research design laboratory

The Chicken or the Egg?

This past weekend I volunteered at Drupal Camp Vancouver and I had the opportunity to spend time with some of the brightest members of the drupal community.  It got me thinking about the chicken and the egg.

In Understanding Media, McLuhan described media technologies as an extension of man–the eyeglasses extended our ability to see, the automobile our ability to travel, and the cellular telephone our capacity to recall phone numbers.  In this sense, we employ technologies so that we may do better that which we're already doing seems natural–I need to go there and I want to do it faster–and the technologies we create embody our own desires, ambitions and aspirations. 

And I was thinking about this because as I attended the sessions, caught up with friends, and mingled with attendees, I couldn't help but reflect on how drupal, as a technology, has been uniquely shaped by the people who created it–shaped by their desires, ambitions and aspirations. From the conference organization to the way people engaged each other, the same spirit present in the community seemed to be embodied in Drupal itself.

Like many others, I was drawn to Drupal not because of what it did, but because of what it proposed. Out-of-the-box, Drupal was just an ugly blog that came with a forum. But as an open-source framework, I could do whatever I wanted with it and I was only limited by my time, patience, and ability. This open nature permeated not only the technology itself, but the community that supported it. And this culture of open source was on display at the camp as developers shared their code, project managers shared their strategies, and CEOs shared their billing rates.

While I say this as a fan of Drupal and what it represents, it's not to overlook the challenges the Drupal community faces. Drupal is far from perfect and its future is constantly being negotiated. While it represents the aspirations of a community, it's also shaped by the controversies, debates, and flame wars that take place within it. But the debates take place because the community members truly care and its the willingness to entertain so many voices in the debate that inspires me. My confidence in the future of drupal doesn't lie in the introduction of new technologies, but in the people themeselves who are introducing them. 

Getting back to the chicken and the egg, the conference made me wonder: how much the community has been shaped by the open nature of Drupal and how much Drupal been shaped by the open nature its community?

Hard to say. It's probably a bit of both. 

Many thanks to the organizers and sponsors who put this event together and continue to actively shape the future of Drupal.