Drupal Association to focus on governance, D8 launch

New executive director Holly Ross outlines Drupal Association's priorities

Holly Ross joined the Drupal Association on 1 February as its executive director. Techworld Australia caught up with Ross at DrupalCon Sydney seven days into her new role to chat about her background and the top priorities for the DA in 2013.

Prior to joining the DA, Ross was the executive director of the US-based Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). "Our mission was to help non-profits use technology to meet their own missions," Ross said. NTEN's work focuses on two key areas, Ross said: training and education, and community building.

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"That community building role was really the heart of [my] work. But it was really broad — so we talked about telephony and security and databases and social media and websites. It was really easy to stay focussed on the trends in each of those areas and not necessarily always have to know the minutiae. Obviously this community [Drupal] goes a lot deeper, so that'll be an interesting transition."

Ross said that one of the things that attracted her to the DA role after 10 years at NTEN was the international scope of the Drupal community.

"The idea that folks are out there, wanting to do this work around the world, and what that meant for community building, which I love to do, that was a huge part of it," she said.

During her time at NTEN Ross was a Drupal user. "I know the power of the platform," Ross said, "and I'm really excited about that technology, and really was very excited to come be engaged with it".

Ross sees the DA's role as twofold: To provide infrastructure, in the form of drupal.org, for the community's work, and to support the community itself and to try to grow it.

At DrupalCon Sydney, Drupal creator Dries Buytaert outlined ambitious goals for the Web platform, aiming to challenge the giants of the Web experience management world. Achieving the kind of growth that Buytaert thinks is possible — Drupal running 10 per cent of the world's websites, up from 2 per cent — will bring new challenges for the DA and Drupal community, Ross said.

"The Drupal community is known for being a 'do-ocracy' — if you're going to complain about it you're going to be able to fix it, have the tenacity to fix it," Ross said.

"And I think part of the ethos of the community also is, aligned with that, is that we're bootstrappers. We can make it ourselves; we're going to make it ourselves, we're going to make it all happen."

To achieve growth, the infrastructure and support that the DA provides to the community will have to start to scale, Ross said.

"D.o [drupal.org] is really limited in what it can do for the community right now and if we're going to grow Drupal from 2 per cent of the Web to 10 per cent of the Web, the resources available to our community have to scale with it, and ... the 'do it ourselves' ideology might not support that scaling."

She said a challenge that the DA faces is figuring out how to embrace the DIY attitude as much as possible while still being able to move the platform and community forward.

"We might not be able to use volunteers as extensively as we always have to make some of the changes needed to support the community," Ross said.

Governance, transparency

Ross said the top priorities for the DA for the year are working on governance processes for Drupal and the community, increasing transparency and communication, and backing the Drupal 8 launch, which is due at the end of the year.

"The challenge is that everyone's vision isn't necessarily Dries' vision, and it's the community that we're supposed to represent," Ross said.

"I think the biggest challenge is there is such a diversity of opinions about what should be happening — so finding a process by which we can say everyone put your two cents in and then out the other end will come the direction...

"Getting that place where the community [knows] that this is how it's going to work and how we're going to make a decision. You see that all through the Drupal community, even just when it's what changes to commit to the code. So there's a lack of clarity around who gets to make those calls and that's something as a community that we all have to really work on."

"Dries is heading up a governance process right now which I think is going to be helpful," Ross said.

"There are a number of community members involved in drafting an ideal process that they [will] vet with the community and get everyone bought into. That's meant to address the side of, 'How do we decide what goes into the code?' Then hopefully we can use the same models around the other kind of community decisions that need to get made."

Ross said that the DA will work on governance "in a number of very tactical ways". "We'll probably practice it in very small areas first as we get a feel for where the community wants to engage and how do we manage that process best..." An example she cited was exploring how to organise the upcoming DrupalCon Prague conference in September.

"I think another areas where the DA is really going to be working, is being a really good steward of community assets. So we will see that same sort of governance question come back to D.o when we're ready to tackle that after we've practiced it in a couple of places, and make sure that we put a governance process in there."

Developing better governance processes will increase transparency and communication, which are also priorities for the association, Ross said.

"Supporting the D8 launch, as well, is a big priority for the year. We obviously want that to be really successful so finding ways through the Drupal Association resources we can support community members in that launch"

Rohan Pearce is the editor of Techworld Australia and Computerworld Australia. Contact him at rohan_pearce at idg.com.au.

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

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