Dries Buytaert

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Balancing Makers and Takers to scale and sustain Open Source

19 September 2019 - 5:51am

In many ways, Open Source has won. Most people know that Open Source provides better quality software, at a lower cost, without vendor lock-in. But despite Open Source being widely adopted and more than 30 years old, scaling and sustaining Open Source projects remains challenging.

Not a week goes by that I don't get asked a question about Open Source sustainability. How do you get others to contribute? How do you get funding for Open Source work? But also, how do you protect against others monetizing your Open Source work without contributing back? And what do you think of MongoDB, Cockroach Labs or Elastic changing their license away from Open Source?

This blog post talks about how we can make it easier to scale and sustain Open Source projects, Open Source companies and Open Source ecosystems. I will show that:

  • Small Open Source communities can rely on volunteers and self-governance, but as Open Source communities grow, their governance model most likely needs to be reformed so the project can be maintained more easily.
  • There are three models for scaling and sustaining Open Source projects: self-governance, privatization, and centralization. All three models aim to reduce coordination failures, but require Open Source communities to embrace forms of monitoring, rewards and sanctions. While this thinking is controversial, it is supported by decades of research in adjacent fields.
  • Open Source communities would benefit from experimenting with new governance models, coordination systems, license innovation, and incentive models.
Some personal background

Scaling and sustaining Open Source projects and Open Source businesses has been the focus of most of my professional career.

Drupal, the Open Source project I founded 18 years ago, is used by more than one million websites and reaches pretty much everyone on the internet.

With over 8,500 individuals and about 1,100 organizations contributing to Drupal annually, Drupal is one of the healthiest and contributor-rich Open Source communities in the world.

For the past 12 years, I've also helped build Acquia, an Open Source company that heavily depends on Drupal. With almost 1,000 employees, Acquia is the largest contributor to Drupal, yet responsible for less than 5% of all contributions.

This article is not about Drupal or Acquia; it's about scaling Open Source projects more broadly.

I'm interested in how to make Open Source production more sustainable, more fair, more egalitarian, and more cooperative. I'm interested in doing so by redefining the relationship between end users, producers and monetizers of Open Source software through a combination of technology, market principles and behavioral science.

Why it must be easier to scale and sustain Open Source

We need to make it easier to scale and sustain both Open Source projects and Open Source businesses:

  1. Making it easier to scale and sustain Open Source projects might be the only way to solve some of the world's most important problems. For example, I believe Open Source to be the only way to build a pro-privacy, anti-monopoly, open web. It requires Open Source communities to be long-term sustainable — possibly for hundreds of years.
  2. Making it easier to grow and sustain Open Source businesses is the last hurdle that prevents Open Source from taking over the world. I'd like to see every technology company become an Open Source company. Today, Open Source companies are still extremely rare.

The alternative is that we are stuck in the world we live in today, where proprietary software dominates most facets of our lives.

Disclaimers

This article is focused on Open Source governance models, but there is more to growing and sustaining Open Source projects. Top of mind is the need for Open Source projects to become more diverse and inclusive of underrepresented groups.

Second, I understand that the idea of systematizing Open Source contributions won't appeal to everyone. Some may argue that the suggestions I'm making go against the altruistic nature of Open Source. I agree. However, I'm also looking at Open Source sustainability challenges from the vantage point of running both an Open Source project (Drupal) and an Open Source business (Acquia). I'm not implying that every community needs to change their governance model, but simply offering suggestions for communities that operate with some level of commercial sponsorship, or communities that struggle with issues of long-term sustainability.

Lastly, this post is long and dense. I'm 700 words in, and I haven't started yet. Given that this is a complicated topic, there is an important role for more considered writing and deeper thinking.

Defining Open Source Makers and Takers Makers

Some companies are born out of Open Source, and as a result believe deeply and invest significantly in their respective communities. With their help, Open Source has revolutionized software for the benefit of many. Let's call these types of companies Makers.

As the name implies, Makers help make Open Source projects; from investing in code, to helping with marketing, growing the community of contributors, and much more. There are usually one or more Makers behind the success of large Open Source projects. For example, MongoDB helps make MongoDB, Red Hat helps make Linux, and Acquia (along with many other companies) helps make Drupal.

Our definition of a Maker assumes intentional and meaningful contributions and excludes those whose only contributions are unintentional or sporadic. For example, a public cloud company like Amazon can provide a lot of credibility to an Open Source project by offering it as-a-service. The resulting value of this contribution can be substantial, however that doesn't make Amazon a Maker in our definition.

I use the term Makers to refer to anyone who purposely and meaningfully invests in the maintenance of Open Source software, i.e. by making engineering investments, writing documentation, fixing bugs, organizing events, and more.

Takers

Now that Open Source adoption is widespread, lots of companies, from technology startups to technology giants, monetize Open Source projects without contributing back to those projects. Let's call them Takers.

I understand and respect that some companies can give more than others, and that many might not be able to give back at all. Maybe one day, when they can, they'll contribute. We limit the label of Takers to companies that have the means to give back, but choose not to.

The difference between Makers and Takers is not always 100% clear, but as a rule of thumb, Makers directly invest in growing both their business and the Open Source project. Takers are solely focused on growing their business and let others take care of the Open Source project they rely on.

Organizations can be both Takers and Makers at the same time. For example, Acquia, my company, is a Maker of Drupal, but a Taker of Varnish Cache. We use Varnish Cache extensively but we don't contribute to its development.

Takers hurt Makers

To be financially successful, many Makers mix Open Source contributions with commercial offerings. Their commercial offerings usually take the form of proprietary or closed source IP, which may include a combination of premium features and hosted services that offer performance, scalability, availability, productivity, and security assurances. This is known as the Open Core business model. Some Makers offer professional services, including maintenance and support assurances.

When Makers start to grow and demonstrate financial success, the Open Source project that they are associated with begins to attract Takers. Takers will usually enter the ecosystem with a commercial offering comparable to the Makers', but without making a similar investment in Open Source contribution. Because Takers don't contribute back meaningfully to the Open Source project that they take from, they can focus disproportionately on their own commercial growth.

Let's look at a theoretical example.

When a Maker has $1 million to invest in R&D, they might choose to invest $500k in Open Source and $500k in the proprietary IP behind their commercial offering. The Maker intentionally balances growing the Open Source project they are connected to with making money. To be clear, the investment in Open Source is not charity; it helps make the Open Source project competitive in the market, and the Maker stands to benefit from that.

When a Taker has $1 million to invest in R&D, nearly all of their resources go to the development of proprietary IP behind their commercial offerings. They might invest $950k in their commercial offerings that compete with the Maker's, and $50k towards Open Source contribution. Furthermore, the $50k is usually focused on self-promotion rather than being directed at improving the Open Source project itself.

Effectively, the Taker has put itself at a competitive advantage compared to the Maker:

  • The Taker takes advantage of the Maker's $500k investment in Open Source contribution while only investing $50k themselves. Important improvements happen "for free" without the Taker's involvement.
  • The Taker can out-innovate the Maker in building proprietary offerings. When a Taker invests $950k in closed-source products compared to the Maker's $500k, the Taker can innovate 90% faster. The Taker can also use the delta to disrupt the Maker on price.

In other words, Takers reap the benefits of the Makers' Open Source contribution while simultaneously having a more aggressive monetization strategy. The Taker is likely to disrupt the Maker. On an equal playing field, the only way the Maker can defend itself is by investing more in its proprietary offering and less in the Open Source project. To survive, it has to behave like the Taker to the detriment of the larger Open Source community.

Takers harm Open Source projects. An aggressive Taker can induce Makers to behave in a more selfish manner and reduce or stop their contributions to Open Source altogether. Takers can turn Makers into Takers.

Open Source contribution and the Prisoner's Dilemma

The example above can be described as a Prisoner's Dilemma. The Prisoner's Dilemma is a standard example of game theory, which allows the study of strategic interaction and decision-making using mathematical models. I won't go into detail here, but for the purpose of this article, it helps me simplify the above problem statement. I'll use this simplified example throughout the article.

Imagine an Open Source project with only two companies supporting it. The rules of the game are as follows:

  • If both companies contribute to the Open Source project (both are Makers), the total reward is $100. The reward is split evenly and each company makes $50.
  • If one company contributes while the other company doesn't (one Maker, one Taker), the Open Source project won't be as competitive in the market, and the total reward will only be $80. The Taker gets $60 as they have the more aggressive monetization strategy, while the Maker gets $20.
  • If both players choose not to contribute (both are Takers), the Open Source project will eventually become irrelevant. Both walk away with just $10.

This can be summarized in a pay-off matrix:

Company A contributes Company A doesn't contribute Company B contributes A makes $50
B makes $50 A makes $60
B makes $20 Company B doesn't contribute A makes $20
B makes $60 A makes $10
B makes $10

In the game, each company needs to decide whether to contribute or not, but Company A doesn't know what company B decides; and vice versa.

The Prisoner's Dilemma states that each company will optimize its own profit and not contribute. Because both companies are rational, both will make that same decision. In other words, when both companies use their "best individual strategy" (be a Taker, not a Maker), they produce an equilibrium that yields the worst possible result for the group: the Open Source project will suffer and as a result they only make $10 each.

A real-life example of the Prisoner's Dilemma that many people can relate to is washing the dishes in a shared house. By not washing dishes, an individual can save time (individually rational), but if that behavior is adopted by every person in the house, there will be no clean plates for anyone (collectively irrational). How many of us have tried to get away with not washing the dishes? I know I have.

Fortunately, the problem of individually rational actions leading to collectively adverse outcomes is not new or unique to Open Source. Before I look at potential models to better sustain Open Source projects, I will take a step back and look at how this problem has been solved elsewhere.

Open Source: a public good or a common good?

In economics, the concepts of public goods and common goods are decades old, and have similarities to Open Source.

Public goods and common goods are what economists call non-excludable meaning it's hard to exclude people from using them. For example, everyone can benefit from fishing grounds, whether they contribute to their maintenance or not. Simply put, public goods and common goods have open access.

Common goods are rivalrous; if one individual catches a fish and eats it, the other individual can't. In contrast, public goods are non-rivalrous; someone listening to the radio doesn't prevent others from listening to the radio.

I've long believed that Open Source projects are public goods: everyone can use Open Source software (non-excludable) and someone using an Open Source project doesn't prevent someone else from using it (non-rivalrous).

However, through the lens of Open Source companies, Open Source projects are also common goods; everyone can use Open Source software (non-excludable), but when an Open Source end user becomes a customer of Company A, that same end user is unlikely to become a customer of Company B (rivalrous).

For end users, Open Source projects are public goods; the shared resource is the software. But for Open Source companies, Open Source projects are common goods; the shared resource is the (potential) customer.

Next, I'd like to extend the distinction between "Open Source software being a public good" and "Open Source customers being a common good" to the the free-rider problem: we define software free-riders as those who use the software without ever contributing back, and customer free-riders (or Takers) as those who sign up customers without giving back.

All Open Source communities should encourage software free-riders. Because the software is a public good (non-rivalrous), a software free-rider doesn't exclude others from using the software. Hence, it's better to have a user for your Open Source project, than having that person use your competitor's software. Furthermore, a software free-rider makes it more likely that other people will use your Open Source project (by word of mouth or otherwise). When some portion of those other users contribute back, the Open Source project benefits. Software free-riders can have positive network effects on a project.

However, when the success of an Open Source project depends largely on one or more corporate sponsors, the Open Source community should not forget or ignore that customers are a common good. Because a customer can't be shared among companies, it matters a great deal for the Open Source project where that customer ends up. When the customer signs up with a Maker, we know that a certain percentage of the revenue associated with that customer will be invested back into the Open Source project. When a customer signs up with a customer free-rider or Taker, the project doesn't stand to benefit. In other words, Open Source communities should find ways to route customers to Makers.

Both volunteer-driven and sponsorship-driven Open Source communities should encourage software free-riders, but sponsorship-driven Open Source communities should discourage customer free-riders.

Lessons from decades of Common Goods management

Hundreds of research papers and books have been written on public good and common good governance. Over the years, I have read many of them to figure out what Open Source communities can learn from successfully managed public goods and common goods.

Some of the most instrumental research was Garrett Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons and Mancur Olson's work on Collective Action. Both Hardin and Olson concluded that groups don't self-organize to maintain the common goods they depend on.

As Olson writes in the beginning of his book, The Logic of Collective Action: Unless the number of individuals is quite small, or unless there is coercion or some other special device to make individuals act in their common interest, rational, self-interested individuals will not act to achieve their common or group interest..

Consistent with the Prisoner's Dilemma, Hardin and Olson show that groups don't act on their shared interests. Members are disincentivized from contributing when other members can't be excluded from the benefits. It is individually rational for a group's members to free-ride on the contributions of others.

Dozens of academics, Hardin and Olson included, argued that an external agent is required to solve the free-rider problem. The two most common approaches are (1) centralization and (2) privatization:

  1. When a common good is centralized, the government takes over the maintenance of the common good. The government or state is the external agent.
  2. When a public good is privatized, one or more members of the group receive selective benefits or exclusive rights to harvest from the common good in exchange for the ongoing maintenance of the common good. In this case, one or more corporations act as the external agent.

The wide-spread advice to centralize and privatize common goods has been followed extensively in most countries; today, the management of natural resources is typically managed by either the government or by commercial companies, but no longer directly by its users. Examples include public transport, water utilities, fishing grounds, parks, and much more.

Overall, the privatization and centralization of common goods has been very successful; in many countries, public transport, water utilities and parks are maintained better than volunteer contributors would have on their own. I certainly value that I don't have to help maintain the train tracks before my daily commute to work, or that I don't have to help mow the lawn in our public park before I can play soccer with my kids.

For years, it was a long-held belief that centralization and privatization were the only way to solve the free-rider problem. It was Elinor Ostrom who observed that a third solution existed.

Ostrom found hundreds of cases where common goods are successfully managed by their communities, without the oversight of an external agent. From the management of irrigation systems in Spain to the maintenance of mountain forests in Japan — all have been successfully self-managed and self-governed by their users. Many have been long-enduring as well; the youngest examples she studied were more than 100 years old, and the oldest exceed 1,000 years.

Ostrom studied why some efforts to self-govern commons have failed and why others have succeeded. She summarized the conditions for success in the form of core design principles. Her work led her to win the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009.

Interestingly, all successfully managed commons studied by Ostrom switched at some point from open access to closed access. As Ostrom writes in her book, Governing the Commons: For any appropriator to have a minimal interest in coordinating patterns of appropriation and provision, some set of appropriators must be able to exclude others from access and appropriation rights.. Ostrom uses the term appropriator to refer to those who use or withdraw from a resource. Examples would be fishers, irrigators, herders, etc — or companies trying to turn Open Source users into paying customers. In other words, the shared resource must be made exclusive (to some degree) in order to incentivize members to manage it. Put differently, Takers will be Takers until they have an incentive to become Makers.

Once access is closed, explicit rules need to be established to determine how resources are shared, who is responsible for maintenance, and how self-serving behaviors are suppressed. In all successfully managed commons, the regulations specify (1) who has access to the resource, (2) how the resource is shared, (3) how maintenance responsibilities are shared, (4) who inspects that rules are followed, (5) what fines are levied against anyone who breaks the rules, (6) how conflicts are resolved and (7) a process for collectively evolving these rules.

Three patterns for long-term sustainable Open Source

Studying the work of Garrett Hardin (Tragedy of the Commons), the Prisoner's Dilemma, Mancur Olson (Collective Action) and Elinor Ostrom's core design principles for self-governance, a number shared patterns emerge. When applied to Open Source, I'd summarize them as follows:

  1. Common goods fail because of a failure to coordinate collective action. To scale and sustain an Open Source project, Open Source communities need to transition from individual, uncoordinated action to cooperative, coordinated action.
  2. Cooperative, coordinated action can be accomplished through privatization, centralization, or self-governance. All three work — and can even be mixed.
  3. Successful privatization, centralization, and self-governance all require clear rules around membership, appropriation rights, and contribution duties. In turn, this requires monitoring and enforcement, either by an external agent (centralization + privatization), a private agent (self-governance), or members of the group itself (self-governance).

Next, let's see how these three concepts — centralization, privatization and self-governance — could apply to Open Source.

Model 1: Self-governance in Open Source

For small Open Source communities, self-governance is very common; it's easy for its members to communicate, learn who they can trust, share norms, agree on how to collaborate, etc.

As an Open Source project grows, contribution becomes more complex and cooperation more difficult: it becomes harder to communicate, build trust, agree on how to cooperate, and suppress self-serving behaviors. The incentive to free-ride grows.

You can scale successful cooperation by having strong norms that encourage other members to do their fair share and by having face-to-face events, but eventually, that becomes hard to scale as well.

As Ostrom writes in Governing the Commons: Even in repeated settings where reputation is important and where individuals share the norm of keeping agreements, reputation and shared norms are insufficient by themselves to produce stable cooperative behavior over the long run. and In all of the long-enduring cases, active investments in monitoring and sanctioning activities are quite apparent..

To the best of my knowledge, no Open Source project currently implements Ostrom's design principles for successful self-governance. To understand how Open Source communities might, let's go back to our running example.

Our two companies would negotiate rules for how to share the rewards of the Open Source project, and what level of contribution would be required in exchange. They would set up a contract where they both agree on how much each company can earn and how much each company has to invest. During the negotiations, various strategies can be proposed for how to cooperate. However, both parties need to agree on a strategy before they can proceed. Because they are negotiating this contract among themselves, no external agent is required.

These negotiations are non-trivial. As you can imagine, any proposal that does not involve splitting the $100 fifty-fifty is likely rejected. The most likely equilibrium is for both companies to contribute equally and to split the reward equally. Furthermore, to arrive at this equilibrium, one of the two companies would likely have to go backwards in revenue, which might not be agreeable.

Needless to say, this gets even more difficult in a scenario where there are more than two companies involved. Today, it's hard to fathom how such a self-governance system can successfully be established in an Open Source project. In the future, Blockchain-based coordination systems might offer technical solutions for this problem.

Large groups are less able to act in their common interest than small ones because (1) the complexity increases and (2) the benefits diminish. Until we have better community coordination systems, it's easier for large groups to transition from self-governance to privatization or centralization than to scale self-governance.

The concept of major projects growing out of self-governed volunteer communities is not new to the world. The first trade routes were ancient trackways which citizens later developed on their own into roads suited for wheeled vehicles. Privatization of roads improved transportation for all citizens. Today, we certainly appreciate that our governments maintain the roads.

Model 2: Privatization of Open Source governance

In this model, Makers are rewarded unique benefits not available to Takers. These exclusive rights provide Makers a commercial advantage over Takers, while simultaneously creating a positive social benefit for all the users of the Open Source project, Takers included.

For example, Mozilla has the exclusive right to use the Firefox trademark and to set up paid search deals with search engines like Google, Yandex and Baidu. In 2017 alone, Mozilla made $542 million from searches conducted using Firefox. As a result, Mozilla can make continued engineering investments in Firefox. Millions of people and organizations benefit from that every day.

Another example is Automattic, the company behind WordPress. Automattic is the only company that can use WordPress.com, and is in the unique position to make hundreds of millions of dollars from WordPress' official SaaS service. In exchange, Automattic invests millions of dollars in the Open Source WordPress each year.

Recently, there have been examples of Open Source companies like MongoDB, Redis, Cockroach Labs and others adopting stricter licenses because of perceived (and sometimes real) threats from public cloud companies that behave as Takers. The ability to change the license of an Open Source project is a form of privatization.

Model 3: Centralization of Open Source governance

Let's assume a government-like central authority can monitor Open Source companies A and B, with the goal to reward and penalize them for contribution or lack thereof. When a company follows a cooperative strategy (being a Maker), they are rewarded $25 and when they follow a defect strategy (being a Taker), they are charged a $25 penalty. We can update the pay-off matrix introduced above as follows:

Company A contributes Company A doesn't contribute Company B contributes A makes $75 ($50 + $25)
B makes $75 ($50 + $25) A makes $35 ($60 - $25)
B makes $45 ($20 + 25) Company B doesn't contribute A makes $45 ($20 + $25)
B makes $35 ($60 - $25) A makes $0 ($10 - $25)
B makes $0 ($10 - $25)

We took the values from the pay-off matrix above and applied the rewards and penalties. The result is that both companies are incentivized to contribute and the optimal equilibrium (both become Makers) can be achieved.

The money for rewards could come from various fundraising efforts, including membership programs or advertising (just as a few examples). However, more likely is the use of indirect monetary rewards.

One way to implement this is Drupal's credit system. Drupal's non-profit organization, the Drupal Association monitors who contributes what. Each contribution earns you credits and the credits are used to provide visibility to Makers. The more you contribute, the more visibility you get on Drupal.org (visited by 2 million people each month) or at Drupal conferences (called DrupalCons, visited by thousands of people each year).

A screenshot of an issue comment on Drupal.org. You can see that jamadar worked on this patch as a volunteer, but also as part of his day job working for TATA Consultancy Services on behalf of their customer, Pfizer.

While there is a lot more the Drupal Association could and should do to balance its Makers and Takers and achieve a more optimal equilibrium for the Drupal project, it's an emerging example of how an Open Source non-profit organization can act as a regulator that monitors and maintains the balance of Makers and Takers.

The big challenge with this approach is the accuracy of the monitoring and the reliability of the rewarding (and sanctioning). Because Open Source contribution comes in different forms, tracking and valuing Open Source contribution is a very difficult and expensive process, not to mention full of conflict. Running this centralized government-like organization also needs to be paid for, and that can be its own challenge.

Concrete suggestions for scaling and sustaining Open Source Suggestion 1: Don't just appeal to organizations' self-interest, but also to their fairness principles

If, like most economic theorists, you believe that organizations act in their own self-interest, we should appeal to that self-interest and better explain the benefits of contributing to Open Source.

Despite the fact that hundreds of articles have been written about the benefits of contributing to Open Source — highlighting speed of innovation, recruiting advantages, market credibility, and more — many organizations still miss these larger points.

It's important to keep sharing Open Source success stories. One thing that we have not done enough is appeal to organizations' fairness principles.

While a lot of economic theories correctly assume that most organizations are self-interested, I believe some organizations are also driven by fairness considerations.

Despite the term "Takers" having a negative connotation, it does not assume malice. For many organizations, it is not apparent if an Open Source project needs help with maintenance, or how one's actions, or lack thereof, might negatively affect an Open Source project.

As mentioned, Acquia is a heavy user of Varnish Cache. But as Acquia's Chief Technology Officer, I don't know if Varnish needs maintenance help, or how our lack of contribution negatively affects Makers in the Varnish community.

It can be difficult to understand the consequences of our own actions within Open Source. Open Source communities should help others understand where contribution is needed, what the impact of not contributing is, and why certain behaviors are not fair. Some organizations will resist unfair outcomes and behave more cooperatively if they understand the impact of their behaviors and the fairness of certain outcomes.

Make no mistake though: most organizations won't care about fairness principles; they will only contribute when they have to. For example, most people would not voluntarily redistribute 25-50% of their income to those who need it. However, most of us agree to redistribute money by paying taxes, but only so long as all others have to do so as well.

Suggestion 2: Encourage end users to offer selective benefits to Makers

We talked about Open Source projects giving selective benefits to Makers (e.g. Automattic, Mozilla, etc), but end users can give selective benefits as well. For example, end users can mandate Open Source contributions from their partners. We have some successful examples of this in the Drupal community:

If more end users of Open Source took this stance, it could have a very big impact on Open Source sustainability. For governments, in particular, this seems like a very logical thing to do. Why would a government not want to put every dollar of IT spending back in the public domain? For Drupal alone, the impact would be measured in tens of millions of dollars each year.

Suggestion 3: Experiment with new licenses

I believe we can create licenses that support the creation of Open Source projects with sustainable communities and sustainable businesses to support it.

For a directional example, look at what MariaDB did with their Business Source License (BSL). The BSL gives users complete access to the source code so users can modify, distribute and enhance it. Only when you use more than x of the software do you have to pay for a license. Furthermore, the BSL guarantees that the software becomes Open Source over time; after y years, the license automatically converts from BSL to General Public License (GPL), for example.

A second example is the Community Compact, a license proposed by Adam Jacob. It mixes together a modern understanding of social contracts, copyright licensing, software licensing, and distribution licensing to create a sustainable and harmonious Open Source project.

We can create licenses that better support the creation, growth and sustainability of Open Source projects and that are designed so that both users and the commercial ecosystem can co-exist and cooperate in harmony.

I'd love to see new licenses that encourage software free-riding (sharing and giving), but discourage customer free-riding (unfair competition). I'd also love to see these licenses support many Makers, with built-in inequity and fairness principles for smaller Makers or those not able to give back.

If, like me, you believe there could be future licenses that are more "Open Source"-friendly, not less, it would be smart to implement a contributor license agreement for your Open Source project; it allows Open Source projects to relicense if/when better licenses arrive. At some point, current Open Source licenses will be at a disadvantage compared to future Open Source licenses.

Conclusions

As Open Source communities grow, volunteer-driven, self-organized communities become harder to scale. Large Open Source projects should find ways to balance Makers and Takers or the Open Source project risks not innovating enough under the weight of Takers.

Fortunately, we don't have to accept that future. However, this means that Open Source communities potentially have to get comfortable experimenting with how to monitor, reward and penalize members in their communities, particularly if they rely on a commercial ecosystem for a large portion of their contributions. Today, that goes against the values of most Open Source communities, but I believe we need to keep an open mind about how we can grow and scale Open Source.

Making it easier to scale Open Source projects in a sustainable and fair way is one of the most important things we can work on. If we succeed, Open Source can truly take over the world — it will pave the path for every technology company to become an Open Source business, and also solve some of the world's most important problems in an open, transparent and cooperative way.

Categories: Drupal

Who sponsors Drupal development? (2018-2019 edition)

11 September 2019 - 9:51am

The past years, I've examined Drupal.org's contribution data to understand who develops Drupal, how diverse the Drupal community is, how much of Drupal's maintenance and innovation is sponsored, and where that sponsorship comes from.

You can look at the 2016 report, the 2017 report, and the 2018 report. Each report looks at data collected in the 12-month period between July 1st and June 30th.

This year's report shows that:

  • Both the recorded number of contributors and contributions have increased.
  • Most contributions are sponsored, but volunteer contributions remains very important to Drupal's success.
  • Drupal's maintenance and innovation depends mostly on smaller Drupal agencies and Acquia. Hosting companies, multi-platform digital marketing agencies, large system integrators and end users make fewer contributions to Drupal.
  • Drupal's contributors have become more diverse, but are still not diverse enough.
Methodology What are Drupal.org issues?

"Issues" are pages on Drupal.org. Each issue tracks an idea, feature request, bug report, task, or more. See https://www.drupal.org/project/issues for the list of all issues.

For this report, we looked at all Drupal.org issues marked "closed" or "fixed" in the 12-month period from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. The issues analyzed in this report span Drupal core and thousands of contributed projects, across all major versions of Drupal.

What are Drupal.org credits?

In the spring of 2015, after proposing initial ideas for giving credit, Drupal.org added the ability for people to attribute their work in the Drupal.org issues to an organization or customer, or mark it the result of volunteer efforts.

A screenshot of an issue comment on Drupal.org. You can see that jamadar worked on this patch as a volunteer, but also as part of his day job working for TATA Consultancy Services on behalf of their customer, Pfizer.

Drupal.org's credit system is truly unique and groundbreaking in Open Source and provides unprecedented insights into the inner workings of a large Open Source project. There are a few limitations with this approach, which we'll address at the end of this report.

What is the Drupal community working on?

In the 12-month period between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, 27,522 issues were marked "closed" or "fixed", a 13% increase from the 24,447 issues in the 2017-2018 period.

In total, the Drupal community worked on 3,474 different Drupal.org projects this year compared to 3,229 projects in the 2017-2018 period — an 8% year over year increase.

The majority of the credits are the result of work on contributed modules:

Compared to the previous period, contribution credits increased across all project types:

The most notable change is the large jump in "non-product credits": more and more members in the community started tracking credits for non-product activities such as organizing Drupal events (e.g. DrupalCamp Delhi project, Drupal Developer Days, Drupal Europe and DrupalCon Europe), promoting Drupal (e.g. Drupal pitch deck or community working groups (e.g. Drupal Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, Governance Working Group).

While some of these increases reflect new contributions, others are existing contributions that are newly reported. All contributions are valuable, whether they're code contributions, or non-product and community-oriented contributions such as organizing events, giving talks, leading sprints, etc. The fact that the credit system is becoming more accurate in recognizing more types of Open Source contribution is both important and positive.

Who is working on Drupal?

For this report's time period, Drupal.org's credit system received contributions from 8,513 different individuals and 1,137 different organizations — a meaningful increase from last year's report.

Consistent with previous years, approximately 51% of the individual contributors received just one credit. Meanwhile, the top 30 contributors (the top 0.4%) account for 19% of the total credits. In other words, a relatively small number of individuals do the majority of the work. These individuals put an incredible amount of time and effort into developing Drupal and its contributed projects:

RankUsernameIssues1kiamlaluno16102jrockowitz7563alexpott6424RajabNatshah6165volkswagenchick5196bojanz5047alonaoneill4898thalles4889Wim Leers43710DamienMcKenna43111Berdir42412chipway35613larowlan32414pifagor32015catch31316mglaman27717adci_contributor27418quietone26619tim.plunkett26520gaurav.kapoor25321RenatoG24622heddn24323chr.fritsch24124xjm23825phenaproxima23826mkalkbrenner23527gvso23228dawehner21929e0ipso21830drumm205

Out of the top 30 contributors featured this year, 28 were active contributors in the 2017-2018 period as well. These Drupalists' dedication and continued contribution to the project has been crucial to Drupal's development.

It's also important to recognize that most of the top 30 contributors are sponsored by an organization. Their sponsorship details are provided later in this article. We value the organizations that sponsor these remarkable individuals, because without their support, it could be more challenging for these individuals to be in the top 30.

It's also nice to see two new contributors make the top 30 this year — Alona O'neill with sponsorship from Hook 42 and Thalles Ferreira with sponsorship from CI&T. Most of their credits were the result of smaller patches (e.g. removing deprecated code, fixing coding style issues, etc) or in some cases non-product credits rather than new feature development or fixing complex bugs. These types of contributions are valuable and often a stepping stone towards towards more in-depth contribution.

How much of the work is sponsored?

Issue credits can be marked as "volunteer" and "sponsored" simultaneously (shown in jamadar's screenshot near the top of this post). This could be the case when a contributor does the necessary work to satisfy the customer's need, in addition to using their spare time to add extra functionality.

For those credits with attribution details, 18% were "purely volunteer" credits (8,433 credits), in stark contrast to the 65% that were "purely sponsored" (29,802 credits). While there are almost four times as many "purely sponsored" credits as "purely volunteer" credits, volunteer contribution remains very important to Drupal.

Both "purely volunteer" and "purely sponsored" credits grew — "purely sponsored" credits grew faster in absolute numbers, but for the first time in four years "purely volunteer" credits grew faster in relative numbers.

The large jump in volunteer credits can be explained by the community capturing more non-product contributions. As can be seen on the graph below, these non-product contributions are more volunteer-centric.

Who is sponsoring the work?

Now that we've established that the majority of contributions to Drupal are sponsored, let's study which organizations contribute to Drupal. While 1,137 different organizations contributed to Drupal, approximately 50% of them received four credits or less. The top 30 organizations (roughly the top 3%) account for approximately 25% of the total credits, which implies that the top 30 companies play a crucial role in the health of the Drupal project.

Top contributing organizations based on the number of issue credits.

While not immediately obvious from the graph above, a variety of different types of companies are active in Drupal's ecosystem:

Category Description Traditional Drupal businesses Small-to-medium-sized professional services companies that primarily make money using Drupal. They typically employ fewer than 100 employees, and because they specialize in Drupal, many of these professional services companies contribute frequently and are a huge part of our community. Examples are Hook42, Centarro, The Big Blue House, Vardot, etc. Digital marketing agencies Larger full-service agencies that have marketing-led practices using a variety of tools, typically including Drupal, Adobe Experience Manager, Sitecore, WordPress, etc. They tend to be larger, with many of the larger agencies employing thousands of people. Examples are Wunderman, Possible and Mirum. System integrators Larger companies that specialize in bringing together different technologies into one solution. Example system agencies are Accenture, TATA Consultancy Services, Capgemini and CI&T. Hosting companies Examples are Acquia, Rackspace, Pantheon and Platform.sh. End users Examples are Pfizer or bio.logis Genetic Information Management GmbH.

A few observations:

  • Almost all of the sponsors in the top 30 are traditional Drupal businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Only five companies in the top 30 — Pfizer, Google, CI&T, bio.logis and Acquia — are not traditional Drupal businesses. The traditional Drupal businesses are responsible for almost 80% of all the credits in the top 30. This percentage goes up if you extend beyond the top 30. It's fair to say that Drupal's maintenance and innovation largely depends on these traditional Drupal businesses.
  • The larger, multi-platform digital marketing agencies are barely contributing to Drupal. While more and more large digital agencies are building out Drupal practices, no digital marketing agencies show up in the top 30, and hardly any appear in the entire list of contributing organizations. While they are not required to contribute, I'm frustrated that we have not yet found the right way to communicate the value of contribution to these companies. We need to incentivize each of these firms to contribute back with the same commitment that we see from traditional Drupal businesses
  • The only system integrator in the top 30 is CI&T, which ranked 4th with 795 credits. As far as system integrators are concerned, CI&T is a smaller player with approximately 2,500 employees. However, we do see various system integrators outside of the top 30, including Globant, Capgemini, Sapient and TATA Consultancy Services. In the past year, Capgemini almost quadrupled their credits from 46 to 196, TATA doubled its credits from 85 to 194, Sapient doubled its credits from 28 to 65, and Globant kept more or less steady with 41 credits. Accenture and Wipro do not appear to contribute despite doing a fair amount of Drupal work in the field.
  • Hosting companies also play an important role in our community, yet only Acquia appears in the top 30. Rackspace has 68 credits, Pantheon has 43, and Platform.sh has 23. I looked for other hosting companies in the data, but couldn't find any. In general, there is a persistent problem with hosting companies that make a lot of money with Drupal not contributing back. The contribution gap between Acquia and other hosting companies has increased, not decreased.
  • We also saw three end users in the top 30 as corporate sponsors: Pfizer (453 credits), Thunder (659 credits, up from 432 credits the year before), and the German company, bio.logis (330 credits). A notable end user is Johnson & Johnson, who was just outside of the top 30, with 221 credits, up from 29 credits the year before. Other end users outside of the top 30, include the European Commission (189 credits), Workday (112 credits), Paypal (80 credits), NBCUniversal (48 credits), Wolters Kluwer (20 credits), and Burda Media (24 credits). We also saw contributions from many universities, including the University of British Columbia (148 credits), University of Waterloo (129 credits), Princeton University (73 credits), University of Austin Texas at Austin (57 credits), Charles Darwin University (24 credits), University of Edinburgh (23 credits), University of Minnesota (19 credits) and many more.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if more end users mandated contributions from their partners. Pfizer, for example, only works with agencies that contribute back to Drupal, and uses Drupal's credit system to verify their vendors' claims. The State of Georgia started doing the same; they also made Open Source contribution a vendor selection criteria. If more end users took this stance, it could have a big impact on the number of digital agencies, hosting companies and system integrators that contribute to Drupal.

While we should encourage more organizations to sponsor Drupal contributions, we should also understand and respect that some organizations can give more than others and that some might not be able to give back at all. Our goal is not to foster an environment that demands what and how others should give back. Instead, we need to help foster an environment worthy of contribution. This is clearly laid out in Drupal's Values and Principles.

How diverse is Drupal?

Supporting diversity and inclusion within Drupal is essential to the health and success of the project. The people who work on Drupal should reflect the diversity of people who use and work with the web.

I looked at both the gender and geographic diversity of Drupal.org contributors. While these are only two examples of diversity, these are the only diversity characteristics we currently have sufficient data for. Drupal.org recently rolled out support for Big 8/Big 10, so next year we should have more demographics information

Gender diversity

The data shows that only 8% of the recorded contributions were made by contributors who do not identify as male, which continues to indicate a wide gender gap. This is a one percent increase compared to last year. The gender imbalance in Drupal is profound and underscores the need to continue fostering diversity and inclusion in our community.

Last year I wrote a post called about the privilege of free time in Open Source. It made the case that Open Source is not a meritocracy, because not everyone has equal amounts of free time to contribute. For example, research shows that women still spend more than double the time as men doing unpaid domestic work, such as housework or childcare. This makes it more difficult for women to contribute to Open Source on an unpaid, volunteer basis. It's one of the reasons why Open Source projects suffer from a lack of diversity, among others including hostile environments and unconscious biases. Drupal.org's credit data unfortunately still shows a big gender disparity in contributions:

Ideally, over time, we can collect more data on non-binary gender designations, as well as segment some of the trends behind contributions by gender. We can also do better at collecting data on other systemic issues beyond gender alone. Knowing more about these trends can help us close existing gaps. In the meantime, organizations capable of giving back should consider financially sponsoring individuals from underrepresented groups to contribute to Open Source. Each of us needs to decide if and how we can help give time and opportunities to underrepresented groups and how we can create equity for everyone in Drupal.

Geographic diversity

When measuring geographic diversity, we saw individual contributors from six continents and 114 countries:

Contribution credits per capita calculated as the amount of contributions per continent divided by the population of each continent. 0.001% means that one in 100,000 people contribute to Drupal. In North America, 5 in 100,000 people contributed to Drupal the last year.

Contributions from Europe and North America are both on the rise. In absolute terms, Europe contributes more than North America, but North America contributes more per capita.

Asia, South America and Africa remain big opportunities for Drupal, as their combined population accounts for 6.3 billion out of 7.5 billion people in the world. Unfortunately, the reported contributions from Asia are declining year over year. For example, compared to last year's report, there was a 17% drop in contribution from India. Despite that drop, India remains the second largest contributor behind the United States:

The top 20 countries from which contributions originate. The data is compiled by aggregating the countries of all individual contributors behind each issue. Note that the geographical location of contributors doesn't always correspond with the origin of their sponsorship. Wim Leers, for example, works from Belgium, but his funding comes from Acquia, which has the majority of its customers in North America.Top contributor details

To create more awareness of which organizations are sponsoring the top individual contributors, I included a more detailed overview of the top 50 contributors and their sponsors. If you are a Drupal developer looking for work, these are some of the companies I'd apply to first. If you are an end user looking for a company to work with, these are some of the companies I'd consider working with first. Not only do they know Drupal well, they also help improve your investment in Drupal.

Rank Username Issues Volunteer Sponsored Not specified Sponsors 1 kiamlaluno 1610 99% 0% 1% 2 jrockowitz 756 98% 99% 0% The Big Blue House (750), Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (5), Rosewood Marketing (1) 3 alexpott 642 6% 80% 19% Thunder (336), Acro Media Inc (100), Chapter Three (77) 4 RajabNatshah 616 1% 100% 0% Vardot (730), Webship (2) 5 volkswagenchick 519 2% 99% 0% Hook 42 (341), Kanopi Studios (171) 6 bojanz 504 0% 98% 2% Centarro (492), Ny Media AS (28), Torchbox (5), Liip (2), Adapt (2) 7 alonaoneill 489 9% 99% 0% Hook 42 (484) 8 thalles 488 0% 100% 0% CI&T (488), Janrain (3), Johnson & Johnson (2) 9 Wim Leers 437 8% 97% 0% Acquia (421), Government of Flanders (3) 10 DamienMcKenna 431 0% 97% 3% Mediacurrent (420) 11 Berdir 424 0% 92% 8% MD Systems (390) 12 chipway 356 0% 100% 0% Chipway (356) 13 larowlan 324 16% 94% 2% PreviousNext (304), Charles Darwin University (22), University of Technology, Sydney (3), Service NSW (2), Department of Justice & Regulation, Victoria (1) 14 pifagor 320 52% 100% 0% GOLEMS GABB (618), EPAM Systems (16), Drupal Ukraine Community (6) 15 catch 313 1% 95% 4% Third & Grove (286), Tag1 Consulting (11), Drupal Association (6), Acquia (4) 16 mglaman 277 2% 98% 1% Centarro (271), Oomph, Inc. (16), E.C. Barton & Co (3), Gaggle.net, Inc. (1), Bluespark (1), Thinkbean (1), LivePerson, Inc (1), Impactiv, Inc. (1), Rosewood Marketing (1), Acro Media Inc (1) 17 adci_contributor 274 0% 100% 0% ADCI Solutions (273) 18 quietone 266 41% 75% 1% Acro Media Inc (200) 19 tim.plunkett 265 3% 89% 9% Acquia (235) 20 gaurav.kapoor 253 0% 51% 49% OpenSense Labs (129), DrupalFit (111) 21 RenatoG 246 0% 100% 0% CI&T (246), Johnson & Johnson (85) 22 heddn 243 2% 98% 2% MTech, LLC (202), Tag1 Consulting (32), European Commission (22), North Studio (3), Acro Media Inc (2) 23 chr.fritsch 241 0% 99% 1% Thunder (239) 24 xjm 238 0% 85% 15% Acquia (202) 25 phenaproxima 238 0% 100% 0% Acquia (238) 26 mkalkbrenner 235 0% 100% 0% bio.logis Genetic Information Management GmbH (234), OSCE: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (41), Welsh Government (4) 27 gvso 232 0% 100% 0% Google Summer of Code (214), Google Code-In (16), Zivtech (1) 28 dawehner 219 39% 84% 8% Chapter Three (176), Drupal Association (5), Tag1 Consulting (3), TES Global (1) 29 e0ipso 218 99% 100% 0% Lullabot (217), IBM (23) 30 drumm 205 0% 98% 1% Drupal Association (201) 31 gabesullice 199 0% 100% 0% Acquia (198), Aten Design Group (1) 32 amateescu 194 0% 97% 3% Pfizer, Inc. (186), Drupal Association (1), Chapter Three (1) 33 klausi 193 2% 59% 40% jobiqo - job board technology (113) 34 samuel.mortenson 187 42% 42% 17% Acquia (79) 35 joelpittet 187 28% 78% 14% The University of British Columbia (146) 36 borisson_ 185 83% 50% 3% Calibrate (79), Dazzle (13), Intracto digital agency (1) 37 Gábor Hojtsy 184 0% 97% 3% Acquia (178) 38 adriancid 182 91% 22% 2% Drupiter (40) 39 eiriksm 182 0% 100% 0% Violinist (178), Ny Media AS (4) 40 yas 179 12% 80% 10% DOCOMO Innovations, Inc. (143) 41 TR 177 0% 0% 100% 42 hass 173 1% 0% 99% 43 Joachim Namyslo 172 69% 0% 31% 44 alex_optim 171 0% 99% 1% GOLEMS GABB (338) 45 flocondetoile 168 0% 99% 1% Flocon de toile (167) 46 Lendude 168 52% 99% 0% Dx Experts (91), ezCompany (67), Noctilaris (9) 47 paulvandenburg 167 11% 72% 21% ezCompany (120) 48 voleger 165 98% 98% 2% GOLEMS GABB (286), Lemberg Solutions Limited (36), Drupal Ukraine Community (1) 49 lauriii 164 3% 98% 1% Acquia (153), Druid (8), Lääkärikeskus Aava Oy (2) 50 idebr 162 0% 99% 1% ezCompany (156), One Shoe (5)
Limitations of the credit system

It is important to note a few of the current limitations of Drupal.org's credit system:

  • The credit system doesn't capture all code contributions. Parts of Drupal are developed on GitHub rather than Drupal.org, and often aren't fully credited on Drupal.org. For example, Drush is maintained on GitHub instead of Drupal.org, and companies like Pantheon don't get credit for that work. The Drupal Association is working to integrate GitLab with Drupal.org. GitLab will provide support for "merge requests", which means contributing to Drupal will feel more familiar to the broader audience of Open Source contributors who learned their skills in the post-patch era. Some of GitLab's tools, such as in-line editing and web-based code review will also lower the barrier to contribution, and should help us grow both the number of contributions and contributors on Drupal.org.
  • The credit system is not used by everyone. There are many ways to contribute to Drupal that are still not captured in the credit system, including things like event organizing or providing support. Technically, that work could be captured as demonstrated by the various non-product initiatives highlighted in this post. Because using the credit system is optional, many contributors don't. As a result, contributions often have incomplete or no contribution credits. We need to encourage all Drupal contributors to use the credit system, and raise awareness of its benefits to both individuals and organizations. Where possible, we should automatically capture credits. For example, translation efforts on https://localize.drupal.org are not currently captured in the credit system but could be automatically.
  • The credit system disincentives work on complex issues. We currently don't have a way to account for the complexity and quality of contributions; one person might have worked several weeks for just one credit, while another person might receive a credit for 10 minutes of work. We certainly see a few individuals and organizations trying to game the credit system. In the future, we should consider issuing credit data in conjunction with issue priority, patch size, number of reviews, etc. This could help incentivize people to work on larger and more important problems and save smaller issues such as coding standards improvements for new contributor sprints. Implementing a scoring system that ranks the complexity of an issue would also allow us to develop more accurate reports of contributed work.

All of this means that the actual number of contributions and contributors could be significantly higher than what we report.

Like Drupal itself, the Drupal.org credit system needs to continue to evolve. Ultimately, the credit system will only be useful when the community uses it, understands its shortcomings, and suggests constructive improvements.

A first experiment with weighing credits

As a simple experiment, I decided to weigh each credit based on the adoption of the project the credit is attributed to. For example, each contribution credit to Drupal core is given a weight of 11 because Drupal core has about 1,1 million active installations. Credits to the Webform module, which has over 400,000 installations, get a weight of 4. And credits to Drupal's Commerce project gets just 1 point as it is installed on fewer than 100,000 sites.

The idea is that these weights capture the end user impact of each contribution, but also act as a proxy for the effort required to get a change committed. Getting a change accepted in Drupal core is both more difficult and more impactful than getting a change accepted to Commerce project.

This weighting is far from perfect as it undervalues non-product contributions, and it still doesn't recognize all types of product contributions (e.g. product strategy work, product management work, release management work, etc). That said, for code contributions, it may be more accurate than a purely unweighted approach.

The top 30 contributing individuals based on weighted Drupal.org issue credits.The top 30 contributing organizations based on weighted Drupal.org issue credits. Conclusions

Our data confirms that Drupal is a vibrant community full of contributors who are constantly evolving and improving the software. It's amazing to see that just in the last year, Drupal welcomed more than 8,000 individuals contributors and over 1,100 corporate contributors. It's especially nice to see the number of reported contributions, individual contributors and organizational contributors increase year over year.

To grow and sustain Drupal, we should support those that contribute to Drupal and find ways to get those that are not contributing involved in our community. Improving diversity within Drupal is critical, and we should welcome any suggestions that encourage participation from a broader range of individuals and organizations.

Categories: Drupal

WYSIWYG media embedding in Drupal 8.8

6 September 2019 - 6:30am

I'm excited to share that when Drupal 8.8 drops in December, Drupal's WYSIWYG editor will allow media embedding.

You may wonder: Why is that worth announcing on your blog? It's just one new button in my WYSIWYG editor..

It's a big deal because Drupal's media management has been going through a decade-long transformation. The addition of WYSIWYG integration completes the final milestone. You can read more about it on Wim's blog post.

Drupal 8.8 should ship with complete media management, which is fantastic news for site builders and content authors who have long wanted a simpler way to embed media in Drupal.

Congratulations to the Media Initiative team for this significant achievement!

Categories: Drupal

Acquia acquires Cohesion to simplify building Drupal sites

3 September 2019 - 9:02pm

I'm excited to announce that Acquia has acquired Cohesion, the creator of DX8, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) visual Drupal website builder made for marketers and designers. With Cohesion DX8, users can create and design Drupal websites without having to write PHP, HTML or CSS, or know how a Drupal theme works. Instead, you can create designs, layouts and pages using a drag-and-drop user interface.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is often asked to predict what the future will be like in 10 years. One time, he famously answered that predictions are the wrong way to go about business strategy. Bezos said that the secret to business success is to focus on the things that will not change. By focusing on those things that won't change, you know that all the time, effort and money you invest today is still going to be paying you dividends 10 years from now. For Amazon's e-commerce business, he knows that in the next decade people will still want faster shipping and lower shipping costs.

As I wrote in a recent blog post, no-code and low-code website building solutions have had an increasing impact on the web since the early 1990s. While the no-code and low-code trend has been a 25-year long trend, I believe we're only at the beginning. There is no doubt in my mind that 10 years from today, we'll still be working on making website building faster and easier.

Acquia's acquisition of Cohesion is a direct response to this trend, empowering marketers, content authors and designers to build Drupal websites faster and cheaper than ever. This is big news for Drupal as it will lower the cost of ownership and accelerate the pace of website development. For example, if you are still on Drupal 7, and are looking to migrate to Drupal 8, I'd take a close look at Cohesion DX8. It could accelerate your Drupal 8 migration and reduce its cost.

Here is a quick look at some of my favorite features:

An easy-to-use “style builder” enables designers to create templates from within the browser. The image illustrates how easy it is to modify styles, in this case a button design. In-context editing makes it really easy to modify content on the page and even change the layout from one column to two columns and see the results immediately.

I'm personally excited to work with the Cohesion team on unlocking the power of Drupal for more organizations worldwide. I'll share more about Cohesion DX8's progress in the coming months. In the meantime, welcome to the team, Cohesion!

Categories: Drupal

Low-code and no-code tools continue to drive the web forward

19 August 2019 - 1:35am

A version of this article was originally published on Devops.com.

Twelve years ago, I wrote a post called Drupal and Eliminating Middlemen. For years, it was one of the most-read pieces on my blog. Later, I followed that up with a blog post called The Assembled Web, which remains one of the most read posts to date.

The point of both blog posts was the same: I believed that the web would move toward a model where non-technical users could assemble their own sites with little to no coding experience of their own.

This idea isn't new; no-code and low-code tools on the web have been on a 25-year long rise, starting with the first web content management systems in the early 1990s. Since then no-code and low-code solutions have had an increasing impact on the web. Examples include:

While this has been a long-run trend, I believe we're only at the beginning.

Trends driving the low-code and no-code movements

According to Forrester Wave: Low-Code Development Platforms for AD&D Professionals, Q1 2019, In our survey of global developers, 23% reported using low-code platforms in 2018, and another 22% planned to do so within a year..

Major market forces driving this trend include a talent shortage among developers, with an estimated one million computer programming jobs expected to remain unfilled by 2020 in the United States alone.

What is more, the developers who are employed are often overloaded with work and struggle with how to prioritize it all. Some of this burden could be removed by low-code and no-code tools.

In addition, the fact that technology has permeated every aspect of our lives — from our smartphones to our smart homes — has driven a desire for more people to become creators. As the founder of Product Hunt Ryan Hoover said in a blog post: As creating things on the internet becomes more accessible, more people will become makers..

But this does not only apply to individuals. Consider this: the typical large organization has to build and maintain hundreds of websites. They need to build, launch and customize these sites in days or weeks, not months. Today and in the future, marketers can embrace no-code and low-code tools to rapidly develop websites.

Abstraction drives innovation

As discussed in my middleman blog post, developers won't go away. Just as the role of the original webmaster (FTP hand-written HTML files, anyone?) has evolved with the advent of web content management systems, the role of web developers is changing with the rise of low-code and no-code tools.

Successful no-code approaches abstract away complexity for web development. This enables less technical people to do things that previously could only be done by developers. And when those abstractions happen, developers often move on to the next area of innovation.

When everyone is a builder, more good things will happen on the web. I was excited about this trend more than 12 years ago, and remain excited today. I'm eager to see the progress no-code and low-code solutions will bring to the web in the next decade.

Categories: Drupal

Increasing Drupal speaker diversity

12 August 2019 - 12:44pm

At Drupalcon Seattle, I spoke about some of the challenges Open Source communities like Drupal often have with increasing contributor diversity. We want our contributor base to look like everyone in the world who uses Drupal's technology on the internet, and unfortunately, that is not quite the reality today.

One way to step up is to help more people from underrepresented groups speak at Drupal conferences and workshops. Seeing and hearing from a more diverse group of people can inspire new contributors from all races, ethnicities, gender identities, geographies, religious groups, and more.

To help with this effort, the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion group is hosting a speaker diversity training workshop on September 21 and 28 with Jill Binder, whose expertise has also driven major speaker diversity improvements within the WordPress community.

I'd encourage you to either sign up for this session yourself or send the information to someone in a marginalized group who has knowledge to share, but may be hesitant to speak up. Helping someone see that their expertise is valuable is the kind of support we need to drive meaningful change.

Categories: Drupal

Acquia a leader in 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management

1 August 2019 - 10:36am

For the sixth year in a row, Acquia has been recognized as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management. Acquia first entered the Web Content Management Magic Quadrant back in 2012 as a Visionary, and since then we've moved further than any other vendor to cement our leadership position.

As I've written before, analyst reports like the Gartner Magic Quadrant are important because they introduce organizations to Acquia and Drupal. As I've put if before If you want to find a good coffee place, you use Yelp. If you want to find a nice hotel in New York, you use TripAdvisor. Similarly, if a CIO or CMO wants to spend $250,000 or more on enterprise software, they often consult an analyst firm like Gartner..

In 2012, Gartner didn't fully understand the benefits of Acquia being the only WCM company who embraced both Open Source and cloud. Just seven years later, our unique approach has forever changed web content management. This year, Acquia moved up again in both of the dimensions that Gartner uses to rank vendors: Completeness of Vision and Ability to Execute. You'll see in the Magic Quadrant graphic that Acquia has tied Sitecore for the first time:

Acquia recognized as a leader, next to Adobe, Sitecore and Episerver, in the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management.

I believe we would have placed even higher had our Mautic acquisition completed a bit earlier.

In mature markets like Web Content Management, there is almost always a single proprietary leader and a single Open Source leader. There is Oracle and MongoDB. Splunk and Elastic. VMWare and Docker. Gitlab and Github. That is why I believe that next year it will be Acquia and Adobe at the very top of the WCM Magic Quadrant. Sitecore and Episerver will continue to fight for third place among companies who prefer a Microsoft-centric approach. I was not surprised to see Sitecore move down this year as they work to overcome technical product debt and cloud transition, leading to strange decisions like acquiring a services company.

You can read the complete report on Acquia.com. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this result!

Categories: Drupal

The web I want for my kids

22 July 2019 - 6:23am

Volunteering as a mentor at CoderDojo to teach young people, including my own kids, how to write software.

Last week, I published an opinion piece on CNN featuring my thoughts on what is wrong with the web and how we might fix it.

In short, I really miss some things about the original web, and don't want my kids to grow up being exploited by mega-corporations.

I am hopeful that increased regulation and decentralized web applications may fix some of the web's current problems. While some problems are really difficult to fix, at the very least, my kids will have more options to choose from when it comes to their data privacy and overall experience on the web.

You can read the first few paragraphs below, and view the whole article on CNN.

I still remember the feeling in the year 2000 when a group of five friends and I shared a modem connection at the University of Antwerp. I used it to create an online message board so we could chat back and forth about mostly mundane things. The modem was slow by today's standards, but the newness of it all was an adrenaline rush. Little did I know that message board would change my life.

In time, I turned this internal message board into a public news and discussion site, where I shared my own experiences using experimental web technologies. Soon, I started hearing from people all over the world that wanted to provide suggestions on how to improve my website, but that also wanted to use my site's technology to build their own websites and experiment with emerging web technologies.

Before long, I was connected to a network of strangers who would help me build Drupal.

Categories: Drupal

Our wedding in Tuscany

16 July 2019 - 10:05am

It's been quiet on my blog but for good reason: I got married!

We had an amazing two-day wedding in the heart of Tuscany. The wedding took place in a renovated Italian villa from the 11th century, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. A magical place to celebrate with family and friends who flew in from all over the world.

Many people emailed and texted asking for some wedding photos. It will take our wedding photographer a few months to deliver the photos, but they shared some preview photos today.

The photos capture the love, energy and picturesque location of our wedding quite well!

Categories: Drupal

Acquia's new India office

27 June 2019 - 11:43pm

This week, Acquia announced the opening of its new office in Pune, India, which extends our presence in the Asia Pacific region. In addition to Pune, we already have offices in Australia and Japan.

I've made several trips to India in recent years, and have experienced not only Drupal's fast growth, but also the contagious excitement and passion for Drupal from the people I've met there.

While I wasn't able to personally attend the opening of our new office, I'm looking forward to visiting the Pune office soon.

For now, here are a few pictures from our grand opening celebration:

Categories: Drupal

Scrambling in Snowdonia

25 June 2019 - 12:59am

At the end of last week, Klaas (one of my best friends) and I drove to from Belgium to Wales dead-set on scrambling up Tryfan's North Ridge and hiking the Ogwen Valley in Snowdonia.

Scrambling means hiking up steep, rocky terrain using your hands, without the need for ropes or any other kind of protection. It's something between hiking and rock climbing.

Tryfan's North Ridge silhouette next to lake Lyn Ogwen.

17 people died on Tryfan the past 30 years, and 516 parties had to be rescued. While the scrambling on Tryfan is rarely technically challenging, it can be dangerous and difficult at times (video of Klaas scrambling), especially when carrying heavy backpacks. Tryfan shouldn't be taken lightly.

It took us five hours to make it to the top — and it's taking me four days to recover so far. After we reached the top, we descended a few hundred meters and found a patch of grass where we could set up our tent.

Our campsite on a ridge on the back of Tryfan. The views were spectacular.

Carrying those heavy backpacks paid off not only because we were able to bring our camping supplies but also because Klaas carried up a steak dinner with cocktails — a late birthday surprise for my 40th birthday. Yes, you read that correctly: a steak dinner with cocktails on top of a mountain! It was a real treat!

During dinner, the weather started to turn; dark clouds came in and it started to rain. By night time the temperature had dropped to 2 degrees Celsius (35 degrees Fahrenheit). Fortunately, we were prepared and had hauled not only a tent and a steak dinner up the mountain, but also warm clothing.

The temperatures swung from 20ºC (68ºF) during the day time to 2ºC (35ºF) during night time. In the evenings, we were forced to put on warm clothes and layer up.

What didn't go so well was that my brand new sleeping pad had a leak and I didn't bring a repair kit. Although, sleeping on the ground wasn't so bad. The next morning, when we opened our tent, we were greeted not only by an amazing view, but also by friendly sheep.

The next two days, we hiked through the Ogwen Valley. Its wide glacial valley is surrounded by soaring mountains and is incredibly beautiful.

After three days of hiking we made it back to the base of Tryfan where it all started. We felt a big sense of accomplishment.

Selfie taken with Klaas' iPhone 8. Me pointing to the Tryfan's North Ridge where our hike began just three days earlier.

We hadn't taken a shower in four days, so we definitely started to become aware of each other's smell. As soon as we got to Klaas' Volkswagen California (campervan), we showered in the parking lot, behind the car. I ended up washing my armpits four times, once for each day I didn't shower.

For more photos, check out my photo album.

Categories: Drupal

Announcing a private beta of Acquia Content Cloud

20 June 2019 - 1:55am

Earlier this week at our Acquia Engage conference in London, Acquia announced a new product called "Content Cloud", a headless, SaaS-based content-as-a-service solution built on Drupal.

Years ago, we heard that organizations wanted to:

  • Create content that is easy to re-use across different channels, such as websites and mobile applications, email, digital screens, and more.

  • Use a content management system with a modern web service API that allows them to use their favorite front-end framework (e.g. React, Angular, Vue.js, etc) to build websites and digital experiences.

As a result, Acquia spent the last 5+ years helping to improve Drupal's web services capabilities and authoring experience.

But we also heard that organizations want to:

  • Use single repository to manage all their organization's content.
  • Make it really easy to synchronize content between all their Drupal sites.
  • Manage all content editors from a central place to enable centralized content governance and workflows.
  • Automate the installation, maintenance, and upgrades of their Drupal-based content repository.

All of the above becomes even more important as organizations scale the number of content creators, websites and applications. Many large organizations have to build and maintain hundreds of sites and manage hundreds of content creators.

So this week, at our European customer conference, we lifted the curtain on Acquia Content Cloud, a new Acquia product. Acquia Content Cloud is a content-as-a-service solution that enables simplified, headless content creation and syndication across multi-channel digital experiences.

For now, we are launching an early access beta program. If you’re interested in being considered for the beta or want to learn more as Content Cloud moves toward general availability, you can sign up here.

In time, I plan to write more about Content Cloud, especially as we get closer to its initial release. Until then, you can watch the Acquia Content Cloud teaser video below:

Categories: Drupal

Web personalization made simple: announcing the all-new Acquia Lift

18 June 2019 - 3:15am

Today, we released a new version of Acquia Lift, our web personalization tool.

In today's world, personalization has become central to the most successful customer experiences. Most organizations know that personalization is no longer optional, but have put it off because it can be too difficult. The new Acquia Lift solves that problem.

While before, Acquia Lift may have taken a degree of fine-tuning from a developer, the new version simplifies how marketers create and launch website personalization. With the new version, anyone can point, click and personalize content without any code.

We started working on the new version of Acquia Lift in early 2018, well over a year ago. In the process we interviewed over 50 customers, redesigned the user interface and workflows, and added various new capabilities to make it easier for marketers to run website personalization campaigns. And today, at our European customer conference, Acquia Engage London, we released the new Acquia Lift to the public.

You can see all of the new features in action in this 5-minute Acquia Lift demo video:

The new Acquia Lift offers the best web personalization solution in Acquia's history, and definitely the best tool for Drupal.

Categories: Drupal

Drupal interview on Dutch business news network

11 June 2019 - 5:54am

Recently I was interviewed on RTL Z, the Dutch business news television network. In the interview, I talk about the growth and success of Drupal, and what is to come for the future of the web. Beware, the interview is in Dutch. If you speak Dutch and are subscribed to my blog (hi mom!), feel free to check it out!

Categories: Drupal

Commercial sponsorship and Open Source sustainability

10 June 2019 - 8:43am

Recently, GitHub announced an initiative called GitHub Sponsors where open source software users can pay contributors for their work directly within GitHub.

There has been quite a bit of debate about whether initiatives like this are good or bad for Open Source.

On the one hand, there is the concern that the commercialization of Open Source could corrupt Open Source communities, harm contributors' intrinsic motivation and quest for purpose (blog post), or could lead to unhealthy corporate control (blog post).

On the other hand, there is the recognition that commercial sponsorship is often a necessary condition for Open Source sustainability. Many communities have found that to support their growth, as a part of their natural evolution, they need to pay developers or embrace corporate sponsors.

Personally, I believe initiatives like GitHub Sponsors, and others like Open Collective, are a good thing.

It helps not only with the long-term sustainability of Open Source communities, but also improves diversity in Open Source. Underrepresented groups, in particular, don't always have the privilege of free time to contribute to Open Source outside of work hours. Most software developers have to focus on making a living before they can focus on self-actualization. Without funding, Open Source communities risk losing or excluding valuable talent.

Categories: Drupal