Angie “webchick” Byron: #DrupalOriginStories

For DrupalCamp Belarus in mid-May, I’ll be giving a talk entitled “Tales of Drupal Past: Origin Stories of Drupal Contributors.” My goal is to feature folks from the Drupal community and share their stories of coming into Drupal, with the goal to help inform and inspire others about our community, coming from a wide range of diverse perspectives/backgrounds.

How about… YOU? What were you doing before Drupal? How’d you get your start? What are you doing now? How has Drupal changed/impacted your life?

I would really appreciate any responses, whether in the comments here, on your own blogs, and/or on social media (with the #DrupalOriginStories tag, please). (Especially if you’re based in Eastern Europe, I would love to hear from you!)

I can share mine, as a start… (Feel free to make yours shorter or longer than this, however! :))

I first encountered Drupal because I’m one of those people who runs around “viewing-source” on websites I visit to see what’s ticking under the hood. I first saw Drupal in the source of Spread Firefox, where fans of the Firefox web browser crowd-sourced marketing/promotion materials/events, and ran across it sometime later (2005) in the list of Google Summer of Code mentoring organizations.

I was a huge fan of FLOSS/open source for many years prior to this (first installed Linux in 1995 when Debian fit on like 7 floppy disks, lol), but always believed I was not “smart” enough nor “skilled” enough to actually participate in an open source project. GSoC was important for breaking down this belief, because I surmised that if it was for students, they probably expected we didn’t know everything yet.

So, I applied. And somewhat miraculously, got accepted (thanks, robertDouglass!) and assigned a mentor (thanks, @chx!). Thankfully, there is not a single shred of any of my original code left in Quiz module these days, but it’s kind of rad that it’s still kicking around out there almost 14 years later! 🙂

Once I got on “this” side of my imaginary “you must be THIS smart to contribute” wall, I began to realize that…

  • Making change in an open source project is truly a collaborative process, with many different people and many different skills (dev, testing, ux, a11y, design, dev, security, promotion) all putting forth what they know to arrive at the optimal solution.
  • There are no rockstar experts sitting about barfing out perfect code. 😉 In fact, I’ve reviewed code from most of the “Drupal rockstars” you know, and they’re all pretty crap the first time through. 😉 (Very much including myself!)
  • If you can demonstrate through your words/actions that you are one of the “helpers,” (versus someone complaining/trying to get other people to do work for you for free/etc.) you will get near INFINITE amount of patience and mentorship and other support from the community. (Because there are not many “helpers” out there relative to the amount of users and complainers.)

So, I began to throw myself into contributing wherever I could: core and contrib development, patch reviews, QA, Drupal.org webmaster stuff, security team, UX team, Drupal Association, core committer, etc. (Note: This was highly unsustainable, and I do not necessarily recommend this course of action, LOL. ;))

These days, I am hugely fortunate to be paid full-time to work on Drupal by Acquia, as part of their Drupal Acceleration Team. My main focus is in supporting, unblocking, and accelerating community efforts around Drupal’s strategic initiatives, as well as my role as a product manager on the core committer team (setting roadmaps, keeping an eye on what our competitors are up to, and brutally-but-kindly-as-possible WebchickTestCase-ing unsuspecting patches.:P).

Over the course of my time with Drupal, I’ve gained an incredible amount… learning new things every day, numerous friendships-that-feel-like-extended-family (some of literally a decade or more), travel to all corners of the globe, hearing and taking in numerous diverse ideas and perspectives, and more. Thank you so much to everyone who makes this possible. <3