DrupalCon, the annual conference of Drupalists worldwide, is full of energy. Recently, the community had struggled with things like the slow release cycle of Drupal for example, but there seems to very little residual negativity from that floating around (or perhaps all the singing and lederhosen in the pre-note blasted it out of the room). DrupalCons have always been a generally positive and highly anticipated event.
“If you think about it’,” Dries said, we're a global community of thousands of contributors across more than 250 countries in the world. This means that nearly all the work is virtual. So when we come together, people are happy to see each other and collaborate in person. It almost makes it more like a family reunion than a conference.”
One of the points of pride of the Drupal community for Dries is that it’s not just made of impassioned developers. For Drupal to succeed, there is a need for a large number of non-developer contributors, from designers to marketers to documentation writers, to project managers, to event organizers, sales people and much more. Even the Drupal core committer team has diversified with the addition a UX designer.
“I spoke to a person once, invited him to contribute a bug fix, and provided some help along the way,” Dries said. Now he runs a Drupal shop with more than 30 employees that gives back to Drupal a lot. Getting people involved with small way can pay huge dividends, which is why onboarding new contributors is so important.”
Dries at DrupalCon is very different from Dries at Acquia. While he may be our fearless leader, he’s pretty much a celebrity in Vienna. Walking the halls with him, he’s stopped every few feet by fellow Drupalists. Conversation range from ideas and pitches to genuine thanks for creating Drupal and leading the community.
And of course, there are several selfies taken (despite my offer to take the photo). But Dries himself, despite his leadership roles, considers himself as an introvert at heart and often more of a consultant, helping to gather other brilliant minds to combat technical challenges. He helps to guide the ship that way. Dries created Drupal as a creative outlet for himself and still at times, seems genuinely surprised and elated at how much it means to people today.
The Driesnote always starts with the State of Drupal as a whole. I won’t recap the entire thing because Dries already did that, but here are the highlights. Drupal is growing; from the 2017 Drupal Business Survey, surveyed 239 executives from Drupal agencies, 38 percent reported they are exclusively using Drupal 8. In regards to D8, it has become much more mature with 1400 stable modules, a 2x increase from year. In addition, there are 4,000 Drupal 8 modules in development. In parallel, the growth of headless or decoupled CMS has been rapid, with some agencies reporting a 500 percent growth year over year.
Why does this matter? Because it means Drupal itself has, in Dries’ opinion, no longer become the platform for simple sites. This declaration rattled some in the community, as Drupal hosts many blogs, portfolio and small business sites. But this is becoming the lower end of the Drupal market, as many more mid-market to enterprise level companies are looking toward open source frameworks to create what Dries calls “ambitious digital experiences.” This doesn’t mean Drupal is only for global mega-brands. Drupal is for anyone looking to create something unique, be it an art museum looking to engage art lovers in cool ways or a start-up with a big idea that expects their website to showcase something totally new and innovative.
There were several calls to action Dries made to the Drupal Community, but the two big ones were:
- Automatic Updates: Industry leaders like Apple and Microsoft have already figured out how to do automatic updates; Drupal should as well. Automatic updates would serve as security best practice as well. We all know hacks can severely damage a brand.
The negativity or reluctance to adopt something he has proposed doesn’t really deter Dries; he understands that with any major change Drupal, it can mean developers having to completely re-learn something they’ve already invested sometimes years in. It can be frustrating. Though he’s sympathetic to that frustration, Drupal would not continue to exist without the continued innovation from release to release.
So what does Dries hope to see in Drupal’s immediate future? It’s pretty simple really; The transition from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 be completed and the for the community to continue on a positive trajectory. The good news is, those things seem to be on their way.