A couple of Drupalists meet WordCamp London 2017 - WordCamp London 2017 was my very first WordPress community event; my first time up close with a community rumoured to have a very different focus and feeling than the Drupal community I know and love. But contribution, the one theme unifying us across all open source software communities, brought us all together.Tags: acquia drupal planetwordpresslondoncommunitycontribution
Drupal Community is in a tough situation. A series of events had led to a popular contributor and leader from the Drupal community, Larry Garfield, to be asked to step down. Apparently, there was some incriminating evidence against Larry, that have led Drupal Association (DA) to take this decision.
Several people, over the past day, have asked me if I approve of DA’s decision and Dries’ actions. I had chosen to not take a side, for I believe there has been an imbalance of information available to me from both perspectives to be able to form a sound opinion about the issue.
I see the current situation in a deadlock.
A large section of the Drupal community has expressed displeasure and disapproval of DA/CWG’s decision, demanding that any evidence that can prove in any way that Larry has violated the Code of Conduct, or in anyway abused anyone, or used his position in the Drupal community to force his ways of life on anyone, be made public, justifying DA’s decision.
DA/CWG has so far refused to disclose any evidence or supporting details, apparently in the interest of protecting the privacy of the other members who provided the evidence, as well as in the interest of Larry.
It is difficult to restore normalcy and trust in DA without releasing more information and evidence. And DA would not want to do it to protect the members who shared the evidence to DA. Hence the deadlock.
Drupal Community, as I have known it, has always been the most open and embracing community to people of all races, gender, orientation and ways of life. And I strongly believe it still remains the same.
To see something like this break the trust that the community and Drupal Association has earned over the years, is disheartening.
Here are a couple of ways, I believe, in which DA can restore the faith of the community on the association and CWG:
Release the evidence, withholding any personal details of any of the personnel who provided the evidence, masking any data that could either directly or indirectly lead to any specific individuals from being recognized.
If the evidence has such personal information scattered all over, making it difficult for DA to make the evidence public, DA could invite a panel of five prominent leaders from Drupal or Opensource communities all over, who have publicly expressed their disapproval of DA’s decision. DA can then share the evidence with the panel, who could then review the decision and express their opinion about if DA’s decision to ask Larry to step down was reasonable, considering the evidence. The panel members, before being able to access the evidence, should agree to ensure they will keep all evidence shared with them extremely confidential, and will not disclose anything from the evidence, except their opinion about whether the decision taken by DA was reasonable.
Another idea for building such Panel easier would be - DA’s elections for Position of Director at Large have just ended. The list of candidates is here - Inviting the top 5 contestants, who won the maximum votes, could make such panel formation pretty quick.
DA might not be technically accountable to validate every decision of their board by some external panel. However the onus is on DA to restore any lost confidence of the community on DA/CWG and to come out clean.
If there is anything that DA could do, to restore the lost trust and confidence that the community has vested so far on DA, and lost significantly over the past couple of days, I think this would be it.
DA/CWG still has my confidence and trust. However, with the data available in front of me, I am inclined to believe that the decision taken by DA was not reasonable or justified. Although I still believe this is because DA hasn’t made public, their perspective of things and events. Would love to see DA go the extra mile to restore everyone’s confidence on the association.
Thumbnail Image: Source
The Drupal 8.3.x branch is getting ready to introduce a new experimental media module. This will bring enhanced media handling in Drupal 8. The closest solution in Drupal 7 to handle media is the file entity module. Now is the time to discuss migrations from file entity in Drupal 7 to media entities in Drupal 8. For core, there is already an issue for this, but for contrib... there is no migration. So, I wrote one.
We understand that there is uncertainty and concern in the Drupal community about project founder, Dries Buytaert, asking Larry Garfield to leave the Drupal community, and about the Drupal Association removing Larry's DrupalCon sessions and ending his term as track chair.
We want to be clear that the decision to remove Larry's DrupalCon session and track chair role was not because of his private life or personal beliefs. The Drupal Association stands by our values of inclusivity. Our decision was based on confidential information conveyed in private by many sources. Due to the confidential nature of the situation we cannot and will not disclose any information that may harm any members of our community, including Larry.
This decision followed our established process. As the Executive Director, charged with safekeeping the goodwill of the organization, I made this decision after considering input from various sources including the Community Working Group (CWG) and Drupal Project Lead, Dries Buytaert. Upon Larry’s request for an appeal, the full board reviewed the situation, all the evidence, and statements provided by Larry. After reviewing the entirety of the information available (including information not in the public view) the decision was upheld.
In order to protect everyone involved we cannot comment more, and trust that the community will be understanding.
We do see that there are many feelings and questions around this DrupalCon decision and we empathize with those community members. We will continue to monitor comments. We are listening.
Recently, I had to create a slideshow for a project. Nothing unusual about that you say. Indeed, everywhere you look you see slideshows. If there's one thing that's common to 99% of all websites today it's a slideshow. Almost boring. That is until you actually start to implement one. There must be 50 ways to slide you images - and I don't mean the transition effects. Picking and choosing the right module and library is almost a burden.
There are various scenarios where you would want to display a slideshow. The most common is the home page. I've used the venerable Views Slideshow module (2007) in the past for this purpose. It's simple enough to implement and is available for D7, D8 as well as Backdrop.
It's that time of year again when everyone starts getting excited about DrupalCon. People are getting geared up to attend sessions, meet up with team members and clients, and let's not forget, load up on as much swag as possible. But an important piece which often gets overlooked are the Summits that happen the Monday before the conference begins. These events are happening again in Baltimore, and the Media and Publishing Summit is one you should consider attending.
"You'll write about this one day" she said. "and you'll make it sound like you're the hero. You should go to L.A." she added.
Well, turns out for a number of reasons this happens to be that day, and as for the latter, I'll let you the reader decide, although to be quite honest, I don't much care either way as you weren't there, and I'm not asking for opinions. I'm writing this because I want to conclude the story about what I've been trying to create in this world whilst I am still able to. I believe there is a better, more fairer to all, way of living and that we have all the tools we need in order to achieve this change, leaving the world in a far better place than it currently is. For me, for her, for everyone. This isn't going to be an easy read, there's no pretty pictures, no subheadings and no holds barred. I'm sorry if you wanted that, I'll get back to 'normal' mode after this, but I have to get this out as it's been over ten years now and I need to move on, and this is my therapy.
In Part I of The Co-operative.club story I explained how Free Software had enabled me to connect with others through a social business network based on the Drupal platform after being made redundant and having to leave London and return to my father's house. Thirteen years hence I find myself back here/there again, broke again (and more so this time round), but still with the ability to get myself out of this situation thanks to Free Software, and Drupal. The latter however I am, and not for the first time, too sure about given the events of the past 24h, and that's where I'd value your input - not just in words but also in actions. Inaction is also action, I guess we will see.
First let's go back to where I left off last time, in Toronto, where I'd just set up a 'Test Box' which had ended up being just an expensive party and an art gallery. What I hadn't mentioned in the previous post, and which is why I found it hard to write the second part, was that I was at the time in a relationship with a girl I'd met at the Bovine Sex Club. Not a sex club, but a live music bar near where I was staying in Queen St. W. I'd been talking with this pretty girl and when she and her friends were going to leave I thought I'd ask for her number - something I'd never done before but being in another country knowing I'd probably never see her again if I didn't pluck up the courage I thought I would. I did, and she smiled and wrote her number down. I don't think you could've met a happier guy that night than me after that. Sadly, it didn't carry on that way.
I invited her out on a date - one of my favourite British comedians Dave Gorman was playing a gig in Toronto and I thought it would be a nice thing to go to, have a meal and all that jazz. Nothing too serious - a bit of fun to see if we still liked each other outside the dark sweaty confines of a Toronto music bar. The day came, I waited. And waited. And waited. She didn't turn up, I went to the gig alone. Dave was hilarious as usual, talking about the time when he decided to find all the people in the world with the same name as him then go meet some. Silly comedy, that's what I like.
I decided to phone and find out why she hadn't turned up - perhaps something had happened, perhaps she had just changed her mind. She said she thought I wasn't going to turn up, that I didn't really mean what I'd said, and that she didn't want to get hurt again so had decided it was better to stay at home. Coming from a broken home myself and seeing girls get hurt by blokes at college and uni, I kinda could see a little where she was coming from and assured her my intentions were honest, forgave her for not turning up, asked if she'd like to try again and was delighted when she said yes. What I didn't know at that time was she hadn't been on meds for three years and was classed as having 'Borderline Personality Disorder' and a rapid-cycling Bipolar. Heck, I didn't even know what 'meds' were.
We met up again, and again. We talked and talked, and I had stories of how bad the situation was living with her parents and within a very short space of time - perhaps a week or three, she had moved in with me. She seemed like she was in a really bad place at the time so although it seemed to me too soon, I thought I understood her situation and was willing to give cohabiting a go - this could be 'the one' and I didn't want to look back and regret missing that chance at that long-held dream I'd had until then of meeting someone and spending my life with them.
She moved in but pretty soon things started to get very strange and scary. Within a week or two she was crying uncontrollably and cut her wrists. Not in a blood-gushing out gonna die right now way, but enough to make it bleed. I didn't know what to do - I was in a country I didn't know, and I'd never experienced anything like this before. I actually ended up phoning my mum, who of course ended up worried out of her mind and could only suggest we go to the hospital, which she didn't want to do. I saw other scars and found out in time this is how she 'released the pressure'.
I slowly discovered the truth about her diagnosis and medication or lack thereof, and heard stories about how she became to be on that medication - her parents said it was a 'chemical imbalance', however her story was one of a guy at school who had tried to attack her when she had shunned his advances towards her and who had later been jailed for some predatory activity. I don't know to this day what the actual truth is, on either side of the tale. Being rapid-cycling meant she was fine half the day and, to be brutally honest, batshit crazy the other half. She was highly intelligent, with a degree from one of the top universities and previously a fairly high-powered job until that fell apart when her body started to become immune to the lithium she was taking - or not, I don't really know, that's just what she told me.
We used to argue a lot when she'd accuse me of everything under the sun - from looking at other women to me being a 'dictator' because I wanted to create these open source cafes. I remember one night when she decided to rip up my copy of Lawrence Lessig's 'Free Culture' book one page at a time and shove each page under the door of the lounge where I'd barricaded myself in so that she couldn't physically attack me. The rapid cycling meant she'd calm down in a few hours and all would be sweetness and light again, as if nothing had happened. But it had, and I couldn't forget that, which annoyed her more as I didn't feel at all in the mood for anything unlike herself, which I guess is another part of the being on her high. So the cycle would repeat. She'd punch holes in the wall then go to the DIY store and fix them up after. All things I look back at now and think "why the hell didn't I get out of that situation straight away". But you don't - well I didn't. I can't explain how it feels to be in that situation - all I knew is she said she'd be out on the street if I'd chucked her out, and I didn't know why she had this distrust of me that I'd go off with other women. For a start I hardly had the chance because we never seemed to leave the house and when we did it was a nightmare as she'd have a breakdown in the middle of a store and of course everyone would stare at me with that 'what this nasty bloke had done to this poor girl' look in their eyes.
I tried to go to networking meetings - after all I was only on a visiting visa and was there to see if I could connect and build business - but we only managed to go to a few and I wasn't getting enough business in to survive, and my credit cards by this time were maxxed out. The way I usually get business is I'm connecting with people every day, writing blog posts, and talking about Free Software. I couldn't do that in this situation where everyone we met was a 'bad person' if they were male, or a potential threat if they were female. I used to go for long walks when she was mad at me for apparently looking at another girl or whatever I was supposed to have done - I'm a networker and an essential part of that is talking to other people so yes, I talk with other people and I'm friendly with them - doesn't mean I want to go to bed with them. I used to go to the local library and read up on Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar. I read a lot, and the main thing I came away with was that saying you didn't have it was a symptom of having it. She said she didn't have it, and the meds were just to dumb her down, she would be able to cope without them.
I managed to convince her that if we were to have any future, it was going to have to be going back on the meds again - at least for a while as I simply couldn't deal with fighting every day and perhaps a different combination than before might help. She went back on them - a horrible to see process as she had such a high dose she was asleep for most of the day and yes, all they seemed to do was make her inactive so she wouldn't think or do much.
This too didn't last long though, she'd not take her meds some days, and things got progressively worse until one day during another attack she'd bitten my arm. I went to the clinic as it had started to go green and the doc said I'd gone just in time as human bites were worse than snake bites. Then another time she'd knelt on my hand so hard she broke it and I had to go to hospital, with her all the time saying "it's not broken" when it plainly was. I see that every time I look at my hand with the knuckle where it shouldn't be and the bone sticking out also where it shouldn't. I've had guys 'joke' to me suggesting that's where I punched her - if only they knew. I only ever restrained, which I hated having to do but there's pretty much nothing else you can do apart of course from getting the hell out of that situation but I hope others who have experienced similar will understand. I guess that's why I've found it hard to talk about at any length until now, because I fear what people assume. What has helped me finally write this is mostly down to people in the Drupal community who have been brave enough to talk about their situations, they know who they are and I'd like to thank every one of them for doing so, I don't think they realise just how much it helps others like me have the confidence to even consider doing this when I still worry hopefully unnecessarily about potential retribution and consequences.
Now she was back on the meds but not doing too well with me there her parents rented her a flat but that didn't go too well either, when I went to visit she hadn't eaten for days and thought she was hearing screams from down the road and had to go investigate. We decided that we wanted to be together(!) but that would involve being nearer to where her parents had moved to out on the lakes a couple of hundred miles up the lake in Kingston, Ontario. We briefly moved into a bed & board place but moved out soon after as I'd managed to find a local client who of course I couldn't work in the office as I was 'just visiting', but I have clients all over the world so work remotely and they don't employ me. That didn't last long though so I went into their office 'just visiting', but that didn't last long either as she'd be on the phone every five minutes.
I started to make connections locally and garnered quite an interest in my project - they had a 'Think Kingston' campaign who said the local uni wanted closer ties with the town as they hadn't invested much of late and this sort of thing could help - in fact so much they said it would be good to have one central location and one in each of the six suburbs to connect the community. No one person would put up the money though so it was a case of continually networking until I brought enough interested parties together to make something happen. I met some interesting people there too as Sun Microsystems had a big office there and had offered me all the computers I'd needed which was great as they had keycards so students and office workers could plug in and be on the same systems they used. I even met one of the first people to have a Unix business who said my main issue was going to be getting everything up and running at the same time - the events, the tech, the food, etc.
At the same time the half/half life was still going on and although she was managing to go to a few Cognitive-based therapy meetings it wasn't working. One day I got a black eye - I'm not sure if it's the same day I was asking about food regulations to the librarian who happened to be female but I have a feeling it might've been. I decided to call the police but they said there wasn't much they could do, she could only admit herself back in hospital. We went to the doctor, she ended up getting up on his desk waving an umbrella at him and shouting racist comments at him. She went back into hospital, I saw her trying to bend her fingers back, and she ended up talking her way around the weekend staff as they weren't as trained and she was back, attacking me. I left. My friend who I'd met through the networking in Toronto offered to pay for my flight home but when I went back to Toronto I decided, in my stupidity, to go back again.
It didn't last long again, I'd be in the kitchen making food and I'd forget something so the light ended up being switched on and off a couple of times - this apparently was me making secret signals to the next-door neighbours wife who I was apparently having an affair with. I kept myself busy online and it was at this time I rediscovered Drupal as one of the fairly high-profile sites I'd built back in the UK had been rebuilt in Drupal - I'd built it in another Open Source CMS called XOOPS. I had a pretty similar view of Drupal as many still have "Ugh, Drupal", however this time I decided to look under the hood at the code and saw that it was just as - if not more so - capable as the system I'd been involved with back in the dotcom days. I saw an API with business logic infused, and all the hallmarks of a system which anyone could use, whether they could code or not. It was modular, capable, and could build anything. I didn't however realise there was a whole community behind it as every time I went to the forums I'd get questions about who I was talking to and they'd end up with the usual fighting, so I just saw the code.
Things go worse again and I found myself many nights out in the freezing temperatures wandering around until she'd calm down. My friend again paid for my flight home, but this time I went. I had no baggage, just a big winter jacket and they thought they'd caught their terrorist so searched and searched but all they found was my tired soul waiting to get the hell out of there.
There were good times, but there were also many very bad times. I haven't covered everything that happened because it's amazing how much did in such a relatively short period of my life and yes I know it's only my side of the story, however I'm not the one who was on meds who then went off them and one of the first things I did when I arrived home was get checked out as she told me that it takes one to know one. I went through interviews and they said I was 'normal'. To be honest, I don't know what normal is, I don't think there is such a thing as normal. I do know where we were in Canada was around the area where the "pill for every ill" started with placebos and the medical world doesn't know much of how our brain works. I also know the culture there seems to be if you don't fit into the 9-5 lifestyle you're obviously in need of meds, whereas here in the UK it's getting more that way but different.
So why am I writing about this now? Because I find myself again questioning whether Drupal is the right tool I want to use for my project, and this time I feel it has relevance with the experience I went through and the knowledge I gained about the wonders of the brain. A prominent member of the Drupal community whom I've had the pleasure of meeting a few times has been 'ousted' due to his personal beliefs. The founder of Drupal, Dries, says he is doing it to protect the values of the community, however the facts as they are available at the time of writing seem to show that nothing nefarious has actually happened, only that there is the perceived chance that something might happen. I don't follow these beliefs, in fact I hadn't heard of this specific community previously and I, along with many others, do worry about it. I have seen vulnerable people and know how people can manipulate situations, and even though there is consent in the situation it is often a blurry line as to whether people are in a capacity to really know what that is and whether it's a good thing or not to be doing it. My personal view on the situation is though that it is none of our business and it should not be affecting the project, it is however and that's a problem. We now have a situation where another person who has practically dedicated their life to the project is now in a place they don't want - or need - to be, all in the name of 'inclusion'.
Our project recently ousted another member of the community who has given similar amount of their life to it and who now has a gaping hole where friends, fun, and code used to be. I made an official complaint but was met with the usual brush-off and told that there was not much they could do with "undiagnosed autism". So we are now the medical establishment diagnosing people?
We are all human beings with our quirks and strange ways. Free Software (more specifically Copyleft software which ensures users freedom both up and downstream) gives people the opportunity to be included in society no matter who they are and we need to preserve that. If Drupal is to decide who is and who isn't allowed to be part of this, without them actually doing anything which is breaking the law of their respective residential countries, then where does this leave the platform? A Minority Report way of thinking will just keep it to a very small minority. Yes, we need to look after our community and make it as welcome to everyone - and from what I've seen of the actual work this community member who's just been ousted has done he's been nothing but a boon to this. He hasn't - as far as we've seen - done anything illegal or untoward, yet we are branding him otherwise, causing untold damage to his reputation in the process. And that's not fair.
So why do I even bother with Drupal? Aren't there other things I can use? Sure, but none are as advanced as Drupal is in terms of the ability for non-coders to build what they want in order to be able to communicate via the medium of the internet, for free. Drupal although a much smaller share of the market currently than other certain systems, has freedom built in its DNA. I don't have to buy a plugin to do what I want, and if I don't know how to code something it doesn't stop me from using modules or giving something to the community from my skill set which will help others and perhaps others will then be more likely to help me when I need help with something that needs some code. Drupal is pervasive in government institutions and education, and, if the community is scaled organically then we have the opportunity to change the world with it. We can save tax money by sharing code, local communities can be involved in building and maintaining the technology they need, and people who want to build their own businesses and lives online can do it freely and often without code. On top of that, creatives can publish their videos and art and writings online, and we can build a framework for freedom. But not in this current configuration, not when it is seemingly the business players who are supported. Those same ones who many in the community have had to help rescue projects from and been squeezed out because they don't conform to the 9-5 mentality so don't fit into the current corporate structure which seems to be gradually taking over this project. Those corporates who we hear find it fine to take people to strip clubs to help make a sale but then say they are ousting people because they don't align with their values. Well, I don't value taking people to strip clubs just to win a sale - does that mean I'm not Drupal enough? If so, then I don't really want to be part of that, I find that way more harmful actions than any alleged future actions.
Back to the story, because that's why I do support Drupal as it enabled me to earn and live. I began to build my life back up again. I rented a room in my sister's ex's house who lived just down the road from her - they had a son together so were still in contact regularly. I had my newly found interest in Drupal and I did various things to promote it as I thought it was amazing. There was a site which you could post up short videos of 12 (I think) seconds so I used to do my 'module of the day' and tried to make them entertaining - I think I still have them somewhere. But it was when I put the word 'Drupal' on my LinkedIn profile that things changed as I had a call the next day from a London agency who needed some 'urgent' help. It was for a sponsor of the triathlon who wanted a Facebook app integration so people could support their friends. The agency had promised the app but it was late, however they were under contract to deliver so although I built it, it was only live for a day before the event itself. This was my first experience of the digital agency world, there have been many to follow, most of which haven't been that good, which is why I believe the agency model is dead.
The project gave me enough money to move to Brighton - a place I'd heard was the epicentre for the web in the UK so thought it would be a good place to set up my open source coworking cafe concept, and I could fund through my Drupal work. I'd made a little block for my website which displayed my LinkedIn profile and as Drupal had helped me, I decided to post it to the site so others could use it too. I got no response (well I did six years later after talking about it), so I still didn't see the community side of it much. I networked like hell in Brighton and within a short time had gained a couple of high-profile sites to work on, one of which the developer I worked with decided he was moving to London and gave me a couple of his old projects he didn't want to deal with any more. Not realising the amount of work involved with one of these projects I ended up massively underquoting but I'd promised the work so I did it, ending up moving out of my flat into a small bedsit to save money in the process. When I handed over the project I said "you'll need to work with a designer now as I've only selected rounded corners" but still to today all they've done is put a front-page on the site. It's still one of the projects I'm most proud of - it's got more information on children's books than amazon and is highly respected in the industry. I'm surprised it's still going, but my background has always been making things work well so they don't break - not so good for business I guess but I like to take pride in the work I do. You can check the site out at BooksForKeeps.co.uk.
I finished that project and did more networking, including going to an event called 'Connecting Innovation' where I saw Ken Thompson present his work on 'Virtual Enterprise Networks' in which he details how the organisations of the future aren't the big monolithic corporations but instead networks of smaller organisations, freelancers, and so on. He'd written a book including all the models he'd used in practice to build these Virtual Enterprise Networks around the world, for example when NASA wanted to deal with suppliers from outside the U.S. but had no interface for doing this. To me it was an eye-opener as this was precisely how the Drupal community worked. I had set up a local Drupal Users Group and we all shared code and information. I still hadn't been to an 'official' Drupal event, I simply didn't have the funds at the time so only dreamed of attending.
Business grew and after less than a year in my tiny bedsit with an outlook of a wall I managed to have enough to move out. I'd been checking the property ads every day and this amazing-looking apartment with floor to ceiling windows became available in the centre of Brighton which I thought would be a great base for my business, not only the Drupal side as I worked from home but also to start something up on my vision of the open source coworking cafe side. It was central, I could fit a few people in for lunchtime talks, all was good. So I thought, more on that later, first back to the Drupal.
I also had enough funds to attend my first DrupalCon, this year it was in Copenhagen so I decided to go. It was weird though, there were all these people sitting around long tables working away at their laptops to which just confused me - why would they go to the trouble of paying to get to a conference then not go to the talks and just sit tapping away at their computers? Didn't make sense.
I was keen to talk to someone 'in power' about my findings about the Virtual Enterprise Networks as I thought I'd be bringing them a potential answer as to how they could spread 'good' Drupal by connecting and helping each other out - just as we did with the code and at our local meetups. I saw someone go past who I recognised from the Drupal Association so asked him if there was anyone I could talk to at the DA about this, to which he replied that they were 'all too busy working for large corporations' and brushed me off. I was later told he was 'autistic'. My friend who I was with at the time just looked at me, both of us in surprise. I resigned myself to finding out what else was going on and decided to stop at one of the tables where people were working away and find out what was going on. That's when I first met Angie/webchick who said they were testing the upgrade script from 6 to 7 so I could try that on a site I'd built. The only one I had was the children's book site however I was in my 'module buffet' phase so there were masses of modules on it (tabs within mini-panels within panels and so on!) and surprisingly it didn't work.
This experience didn't stop my pursuit of what I thought was trying to help the community solve its scaling issues though and I started to go to more events. I went to my first DrupalCamp in Cambridge and that's where I met a team of guys who were building native CRM in Drupal which I thought was amazing. Having come from an integrated platform previously I could see how this made Drupal much more of a full product and how essential to the framework it could be. I ran a couple of DrupalCamps in Brighton at which one of them they did a 36 hour BoF on the CRM which again I thought was amazing as this was how software should be debated and developed, by collaboration not everyone in their own pigeon hole making their own version of some common functionality.
I started to go to the CxO meetups which were happening as I wanted to achieve two things - grow my own business so I could build my vision, and connect the Drupal business as that would support my vision too. A platform where we commoditise common functionality across the world - every business vertical has similar functionality required, it's the people and the products that are the differentiators, unless you're a software company. I tried out one of the exercises from the Virtual Enterprise Network book at one of the CxO events - the synergy discovery - but I'm not a good person at this type of thing and when getting people to put up post-it notes of their skills they all just put Drupal. The idea is people obviously have all different skills, experience and expertise and the goal is to group and cluster those and connect with complementary skills so as to create collaborative products and services. I was told at the time by the organiser that it was the way of the community - if something didn't work then people simply weren't interested and the idea wasn't worth pursuing. I realise now that's just another person's opinion, you have to have belief in your own thoughts in order to make things happen.
So, on we go and a few more CxO events down I find we're all talking about the same issues over and over again. Where the code is shared and discussed online via the drupal.org infrastructure, the business people don't use the complicated site and so don't have anywhere online to share. They do collaborate in 'secret' in their own groups, and as I went to more events they all seemed to get further away from community and more 'business', with restrictions on the size of company you had to be to attend, which basically pushed me out of the picture. At one of the last events I went to though I met another Director of the DA and it was at the time when they first introduced community elections for an 'at large' Director. I asked how many had applied to which I was told three, to which I though did no-body care and decided that night to apply. With my following I had grown on social networks by helping others out with their Drupal issues due to the seeming lack of support channels due to many businesses making money from the support side so no want to fund and/or foster the free ways of support, I was voted in and within a week I found I was now also a Director of the DA.
Obviously having to cut a very long story short before we all fall asleep, I didn't get much in the way of communication or involvement in my time there, I did manage to help push through a Marketing & Branding Committee which wasn't really supported that much, and I found myself realising that the agenda was there to stay and they had their way and that was it, I was just seen as trouble. I remember once sitting around the table when they were talking about revenue and how much the individual memberships didn't bring in (look at how they compare to total revenue) and the founder's remarks were "well why do we even bother having them". Now I understand that could've been taken out of context, but then I look back and wonder - this guy is running the fastest growing private software company in the country and has known pretty much nothing else apart from uni and successful career, I don't think he's ever had to really worry about where his next meal is coming from. He's obviously good at business, and seems to be good at people skills when in public, so I gave him the benefit of doubt that I'd just either heard it wrong or taken it the wrong way. Drupal may have been released by him, but it's his army of contributors who build and maintain it, many of whom work tirelessly and often for free in their spare time, even those who do get paid to work on it.
So skipping along, when my term finished at the DA I decided to set up a co-operative online as I'd met many people from many Drupal businesses who were more than keen to help market the project and product better, and who lacked a place to communicate and gather online. Sure there's the partner networks and the DA itself they can sponsor, and the events, but they're all run by someone else with their own agenda - a Virtual Enterprise Network is where the members own and operate the group, much like a co-operative if you look at something like Mondragon Corporation. This was surely a better way to scale than a top-down infrastructure which seemed to result in many issues - helping some get richer but at the expense of making the product and processes harder for the rest. I set up the site, I set up some skills tags and people connected and did business but I failed to capture the business model myself and at the time had high monthly costs so could not keep it going without revenue. I asked for membership dues, of which about four people paid, of which was the equivalent to about half a day's Drupal development, so didn't last long.
By that time I was quite disheartened so I kind of went back to just doing projects but then in 2014 an opportunity came along to rent an annexe opposite the coworking space in Brighton which I had been a member of on-and-off since its inception and as I'd heard that this space was now full I thought this could be an opportunity to finally get my space up and running. I took a gamble and paid the deposit and rent, and worked on two projects at the same time to ensure it had some time to get up and running whilst the overspill from next door came forth. This didn't happen, and I didn't have the time to do enough promotion. The building wasn't exactly right either, and it ended up being a costly three-month experiment and I lost over ten grand. We did however have another spectacular party, and I was proud to host the first VR Brighton events, something I shall never forget being a huge VR fan. As for getting enough things up and running at the same time - well apart from not having enough time, the space wasn't big enough to do that and so it never would've been the dream. I knew most of that but was hoping at least I would be able to get enough members to cover costs and start to build the rest.
I then started to do my first commercial collaborations with the CRM guys and decided it was something I should promote more as it was profitable and gave me time to work on my other project as opposed to if I was sitting there building sites all day. I was once again too confident and as DrupalCon was in L.A. that year I decided I should go and spread the word about CRM, and I wanted to see the place in real life too, after all, I'd been told I should go there by you-know-who so I thought what the hell and booked my tickets. I guess I was on a high too as I decided as the hotel was the main cost I would take along my friend as he was looking for a way to change his work and I'd been extolling the virtues of Drupal to him and saying how it helped anyone build a career if they wanted to. He obviously just saw it as a free trip, but I don't regret offering, I just need to choose more carefully whom I offer opportunities like this too if I am ever in a position to again.
So L.A. was fun, and we did a BoF on the CRM where a few people turned up - all from very large corporations, but nothing came of it as I didn't have the team around me to make something like this happen. I returned back to Brighton and carried on the continued search for work and odd project. But times were different now and many agencies had grown up and the available pool of work was less. I didn't do front-end so I worked with others on that, but one kept continually letting me down and mocked me when I worked with them again at the fact I had, and in the process had practically lost me any faith that client had in my judgement by then.
Then came along winter and my flat where I was day in day out became infested with mice. This had happened a few years back but this time they were back with a vengeance. The landlord flat refused to do anything proper about it, a temporary fix was just that, and I was getting ill with the stress of it all. I managed to get some work with a local digital agency but they were another one who knew little about the product they were building so I had to, for the sake of the client's project, do the opposite of what they asked. I implemented a rock solid architecture of custom entities, purposely making it hard for them to mess around with and as far as I know the site is still based on those. They wanted to play around with different views and lots of front-end stuff, which you can do fine if you have the base to do it on, but if you start by doing that you soon end up in trouble. I couldn't deal with their want of me being in the office all the time as nothing apart from seemingly useless meetings happened all day then at the end of the day they'd asked how it was going and I'm sure they must've thought I had a double working on the stuff whilst I was at their inconsequential meetings they just wanted a face at. I ended up working all over the Xmas period with mice running around my flat making me more ill, and I turned up the day they all came back from hols with their architecture and recommended they find someone now with more front-end skills than myself. I recommended a couple of people, they eventually found someone who is still there today but I hear they don't have the project any more. That was the idea that it would be handed over to the client to maintain, but it was months overdue so I don't know what went on after I left. I do know that when I tested the site out I did a search which resulted in no results, that wouldn't have happened if they'd followed my advice using facets and bottom-up SOLR search from actual data instead of top-down "nice looking" but fundamentally flawed implementation they made. Such is life.
So I'm back in the flat, mice running around, and a landlord who refuses to fix it. Why is this relevant? Well it took me four years to get a replacement boiler - the original one made loud bangs and I ended up boiling water for years as I gave up trying. I think this is relevant because I see a pattern of me getting into interdependent relationships where I'm the submissive and I let people dominate me. Do I do it for kinks? No. Am I vulnerable? Maybe - stupid more like and just need to raise my own self-confidence and put up a few barriers, at least know when to get out of situations and when to say no to stuff. I said no to my landlord, I refused to pay him rent until he sorted out the mice problem, and he then decided to use the law to evict me from the flat as laws to stop this were only introduced in 2015 and my contract with him was from before that.
He finally evicted me in June last year and served me notice that he was taking me to court. I wrote up my defence, including all the info about the boiler and how he'd left me without a gas safety certificate for months when the original one finally failed it. His solicitor sent me copies of all the certificates which I thanked him for as it proved my defence, but he still didn't back down. I decided it wasn't worth trying to stay in Brighton and pay expensive living costs when I couldn't afford to start my other business vision due to the extortionate rents there (higher than Silicon Roundabout in London), the town was full of rubbish and with 1 in 69 people homeless the streets were lined with those I wanted to help but couldn't because there was no funding for that sort of thing down south. Sure, if you want to make an internet of things gadget which will suck up lots of data you can sell to the system you'll be fine, but do something which will benefit many but not maybe those who are currently rich getting richer and you're sod out of luck.
As funny as the world goes, I decided to stay with a friend for a week before returning back to Essex to stay with my folks for a while until the next DrupalCamp visit or going abroad opportunity came up (couldn't see the point in staying in expensive UK), and whilst staying there I found my dream space to set up my vision. It was the White Hart Hotel in Lewes and it was where Thomas Paine used to attend the debating society there. He used to talk about his ideas and vision but it was only when a fellow attendee said he should write about them and publish it that he ended up writing Common Sense, attributed to helping the American and French Revolutions. I believe we are now at this point with the internet - we have all the tools we need to communicate, share our ideas, and co-operate together for a better world, we just don't use them. We have the corporate version of the internet where it isn't their interests to help you but to grow their own business. So instead of having local spaces where people can go make use of things like video studios, rooms for presenting in front of people and streamed online, art on the walls and online, and everything else I cover in the Co-operative.club concept, we have instead a surveillance society and a few corporations at the top with many working to keep their systems going for little or no pay.
The Lewes building is £2m. It could work from crowd-funding, but quite rightly I see you need to build community first and grow from there. So I've thought about starting one up here, but first just building the network online and running a few events locally to get things up and running. I didn't do that before because I thought it would take too long but here I am 13 years in, £60k or more in debt, and a community I'm not even sure I actually should be worrying about as although it's kept me alive for years, I've never wanted to build websites and that's where I fail on the business side because my heart simply isn't in it. On top of that we have all the community issues which people again and again talk about and a community which isn't equipped currently to collaborate at scale as a community, they all seem too happy to take the quick cash, keep in their top-down partner networks and everything's ok. Well, I personally don't think that's going to work in the long run, and I'm more upset about the vision we won't be seeing if it just turns totally corporate. You can't pay people to have passion, and some of us aren't equipped or indeed want to 'have a job'.
I want to help people, including myself, enjoy the time they have on this planet by exploiting free software. It's the LibrePlanet conference this weekend which I hope some will be streamed as it will give me a boost I need. I was lucky enough to attend when I first went to Toronto back in 2005 before all the crazy stuff hit the fan, that's where I met Larry Lessig and one of my heros Eben Moglen who I believe is one of the best orators in the world. I spoke to them about my concept and they 'got it', and that counts for a lot to me. Or is that just my attachment issues again? Am I still suffering from worry about being abandoned when my parents split up? Should I just "get off my arse and do a job?". Well, on the latter front I've a little money due, but no - no job in the immediate future, once I decide on a direction I'll be out there networking like crazy whether on or offline, I don't have the want for trinkets I used to have as I realise that's not what makes me happy and there's a lot cheaper places than the UK I can go live. I did start a daily vlog on my project but I've focused it on the Drupal community as I thought that would be a constraint good enough because we do already collaborate. But now with all the issues I'm not sure of whether it's worth pursuing without some serious backing, and it seems everyone's hunky dory with the way the business runs, down to the everyone-except-for-me clapping at the recent talk mentioning we should stop all the debate about Free vs Open when it is so obviously not an insignificant thing, Open Source is for business, Free Software is for life.
Anyway, that's the ramble. I was going to write this up much nicer but it's been three months and that hasn't happened until today, I'm just sad it took such a shitty event to make it happen and I hope things will change. I certainly need to as I keep seeing buildings which would be perfect for connected community spaces.Category Creativity Tags drupal Drupal Association Drupal Planet Add new comment