This past Saturday, Alejandro and I were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak at DrupalCamp Chicago, the Windy City’s annual gathering of the best and brightest in the Drupal community.
By virtue of choosing to build our platform on Drupal (if I’ve lost you already, Drupal is the clever technical stuff that helps make our website work the way it does), we have become members of a vibrant, international community. As with all communities, to be a true member, one should put in as much as one takes out, and so we jumped at the chance to speak at the conference as our way of giving something back.
What could 2 MBAs talk about that could possibly be of interest to the assembled Drupal wizards? Well, from our own experience, we often see a significant divide between how ‘business-types’ and ‘technical-types’ perceive each other and look at the same issue. In high-performing organizations no such divide exists. Still, one sees this more often than one should. To this end, we wanted to share from a business angle our journey with Drupal: why we choose it and the bumps, scrapes and lessons we’ve learnt on the way.
For example, did we choose Drupal because:
a/ We have a fine appreciation of the benefits of an open source development model and the philosophy of free software as defined by the GNU Public License?
b/ President Obama’s tech team decided to rebuild whitehouse.gov on Drupal and we figured if it was good enough for them, it was good enough for us?
c/ We’re a startup and we had to choose between paying for software license fees and paying for other stuff. For example, do you know how many boxes of ramen noodles one can buy for a copy of Microsoft Visual Studio?
Well, of course, we appreciate a discussion on the robustness of open vs closed software development models as much as the next person, and being good Chicagoans we are fans of all things Obama, but at the end of the day, for startups, it has to be said that one of open source software’s primary benefits is still the license fee i.e. there isn't one. To be fair, we didn’t really look too closely at BizSpark, but from what we did see, whilst license costs are deferred, they do kick in sooner or later.
In our talk, we also threw out some of our own thoughts on the lessons the Drupal community can learn from Linux’s growth from a perceived hobbyhorse application to one that now underlies mission critical systems, how to grow from a founder-centric development community to one that is truly distributed (think the panic of Linus going to Transmeta, and then think of Dries and Acquia) and how the community can handle the emergence of super-companies (instead of VA Linux and RedHat hovering up the best talent, think Acquia, Palantir, Lullabot, Duo Consulting et al).
We're happy to say that we were fortunate enough not to have any eggs thrown at us and we thoroughly enjoyed the discussion that followed. Kudos to Matt Lechleider and the planning team for the very well organized event, and also to the other 282 amazing people that attended. See you all in 2012!
by David Chao
PS Ping me with any thoughts or comments - click on the speech bubble next to this post! Also, as with most of the companies at DrupalCamp, we're hiring! E-mail me for details...firstname.lastname@example.org