The Drupal Support Gap

The Problem We lack a clear and inviting path from discovering Drupal and learning how to use it to becoming an active and productive contributor. As a result, our most active developers are plagued by the support demands of intermediate users who have outgrown the Drupal.org forums and don't know where to go. This effect is compounded both by our failure to attract and assimilate new highly qualified support-givers, and the myriad bad behaviors that newbies are learning in "newbie ghettos" such as the forums -- behaviors that make it difficult-to-impossible to adequately support them and bring them into the wider Drupal community. The Solution Phase out the Drupal.org forums in favor of a more straightforward Q&A format resource. Treat posts that resource as not just the answering of this question here and now, but building a useful searchable reference into the future. Be brutal in eliminating off-topic chatter and duplication (but as kind as possible in explaining why a question was closed) ala StackExchange. Provide easy gateways from that resource to more active participation in the Drupal community: IRC, issue queues, doc team, translation teams, GDO, etc. Improve the consistency of IRC and Q&…

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Prerequisites

I was recently asked what one needs to know before becoming a Drupal developer. It's a tricky question, both because Drupal draws strength from the diversity of our community, and because it's hard to pinpoint the precise point where one becomes a dev. Below is my attempt at an answer; feel free to suggest additions or changes: The Basics Have Patience Rome wasn't built in a day, nor will your Drupal-fu be. Prepare for trial and error; it's part of life in the open source world. Speak Fluent English While Drupal itself has been translated for use in many languages, the lingua franca for development is English. English is spoken in the issue queues, on the [contributor IRC channel)(irc://irc.freenode.net/drupal-contribute), and at DrupalCons. If you don't speak, read, and write English fluently, you will miss out on most of what is going on, and you will never reach a high level of Drupal developer-fu. Use Drupal You might think this goes without saying, but we do get wanna-be devs who don't really grok what Drupal is or how to install it. It's not necessary to be an expert Drupal admin before your first issue queue visit,…

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Inside the Drupal toolbox.

Today's BoF for new Drupal contributors went better than I could have hoped. I've seen three of the participants in the issue queue already! One thing that came up at the BoF session was taht new contributors aren't always sure how to set up their dev environment and choose tools that will make playing in the issue queue easier chx* nano, komodo, bzr, kubuntu chx* lots and lots of good music is very important to get you in the groove (see my blog post on flow) wonder95* MAc Book Pro, AMP setup using MacPorts, Komodo IDE with xdebug and FF Xdebug Helper extensions, prefer Git jcfiala* komodo, mercurial. Either wamp or virtualbox to work in ubuntu. sepeck* notepad++ joshuarogers* Geany scyrma* debian, vim (and cgvg package), xdebug .. local lamp stack. merlinofchaos* all my servers are CentOS 5 servers running apache/php etc. I use EditPlus as my editor and samba so that I can use my windows tools on the files. Most other stuff I do via putty to ssh to the linux server. webchick* I use vim for most hacking, then Komodo when I need to deal with, like, Form API or node access. CVS for Drupal.org, Subversion…

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OSCMS Summit and Drupalcon -- Day 2

I started the morning with a round of Drupal lightning talks -- eleven topics in sixty minutes. dww even convinced me that if I ever actually have free time, I should pitch in a bit on project module. Dries' "State of Drupal" talk was excellent, though the audience as a whole didn't seem to react well to the bit about eliminating the webmaster, developer, designer, etc. The whispers and whines in the crowd implied that some people found those statements threatening. I'm mentioning this because I didn't feel that way, and I'd like my fellow geeks to know why: web technology is an ever-evolving industry. I've been doing system administration since the early 1990's, working with open source software since 1995, and playing with web technologies on and off since the 1990's as well. NOTHING is like it used to be, and I'm still here. So are a lot of other people. There was a time when the end-all and be-all of being a webmaster was smashing text and some basic HTML into static pages, then updating them by hand any time anyone wanted to make a change. Then came scripting and databases -- suddenly you could code your way…

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OSCMS Summit and Drupalcon -- Day 1

I started OSCMS by making hasty child care arrangements from my cell phone in the airport Wednesday night, due to my mom's flight being canceled in the eleventh hour. Everything worked out, though I also spent a large part of Thursday on the phone, ducking in and out of sessions to coordinate the situation at home. My poor mother finally made it to my place late Thursday night. I'm still glad I went, though I feel pretty bad that my mom went through all of those delays and cancellations. Rasmus Lerdorf's talk alone made the trip worth it. He's an even better public speaker than I'd heard, and I learned some new things about PHP, including the existence of some tools I can't believe I didn't know about. The OpenID talk was well done, but really didn't tell me anything new. I changed my mind about "Theming Drupal" and instead went to chx's talk on the new menu system. I am glad that I did. Not only did I learn quite a bit, but I ran in to webchick, the first of my fellow Drupalers besides chx to whom I could match nick, real name, and face. She is even…

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DrupalCon & Open Source CMS Summit at Yahoo!

Update: I found a roommie, yay! I can't wait to see you all at the summit. I'm trying to figure out how I can attend DrupalCon 2007 at the Open Source CMS Summit sponsored by Yahoo! The summit and related events are free, so it's mostly a matter of child care (got it covered) and affording transportation and the hotel stay. If any non-smokers in Washington would like to carpool to Sunnyvale, or any nonsmoking webmonkeys would like to split a hotel room with an easygoing lady geek, please let me know. I'm a night owl, I don't hog the bathroom, and I'm happy sharing accommodations with geeks of any gender. Please note that I am deathly allergic to cigarette smoke, so not smoking in the car/room isn't good enough -- you really have to be a nonsmoker.…

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