I just spent the past week in China, and I thought I'd share a few reflections on the state of Drupal in China.

First, let me set the stage. There are 1.35 billion people living in China; that is almost 20 percent of the world's population. Based on current trends, China's economy will overtake the US within the next few years. At that point, the US economy will no longer be the largest economy in the world. China's rapid urbanization is what has led to the country's impressive economic growth over the past couple of decades and it doesn't look like it is going to stop anytime soon. To put that in perspective: China currently produces and uses 60 percent of the world's cement.

In terms of Drupal, the first thing I learned is that "Drupal" sounds like "the pig is running" ("Zhu Pao") in Chinese. Contrary to a pig's rather negative reputation in the West, many Chinese developers find that cute. A pig is a more honorable sign in Chinese astrology and culture. Phew!

In terms of adoption, it feels like the Drupal community in China is about 8 to 10 years behind compared to North America or Europe. That isn't a surprise, as Open Source software is a more recent phenomenon in China than it is in North America or Europe.

Specifically, there are about 5 Drupal companies in Shanghai (population of 21 million people), 3 Drupal companies in Beijing (population of 23 million people) and 5 Drupal companies in Hong Kong (population of 7 million people). The largest Drupal companies in China have about 5 Drupal developers on staff. Four of the 5 Shanghai companies are subsidiaries from European Drupal companies. The exception is Ci&T, which has 40 Drupal developers in China. Ci&T is a global systems integrator with several thousand employees worldwide, so unlike the other companies I met, they are not a pure Drupal play. Another point of reference is that the largest Drupal event in China attracted 200 to 300 attendees.

Drupal meetup tianjin

Given that China has 4 times the population of the US, or 2 times the population of Europe, what are we missing? In talking to different people, it appears the biggest barrier to adoption is language. The problem is that Chinese Drupal documentation is limited; translation efforts exist but are slow. The little documentation that is translated is often outdated and spread out over different websites. Less than 20 percent of the Chinese Drupal developers have an account on Drupal.org, simply because they are not fluent enough in the English language. Most Drupal developers hang out on QQ, an instant messaging tool comparable to Skype or IRC. I saw QQ channels dedicated to Drupal with a couple thousand of Drupal developers.

There is no prominent Chinese content management system; most people appear to be building their websites from scratch. This gap could provide a big opportunity for Drupal. China's urbanization equals growth -- and lots of it. Like the rest of the economy, Drupal and Open Source could be catching up fast, and it might not take long before some of the world's biggest Drupal projects are delivered from China.

Supporting Drupal's global growth is important so I'd love to improve Drupal's translation efforts and make Drupal more inclusive and more diverse. Drupal 8's improved multilingual capabilities should help a lot, but we also have to improve the tools and processes on Drupal.org to help the community maintain multi-lingual documentation. Discussing this with both the Drupal Association and different members of our community, it's clear that we have a lot of good ideas on what we could do but lack both the funding and resources to make it happen faster.

Drupal meetup tianjin

Special thanks to Fan Liu (Delivery Manager @ Ci&T), Jingsheng Wang (CEO @ INsReady Inc.) and Keith Yau. All the Drupal people I met were welcoming, fun and are working hard.


vincent (not verified):

Hi Dries, I translated your blog into Chinese, and post it to the URL below.

Please let me know if you don't like it, I can remove it if you want.

Welcome to China, hope I can have a chance to meet you in the future in China.


rteijeiro (not verified):

I think having the drupal.org documentation in different languages will increase the complexity of having it up-to-date.

My point is that we should focus in improving local Drupal groups and small communities where we can share our knowledge with other developers (not necessary Drupal developers) and also create training programs where people can learn in their own language.

This will open other business possibilities for Drupal schools, for example.



They already have small communities setup. They are very clear about their ask; they need documentation in Chinese and Japanese.

Mark (not verified):

Having been involved with China for many years, I'd speculate that likely what they want is documentation they can understand, whether it be in English or Chinese. In order to work in this field, most of them are used to working with English.

But the state of the docs, IMO, is the 800-lb gorilla in the room of why Drupal is more difficult to learn than it should be, and consequently why there aren't enough developers, and why folks like these feel their biggest need is docs they can understand.

I imagine that these poor guys in China and Japan likely are feeling that their inability to get Drupal working from using the documentation is a failure of their English, when actually they have the capability to understand good documentation.

Translating incomplete or out-of-date docs to Chinese or Japanese could be a lot of effort for not too much help. A couple of ideas:
- Use the influence of your DriesNotes to persuade the Drupal community as a whole to put more of its effort into documenting what they have done, and keeping it up to date.
- In addition to asking for translation of docs, ask code authors to cooperate with translators who have the green light to ask them for clarifications, current info and best practices, and so improve the docs in the process of translating them. (I'm not sure how much this will help in practice, but it's a start...)

EclipseGc (not verified):

This is also completely true for Korea. I've been watching there for a long while now and I think the docs come before the big explosion of adoption. Despite how many people speak english, grasping it enough to follow Drupal docs is a different thing. If we want to open up asia to Drupal, we're going to have to find a way to manage our documentation and its translations very cleanly.

Ryan (not verified):

Was waiting for this post when I saw all the travel pics. : )

We've always had solid Chinese contributors to both Ubercart and Drupal Commerce, but unfortunately our technical partnerships really never reflected the Asian market - for example, Alipay should have been one of the first partners in the Commerce Guys Marketplace. This is no fault of the Chinese community, though - I think skyredwang / INsReady and others have been very intentional in reaching out, especially in attending North American events, and we would do well to support them in return. : )

droplet (not verified):

I'm also a Chinese speaker & speaking very broken English.

Here're my 2 cents to all of non-native English speaker (even the English Speakers):

- Basic English is good enough. (基本英文就足夠)
- Written in point form instead a big paragraph (簡單以點列形式說出問題,不要長篇大論)
- Show your PATCH. This is worth more than a thousand of words. (上載你的補丁,總會有人看懂的)
- Don't contribute to big issues because you never able to explain your idea to others clearly. You will lose your soul very soon. (不要貢獻於大問題,因為你很難清楚表達自己的見解。繼而你會失去興趣)
- Start from small issues. You Will Find Funny Very Soon. (先作小小貢獻,很快你會找到樂子)

One more thing:
Don't Just contribute, contribute, and contribute. Find something motivated your own self. (Especially when you're a solo developer, no one funding you to work for Drupal projects.)

In my personal case, I started to contribute to LDO project and very soon I found that is very boring, no feedback at all (https://www.drupal.org/project/issues/search/l10n_server?submitted=drop…), issues never move forward. I'm feeling sad and dropping out. Until one day I saw a post on DrupalTaiwan.org. "JohnAlbin, a top 30 CORE contributor, will share Drupal tips in Drupal Taiwan events...etc". Then I thought why I can't be the TOP contributor in Durpal that can speak Chinese. And soon, I started my journey on Drupal.org issues list. Contributing as a habit, 15 mins everyday....

OK. two more things,

- https://twitter.com/notabluescreen/status/446692802773012481
- I think most of non-english community needs a better LDO, not the Drupal 7 of LDO ( https://www.drupal.org/node/1424984 ).

Kay.L ([email protected])

Tom Tran (not verified):

Dries great writeup about the other (bigger) side of the globe, besides the other interesting post of yours about Drupal in India.

Sitting in Vietnam I can really understand from the cultural perspective about how people here think and why adoption is really slow.

#1 - I think that China, maybe because it's just soo huge doesn't seem to have a persistent community leader (or board), bridging the worlds and keeping regional groups in touch. Fostering the community spirit is very hard in Asia. People just do almost everything and don't have a sense of "love" for a particular project and it's community.

#2 - Majority of governmental, public sector and bigger companies are mis-educated about what FOSS is and rather buy local solutions as it wrongly is sold as more safe (regarding IT security, hacking etc)

#3 - English should still be the main language for Development. Localization should be ONLY meant for end-users. You want developers!! Not half-baked devs who can only read Viet/Chinese or whatever, it's Open-source and information should flow upstream anyway so if you fail with basic technical English than you can't contribute.

This is more of a structural problem of the education system, but government efforts and parents etc are pushing and paying tons of money into English education for the next generation.

So Drupal won't get better if we start translating Drupal on the code level. It's not worth it the effort, as Ruben said correctly. But learning materials, how to user guides and localization of interfaces etc.. this should be taken seriously and supported where can as it helps to get more people using it quickly.

#4 - India + China is 1/3 of population. South East Asia room is 700 Million people. But people here don't even understand concepts like GPL, Social code collaboration (e.g Git), Community building etc.

It would be good if we would find more support to help growing Open Source adoption in general, Drupal in particular here in Asia. Especially starting early in Universities seems very fruitful.