The concept of official initiatives came out of lessons learned from the Drupal 7 development. We learned a lot from that and in a recent blog post about Drupal initiative leads, I recognized that we need to evolve our tools, our processes, and our organizational design. Others like Nathaniel Catchpole, Larry Garfield and Gábor Hojtsy have shared some of their thoughts already. One of the things I'm most proud of is that the Drupal community is always looking to improve and reinvent itself. Evolving is an important part of our culture. Each time it will get better, but still won't be perfect.
For me, one of the biggest take-aways (but not the only one) is that for an initiative to succeed, it needs to be supported by a team. An initiative needs to carry out a technical vision, plan the work, communicate with all stakeholders, mobilize volunteers, raise funding, organize sprints, and more. It can easily be more than one person can handle -- especially if it isn't your full-time job or if your initiative is complex.
More specifically, we have learned that the most successful initiatives appear to be run by teams that are self-managed; the team members collaborate in the development of the initiative, but also share both managerial and operational responsibilities like planning, coordinating, communicating, sprint organizing and more.
Because self-managed teams are both responsible for their outcomes and in control of their decision-making process, members of a self-managing team are usually more motivated than traditional hierarchical teams. This independence and greater responsibility are important in volunteer communities. Self-managed teams also build and maintain institutional knowledge. The outcome of their work is also more easily accepted by other stakeholders (like core committers) because they have already built a lot of consensus.
If I were to be an initiative lead, I'd feel strongly about building my own team rather than being handed a team. My initial assumption was that each initiative lead would build his/her own team. In hindsight, that was a mistake. Team building is not easy. It requires a time investment that can seem to compete with technical priorities. This is an important lesson and something we can do better going forward. Before making an initiative official, we have to make sure that each initiative has a good team and the support to be successful -- either we can help create a team, provide more coaching or formal training around team building, or we shouldn't designate the initiative official until such a team has coalesced.
One of the world's most trafficked websites, with more than 100 million unique visitors every month and more than 20 million different pages of content, is now using Drupal. Weather.com is a top 20 U.S. site according to comScore. As far as I know, this is currently the biggest Drupal site in the world.
Weather.com has been an active Drupal user for the past 18 months; it started with a content creation workflow on Drupal to help its editorial team publish content to its existing website faster. With Drupal, Weather.com was able to dramatically reduce the number of steps that was required to publish content from 14 to just a few. Speed is essential in reporting the weather, and Drupal's content workflow provided much-needed velocity. The success of that initial project is what led to this week's migration of Weather.com from Percussion to Drupal.
The company has moved the entire website to Acquia Cloud, giving the site a resilient platform that can withstand sudden onslaughts of demand as unpredictable as the weather itself. As we learned from our work with New York City's MTA during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, “weather-proofing” the delivery of critical information to insure the public stays informed during catastrophic events is really important and can help save lives.
Drupal 8 is the first time we introduced the concept of formal initiatives and initiative leads. Over the course of these Drupal 8 initiatives we learned a lot and people are floating several ideas to increase the initiatives' success and provide Drupal initiative leads with more support. As we grow, it is crucial that we evolve our tools, our processes, and our organizational design based on these learnings. We've done so in the past and we'll continue to do so going forward.
But let's be honest, no matter how much support we provide, leading a Drupal initiative will unquestionably remain difficult and overwhelming. As a Drupal initiative lead, you are asked to push forward some of the most difficult and important parts of Drupal.
You will only succeed if you are able to build a strong team of volunteers that is willing to be led by you. You have to learn how to inspire and motivate by articulating a vision. You establish credibility by setting clear objectives and roadmaps in partnership with others. You have to motivate, guide and empower people to participate. You have to plan and over-communicate.
Not only do you have to worry about building and leading a team, you also have to make sure the rest of the community has shared goals and that everyone impacted has a shared understanding of why those decisions are being made. You use data, ideas and feedback from different sources to inform and convince people of your direction. Your "soft skills" are more important than your "hard skills". Regardless, you will lose many battles. You only "win" when you remain open to feedback and value change and collaboration. To lead a community, you need both a thick skin and a big heart.
Success is never a coincidence. You put in long hours to try and keep your initiative on track. You need relentless focus on doing whatever is necessary to succeed; to be the person who fills all the gaps and helps others to be successful. Instead of just doing the things you love doing most, you find yourself doing mundane tasks like updating spreadsheets or planning a code sprint to help others be successful. In fact, you might need to raise money for your code sprint. And if you succeed, you still don't have enough money to achieve what is possible and you feel the need to raise even more. You'll be brushing aside or knocking down obstacles in your path, and taking on jobs and responsibilities you have never experienced before.
Your objectives will constantly shift as Drupal itself iterates and evolves. You will want to go faster and you will struggle with the community processes. Imagine working on something for a month and then having to throw it out completely because you realize it doesn't pass. Frustration levels will be off the charts. Your overall goal of achieving the perfect implementation might never be achieved and that feeling haunts you for weeks or months. You will feel the need to vent publicly, and you probably will. At the worst moments, you'll think about stepping down. In better times, you realize that if most of your initiative succeeds it could take years of follow-up work. You will learn a lot about yourself; you learn that you are bad at many things and really good at other things.
Leading is incredibly hard and yet, it will be one of the best thing you ever did. You work with some of the finest, brightest, and most passionate people in the world. You will see tangible results of your hard work and you will impact and help hundreds of thousands of people for the next decade. There is no better feeling than when you inspire or when you help others succeed. Leading is hard, but many of you will look back at your time and say this was the most gratifying thing you ever did. You will be incredibly proud of yourself, and the community will be incredibly proud of you. You will become a better leader, and that will serve you for the rest of your life.
Some of you picked up that Michael Skok is leaving North Bridge, Acquia's lead investor. A number of people asked me if Michael is leaving Acquia's Board of Directors as part of that. I'm pleased to say that Michael is staying on as a Director on Acquia's Board.
I first met Michael in the summer of 2007. From the moment I met Michael I knew that he was someone that I could trust and learn from. From the day we started Acquia, we had big dreams -- many of which we have realized today. In large part because Michael went all-in and helped us every step of the way. From his operational experience, to his relevant domain expertise, to his passion for Open Source and focus on building great teams and products, Michael has been an incredible asset to our Board. Fast forward 8 years and I'm as excited as ever to work with Michael to realize even bigger dreams with Acquia.
After 10 years of development, the W3C has promoted HTML5 to "Recommendation" yesterday: http://www.w3.org/blog/news/archives/4167. W3C's "Recommendation" status is the highest level of maturation, effectively making the markup language a formal standard.
Almost 20% of the world's websites have adopted HTML5, so for many, HTML5 is nothing new.
Drafting the HTML5 standard appears to have been a difficult and tiring process. It took more than 50,000 email exchanges, and the group's bug lists record more than 4,000 errors and ambiguities that had to be resolved.
With HTML5 complete, you might wonder what is next for HTML? Take a look at HTML.next, the list of HTML.next proposed elements and attributes or the list of postponed feature requests.
The trend in development seems to be towards native mobile applications rather than mobile websites, but the future of HTML and its modular design has some interesting things in store. In the long run, I think the line between native applications and web applications will blur. I think the future is better integration and more seamless transitions between the two. Standards are important and can't be here fast enough!
It's easy to underestimate the importance of this recognition for Acquia, and by extension for Drupal. If you want to find a good coffee place, you use Yelp. If you want to find a nice hotel in New York, you use TripAdvisor. Similarly, if a CIO wants to spend $250,000 or more on enterprise software, they consult an analyst firm like Gartner. So think of Gartner as "Yelp for the enterprise".
Many companies create their technology shortlist based on the leader quadrant. That means that Drupal has not been considered as an option for hundreds of evaluations for large projects that have taken place in the past couple of years. Being named a leader alongside companies like Adobe, HP, IBM, Oracle, and Sitecore will encourage more organizations to evaluate Drupal. More organizations evaluating Drupal should benefit the Drupal ecosystem and the development of Drupal.
My company Acquia was honored this week by BelCham, the Belgian-American Chamber of Commerce, as the "Company of the Year". I'm proud of this honor, which speaks to the great work that our team of more than 500 Acquians from around the globe do for our customers everyday.
BelCham is an organization dedicated to helping Belgian entrepreneurs navigate the complexities of Belgian-American trade. Companies like Acquia, InBev, Brussels Airlines, and restaurant chain Le Pain Quotidien support BelCham's work.
If you want to build a big company, then at some point you have scale globally. Scaling a business globally is challenging. I try to give back some of my experience by advising Belgian entrepreneurs that want to move or expand to the US. I often recommend they get in touch with BelCham because they can help entrepreneurs find the resources they need to extend their network and grow globally.