The Drupal content management system (CMS) is one of the most successful open source projects on the Internet today, thanks in no small part to its community.
At the head of the Drupal community is the project’s founder, Dries Buytaert, who started the project ten years ago in his dorm room. In 2008, Buytaert helped to found Acquia which is a commercial support vendor for Drupal, which to date has raised over $20 million in startup capital. The road from dorm room to open source rock star has given Buytaert some insight into how to build a successful open source community. Speaking at the Zendcon PHP conference this week, Buytaert detailed six key secrets to open source success.
1) There is no quick rick formula.
Buytaert said that it took five years after he first started the Drupal project until there was the first Drupalcon developer conference in 2005. At that point, 40 people showed up to the event. At DrupalCon 2010, there were over 3,000 attendees.
“It takes time,” Buytaert said. “It took us 10 years to get to where we are today.”
2) Hurray for growing pains.
According to Buytaert, growing pains are a great thing. As an example, he cited the big Drupal server meltdown of 2005 when the primary webservers for the project literally melted. Buytaert noted that at the time, he was a student with little money, so he simply put up a PayPal button on the Drupal domain with a message about the server being down and he needed to raise $3,000 to buy new hardware.
What happened over the course of the following 24 hour period shocked Buytaert. Individuals contributed more than $10,000 to the project. The Open Source Labs (OSL) called to offer free hosting and the CTO of Sun Microsystems sent Buytaert a new $8,000 server.