In Dries State of Drupal presentation (September 2007) There are two aspects that made whant to make this long blog. I'll use he's "dirty little secret to get noticed" as outline. As introduction I like to give a critical path related to the "8th ranked killer feature: Improved node access system". However I will not address how to solve the path. I see a big problem with not being a part of the coding collective. This blog is about a lost bee who can't find its hive ... here we go.
During 2007-2006 several clever people pointing out the problem of being in control of your own content. Actually it was Dries who first pointed out this issue, back in the days when we were organizing Drupalcon Brussels. Later on some other clever people did the same story. Some took Google as example of a company that contains a lot of your content. I'm not really from this world, but they seemed to find the power of Goolge scary.
At least it may be possible to do something against the problem and while at it, solve another problem at the same time. The other problem is related to controlling your content. I've got several places to blog, sometimes I would like to double post it. One central point of feedback would be way nicer. What I really would like is the opposite of a feed (so a push) and tunr the whole CMS stuff instead out (1 user many sides). I guess the Drupal Planet is a good example of the push, but it is still a feed, a push managed by users and given as a web service would do the trick.
I'm actually already quite far in my development on the access for it, but I simply can't do it all alone. While the idea for such a push is as old as when I start using a Drupal on mixel.be (november 2006). There has been little time for me to develop it because of other obligations. It is also quite hard to learn every model for it, for example now I need to get into the webservice and feed module, this solo stuff is not the right way. I'm not a good bee ! I would like to be one, but I'm not getting there.
find a way to give back:
I've been trying to give back to Drupal for years now: organizing, teaching, coding.
- organizing: I've learned to have respect for the people who can have the patience to check, double check and check again if everything still goes as planned. I did co-organized the Drupalcon Brussels, and I've been doing some stuff for the drupal.be, like organizing the meeting during the knosos conference. I still like to help but won't take a lead in it.
- teaching: When I started to teach in October 2006 I thought "well lets cut the crap with programming introduction classes and try to learn people the state-of-art (in other words, something useful)". It was a surprise to me, but the results are nice. I've worked out a course, its running the second test year and it will become an obligated part of the first year "Master in Management" as "Web service development for managers". The prototype course site is been used by the student, but the content on it is not yet complete as I'm still testing it. Currently the most relevant information is still given in class. I first teach PHP and how to make a Drupal module. It is the basics for the student to set up their web related service project.
- coding: I've been coding on modules for Drupal mostly in 2006, and a bit in 2007, the code is not so visible (only in CVS). Sadly it may have given the impression to "trowing something over the edge". There are several reasons why no module was branched. First there is always but a fixed amount of time. When I was on the project I've focused on the functional benefitof the knosos project, when I took up the assistant position time to work on it became really scares. The second problem is that I'm a perfectionist in coding, never it was clean enough (for me) and related to it the code was experimental, but intended to be a frame. It was an architectural research less than nice cut contributed module. Also related what the responsibility, once it was branched I would like to maintain it as well, with the short amount of time the bugs had to come out if first.
embrace the chaos:
I feel at ease with complexity (its part of my research discipline !) , but one can embrace to much chaos. I have been working on to many issues simultaneous, but its not that I get to pick. In 2006 I was coding as it was my job in the project. I wanted to collaborate more with Drupal community, so I did my best when Dries asked me to organize Drupalcon in Brussels. Right after Drupalcon I became assistant at the university of Brussels and had a totally different obligations, but I still included Drupal, and put a lot of time making the courses. Still I think in the end there was no problem with the organization and there is no problem with the teaching, as I'm part of a team. The coding is a problem, one can not embrace the chaos alone, you need to be part of the collective (or hive in Dries metaphor)
Embracing the chaos has been a problem in the modules I've created as well. You can have a look in the Drupal cvs under "adaptive_context". It has taken me lot of time to separate concerns of the complex interaction between groups, users and bottom up control of content (a more generic access system). Who likes to install four modules before it becomes interesting? What we where trying to do may have been too experimental, its shifting away from CMS to a user centered networking system. However this was the direction possible for the coding, the direction of the project was to deploy and use social networking software, the focus was not on the coding.
learn to collaborate:
Now we hit the problem ! I've been stuck between two sides. I wanted to do research and include social and technology simultaneous. I guess not to many people are ready for Latour's concept: "a collective of humans and nonhumans". Our theme of knosos was interested in both technological and business aspects, but the budget for coding was slim. I was the only software architect in the team and the development was only booked for a year, the next year was for the pilot. Hell, I had a 1/2 job and spend the other half to do the information architectural research on my own account. I did got great ideas out of it, and was able to apply it for my teaching, but it can be so much more.
During Drupalcon Brussels the talks and feedback was great. They loved the vision, direction and attempts. So how come their was no collaboration afterwards? Of course I didn't had time with my new job, but there are more issues. I guess the people who loved it where more business oriented. The attempts to find collaboration on coding didn't gave any results, on the contrary. I guess it is long term effort, there is to much frame to build to get any developers interested. So I guess the problem is that I want to contribute as a researcher.
Maybe my efforts are simply to early in the game. In Dries state of Drupal he points out the beneficial relation between open source and business, so this is still something that need to be tolled, it is not yet commonsense. I'm addressing an issue of innovating the business, but at this time Drupal may still need more business itself.
As not being part of the coding collective seems to be the main problem one can ask if I did do enough attempts. I've been checking forums, following projects, subscribe to groups, got spamed by issue mails and for a while had the chatroom running all the time. Still a research development may ask for more brainstorming. Maybe the best way is to go to each drupalcon and try to get people organized for some research projects. Still it would be quite expensive to do it all on my own account, currently I'm already facing the problem of limited budgets to go to conference for my research. So without support its not an option. So I'll look how to get support in another way. Well I can at least blog about it.