DrupalCon 2012: Denver Recap

Having just returned from my 3rd DrupalCon, I thought I should relay some of my thoughts and take aways from DrupalCon 2012: Denver.

Key Note:

Dries gave his usual keynote speech, where there was a lot of fanfare, thumping music (better than last year) and some information given on the direction of Drupal Core.

The Good:

Long overdue emphasis will be placed on the authoring experience out of the box for Drupal. This means that hopefully, they’ll get closer to the authoring experience people expect, where WYSIWYG, file/image management and linking to internal content is integrated and intuitive.

The Not So Good:

I was not happy to see that the Drupal Core team is seemingly running Drupal like a business, effectively blurring the line between the Acquia for-profit work and their open source collaborative work. It appeared to me that Venture Capitalists are now involved and are pulling the strings. Geez, there was even a SWOT analysis that was right out of the MBA 101 class.

One of his main bullet points for directions Drupal needs to go, is “figure out revenue model for distributions.” This jumped out at me, as people are already doing this. People already have premium theme stores, and premium modules….but the difference is that the founder, the core contributor for Drupal, is now saying that one of the core drupal pillars will be figuring out how to monetize pieces of the community. I have no problem with people monetizing Drupal for themselves. I have a big problem with that being the direction of the core leadership team.

It just seems to me that the focus is now on revenue, rather than collaboration. In one breath, he was talking about the need to innovate, or we’ll die off. I agree. But, I think monetizing Drupal from the core is exactly how you stifle innovation. I dont want Drupal to become another Mambo/Joomla debacle, where the process of finding a module/theme for your site is via ecommerce, instead of freely available community contributions.

I dont think Acquia is struggling for money either…they’ve built a whole industry around the Drupal platform. I think there’s a big conflict of interest going on, when the main players who decide the direction of the core code, are also responsible for the profit margin of their other business ventures….which is directly affected by the direction of the core code.

Even if they use an App Store (see below) model, where everything is 99c or something like that….it immediately cuts a lot of the community out of the process. It’s difficult, or sometimes impossible to get any money, no matter how small of an amount, to buy things at a higher ed institution. If we were forced to go through a purchase order, just to download a core piece of functionality (that previously was free)…then i think that’s the moment that people will jump ship and fork Drupal to create and return to the non-monetized model.

Drupal in Higher Ed

I enjoyed the few Higher Ed sessions. It’s great to get validation from total strangers that the direction I’m trying to take NC State in, is not crazy. At its root, the need in Higher Ed is to give people/units/departments/colleges the ability to create a branded, effective website without having to break the bank.

Everyone I talked to, without exception, agreed that there should be a common platform for people to stand up websites without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure. They agreed that there should be a common feature set (large enough to accomodate 90% of the use cases), which can be centrally maintained and kept up to date….so that the clients don’t have to.

I am making strides towards that solution, and hopefully by the next DrupalCon, I may have a session or BOF discussing the process.

Stanford have a good head start on this type of service, and I will hopefully be answering their call for Higher Ed Drupal shops to collaborate more to find common solutions to common problems.

IRC

Channels to find other higher ed or Drupal’ers on irc.freenode.net

#drupal-nc (North Carolina)

#drupal-edu

App Store

An interesting concept, but not a new one. Drupal already has “features.” An App Store is basically a “store” that hosts features…a collection of modules/settings that add a piece of functionality to your Drupal site.

The Good:

Another way to find contributed modules that are bundled to provide enhanced features, so that I dont have to build it myself.

The Not So Good:

Yet another step in the direction of monetizing every single piece of the Drupal puzzle. I hope that this App Store concept only catches on in the community, and does not make its way onto Drupal.org as a for-pay offering.

Accessibility  Module

http://drupal.org/project/accessible_content

This is awesome. Simply awesome. I will be implementing it soon in all my distributions. The screencast here shows how great this module can be for those of us concerned with remaining accessible after handing off a site to a client.

I have a lot more to say on some of these topics, but if i waited to get it all on paper, i’d never hit publish. So…if you want to chat about any of this, catch up with me in either of the IRC channels (#drupal-nc or #drupal-edu).