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Longer-term Drupal @ FOSDEM

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Yesterday a whole day Drupal @ FOSDEM. The krimson team has been covering the recording, but its a bit to soon to see the castings online. I'll probably make some more blogs when they get online, however Dries asked for feedback, so I'll give mine. He did a combination of the Barcelona talk and he's recent blog on the long term future of Drupal. The second part was a recent thoughts and clearly meant to open discussion. Here is my opinion.

First of all, I was trilled Dries wanted to open a discussion in this direction. I did make a comment on he's "from infinite extensibility to infinite interoperability" blog (see link above). The direction is also related to my last blog on contributing a researcher to Drupal. It are not just words, I've been explicitly working on it. So let me explain some more. Let me make clear how I agree with Dries in many ways, I mostly want to give feedback and help to make it better.

Impression and reality

Dries talked about RDF and decomposing the nodes for long-term Drupal. In his blog he sees the addition as : 'current' + data portability + web service APIs. Both the talk as the blog was technical oriented, I guess the reason for the technological direction are clear for people who are involved, but I'm pretty sure a lot of people never thought of it that way. The problem is: being in control over your own data. Currently big organizations like google, facebook etc. are in control of a lot of our data. Ivan explained me yesterday, there are important legal differences, for example Microsoft had bilateral agreements to user data, but the game is different now. So of course many people start asking how to become in control of your own data. So yes, RDF, data portability, web service will be the technology to free us. But I guess more attention to the motivation would make it more balanced.

Innovation management
Talking about the relation between motivation and technology brings us to questions on managing innovation. Or maybe it is does for me as I'm researching novelty. What I know about innovation may help the debate. I'll give a little bit background and apply it to Drupal. In the last years I've been investigating Historical, anthropological and business perspectives toward science & technology. I'm writing down a full review for a call at the moment, let me give a sneak preview here.

When large bodies of knowledge exist and one start transforming the knowledge for its purpose, it is called incremental innovation. Incremental innovation can be prospected. For example RDF and web services are well worked out and integrating it for Drupal would be incremental innovation. Incremental innovations are important, like the innovation in semi-conductors, it makes a steady growth (when we look at years and not decades). However resource leverage is important for incremental innovation and well established firms have most benefits of incremental innovations.

Industrial leader
Industrial leaders in IT and even more on the web didn't get there by incremental innovations, the have disturbed the market, made radical change. They pop up out of the void as they have some essence that no other structure for the same purpose has. In case of Drupal, its generic node system, well defined coding structure with hooks an its recent framework investigations like CCK and views was a radical change toward CMS. I think the battle of CMS are not over yet, so I guess Drupal will need to make some more "white rabidity" come out of its hat. Of course I can not tell you what the trick will be, but I do have a clue on how the trick is structured (based on the research).

The method of the structure is to find a metaphor. It should map rich body of knowledge to a pore one. It will show similarities but simultaneous show gaps or "the opportunity of useful knowledge", what I like to call novelty. Take for example well code Drupal framework. The founders are well educated programmers and they have seen many examples of clean and generic code, but applying it to a pragmatic problem as CMS & php was visionary & creative. In relation to RDF and web services I see a strong need be inspered more than integrate it. The current position Drupal is important, its like redefining strategy (see the book "competing for the future").

In most case we distinguage a technological an social correlation, one will have a narrow epistemology and it becomes pragmatic applied. For example content management was the fixed social problem to created Drupal (social => technology). A good radical innovation has a balance between social and technology (a bit over simplified, but will do for now). This is the way how radical innovations appear to come out of the void, in reality its a bootstrap. For the other example (technology => social), I like to use my own course. My management students trying out the framework (fixed technology) to solve "doing service on the web" and they create some pragmatic modules. Of course the primary motive is teaching managers to be fit for when they get out there. The second motive is to investigate a full cycle of radical innovation. I expect it to give feedback on how to apply web services when we already got the framework. As such I'm putting a lot of energy to make this course work.

Conclusion

I've been giving some examples I found possible to work on, but I'm totally open to try and use my expertise on other cases that can help Drupal, like I sad, I want to contribute a researcher. Also I'm still working on fine tuning, so I'm open for debate. Maybe a better example for the (technological => social) is all the effort in documentation, usability etc. I really like to be more connected in community in that sense. Like know who the experts/mediators are and have a good chat with them to know how we can help each other out. My focus will stay on the novelty research, but I guess it can be useful for so many things.