That thing they call community

My Drupal user profile says I have been around for ten years now. It’s a bit of a lie in some ways. You see, there is a very big difference between using Drupal and being part of the Drupal Community…

May 2011 was when I really entered that community. I had not that long come out (L, B, T, Q; one or more of these, I‘m easily confused) and remember being dropped off outside the venue of Drupal7Camp in Leeds, feeling absolutely terrified whether I would be accepted by the people inside etc.

Of course, once I walked in and began to interact with the people there, some of which have become great friends to this day, I realised all my fears were unfounded. The Drupal community is a wonderfully diverse and welcoming. I found that I actually knew a few things about setting up Dupal that helped me help others and passing that knowledge on got me involved properly with the other attendees. By the end of the first day, I was having a fab time with everyone else down the pub and I was totally in my element.

It’s difficult to explain how important to me that weekend in Leeds was. I was at such an exposed and vulnerable time in my life and having the unquestioning support and acceptance of that group of people rescued me emotionally — it really did.

That’s the context behind why I love to spend time not just contributing my code back to Drupal but helping others make that jump between being a “passive attendee” at an event to being an “active” one. It’s not just about being able to fix an issue or write a bit of documentation; it’s about being part of the family.

I remember the first time being involved in a Drupal contribution code sprint worked for me. It was at Frontend United in Copenhagen. The programme that year was light on presentations but heavy on sprinting and I loved it. I had just about learned enough about the process to actually be useful and remember sitting down at a long table on the last day where we had music on (thankfully, Morten_dk didn’t get to choose the whole track list) and I found myself sat between people I certainly thought of as Drupal Heroes.

The thing that really made them heroes, though, wasn’t the code they were writing but the way that they listened to the daft views of me, someone of very little experience, with the same interest and respect as anyone else sat there. It mattered and made me feel like I “deserved” to be there. Thank you. You did the right thing.

I found I was helping out new contributors in the various sprints attached to camps and cons for the next couple of years and it is something I love. I remember leaving Amsterdam Friday afternoon to catch my ferry and hearing later that a patch created by someone I had been working with had been committed to Drupal 8. I cried.

Being asked this year if I would act as one of the Sprint Leads in Dublin came completely out of the blue. I wasn’t expecting that at all. It has been an enormous privilege to be able to be a core part of something that matters to me so much.

It is obvious now, being able to reflect, that so many people before me have put a huge amount of good work into making the experience of both learning how to contribute to Drupal, becoming a member of that community and learning how to mentor those people. We have a good system, run by good people and it will continue to improve further year after year.

My goodness, though, making it happen at DrupalCon is a lot of work!

It works because it is a human interaction process and we have the best humans around. We have fab potential new contributors coming along wanting to learn, we have wonderful mentors, old and new, who want to work with these people and most of all we have amazing support from people who have done it all before.

After returning from DrupalCon in Dublin, I was back in Leeds so popped into town and met up with some of the Drupal Apprentices. They are doing really good things and it fills me with great hope for Drupal’s future. I also got to spend the afternoon in a bar called Friends of Ham, being just that, along with good friends I have met through Drupal. Oh my goodness we ate a lot of ham.

It was only when I ran to catch my bus home that I realised we were right next door to the Brewery Tap; the pub we all went to when my Drupal story started.