I'd like to discuss some observations the technology analysis company Gartner Group has made about product lifecycles — and how their model affects Drupal release management.
Here is how I think the hype cycle's stages played out for Drupal 7's development cycle.
- Technology Trigger. As Gartner puts it, this is where “A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off". For Drupal 7 that occurred when we started development on 4 February, 2008.
- Peak of Inflated Expectations. This is a period when excitement about the forthcoming release makes people dream big. We entered this phase shortly before Drupal 7's release, as news of all the wonderful things we were doing entered the consciousness of early adopters.
- Trough of Disillusionment. This stage came after Drupal 7's release, as people examined it closely to decide whether it would work for their new projects. Some discovered that a necessary module wasn't available yet, or that they had to learn some new APIs. Many chose “the devil they know" in Drupal 6 while cursing Drupal 7's differences. That's understandable, and it will pass.
- Slope of Enlightenment. I believe this is where Drupal 7 is now. It is where modules are being upgraded, bugs are being fixed, and the whole ecosystem is becoming more stable overall. Some people adopt it, while others still wait.
- Plateau of Productivity. This is where we can breathe easy. It occurs when developing in Drupal 6 seems pointless, because the Drupal 7 ecosystem exhibits more promise.
That last stage is where a product really shines. I think we reached the Plateau of Productivity for Drupal 6 sometime in late 2009, about 18 months after its release. At that point there was no advantage to developing in Drupal 5, and Drupal 7 was still a long way off.
I have my own opinions about Drupal 7's path through the hype cycle, but would like to hear your thoughts. When do you think Drupal 7 will reach the Plateau of Productivity?