Who sponsors Drupal development?

There exist millions of Open Source projects today, but many of them aren't sustainable. Scaling Open Source projects in a sustainable manner is difficult. A prime example is OpenSSL, which plays a critical role in securing the internet. Despite its importance, the entire OpenSSL development team is relatively small, consisting of 11 people, 10 of whom are volunteers. In 2014, security researchers discovered an important security bug that exposed millions of websites. Like OpenSSL, most Open Source projects fail to scale their resources. Notable exceptions are the Linux kernel, Debian, Apache, Drupal, and WordPress, which have foundations, multiple corporate sponsors and many contributors that help these projects scale.

We (Dries Buytaert is the founder and project lead of Drupal and co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Acquia and Matthew Tift is a Senior Developer at Lullabot and Drupal 8 configuration system co-maintainer) believe that the Drupal community has a shared responsibility to build Drupal and that those who get more from Drupal should consider giving more. We examined commit data to help understand who develops Drupal, how much of that work is sponsored, and where that sponsorship comes from. We will illustrate that the Drupal community is far ahead in understanding how to sustain and scale the project. We will show that the Drupal project is a healthy project with a diverse community of contributors. Nevertheless, in Drupal's spirit of always striving to do better, we will also highlight areas where our community can and should do better.

Who is working on Drupal?

In the spring of 2015, after proposing ideas about giving credit and discussing various approaches at length, Drupal.org added the ability for people to attribute their work to an organization or customer in the Drupal.org issue queues. Maintainers of Drupal themes and modules can award issues credits to people who help resolve issues with code, comments, design, and more.

Example issue credit on drupal org
A screenshot of an issue comment on Drupal.org. You can see that jamadar worked on this patch as a volunteer, but also as part of his day job working for TATA Consultancy Services on behalf of their customer, Pfizer.

Drupal.org's credit system captures all the issue activity on Drupal.org. This is primarily code contributions, but also includes some (but not all) of the work on design, translations, documentation, etc. It is important to note that contributing in the issues on Drupal.org is not the only way to contribute. There are other activities—for instance, sponsoring events, promoting Drupal, providing help and mentoring—important to the long-term health of the Drupal project. These activities are not currently captured by the credit system. Additionally, we acknowledge that parts of Drupal are developed on GitHub and that credits might get lost when those contributions are moved to Drupal.org. For the purposes of this post, however, we looked only at the issue contributions captured by the credit system on Drupal.org.

What we learned is that in the 12-month period from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016 there were 32,711 issue credits—both to Drupal core as well as all the contributed themes and modules—attributed to 5,196 different individual contributors and 659 different organizations.

Despite the large number of individual contributors, a relatively small number do the majority of the work. Approximately 51% of the contributors involved got just one credit. The top 30 contributors (or top 0.5% contributors) account for over 21% of the total credits, indicating that these individuals put an incredible amount of time and effort in developing Drupal and its contributed modules:

RankUsernameIssues
1dawehner560
2DamienMcKenna448
3alexpott409
4Berdir383
5Wim Leers382
6jhodgdon381
7joelpittet294
8heykarthikwithu293
9mglaman292
10drunken monkey248
11Sam152237
12borisson_207
13benjy206
14edurenye184
15catch180
16slashrsm179
17phenaproxima177
18mbovan174
19tim.plunkett168
20rakesh.gectcr163
21martin107163
22dsnopek152
23mikeryan150
24jhedstrom149
25xjm147
26hussainweb147
27stefan.r146
28bojanz145
29penyaskito141
30larowlan135

How much of the work is sponsored?

As mentioned above, from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, 659 organizations contributed code to Drupal.org. Drupal is used by more than one million websites. The vast majority of the organizations behind these Drupal websites never participate in the development of Drupal; they use the software as it is and do not feel the need to help drive its development.

Technically, Drupal started out as a 100% volunteer-driven project. But nowadays, the data suggests that the majority of the code on Drupal.org is sponsored by organizations in Drupal's ecosystem. For example, of the 32,711 commit credits we studied, 69% of the credited work is "sponsored".

We then looked at the distribution of how many of the credits are given to volunteers versus given to individuals doing "sponsored work" (i.e. contributing as part of their paid job):

Contributions top range

Looking at the top 100 contributors, for example, 23% of their credits are the result of contributing as volunteers and 56% of their credits are attributed to a corporate sponsor. The remainder, roughly 21% of the credits, are not attributed. Attribution is optional so this means it could either be volunteer-driven, sponsored, or both.

As can be seen on the graph, the ratio of volunteer versus sponsored don't meaningfully change as we look beyond the top 100—the only thing that changes is that more credits that are not attributed. This might be explained by the fact that occasional contributors might not be aware of or understand the credit system, or could not be bothered with setting up organizational profiles for their employer or customers.

As shown in jamadar's screenshot above, a credit can be marked as volunteer and sponsored at the same time. This could be the case when someone does the minimum required work to satisfy the customer's need, but uses his or her spare time to add extra functionality. We can also look at the amount of code credits that are exclusively volunteer credits. Of the 7,874 credits that marked volunteer, 43% of them (3,376 credits) only had the volunteer box checked and 57% of them (4,498) were also partially sponsored. These 3,376 credits are one of our best metrics to measure volunteer-only contributions. This suggests that only 10% of the 32,711 commit credits we examined were contributed exclusively by volunteers. This number is a stark contrast to the 12,888 credits that were "purely sponsored", and that account for 39% of the total credits. In other words, there were roughly four times as many "purely sponsored" credits as there were "purely volunteer" credits.

When we looked at the 5,196 users, rather than credits, we found somewhat different results. A similar percentage of all users had exclusively volunteer credits: 14% (741 users). But the percentage of users with exclusively sponsored credits is only 50% higher: 21% (1077 users). Thus, when we look at the data this way, we find that users who only do sponsored work tend to contribute quite a bit more than users who only do volunteer work.

None of these methodologies are perfect, but they all point to a conclusion that most of the work on Drupal is sponsored. At the same time, the data shows that volunteer contribution remains very important to Drupal. We believe there is a healthy ratio between sponsored and volunteer contributions.

Who is sponsoring the work?

Because we established that most of the work on Drupal is sponsored, we know it is important to track and study what organizations contribute to Drupal. Despite 659 different organizations contributing to Drupal, approximately 50% of them got 4 credits or less. The top 30 organizations (roughly top 5%) account for about 29% of the total credits, which suggests that the top 30 companies play a crucial role in the health of the Drupal project. The graph below shows the top 30 organizations and the number of credits they received between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016:

Contributions top organizations

While not immediately obvious from the graph above, different types of companies are active in Drupal's ecosystem and we propose the following categorization below to discuss our ecosystem.

Category Description
Traditional Drupal businesses Small-to-medium-sized professional services companies that make money primarily using Drupal. They typically employ less than 100 employees, and because they specialize in Drupal, many of these professional services companies contribute frequently and are a huge part of our community. Examples are Lullabot (shown on graph) or Chapter Three (shown on graph).
Digital marketing agencies Larger full-service agencies that have marketing led practices using a variety of tools, typically including Drupal, Adobe Experience Manager, Sitecore, WordPress, etc. They are typically larger, with the larger agencies employing thousands of people. Examples are Sapient (shown on graph) or AKQA.
System integrators Larger companies that specialize in bringing together different technologies into one solution. Example system agencies are Accenture, TATA Consultancy Services, Capgemini or CI&T.
Technology and infrastructure companies Examples are Acquia (shown on graph), Lingotek (shown on graph), BlackMesh, RackSpace, Pantheon or Platform.sh.
End-users Examples are Pfizer (shown on graph), Examiner.com (shown on graph) or NBC Universal.

Most of the top 30 sponsors are traditional Drupal companies. Sapient (120 credits) is the only digital marketing agency showing up in the top 30. No system integrator shows up in the top 30. The first system integrator is CI&T, which ranked 31st with 102 credits. As far as system integrators are concerned CI&T is a smaller player with between 1,000 and 5,000 employees. Other system integrators with credits are Capgemini (43 credits), Globant (26 credits), and TATA Consultancy Services (7 credits). We didn't see any code contributions from Accenture, Wipro or IBM Global Services. We expect these will come as most of them are building out Drupal practices. For example, we know that IBM Global Services already has over 100 people doing Drupal work.

Contributions by organization type

When we look beyond the top 30 sponsors, we see that roughly 82% of the code contribution on Drupal.org comes from the traditional Drupal businesses. About 13% of the contributions comes from infrastructure and software companies, though that category is mostly dominated by one company, Acquia. This means that the technology and infrastructure companies, digital marketing agencies, system integrators and end-users are not meaningfully contributing code to Drupal.org today. In an ideal world, the pie chart above would be sliced in equal sized parts.

How can we explain that unbalance? We believe the two biggest reasons are: (1) Drupal's strategic importance and (2) the level of maturity with Drupal and Open Source. Various of the traditional Drupal agencies have been involved with Drupal for 10 years and almost entirely depend on on Drupal. Given both their expertise and dependence on Drupal, they are most likely to look after Drupal's development and well-being. These organizations are typically recognized as Drupal experts and sought out by organizations that want to build a Drupal website. Contrast this with most of the digital marketing agencies and system integrators who have the size to work with a diversified portfolio of content management platforms, and are just getting started with Drupal and Open Source. They deliver digital marketing solutions and aren't necessarily sought out for their Drupal expertise. As their Drupal practices grow in size and importance, this could change, and when it does, we expect them to contribute more. Right now many of the digital marketing agencies and system integrators have little or no experience with Open Source so it is important that we motivate them to contribute and then teach them how to contribute.

There are two main business reasons for organizations to contribute: (1) it improves their ability to sell and win deals and (2) it improves their ability to hire. Companies that contribute to Drupal tend to promote their contributions in RFPs and sales pitches to win more deals. Contributing to Drupal also results in being recognized as a great place to work for Drupal experts.

We also should note that many organizations in the Drupal community contribute for reasons that would not seem to be explicitly economically motivated. More than 100 credits were sponsored by colleges or universities, such as the University of Waterloo (45 credits). More than 50 credits came from community groups, such as the Drupal Bangalore Community and the Drupal Ukraine Community. Other nonprofits and government organization that appeared in our data include the Drupal Association (166), National Virtual Library of India (25 credits), Center for Research Libraries (20), and Welsh Government (9 credits).

Infrastructure and software companies

Infrastructure and software companies play a different role in our community. These companies are less reliant on professional services (building Drupal websites) and primarily make money from selling subscription based products.

Acquia, Pantheon and Platform.sh are venture-backed Platform-as-a-Service companies born out of the Drupal community. Rackspace and AWS are public companies hosting thousands of Drupal sites each. Lingotek offers cloud-based translation management software for Drupal.

Contributions by technology companies

The graph above suggests that Pantheon and Platform.sh have barely contributed code on Drupal.org during the past year. (Platform.sh only became an independent company 6 months ago after they split off from CommerceGuys.) The chart also does not reflect sponsored code contributions on GitHub (such as drush), Drupal event sponsorship, and the wide variety of value that these companies add to Drupal and other Open Source communities.

Consequently, these data show that the Drupal community needs to do a better job of enticing infrastructure and software companies to contribute code to Drupal.org. The Drupal community has a long tradition of encouraging organizations to share code on Drupal.org rather than keep it behind firewalls. While the spirit of the Drupal project cannot be reduced to any single ideology-- not every organization can or will share their code -- we would like to see organizations continue to prioritize collaboration over individual ownership. Our aim is not to criticize those who do not contribute, but rather to help foster an environment worthy of contribution.

End users

We saw two end-users in the top 30 corporate sponsors: Pfizer (158 credits) and Examiner.com (132 credits). Other notable end-users that are actively giving back are Workday (52 credits), NBC Universal (40 credits), the University of Waterloo (45 credits) and CARD.com (33 credits). The end users that tend to contribute to Drupal use Drupal for a key part of their business and often have an internal team of Drupal developers.

Given that there are hundreds of thousands of Drupal end-users, we would like to see more end-users in the top 30 sponsors. We recognize that a lot of digital agencies don't want, or are not legally allowed, to attribute their customers. We hope that will change as Open Source continues to get more and more adopted.

Given the vast amount of Drupal users, we believe encouraging end-users to contribute could be a big opportunity. Being credited on Drupal.org gives them visibility in the Drupal community and recognizes them as a great place for Open Source developers to work.

The uneasy alliance with corporate contributions

As mentioned above, when community-driven Open Source projects grow, there becomes a bigger need for organizations to help drive its development. It almost always creates an uneasy alliance between volunteers and corporations.

This theory played out in the Linux community well before it played out in the Drupal community. The Linux project is 25 years old now has seen a steady increase in the number of corporate contributors for roughly 20 years. While Linux companies like Red Hat and SUSE rank highly on the contribution list, so do non-Linux-centric companies such as Samsung, Intel, Oracle and Google. The major theme in this story is that all of these corporate contributors were using Linux as an integral part of their business.

The 659 organizations that contribute to Drupal (which includes corporations), is roughly three times the number of organizations that sponsor development of the Linux kernel, "one of the largest cooperative software projects ever attempted". In fairness, Linux has a different ecosystem than Drupal. The Linux business ecosystem has various large organizations (Red Hat, Google, Intel, IBM and SUSE) for whom Linux is very strategic. As a result, many of them employ dozens of full-time Linux contributors and invest millions of dollars in Linux each year.

In the Drupal community, Acquia has had people dedicated full-time to Drupal starting nine years ago when it hired Gábor Hojtsy to contribute to Drupal core full-time. Today, Acquia has about 10 developers contributing to Drupal full-time. They work on core, contributed modules, security, user experience, performance, best practices, and more. Their work has benefited untold numbers of people around the world, most of whom are not Acquia customers.

In response to Acquia’s high level of participation in the Drupal project, as well as to the number of Acquia employees that hold leadership positions, some members of the Drupal community have suggested that Acquia wields its influence and power to control the future of Drupal for its own commercial benefit. But neither of us believe that Acquia should contribute less. Instead, we would like to see more companies provide more leadership to Drupal and meaningfully contribute on Drupal.org.

Who is sponsoring the top 30 contributors?

Rank Username Issues Volunteer Sponsored Not specified Sponsors
1 dawehner 560 84.1% 77.7% 9.5% Drupal Association (182), Chapter Three (179), Tag1 Consulting (160), Cando (6), Acquia (4), Comm-press (1)
2 DamienMcKenna 448 6.9% 76.3% 19.4% Mediacurrent (342)
3 alexpott 409 0.2% 97.8% 2.2% Chapter Three (400)
4 Berdir 383 0.0% 95.3% 4.7% MD Systems (365), Acquia (9)
5 Wim Leers 382 31.7% 98.2% 1.8% Acquia (375)
6 jhodgdon 381 5.2% 3.4% 91.3% Drupal Association (13), Poplar ProductivityWare (13)
7 joelpittet 294 23.8% 1.4% 76.2% Drupal Association (4)
8 heykarthikwithu 293 99.3% 100.0% 0.0% Valuebound (293), Drupal Bangalore Community (3)
9 mglaman 292 9.6% 96.9% 0.7% Commerce Guys (257), Bluehorn Digital (14), Gaggle.net, Inc. (12), LivePerson, Inc (11), Bluespark (5), DPCI (3), Thinkbean, LLC (3), Digital Bridge Solutions (2), Matsmart (1)
10 drunken monkey 248 75.4% 55.6% 2.0% Acquia (72), StudentFirst (44), epiqo (12), Vizala (9), Sunlime IT Services GmbH (1)
11 Sam152 237 75.9% 89.5% 10.1% PreviousNext (210), Code Drop (2)
12 borisson_ 207 62.8% 36.2% 15.9% Acquia (67), Intracto digital agency (8)
13 benjy 206 0.0% 98.1% 1.9% PreviousNext (168), Code Drop (34)
14 edurenye 184 0.0% 100.0% 0.0% MD Systems (184)
15 catch 180 3.3% 44.4% 54.4% Third and Grove (44), Tag1 Consulting (36), Drupal Association (4)
16 slashrsm 179 12.8% 96.6% 2.8% Examiner.com (89), MD Systems (84), Acquia (18), Studio Matris (1)
17 phenaproxima 177 0.0% 94.4% 5.6% Acquia (167)
18 mbovan 174 7.5% 100.0% 0.0% MD Systems (118), ACTO Team (43), Google Summer of Code (13)
19 tim.plunkett 168 14.3% 89.9% 10.1% Acquia (151)
20 rakesh.gectcr 163 100.0% 100.0% 0.0% Valuebound (138), National Virtual Library of India (NVLI) (25)
21 martin107 163 4.9% 0.0% 95.1%
22 dsnopek 152 0.7% 0.0% 99.3%
23 mikeryan 150 0.0% 89.3% 10.7% Acquia (112), Virtuoso Performance (22), Drupalize.Me (4), North Studio (4)
24 jhedstrom 149 0.0% 83.2% 16.8% Phase2 (124), Workday, Inc. (36), Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (4)
25 xjm 147 0.0% 81.0% 19.0% Acquia (119)
26 hussainweb 147 2.0% 98.6% 1.4% Axelerant (145)
27 stefan.r 146 0.7% 0.7% 98.6% Drupal Association (1)
28 bojanz 145 2.1% 83.4% 15.2% Commerce Guys (121), Bluespark (2)
29 penyaskito 141 6.4% 95.0% 3.5% Lingotek (129), Cocomore AG (5)
30 larowlan 135 34.1% 63.0% 16.3% PreviousNext (85), Department of Justice & Regulation, Victoria (14), amaysim Australia Ltd. (1), University of Adelaide (1)

We observe that the top 30 contributors are sponsored by 45 organizations. This kind of diversity is aligned with our desire not to see Drupal controlled by a single organization. The top 30 contributors and the 45 organizations are from many different parts in the world and work with customers large or small. We could still benefit from more diversity, though. The top 30 lacks digital marketing agencies, large system integrators and end-users -- all of whom could contribute meaningfully to making Drupal for them and others.

Evolving the credit system

The credit system gives us quantifiable data about where our community's contributions come from, but that data is not perfect. Here are a few suggested improvements:

  1. We need to find ways to recognize non-code contributions as well as code contributions outside of Drupal.org (i.e. on GitHub). Lots of people and organizations spend hundreds of hours putting together local events, writing documentation, translating Drupal, mentoring new contributors, and more—and none of that gets captured by the credit system.
  2. We'd benefit by finding a way to account for the complexity and quality of contributions; one person might have worked several weeks for just one credit, while another person might have gotten a credit for 30 minutes of work. We could, for example, consider the issue credit data in conjunction with Git commit data regarding insertions, deletions, and files changed.
  3. We could try to leverage the credit system to encourage more companies, especially those that do not contribute today, to participate in large-scale initiatives. Dries presented some ideas two years ago in his DrupalCon Amsterdam keynote and Matthew has suggested other ideas, but we are open to more suggestions on how we might bring more contributors into the fold using the credit system.
  4. We could segment out organization profiles between end users and different kinds of service providers. Doing so would make it easier to see who the top contributors are in each segment and perhaps foster more healthy competition among peers. In turn, the community could learn about the peculiar motivations within each segment.

Like Drupal the software, the credit system on Drupal.org is a tool that can evolve, but that ultimately will only be useful when the community uses it, understands its shortcomings, and suggests constructive improvements. In highlighting the organizations that sponsor work on Drupal.org, we hope to provoke responses that help evolve the credit system into something that incentivizes business to sponsor more work and that allows more people the opportunity to participate in our community, learn from others, teach newcomers, and make positive contributions. We view Drupal as a productive force for change and we wish to use the credit system to highlight (at least some of) the work of our diverse community of volunteers, companies, nonprofits, governments, schools, universities, individuals, and other groups.

Conclusion

Our data shows that Drupal is a vibrant and diverse community, with thousands of contributors, that is constantly evolving and improving the software. While here we have examined issue credits mostly through the lens of sponsorship, in future analyses we plan to consider the same issue credits in conjunction with other publicly-disclosed Drupal user data, such as gender identification, geography, seasonal participation, mentorship, and event attendance.

Our analysis of the Drupal.org credit data concludes that most of the contributions to Drupal are sponsored. At the same time, the data shows that volunteer contribution remains very important to Drupal.

As a community, we need to understand that a healthy Open Source ecosystem is a diverse ecosystem that includes more than traditional Drupal agencies. The traditional Drupal agencies and Acquia contribute the most but we don't see a lot of contribution from the larger digital marketing agencies, system integrators, technology companies, or end-users of Drupal—we believe that might come as these organizations build out their Drupal practices and Drupal becomes more strategic for them.

To grow and sustain Drupal, we should support those that contribute to Drupal, and find ways to get those that are not contributing involved in our community. We invite you to help us figure out how we can continue to strengthen our ecosystem.

We hope to repeat this work in 1 or 2 years' time so we can track our evolution. Special thanks to Tim Lehnen (Drupal Association) for providing us the credit system data and supporting us during our research.

Comments

Ryan Szrama (not verified):

And I'm chagrined I never posted my blog post response to that keynote. I need to find the time to dust it off / publish it, but I'll abuse Dries's hospitality on this post for a second instead ... the biggest problem that a system based on d.o data will have is data integrity.

If we're going to attach monetary value to a data set (community spotlights, marketplace placement, free advertising, etc.), then we need some way to control that data and / or to audit it to ensure the system isn't being gamed. Otherwise we'll just end up benefiting the companies that are the most consistent at playing by the rules (or in the case of a bad actor, gaming the system). On the flip side, we also need to ensure that the system works consistently for everyone, and in the most generous scenario, we'd proactively train everyone to use it appropriately.

You don't have to assume bad actors to imagine data integrity being an issue, but I'm sure there's potential. I get people reopening / retitling / repurposing old issues all the time, and one of my long standing feature requests for d.o involves having more control over my issue queues as a maintainer. If someone can accidentally credit themselves or an organization, then surely they could figure out how to do it on purpose. (e.g. I've credited the wrong customer myself or realized after the fact that I had forgot to credit my own company.)

Steve Purkiss (not verified):

In remarkable coincidence for me at least, at the same time you posted this insightful blog I had literally just clicked 'submit' on my Birds of a Feather session for the upcoming DrupalCon Dublin entitled "Does Drupal need a Platform Cooperative?" which addresses similar issues. We even both mention the OpenSSL issue, mine with reference to the Core Infrastructure Initiative which came out of that issue - think of my BoF as an exploration of perhaps a similar initiative for the Drupal project:

https://events.drupal.org/dublin2016/bofs/does-drupal-need-platform-coo…

I applaud your efforts at using stats to highlight where there are successes and failures in the contribution world currently, I have for a long time believed the solution is more nuanced. For example, selling Drupal as a product and referring it to only "Open Source" instead of "Free/Libre Open Source Software" fails to educate the end user as to how the software is created and maintained. Sure there are many companies who contribute to the code, there are hundreds and thousands more who get involved in the project for more altruistic reasons such as helping their local charity, church, friend, or whatever. They also contribute by using the software, speaking to their friends about it - I won't guess on more specifics, what I'm attempting to communicate is that everyone is a part of the project.

I love the fact big companies fund developments that I can use freely to help smaller businesses who couldn't afford to develop such fantastic functionality, however I fear if we just focus on those who can afford to give back because they take a lot we are missing the point. I often refer to Drupal like a bicycle - I don't call it "contributing" when I pedal my bicycle in order for it to transport me down the road, I just call it riding my bike. I feel not enough people know how Free/Libre Open Source Software works because we don't explain it well enough and we make it incredibly hard for people to contribute and with the current stated direction of the Drupal Association leaving the contributor journey behind it looks as if the focus will not be there again for at least another year with more focus on adoption in the hope that more will contribute back when it's plain to see from the charts and stats you have posted here that is not necessarily the case.

For many years I have been championing growing a member-owned co-operative "institution" to support the sustainable growth of the project, I don't feel just pumping more money in a top-down organisation will ever produce the desired outcome of a bottom-up community, I believe we need to support that top-down organisation with an open co-operative effort which has more ability to grow generic needs and not suffer from the trickle-down economy effect born from its roots in corporatism and command and control methodology. I do hope this year is the year when we can finally get some real tangible support behind the initiative and finally turn it into reality and we can kickstart more cooperation when it comes to maintaining and growing the pie for all, not just for those who can necessarily afford to do so, but for the greater good of the project and all those who believe in Drupal's ability to empower the world with a platform people of all abilities can use to build their virtual dreams.

Thanks for highlighting the contribution issues and I look forward to seeing you in Dublin!

Christopher Gervais (not verified):

As it so happens, we recently founded the Ægir Cooperative (http://aegir.coop), as a way to fund on-going development of the Aegir Project (a Drupal- and Drush-based Free/Libre Open Source Software hosting system for Drupal, CiviCRM and now WordPress).

Along similar lines, there are ongoing efforts to establish cooperative/collective organisations focused on building and maintaining distributions for:

* musicians and other media producers and distributors (https://opencollective.com/openproducer)
* grass-roots activists and non-profits (http://drutopia.org)

I'm certain that there are others, but these are the ones I'm involved in (whether directly or indirectly.) I believe that growing such community-driven cooperatives, focused on use-case-specific distributions of Drupal, will provide both upstream contributions and enable more bottom-up input.

It'd be interesting to analyse the contributions to Drupal core that were motivated by the needs of specific distributions. Aggregating along the lines of such sub-communities might provide further insight into where core contributions originate.

catch (not verified):

We also should note that many organizations in the Drupal community contribute for reasons that would not seem to be explicitly economically motivated. More than 100 credits were sponsored by colleges or universities, ...

Without analysing the specific contributions, an end-user like a university with a dedicated Drupal site building team is as likely to run into bugs, missing features, or modules to port as a Drupal agency.

In those cases a developer is paid for time building a site, and some of that time gets spent fixing a bug in a contributed module (and is attributed on Drupal.org) vs. say writing custom code or site building tasks, but the employer may not have any explicit intention to contribute to Drupal at all. They still have an 'economic interest' in the bug being fixed though, because their revenue as institutions is at least partly reliant on their websites working properly.

Acquia, Pantheon and Platform.sh are venture-backed Platform-as-a-Service companies born out of the Drupal community.

While this statement is not false, it misses some important information. Acquia has a large consulting side, which some other companies like Blackmesh don't. If we look at Acquia's issue credits: https://www.drupal.org/acquia#issue-credit of 527 contributions, around 1/3rd (180) were to core. The rest were to a large variety of contrib modules, which again without analysing the individual contributions seems as likely to come from Acquia's Professional Services division as it does from hosting.

So again, if you are paying Drupal developers to develop Drupal websites, some of their time will get spent fixing issues on Drupal.org. This is very different from a hosting company like Blackmesh explicitly sponsoring the time of Cathy Theys, or Acquia with OCTO, but at the moment everything gets lumped in together. When comparing companies, especially when you're the CTO and founder of one of them, it's useful to point out where the comparison is not apples to apples.

Dries:

I actually don't know if Pantheon, Platform.sh or BlackMesh do any consulting. I don't think they do a lot, but maybe some?

We weren't trying to do an apples to apples comparison; Lingotek is a very different business, probably does some professional services as well, and was listed alongside the hosting/PaaS companies.

The opposite is true as well: some of the traditional Drupal businesses offer hosting. PreviousNext, Wunder Group and Amazee Labs come to mind. We assumed it is a smaller part of their business and lumped all of their contributions together in the "traditional Drupal business" category.

A lot of Acquia's code contributions are the result of our Drupal 8 module acceleration program, which is different from OCTO or our professional services business. Quite a few contributions come from different product teams; the team working on our sales demo, the team working on Lightning, etc. We also maintain modules that are used extensively with Acquia Cloud like the Purge module.

But even if we managed to dissect what contributions come from product teams versus professional services versus another area of a business, I don't think it would have changed the conclusions.

Dries:

Including the organization size is an interesting way to look at the data as well. Thanks for the suggestion! It's amazing how much certain organizations, like PreviousNext, contribute relative to their size. As we wrote in the blog post, we should find more ways to support those organizations. Suggestions welcome!

catch (not verified):

There's been some discussion on https://www.drupal.org/node/1975074 about marketplace ordering.

Right now it's purely on number of contributions, but that issue has suggestions to weight this by number of Drupal.org accounts (i.e. contributions / acccounts) and project usage (contributions * usage).

Bojan Zivanovic (not verified):

The problem with that is that most Drupal.org organization accounts are very outdated when it comes to employees, since there's no way for an organization to remove an employee. We spent a good month getting the DA to remove dozens of long gone Commerce Guys from our page.

catch (not verified):

Yeah I think organisation size is hard (both for the reasons Dries mentions and the reasons you mention).

Project usage would be less difficult though.

Pamela Barone (not verified):

The only problem with size as a stat is it relies on number of employees on d.o, not actual number of employees (at least the Twitter graph does). At least I assume Commerce Guys has more employees than we do!

Dries:

While it is very interesting to look at "contribution by headcount", it has its own challenges. Here are some examples:

- If IBM decided to pay 50 people to contribute code to Drupal full-time, they'd most likely be the largest contributor. But given that IBM has more than 350,000 employees, their contribution by headcount would still be close to zero.

- Similarly, a large system integrator (e.g. Accenture) with a large Drupal practice might have hundreds of Drupal developers on staff but their "contribution by headcount" will remain small given the size and diversification of these organizations.

- A 10-person traditional Drupal business might have 7 Drupal developers. A 10-person digital marketing agency might have 2 Drupal developers alongside a copy writer, a SEO expert, a social media expert, a digital strategist, a video producer, etc. We can't expect the same contribution by headcount.

- When a technology company is a small startup, most of their resources go towards research and development (R&D). But as the company grows, the cost of R&D as a percentage of revenue starts to decline. Many mature software companies only spent 10%-20% of revenue on R&D. This means that their "contribution by headcount" will naturally decline over time. In other words, product companies scale differently than professional services companies.

- Organization A can pay organization B (or an individual) to contribute. When organization A has 1 Drupal headcount, it could result in a large amount of contribution by headcount. This is the scenario of many end-users (e.g. Pfizer) that contribute primarily through traditional Drupal organizations or system integrators (e.g. TATA). Where this gets potentially more complex is in hybrid situation. For example, as part of Acquia's module acceleration program, we paid $500,000 to individuals and traditional Drupal businesses to port modules to Drupal 8. It's not clear how to account for that in a "contribution by headcount" comparison.

All of this goes to show it is complex and that every metric has its flaws. Ideally we'd look at (1) revenue that comes directly from Drupal, (2) adjusted for the gross margin profile of the business, possibly in relation to the (3) number of Drupal developers on staff. Sadly, we don't have access to that data. In absence of such data, it is useful to look at the data in different ways, including contribution by headcount, but to be thoughtful in our interpretation of the results.

larowlan (not verified):

Those are valid points - however the chart is based on number of users on Drupal dot org as seen here (drupal dot org slash drupal-services - not total headcount.

Whilst IBM may have 350k employees, we'd not expect them to have that many accounts on Drupal dot org (30% of all accounts on drupal dot org).

User accounts on drupal dot org is a good measure as those with an account who work at a Drupal service provider (of any class) most likely derive a large portion of their income from Drupal related services and by nature of having an account also have the capacity to contribute.

Regardless, we have a shared goal - increasing contributions. For a technology that provides gainful employment to so many, so much work falls to so few.

Apologies for expressing urls in long form, only way to get around the spam filter.

Dries:

Number of Drupal.org accounts could be a good approximation (1) if we enabled people to specify if they are a developer and (2) if we enabled organizations to remove employees that are no longer with their organization. The reason I bring up (1) is because I estimate that 1/3 of the Acquia people with a Drupal.org account are not technical and unable to contribute code -- they are required to create an account on Drupal.org in order to attend DrupalCon. So with some extra tooling on Drupal.org, the number of Drupal.org accounts could be a good approximation.

Bojan Zivanovic (not verified):

All Commerce Guys employees are present on drupal.org, we're just smaller nowadays since Platform.sh has become a separate company.

Ryan Szrama (not verified):

Hah, I think I'm crossposting a colleague, but we actually have even fewer employees given some of the people still identifying themselves as Commerce Guys on d.o no longer work for us. ; )

Our team is 4 full-timers + 1 part-timer, and we stay quite active. : D #drupallove

Matthew Lechleider (not verified):

Great write up and awesome to see this attribution system moving forward. One type of contributing organization not mentioned is Google Summer of Code and Google Code-In. Regardless of number of credits, Google funded $65,000 for Drupal's 11 projects in 2016. Checkout our service listing page @ https://www.drupal.org/google-summer-of-code-0 showing we committed code to 20+ modules on drupal.org and we're credited on 90+ issues fixed in the past 3 months. If interested in participating next year, join us @ https://groups.drupal.org/google-summer-code

Curious if our stats were included in data since our organization listing was just approved and now we're part of the top 20 @ https://www.drupal.org/organizations. It took weeks for our organization listing to be approved ( https://www.drupal.org/node/2730669 ). How many other organizations may not have been included in this data because they weren't approved yet?

Starting in a couple months will be Google Code-In. Students age 13-17 will be competing to complete small contribution tasks. GCI won't see as advanced contributions as GSoC, but any type of contribution is beneficial. If interesting mentoring GCI students, join us @ https://groups.drupal.org/google-code-in

How many other organizations are purely donating money to the Drupal project who might not be included in this data? In which way is their funding being utilized? How can the Drupal project show attribution back to these generous sources of funding?

John Faber (not verified):

This was a great write up! Chapter Three has been sponsoring Core developers and we are quite small (35 people) relative to some of the larger organizations that are mentioned here. Chapter Three will continue to do our sponsorship of core developers as it will give us a development edge when Drupal 8 gets real traction.

DanChadwick (not verified):

An unfortunate consequence of the uncompensated volunteer nature of Drupal contribution is poor software quality.

Both core and contrib modules have many, many, many reported bugs with little or no progress. Some are important and have existed for years or even a decade. In almost all cases, it isn't anyone's "job" to fix the bugs and shepherd them to commitment. When a module is small, a single motivated maintainer may take this on, motivated by a need from their other projects, personal satisfaction, or professional resume building.

But what happens when there is a large module, such as D7 Webform? I foolishly took over maintenance a few years ago from quicksketch. Progress on a significant update (7.x-3.x -> 7.x-4.x) had stalled, and there were hundreds of bugs, unanswered feature requested, and unanswered support requests. The "community" process had (and has) failed. There is no "Webform community." With very few exceptions, no one contributed to issues other than the one(s) they reported. Most issues had no patch, or if it had one by the OP, there was no review of it. This continues today.

Over the course of a couple of years, I devoted about 2000 hours (more now) of my personal time to releasing 7.x-4.0 (and beyond) and resolving the outstanding issues. Almost no one helped me, except the OPs (and often not even them). I made over 500 commits, which on an annual basis probably puts me around #10 within the Drupal community (at least on a commit basis). I essentially emptied the issue queue. I asked for monetary contributions. I got "paid" well under a dollar an hour. No employer sponsored my OSS time.

Consequently, I burned out. quicksketch agreed to take maintainership back when Acquia backed out of leading the D8 port in favor of the D8 contact module. The issue queue regrew its hundreds of issues and almost a hundred bugs. I was sponsored to implement a new feature and recently made a couple of releases in which I skimmed off any solid-looking patches. I say solid-looking because there is scant review in the issue queue and almost no RTBC issues.

So once again, Webform had nearly a hundred known bugs and dozens of reasonable features awaiting a dedicated volunteer. I've already given hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of my time to Webform and can't / won't continue this unsustainable effort.

There are hundreds of thousands of websites using Webform. They didn't bear the cost of developing it yet reap the benefit of using it. A select few have given heavily (at first willingly and later begrudgingly or resentfully) to the project. So now we are back to having an essentially unsupported, bug-laden, highly-popular module.

The huge task of porting Webform to D8 has stalled.

I know this is a difficult problem and I don't pretend to have an easy answer. Maybe someone else does.

Dries:

Dan,

Thanks for sharing your story. It's hard to build a community of active contributors around an Open Source project (like Webform module). It's also hard to get funding for Open Source development. Your story illustrates this and that is why I'm happy you shared it. It is so important that we figure this out -- it's why I've been focused on moving this forward for years now, even if it feels like swimming upstream from time to time.

I continue to believe that we could make it much more interesting for an organization to sponsor your work on the Webform module. If sponsor credits translated into a meaningful benefit (e.g. help them win business, reduce DrupalCon sponsorship costs, etc), it could be a win-win-win; a win for the module maintainers as they'd get paid more, a win for the organizations sponsoring the work, and last but not least, a win for the many end-users of Drupal. For those reasons, I continue to believe that the credit system is a step in the right direction. We might actually be pretty close to being able to unlock a win-win-win. We have most of the infrastructure in place; we just need to figure out how to reward those that sponsors module maintainers in a way that encourages them to maintain or increase their sponsorship. I believe that is the conversation we have to have next.

Thank you for your tireless work on Webform, which is without doubt a very impactful module for Drupal.

Dave (not verified):

This was a very well-researched blog post with lots of useful data points. I also like how you and Matthew put a spotlight on those who are actively contributing. Everyone appreciates recognition, especially from you for those that are involved with Drupal.

While this blog post purposely focused on more of the "who" the next step should be on the "why." For example, it would be great to see the DA craft collateral and content for why a new Drupal 8 adopter would want to publish a case study on drupal.org or contribute code. In my experience, this often involves trying to convince someone in a corporate Marketing/PR dept that has little context around what the strategic value is to the organization. This is the core problem we need to solve in order to diversify contributors. The attribution model is a huge step in the right direction. I thought your Amsterdam keynote was excellent - it really sparked some discussions we needed to have around this topic.

For larger SIs and digital agencies, there tends to be more pressure to focus on customer work and billable time. As you said, if they are not specialized in Drupal they struggle to see the value proposition around giving back to open source.

My only constructive feedback would be to leave out names of organizations that you'd like to see more involved. IMHO, you are more likely to motivate them by consistently reinforcing the positive benefits others are receiving by contributing. I also do not think you want to create a perception that you are particularly singling out competitors, who may not have the head-count or business model to contribute at the level you expect. This will end up diverting focus away from the problem.

My Partner and I at Mediacurrent are going to be speaking more about this at Drupalcamp Atlanta next month and will keep you posted when we finish the slides.

I do not say it enough, but thank you again for all that you do. I am looking forward to the community continuing the conversations on this subject.

Dries:

Excellent feedback. I'll make sure to share your comment with the Drupal Association. Thank Dave!

Lev (not verified):

I want to strongly second Ryan's comment http://dri.es/comment/128821#comment-128821 above. The more we rely on this dataset to create winners and losers in the ecosystem, the more critical it is for it be verifiably accurate. It is also important to understand that the benefits of promoting an organizations contributions are very tangible and can mean the difference between success and failure. The flip side is even worse: highlighting a failure to contribute can be even more harmful than the benefit received from promoting contributions. Basic human psychology, we focus on the negatives.

As it stands, I feel this dataset has tremendous gaps. Most organizational leaders that I interact with simply do not use the Drupal.org issue queue. I think there's a real danger that a close knit group of users and organizations that heavily leverage the d.o. issue queue in their workflows falsely assume that all others do as well. The intentions are all good, it's just a natural bias to have. At the least, it shouldn't be too difficult to contrast the total number of direct commits to all projects hosted on d.o. to the number of credits tracked via issues to see at least one dimension where the credit data is lacking.

I know that here at ThinkShout we actively maintain about 30 contributed modules, used by nearly 70,000 websites. Yet we have a mere pittance of issue credits over the same 3 months that we made several major releases to widely used modules. Yes, there are probably ways that we can better use the d.o. issue queue. But it's also not realistic for us to tailor our entire organizational workflows to accommodate this credit system.

Thanks for listening, and for moving the conversation forward!

develCuy (not verified):

Wow! I'm gratefully surprised about how seriously you are managing work attribution (maybe since Drupalcon Latinamerica?). Everybody have "the need for acknowledgement" (google it) at a certain level, so the moment we realize that community is people, that they have needs and we make sure their work has visibility, great things happen!
d.o is more fair now that one can choose to be attributed or not, and super cool we can give companies some attribution as well. Visibility helps companies to build trust, which is key for them to recruit and offer their products.

Thanks to everyone that makes this awesomeness happen!