By: Akanksha Mehta
February 9 2021

The role of Community Initiatives to help Drupal evolve

Drupal being an open source project relies significantly on its community for contributions, promotion and overall expansion. The user base adds to Drupal in terms of coding, testing, bug fixation on the software, also contributing themes, modules and distributions regularly. Acknowledging the important role that the community plays and also its requirements, Drupal comes up with Initiatives to streamline and channelize everyone’s efforts to a common high priority goal.

Drupal Initiatives are common upcoming goals in the Drupal sphere prioritised according to commercial interests and their effect on the community. Initiatives are formulated around a feature, a new module, or an alteration in any element of the software. Usually, 

  • user research, 
  • proposals by Drupal Core Maintainers,
  • advice of key community members, and
  • inputs from the board of directors

are taken into account before launching an initiative. 

How core development and strategic initiatives come about in Drupal?

To understand the functioning of initiatives better, let’s skim through the life cycle of Drupal initiatives.

Proposition 

To start with filing Drupal initiatives, the first step would be to file a proposal. Although absolutely anyone could propose an initiative in Drupal, it is recommended that certain factors be taken into consideration before the said proposal. It needs to have a proper backing of relevant data along with a farsighted vision of what the end result would look like. It is recommended that the proposed initiative should have a positive market impact on Drupal and adds sufficient value to both the software and the principles that it stands for. Discussion with the community must also take place before bringing an idea on the floor, and subsequent revisions must be done accordingly with respect to the feedback received. Lastly, an individual wanting to get a proposal approved also needs to be patient with the whole process, as in a large community like Drupal, things move forward in a pretty organic fashion.  

                                                                                                        
Prioritisation

The sites supported by Drupal are diverse and cater to a plethora of end users, therefore prioritising initiatives in such a manner that every user persona is appropriately benefitted assumes utmost importance. Hence, several Drupal initiatives might be proposed, but only a few get highlighted. This is done in accordance with Drupal.org Prioritization Criteria. Prioritising can be a tricky business as while one initiative might affect every Drupal user one-on-one, another might influence a small segment of users but at the same time be essential for Drupal’s core. Keeping all these things in mind, propositions are ‘accepted’, ‘rejected’ or ‘postponed’. The accepted proposals are then prioritized.


Roadmap

The association’s staff are tasked with weighing the impact of the Drupal initiatives against the spectrum of affected audience. Once a bunch of initiatives are finalised, they’re listed in the Current section of the roadmap. Architects are assigned to supervise the initiative, the member also acting as the lead for that particular initiative. His job is to ensure accessibility to open discussions and related information. Weekly or biweekly meetings are done between the staff liaison and the community working on the initiative all throughout its execution, and the completed draft is then submitted for review.

The time taken to get done with an initiative is highly variable. A smaller one might take a few days while a lengthier initiative can also span a few months to complete. 

For core initiatives, the process looks a little different than this. Initiatives that are identified as being of utmost importance to Drupal and the community are included in strategic initiatives by Dries Buytaert himself, who is the founder and project lead of Drupal.

For an initiative to be included in this category, it must have the following -

  • Surveys or statistics figures substantiating the validity of the initiative.
  • An underlying vision that could result in a breakthrough for Drupal.
  • Requirement of channelised resources as it is high priority.
  • Due to its larger scope and influence, need for multiple stakeholders to come together and collaborate on it.

Major Ongoing Community Initiatives

Drupal Community initiatives are projects where the user base comes together to work on several components of Drupal like contributed modules and themes or even Drupal Core. These are some major ongoing Drupal initiatives -

Composer Support in Core Initiative

Composer dependency manager for PHP does not have an official dedicated Support, although there do exist several documented ways to use it wherever necessary. Owing to the manager’s widespread adoption by a number of contributed modules, an initiative has been set up to create a Composer Support in Drupal Core. 

Bug Smash Initiative

As the name suggests, the bug smash initiative is meant to contribute towards bug resolution. It is a core issue focusing on bugs in the newer versions of Drupal that have been recently launched. Issues resolved under this initiative are tagged accordingly under the same name.

Documentation and Help Initiatives

The goal here is to improve, with the help of extensive documentation, the user experience of a Drupal evaluator, developer or site builder. The initiative also focuses on achieving a better in-house Help system by adding high utility features like a topic based help provision.

Workflow in Core Initiative

This initiative is working towards bringing upgrades in Drupal’s content workflow, preview and staging features with the aim to provide content authors and editors sufficient tools to review and deliberate upon the content before it is rolled out.

Drupal Open Curriculum

The open curriculum initiative is self explanatory - the aim here being the provision of a systematic and structured training to new recruits in Drupal. Features like in-class sessions, self learning along with training exercises are to be included, culminating with on the job learning. It is targeted towards developer entrepreneurs owning Drupal agencies with new hires learning Drupal or individuals curious about the software.

Accessibility contribution

Another really important initiative is to ensure compliance to web accessibility norms set by various governments and organisations. Greater awareness regarding accessibility by individuals suffering from certain ailments has led to widespread adoption by the players, and the Drupal community aims on pitching in every idea and suggestion to improve accessibility for its users.

Major Ongoing Strategic Drupal Initiatives

Some major ongoing strategic Drupal initiatives are as follows -

Automatic Updates

This initiative aims to solve the inconvenience that comes with having to manually update a Drupal site after updates have been incorporated in the software, as one running behind the deadline might compromise on the standard and security of a website. Hence, the community is working on automated updates to provide a safe and secure environment for pre programmed updation, and also to cut down maintenance costs of a Drupal website.

Decoupled Menus

An initiative for decoupled menus is also ongoing, aiming for better synchronisation with front end JavaScript

Orange background with black flag and text talking about decoupled menus, one of the ongoing Drupal initiatives
Source : Drupal.org

Drupal 10 Readiness

The Drupal 10 readiness initiative provides a timeline for things that need to be wrapped by 2022 to facilitate the release of Drupal 10 in June, or latest by December that year (which is 2 years after the release of Drupal 9). Milestones that need to be aced are updating dependencies before Drupal 10’s release, removing deprecated APIs, helping module contributors maintain the modules’ updation, and consecutively speeding up the launch of Drupal 10. The primary components of this initiative are -

pink background with a horizontal arrow, surrounding text talking about Drupal upgrades
Source : Drupal.org

Easy out of the box

Ease of use has become a matter of prominence in recent years, which is why Drupal 9 was largely focused on making the update easier and convenient to use and incorporate by the users. Another area under maintenance now is the enabling of the new Media Library, Layout Builder and Administration Theme by default in Drupal for added user satisfaction.

New Olivero Front-End Theme

Olivero is set to become the new default frontend theme by replacing Claro. As design is what truly manifests changing technologies and advancements for the end user, upgrades  in terms of modernity and functionality are essential for proper representation. The new theme is also meant to include support for Drupal’s second level navigation and the embedded media. Staying laser focused on accessibility, the theme is also supposed to be fully WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) AA (mid range) compliant.

Conclusion

Drupal Initiatives are a good way to both bring the community together and stay afloat on the productivity factor. Some major changes in the past have been triggered by initiative action, for example, several design changes, changing Drupal’s default markup to one that conforms to HTML5 standards, making Drupal mobile first, etc Hence, initiatives have brought together people of diverse backgrounds and experiences to create something global together, affecting both the individuals personally but also the community at large.