Drupal's steep learning curve filters out far too many smart, motivated people who could benefit from Drupal. We see it all the time in the Drupal.org forums, in my "State of Drupal" surveys, on Twitter, when talking to customers, and on the web. Even though we've made significant progress with making Drupal easier to use, a lot of work is left to be done. With other content management systems such as Joomla! and WordPress making strides to catch up to Drupal in terms of development flexibility, if we want Drupal to remain competitive, we have a challenge we have to face: we need to create a user experience that makes it easier for people new to Drupal to discover all of its richness and power.
With the success of the drupal.org redesign in mind, I wondered if it would be possible for Mark Boulton and Leisa Reichelt of Mark Boulton Design (MBD) to help us improve usability in Drupal itself. They have done a tremendous job with the drupal.org designs that are currently being implemented, but why stop there?
Since one of Acquia's key goals is to help expand Drupal adoption, and improving Drupal's usability is key to that, I thought it would be right for Acquia to finance Mark and Leisa to help us work on Drupal 7, for a couple of months, too. The consensus among my colleagues was that hiring Mark and Leisa would be a both great way to help Drupal conquer the world, and a really good contribution Acquia could make to the Drupal community.
Mark and Leisa were both instantly excited about continuing their work with the community. Starting in March, they will spend time working on making Drupal 7 easier to use. We've asked them to do all their work out in the open, in the Drupal community, just like they did with the Drupal.org redesign, so that the community can be involved and give input every step of the way. We have also encouraged Mark to dare to envision wide-ranging, far-reaching usability improvements, rather than incremental usability changes on the status quo. This is a great chance for us to all collectively think "outside the box" about how great Drupal's user experience could be.
Both Mark and I have been in contact with key members of the Drupal usability group. They are going to be deeply involved in this effort by including Mark and Leisa in their planning and by giving feedback, guidance, and assistance. As a starting point, we've pointed Mark to the existing Drupal usability reports, and he has already been brainstorming with some members of Drupal's usability team about what aspects to work on and how to work together. Mark and Leisa will not be able to start before March, but it's important that this work starts as early as possible.
Now that we have Mark and Leisa, leaders from the Drupal usability group, and Acquia on board, we're finally ready to publicly announce this initiative and to proceed in an open and transparent way, involving everyone in the Drupal community. Mark and Leisa bring a lot of Drupal expertise to the table; they are armed with use data and test driven methodologies; they have a track record of working well with our community, so I think we're set up for success. This is an opportunity to get the community fired up about usability, and to bring more outside design and usability expertise into the project. And with your help, this should be a pretty awesome move for Drupal 7! :-)
I founded Drupal in 1999, and have been the project lead since Drupal was first released in 2001. I've been a long-time Open Source user and contributor, and have co-founded two companies in the Drupal ecosystem: Acquia, in 2007, and Mollom, in 2008. I also co-founded the Drupal Association in 2006.
It's been an honor to be a part of the Drupal project, and it remains so today. Through my work with Drupal, I've become better at programming, communicating, and managing. I've made many friends, and because of them, I continue to spend the majority of my time -- both business and leisure -- working on Drupal. Our common goal to create the best web platform in the world and our shared commitment to empowering people to connect online continues to motivate and inspire me.
For the first time, my position as President of the Drupal Association is up for election. With this post, I'd like to submit my candidacy to serve as President for another two-year term. While I'm in no way perfect, I believe I have always served the Drupal project well and I understand the duties of this demanding role. My experience with the operational, financial, legal and social issues facing the Drupal Association is extensive, and I want to continue to use that experience in service to the Association.
I believe Drupal is about two things: people and software. In 2006, I helped establish the Drupal Association's almost exclusive focus on people, rather than software. I believed then, and now, that the people themselves create the software. While this separation of powers does not exist in most other FOSS foundations, I think that the model has worked well, and I'd like to support that separation going forward.
Despite our extensive activities in 2008, the Drupal Association has been held back by the lack of more active contributors, and particularly, contributors in some key areas of our organization. One role of the President is to lend focus to particular areas where the project should focus, to draw attention to the areas of the project that might be somewhat dysfunctional, and to bring in leadership to address these problems. Given that, I want to outline a few of the areas where I want to push the Drupal Association and where I believe we should extend the current team.
I believe the Drupal Association has trouble managing big projects. The Drupal.org redesign and the growing DrupalCons are good examples of big projects. We always get them done, but it is often painful and stressful. Being volunteers, it is hard to do big projects, and we're only beginning to learn how to manage them. Delegation is a great mechanism for that, and we have yet to realize its potential.
If re-elected, I'd like to promote the organization of more face-to-face meetings. There is no better way to work together and make big things happen than by putting people together in a room. In the next couple of years, I would like the Board of Directors to get together more often, and I'd like the Drupal Association to help fund or organize more DrupalCons, more DrupalCamps, and more Drupal meet-ups as well as increase our presence at conference and trade shows. I think the Drupal Association needs two Directors for this: an Events Director responsible for the organization of DrupalCons, and a User Group Director responsible for supporting user groups and smaller events.
To date, the Drupal Association is responsible for making at least two global Drupal events happen each year; one Drupal conference in Europe and one Drupal conference in North America. I think we should outsource these to an event planning organization (except for the technical program and the sponsorship management) so they can continue to grow bigger and better. I believe we should direct our own efforts to bootstrapping a third DrupalCon -- one in Asia or South America. It will be a multi-year effort, but I think it is where we can add most value.
I also think that the Drupal Association should have a Director of Project Management, with a mandate to help delegate and manage some of the Drupal Association's technical projects (e.g., improving our CRM system, setting up a single-sign on system, implementing an advertising program).
Drupal has become a large project, which means that it is no longer possible for everyone to know everything. As a result, the need for good communication is increasingly important. To ensure that this vital communication exists, I think the Drupal Association needs a Communication Director responsible for informing the Drupal community about important events. The Communication Director should have responsibility over the Drupal.org front page and provide help with press releases and media.
In addition to these new roles, we should continue to have a Treasurer, a Secretary, a Fundraising Director, an Infrastructure Director and a Legal Affairs Director.
If we can't fill all these positions in 2009, that's OK. Or, if the final positions differ from the positions the ones I outlined, that is not necessarily a problem either. At the end of the day, we always have to match the capabilities of people to our goals -- not the other way around. As the current President, and with the little time that I might have left, I will proceed trying to recruit these people. I hope we can build such a team, and that I have the honor to be part of it for at least another 2 years. Thanks!
Google announced Measurement Lab (M-Lab) this week, an open platform that researchers can use to deploy internet measurement tools. M-Lab will give end users the tools to figure out whether internet service providers are interfering with their broadband connections by blocking or throttling certain applications. Turns out that the current M-Lab site is using Drupal. Cool!
The United Nations is using Drupal (and Mollom) for the World Food Programme. The World Food Programme is the world's largest humanitarian organization. With almost 12,000 people working for the World Food Programme, their food assistance reaches an average of 100 million people in 80 countries every year.
Virgin Radio is using Drupal for a number of websites. Example: http://www.virginradio999.com.
I'm excited by this because I'm a Richard Branson fan. There, I have said it. He is one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time. He proves that you can do well, do good, and have a great time doing it -- which is exactly how I like to run Drupal, Acquia and Mollom. I you haven't read his book yet, you should!