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For the Drupal Community, New “Sharing Economy” is an Old Idea

If you share it, they will come…..

Many of you have already heard about the “sharing economy.” It’s not a new concept, in fact folks have been talking about it for the last couple of years in the B2C space. At the surface, the sharing economy represents a tectonic shift of digital disruption that is coming like a freight train towards every business and consumer across the globe. I believe those that embrace it will flourish, while those that try to fight it will go the way of the music industry over the last decade….

One of the primary shifts in the sharing economy revolution is the tendency towards renting (as a form of inbound sharing) goods and services rather than full ownership. We’ve already seen this phenomenon in real estate as spare room rentals are on the rise vs. traditional hotels via offerings from companies like Airbnb. Or even look at personal car service rentals via Uber and Sidecar and personal errand services like Taskrabbit. Why buy or own from large organizations who have lots of capital expenditures and sales and marketing expense to cover when you can rent time or resources in the sharing economy? If you really think about it, there is an inherent waste associated with buying a car that only gets used on weekends, or building a hotel in an area where apartment rooms sit dormant in the summer. Sharing increases the utilization rate of an asset, whether that’s a hard asset or simply a piece of expert information. I'd argue software license fees are another great example of this "waste" because most Enterprise software customers use less than half of the features built out on a given platform. More on that later….

A couple months ago I was visiting New York and gave their new Citibike bike sharing service a try. It’s great because whether you’re a visitor staying in NYC for a few days like I was, a commuter from New Jersey or a native New York resident, you gain all the conveniences of owning your own bike without all the hassle. No bike transportation from the suburbs or even your 12th floor apartment, the risk of the bike being stolen is lowered, and there are ample opportunities to actually safely park your bike within a short walking distance from your destination. I outline these benefits because there is an analogy for every one of these benefits in open source communities and open source software.

Even though you might not see the word community highlighted in the marketing materials of Citibike or Uber, it really is the secret sauce behind the success for these business models. For instance, if there is no community of “room sharers” to offer the scale required in a particular city, then Airbnb won’t be successful in growing its business. Same goes for Uber drivers willing to create a part time sharing program for their own vehicle. The key is in the mutual benefits derived from sharing which offers a symbiotic relationship and creates a virtuous cycle of value for both parties. Perhaps not in the immediate short term, but most definitely over the longer term. While these new startups have really focused on the B2C opportunities, the model itself is actually grounded in the original principles of open source formed many many years ago.

With Open Source Drupal, value is created as developers across the globe “share” and contribute their code back to the community as they solve problems. But why share? That is the question I pondered upon originally joining Acquia 18 months ago from my proprietary software roots. The concept of sharing in the Drupal community isn’t 100% altruistic, just as Airbnb and other startups aren’t nonprofit companies. The developers in the Drupal community “profit” from the real information exchange and expertise that helps advance their career. In fact, this information exchange has been happening within the Drupal community since 1999 and its still growing rapidly today.

One specific market segment in Drupal has recently started gaining significant traction, just as these sharing company startups are gaining traction in the B2C world. Building external social communities (customer support communities, developer communities, or even partner ecosystem communities) using Drupal Commons has become the B2B2C extension of this new paradigm shift in the way our economy grows.

Drupal Commons, the freely available software distribution for building online social communities, is now seeing significant traction from very large Enterprise organizations in the High Tech, Publishing, Media and Entertainment, and Education verticals. These organizations are adopting Drupal Commons to help accelerate the creation of these online communities which help support each community members through tips and tricks, Q&A, security alerts, expert opinions, gamification and other real time information by tapping directly into the knowledge base of the community. But the ties to the new sharing economy don’t stop there as there are really two communities in action here. There is also a community of Drupal developers that is solving the challenges of what is takes to BUILD the high performance community software that is enabling the users and members to flourish. It’s the same motivation driving a support customer in a forum to help another customer as it is for a Drupal developer to contribute valuable code back to Drupal Commons. This is the double edged sword, which is driving the surge in customers using Open Source Drupal Commons for external community creation.

We have a number of new case studies highlighting how these organizations are using Commons for a variety of use cases including Daimler-Benz, National Apartment Association, Said Business School, and Cision. As, I mentioned, we are also in the middle of deploying Drupal Commons at some of the world’s largest and most innovative organizations and hope to publish additional case studies in coming months.

Overall, smart companies are realizing that the combination of reducing the internal support costs via an online community, combined with eliminating traditional software license fees for building that same community is becoming more and more compelling. In this disruptive business model, the creation of the support knowledge base and the reduction of the community software development costs are BOTH bolstered by the sharing economy. And as these communities grow in tandem, so does the innovation, time to market, and ROI benefits for the organization. Although it took me awhile to fully comprehend the sharing economy in action in the Drupal community, (a decade before the Ubers and Airbnb’s of the world), it has now become fully evident that this participation in Drupal Commons is giving our customers back much more than they originally put in.

Accordingly, we'd like to "share" with you the latest release of Drupal Commons 3.3 here.

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