Why I'm voting for whom I'm voting for in the Drupal Association election

old voting machine

For those who don't know: I served on the DA Board in 2010-2011, and was on the Governance Committee that developed the new structures. Before that I was in the General Assembly. I'm currently on the Advisory Board.

But I share my opinions here as a long-time member of the Drupal community who cares about the future of Drupal.

Criteria: more than good intentions

Last year, the Nominating Committee (on which I served) considered many aspects when evaluating potential candidates for the Drupal Association Board, including (in no particular order):

  • Skill sets. (We needed people with diverse areas of expertise, be it financial, legal, organizational....)
  • Competence in their field. (We wanted A players.)
  • Industry. (We did not want to have a Board comprised of mostly Drupal consultants, for example. Given that consultants as a whole tend to be more active in Drupal than others, this is an issue we will always face. Even so, the perspectives of various sectors are valuable — government, publishing, education, not-for-profit, corporate, etc.)
  • Company. (We had a rule that we didn't want any one company represented by more than one Board member. This eliminated a handful of otherwise very qualified candidates. We made an "exception" with Angie Byron, because of her fabulous community leadership and because Dries, under the Bylaws, automatically has a seat on the Board.)
  • Geographic diversity. (We knew we had to reach out worldwide. This made for a challenge, because of the greater travel requirements that come from having Board members scattered across the globe, but considered it worth trying.)
  • Drupal Ecosystem. (We wanted the various perspectives of the members of our community: volunteers, small shops, large shops, large integrators, in-house teams, designers, end-users, etc.)
  • Outside perspectives. (We needed to reach outside of our own Drupal echo chamber so we could draw upon knowledge and expertise from, e.g., other FOSS organizations who faced similar challenges already.)

I am looking at the same things when considering the nominees who have put up their names for at-large Board members in 2013, but here are a few criteria that, for me, weigh higher than the others this year:

  • Skill sets and expertise. And in this, I mean awesome track record, not impressive resumes. Whether elected by the community or recruited through the Nominating Committee process, all of our Board members need to be A-players, not well-meaning B- or C-players. We should expect nothing but excellence from our elected Directors.
  • Geographic diversity. The DA is clearly still very heavily weighted towards a North American perspective. To me, the long-term viability of the Drupal Association depends upon geographic diversity of its decision makers, and right now I feel non-North American voices are needed. We're a global community, but how that's reflected in the DA Board is ... incomplete. I'm looking at non-North American candidates first.

However, with all that said, criteria for selection are only half of the equation. It behooves us all to consider....

The business of the Drupal Association

I feel it's best if those of us voting consider what the Drupal Association is doing, and what very real challenges the Board faces, before weighing the candidates to the above criteria (or whatever criteria you bring to bear). Here are just a few items.

What is DrupalCon to you?


Yesterday, we had a Drupal Association Board Meeting to discuss upcoming DrupalCons. The meeting ran very long as we discussed and debated what criteria we should consider in selecting cities for DrupalCons in 2012, 2013 and beyond. Passions ran hot at times as we hashed out our thoughts on our evolving process for making these decisions.

  • What is the purpose of DrupalCon?
  • What components make for a great DrupalCon?
  • What factors play into selecting a city for throwing a majorly successful DrupalCon?

In the end, I feel that we made a lot of progress in this meeting. This post is not a debrief of this meeting, though, but rather is a collection of some of my own thoughts about DrupalCon, shared as a member of the Drupal community.

Growing presents challenges

As Drupal continues to grow so quickly, the Drupal Association has been working hard to adapt. The community is many times larger than when I joined it over 6 years ago, even since when the Drupal Association launched in 2006.

  • Members on Drupal.org are now over 1 million 515784. [I stand corrected. User id's are over 1000000, but many accounts have withered, were never used after registration, or turned out to be spammers who were blocked. And since about uid 600000 the uid numbers have been incremented by 5 2, not 1. Even so, that's a lot more than when I first joined.]
  • There are more Drupal Meetups happening around the world ... and many meetups are growing in size.
  • Drupal Camps in various cities are proliferating and growing. Many are now bigger than DrupalCons were just a few years ago.

No question: People want their Drupal, and they want their Drupal events.

Worldwide there are all kinds of Drupal community events of all sizes. For the Drupal Association, we've decided to focus our attention (for now) just on DrupalCons, as they are the most challenging to pull off, most expensive to produce, and are the only Drupal events that are primarily international in nature. Who else but the Drupal Association is in a position to produce DrupalCons?

(We've been testing ways to support regional Drupal Camps, and are looking for ways to help support Drupal Meetups, code sprints, hackathons, and other smaller community events that help people get better at Drupal and get more involved in the Drupal community. More on that in 2011....)

On the Drupal Association Board, I think we're all in general agreement that DrupalCon is about serving the Drupal community. But what that phrase "serving the Drupal Community" actually means can differ, depending upon whom you ask. Each of us on the Board has his or her own idea. This is what we ended up discussing in great depth — or as much as could be covered in 6 hours.

But difference of opinion about DrupalCon mirrors the diversity of the greater Drupal community. Indeed, yesterday, as word of our discussion got out, some people began tweeting thoughts and attitudes about DrupalCons. (I'm not going to try to characterize those tweets, or the thoughts of anyone else. We all have our own ideas. Perhaps you will share your own thoughts in comments below?)

It's about the community

Drupal is fabulously powerful software, no question. The ways it can be used to build quickly all kinds of powerful websites and web apps that otherwise would require potentially tens of thousands of programming hours to get off the ground make Drupal extremely appealing to businesses and individuals alike. I'm simply thrilled by the success Drupal has enjoyed in the online world, and delight being able to draw upon Drupal for solutions to challenges I face every day at work at PINGV Creative.

My DrupalCon San Fransciso session: Grok Drupal (7) Theming

The Way Drupal Theming Was

When I started Drupal theming in 2004, it was all a bit overwhelming. Back then, the core theme engine was something called Xtemplate, and it gave the impression to the n00b themer of being a great big mess. When you looked at the page template, it was one big blob of markup and logic, and it was very hard to figure out to change just about anything. What's more, it seemed to be very brittle: change something and you got the white screen of death.

And thus life was for the themer through Drupal 4.5 and the beginnings of 4.6.

New Drupal Theming Power

Then, in 2005, came the PHPTemplate theme engine, thanks to Adrian Rossouw (now with Development Seed), and the heavens opened up.

Suddenly (well, not suddenly, as it took a lot of work) Drupal templating had a structural logic: a nested system that simplified the clutter, gave us defined variables to work with, and provided the basis for extending the system. This was really really cool — so cool that it immediately became the theme engine of choise, and, with Drupal 4.7, it became the theme engine for Drupal core.

I was so excited about it, I did my first Drupal conference presentation on it, at OSCMS 2007 at the Yahoo! campus in Sunnyvale. (It was part of a larger topic of overriding display upon which I collaborated with Greg Knaddison and Ezra Barnett Gildesgame, now of Growing Venture Solutions. The PDF of my slides are available here, though they're pretty outdated now.)

Since then the Drupal theming system has evolved and improved. There are a lot of nifty techniques, tricks, best practices that are available to the themer. What's essential is having a good understanding of the underlying architecture, because that's how you can figure out where to look, how to go about making the changes you want to make the theme yours.

No PHP knowledge is required ... beyond knowing not to muck with what's between the <?PHP ... ?> tags. Of course, knowing some PHP can help. But you can also pick up the basics as you go, if you want to delve into the coded bits.

Learning Drupal Theming in 2010

My session proposed for DrupalCon SF on Drupal theming basics brings a comprehensive look at the Drupal theming system and how the front-end developer new to Drupal can take charge of the output by taking advantage of what Drupal gives you.

You won't come out an expert — that would be a ridiculous promise — but you will come out able to start rocking your own themes. You will have a solid understanding how the Drupal theme is structured, how the various templates work together, how to define regions, how to add your own targeted CSS files and scripts, use of subthemes, some good base themes to work from, how to do custom overrides of obscure, quirky or persnickety output using preprocess ... and you'll grok theming in such a way that even if you don't know how to do something, you'll know how to go about figuring it out, where to look, what to change, etc.

And because we're about to enter the age of Drupal 7, this presentation will be about these things for Drupal 7 (with some notes on how things have changed from Drupal 6). So this session could also be of interest to the experienced Drupal themer who hasn't had a chance to delve much into Drupal 7 yet.

12 ways how not to "do" a conference

Having just returned from DrupalCon Paris 2009 with mixed feelings as to how I forged my own experience there, I thought I'd put down some thoughts on conference attendance and participation — what (not) to do.

When your hotel is in Cambridge

math forumulae

...you might expect to see in the hotel a bedspread like this. Kate told me immediately that she could define each one. Of course I felt like a mental mouse.

So here's a challenge: What do these formulae mean? (And John and Rad, you can answer only one -- give everyone else a chance!)

Quite an auspicious way to kick off a week of Drupal, I'd say.

Get yer yayas out! DrupalCon propsals deadline approaches

Drupal developers, designers, administrators and users, the time is now to submit your session proposals for DrupalCon Boston 2008.

There also are some discounted hotel rooms available, but the pricing is available only until February 18th.

Are you going to Boston? If you're not sure, consider this: You will be with nearly 1000 Drupal aficionados, including many luminaries in our Drupal community. If you have any interest and even just a smidge of passion for Drupal, and if prior DrupalCons are any indication, you will come away with a real buzz, with new knowledge about all sorts of things Drupal, with new business and social contacts, and perhaps a few new lifelong friends. For me, it's fun matching Drupal handles and faces, and wonderful to hear the voices behind what for most of us are just typed words in IRC, emails and forums.

I went to OSCMS 2007 and DrupalCon Barcelona 2007, and both times I came away with a real high. DrupalCon Boston 2008 stands to be as big as both of those combined, and with the Drupal 6 launch coming any day now, this is going to be the Drupal event not to miss!

Hope to see you there!

¡Bon dia des Barcelona! (Things I would have Twittered if I had had the time.)

Sunday night, 8:35pm
foundnd passport that has been missing for several months.

Sunday night, 8:35:05pm
realized that I can now go to DrupalCon Barcelona 2007.

Sunday night, 8:36pm
opened up Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity to look up airfares....

Sunday night, 8:42pm
agonizing over how much they've gone up.

Sunday night, 11:38pm
bought round-trip plane ticket.

Sunday night, 11:47pm
realized that I am indeed going to Barcelona. The usual pre-travel anxiety is setting in. Ack!

Monday, 10:57am
trying to do all the things that I would have taken a week to do, had I had a week before leaving.

Monday, 5:00pm
managed to cover the entire todo list. now going for essential manicure/pedicure.

Monday, 5:05pm
Reveling in the foot bath and massage.

Monday, 6:12pm
got home and had a glass of wine.

Monday, 7:23pm
started packing.

Tuesday, 12:35am
stopped packing. (Not finished, but somewhat close. I'm terrible at packing.)

Tuesday, 4:45am
got up and showered

Tuesday, 8:05am
got through Denver International Airport security. Not much of a crowd but we had to walk all the zigs and zags of the line. Disneyland.

Tuesday, 8:45am
sat down for a Wolfgang Puck pizza. Just about the earliest I've ever eaten a fresh-baked pizza!

Tuesday, 10:45am
Wheels up.

Tuesday, 3:45pm
Landed in Philly.

Tuesday, 4:10pm
Walked a mile through the airport to the international terminal. Thankfully all behind security.

Tuesday, 4:30pm
Airline agent okayed my first-class upgrade request. Now $500 poorer.

Tuesday, 6:17pm
Taking my seat in first class. A glass of champagne and four feet of "legroom" ... Not regretting those $500 one bit!

Tuesday, 7:05pm
Plane still has not taken off. Apparently a radio is defective.

Tuesday, 7:20pm
All passengers were offloaded from the plane. We're told we can get $10 off for "dinner" at McDonald's down another terminal.

Tuesday, 7:45pm
Stopped at a restaurant after walking a mile. Ordered a wine and salmon dinner.

Tuesday, 8:30pm
Airline has changed estimated departure from 9:30pm to 10:30pm.

Tuesday, 8:32pm
Airline worker just announced that they may not be able to fix the plane and have to cancel the flight.

Tuesday, 8:36pm
The plane has been fixed. Everyone is crushing back onto the plane.

Tuesday, 9:15pm
Plane is getting in line for take-off.

Tuesday, 9:40pm
Wheels up.

Tuesday, 10:15pm
Looking forward to more wine and filet dinner.

Wednesday, 1:00am
Reclined almost flat. Going to sleep now.

Wednesday, 11:55am
Touchdown in Barcelona.

Wednesday, 12:35pm
Wow! Passport check was fast, my bag came around the conveyor quickly, and customs just ignored me as I walked by. Getting a cab.

Wednesday, 12:50pm
A taxi driver has grabbed my bag out of my hand. I guess he's going to drive me where I'm going.

Wednesday, 1:45pm
Despite the address and Google Map printout of the destination, the driver is lost.

Wednesday, 2:10pm
Driving up and down streets, I saw the DrupalCon sign. The driver stopped in the middle of the narrow street. I've arrived!

Wednesday, 2:15pm
Realized I am seriously jet-lagged.


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