DrupalCon Boston

Good news! The next Drupal conference (DrupalCon) will take place in Boston from March 3-6. If you want to learn more about Drupal, or if you want to capture and absorb the passion and enthusiasm behind the Drupal project, this is the place to be.

The last Drupal conference, DrupalCon Barcelona, was capped at 450 people and sold out so this time around, we're trying to accommodate 700 Drupal people. Yes, these numbers blow my mind.

In other words, DrupalCon Boston will bring together hundreds of Drupal users and developers from all around the world. Whether you are a Drupal professional or an enthusiastic user coming to find out more, you're invited to join us in Boston.

Furthermore, DrupalCon is being held at the same time/place as AIIM International Exposition & Conference, the largest content management technology conference in North America. The goal: introduce Drupal to thousands of potential new Drupalers.

Organizing a conference of this size obviously takes a lot of resources; if you are interested in being a sponsor, please get in touch. Kudos to the DrupalCon Boston team and the Drupal Association for taking on this massive amount of work. This is not something we should take for granted. Thanks!

Drupal Association organization chart whishlist

As you might have read, we're in the process of electing next year's Board of Directors for the Drupal Association. I've already posted the the Drupal community's wishlist for the Drupal Association, but I wanted to follow up with my personal thoughts as well.

The chart below depicts an overview of the Drupal Association's Board of Directors in 2007; the green positions were filled in 2007. The graph also shows what I think would be important positions for 2008; the green and the white graphs are positions that I'd like to see filled in 2008 (except for the President, the Treasurer and the Secretary who have terms of two years and who get to run for another year).

Drupal association board
See also: larger version of the organizational chart.

Here is an overview of what would be the primary areas of responsibility for each of the Board of Directors positions that I envision:

  1. President. Provides guidance and assists with developing and implementing the (annual) goals and objectives of the Drupal Association as set out by the Board of Directors and the General Assembly. Chairs meetings of the Board of Directors and helps assure that the Board of Directors fulfills its responsibilities.
  2. Treasurer. Manages the financial assets and liabilities of the Drupal Association. Interacts with the accountants and bookkeepers, and makes sure that the Drupal Association is on track with regard to overall budget.
  3. Secretary. Responsible for keeping the minutes of the Board meetings and the General Assembly. The role of the minutes is to serve as a legal record so making sure the minutes are accurate and complete is an important responsibility.
  4. Fundraising director. Drafts a fundraising plan and coordinates the execution of it. Should target to raise at least 200,000 EUR/year through numerous channels. This money will be used to organize Drupal events, to purchase hardware, to pay for expenses, etc.
  5. Events director. Responsible for making at least two global Drupal events happen; one Drupal conference in Europe and one Drupal conference in North America. Also responsible for supporting local Drupal events such as Drupal user group meetings and DrupalCamps. Manages an event budget and works with local teams of volunteers and professional event organizers to make things happen.
  6. Communications director. Responsible for communicating the Drupal Association's activities to the Drupal community, and for improving Drupal's outreach in general. Writes drupal.org announcements and responds to inquiries from the Drupal community or the press.
  7. Legal affairs director. Works with the Software Freedom Law Center to provide legal representation and other law-related services to the Drupal community.
  8. Infrastructure director. Responsible for keeping the servers running and making sure that we can coop with our growth. Also responsible for the software running on those servers, including the many Drupal installations. Manages an infrastructure budget, coordinates a team of site maintainers and infrastructure maintainers and works closely with the Open Source Lab.
  9. Drupal.org redesign director. As a special project for 2008, the Drupal Association would like to redesign the Drupal.org website. The redesign director would act as the principal project manager to make that happen. Manages a Drupal.org redesign budget, and works with the Drupal community, design firms, usability firms and developers to refurbish our home. Instead of just being the Drupal.org redesign director, he or she could also be the Technical project director that is in charge of all the technical work related to the Drupal Association.

Also, the chart incorporates the idea of having the Community Ambassadors be involved more structurally. This idea has been proposed a couple of times in 2007, and I think roles like 'Assistant treasurer' would help us explore those ideas. Ultimately, it is up to the individual Directors to invite other people to help them out.

What is important is not the hierarchy (that is an artifact of organization charts), but rather that we've framed some roles and responsibilities. There has to be some structure so we can divide up the work to be done and so we know who is accountable for what. So if we can't fill all positions in 2008, that is OK. Or if the final positions differ from the positions on the chart, that is not necessarily a problem either. At the end of the day, we always have to match the capabilities of the people to our goals -- and not the other way around.

So if you are interested in helping to drive Drupal's explosive growth or if you want to help make a change in this world, you can submit your candidacy by following the instructions on drupal.org.

Drupal Association 2008 wishlist

Since we launched the Drupal Association in January 2007, roughly one year ago, we (i) improved the drupal.org infrastructure, (ii) we helped organize two international Drupal conferences, (iii) we established a relation with an accounting firm, (iv) we funded Drupal's presence at a number of events, (v) we started setting up fundraising campaigns, (vi) we entered into a relation with the Software Freedom Law Center, (vii) we are close to launching a Drupal Association membership model, etc.

In January 2008 we have to elect our second Board of Directors. We are looking for people that want to become either a Permanent Member or a member of the Board of Directors, and that can provide leadership and experience to expand the reach of the Drupal Association and its activities. If you are interested in helping to drive Drupal's explosive growth or if you want to help make a change in this world, you can submit your candidacy by following the instructions on drupal.org.

A few months ago, I asked more than 1,000 Drupal users what they think the Drupal Association should focus on. The results are provided below and might be a good source of inspiration when considering to submit your candidacy.

Drupal association wishlist

Sun and Drupal

Sun Microsystems has been active in the Drupal community and recently gave a presentation at DrupalCon Barcelona as well as helped sponsor Drupal events. Recently, Sun also made a second hardware donation to the Drupal Association: a SunFire X4200 to support the Drupal.org infrastructure. The first hardware donation was a Sun Fire V20z back in 2005.

On a related note, I successfully defended my PhD at the internal examination yesterday. This means that I am accepted to defend my PhD in public in January 2008. James Gosling, the inventor of Java and Vice President at Sun Microsystems, was part of my PhD examination committee. In the car to Ghent, we talked about Open Source, Java and Drupal. James knew about Drupal, the OpenOffice extensions site, etc.

I personally thanked James on behalf of the Drupal community for Sun's continued support. Thanks Sun!

James Gosling
James Gosling, the inventor of Java and Vice President at Sun Microsystems. © Sun Microsystems.

Acquia, my Drupal startup

Big news today! I'm doing a Drupal startup.

The Drupal community does an incredible job building the Drupal technology and making sure that Drupal is on the forefront of the technical innovation. The Drupal Association does a great job supporting and protecting that community by improving our server infrastructure, by organizing Drupal conferences, by helping to protect the Drupal trademark. Last but not least, the Drupal consultants do an outstanding job developing websites and training people to use Drupal. Together we managed to create an incredibly successful project.

However, one piece is missing. Before we go there, let me provide a little more context.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the future of the web, and the future of Drupal in particular. I’ve also increasingly been spending time on what I want to do after I’m done with my PhD work. Since the two of those are coming together shortly, it’s time for me to start blogging about the next stages of Drupal, and my life.

The vision

First, Drupal 6 and Drupal 7 should be all about reaching out to more and different people. Making Drupal easier to use, easier to theme, easier to translate, and easier to develop for. Drupal 6 will do exactly that, and with Drupal 7 we should maintain that strategy. We want to make Drupal the best web content management platform; “the Linux of the web”.

The beauty of Drupal is that people can build powerful websites with little effort simply by combining different modules into one site; it is something we should continue to optimize for. I hope that that as a community you want to join me in putting (more of) the custom content types and (part of) views into Drupal core. But not just that; Drupal’s success arises from its community and the hundreds of contributed modules this community creates. We should continue to empower our contributors so they can continue to write great modules and deliver them in an exceptional way.

Second, with the rise of Facebook, Open Social, and friends, I’m not sure there is a future for (social community) websites that don’t provide an API. Starting with Drupal 7 we should also start to focus more on the ability to create, share and mash up managed content. The idea is to let Drupal be a data repository that can be accessed by tools and websites across the network. It is where custom content types, web service APIs, semantic web technologies and Drupal’s fine-grained access control mechanism come together. I want Drupal 7 to be a stepping stone when it comes to data mobility. This will allow people and companies to create value-added services that improve the users’ efficiency.

Third, when I examine the landscape of open source projects that have had big impact on the technology industry, I’ve concluded that projects which have had the biggest impact (usually) have a well-capitalized company behind them. Jboss, Linux and MySQL have all benefited not only technically, but the presence of a well-capitalized provider for those projects has made those projects palatable to users who might not have otherwise tried the software.

The company

So what is missing? It's two things: (i) a company that supports me in providing leadership to the Drupal community in exploring the vision I described above, and (ii) a company that is to Drupal what Ubuntu or RedHat are to Linux. If we want Drupal to grow by at least a factor of 10, keeping Drupal a hobby project as it is today, and taking a regular programming job at a big Belgian bank is clearly not going to cut it.

Thus, I'm starting a Drupal company whose current working name is 'Acquia'. Acquia's software products will include a number of Drupal distributions -- for community networks, digital media properties, corporate websites, and others. In addition to providing Drupal distributions, Acquia will build the Drupal-tuned analogue of the RedHat Network, over which we can deliver a wide variety of electronic services intended to be useful to people developing and operating Drupal websites. An example such service is an automated upgrade/update service, an uptime and performance monitoring / reporting service, a configuration management service, etc.

I was fortunate enough to meet an experienced CEO, Jay Batson, that I have come to like and trust, who managed to translate this vision into a business plan and who can complement my technical strength and community management skills with business experience in running open source software companies. (The last company Jay started was Pingtel, and open source enterprise-scale IP PBX, recently acquired by Bluesocket.) Jay has been invaluable so far.

The inevitable fear

Well, fear not.

Acquia is not going to fork or close-source Drupal. Acquia wants to see the Drupal community succeed and to do so, Acquia will listen to and work with the community to advance Drupal. The Drupal Association continues to operate the drupal.org domain, I continue to own the Drupal trademark, and the Drupal community continues to set the technical direction of the Drupal project. Drupal.com has not been sold.

Acquia's success is directly tied to overall success of the Drupal project - and to how widely-used it becomes. We understand better than anyone else that Acquia will never succeed on its own; we will only succeed if we are part of the larger Drupal community. We will contribute to Drupal development just as other companies or individuals do today. Our investors fully expect us to use a portion of the resources they’ve provided to help make Drupal even better, since our own success depends on significantly growing the widespread use of Drupal.

Furthermore, I'm expressly permitted to make decisions within the Drupal project that may not always be in Acquia’s best commercial interest. This was a hard requirement for me. Acquia fully expects that a portion of my time will be spent on activities associated with the project at large (vs. Acquia’s own software development). In essence, since the health and vitality of the Drupal project at large is extremely important to us, we’ve taken great pains to make sure that I am able to continue to act for the best interests of the Drupal community at large as I have done for the past 7 years.

The community has my heart and respect, and that won't change. Fear not.

Conclusions

So rather than working on Drupal in my spare time, I will soon have the time and resources to provide the leadership it takes to help get Drupal to the next level. I'm looking forward to leading the many thousands of you to the next step of this incredible adventure. It's been a little bit hard for me to not say anything about this before - mostly because I'm so excited about it. But it didn't make business sense to speak about this effort until it was for-real. Now that it is, I'm much happier that I can talk about it, because I want to think together with all of you about how we can make it a really really good thing for Drupal.

As a start, I've prepared a FAQ for our website. We (the company) will have more to say as we go along, and I will, too. Keep an eye on this blog or on our company website.

Drupal and Google's Highly Open Participation Contest

Following on from the success of the Google Summer of Code program, Drupal has been chosen as one of the ten projects participating in a new pilot program called Google Highly Open Participation Contest. The goal of the program is to get high-school students involved in all aspects of Open Source development, from fixing bugs to writing documentation and doing user experience research.

I think this is a great idea. Clearly, the internet is doing more than making our kids fat. Repeatedly, I have been blown away with what today's high-school students are capable off. Why not recognize that and get them involved more?

So for every 3 tasks they complete, they get a t-shirt, $100 USD and most of all; Open Source experience. Having experience with Open Source software development is becoming an increasingly valuable asset on any future developer's resume. It is worth a lot more than a few hundred bucks.

We already entered a number of Drupal tasks in preparation of the announcement, but more tasks can still be added. Let's put a thousand students to work, learn and participate! Thanks Google!

The Drupal Association and the Software Freedom Law Center

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has agreed to provide legal representation and related services to the Drupal project. At the last board meeting, the Drupal Association's board of directors has accepted the SFLC's offer. I'm confident that the SFLC will be instrumental in making the Drupal project advance to the next level.

Our first course of action is to work on answering a list of GPL related questions that the Drupal community has been struggling with. Expect that to happen in the next couple of months. Details to follow.

Kudos to Henri Poole (Drupal contributor, FSF board member and author of the Affero license) for connecting me with Eben Moglen (Law professor at Columbia and Chairman of the SFLC). Thanks!

Drupal trademark policy forthcoming

As the holder of the Drupal trademark, I've recently decided to modify the footer on drupal.org to state the fact clearly by including the wording "Drupal is a Registered Trademark of Dries Buytaert"; this is considered a common trademark practice and has been advised to me by my lawyers to clear any potential confusion.

Trademarks are important because they help prevent confusion by distinguishing one company's, community's or person's work from the products and services of another company, community or person. A trademark essentially serves as a badge of origin and is not to be confused with copyright, ownership or licenses.

Together with the Drupal Association I'm working on a permissive formal trademark policy modeled after Ubuntu's trademark policy. I'm sure you'll find it reasonable. As soon the trademark policy is available, we'll link to it from the footer on drupal.org.

Rest assured that this change is intended only to prevent the 'Drupal' name from being used out of context by overly aggressive entities. Most of you who use Drupal, commercially or otherwise, need not worry. This change will only help ensure that the effort of all the hard working Drupal contributors isn't misappropriated.

Until then, stay tuned, and enjoy using Drupal!

On supporting Drupal events

The Drupal Association sponsored 500 EUR (700 USD) to help the Hungarian Drupal user group pay for the venue of DrupalCon Hungary 2007 (pictures). They had a maximum capacity of 150 seats, and the conference sold out pretty quickly. In other words, the conference was a success, and it is great to see that the Drupal Association helped made this possible. Giving the Drupal community what it needs to flourish is exactly the goal of the Drupal Association.

To date, the Drupal Association's Board of Directors has been voting on sponsorship requests on a case per case basis. However, we would like to recruit an event coordinator that wants to manage a quarterly event budget. The Board of Directors would then approve the quarterly budget and the plan that requires the quarterly budget. We'd no longer vote on individual sponsorship requests.

So, part of the event coordinator's job would be to define the activities that we want to support and how we want to support these. It might not be an easy task as it will be impossible to distribute the available budget equitably among the many sponsorship opportunities around the world.

To further professionalize the Drupal event coordination, the event coordinator would also be responsible for providing visibility to Drupal events, for articulating best practices to event organizers, for making sure that Drupal is represented at strategic conferences, for shipping promotional materials around the world, for helping with the organization of the main international Drupal conferences, etc.

If this is something that interests you or if you have ideas or best practices to share, I'd love to read more about your thoughts and suggestions in the comments of this post.

Recruiting for the Drupal Association

The Drupal Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to help the Drupal community with fun­ding, infra­structure, events, promotion and distribution.

Since we launched the Drupal Association in January 2007, roughly 9 months ago, we (i) improved the drupal.org infrastructure, (ii) we helped organize two international Drupal conferences, (iii) we established a relation with an accounting firm, (iv) we funded Drupal's presence at FrOSCon, (v) we started setting up fundraising campaigns and partnerships, (vi) we are close to launching a Drupal Association membership model, etc.

By January 2008 we have to elect our second Board of Directors, and so I figured this would be a good time to start soliciting for candidates and nominations. Despite the progress that we have made in 2007, we would like to ramp up our professionalism and activities in 2008.

We are looking for people that want to become a board member, and that can provide leadership and experience to expand the reach of the Drupal Association and its activities. Specifically, we are interested in people who can provide leadership in the following areas:

  • Legal issues
  • Marketing
  • Communication
  • Event coordination
  • Local user group coordination
  • Drupal.org (redesign) coordination
  • Changing the world
  • ...

Currently, the Drupal Assocation is solely run by unpaid volunteers and we expect that our board members spend up to four hours/week working on their Drupal Association responsibilities and obligations. In other words, we are looking for people that are committed to help support and drive Drupal's explosive growth.

If you think you might be a good candidate, or if you want to nominate someone other than yourself, please let me know in the comments. I'll make sure to loop you in as soon we worked out the official nomination and election process/timeline.

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