DrupalCon Baltimore 2017: Thoughts on the community

I was fortunate enough to get to Baltimore for this year’s DrupalCon.  Here’s a few takeaways regarding Drupal’s open-source community.


The community is still strong.

There has been some major turbulence recently with the dismissal of a community member from his position as DrupalCon track chair.  It’s had repercussions about issues of both governance and what kind of community we want to be.  Lots of people have written very strong opinions on the matter.  Prior to the con, I was wondering whether there would be a major disruption.  I even heard rumors of plans to loudly protest the keynote.

There were no disruptions that I saw.  The most vocal members of the community on both sides were either not in attendance, or were willing to work through the existing channels to make their voices heard.  Certainly the topic came up a lot, but the tone I heard in my conversations was one of conciliation from both sides — how do we move forward, how do we keep this from happening again, how do we build a governance structure to deal with these kinds of situations, etc.

It seems clear: the community has internalized this as an opportunity for growth, and the community is still strong.


There’s a lot of people in Drupal who don’t keep up with the day-to-day of the community.

It’s easy to get the sense when you hang out in the Drupal Slack channels all day, read the Weekly Drop every week, and go to community events that every Drupaler is as engaged as you are.  That’s not the case.

This was brought home most by the fact that large numbers of people at the convention didn’t seem to know about (or at least hadn’t internalized) the above turbulence in the community.  Dries opened his keynote with a brief statement recognizing that there had been “some difficult times” without being explicit about what the difficulty was.  I saw several people around me in the audience turn to each other and ask what he was talking about, and heard from other attendees that there were similar discussions in the audience coming up during the Q&A afterwards.

This surprised me, and was heartening.  Clearly, I had developed tunnel vision, and had assumed that everybody knew about this issue.  On the contrary, Drupal was much bigger than I realized.  This is good for Drupal as a platform, as it means that there’s a wider base of users who have investment in Drupal’s continuing success.


The Drupal Diversity & Inclusion group has become a major pillar of the community.

The Drupal Diversity & Inclusion (DD&I) group was started one year ago at DrupalCon New Orleans, and its stature has grown rapidly.  The Slack channel (#diversity-inclusion) was a key gathering place for discussion over the last few months, and has played a significant role in discussing issues of community, diversity, and governance.  There were several diversity-focused sessions this year, and the ones I saw were well-attended.  The name of the group kept coming up in numerous different forums.  One of the co-founders of the group, Nikki Stevens, was also the winner of the Aaron Winborn memorial community award, which was great recognition for the group. (I’d be remiss not to mention that Aaron was a longtime Advoteam member and wonderful friend to many on our team.)

That is not to say that diversity is a solved problem within the Drupal Community.  Far from it.  Numbers are difficult to come by, but it’s obvious from a cursory look around DrupalCon Baltimore that the Drupal community still is lacking in representation.  It’s still largely comprised of middle- to upper-class white males, and that’s without getting into the very real issues that one can’t even visually identify in a crowd.

Still, I take heart from the fact that the community seems to be embracing diversity as a principle.  We’ve got a long way to go, but I hope that this can be a start.