We're In The Golden Age of Contributing to Drupal
I spent some time recently looking at the new general project type on Drupal.org. As someone who spends quite a bit of time working on Drupal adjacent things, a home for Drupal related projects that aren’t modules or themes opens up some exciting (and important) possibilities. As I thought more about how this could be used for an upcoming project, it dawned on me that this was just latest in a series of developments that vastly improve the experience of contributing to Drupal.
I’m sure other Drupal lifers can think of older milestones, but my personal turning point goes back about four years ago to when the project application process was updated so that any user would have the ability to create a full project on Drupal.org. Prior to that, the process to create a new project felt insurmountable (at least to younger me.) Drupal activity will never reach the 50 NPM packages that were probably created while you read this paragraph, but reducing the barrier to entry makes a big difference.
Fast forward a few years and the hits just keep on coming.
Unquestionably the biggest improvement is the introduction of the merge request workflow on Drupal.org for both Drupal Core and Contributed projects. Rather than generating and uploading patches, users can now create an issue fork and submit a merge request. This process is likely to be much more comfortable to developers who are familiar with creating pull requests on Github. And this workflow wouldn’t have been possible if Drupal hadn’t migrated to a platform like Gitlab in the first place.
The process to set up a local environment for Drupal development has improved over this time frame as well. Docker based solutions like Lando and DDEV have prepackaged environments to automate the process of setting up a local environment to contribute to Drupal. Looking forward, cloud based environments could further simplify this set up process.
Simplytest.me continues to be a great option for contributors to evaluate modules and even test patches, and it has recently been modernized with a backend powered by Tugboat. Speaking of Tugboat, it also now provides live previews for merge requests for Core and Contrib projects.
That brings us all the way back to the recent addition of general projects.
A ridiculous amount of work went into all of these developer experience improvements. Thanks to the many people who put in the time and effort to make this possible.
During his keynote at DrupalCon this year Dries shared a walkthrough from Matthew Grasmick that provided quite the counterpoint. I’ll let the video speak for itself:
This is a completely fair reminder that while we’ve come a long way, we also still have a long way to go to modernize our contributor experience.
While I’ve spent years getting to a point where I can benefit from the improvements that Drupal has made to the contribution workflow, countless others still get turned away at the door. Both things can be true: the contribution process is vastly improved, and it also isn’t good enough. I’m still hopeful though. Based on the improvements outlined in my original post I have faith that the Drupal project will be successful continuing to adopt the features of Gitlab and I’ll be able to collaborate with countless new contributor friends who are able to make it through the proverbial Drupal door.