By: Tuba Ayyubi
May 3 2020

Contributing to Drupal : Approaches and Perks

This is part two of a two-part series on different ways and benefits of contributing to an open-source project. In the first part, we looked at the perks of contributing to an open-source project. In this article, we will explore Drupal project, one of the largest open-source projects with a thriving community, and the ways to get involved with it.

Don’t we all want to leave our mark on this world and to know that our life matters? I’m sure all of us want to leave a legacy that means something to people. By legacy, I mean putting a stamp on the future, and making a contribution to coming generations. 
In one of the scenes of Dead poets society, John Keating, who is an English teacher, discusses with his students about the meaning of life. During his lesson, he quoted from Walt Whitman’s poem, Oh Me Oh Life, as follows:

“Oh life! of the questions of these recurring, Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: That you are here — that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

Illustration, symbolising Drupal contribution. consisting of a blue coloured Drupal logo, shaped like a droplet, being carried on a palm


The poem explains that life is like a play, in which anyone who has ever lived gets to contribute one verse. Later, Keating questions the students: “What will your verse be?” 

Your legacy will be that you contribute to the verse! 

Similarly, when you contribute to an open source project, you not only contribute to its growth but also to yours. You leave your mark in the project that you contribute to, inspiring hundreds of other contributors. Drupal allows its users to freely modify and integrate the work into their projects. It gives you ways to freely plan and exchange ideas with like-minded people in their community. It also offers immense opportunities to contribute and leave your mark. Drupal.org is home to thousands of contributors and it's where users find the projects and succor they need to make Drupal better everyday.

Why Drupal?

Now that we know how much value a contribution holds, let’s talk about why we should specifically choose Drupal over any other CMS.

Have you wondered about the one similarity between the websites of The Economist, NY Government, Arizona University and Mint? 

Well, these websites are a product of Drupal open source content management system (CMS) framework. 

PHP is an open source script code, which is freed from any licensing costs and a choice of developers from a few years. Drupal is written in PHP code, and, therefore, it saves money when it involves developing a web site using it.

A blue coloured droplet shaped icon with Drupal features being written inside it


Drupal is very flexible due to its modularity. Which means, you can easily extend it. It is capable of managing and creating a wide variety of content and this has proved to be one of its greatest selling points. Hence, Drupal enables a flexible design platform to create content rich websites for different markets like commerce or media. 

Another major reason to choose Drupal is its scalability. It’s used by NASA and Oxford University because it’s highly scalable and great at accommodating content growth. Even if you plan to deliver the best digital experience to your customers, it will all go in vain if your site is hit with a lot of traffic and goes down. No matter how much traffic you receive, Drupal can handle it.

In addition to being one of the best tools for creating websites, the greatest strength of Drupal is that it is one of the largest open source communities. The open source community proffers voluminous public documentation, chat and mailing lists, well-developed discussion board parallel to an air of affable online culture.

Drupal ensures that its users get rapid responses from a dedicated security team along with a large professional service provider ecosystem and Drupal's community, which is one of the largest developer communities in the world. The goals of the Drupal security team include resolving reported security issues, helping the infrastructure team to keep the Drupal.org infrastructure secure and providing documentation on securing your site. 

According to the Imperva’s report on The State Of Web Application Vulnerabilities in 2018, Drupal reported less number of security vulnerabilities in comparison to Wordpress. While Wordpress reported 542 security attacks in 2018, Drupal reported 107. 

A bar graph with yellow, blue, violet and red coloured vertical graphs
Source: Imperva

Drupal also makes content authoring easy. The tools that Drupal provides makes it easier for the content creators to do their jobs. Drupal allows the creators to edit and write the content in place. Even if you are away from your laptops/PC’s, mobile editing comes to the rescue! You can very easily edit and approve content from any mobile device. Content revision is another tool that comes in handy to keep a track of all the changes made in the content and by whom.  

Drupal has made building multilingual websites faster and easier. Full translation of every part of the site is provided by four core modules in Drupal. Every part of the interface can be customised according to your language and needs. 

Drupal 8 comes with 94 different languages and they can be installed without any additional components. Also, the diversity in languages makes it hassle-free for the site administrators!

Doesn’t matter what device you’re using, Drupal helps in building responsive websites and provide a seamless content experience anytime, anywhere. 

In order to make Drupal content ready for delivery to site apps and free from presentation, Drupal lets you decouple the back and front-end where needed.

Frank Nagle, in his research at Harvard on the hidden benefits of giving back to open source, found that those who contributed to open source projects gain more productivity and knowledge of the software they use everyday. So, the more you contribute to Drupal, the more you learn about it.

Your contribution is visible to anyone around the world and can learn your name and admire your skills and also might be the one to help you land your dream job! 

Statistical outlook on the development of Drupal

Drupal, being an open-source project, does not have employees to deliver improvements and support. It depends on its varied community of individuals who work diligently to push the project forward by working on not just web development and user support but also many other contributions and interests that comprise, marketing, helping to review issues, organizing user groups and camps, maintaining documentation and speaking at events.

To start doing your bit, you can start by making an account on Drupal.org. Follow the steps and you will be ready to start contributing in no time! Now, let’s look at some of the key stats related to the contributions made to the Drupal project.

The project pipeline

According to Drupal Business Survey 2019,  the Drupal project pipeline has shown significant growth or stayed the same in 2019 as compared to last 2018. 

The win rates of Drupal projects have also remained the same. The future of Drupal looks moored in the coming years, based on the response of 2019. 

The survey also stated that out of the total 118 businesses that, 111 contribute to Drupal and 7 don’t. 

Pie chart with blue coloured regions to show who's contributing to Drupal and the overall percentage of Drupal contribution
Source: Drupal.org

In total, the Drupal community worked on 3,474 different Drupal.org projects in 2019 compared to 3,229 projects within the period of 2017-2018 which is an 8% year over year shoot up!

Credits

Every contribution made to Drupal is valued, whether they're code contributions, or non-product and community-oriented contributions such as organizing events, giving talks etc.

The credit system has proven to be more accurate in conceding types of Open Source contribution and is both pragmatic and important.

The initial ideas for giving credits were proposed in 2014 by Dries Buytaert, the project lead and founder of Drupal. He wanted to start a page on Drupal.org that would show which organization contributed to Drupal and the number of times the contributions were being made. Credit is a very powerful motivator for individuals and organizations. 

Later, in the spring of 2015, Drupal added the credit feature for people to credit their work. The credit feature has played a very important role in increasing the scalability and development of Drupal. 

According to Dries Buytaert's report on Drupal.org’s contribution data  for 2018-19, Drupal.org's credit system received contributions from 8,513 different individuals and 1,137 different organizations which shows a significant growth in comparison to the report of 2017-18.

Bar graph with orange and yellow bars to representing who's contributing to Drupal


The majority of work is done by a relatively small number of contributors. These contributors put a large amount of time and effort into developing Drupal and its projects. One of these contributors includes Gaurav Kapoor who is a Drupal Architect at OpenSense Labs.

Volunteer contributions proved to be very important to Drupal, even though there are almost four times as many purely sponsored credits as compared to Purely Volunteer credits. 

The community captured more number of non-product contributions because of the large jump in volunteer credits. Even though the ‘sponsored credits’ grew more in number in comparison to ‘volunteer credits’, the relative number of ‘volunteer credits’ seemed to make a jump!

Bar graphs with blue and green horizontal bars to show Drupal contribution data
Source: Dries Buytaert's blog

Diversity and inclusion

Supporting diversity and inclusion within Drupal is supremely important for the health and success of the project. Drupal welcomes all kinds of contributors ranging from programmers to designers and writers to mentors.

The Drupal diversity and inclusion team tries to recruit teams from places where the people from diverse backgrounds collaborate. Drupal contributors have become more diverse but need more efforts to be put in for widespread reach of D&I principles among its members. And when a team has diverse members, it makes better products for more people! 

According to the data contributions that were recorded in Drupal.org’s contribution data for 2018-2019, only 8% were made by contributors who do not identify as males which is a 1% increase in comparison to last year. 

Bar graph with yellow and orange bars to show who's contributing to Drupal


One of the reasons that Drupal suffers from a lack of diversity is that not everyone has an equal amount of free time to make contributions. Research shows that women still do more unpaid work in comparison to men, for example, household chores, child care etc. This makes it difficult for women to contribute on an unpaid basis. 

When geographic diversity was measured, it was observed that individual contributors were from six continents and 114 countries:

Bar graph with yellow and orange bars to show who's contributing to Drupal


Contributions from Europe and North America have increased. Asia, South America and Africa together account for 6.3 billion out of 7.5 billion people in the world and hence, pose great opportunities for Drupal. 

Different ways to contribute to Drupal

Coding Is The New Literacy

If you are the one who likes to fix issues, developing is for you! So many coders believe that coding should be open. Developers’ contributions can be in the form of both contributed modules/themes and patches to core. When you find a bug in the project, you'd want to have a look on the source and patch it yourself. 

When you contribute to an open source project like Drupal as a developer, you ensure that Drupal can do what the contributor needs to do in his next project.

The Drupal core issue queue contains a substantial amount of unresolved issues, and demands the assistance of more volunteers to address these issues deftly. 

Mentoring: Effective Way To Contribute

Every contribution holds value and mentoring is the most effective way to contribute. When you mentor as a contributor, you not only help the individual but also the entire Drupal community. 

Drupal core mentors inspire, enable, and encourage new core contributors by working on the core tools, process, and community for a hassle-free experience for the new contributors. 

And not just that, the gratitude you earn by mentoring someone is beyond everything! 

Interacting With The Community

When you join Drupal as a new contributor, you would like to interact with someone who shares the same interest as yours, someone who has experience in contribution. Drupal has a community of thousands of passionate individuals around the world. It also offers some tools that are used to keep in touch with them. There are support forums on Drupal.org where you can put your queries and get your doubts cleared by other members of the forum. Find like-minded individuals who are working on the same tasks as yours on Drupal Groups. It is an online space where hundreds of groups come together to plan projects and work on them and also to organise local meetups or discuss anything for that matter. The Drupal community is also very active on IRC and Slack.

Running Drupal Tests

There is so much more in open source than just coding. Testing is one of the ways to contribute and there are so many things to test for and so many ways to help in Drupal (like reviewing patches).. For helping Drupal with testing, you need to have a keen eye for detail or just a knack for breaking things. Good testing directly contributes to the stability of the platform and is a preeminent way for individuals of all backgrounds to make a valuable contribution to the project.

Translating Drupal to Your Language

People get involved in Drupal from around the world. Drupal supports many languages, and there is always a need for contributions in translation. If you are the one who knows multiple languages, you can contribute by helping to maintain Drupal core or contribute to module translations. All the translations are managed on the Drupal.org translation server. You can start contributing by logging in with your Drupal account and join the relevant language team. 

Designing and Usability

If you are into design and graphics, you can help with a lot of projects who need work in their logo designs, icons and other graphics that are visually appealing. Being a designer, you first need to find yourself a project whose goals you understand and relate to. A designer needs to focus and make sure that they understand users' needs. There is Drupal’s usability group where you can create, discuss and plan great Drupal UX designs

Making A Donation

There are so many people who want to contribute but don't have the time. So, if you want to say "thank you" to the folks who have put hard work into making Drupal what it is and ensure that Drupal's infrastructure stays healthy and strong, you can consider a monetary donation! Donations are also a part of the contributions that take Drupal forward in many ways. During the uncertain times, like the current Covid-19 pandemic, Dries Buytaert has pledged $100,000 in individual contributions to the Drupal Association. After a week of taking this pledge, 29 organizations of the Drupal community pledged another $100,000. Now, for every $1 you donate, Drupal gets $3. To donate to #DrupalCares visit the donation page of Drupal association.

Marketing Drupal

Marketers love the various marketing tools as they help them get better analytics and also effectively streamline their work benefits. Drupal provides easy integration with marketing automation tools which is a plus for marketers! Marketers can freely produce convincing and more powerful campaigns in their native languages. Drupal marketing group for the branding and marketing committee is open for all the marketers out there!

Organizing An Event

You can do your bit for Drupal by organizing events in your area. There are many types of Drupal events, starting from the colossal and comprehensive DrupalCons that are organized by the Drupal Association, to smaller local DrupalCamps and local Drupal Group meetings. DrupalCon unifies experts from around the world who create progressive digital experiences that include keynotes & sessions for leaders, developers, and end-users, summits & training industry-focused to elevate your skills. Drupical displays all the Drupal events and you can also check out local Drupal groups and stay updated on what events are taking place.

Conclusion

There are many benefits to contribution: from individuals gaining knowledge and expertise, to organisations building stronger more productive teams, to the broader open source community as a full. Drupal is continuously growing in government, higher education and the enterprise state.

Even the smallest of contributions count on Drupal. The feeling when you see your name appear on a project is beyond words. 
So, are you ready to leave your legacy? Ping us at [email protected] to be a part of the growing number of Drupal contributors.