P2Pvalue @ DrupalCamp North East: ”Come for the software, stay for the community”

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the first Drupal Camp North East, celebrated at Sunderland Software Centre. I had the pleasure of giving a presentation about the research that has been carried out about Drupal and its community in the past years in academia. I also presented some insights on why the work carried out by the Drupal community can be understood as part of the wider phenomena of CBPP, and some preliminary insights of the pilot study I am currently carrying out for my PhD thesis in which I am studying the Drupal community, as part of my collaboration with the P2Pvalue project.

“Family picture” at DrupaCamp North East, by @JasonDJudge

What is Drupal?

Drupal is a free software content management framework: a robust platform for the development of web applications that currently powers more than 2% of the websites worldwide. This percentage includes enormously popular websites with complex architectures and high loads of traffic, such as whitehouse.gov, mtv.co.uk, economist.com, etc. It is also the platform we are using to build this website, and the P2Pvalue directory of CBPP.Drupal logo
Drupal is a modular platform (you can think of it as a ”Lego”), allowing its extension by adding any of the more than 27.000 modules contributed by developers from all around the world or creating your own custom ones. But Drupal cannot be understood without looking at its community. As the slogan of the community expresses: you come because of the software, but you stay because of the community. The Drupal community has been growing constantly: there are currently more than 1 million people registered at the main platform of collaboration (Drupal.org) and more than 30.000 committers. The offline activity of the community is also outstanding, with events of different scope (local, regional, national, international) being held every week all around the world. This is one of the aspects I am currently looking at as part of my research: identifying other types of contributions beyond source code, including these types of events, and its importance as a possible source of affective labour, which David Bollier recently defined as the lifeblood of a Commons.


What is a DrupalCamp?

DrupalCamps are events which typically last between 2-3 days, and whose goal is to share knowledge amongst everyone who is interested in Drupal. There are usually a set of presentations with a big variety on the topics (e.g.: back-end development, theming, business, community, etc.) and intended for people with different levels of expertise (beginners, intermediate and experts). In the case of DrupalCamp North East, the first day (”Business day”) was focused on non-technical presentations, with the purpose of attracting people with various backgrounds to share knowledge, practices and stimulate networking. The presentations during the weekend are usually more technical: describing case studies, discussing solutions on how to implement certain functionalities, discussing new modules, etc. Drupalcamps are typically organised by local Drupal communities with the support of other ones. They attract the attendance of people from other regions and sometimes even from other countries. They are celebrated in dozens of countries: for example looking at the forthcoming DrupalCamps in the next 6 months in the nice map of Drupal events provided by drupical.com, we find events in Australia, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Germany, Taiwan, US, etc.

Map of forthcoming Drupalcamps

Forthcoming Drupalcamps in the next 6 months (screenshot from drupical.com)

Drupal as a case of Commons-Based Peer Production community

During the presentation ”Drupal as a case of Commons-Based Peer Production” I tried to provide a set of useful insights focusing on three areas:

  • Offering an overview of some of the compelling studies about the Drupal community which I went through as part of my literature review, including the study of Huang, Le and Panchal (2011) on the structure of the Drupal community, the PhD thesis of Sims (2013) to study the relationships between the Drupal community and firms that use it, etc.
  • Present a brief explanation of what are the commons and Commons-Based Peer Production.
  • Provide an overview of how Drupal can be understood as part of the wider phenomena of Commons-Based Peer production, as well as how Activity Theory could be employed to further understand some of the activities of contribution carried out in the community.

The presentation closed with a discussion on how to improve the coordination between those people interested in the study of the Drupal community, as well as a proposal to carry out these research initiatives in a ”Drupal way”. Please, find below the slides of the presentation in case you have further interest on this topic, and do not hesitate to contact me for further discussion or feedback on it.


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