The Lifestyle of Drupal Support
by Kenny Silanskas
When people hear the word support, it often drums up images of overcrowded call centers in a faraway land staffed by the lowest bidder and a digitized voice that tells you how important your call is to them. So important, in fact, that it will be answered in the order received.
That may be true in the proprietary software market and, oftentimes, rightfully so given the repeatability of solutions that are often present in that space. While I don't believe proprietary software is inherently evil (Yes, I use a Mac and a Windows 7 machine), that's a model that cannot work for open source software where the landscape is changing on a minute to minute basis. Fueled by the genius of giants and an ever-expansive community that is always striving to better the code, a deep understanding of the software being supported is not just nice to have - It's absolutely required.
Lord Vader Never Gives a Lunch Break
Supporting Drupal is a lifestyle choice. Seriously. If you're going to solve the serious problems of the enterprise where a Service Level Agreement is concerned (e.g. answer me in less than 2 hours or you lose my business), then you'd better know that module that will allow you to punch in the "Konami Code" to trigger certain site actions if it's being used by your customer. That means no decision trees. No screens asking you to ask the caller if they are sure the computer is plugged in. And no long hold times lost in a call queue for hours. It's "game on, baby" and this game is faster than a kitten running from the Domo-kun.
So, before I go into how you get to supporting this platform, a quick primer on my love affair with the big blue drop is probably needed for context.
I have been with Drupal since 2007 and spent the first year of my travels locked in a room with core, the handbook, and some downloaded modules trying to hastily craft a CMS powered site for folks who didn't know open source from open sores and would vehemently try to convince you they were equal. During that time, I learned exactly nothing about the real power of Drupal. It's community. In fact, it wasn't until 2008 that the handle webkenny was registered on drupal.org and the real journey began.
Since then, I've contributed module and core patches, written my very own contribution, attended several area meet-ups, two DrupalCons, helped with documentation, answered and asked on the forums, and landed a sweet job at the very company who's blog you're reading now. None of which would have been possible without the support of the community. There's that word "support" again. Now we're getting somewhere.
Supporting this platform is a privilege I take very seriously. I also take it very seriously when people who are not "in the know" about our community disregard me when I say, "I work in support". All too often that's met by the closed mouth smile that says, "Oh. Sorry for asking."
In the Client Advisory Team here at Acquia, we eat, sleep and breathe Drupal. But we didn't get this way from some divine intervention nor are any of us candidates for Mensa (that I know of, at least). No, instead, we all share two common bonds.
- A passion for helping people be successful with this software in any way they choose to use it.
- A fantastic community of people smarter than us who drive this project day in and day out from all over the world.
The point is unless you're willing to admit that you're not some deity who knows it all, you can't solve the hard problems of any rapidly evolving system let alone Drupal. It takes concerted effort to search for those tough answers and apply those patches, to load up a debugger and step through each line of a request laboriously to find where that pesky "invalid argument supplied for foreach" is originating, and when we've exhausted all avenues knowing we can reach out to someone on our team or in the community.
We love people who use Drupal. So much so, in fact, that some customers of ours who attended DrupalCon San Francisco gave us the opportunity to sit with them and work through tough issues in what we affectionately referred to as "the war room". There is a feeling you get when you solve someone's problem with them instead of for them that is so rewarding. A feeling you'd never be able to experience without being deeply ingrained to this lifestyle.
Get involved. Get serious. Get some community in your life. You never know, the next problem you solve could be your own.
By the way, did I mention we're hiring? ;)