Early Thoughts on Drupal Governance Change

One of the things that the Drupal community has learned in the last few weeks is that our current governance structures aren’t working in several ways. Having spent a lot of time at DrupalCon talking about these issues I figured I share a few initial thoughts for those working on our new processes.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been part of a community that was changing how it organizes itself. In my religious life I am a Quaker, and for a long time I was a member of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting which is the regional organizing body for Quakers in the greater Philadelphia area. And I served for a time on some of their leadership committees. I’ve seen that 300+ year old group pass through at least three different governance structures, and while many of the fundamentals are the same, the details that matter a lot to people also change a lot.

My great aunt put it into perspective during one of the long discussions about change. When my wife asked her for her opinion of then pending proposal she just responded that it didn’t matter much to her as long as it worked for those willing to take leadership roles at the moment.

So as the Drupal community grows through a process to change our leadership structure here are the things I think it is important for all of us to remember.

  1. It will not be perfect.  We’re human, we will make mistakes, that’s okay.
  2. It will change again. I don’t know when or why, but whatever we do will serve us for a time, and then we’ll replace it again.
  3. Most of the community wont care most of the time. Most of the time, most of us don’t notice what Dries, the Drupal Association, Community Workgroup, and all the other groups that provide vision and leadership are doing.

I think we can all agree my first point is a given. I mention it mostly because some of us will find fault in anything done going forward. We should remember the people doing this work are doing the best they can and give them support to do it well.

On the plus side, whatever mistakes we make will be temporary because Drupal and its community will outlive whatever we create this time. We’ll outgrow it, get annoyed with the flaws, or just plain decide the change it again. Whatever we build needs to be built to be changed, improved, and replaced in the future.  Think about it like the clauses in the constitution designed to amend the constitution.

Finally, we should remember that community and project governance is insider baseball. Understanding how and why we have the leadership we do is like watching a pitching duel in a rainy day, most baseball fans don’t enjoy those kinds of games.  Most of the our community wants to use Drupal and they don’t want to have to think about how DrupalCon, Drupal.org, and other other spaces and events are managed. That will not prevent them from complaining next time there are problems, it is a fact of life those who do care should acknowledge.

Our community is stronger than we have been giving it credit for in the last few weeks. We need to be patient and kind with each other, but we’ll get through this and the divisions that will come in the future.

DrupalCon Baltimore Notes

I’m using this post as a place to store and share “notes” from DrupalCon Baltimore.  The part of conference notes I tend to find most useful are links and stray ideas I get talking with people.  I don’t tend to take detailed notes anymore since I rarely if ever go back to those, although on rare occasions I do re-watch a session if I found it particularly useful.

Basically this is a dump of links, pictures from various things, and a few stray thoughts. I’ll edit as the week progresses and probably add more thoughts and ideas.

Prenote: https://events.drupal.org/baltimore2017/balti-more-prenote-balti-most-fun-drupalcon (unmitigated silliness)

DriesNote: https://events.drupal.org/baltimore2017/driesnote

Import things to call out:

  • Claims we’re launching 15,000 D8 sites per month!
  • Field Layout module (experimental in Drupal 8.3 core) appears to be DS in core: https://www.drupal.org/node/2795833
  • BigPipe is ready for production.
  • Quick edit can do drag and drop image upload.

Greg Anderson’s PHP OSS Workflow tools: https://events.drupal.org/baltimore2017/sessions/development-workflow-tools-open-source-php-libraries

  • Some time is more important than others, like outages.
  • To find Drupal plugins on Packages: https://packagist.org/search/?type=drupal-drush
  • poser.pugx.org provides badges on packagist pages.
  • https://scrutinizer-ci.com/ “Sometimes any static analysis tools will give you answers you don’t like so just ignore it.”
  • https://www.versioneye.com/ uses the licenses from composer.json to check for both out of date and for compatible licenses. Not terribly useful internally, but user for open projects since you can link a badge to the result. Alternative `composer licenses` which is actually smarter.
  • Sami: A symfony component that does a JavaDoc like project for API documents. https://github.com/FriendsOfPHP/Sami

Baby Steps, Lessons Learned & Big plans for Drupal Diversity and Inclusion: https://events.drupal.org/baltimore2017/sessions/year-diversity-initiatives (Core conversations style 30 minute talk with 30 minutes questions).


Launching Online Stores with Commerce 2.x on Drupal 8 https://events.drupal.org/baltimore2017/sessions/launching-online-stores-commerce-2x-drupal-8

Drupal is Changing, Quickly: How and Why https://events.drupal.org/baltimore2017/sessions/drupal-changing-quickly-how-and-why

Composer Resources:


Project Estimates:

My free shirts from DrupalCon.

Technology and its workforce at ethics crossroad

https://events.drupal.org/baltimore2017/keynote-technology-and-its-workforce-ethics-crossroad

  • Humans don’t panic properly! We panic too late instead of when we can do something about it.
  • Programmers shouldn’t trust themselves since they don’t know what will happen with their work later. @zeynep keynote #drupalcon
  • Everything is multi-causal.
  • Toolmakers’ ideals don’t rule their tools.

  • Surveillance is Baked into Everything.
  • Dismantling structures of accountability
  • Labor Realities of New Economy

Raising the bar with guardr

https://events.drupal.org/baltimore2017/sessions/raising-security-bar-guardr

Watch later:

Additional Resources to checkout:

Fixing the Expert Beginner

I’ve been reading Erik Deitrich’s blog a bunch recently, particularly two pieces he wrote last fall on how developers learn. They are excellent. I recommend them to anyone who thinks they are an expert particularly if you are just starting out.

Failed Sticky bun
I am a good baker but this attempt at a giant sticky bun failed because I am not an expert.

In short he argues for a category of developer he calls the Expert Beginner.  These are people who rose to prominence in their company or community due more to a lack of local competition than raw skill.  Developers who think they are great because they are good but have no real benchmarks to compare themselves to and no one calling them out for doing things poorly.  These developers not only fail to do good work, but will hold back teams because they will discourage people from trying new paths they don’t understand.

I have one big problem with his argument: he treats Expert Beginning as a finished state. He doesn’t provide a path out of that condition for anyone who has realized they are an expert beginner or that they are working with someone who needs help getting back on track to being an actual expert.

That bothers me because I realized that at times I have been, or certainly been close to being, such expert beginner.  When I was first at AFSC, I was the only one doing web development and I lacked feedback from my colleagues about the technical quality of my work.  If I said something could be good, it was good because no one could measure it. If I said the code was secure, it was secure because no one knew how to attack it. Fortunately for me, even before we’d developed our slogan about making new mistakes, I had come to realize that I had no idea what I was doing. Attackers certainly could find the security weaknesses even if I couldn’t.

I was talking to a friend about this recently, and I realized part of how we avoided mediocrity at the time was that we were externally focused for our benchmarks.  The Iraq Peace Pledge gathered tens of thousands of names and email addresses: a huge number for us. But as we were sweating to build that list, MoveOn ran out and got a million. We weren’t playing on the right order of magnitude to keep pace, and it helped humble us.

I think expert beginnerism is a curable condition. It requires three things: mentoring, training, and pressure to get better.

Being an expert beginner is a mindset, and mindsets can be changed. Deitrich is right that it is a toxic mindset that can cause problems for the whole company but change is possible. If it’s you, a colleague, or a supervisee you have noticed being afflicted with expert beginnerism the good news is it is fixable.

Step 1: Make sure the expert beginner has a mentor.

Everyone needs a mentor, expert beginners need one more than everyone else. A good mentor challenges us to step out of the comfort zone of what we know and see how much there is we don’t understand. Good mentors have our backs when we make mistakes and help us learn to advocate for ourselves.

When I was first in the working world I had an excellent boss who provided me mentoring and guidance because he considered it a fundamental part of his job. AFSC’s former IT Director, Bob Goodman, was an excellent mentor who taught me a great deal (even if I didn’t always admit it at the time). Currently no one person in my life can serve as the central point of reference that he did, but I still need mentoring. So I maintain relationships with several people who have experiences they are willing to share with me. Some of these people own companies, some are developers at other shops, some are at Cyberwoven, and probably none think I look at them as mentors.

I also try to make myself available to my junior colleagues as a mentor whenever I can. I offer advice about programming, careers, and on any other topic they raise. Mentoring is a skill I’m still learning – likely always will be. At times I find it easy, at times it’s hard. But I consider it critical that my workplace has mentors for our junior developers so they continue progress toward excellence.

Step 2: Making sure everyone gets training.

Programming is too big a field for any of us to master all of it.  There are things for all of us to learn that someone else already knows. I try to set a standard of constant learning and training. If you are working with, or are, an expert beginner push hard to make sure everyone is getting ongoing training even if they don’t want it. It is critical to the success of any company that everyone be learning all the time. When we stop learning we start moving backward.

Also make sure there are structures for sharing that knowledge. That can take many different shapes: lunch and learns, internal trainings, informal interactions, and many others. Everyone should learn, and everyone should teach.

Step 3: Apply Pressure.

You get to be an expert beginner because you, and the people around you, allow it. To break that mindset you have to push them forward again. Dietrich is right that the toxicity of an expert beginner is the fact that they discourage other people from learning. The other side of that coin is that you can push people into learning by being the model student.

Sometimes this makes other people uncomfortable. It can look arrogant and pushy, but done well (something I’m still mastering) it shows people the advantages of breaking habits and moving forward. This goes best for me is when I find places that other colleagues, particularly expert beginners, can teach me. Expert beginners know things so show them you are willing to learn from what they have to offer as well. They may go out and learn something new just to be able to show off to you again.

Finally, remember this takes time.  You have to be patient with people and give them a chance to change mental gears.  Expert beginners are used to moving slow but it feels fast to them.  By forcing them into the a higher gear you are making them uncomfortable and it will take them time to adjust. Do not let them hold you back while they get up to speed, but don’t give up on them either.