Recently it's come up that some members of the community don't actually understand the Drupal Association, or what it does, or even who it is. I think there are probably several reasons for this void of knowledge, including the fact that Association meetings happen largely behind closed doors, and that we in the Association don't do a great job communicating what is actually happening behind those doors at this time. I hope to help fill in some knowledge gaps and set some people straight on what the Association is, who the Association is, and what the Association does.
First, the Drupal Association is a Belgian non-profit organization. Some of its setup is legally required by Belgian law; the rest of the setup was dictated by what we believed would be best for Drupal.
The initial formation of the Drupal Association included 15 people who all expressed interest, primarily at DrupalCon in Brussels, deemed to be permanent members, also known as the General Assembly. Permanent members are permanent primarily for Belgian legal reasons. Figuring out which group of people to start with was a difficult challenge; for legal reasons, we couldn't simply just include everyone, and also for practicality concerns. It's very difficult to form a consensus organization when you have a cast of thousands trying to help form it. The initial group has to be focused. Because Drupal is a meritocracy, which is to say that people gain power and respect within the Drupal community based upon their contributions, the initial 15 members selected were long-standing contributors who had shown interest and passion for Drupal's future. One of these founders has resigned, so there are currently 14 members remaining at the time of this writing.
Once the fifteen of us were selected, we voted for the initial board. Board memberships (except President, Secretary and Treasurer) have a one year term. Since it's been a year since we formed the association, we're currently in the process of electing the next board.
Additionally, as we always intended, we are currently in the process of growing the General Assembly. In this growth phase, we are accepting applications from the community which we will vote on; applications which receive enough votes will be added to the Assembly, and then we'll vote in a new Board of Directors. I expect this board will be substantially different from last year's board, which is a good thing.
The Association is primarily concerned with:
- Servicing the Drupal infrastructure, including drupal.org and all drupal.org properties.
- Marketing Drupal, including organizing DrupalCons and providing guidance to local Drupal groups.
- Sponsoring activities that will benefit the Drupal community.
- Fundraising to support the above activities.
- Protect the Drupal project, software and infrastructure from legal attacks.
The term Drupal is currently trademarked by Dries Buytaert (and an invalid trademark exists by some US company that is still being dealt with). This trademark existed prior to the formation of the Drupal Association. It has been agreed that, at some point, if Dries believes the Association has matured into a vibrant, trustworthy organization, he will transfer this trademark to the Association itself. But, and I totally agree with this, not until the Association has proven itself. At this time, it has not yet done that.
One thing the Association is specifically not responsible for are code base decisions, as outlined in section 2 of the statutes. This was made because as Drupal grows, we are getting a great deal more corporate influence, and many of us were afraid that a corporation could start throwing dollars at the Association to unduly influence the direction and pace of Drupal's growth. Instead, the Drupal codebase is currently laid out to remain as it has always been: Contributions come from the community and all commits are arbited by the core committers. Those committers change, but are led by Dries Buytaert; each version of Drupal has a committer who is dedicated to that version both during development and during the lifetime of the project; once fully released, that committer is primarily responsible for releasing bug fix and security patches. Currently there are three such people; Gerhard Killesreiter is responsible for Drupal 4.7, Neil Drumm is responsible for Drupal 5 and Gábor Hojtsy is responsible for the forthcoming Drupal 6. While 3 of the 4 committers mentioned happen to be permanent members, this process is actually unrelated to the Association. However, because of this overlap it is currently assured that Drupal the codebase and the Drupal Association will likely remain aligned.
The first year for the Association has been an interesting learning curve. While one or two of our members have some experience with this kind of thing, most of us are learning what we can and should do. We are also struggling to learn how to properly devote enough of our volunteer time to the Association to get things done, and still maintain our personal and professional lives, along with all of the volunteer contributions we already make to Drupal. There have been growing pains here to say the least; it has not been a smooth road, and this has been felt in the community.
That said, as an organization I believe we are gaining maturity, but I think we are gaining it at a slower pace than we had hoped. On the plus side, we are about to get an infusion of new blood, and this will help, I think. I find it likely that the Association's board will have significant yearly turnover; being a volunteer in that position can be quite demanding, and for people who often spend 60 to 80 hours a week on their own business, it can be difficult to manage everything.
The amount of research that went into forming the Association is quite impressive; Dries spoke with large lists of people I can't even remember, but he looked at all of the existing large organizations, such as Mozilla and Apache, and he looked at failed organizations as well. He looked closely at the circumstances that caused the Joomla! community to fork from the Miro organization that oversaw Mambo. A lot of discussion then went into the board, and it took months of refining to get our statutes in order.
In its first year, the Association has made several accomplishments; compared to the fast-moving code base of Drupal itself, it appears to be slow, but these are larger, real-world accomplishments that have complex interactions. Also, we don't have three thousand people submitting patches to the Association. (That would be an interesting Far Side comic, though). We've accomplished two DrupalCons; we've sponsored some improvements to drupal.org and are still working hard toward serious drupal.org improvements. We have added memory and servers to the drupal.org infrastructure, something that was absolutely necessary a few months ago. We have DrupalCon Boston coming up in March, and we're still accepting proposals for the fall European DrupalCon but I'm personally hoping for Budapest or Berlin. Or heck, if somebody in Scotland wants to do Ediboro I haven't been there either!
The Association is 100% volunteer. None of us get paid, nor do we expect to get paid. At the moment, we are loathe to start paying people for anything outside of the obvious infrastructure maintenance, because we are afraid of the can of worms that will open. We don't want to set bad precedents; in that respect, we move very cautiously.
To address at least one concern: Yes, the Association assembly has had discussions about Dries' recent announcement about Acquia. There has been some misgivings about certain aspects of it as well, but to be honest, Dries has run this project quite well for seven years, and we're not about to turn on him at the first sign that there might be issues.
But the Association is built to be able to protect itself. Dries comes up for re-election in a year. We have the power to oust him if it becomes necessary. I don't personally believe that it will, but the important part is that, if necessary, the Association does have the ability to remove people who begin acting against the best interests of the Drupal project.
And right now, the Association is an infant group that is still finding its place. It hasn't been determined, yet, if the Association will be a success or a failure; at the moment, it simply is. Until we reach the point where we have a serious test, we aren't likely to know. But the Association does exist, and it exists to serve the Drupal community. The Association has rules and regulations it must adhere to, and it also has very good policies. The organization can make changes to itself, is necessary.