Three years ago, I ended 2012 with a call to the Drupal community to Get Off the Island. Mainly I wanted to encourage Drupal developers to prepare themselves for the major changes coming in Drupal 8 by connecting with other PHP projects and with the broader community, and called on people to attend non-Drupal conferences in order to visit and learn from other communities.
Two weeks ago (hey, I've been busy and trying to sleep for once), after 1716 days of work by more than 3312 people the Drupal community finally released Drupal 8, the latest release of the best community-driven web software in the world. The blogosphere is already filled with congratulatory blog posts celebrating the immense accomplishment, and deservedly so.
A number of people recently have asked me how I feel about Drupal 8's release, especially around the PHP community. Overall, my answer has to be that I'm happy, but not satisfied.
A few weeks ago I gave a keynote presentation at PNW PHP in Seattle. It was the second time I'd given that particular talk, Eating ElePHPants, a quasi-history and lessons-learned of the process of rebuilding Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.
Overall reception was good, and afterward I was appraoched by a woman who was trying to push for better development practices and refactoring a legacy code base at her company. We've exchanged a few emails since, as she goes about trying to subvert her company's development process for its own good to introduce testing, refactoring legacy code, decoupling, and other concepts that many of us on the conference circuit take for granted.
In the course of that email conversation, she had this to say:
When I first started with this entire effort about 2 months ago, I thought I will never succeed, and I thought I had set myself up to failure - until I heard you speak about your experience. Your talk was highly inspiring and got me excited to invest more time into what I was doing and I believed in myself for the reasons I chose this effort.
All the tech talks helped me realize that I can get somewhere, made it seem within reach, but you and Adam Culp [who also gave a session on refactoring] left me inspired.
In case you hadn't heard yet, Drupal 8 RC 1 is out. And there has been much rejoicing! I'm going to save my own lengthy celebration-and-thank-you post for the 8.0.0 release, so for now I will just point everyone at Campbell Vertesi's post and say "what he said!".
But it's also a good time to consider the impact that Drupal 8 has had on the PHP community. The "off the island" movement has grown large, and people outside of Drupal are echoing the same message. In fact, not one but two conferences this fall are actively trying to build bridges between PHP sub-communities: ZendCon and php[world].
Periodically, there is a complaint that PHP conferences are just "the same old faces". That the PHP community is insular and is just a good ol' boys club, elitist, and so forth.
It's not the first community I've been part of that has had such accusations made against it, so rather than engage in such debates I figured, let's do what any good scientist would do: Look at the data!
Update 2015-08-25: The Joind.in folks have given me permission to release the source code. See link inline. I also updated the report to include a break down by continent.
As most who have met me know, building collaborative communities is a minor passion of mine. 2 years ago, I called on the Drupal community to Get off the Island and connect with other communities.
That call was part of a larger movement within the PHP community to interact more, connect more, and collaborate more than ever before. The PHP Renaissance has been driven in no small part by that greater collaboration between many different PHP communities.
And as a final capstone, I made a challenge to the entire PHP community: Don't just talk to each other, build with each other. Get out of your comfort zone and learn something new, from someone else.
Happy New Year, PHP. Let's Build Something Good together.
Let's be honest, I spend a lot of time at conferences. Over the past 2 years or so I've averaged more than one speaking engagement at a conference per month, including a half-dozen keynotes. I've also helped organize several conferences, mostly DrupalCamps and DrupalCons. I'd estimate conferences make up more than a third of my professional activity. (Incidentally, if someone can tell me how the hell that happened I'd love to hear it; I'm still confused by it.)
As a result I've gotten to see a wide variety of conference setups, plans, crazy ideas, and crazy wonderful ideas. There are many wonderful things that conference organizers do, or do differently, and of course plenty of things that they screw up.
I want to take this opportunity to share some of that experience with the organizers of various conferences together, rather than in one-off feedback forms that only one conference will see. To be clear, while I definitely think there are areas that many conferences could improve I don't want anyone to take this letter as a slam on conference organizers. These are people who put in way more time than you think, often without being paid to do so, out of a love for the community, for learning and sharing, and for you. Whatever else you may think about a conference or this list, the next time you're at a conference take a moment to find one of the organizers and give them a huge hug and/or firm handshake (as is their preference) and say thank you for all the work that they do.
Over the last few years, one of my foci has been bringing together the PHP community and taking the time to celebrate the PHP Renaissance. That effort has taken me all around the world, from Paris to Toronto to New York to Costa Rica to New Zealand. And this summer it's taking me to the Midwestern US as part of the Crafting Code Tour.
Pay It Forward was a 2000 romantic drama featuring Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment, and Helen Hunt. Decently well-received, I found it a good, heart-warming, thought-provoking movie.
It is also an allegory for how open source works.
For those who don't know him, Aaron Seigo is one of the leading KDE developers and community leaders. (KDE doesn't have a "lead developer" position, just as Drupal does not, but my understanding is if you merge Earl Miles and Angie Byon you sort of have Aaron's role within the KDE community.) He also blogs far more than is probably healthy, but his posts, while long, tend to be very spot-on.
His latest article is one that is of particular interest to the Drupal community, I believe, because as a large, minimally-structured, Open Source development community we face many of the same challenges that other such projects do, such as KDE. In particular, the challenge of who to listen to.