Winning the hearts and minds: Dries Buytaert's DrupalCon keynote

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Drupal is built on the passion of users and developers. But what makes this premier open content management platform a case study for open innovation? Dries Buytaert, creator and project lead of Drupal and co-founder and chief technology officer of Acquia, focused his DrupalCon Denver keynote on the passion of the Drupal community. Drupal is an open source content management platform that powers millions of websites--including and

"Open source leads to collaboration, which allows the Drupal community to innovate at a rapid pace. This leads to disruption," said Dries. "It makes technology that is not only cheaper and better, but also more flexible, broadly tested, and faster deployment."

Dries spoke at length about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to Drupal. He called it self reflection—and it’s a critical time for this to happen if the community is going continue on the innovation curve. A video that included NBC Universal, New York Stock Exchange Euronext, Warner Music Group, and Maxim Magazine also highlighted this four-part self reflection.

Strengths and weaknesses

"Community, community, community!" Dries said. "People everywhere look at Drupal, and they see the biggest strength as being you guys." But other components include a solid vision of the future as well as ease of deployment of web content. Because Drupal is open source, the power of community allows faster innovation.

So what keeps Dries up at night? He narrowed it down to three things: Two weaknesses in the community--the authoring experience and the aging of the web development framework. But perhaps one of the bigger challenges facing Drupal is the small talent pool. The demand for Drupal experts is bigger than the supply.

Opportunities and threats

"We are now in the fifth major technology cycle of the past half century," said Dries, quoting Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins. What does this translate to? Mobile. As Dries put it, a lot of people are betting on mobile. The growth opportunity is as much as 25 times over the next 5 years.

The biggest threat to Drupal is the decline of innovation. If the community is unable to innovate, there is a real chance of getting passed by other systems. The way the Drupal community innovates is critical.

Embracing the mobile culture

Creating a great mobile experience include three audiences: developers, authors, and site visitors.

On the developer side, there is a need to update how Drupal is developed. An open source project named Symfony is now going to be integrated into Drupal 8 development. Symfony is an open source PHP web applications development framework—a set of resuable components that you can use for PHP projects like Drupal. Moving in this direction will allow people to use Drupal as a content management system and a framework.

For authors and site visitors, there are a number of ideas to improve their experience. Authors want more drag-and-drop functionality, better administrative tools, more in-line editing, and better media support. Site visitors are expecting a great mobile experience.

Open innovation

The take-away goes back to the open source DNA embedded in the Drupal community. It looks like this:

open source → collaboration → community → innovation

When communities collaborate the open source way, we see innovation. Drupal is seeing that innovation with each new release and with each new Drupal site. But the technology platform alone isn’t what's making a difference. It's what people are doing with Drupal that is changing the world.

Watch the keynote

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Jason Hibbets
Jason Hibbets is a Principal Program Manager at Red Hat with the Digital Communities team. He works with the Enable Architect, Enable Sysadmin, Enterprisers Project, and community publications.


The correct URL for the Symfony framework website is

Thanks Fabien, I've corrected the link in the post. I think I had multiple tabs open about Symfony and grabbed the wrong URL. Good catch!

What do you think about Drupal moving to Symfony?


The whole Symfony community is really excited about this move.

Both communities will benefit a lot as we have a lot to share (it's not just about the code) and both will become stronger as a result.

It also clearly demonstrates that Open-Source projects can collaborate and that even in PHP, where every developer has created a CMS or a framework at some point, we can avoid the NIH syndrom.


"we can avoid the NIH syndrome."

Hopefully. I see massive pushback from several of the thin layer of D7 developers - those who have lots of commits - and I would not at all be surprised to see the Drupal project fork. I've got lots of experience with other open-source frameworks (Gstreamer being a great example, but even Canonical, with the various Ubuntus/Kubuntus/Xubuntus and the many repacks thereof) and for some reason Drupal seems to have done a less effective job at managing the bag full of cats that is any open source project. Given that past is (unfortunately) often prologue, and given the very odd evolution from D5 -> D6 -> D7, in terms of feature sets. I am hopeful, but not hopeful. If you get my drift.

Some good <a href="!/Crell/status/182604725210988545">conversation</a> on Twitter about Symfony. Via Larry Garfield (<a href="!/Crell">@Crell</a>):
<li><a href="">Research on two HTTP libraries</a></li>
<li><a href="">Rethinking WSCCI</a></li>
<li><a href="">Refocusing WSCCI</a></li>

I agree that Drupal lacks innovation. I work for them.


<a href="">Kenn_VM</a>

Why do you think Drupal lacks innovation? It's a platform. Isn't innovation in the eye of the implementer?


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