September 20, 2012

My Responses to Questions asked during the "Meet the Candidates" session for Drupal Association Board Elections

Here are my responses to questions asked at an online 'town hall' meeting that occurred Tuesday, September 18th for the Drupal Association's annual Board elections. I am currently running for a seat on that board.

This year there are an incredible number of terrific candidates, so while I don't love my chances for election, I bring a different set of skills from many of the existing board members as well as those running. If elected, those who know me can attest that I will do the best job I can in representing the needs of the Drupal community.

Q: If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the Drupal Association, what would it be and why?

On the phone call I brought up the notion of localizing our organized efforts in support of the Drupal Association's mandate. The idea would be to define a couple of local roles that could work in a more intimate, grassroots fashion with any given community. Just an example of a few roles could include DA local Drupalcamp liaison, local media contact, local sponsor liaison, and so on. First off, you might not need these particular roles, I'm just throwing them out there. The board would decide the fewest number practical for starters, then take it from there.

This would provide some continuity within a community, good bidirectional communication between the DA board and/or staff and challenges or opportunities within a community/market, and also possible opportunities for sharing across analogous roles in different markets.

We might start this just in a few major cities AS WELL AS a couple of spots where we really want the Drupal community to grow and so we want to plant a seedling in that area in the form of a local DA 'representative.'

Q: How much money should the DA spend each year on furthering Drupal?

I think the more interesting question here is how the money should be allocated in support of the Drupal project. Certainly an important part of the DA's mandate is to spread news and information out as far and wide as possible, and I think that the PR and marketing budget should be a healthy one. Obviously the 'messaging' is something that should be really well thought out. I think that's been going well, frankly. Of course everything can be improved upon. There are 'threats' to the messaging that we'll want to address, both by the DA and with calls for assistance from the community (recall the crappy screed against Drupal written by Chris Wilson on back in 2009, or the FUD 'white paper' written by SiteCore that lambasted Drupal and other opensource projects). People who don't necessarily know better believe these things, and so the DA does need to be attentive (and on top of disseminating news about Drupal in a proactive way spreading the good word, not necessarily just reactive damage control).

Another area that the DA needs to spend money is in creating a climate where learning opportunities are somehow rewarded. I periodically take a look at the usual Drupal sites that publicize training, and I still feel that our community could be creating far more opportunities. I do not suggest that the DA should be actually conducting the training. We just need to think strategically about how to create a climate where training opportunities are found everywhere and often.

Still another area I think the DA can be effective is in the way we reach out to the Computer Science departments of Universities to discuss adding Drupal (and believe it or not, PHP, which is woefully absent!) to their curricula. Sounds impossible, but honestly I did just that with a different technology about 10 years ago when I was guest lecturing at RIT. I began to develop a relationship with professors and the chair up there, and believe me, they are interested in hearing what's hot out there. We can't assume they know – true, the modern CS department should be concerned with turning out a well-rounded architect/developer. However, the Universities are deeply concerned that their students find great work after they graduate. So I think we can spend some time – and money – reaching out to the Universities.

Q: How much of that money should come from the users of Drupal vs sponsorships or advertising?

Funding should be coming from all members of the Drupal community. This isn't just developers or implementation shops. One of the things I've worked hard to do in NYC is discuss with enterprise corporations that use Drupal what their obligations are to the project. Thus, while we can always count on organizations like Phase2, Chapter Three or Lullabot and many others for funding, we must reach out to end user organizations such as Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the World Wrestling Federation, NBCU and, to mention just a miniscule number of big companies using Drupal, to provide funding. I have approached a few of these and they have been willing to fund things like our camps. Others, not so much YET. But they will, particularly through thoughtful communication from the DA.

Q: How would you help make the Drupal Association reach out to parts of the world that aren't yet active in our community? How can we be more international?

Nurturing a community is challenging to do remotely. If there's a part of the world that we want to nurture, first question I ask, is there a person or a few people there that are there who are trying? What resources can we provide them? Is there someone we can convince to go there for a short while (missionary? Yes, you can shoot me now, WE ARE NOT A CULT! ) to help that community grow?

I think that we could also be making it easier for people to interact. Like most communities that grow organically, the communication seems spidered out across contrib initiatives, vertical markets, geographies, vendors, vets vs. noobs, and so forth. Without making any specific recommendations at the moment, I think it would be worthwhile to discuss the kinds of tools and protocols that have been successful here and there beyond just IRC and g.d.o/d.o that could help us communicate more effectively internationally.

Q: What is your biggest annoyance with Drupal.Org currently?

I like where things are going and I appreciate the amount of work that people are doing to manage d.o and g.d.o infrastructure. Also, making changes to a platform that thousands of people interact with isn't easy! It is not easy to elicit, validate, then verify functional requirements for that vast a body of people spanning geographies, interests, and cultures. I think we're heading in the right way on d.o.

If I would express annoyance at anything, it would be more around g.d.o, we really could be doing a better job of adding functionality that will help the local communities be more effective in communicating and interacting. While we're on it, I have a feeling that the localized permissions are both a little stale and arbitrarily bequeathed. It would be nice for that to get looked at. Again, might tie back to that notion of some localized DA representative managing permissions to localized g.d.o (and hopefully enhanced) functionality.

Q: What role do you see for the DA in developing and/or certifying formalized Drupal training/testing?

I addressed this question earlier. I do not believe it is in the DA's mandate to develop training programs or certifying people. I feel that both endeavors are actually quite worthwhile, but until the DA Board votes to extend that charter to include that offering, I think the DA should not offer those.

However, the DA should definitely create the conditions/climate that somehow rewards organizations for doing so. My persistent worry is that anyone can then put out a shingle and say they are certifying someone in Drupal. Certifying to do what? Build modules? Build out the site infrastructure? Site build? Theme?

There are regulations from the Federal and State departments of education on what can be called a licensed 'certification' entity. To me, shops and training companies can and should definitely offer classes. But the Universities or technical colleges are where we at the DA should be going to have these certification programs implemented.

Q: What community leadership have you shown that you think positions you well to be a community representative on the board?

In the publishing technology community, I have spoken at major conferences over the past 15 years of my career (Gilbane, Createasphere, Lavacon, AIIM, Henry Stewart, etc). I have also written articles for various trade publications on the state of the industry and where I believe things are going with multichannel technologies.

In the Drupal community I have served as a co-organizer for Drupalcamps in the past two years. I hope to continue doing so in the future. They're fun to put on. New York is a tough community to organize things. There are a great many competing interests, and we don't always make ourselves look very good in the eyes of the world. But, it is a flourishing, passionate, and VERY bright bunch of people that love Drupal. And we're making it work. I enjoy serving that group.

In my local community I have also been active in fundraising and other activities for local public schools in Manhattan.

For my alma mater, Brown University, I had in the past served as the alumni President for a 5 year term. I have, in the past, also been quite active in planning events and in fundraising for my college.

In the triathlon and running community I have volunteered as race support, and recently took the additional volunteer step of becoming the race manager for the Tri-State (NY) team Duathlon championships, which will be held October 14th in Central Park.

Q: Question is related to Governance VS Operations at the DA. Where are the lines between what the Board should do vs Staff? For example - who should be directing mission vs strategic planning vs program management?

IMO the Board should be engaged in strategic planning and the staff should be supporting that strategic work through execution of the mandate(s) and following up with communication on how things are going.

However, having said that, the DA staff members are the front lines of communication to a vast array of Drupal community members as well as outsiders looking in. We owe it to ourselves to also offer them opportunities to communicate to us what they're hearing from the 'membership' as well as those in outer circles.

Q: What is the greatest threat to the Drupal project today and what should the DA's role be in ameliorating/resolving that threat?

I had asked this question. I am not a religious man by any stretch of the imagination, but when I was young I heard a Rabbi's sermon about a concept in the Talmud called "Sinat Chinam" Or 'baseless hatred.' Like any community, the petty jealousies or competing interests of different people can rip that community asunder. Continually finding ways to team-build within the community, also to bring in 'new blood,' to recognize the value of all the different contributors, and to address any flare-ups that many of us have (in)advertently stepped into, would go a long way to helping strengthen the community to achieve in greater things than it already has.

Q: how do candidates define the Drupal 'community'?
And, developers Vs users...

The Drupal community is a broad ecosystem of developers, site builders, themers, infrastructure gurus, project managers, functional/business analysts, trainers, documentation specialists, content producers, and on and on. Recognizing respecting all of their contributions is consistent with a healthy community.

I found it frustrating when I first found Drupal in 2006, having had a good 20+ years of implementing extremely amazing and awesome technologies, not to be welcomed particularly warmly at first. My feeling about that is, anyone who comes to our door and makes inquiry, we have got to be more respectful about what they can bring to the table. Doesn't mean there won't be 'takers' that come. But honestly, I really still believe that most people will default to sharing and volunteering when given the chance.

Q: If you weren't running, which of the other candidates do you think would be great for the board?

There are so many different people running this year, it is going to be a tough decision. With two slots, I'd love to see one filled by someone who takes a broad view of how Drupal fits into the ecosystem of content technologies – technologies like digital asset management, editorial workflow, semantic enrichment, multichannel content delivery. That's been my career and passion since my early days playing w/ a computer that my dad built back in the 70's, so I'd like to think I'd be a good fit for that seat at the table.

Posted at 04:05 pm by Joseph Bachana

Drupal Association Organization Member

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