Community Spotlight: Melissa Anderson (eliza411)

May 9th, 2011

Despite Melissa Anderson (eliza411)’s low user number on, she was a relatively quiet contributor until about halfway through the Great Git Migration, when she took over as project manager of that huge undertaking. Melissa’s scope, focus, and competence [editor’s note: a dreadful understatement!] continue to amaze everyone, and she is generally accepted as a fundamental reason that the Git Migration was completed on schedule and to such great reception.

Hailing from a small Alaska town with a background in education, Melissa is now officially co-lead of the Git Project with Sam Boyer. Randy Fay, Sam Boyer, and the entire Git migration team have nominated Melissa in honor of her incredible contribution.

To get to know her a little better, we asked Melissa a few questions:

How did you get involved in Drupal? Seems like it was a while ago…

I needed a solution for managing information in a public way. I tried PostNuke, but it was a complete #fail. Some very interesting friends recommended Mambo (now Joomla) and Drupal.

In the early years I wasn’t involved in the wider community – I just got my own work done in the issue queue and forums. When I moved to Portland, I got involved in the Drupal User Group, and when Andrew Morton (drewish) left town, he left me and Jonathan Hedstrom (jhedstrom) in charge of it. I’m still doing that.

How did you end up being the Git Migration project manager?

I had been projecting managing and site-building for some time and was ready for a change. Chris Strahl had planned to manage the Git project, but got hired by Acquia and disappeared to Africa. Same basic kind of thing, he was leaving town and asked me if I knew anyone who might take it on. 🙂 I thought it seemed like an interesting problem to solve, so I signed on.

I guess I have a habit of standing around and looking approachable. And people hand big projects to me.
[Editor’s note: And she seems to do quite well with them.]

At Drupalcon, Chicago you and Michael Halstead had the highest-profile wedding ever held at a Drupalcon. Can you tell us a little about how that came about?

Michael and I had been a couple for several years, and we’d talked about marriage. After the Git migration, we felt if we can get through the Git migration together, we can survive anything. And we had lots of friends there. Just the week before Drupalcon, we decided to go for it.

Eliza Eliza and Michael’s wedding at DrupalCon Chicago, March 8, 2011

How did you come to have the obvious project management skills you have? Is that your profession?

My formal background and education are in teaching, where I did mostly project-based learning. You take on real things that you try to accomplish and then learn by doing them. When I was teaching technology, the “Cyberpunk MOO” class was the most fun I ever had. My students, many of whom loathed their English classes, were able to earn language arts credits to read William Gibson novels and then build a MOO loosely in the style of those novels. [Editor’s note: A MOO is “a text-based online virtual reality system to which multiple users (players) are connected at the same time,” if you’re not hip enough to know that already.]

I’ve been building websites and managing web development projects for the better part of the last 10 years, though.

Is it true that you brought former students into the Git migration project?

I have former students with myriad tech backgrounds, and it was awesome to be able to work with two of them again on this project. It’s been a pleasure to keep in touch with former students and follow their progress and success, and on occasion, work together to make things happen.

Tell us a little about your background and your family.

I grew up in Delta Junction, Alaska, population 840. We had no running water or electricity and lived in a basement made out of styrofoam. When it got cold enough to freeze the diesel fuel, all the neighbors came to our house because it was the only place that wasn’t frozen. At 16, I left for the warmer climes of the lower 48 to study education.

What is next for you now that the huge commitment is over?

I’m now officially co-lead of the Git team, with Sam Boyer. The Git team is kind of a prototype of the new D8 core initiatives, with two leads, one almost explicitly a manager. I’m still working with others to iron out some of the big technical and community decisions but am starting to work on other things, too.

I’d like to add an Agile workflow-oriented interface to the issue queue so that it’s easier to organize sprints, especially work that may cross module boundaries. Tagging doesn’t really do the trick.

I’m also working with Derek Wright on the project-maintainer interface in the project module (the part that project owners interact with when managing code, releases, maintainers, etc., on the project page on

What do you see in the near future for Git in Drupal?

Well, there are some key blockers before we can get to the good stuff, the most significant being the need for real, representative development and staging areas so we can have some confidence that we won’t negatively impact when doing a deployment.

But then comes some really exciting work, like per-issue repositories and a much more integrated repository viewer.

Thank you, Melissa, for what you’ve already contributed and for your future work. The whole Drupal community appreciates your great accomplishment in managing the Git migration.

More Melissa Anderson goodness Profile: