 12, 2011 - 12:34
Jeff Walpole (not verified):

Its okay to like some aspects of what Acquia is doing and not others, but the fact remains that if we want this technology to persevere, then we need big organizations to support it. Historically, this is a community built on the backs of many ingenious and selfless early adopters, if many of those people decide to join Acquia to see their contributions last another 5 years and reach a new tier of adoption in the "enterprise" (yea I had to use the word) then so be it. How can we blame top 20% core contributors for wanting their contributions to be sustainable? Do you think any serious contributor would work with or for Acquia because they think it hurts Drupal? Better yet, if the market for everyone is good, why do we care? Is anyone that is a good Drupal business or professional struggling right now? There is enough Drupal to go around, just pick a niche/service/product/offering/specialty and go for it.

September 10, 2011 - 21:56
dwalper (not verified):

Well said. I think we need look no further than Linux and IBM/RedHat/etc. to see that enterprise adoption can do wonderful things for an open source project. IBM contributes millions of dollars worth of development time to Linux (and Eclipse, etc. etc.), and from my conversations with Tom et. al at Acquia I know they're in the same headspace. So long as they're making money they'll contribute back to growing the ecosystem.

On the flip side, I think what is true is that Drupal cannot be all things to all people. Perhaps some difficult decisions need to be made along the product roadmap to decide what Drupal can and cannot do well.

September 12, 2011 - 04:59
zzolo (not verified):

It seems that this conversation just seems to go in circles. I don't think there is an answer to this question, mostly because i don't think this is the issue that most people are concerned with or are trying to defend. People begin to quantify the influence of Acquia or other organizations, but this isn't really the issue that is actually concerning people, in my opinion.

As Chx points out, its about trust. I think the real questions that is being discussed is, do we trust Acquia (and by extension, Dries and its other employees) to do what is best for Drupal. And at the moment I do trust Dries and Acquia just fine. But the thing is, it shouldn't be about trust at all. It should be about opportunity.

In my opinion, we need real governance in the Drupal community (both core and *.drupal.org) to be able to address issues of trust and power. It seems really unstable that the power in our community is given to a benevolent dictator, his/her appointees, and who ever has enough resources to code and argue enough in issue queues (all without any formal documentation of the structure as well). The do-ocracy is not that sustainable at this scale, and given the divide of resources between individuals and large organizations, such as Acquia, is so great, you'll continually get conversations like these.

I would really love to see a thin layer of democracy and governance in our community, so that I don't have to rely on trust, especially of people that have undemocratic power, and instead I can rely on opportunity given by checks and balances and some by-laws.

I hope that this topic gets discussed more. I really do care about the Drupal community and the people and organizations in it, and have no ill will towards anyone, and would be the first to vote for Dries as President!

September 11, 2011 - 01:23
Gábor Hojtsy (not verified):

Thankfully the Drupal Infrastructure team did a great job recently to map out the people who work on different parts of *.drupal.org at http://drupal.org/node/1206660, so you can see that up to a few weeks ago, I was the only Acquian highly involved with Drupal.org direct maintenance (Kieran Lal always worked a lot to connect the dots, and help with funding, but not direct maintenance). Now we have Greg Knaddison and Lisa Rex at Acquia too, but the team keeps being a wide ranging group of nice folks the community can trust.

In terms of Drupal core, the Drupal 8 initiatives launched a few months ago are there to show more of the informal structure and empower more people to participate in the work. Again, there is only one guy from Acquia in that set, and Dries announced in London that he is looking to appoint more initiative leads, which should help further clarify some of the "hidden trust structure". (Drupal 7 also attempted to do this with the MAINTAINERS.txt which is not widely known though).

Is this the kind of transparency and empowerment that you are looking for? Are you afraid that "the benevolent dictator's appointees" (most of whom have nothing to do with Acquia) don't look at the overall good of the community?

September 12, 2011 - 11:31
zzolo (not verified):

Hi Gábor,

I was definitely not trying to point fingers at anyone or imply that Acquia or Dries or anyone in the community has negative intentions towards Drupal as a whole. My comment has little to do with Acquia specifically, and its the original issue raised about Acquia in this post that is a good opportunity to talk about Drupal governance and power structures. And ultimately what I think is at the core of what is being discussed.

I don't personally care much about who the positions on Drupal core or *.drupal.org work for, I care about how they were given power, and what are the expectations of the roles, and what mechanisms are in place to ensure no one abuses power.

This *.drupal.org Org Chart is awesome! That's a huge step and I am glad that was made. I think the Drupal community, Dries, and Acquia are fairly good at transparency and I am very proud of that. Transparency can always be improved but I feel we are doing adequate in that aspect.

The issue I hope the community will start to discuss in detail is how people are given power and what are the mechanisms for ensuring that power is not abused and that the communities voice is heard.

There are many ways this could manifest itself, but I would hope at very least there would be some high level positions that were democratically voted on. Also, some actual by-laws (a Drupal constitution) that describes responsibilities and roles and checks and balances on those roles.

This is a very big shift for the community and would require some people that already have a lot of power to address this and possibly give up some of that power. It's also much more constructive to start to put these structures in place while the community is in a good place, instead of when someone significantly forks the project. I am also not trying to politicize the community (but even where we are now, its a bit unavoidable).

Something to think about is that Drupal's "population" [2] is bigger than more than 50 countries [2], including Iceland and Luxembourg who have full functioning mostly democratic governments.

--
zzolo

September 12, 2011 - 19:46
catch (not verified):

This comment misses an important factor in terms of decision making on Drupal.org

Countries are able to restrict voting to those who have the franchise - whether that's citizenship, residency, age, actually being on the voters register etc. Traditionally they also make sure the voting system is weighted extremely far in favour of existing power bases (first past the post, various forms of PR voting also do this). I would never, ever use representative democracy as a good example of anything.

That doesn't mean Drupal's decision making mechanisms are great either, but trying to transplant liberal democracy to it is not a good fit. For example no-one stops (human) spammers voting in real life elections, but I don't want them having voting rights on d.o.

The way I see Drupal's decision making structures - in the sense of d.o. and the code base:

Groups using voting or consensus to appoint new people to their groups - for example the security team. This fits the definition of a clique pretty well, but cliques are not automatically negative things in all cases.

People who own/work on a particular area of drupal.org can veto particular decisions (i.e. new modules need to have code review before they can be deployed on d.o). Since the people in charge of those areas are also responsible for keeping them going, that's completely a good thing, and a requirement in terms of those most affected by decisions having say in those decisions (which is not a feature of liberal democracy at all).

In terms of becoming one of those people, Neil Drumm (an employee of the DA) has been trying to make that much more transparent. I'm not sure voting would help with this process considering so many areas are massively short staffed - it'd be voting for single candidates to multiple open volunteer positions at the moment.

For paid employee positions do you think those should be decided by popular vote?

Project maintainers have an exclusive veto on commits to the code bases they control. Except for extreme cases where people are deposed (c.f. Kaltura), the only option for removing a bad maintainer is forking (which you can do on d.o itself), or the abandoned modules process if they go awol. I don't see projects on d.o. putting popular voting on features in place, a lot of maintainers would just quit altogether, I definitely would. It's bad enough with random people piping up telling you what you should and shouldn't be doing with your volunteered free time as if they were paying clients as it is (and most of the clients I've worked with are considerably politer than the average support requester on Drupal.org I come into contact with these days on Drupal.org).

Project committers can commit their own code to projects without any review. This doesn't happen with core though since in general branch maintainers and Dries aren't also writing code. All funding of code for Drupal.org (except occasionally Drupal.org improvements themselves) happens off Drupal.org and is completely unaccountable until that work gets reviewed on Drupal.org (at which point it's 'equal' to any other code, points above notwithstanding).

So this comes down to:

- people with existing responsibilities appointing other people to share them. That's people having some influence over who they end up working with. Not necessarily a bad thing but it's good to make it as transparent as possible.

- most power on Drupal.org being about veto, or being able to get your own work committed or deployed without having to worry about veto (when the veto-er and the do-er is the same person).

The exception to this is the DA (which is undergoing restructuring) or DA staff (who are in permanent positions of responsibility), and Dries personally as BDFL. Those are closer to official positions than the rest and closer to being about 'power' rather than simple do-ocracy, but they are only a small part of how important decisions get made in the community. However just applying more democracy to these still leaves the question of who gets the franchise and I've never seen that answered.

September 13, 2011 - 06:38
zzolo (not verified):

Hey catch,

All awesome points. These are exactly the sorts of things that need to be discussed. I definitely am not trying to suggest any implementation details. I think the important question at hand is: Does the Drupal community want to change its governance and power structures to a more democratic system? Who has voting right and what is voted on is much further away at this point.

--
zzolo

September 13, 2011 - 20:03
Lev Tsypin (not verified):

Human nature being what it is, governance of any kind, be it contracts or otherwise, are intended to establish a foundation on which trust can be built and maintained. When parties enter into a contract, the trust is typically implied, otherwise they wouldn't enter into a contract in a first place. So I think it's fair to say that most active community members already trust each other on some level, or they wouldn't be involved in the first place. It's not about whether or not a particular individual is trustworthy, altruistic, serving the community well, etc. It's about whether the Drupal community is structured and run in such a way that I can feel safe about my, and my company's investment in it.

September 12, 2011 - 18:02
Sam Kottler (not verified):

Three months ago I started as an engineering intern on the hosting team at Acquia. I previously worked at a mid-sized shop and my primary concern before starting was feeling alienated from the community I'd come to enjoy so very much. In my time working at Acquia, I've never once felt that worry start to come to fruition. There is no question that employees are very busy - Acquia is a rapidly expanding startup in a blossoming market.

The management and leadership team members certainly have not forgotten that the company is part of the community as a whole. Constant and thorough consideration is given to Acquia's position and company culture lends itself to supporting the community's aims. There is a genuine interest in fostering rising members of the community that is cultivated in a top-down manner.

My time at Acquia has without a doubt increased my involvement in the community. Although there are a number of prominent contributors working at Acquia, it is important to remember that they joined the company by choice - there certainly aren't a shortage of Drupal jobs at the moment.

September 11, 2011 - 01:48
Amy Stephen (not verified):

Drupal is very special because of how you all worked things out. Keep it up, you are a role model for the rest of us.

September 11, 2011 - 23:34
progga (not verified):

The clear solution to the influence concern is to grow our community, particularly our contributor community.

Just want to mention Brook's law : adding manpower to a late software project makes it later

So more contributors may not be the solution for the problem with the Drupal core. IMHO, the problem is purely engineering and begs an engineering solution. We need to improve the way we build Drupal. Not sure how much venture capital you have access to, but if possible, why not hire someone like Martin Fowler and start a parallel refactoring project for the Drupal core.

We all love Acquia and there is nothing wrong with Acquia hiring all the Core developers. That's how capitalism works and that's fine. But you have to be careful to avoid becoming like Microsoft. Microsoft managed to grow Windows, but that makes neither Windows nor BillG a particularly popular figure in the software world. Drupal also runs the risk of becoming a crapware and you are best placed to save that fate. Thanks to you and Sun for your respective blog posts.

September 12, 2011 - 11:53
theBorg (not verified):

A developer view: after being quite active patching core during D6 end-phase release I stopped doing it, the main reason, as Barry has pointed out, was to dedicate all my efforts to a new job. Now that EU crisis has left me unemployed I am more than happy to see that Drupal has gone that far, that means that I can put that skill in my resumé, that means that there are more shops I can work for and that, with some luck, I could do Drupal for a living.

In any case, that would not be possible without private companies that started out of first Drupal releases, investing their money and time. People like Lullabot's Jeff and Matt assembled a team of experts that, like now is doing Acquia, not only helped creating core modules but also improved documentation and, what has been eventually more important, spreading the word of Drupal. Everybody knows that an open-source project is as big as the community it has behind.

With Acquia in the market things have changed, the jump to big projects has been wider and faster, that's competence to the other players but also means that Drupal has become an option to companies of any size and the portfolio is getting bigger everyday, marketing is very important to convince decision-makers. That reverts in more money into shops that are evolving the system and once again more coders, themers, thinkers and adopters.

I'm sure that contributors working for Drupal shops (any) are 'unconsciously' thinking about improving the system they are using everyday. Personally, I prefer Dries and core builders to be employed in houses (any) that risk their money on it. In some way these contributors are also competing to create the next views-like module or html5-enabled super theme, add new items to their profile and, why not?, find a better job. As a developer I wonder who wouldn't accept an offer to work at Acquia?

Nowdays almost everybody technology-aware knows about Drupal and no, it's not only because of Acquia and neither any other, it's a triomf of all the people that has been helping... since user number 1.

September 12, 2011 - 14:16
SentientNr6 (not verified):

We recently had to chose a CMS for our company's website and a 'shop' for implementing the site. We chose Drupal because it is mature, powerful ... and is backed by Acquia.

From the standpoint of the enterprise the fact that there is a 'big company' with capital betting on Drupal is a good thing.

For the development of the site we chose a medium sized shop from our regio where the developers are contributing back to the community. So a local Drupal shop prospered and Drupal prospered at least partly because of Acquia.

On a personal note as a developer with family I understand the luxury of being able to develop within reasonable or at least flexible hours not having to worry about getting the house paid etc.

The current discussions are growing pains and thus a good thing! Good luck Drupal!

September 12, 2011 - 15:24
Alex UA (not verified):

Dries, thanks for taking part in this conversation, though I don't believe you've addressed the bigger concerns raised in the comments on Sun's blog post, or on the g.d.o. discussion. But anyway, I've already spouted off my opinions in other threads, and I won't clog up this thread with rehashed arguments, but I wanted to call attention to something that really made me scratch my head:

I understand that my involvement with Acquia is tricky because its well-being is intertwined with Drupal's. But I help drive the decision-making process at Acquia, and I set those directions with the best interests of Drupal in mind at all times. Making Drupal successful and Drupal's well-being is my primary concern, regardless of the "hat" that I wear.

First of all, what do you mean by "Drupal"? Do you just mean the software (Drupal Core), or are you referring to the community & ecosystem as well? I'm going to assume that you're referring only to the software, since the alternative would be alarmingly patronizing and narcissistic, but I still felt it was a bit ambiguous and you should consider clarifying it.

Second of all, this highlights the ethical and cultural problems that surround the top of this project (with the software, acquia, and the DA). What you've described is the most basic definition of a Conflict-of-Interest, and your flippant dismissal of concerns over this conflict are, at least to me, extremely alarming (daddy knows best!). The fact is that neither you nor any other human being, can ever remove one hat and put on another, that's why there are rules/norms/laws around handling conflicts. That's also why you shouldn't be making these decisions behind closed doors at Acquia. I know that Drupal isn't a nonprofit, but given that this is also a huge problem with the DA, I feel that there's a basic misunderstanding of conflicts-of-interest. From Boardsource:

Conflict of interest arises whenever the personal or professional interests of a board member are potentially at odds with the best interests of the nonprofit. Such conflicts are common: A board member performs professional services for an organization, or proposes that a relative or friend be considered for a staff position. Such transactions are perfectly acceptable if they benefit the organization and if the board made the decisions in an objective and informed manner. Even if they do not meet these standards, such transactions are usually not illegal – except for private foundations. They are, however, vulnerable to legal challenges and public misunderstanding.

Loss of public confidence and a damaged reputation are the most likely results of a poorly managed conflict of interest. Because public confidence is important to most nonprofits, boards should take steps to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

Dries- I know you consider yourself a man of high ethical standing, but I hope you can see how unethical this can seem from the outside. This is precisely because there are no steps being taken to alleviate COIs here (or in the DA)- all we have to go on is your word. So, maybe now is the time to identify processes that can remove the doubts that any rational human should have around these sorts of "pronouncements of fealty" in the face of blatant conflicts? There are many ways to remove the COIs, but governance is the main one, and currently the only governance we have is the power of two feet (i.e. a fork or abandonment). Would you be willing to cede some of your power to processes? If not I think DevSeed will be the first of many exits from the community over the coming years.

September 12, 2011 - 17:49
Susan Rust (not verified):

This is a great forum; very smart and passionate people engaged in meaningful dialog.

As someone who has spent a great deal of time in nonprofit group dynamics and development; it's important to crawl out of our Drupal bottle and understand what is happening from an organizational model. We are a textbook case of a rapidly expanding group that is growing from:

-- 10 years ago we were a Family Structure: Dries personally knows everyone to
-- 5 years ago we were a Company Structure: Dries recognizes most everyone but we all know him personally to
-- Today we are a Corporate Structure: Dries is removed from the immediate community and we break into smaller communities to keep the original sense of Family.

As our Drupal system continues to scale, we will continue to feel less connected to those at the core because we know about them, but we don't KNOW them personally now. This is a difficult transition, especially for those used to knowing everyone at a Camp, Con or IRC room. It's less fun to play and work hard at contributing as the effort is more impersonal and less personally rewarding.

While the adoption rate will continue thanks to Acquia's presence, the FUD & grumbling can start to take the energy out of the ecosystem. This can be a dangerous time for any group; people can start to wander off with new emerging technologies, feel less inclined to contribute and turn more inward. All which can start leading to a decline in participation. This is a natural growth/death life cycle curve.

Some suggestions to keep our group together to counter this cycle:

-- Believe Acquia and Dries have Drupal's best interest at heart
-- Believe it's OK for Acquia to be wildly successful and that it won't hurt Drupal; we're smart and we'll figure it out together
-- Learn how to be better at business.**
-- Go back to your roots: Raise the energy where you can which is in your community.
-- Focus at the local user's group level on how to create synergy, energy and talent for yourselves.
-- Partner, share and grow together.

Leveraging Acquia's marketing horsepower is the easiest way to success. You can stand in front of the snowplow and get flattened or your can walk behind the snowplow and enjoy the clear path.

There will be many, many other bumps and transition points coming down the organizational path; but in truth we love our Drupal friends and we want to stay together. It is possible to move from a Family to a Corporate structure if we understand the stress points. Personally, I'm amazed that Dries has the right combination of passion, talent and leadership to grow Drupal from 1 to many. It is not the norm and we're quite fortunate that is the case. So breathe, breathe, breathe and we'll all do the next the right thing together.

Susan, eternal optimist and survivor of many organizational growth challenges.

**My observation is that Drupal companies are developers doing business rather than businesses doing Drupal. One is more profitable than the other. :)

September 12, 2011 - 19:51
Gábor Hojtsy (not verified):

Good observations! Interestingly I was thinking about the family vs. corporate change exactly. (But my conclusion was not to simply tell people to trust :) It was much easier to gain, expect and keep trust when everybody knew each other. That is not really the case anymore. The community is so big, that many people are "so far away in the chain" so to say from Dries and/or other figures like Drupal Association leaders or drupal.org maintainers, that this trust cannot be based on personal connections anymore.

I understand that trust structures can be "defined" with contracts and laws that we put in place for ourselves, but the real question is how would that even be possible. Do contracts and laws in themselves create trust? (That is definitely not happening in my country). Would open source contributors working either on their free time and/or to some degree sponsored by their companies find it harder to get involved and contribute with more community contracts and laws in place?

In ways, the Drupal 8 gates that Dries put in place following heated debates in the community wanting to introduce limits on issues is in this ballpark. Its there to ensure that Drupal is releasable anytime. That we don't need to personally trust contributors to come back and fix issues later because we put checks in place they fix the issues before they can get their shiny new features in. While this is great from a stability standpoint, I think it also makes it much less fun to work on Drupal. Would putting more of these rules in place hurt rather than benefit us?

Disclaimer: I'm involved way back since the "Drupal is a small family" era, so I think my views are definitely biased in that direction :)

September 13, 2011 - 07:37
Susan Rust (not verified):

Gabor: so nice to meet you. And I agree with you that trust without actions isn't really possible and trust without personal connections is very difficult indeed. This is certainly one of the challenges of moving from a family dynamic to a corporate one.

1. Shared governance and transparency:
I hope as a community we can dialog intelligently, coherently and peacefully enough to keep Drupal viable as a community, a codebase and a livelihood. As attested by the comments on this post, the nature of our new, large community is present in the fragmented and non-aligned views. In other words, 20 people here, 20 opinions here. This is a big hurdle.

2. Cross-pollinating Acquia:
In answer to this particular blog: imho, Acquia hasn't sucked up enough Drupal community talent. Having worked with many people inside the ivory tower; they are smart, fierce, hard-working and driven. But they aren't part of our community and they don't really understand us. I'm encouraged that new additions like Greg, Ben, Lisa, Ezra, Amye, and others I personally know from the community are engaged directly with the non-community Acquians. This is where trust and respect can help bridge our current divide.

3. Fractal-based organic groups:
In large corporate systems, the key to continued growth is small group development whether through a formal process or an organic, fractal-based model. That looks like teams forming to decide how a process like D8 should flow, gatekeeping/no gatekeeping, big core/little core, ux/no ux, etc. Perhaps that's a good next step for us to explore.

Disclaimer: I've been with Drupal since 4.7 so not as "family" as you for certain and yet I miss that smaller ecosystem too.

September 15, 2011 - 08:12
momendo (not verified):

To counter some of the Dries bashing and his management style, I like Drupal 7 and what Dries has done. It was a hard and long lift but not without growing pains. We're all definitely learning and growing as a community.

I'm reading here a lot of anger and animosity against Acquia and Dries.

Mainly:
- Acquia is taking all the Drupal talent
- Acquia is forcing down changes that don't exactly line up with the ideas and business needs of other companies
- Acquia is becoming the de-facto company that represents Drupal expertise. AKA Acquia blots out the sun and sucks all the air out of the room. Drupal is Acquia. "You're not from Acquia? Oh sorry, what was the name of your company again?"
- Acquia will taint Drupal so Drupal will no longer be pure in spirit or motives! Too much capitalism, and not enough community!
- Dries has too much power to direct Drupal. We need a democracy and government direction instead!
- I HATE DASHBOARD, CODE BLOAT, TOO MANY BUGS, CRAPPY APIs, OVERLAY, UX CHANGES, [insert gripe here and use it to site as evidence of overreach]
- SMALLCORE! IT'S A FRAMEWORK! SMALLCORE!

I think Dries/Acquia scares other Drupal business owners. Drupal is becoming easier and generalized. Users are becoming more empowered. Drupal Gardens makes Drupal too easy! Who needs programmers and designers when we have all these pre-installed modules and professional themes?

I love what Acquia is doing. Great contributions. Great investments and R&D. I think Dries is taking an even handed approach. He's clear about his intentions and in delegating. Sure there are a lot of gripes to go around, but Drupal is definitely getting better, not worse. The indicators are there. More big projects, more published books, bigger Drupalcons, more high profile/high visibility projects, and more money to be made.

Three cheers for Acquia and Dries! Let the haters hate!

September 12, 2011 - 20:28
Raf (not verified):

I've seen several communities upholding free, open source software die out because the members of the community went on to college, or got daytime jobs. Those projects slowly died out.

Although Drupal is a lot bigger than most of those projects (which, admittedly, are very niche), if the very core of people who keep things running can't do so for a living, things would fall down piece by piece. In the end, they, too, have bills to pay and have to choose what to spend their time on. Acquia giving them the opportunity to continue their core contributions without ending up in the poor house, can't be anything but a good thing.

As far as attracting more contributors go... I've been thinking of doing bug fixes during the odd calm day at work, and I'm sure plenty others have been, too. For lots of people, it's easier to invest some time now and then into the community instead of having a steady amount of time invested in maintaining this or that. The main problem, though (at least to me), is documentation on how to set Git up on Windows on a WAMP-stack, so I can start making patches.

I'd say that, if the long-time contributors can keep contributing without starving and new contributors can pretty much just get in and do their thing, then what's the problem? Things will go well that way.

September 13, 2011 - 16:38
jutulen (not verified):

The big concern I have is that while Drupal core is getting a big boost from Acquia, there are a lot of contrib modules not receiving the same resources (people + money) as the Drupal core. This leads to contrib modules as a whole falling behind (still in D6), while core is already racing ahead to D8.

How about Acquia offering grants to contrib module maintainers to help migrate to D7 and plan for D8?

September 13, 2011 - 18:19
Chris Brookins (not verified):

Hi jutulen,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clear up some confusion re: Acquia's community contributions. While Acquia certainly invests time in Drupal core, and Acquia engineers have community gardening days to improve Drupal in whatever way they see fit, we have actually invested an immense amount of time and money in Drupal 7 contrib either by focusing on it internally or by funding contributors directly. Take a look at the blog posts on http://drupalgardens.com/blog for details on Drupal Gardens's efforts into Drupal 7 contrib alone. Not to mention all of the contrib work done when porting acquia.com, the Acquia Network, and Dev Cloud to Drupal 7. As the VP of engineering at Acquia, I can assure you our investment in Drupal 7 contrib has been significant and I expect it to increase dramatically next year. It is our standard practice to collaborate with existing community maintainers to advance the state of Drupal 7 contrib through large investments in design, sponsorships, and directly contributing and reviewing patches. For example, we have spent considerable efforts on modules such as Views, Date, Webforms, Fivestar, Formbuilder, metatags, Media, and many more. BTW that may sound like a lot of influence, but all of Acquia's efforts submitting and reviewing patches are subject to the module maintainers review and approval just like everyone else. Even with all of these initiatives, Acquia's efforts will always be dwarfed by those of thousands of active Drupal contributors.

September 17, 2011 - 21:40
Buyongo (not verified):

This discussion reminds me of Canonical vs Redhat(Gnome foundation) although not entirely similar. I would like to point out a recent post by Mark Shuttleworth that holds value to this discussion http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/680 He speaks of balancing power in FLOSS ecosystems and it seems Drupal has reached that stage where it would be beneficial for the community to balance the Dries+Acquia power. Any fork of the project would serve to weaken the Drupal community and only strengthen Acquia so even though some individuals cry for small core and so on that may not be the best route. Fragmenting the project in any way will devalue the hard work that the community has put in over the years.
What in my opinion would work well would be to reevaluate the current bottlenecks in the decision making process that are leaving a negative impression with people.
I don't understand how Acquia presents a conflict of interest to the Drupal project because Drupal essentially makes Acquia a viable business. The real problem that the Drupal project has is the balance of power that is Dries+Acquia. As the power continues to grow which it will, more people will feel left out of the decision making process so even if decisions made are to the benefit of everyone it will seem otherwise. I quite like the direction the Drupal 7 has taken because I struggled with understanding Drupal 6. About API's and so on I'm not qualified to speak about but I think it would be irresponsible to think that such a big shift in UI would not bring about its own problems. Now whether this big shift happened in an open manner is where the problems seems to stem from. I think we should all take the time to think of the Drupal motto of "Community Plumbing" and work towards balancing the power that is.

September 14, 2011 - 23:59
Michael Cooper (not verified):

I didn't read the whole thread of comments (though I did read about half) so forgive me if this has already been mentioned. It is a bit of a side issue, but pertains to some of the comments above.

I run the Network and Acquia.com team at Acquia and on our team of 7.5 (one intern) we have 2.5 very well known Drupalists, and 5 relative unknowns, including 1 individual who didn't know Drupal at all when they came to Acquia. On the other teams there are a fair number of people who came into Acquia not knowing Drupal; many whose expertise still does not lie in that area.

I say this not in an attempt to directly oppose opinions that Acquia is stealin' all the good talent, but to provide a bit of a counter-weight to that opinion and allow folks to make up their own minds.

September 19, 2011 - 21:21
Mike D (not verified):

A number of the expectations here, on both 'sides', have no chance of being met.

Clearly the issue is caused simply by the continuing growth of Drupal. And this leads to an obvious conflict of interests. This conflict can't be ignored.

First of all, I think it is fair to say that contributors and Drupal businesses will not exist soley for the benefit of Drupal. It is not a charity.

We see some amazing things where an enourmous amount of time is given for free, producing some incredible software. Two obvious examples are Drupal core and Views. I think this leads the community to consider this the norm.

However, clearly with such highly skilled contributers, giving so much time to the project, we are not going to expect them not to want to profit from it, or at least get significant recognition for it. This also applies to contributors on many different levels.

And now we arrive at the conflict. While a project is small, there are a few key factors that encourage contribution:

1) the recognition is clear
2) the skill base is clear
3) the community is like a family
4) contributing is like helping that family.

However, as the project grows all of these factors become less motivating, ultimately leading to contributors needing to find another type of recognition, which is normally money.

My conlcusion is that, although there are clearly many smart people here, so far almost everyone has missed the point.

You can't have a growing project, used by more and more people and well-know organisations, and at the same time keep the original values. It will never work, I doubt it has ever worked. Once a project grows past the point of individual recognition and 'family status' (which is how Drupal is now for 90% of the community and contributors), then another avenue needs to be explored.

Unfortunately, like with Joomla, this also means that the focus on people becomes more 'celebrity'. This tends to mean a smaller group (even though the project has grown) are seen as the main 'Drupal' people. Clearly Drupal has reached that stage now.

Dries has made his choice, and I don't blame him at all. I would have done the same. But I think, Dries, that you are doing yourself a dis-service by suggesting everything you do in Acquia is with Drupal's well-being in mind. You have done more than enough with regards to helping Drupal. Now go and make some well-deserved millions.

If you want the original values, I'm afraid you need to slow down / reverse the growth. Clearly, this type of approach would not make much business sense for those that profit from Drupal. Hence the conflict.

September 29, 2011 - 11:12

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