January 23rd, 2012
Drupal.org has over 725,000 registered members in 228 countries. However, only a very small percentage of this members contribute back to the project. Why is this? How can we attract more contributors? What can we do to make it easier for people to contribute? Which areas of the Drupal project would people want to contribute?
To get answers to these questions, two surveys were conducted in 2011 by the community to understand the experience of contributing or considering to contribute to the Drupal project.
This is a combined report of 358 respondents’ responses to the surveys.
The first survey focused on the Drupal contribution experience for the Prairie initiative and received 303 responses. It was written and conducted by Leisa Reichelt (leisareichelt) that ran from April 25, 2011 to September 20, 2011.
The second, the Getting Involved survey, [list of questions] received 55 responses. It was written and conducted by Heather James (heather), Dharmesh Mistry (dcmistry) and Lisa Rex (lisarex) from October 21, 2011 to November 9, 2011. This survey focused on the respondent’s Drupal profile; their expectations, roadblocks, motivations; and Drupal areas that need most contributors, among many other things.
Profile of the respondents
Of the 303 respondents, 64% were non-coders and 31% were non-active contributors.
A big majority (71%) of the respondents from the survey identified themselves as “an established, active member of the community”. The majority of the respondents regularly contribute (41%) and a good amount stated that they contribute occasionally (36%). The majority of the non-active contributors (36%) have never contributed to the project.
Getting Involved Survey
The majority of the respondents identified themselves as Site Builder (68%), and/or Developer (59%). A significant portion of respondents identified themselves as Themer (34%) and/or Project Manager (29%). It is also worth noting that 73% of the respondents cited Drupal as their source of income.
Note: Each of the surveys focused on different aspects of Drupal contributions.
The findings from both surveys are summarized below, but also see:
- Detailed analysis and findings from the Prairie 2011 survey
- Detailed analysis and findings from the Getting Involved 2011 survey
The contributing experience
From the Getting Involved survey, it was found that the big motivator for people to contribute was simply to improve Drupal and support its community (40%). The other motivator was to grow their knowledge and network (25%). However, when the Getting Involved survey asked about their opinion about the existing community structure, a majority of the respondents (48.9%) had a negative reaction. They thought it was fragmented, chaotic, not great and could use improvements.
The majority of respondents of the Prairie survey thought the experience of contributing was:
- “Very much” rewarding and collaborative: Majority of the respondents of the Prairie survey thought the experience of contributing to the Drupal project was “very much” collaborative (47%) and rewarding (46%). However, the non-coders and the non-active contributors either stayed with “somewhat” or swayed between “very much” and “somewhat” with no statistical significance.
- “Not really” to “somewhat” efficient: Majority thought the process of contribution was “not really” efficient (43%) or “somewhat” efficient (40%) with no significant statistical difference between the responses. Non coders shared the same feeling.
- “Somewhat” intimidating, confusing, unwieldy and supportive: The respondents of the second survey thought the experience of contributing to the Drupal project was “somewhat” intimidating (46%), confusing (49%), unwieldy (43%) and supportive (52%).
- Split between “Very much” and “Somewhat” inspiring, exciting and friendly: When asked about the experience of contributing in terms of inspiration, excitement and friendliness, the majority swayed between “very much” and “somewhat” responses with no significant statistical difference. It is worth noting that in all the four categories (Rewarding, Inspiring, Excitement and Friendly), the majority of non-coders and non-active contributors stuck to “somewhat”.
What do people want to contribute?
Respondents of the Getting Involved survey mostly want to contribute on Documentation/technical writing and PHP development/LAMP (54% each). The next area with the most interest is training (46%) and Mentoring/Support (32%).
What areas need the most contributions?
The respondents thought documentation (12 respondents), Drupal.org. (7 respondents) and Design/UX/Usability (6 respondents) needed the most attention from other contributors.
What areas of Drupal community do you think need the most contributions?
Although the respondents from the second survey thought the contributing experience was “very much” collaborative, majority (47%) thought “Redesign the issue page to make it easier to collaborative effectively” as a “very important” initiative. Besides that, the respondents (overall, non coders and non active contributors) agreed (47%) that “Redesigning parts of Drupal.org to help newbies find ways to start contributing” as “very important”. This number was higher for non active contributors (55%) than the others.
Across profiles (of the second survey), “Creating ‘team’ pages to aggregate activities and people interested in a topic” (48%) and “Designing better tools for planning large initiatives” (41%) were deemed as “quite important”.
For “Designing a reputation system to show what different people are expert in and how well they are known by the Drupal community” majority of respondents swayed between quite important (32%) to less important (39%). This was also true for non coders and non active contributors.
Roadblocks to contributing
The major roadblock from they getting involved was lack of information on how to get involved (and whom to contact) (42%). This issue of getting started (48%) was also found in the Prairie survey.
- Lack of information on how to contribute, what to work on or whom to contact (42%)
- Don’t have time (18%)
- “I don’t know enough technically” (16%)
- Intimidation factor (13%)
- Want to talk/need guidance from mentors (13%)
- Slow turn around time to get feedback/or to get committed (7%)
‘Get Involved’ pages and Drupal.org
Only 16% of the respondents of the Prairie survey visit the ‘Get Involved’ pages on Drupal.org. 46% of Prairie survey respondents took the opportunity to complain about Drupal.org. They wanted a better Drupal.org. (24%), better tools to collaborate (5%), and an efficient issue queue (5%). For Drupal.org., they particularly wanted to find information easily (4%).
How could we improve the experience?
To make the experience of contributing better, non-contributors wanted better information to get started. And the contributors reiterated this when asked what would have been helpful when they started contributing. Besides that, the second most important thing that mattered was the human aspect. The personal touch would have been helpful to the contributors while they were starting and the non contributors want to work with experienced contributors. It is worth noting here that a significant number of respondents are interested in helping with this (Training – 46%, Mentoring/Support – 32%). (Responses from the Getting Involved survey)
Other noteworthy things
- Designers and non-programmers who responded (11) to open-ended question in the Prairie survey complained that contributing to the project was heavily code focused, that designers did not get the credit they deserved, and that they did not know how the non-coders could contribute to the project. Like the respondents from the Getting Involved survey, the non-programmers also reiterated that they did not know where they were needed.
- A small but considerate amount of Prairie survey respondents were discouraged by other community members and slow turn around time (8% each)
- The Getting Involved survey also asked as to what do they expect from a community leader, and they wanted someone who could moderate discussions/issues, offer guidance, and carve a plan for the community.
What do you think about the existing community structure?
We hope the findings from the survey will be helpful to the Drupal Association and the community on the next big priorities for Drupal.org. It is evident from the findings that a significant effort is required to provide effective, easy-to-find information on how to get started with contributing to the Drupal community. However, help from other community members is needed to keep the momentum going.
Some conversations/efforts have begun toward this goal of improving the contributor experience, such as redesigning the Community, Support and Getting started landing pages, redesigning the issue queue and more.
We need to identify areas that need leaders, and areas that need contributors. Contributors are in demand for documentation especially.
If you are interested to contribute to this effort to provide better documentation for getting started with contributing, great! There are several open issues on improving Getting Involved content, including the Getting Involved landing page and Getting Involved Guide. Please visit this link to read about other community initiatives that might be of interest to you. If you are unsure where you can best help, please contact Lisa Rex (lisarex), who can point you in the right direction.
If you have any questions about the survey/findings, please feel free to contact Dharmesh Mistry (dcmistry).