Does Drupal need a Platform Cooperative?
 I recently attended the http://drutopia.org on-boarding session so will update & discuss this exciting new co-operative initiative!
Interested in collaborating on commercial projects? Want a system where you can log in and choose your projects for the next year to work on? Got that new product idea you want to build? Ever dream about Droopy Dollars community currency? Then this is the BoF for you!
There's no doubt about it, Drupal is one of the most successful Free/Libre Open Source Software projects there is. It is now 16 years old and has over 100,000 actively contributing users, with individuals and organisations across the world, including universities, government departments and multinational corporations who depend on Drupal to deliver their ambitious digital experiences.
Drupal however suffers from a lack of funding core activities, much like many other community software projects, recently shown in cut-backs at the Drupal Association, resulting in the shelving of any new developer tools and improvements to events and jobs subsites; and the elimination and reduction of a number of supporting services currently provided by the events team. Instead, the focus for the next 12 months is to "Promote Drupal" by improving the adoption journey within Drupal.org and DrupalCon. The reasoning behind this is stated as "gaining more Drupal customers is good for the project. They employ Drupal developers, contribute back code, and provide financial support". Is this a true reflection of the current situation though, or is it simply playing into the hands of the highest bidder? Where does this leave the rest of the community, the long tail of those providing support and innovation at the ground-level?
To be clear, I'm not having a go at the Drupal Association per se, but at the system itself. By only having one top-down organisation supporting a community as large as the Drupal project, it is susceptible to manipulation and influence by those who can afford it - it's how much of the world works. There are other ways though, most notably the Co-operative Movement brings together over 1 billion people around the world, and Platform Co-operativism is leading the way providing an eco system comprised of online platforms that support production and sociality, digital labor brokerages, web-based marketplaces that are collectively owned and democratically governed, and all those initiatives that directly support this economic model.
The Drupal project has many similarities with the co-operative movement, for that is how the software is built - we already co-operate together on that level. If we aligned ourselves more closely with the co-operative movement we could not only develop a more sustainably way of funding continued growth of the project and our enviable community of contributors, but also be able to develop the kind of software tools and services other platform co-ops would benefit greatly from for their formation and growth. For example, creating more generic marketing material and supporting projects such as Community Accounting which powers 200+ communities, perhaps even using such projects to create our own digital currency we could use to gift contributors.
If we do not come together as a community on the business level and take this seriously in terms of funding the creation of a platform co-op with both time and money, the future could be as Leisa Welchman notes in her DrupalCon Prague 2013 keynote:
"Here's the deal, and I would really love you to all prove me wrong - and I mean that with complete sincerity. I think what generally tends to happen is after you go from basic management to responsive you never really kind of get back to that organic phase right, it kinda starts to harden and turn into a commodity, get productized ... it gets rigid, it turns into a machine.
It would be really great if you could show everyone why that doesn't happen - why you can create a circular process that allows you to have organic growth and innovation and basic management and responsiveness in a cycle. That's what's so great about this open community like yours - it's how can we do this - how can you change the paradigm? In a top-down hierarchical global company I might be working with the CEO's probably not interested in doing that, they're not going to challenge me to do that but you guys are probably interested in doing that.
You probably don't want to become heavily productized and commodotized, you probably want to stay organic. You're going to have to do that intentionally, it's not going to happen accidentally despite your best intentions.
You have to pay very close attention to what you're doing, if you don't what you're going to find is you're going to stumble into these governing frameworks that don't make sense for you because you'll be reacting - this event happened so let's do this, that event happened so let's do that, right. You don't want to do that, be really intentional about it and - I hate to use the word - but brave. If you love this community be brave enough to stand up for it - if it was easy everyone would be doing it, but it's not easy. We stumble on these models because we don't like to control people. We think by not being really being pro-active about governance that we're being nice, that we're being collaborative which might be really true and good early on but later on it doesn't mean that, it means you're being evasive, you don't really want to control people, you're uncomfortable with that. How could you do that? Re-assert your core and determine how you govern now, and protect your field".
So come along to this BoF & let's discuss whether or not this is a potential way forward for the Drupal project, something which we could set up and support the Drupal Association's increasing workload yet currently decreasing resources.