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The State of Drupal

10/26/2009 5:00 PM 32"123
Dries Buytaert, Founder, Drupal

Description: Dries Buytaert relates a synopsis of his life with Drupal from its inception while a "typical geek" undergraduate in Antwerp in 1999 to the upcoming release of Drupal 7 with a particular emphasis on the community that has been created by the nature of an open source product. Drupal is "software to build websites with" intended for anyone to modify and improve then redistribute to its users.

Community is a recurring theme throughout his dialogue. When 40 users attended his first DrupalCon in 2004, Dries found it "shocking" that so many people would fly to Antwerp just to "talk about Drupal all day." When his shared server experienced the "Big Drupal Server Meltdown of 2005," he was further astounded by the community's response-Sun Microsystems donated an Enterprise server, the Open Source Lab offered hosting and administration services, and end users donated $10K.

The statistics are impressive. Websites using Drupal include Yahoo!, Sony Music, Google, MIT, Harvard, and, recently, The White House. There are thousands of developers, half a million websites, a quarter of a million downloads of Drupal core and over one million unique visitors each month.

Having created Drupal in brief spurts grabbed in hours here and there, Buytaert decided to devote himself full"time to Drupal after defending his PhD in 2007. With each incremental milestone creating opportunities for more improvements and problem solving, Buytaert now wanted to devote himself to providing the necessary commercial grade support. To that end, he created Acquia-a company based in Boston-to reduce the barriers to adoption and the problems related to starting big sites. Growing pains required the organization to think less from a developer's point of view and more from an end user's view with the goal of making Drupal easier to use. Users were now categorized as clients, site builders, or developers. Each "user" would have a different view of the site and each would require different tools for getting around.

Buytaert recognized that while Drupal is good at fixing small, incremental issues, it now needed to step back and take a more "holistic view" to improve overall usability. The newly hired management team worked diligently to change the information architecture, improving navigation and making it easier for any end user to find information quicker.

Using a series of screenshots, Buytaert delineates the specific feature modifications for each set of users that will be included in Drupal 7. He recognizes how important the work that is being done now will "define the future of Drupal and [its] ability to succeed and compete with other systems."

Even though Drupal 7 is not ready for release yet-it is in code freeze-Buytaert encourages users to become familiar with its new functionality and features. More than 500 users in the Drupal community have already contributed to patches and improvements as Drupal continues to evolve.

About the Speaker(s): Dries Buytaert is the original creator and project lead for the Drupal open source web publishing and collaboration platform. Buytaert serves as president of the Drupal Association, a non"profit organization formed to help Drupal flourish. He is also co"founder and chief technology officer of Acquia, a venture"backed software company that offers products and services for Drupal. Dries is also a co"founder of Mollom, a web service that helps identify content quality and stop website spam.

A native of Belgium, Buytaert holds a PhD in computer science and engineering from Ghent University and a Licentiate Computer Science (MsC) from the University of Antwerp.

Buytaert has been recognized for his work in BusinessWeek's "Young Entrepreneurs of Tech" list of Top 30"and"Under Innovators for 2008, Technology Review's "35 Young Innovator 2008" whose inventions and research they find most exciting, and MindTouch's 2009 Open Source "Top 5 Most Influential People."

Host(s): Office of the President, Sustainability@MIT

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