Historic DrupalCon Amsterdam 2014 - Let the Debates Begin - Part I

I really think that a debate needs to continue around Keynote: Dries Buytaert for the purpose of understanding the forces at work competing for the future of Drupal and indeed all open source projects. Leaving to one side without comment the really weird Dries doppelganger designed somehow to elevate the image of one of the sponsors, it was indeed saluted by many as being very special. A glance at the tweets feed for the keynote, for example, (or this one) were by and large ecstatic, and many interpreted the talk as exceedingly progressive. "The power of the people"... #digitaldisruption... "This is @Dries most socialist #Driesnote ever." "Applause even in the overflow room..." "Most relevant and interesting #DriesNote in a long time. Well done..." "Exciting. The best Dries keynote ever."

And it certainly was amazingly ambitious, and courageously stated.

Dries published a blog post the same day as the keynote, Scaling Open Source communities, and the slides from the talk are available here.

But the talk presents one point of view. I would like to see more debate around the concepts stated in the community as a whole, since they have far-reaching consequences and high impact for all, and as Dries says there are many questions and concerns.

First I will review the key concepts presented in the meat of the talk, and then I will list some questions I think the Drupal community should debate immediately. After all, the conclusions of this talk are on the verge of being implemented byt the Drupal Association, even though they are presented as "starting points for discussion" and not a final solution.


First, "Public Good" is defined, in strict Wikipedia terms, actually, as something that is non-excludable (anyone can use it: not just download it, but use it) and non-rivalrous (use by one individual does not reduce the amount available to be consumed by others). Dries continues his talk right along with the Wikipedia article, which explains the problem of "excessive use" of such public goods as air, water and roads, information goods, and software development (Drupal!) leading to the "free-rider" problem.

Basically, and as reflected in Dries rendering of the Wikipedia article through the history of roads, people are purely rational and selfish ("homo economicus") and act purely in terms of the benefits they may receive when deciding whether or not to volunteer to support Public Goods.

Fortunately for these lazy masses (easily capable of falling asleep during an important "academic" wikipedian talk), private businesses step in and eventually privatize the public good, and the community benefits because even though they now have to pay, they do gain access to an improved public good which had deteriorated due to their just using it and giving nothing back.

However problems develop here too and eventually the government must step in and transform the original invention or discovery cum product into a public utility. This results in the current state of our parks, national defense and open source drones, education system, road and public health systems, etc.

The same thing is happening with Drupal. So "commercialization of a volunteer open source project is not a bad thing, it's part of the natural life-cycle of open source projects."

The best method for Drupal to face its problems as a Public Good will be the formation of Privileged Groups (over Social Capital, Privatization, Altruism (donations), for example). Those that contribute get benefits, those who don't, don't.

  • Agencies and Companies (producers and consumers) to be actors with their own profiles, and with visibility and influence in the community in proportion to contributions (i.e. economic power, since a negligible effort by a large company greatly outweighs maximum efforts by a single individual or small shop)
  • Contributions are accurately tracked and benefits awarded accordingly
  • Companies that do not contribute to be penalized (and/or not benefited)


Aren't free-riders free testers? Free requirements analysts?

Dries attributes the breaking down of roads, and of public goods in general, as being due to the growth in complexity that they undergo, causing the need for government to step in. But the question needs to be asked: is this how it happened historically (think under-investment amidst huge profits)? Let's just leave that as an open question for now.

Was it an acceleration in the development of Public Goods thanks to businesses getting involved, or was it the acceleration that attracted the businesses, especially in such areas as information, software development, authorship, etc?

Now, specifically, how is corporations charging for what used to be freely available Public Goods something that can teach the Drupal community anything in terms of facing their own problems? Unless the plan is to "privatize" in some way?

Isn't it true that businesses bear the main responsibility for the "free-rider" problem in the first place? Aren't they responsible for air-pollution, depletion of natural resources, and in the open source community, for poaching talent and pushing the product's features towards meeting the goals of their own business models?

Why can't Drupal be a better-defined component in a larger eco-system? Could it be less complex and top heavy if that were the case? Might it reduce the need for rocket scientists? Must Drupal be all things to all men in a world growing in leaps and bounds in its consciousness of the need for micro-services?

Isn't a lot of the complexity of public goods as products actually the result of corporations imposing their own business models on the requirements? For example, Drupal being aimed at the "Enterprise" market instead of small and medium sized organizations, and individuals? Is the growth in complexity to meet everyone's needs, or just those having an up-market "enterprise" business model?

Would a project like Backdrop, lately gaining huge momentum in the CMS community, not then need to emerge or fork from Drupal if that were the case?

Also, does the growing complexity of the product really require corporations in order to find a solution? I mean, how do you then explain the Obamacare debacle and Microsoft Vista in contrast to, say, the Apache server, Linux, Drupal running the Emmy's and an army of NGO's, or Wikipedia itself ("altruism"???). Since when are corporations "more efficient"?

And Wikipedia is mentioned in the talk, but it is not explained why donations + social capital should be in any way inferior to privileged groups. What's up with that? If Wikipedia can do it why can't we? Or is kickstarter a failure too as it grows?

Why is commercialization of open source projects synonymous automatically with the most powerful economic groups (agencies and companies) being given privileges less economically powerful organizations and individuals don't have? Why can't commercialization of open source projects be synonymous with fair use and the development of products equally suitable to small concerns, not just large enterprises? What happened to the "social capital" idea of just a few weeks ago, where the more you contributed, the more recognition and customers you got?

Isn't "privileged groups" just a fancy name for privatization. Doesn't privatization just lead to high priced under-invested products that forced the government to step in and manage utilities in the first place? Obamacare websites? Like the California water (Chinatown!) and power debacle?

Aren't the "free-rider problem" and "homo economicus" simply (all too familiar) ways of invalidating the value of collective and cooperative efforts in order to justify privatization and the creation of privileged groups, like the two-tiered internet proposal, or private medicine?

How is there a "free-rider problem" in Drupal anyway? If more people download it, how is that a burden on the community? Wasn't the growth in the number of people downloading and using Drupal a benefit, in terms of long-tail testing and feedback? Wasn't that always one of Drupal's strengths?

So what scarcity does exist? Isn't the scarcity that of programmers and developers willing to participate in the Drupal 8 issue queue, building, perfecting and maintaining an extremely complex system? So who might the "free-riders" be, then? Not the end users of Drupal, but rather those who sell their services configuring, building and maintaining web apps using Drupal, without contributing back to the community in some way? So the larger the agencies, the bigger free-riders they are. Will gameification buttons and baubles and some free advertising on d dot o do the trick?

But how is creating privileged groups, especially going to the extreme of a VIP Drupal (as in the WordPress example given), going to do any more than make someone rich and reduce the reach of Drupal as a whole? How is it going to solve the very real problem of programmers leaving the Drupal community and being unwilling to participate in the maintenance of Drupal?

Is this why "Headless Drupal" rears its head so often and means something different to everyone? Is it an attempt to lure developers back, saying "you can use all your great new stuff, the revolution is in the front-end, ok, go ahead, shear off Drupal's front-end, we got back!"?

But does Drupal really have scalable back? Not according to several of the presentations at this paradoxical, and for that reason, historical DrupalCon.

Can the Drupal community meet its need for a critical mass of developers when they have to stand on their heads to use Drupal without giving up the exciting new (supposedly only front-end) stuff they have to learn anyway?

Can privatizing Drupal pay for attracting more core programmers? Is the opposition of Drupal as a private good to Drupal as a public good going to lead to a solution? How does VIP Drupal jive, in actual practice, with helping young people get jobs in Rwanda with Drupal as a Public Good (public to use not just to download) that was stated at the beginning of the talk? With "we have the power to change lives"? Can the character of Public Good be truly preserved if important effort goes towards improving something like Drupal VIP (a la WordPress VIP from Automattic)?

Is it the formal license, or what is really going on?

Doesn't the fact that millions of people will be coming on-line over the next few years open up the solution of crowd sourcing Drupal's needs, based on a model of collective and cooperative work, rather than re-privatized public utility?

Isn't the whole gameification (badges and baubles) route for large agencies and companies over individuals and small shops just a blue-print for the domination of the community and its decision making process, even more so than today?

You just gotta ask yourself, there might be short-term gains for some companies, but are real, durable solutions for the Drupal community being proposed here?

Let the debate wail!

(Still to come in coming articles this week: discussion on what's going on with Headless Drupal, with the rise of new languages and frameworks, including rapid maturity of PHP itself in many ways; what are the concrete steps we need to learn how to take in order to build web application from now on, no matter what framework we use; how is the build process and how are our teams to be best organized from here on in... let's start dealing with all of these things together! Solidarity forever!)

Open source projects run out of steam when...

... they cease to be motorized by real people's needs and become motorized by the requirements of commercial products and/or business service models using that open source project.

Open source and free software projects are free to use, and you don't have to do anything to be able to use them, nor do the communities supporting open source projects worry about people using them, on the contrary, they take pride the larger the user base.

So how do the projects survive? Because, as the famous work The Cathedral and the Bazaar explains in great detail, the projects evolve because users smack their angry fists on top of the desktop and airily shout "Why does/doesn't {Drupal} do this/that???" so hard and so loud that a lot of them wind up fixing/doing/creating/documenting/paying someone else to do it, and then contribute that back to the community in the hopes that their real need will be felt by others and their solution (or a better one) will be adopted into the (frequently built and released) become part of the mainstream release where it will be perfected and enriched by the whole community and become better/easier to rip of next time.

I think Eric S. Raymond's famous work is a much better source than Paul Samuelson, I really do.

Now, it's one thing for such a product to evolve in its features and wide adoption so that businesses can take advantage of them (and boy, do they), so that businesses can evolve the release for their special needs, give that back to the community, and if (if!!) the solutions given back are useful, that is just great.

So the modules Views, Panels, Ctools, etc. comes into being because one of the greatest forces (if not the single greatest force) behind the success and wide adoption of Drupal, in the person of one Earl Miles (respectful bow! see https://www.drupal.org/earl-miles-merlinofchaos-2008-MVP-OSCMS-Drupal-pa... ) worked for the arch-corporate Sony Music Entertainment as Director of Web Technology. And they did bands! And bands don't want no fucking sidebars and dumb-ass blocks that don't know what day it is or what their name is even! Bands need nodequeues! Bands need Views cuz they can't start writing stinking SQL every time they want to list content.

The business used Drupal cuz it was the best thing for what they needed. And they smacked their fists and drumsticks on the tables and desks and jumped up and busted up their executive suits and shouted "fix this so we can use it for what we need!" And by the forces of heaven, merlinofchaos waved that wand and strutted his stuff and got it done. Then he contributed all of it back to the community and naturally expected it to be adopted to the extent that it solved other people's problems too and it might be enriched and tested for he needed help. (Oh well that's another story, isn't it...) But fortunately all his work survived as contributed modules, parts even found their way into core even... But the bands didn't come to Drupal because it was a great "enterprise" product. Bands don't need no stinking enterprise products!!! They need quick, good, excellent, cheap, free! Like stuff made on the model of The Cathedral and the Bazaar, stuff that gets good because people really need it and can use it for something.

So what I'm saying is, it's one thing if a business needs Drupal, enhances it, and in so doing enhances Drupal. That's only natural because in working we create our tools, human being's work is distinguished from that of beavers, etc., in that we create tools. Yes indeed, we do, tools we need, tools we make, tools we use.

But it's quite another thing in the case of a large business that sells products based on Drupal (whether apps or services). And needs to sell those products no matter what to stay alive. If my cousin works for that company, I say to him, good luck cousin, hope they don't go under. But that company's going under or not has got absolutely nothing to do with the open source community at all.

If interest of all kinds (adoption, contribution, checking it out!) wanes, or starts to wane, it's not because big corporations are using Drupal. It's because some big corporations are trying to sell their products and turn Drupal, not into what its historic user base needs, or what a bunch of new wide adopters need, but instead into what will fit best with the product they are trying to sell.

Not because they are bad people. They may think their product is the best thing since sliced bread (ugh!). But it's their product that's in their minds, first and foremost. And it has to be, because otherwise they go under. But you know what? It isn't my problem if they go under or not.

My problem is for the Drupal Community to be a bazaar, where people can grab it for free, use it, make a living out of it, contribute back in any way shape or form, and you know what, if Drupal continues to be useful, accessible, easy, free, cheap, non-bureaucratic, a place where people treat you with respect, to some extent at least, then it will thrive. If not, not.

There, now I feel better, got my point out. Many thanks to Elias De la Torre and his comment http://awebfactory.com/node/529#comment-9695 because it really helped me dig a little deeper. As did the discussion here and in many places. Thanks everyone! Yes, let the debate wail!!

I don't get it

This is my second attempt to comment, I had a full comment but decided not to share.

But hey, I'm being using free software for the last 10 years or so... I even have a company that provide services (services, not products) based on open source solutions like Drupal.

And I didn't get the point of the keynote, I just didn't.

I'm not a code contributor to the Drupal project, usually I don't have complex problems and when I have one usually I program a custom module for what I need. Frankly, so far, I haven't had any reason to commit anything to a contributed module, mostly because my need is very specific, but also because I'm not proficient enough to submit a patch. I don't enjoy struggling with a process so complex (for me) that I don't even know where to start, even I attended all the last code sprints since my first DrupalCon at Boston.

So I don't enjoy that, I just can't find joy on struggling with that. But I always thought the Free Software was about the people, not the high-tech, not the nonexistent cost, but the people that makes it and uses it. I'm (and certainly I'll always be) thankful to all those unknown heroes that program much better than me and allow me to view videos, perform complex visual effects on my Ubuntu, made a printer driver much better that the one for Windows, and allow me to work without having to spend a dime on that, I'll always be thankful and all of them have my respect.

So instead of coding what I always did was to pull people into using free software, that was my contribution to the movement. I can't code as good as many of you can, but certainly I can show other people how to use it, and how to get as much as possible by using it.

After seeing the keynote I just felt as a free-rider, plain and simple, and I don't get it, really I don't get it. After reading some comments here I think I shouldn't feel this way, but without these comments several other people feel the same, as free loaders since some may work with Drupal, make money with Drupal, and don't contributing code back... I'm one of those, I certainly am.

But I'm sure I was one of the first 3 people in my country to actively shout aloud about Drupal, and I spent most of my energy doing it, not only my energy but a good amount of money and time as well. That's my contribution to the community, and now we are a healthy community here. Healthy, but with a lot of free-riders. I even helped a good bunch of developers in fixing problems they had with Drupal, for free. If you call my office I'll charge you, but if you ask on the drupal.org website you got it for free, as simple as that.

So I don't get it, I didn't get the keynote.

So the problem is where? I can't find out. Is there a problem with those unidentifiable guys that use Drupal, don't contribute code back, don't organize meetups, make a lot of money, talk trash when Drupal crashes, and have proficient coders and have them behind curtains? That's the problem? If that is the problem then is a very narrow problem, and I don't think it's worth such a generic/broad distinction keynote.

If the problem aren't those, but some big identifiable companies/individuals then it's probably worthy, but certainly the phrasing of the keynote wasn't the better. Since several of us felt weird... If you guys know who those guys are you should shout and point at them, but if that's not politically correct then I don't see the need of generically pointing them out, taking a lot of bystanders with them.

So, I don't get it, usually I get all the keynotes but not this one, I didn't get where the issue is, since software can't be compared with any other physical good.

And ultimately because, on my book, free software means that: Free as in beer and as in speech. That's the responsibility we accept when using free software, or releasing something under that premise, that any other may use it as they want.

Or am I been wrong all these years?

Thanks so much for your comment Elias

A breath of fresh air! It really helped me smack my forehead and say "yeah, it isn't that complicated", so I wrote a reply to everyone, including your comment, here: http://awebfactory.com/node/529#comment-9769

Please don't bend my words


I'm glad you want to continue the debate as it is an important one. I read your post twice, and it is not clear that you recognize that we have a problem that needs to be addressed. It's also not clear what you propose as an alternative solution.

You are asking some great questions and I will continue the conversation as it is near and dear to my heart, but most likely not on your blog. You're bending my words. I'm not saying that was done purposely, but it prevents any constructive debate.

Regardless, I wanted to take a moment to set a few things straight:

  • There is a big difference between "privatization" and "privileged groups". Privatization means you make the public good private (e.g. everyone has to pay an entrance fee to the park). Privileged groups means you provide benefits to everyone who helps with the provisioning of the public good (e.g. if you help maintain the park, you get recognized in the town's newspaper). I specifically eliminated privatization as a solution. I'm not sure why you confuse "privatization" and "privileged groups" to mean the same thing.
  • I specifically said I want to avoid privileged groups that get exclusive benefits (like Automattic and Mozilla). Instead, I said we need a system that promotes equality and fairness. I proposed a system that I believe to be as fair as possible. I recognized that this is a difficult problem and that it might take years to perfect it.
  • I never said that "social capital" is no longer valuable. In contrast, I proposed ways to increase the social capital of both individuals and organizations; e.g. better drupal.org profile pages for both individuals and organizations will increase their recognition as caretakers.
  • I never said that we shouldn't provide benefits for individual contributors. Quite the contrary, I talked about individual contributors and what we can do for them.
  • I never said free-riders are bad. In fact, I pointed out that free-riders are both good and needed. It would have been better if economists called it the "lack-of-caretakers problem".

Dries, I want to thank you


I want to thank you for making this clarification here, and I am very happy that the debate will go on. Joaquin here raises several of the issues that concern me too, very clearly. My solution (let's do what Wikipedia does) is stated in what I write, and I look forward to continuing to follow the debate.

I do think that a lot of the debate needs to be aimed at clarifying the problem that needs to be addressed, that is, the exact nature of the complexity required of Drupal. Your academic presentation (and I agree with Joaquin that in Latin America the role of large corporations' participation in public goods awakens some very bad memories indeed, and continue to do so) seems to indicate that complexity is something innate that will grow naturally as time goes on. But what kind of complexity are we aiming for and why?

In Drupal 7, which was born without configuration management in code and bereft of a "small-core" architecture (as it was called then), the need for complexity was said to reside in the user experience, and yet the first thing most developers have to do when they fire up a new Drupal 7 site is to disable the Overlay, Toolbar and Dashboard modules.

In Drupal 8, what is the problem exactly? Does the jump in complexity correspond to the need to comply with up market architectures in which Drupal is stretched into being a full tier all-in-one solution?

Others explain that the problem might be in the long release cycle, or a falling adoption rate, whereas I got the feeling from your talk that you feel the problem is a low conversion rate of "free riders" into "caretakers", that the number of caretakers is not covered by the number of people volunteering. Some say this is not the case, that never before have there been as many contributors.

Whatever the problem is, then, it needs to be clearly defined and debated out in the open. That way it's easier to arrive at the truth.

On the solution side, if companies and corporate end users are to benefit from work done, then there is no "fair and equal" way in which individuals and small shops can compete: a huge effort on their part will fall short, whereas a tiny effort on the part of a large company will go a long way.

Well, I agree we have huge differences, and there is no need to continue the discussion here on my blog, unless you wish to, in which case of course it would be an honor. But as I say I look forward greatly to seeing the community continue this debate.


Hi Dries! When I read your

Hi Dries!

When I read your blog post about scaling open source communities I thought it was a good idea. When I saw your presentation on the same topic I when WTF?! =P. I guess this is because I didn't like the examples you presented. There may be some similarities, but, for example, why mention the free-rider problem if you think that free riders are good?

Also, latin america (and probably other parts of the world) has had a bad history when corporations take over public goods (water, oil, health, beaches, forests). So the example arises exalted responses from some people (myself included).

The other point I found particularly bad was mentioning the possibility of using contribution data to give bad publicity to non-contributors. I think that would deter new people and organizations from joining the community.

I liked this response you gave so lets continue to expand on how can we provide better recognition to all contributions.

The term free-rider problem

The term free-rider problem is confusing because it does not necessarily mean that free-riders itself are the problem. It's about how to sustain a public good and the caretakers to free-riders ratio. The term 'free-rider problem' is not great but it is the economic term used in academia.

Penalizing those who don't contribute is something that works. We can argue about it but it has been studied widely. If we decide to penalize people/organizations, it could be subtle. I'm not suggesting we are aggressive about it. It also does not have to affect people new to Drupal; e.g. we could choose not to penalize anyone in the first year. Long story short, it all depends on how it is implemented and I purposely did not make concrete recommendations about that.

Public/Private is non-binary

Hey Victor,

I wish this post was a little more thoughtful and a little less bombastic.

Isn't the whole gameification (badges and baubles) route for large agencies and companies over individuals and small shops just a blue-print for the domination of the community and its decision making process, even more so than today?

The question for you is "do you think it would be good for the private entities around Drupal to contribute more"? If the answer is "yes", then we should talk about what would lead them to do more of that rather than attacking an initial proposal as "blue-prints for domination of the community." That's just needlessly inflammatory.

On the other hand, if the answer is "no" then there's a more fundamental debate. Maybe you see it as a "one or the other" decision. I don't, and I'm not sure many would agree that people profiting from solutions built on on Drupal have no place in the community.

Perhaps we interpret the talk differently, but I don't see Dries calling for the privatization of public goods. I don't think there's anything in this talk that would exclude or diminish the existing community-driven participation. It's main focus is how to incentivize more/better participation out of the private entities (e.g. companies like mine and the agencies we partner with) to help advance the project in ways that would be available to all.

Personally I find the notion of increasing complexity of public goods as they mature, leading to the need for professionalization (and ultimately public/civic stewardship) to be compelling. Now, whether or not Drupal 8 is gathering the right type of complexity is an open question which time will tell, but I don't think holding onto the past is a viable option, and the best way to succeed is to have robust participation from many parties.

Drupal's free riders aren't providing value. They're the people who never comment, never report bugs, and maybe detract by saying mean things on twitter when the free software other people made didn't solve their particular problem. While we don't face the literal over-grazing problem in open source, free riders who go even further to demoralize and denegrate the work being done are a very real problem as per Lennart Potterang's recent post.

Hi Josh!

Hi Josh! We met in DrupalCamp México.

The main thing that I guess is trying to achieve is to get more people to contribute. And I don't think that is the way. In fact I think it will be counter productive. Creating privileged groups will only alienate other users and other companies, specially hobbyists and small companies that won't get as much benefit.

He also speaks of the free rider problem but I don't see it. You mention Lennart's post but that is present in every free software project. Not that it is a good thing, but there are other ways to deal with that, and drupal is working the right way there, creating community guidelines and educating the members of the community.

In fact, having free users is one of the main selling points of free software. That you get free testers and a wider audience because you are free.

I like the proposal to get more data about what persons and which companies contribute. I love the Linux Foundation's reports about contributions. but I'm against of using that data to create privileged groups and, even worse, to punish those who do not contribute. VIP clubs is what it sounds like.

Exclusivity vs Recognition

Hey Joaquin,

I guess the difference of opinion is whether one interprets "Privileged groups" as more "groups with exclusive access" (VIP clubs) or "groups getting recognition for their contributions."

The keynote doesn't propose anything exclusive or punishing. It proposes providing recognition to those who do contribute.

Now, in effect this does put non-contributors at a disadvantage, since they won't be getting recognition, but I feel like that's probably ok.

I also feel like larger companies doing their own sales and marketing efforts (regardless of their contributions) already have an advantage over smaller groups, who don't have the time, expertise, or budget to do the same. Recognizing contributions to the projects as a way to help promote groups actually seems like a way to redress this balance by allowing small groups to gain prominence through their contributions rather than having to spend on advertising, sales, and promotions.

I'm very disappointed in your post, Josh

You apply labels (thoughtless, bombastic, needlessly inflammatory) to my post instead of addressing the points I'm raising. Which is invalidation without representation. Maybe I should talk to the more bombastic outlandishjosh instead of joshk, I don't know: but both have been my mentors in the past, which is why your superficial bombshell is disappointing.

You reduce the discussion I am making to a false decision tree and a couple of false options, which I reject.

And the last paragraph I find absolutely appalling, first because you are aiding and abetting the use of Samuelson economics as the only ideological framework within which open source problems may be discussed; that is, closing ranks and validating the false category of free riders as a problem in Drupal. and secondly bringing in this Lennart Potterang person supposedly as part of the discussion. Is that some kind of form of veiled insult to my person? Is it a threat? What are you talking about??? Or are you just superficially saying that asking questions is a form of demoralizing the community?

Let's examine the inapplicability of the labels aimed at invalidating the points I am raising, the questions and concerns I am stating; together with the false decision tree and the false options in more detail.

As this simple wikipedia article explains (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privileged_group) once you have established the "free rider problem", then the supposed need for privileged groups follows as a result of applying formal logic. What I am saying is that this is bullshit, it's sophistry hiding the fact that historically it's been the greed of corporations who have been the free riders in preventing people from consuming what used to be free, monopolizing these 'public goods and services", and then distorting their very existence and threatening its survival. As a result I find that a poor way indeed to analyze solutions for open source projects, and I reject the conflation of the necessary commercialization of open source projects with their being hijacked by large and powerful corporations, as has been the case in countless projects.

Now, that's my opinion. It's not thoughtless, it's my well-thought out opinion, which may be completely mistaken from the point of view of your own station, but which is mine. We can argue the point, appeal to the wisdom of Samuelson, or Dewey or Marx, but you may not invalidate my discussion with invective and guilt through association.

Your fourth paragraph is a reasonable argument, and there we can simply discuss our differences. My differences with what you are saying is that the notion of "privileged group" (having benefits others won't have) contradicts with simply incentivizing more/better participation, etc. "in ways that would be available to all". No, the keynote says there will be benefits only available to some; and even then not necessarily to the individuals providing the contribution, but rather to the companies they work for. Anyway, this paragraph can be discussed fairly, we simply disagree, as you say "perhaps we interpret the talk differently".

The false either/or tree you smack down here goes as follows:

a) Should private entities around Drupal contribute more, yes or no?
if yes {discuss ways this can be done without attacking initial proposal as blueprint for domination}
if no {you're full of shit}

b) Should we hold on to the past or accept complexity in Drupal 8
if reject complexity in Drupal 8 {we are romantically rejecting progress}
If we accept complexity {we can discuss if it's going in the right direction}

On a), I am very sorry but it is my deliberate opinion that yes, the gameification and free advertising for "non-free-riders" _does_ constitute a blueprint for domination. The privileged group approach will, in my opinion, stifle and diminish the community-driven participation we need. It is a blueprint for domination, because is completely discourages an open debate into why it is that community-driven participation is dropping; that is, the only scarcity that exists is in the amount of people willing to contribute to the community in many ways. If this is dropping, then we should be asking why, not covering it up with schemes borrowed from liberal economics (part of the problem, not the solution). If it isn't dropping, then we don't have any kind of free-rider problem, then do we?

The false option you present is "I'm not sure many would agree that people profiting from solutions built on on Drupal have no place in the community", since you are saying that my opposition to privileged groups and my criticism of this initial solution put forward means I think people profiting from solutions built on Drupal have no place in the community. I didn't say that. I'm saying I think there needs to be more debate around the acceptance of privileged groups, not just because I hate that (I do), but because it won't work, we need to find out the real causes of the scarcity, not simply create justifications for measures that will create an uneven playing field in the decision making process.


Victor Kane

Debating the keynote rather than economic theories

Hey Victor,

Apologies for being bombastic in my own way. Let's try and move forward though! :)

I didn't mean to suggest that there's only one language or framework to analyze the problem. I'm happily polytheistic when it comes to economic theory, and I think it's possible to discuss the challenge of "free riders" without having a referendum on whether corporations are good stewards of natural resources (they're clearly not, but that's an separate discussion).

Companies that use Drupal to create value and make money without contributing back seem like the classic "free riders." However, since Drupal isn't like a field being over-grazed (or air being polluted) by this kind of non-contributatory use, the cost of all this free-riding is low. Open Source code isn't subject to the classic free-rider problem because use is effectively unlimited.

I was taking it a more experimental step further citing Leonart's example as someone who does a lot for Open Source (not Drupal, but in general) and faces fatigue and even abuse from a different kind of "free rider" - the person who expects Open Source to solve all their problems for free and will lash out if they don't get what they want. That kind of "free riding" has the potential to diminish projects and curtail the development of Public Goods. I don't know whether that's a good analogy or not, but it's been on my mind a lot so I thought I'd throw it out there.

I'm not saying that you're hurting the community by asking questions. Probably just ignore that point since it doesn't really relate to the keynote or the problem at hand. I'll think about it some more and come up with a better explanation of my thoughts at a later date.

On to the specific point:

the keynote says there will be benefits only available to some; and even then not necessarily to the individuals providing the contribution, but rather to the companies they work for.

The "benefits" I was referring to are the contributions themselves, not badges and ads. If a worker produces contributions to Drupal, assuming they are good contributions, everyone benefits because the public good is enhanced.

However, it's normal for a company who employs a worker to produce something to reap any proceeds of that production. If there's some kind of "payback" from drupal.org in terms of recognition, the company as employer of the worker would accrue them assuming the contributions were done on company time. To me this is no different than when a company provides the code from a worker to a client. The company gets paid, not the worker.

it is my deliberate opinion that yes, the gameification and free advertising for "non-free-riders" _does_ constitute a blueprint for domination

I don't understand this. If anything, badges and ads are too inconsequential to influence behavior enough to get more people contributing. It's unclear to me how providing public recognition of contributions (badges) and some marginal "payback" (the right to promote yourself on drupal.org) would discourage anyone from contributing, or allow any party to dominate another.

I also don't think we have a "scarcity" problem. That's not what the keynote was about. There were far more contributors to Drupal 8 than 7, etc. I think we do have a potential "Drupal adoption problem", but that has more to do with the fact that the software itself is badly in need of some updates, and probably should shift to a more fast-moving release cycle.

The problem being addressed in the keynote was — I believe — how to widen the circle of contributions to Drupal to include more professionals backed by commercial entities. Future development will benefit from a more diverse set of contributors, and from more people doing so professionally rather than on a volunteer or community basis. Linux couldn't be what it is without 100s of full timers contributing.

It comes down to this:

The privileged group approach will, in my opinion, stifle and diminish the community-driven participation we need.

In this context "Privileged Groups" means "people who get badges and can run some ads on drupal.org based on their contributions". I don't follow how this stifle or diminish community driven participation: they'd get the same benefits, and are already contributing without them.

Maybe you can explain more?

Thanks so much for your reply Josh

I think Joaquin hits the nail on the head in terms of the stifling of community driven participation. Also, they wouldn't get the same benefits because they would never be able to marshall the same effort or resources or get results in the way a large company would.

Also, I think economic realities, if not theories, are at the heart of the keynote (Joaquin very clearly alledes to some of these), but above all I would like to read over what you have written carefully and answer in a day or two so I can take the time it deserves.

I also look forward to seeing this debate continued in many places in the community and if this post has contributed in however small a way towards that happening, I'm happy!

I like badges, I think

I like badges, I think everyone likes badges. Well, good badges, I hope they do not include bad badges for people who do not contribute.

The Ads I think will only benefit big companies. An individual who contributes a lot will not get much benefit from ads, and a small company having 2 printed ads against 2,000 from a big one I think doesn't get much benefit. I'm not a marketing person, so I could be wrong. Can small companies benefit from ads? Can they get to the same level of participation as a big company to make the ads worthwhile?

I'm skeptical of ads - but they are worth thinking about

I'm skeptical that ads on Drupal.org are really that valuable. We definitely get some benefit from the ones we pay for at Pantheon, but it's not to the point where they could be swapped for a full-time employee or anything.

However, if the Association continues investing in improving the appeal of d.o (or maybe Dries gives them "drupal.com" to use as a promotional vehicle) there's a chance that in theory the ads could really be worth something.

Now, assuming they are actually worth enough to tip the scales, would smaller companies benefit? Possibly. If the system were run such that you got a smaller (but still meaningful) number of "impressions" for your contribution vs a big company, theoretically that would lead to a smaller (but still meaningful) amount of exposure.

If we think of the benefit of an ad being a possible new client or project, smaller shops theoretically don't need as many projects to thrive as big ones. The challenge with that is that smaller shops also tend to thrive on different kinds of projects than big ones, and there are plenty of small groups that do multiple (small) projects a month. I don't know how much limited ad exposure on d.o would help them.

Very nice post Victor. I

Very nice post Victor. I agree that privileged groups is not the solution for Drupal. We don't want to become automattic or mozilla, where only one privileged group is the main contributor.

We are raising the complexity of contributing because of big organization interests, and we are becoming Plone because of it.

Dries needs to watch the sacred economics video (http://youtu.be/EEZkQv25uEs), because having businesses take over a public good is not always a good thing, and Drupal does not need this. Drupal (or any free software project) doesn't have any free rider problem. Having more users doesn't degrade the quality of the software.

Just taken the time to see the video

I agree, the video shows as untenable our betting on the current unsustainable crisis-ridden model of false "growth", instead of peer to peer real needs based solutions. I love what is said to the effect that what is "impossible" from the old understanding of reality is not only possible but necessary with the new understanding, and that "anything less than that isn't even worth trying".

I do think we need growth, but a sustainable growth based on adult, mature, loving production pointed in the direction of people's real needs, capable of being attained with much less effort than at present.


Seems that according to Dries, I am a free-rider, what about the people that doesn't provide commits, but in the other hand give training, what about the people that show the benefits of Drupal, organize Camps and evangelizes.
Where do I fit then, should I consider myself a free-rider and look for another framework?

Non code based contributions

Hi Israel,

Like you I had concerns around those who make valuable non code based contributions to the project. People who provide training, mentorship, volunteer at events and conferences, serve on the DA board, produce marketing material, speak at meetups etc etc etc are certainly not free-riders. They are part of what Dries is talking about. They are the ones who fuel the project. It is not just about core and contrib.

I've seen proposals around how the recognition system will work. Rest assured there are ways to record non code based contributions.

I havn't directly contributed code to the project in over 2 years. However I have contributed. I am satisfied that people like you will be recognised.


Free-riders are good

Hi Israel,

If you watch my keynote video (http://buytaert.net/state-of-drupal-presentation-september-2014), you'll see that I never said free-riders are bad. In contrary, I explained (1) why free-riders are both good and needed, and (2) that we need to find better ways to acknowledge non-code contributions (like evangelism, event planning, ...).