Drupal.org blog: What's next for (Drupal) innovation

Last year the Drupal Association brought me onto the team using a special board vision fund to help kick off our first steps in increasing our focus on innovation.

This phase is coming to an end in May with the end of my contract, and right in time for Drupalcon Portland. I am incredible grateful for this past months, for all the people and friends I've met inside and outside of the Drupal Association, for all the work we've done together, and for all the work that is still to come.

But before I wrap up my work with the team I want to report on the progress we've made so far, what we're still working on until May, and what happens next.

Alex took on a herculean task when he joined us for this special engagement to help determine our strategy for accelerating innovation in Drupal. I'm extremely grateful for what he's accomplished and proud to have had him join our team.

Thanks to his work we've fostered 6 fantastic projects through Pitchburgh grant funding, completed a study of friction points in our new user registration, onboarding and contribution process, identified an action plan to better onboard new contributors, improve open source contribution and set our sights on even higher goals.

I'd love to see Drupal step forward to help us take the next step!

Tim Lehnen CTO
Drupal Association

Lots of work to be proud of

Innovation Working Group

The Innovation working group is a gathering happening every other week, in  which we report progress on ongoing initiatives as well as discuss everything related to innovation, from contributor guidance, to documentation. As part of my role I took the leadership of the working group, and steered the direction of the discussions as well as the topics to be discussed.

Some of the initiatives that started as a seed from that group are the research on the documentation improvements (spearheaded by Mike Herschel), the onboarding analysis (executed by myself), the Drupal Acceleration team proposal (led by Laurii and Cristina Chumillas), a conversation about the relative value of a credit to the contributor wage invested, and many more.

As a personal note, I have to thank the whole group for their passion and commitment to improving Drupal, and especially for their patience with me while I was trying to find my place in this new world that I joined in 2023.


Pitchburgh was kick-started by Dries during Drupalcon Pittsburgh 2023, and consists of an innovation contest in which participants would propose their innovative ideas for Drupal, and a mix between judges and people at Drupalcon itself would vote the winners.

Acting as the program manager / coordinator of the 6 projects, my role helped on a diverse range of tasks, sometimes outside of my own zone of comfort, like getting contracts ready for sign up, syncing with core committers when needed, communications and relations with the community and a broad range of other tasks.

We're proud to be sharing the success stories of each of these projects at DrupalCon Portland in May.

Contribution Health Dashboards

As part of the feedback from the Innovation Working Group we took care of creating a series of dashboards and Drush scripts with the goal of getting a better understanding of the contribution ecosystem in Drupal, finding what needs improvement and how any changes introduced in the ecosystem would impact the platform.

From these dashboards we can track the impact of our work to improve contributor onboarding.

Onboarding new users/contributors

The first contact a big portion of our users have with Drupal is our drupal.org registration. Improving that process not only ensures that we are delivering the image and branding that Drupal deserves, but also we maximize the opportunities to convert those users from takers to makers. The start of 2024 was full of research and investigation on the outdated registration flow, a set of recommendations have been put in place, and changes have already started, including a more prominent presence of guidance and help for new want-to-be contributors.

We'll be implementing a new 'persona' field to help us categorize new users and set them on the appropriate journey for their role.

Contribution friction analysis

When a hindrance obstructs innovation, it often persists for months or even years. The extended duration of the contribution pipeline presents an opportunity to reduce this time to contribution, enhance the velocity of Open Source projects, in this case Drupal, and accelerate Drupal's development process.

During different times we went through the contribution process in Drupal, aiming to identify friction points and other blockers, while I also kept conversations with different members of the community, contributors and core members. I expect to publish this research and my findings and recommendations prior to Drupalcon Portland, and I hope that this will provide valuable insights into the factors impeding contribution and suggesting strategies to optimize efforts.

For more information, join my session, co-presented with Irina Zaks (who has also been researching on this topic) at DrupalCon portland, titled: Innovation and contribution challenges

Bounty program

The Bounty program was a pilot program with the idea to research possible solutions to a few common problems, the most important one, ensure contributions happen where Drupal and the Drupal Association needs them more, which is, for example (but not only), strategic initiatives and innovation projects.

The program was successful as it resuscitated some old, sleeping issues, and even solved one of them (which was open for more than 4 years) in just a few weeks. The program demonstrated the need of soft steering in the right direction, and a phase 2 has already been started with the aim to make an ever wider impact.

Read about the Bounty program here, and the Bounty program extension here.

Contributor (priorities) guide

The Bounty program, together with conversations we’ve been having with companies and partners, also inspired us to create a contributor guide which helps companies and individuals to steer everyone on the right path towards contributions that are more meaningful and have higher impact in the community.

You can read the priority guide contributor announcement here: Maximizing contributions

Innovation landing

One of the realizations during this time collaborating with the Innovation Working Group is that innovation will not come from specific individuals or even necessarily from a group. 

Drupal is a highly decentralized community, and innovation will come from that community. We have a huge amount of modules, which is one of our biggest strengths. But that as well means that we need to ensure that we keep our conversations and meetings diverse enough. The community needs to surface those projects that are innovative.

The next big leap is probably hidden, deep in a sea of ideas and projects. Hence, the only way to ensure that we don’t miss the next wave is to ensure that everyone has a voice.

That’s why we agreed early to create an innovation landing page, which could capture the essence of Drupal Innovation, serve as a center of information, and inspire others to do more of the great things that we are used to seeing in our community.

More for us to do!

Drupal has always been a do-ocracy- where passionate, motivated contributors with a great idea can roll up their sleeves and get things done. The work above represents some great first steps (and it's hard to believe how fast time flew by!) but as a community we have to come together with a collective commitment to do more.

Innovation does not stop here, my work was just the beginning, setting up the base of what’s next. The Drupal association needs your help, so moving forward we could:

  • Creating a dedicated innovation fund that partner organizations and individuals can contribute to, to make specific, targeted investments in innovation
  • Grant Fundraising and Sponsorship for dedicated roles within the Drupal Association
    • For example - partners could come together to 'endow' a position for a role like mine of Innovation Program manager to be made permanent.
    • And/Or for roles like a Contribution Success Manager
    • And/Or for direct core contribution engineers

Only together will we be able to scale the pace of innovation in Drupal - and we have so many capable people in our community that our biggest barrier is only finding the resources to make our vision a reality. That is something we can solve together.

On a personal note, while my engagement is coming to a close, this is not a goodbye. I'm more committed than ever to the Drupal community and excited about its future. If you want to support our continued efforts to work with the Drupal Association on these goals, please let us know: alex@association.drupal.org