Whew! DrupalCon was fun…and exhausting. I don’t know why, but I’m always surprised that conferences can be simultaneously exhausting and energizing. Right now, it feels good to be back home, and I’m enjoying looking back on my experience with the perspective that time provides. I thought I’d share my perceptions before they fade…
I didn’t attend nearly as many sessions as I’d hoped to. Instead, I spent a lot more time simply talking to people…which was great. I probably learned more by talking to people than I would have by attending more sessions…although what I learned wasn’t what I might have expected. One question, asked by nearly everyone I talked to, was the source for my learning: What is Microsoft doing at DrupalCon? I have to admit that I wasn’t as prepared for this question as I should have been. For me, it was (and had been for a few weeks) obvious: we were at DrupalCon to announce the release of our latest SQL Server Driver for PHP and talk about the work CommerceGuys had done to write a Drupal module using the driver to provide SQL Server access from Drupal 7. But that’s not what most people were asking. That announcement itself was only of moderate interest. People wanted to know what Microsoft was doing at DrupalCon. How did we come to wander into this neighborhood?
In retrospect, this was probably obvious to most folks except me: Microsoft was a stranger in the Drupal community. It wasn’t necessarily that Microsoft was disliked, it was simply that we had been non-participants…we were irrelevant to the community. At first, I was a little surprised by this. I’ve been so focused on Microsoft efforts aimed at participation in open source communities that I was surprised to see these efforts still falling short of providing value. Clearly, that was a naive view of our efforts…we still have a lot of work to do. However, from my point of view, it does seem that Microsoft is beginning to recognize that the Web is driven by applications, not platforms. I see that in the people I work with, the decisions management makes, the way resources are allocated, and the things we release. The latest release of our PHP driver and the collaboration with the CommerceGuys is only one example. (I don’t want to turn this into a list that tries to justify my claim, but this post has links to other relevant PHP-related efforts.) It is in Microsoft’s best interests and in the best interests of communities like Drupal’s that choices for building Web applications are available. Does Microsoft hope to get something out of making choices available? Of course, but I think we also beginning to understand that can only happen with lasting participation in the community and as a result of providing genuine value to the community. And, again from my point of view, I’m starting to see genuine efforts on Microsoft’s part to participate…to contribute something for what it gets back. Perhaps we have some work to do in understanding what it means to contribute something that the community genuinely values.
I was encouraged to find some people at DrupalCon who welcomed Microsoft’s participation and hoped to see more. But, not surprisingly, there were some skeptics. Several people I talked to listened to us but decided to let our actions speak for us…and that is totally fair. It doesn’t mean much for a Microsoft employee (like myself) to say we are going to be genuine community participants. Our actions need to speak for us. It won’t do any good to list the things we have done recently…I realize that isn’t enough. But I do see the intent to do more…at least from my immediate colleagues. Admittedly, we are still taking baby steps, but I’d like to think that our actions will speak for us in the near future and our sustained actions will speak for us in the long run.
What are your thoughts on our efforts?