How CivicActions Gives Back To The Drupal Community

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Gregory Heller

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December 18, 2008

How CivicActions Gives Back To The Drupal Community

Drupal Project founder Dries Buytaert's recent blog post on Contributing Back to Drupal came on the heals of much discussion of the same topic while I was the Lullabot DIWD Seminar. It is not a new conversation, at CivicActions we have been having it for as long as I can remember.

The Community Stipend Program

Recognizing that it was hard for our company as a company to "give back" beyond our sponsorship of DrupalCons and DrupalCamps we have made efforts to empower all of our team members to give back. A big part of this is our Community Work Stipend Program which we started in 2006. Team members who achieve a threshold of client work each month earn an additional stipend to do "community work". This can take the form of maintaining modules, working on patches for contrib or core, organizing or presenting at Drupal events like camps, cons or user groups, or writing documentation. Bevan described the benefits of the Community Work Stipend this way:
CivicActions' support and community stipend have empowered me to participate in the Drupal community in ways I had never thought possible. My Season of Usability project, Google Summer of Code mentoring, and my involvement with usability testing would not have been possible without CivicActions' support, both financially and motivationally.
As Bevan points out, the Community Stipend program has been used to support participation in the Google Summer Of Code program, and team members have also used the Community Stipend to support their participation in the DrupalDojo, and as the Dojo "revives" we expect to see more team members leading Dojo sessions in the future.

DrupalCamps, DrupalCons, Drupal User Groups and Code Sprints

One of the most exciting developments in the Drupal Community from my perspective is the rapid growth of offline community events. In February of 2006 we organized the first "DrupalCamp" in conjunction with Zach Rozen (at the time working with CivicSpaceLabs). That first event lead to the DrupalCampSeattle in June of 2006, and well, since then there have been dozens if not hundreds of DrupalCamps around the world. CivicActions has sponsored many DrupalCamps in the last three years and supported our team members in their participation organizing and presenting at them. In Seattle we have organized 3 such events, and Robin Barre and I are two of the coordinators of the Seattle Drupal User Groups (SEADUG). CivicActions team members have attended every DrupalCon since Amsterdam in 2005 and I think that we have presented at and sponsored every DrupalCon since Vancouver 2006. For the upcoming DrupalCon in DC we have offered a wide range of session proposals and will be supporting attendance for any team member involved in presenting a session. In addition to these larger events, recently there have been some code sprints, like the Search Sprint in Minnesota. We were happy to support Doug Green's participation in that event and look forward to supporting Arthur Foelsche's participation in the upcoming media sprint to take place in New York in January of 2009. We see all of these in person events as valuable contributions to the community. They are an integral part of what I have called the Three "C"s: Communication, Cooperation, Collaboration that will strengthen the Drupal Community.

Code Contributions

Yet even with all the event participation, we wouldn't be having the events were it not for the code. We realized very early on in our history that working with Drupal meant doing things a certain way when it comes to code. We strive to contribute back the highest quality code in the course of our doing our normal client work. To this end, all (or very nearly all) changes to contrib modules for clients (bugfixes or new features) are contributed back as patches. This is engrained in our development process. We also work on various core development, focused around contrib needs, trouble spots and general improvements of interest. Our engineers work hard to find the most universal solutions to our client needs and contribute modules back to Drupal Community whenever possible. When we do not have funding from clients to cover this kind of work, the Community Stipend Program can help to fill the gap. Our engineers are also exceedingly committed to their work and the Drupal Project, and like many others in the community, contribute a tremendous amount of their own time to Drupal Project.

Business Process and Licensing

We refer to ours as an "open business model" and in the years since our inception we have had many conversations with other shops about how we are structured, and even offered up our business process documents and contract template under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license. We recognize that the challenges facing our society and our planet are immense and that we will not be able to work with all the clients who need the kind of services we offer, hence we see it as essential to provide the knowledge we have developed to others in the community. Through our relationship with the Free Software Foundation (CivicActions Founding Partner Henry Poole serves on the Board of the FSF) and the Software Freedom Law Center were able to facilitate legal and licensing support for the Drupal Association from the SFLC.

Blogging and Evangelism

CivicActions also attends conferences not directly related to Drupal like the NTEN NTC, NetSquared, Web Of Change, BarCamp, Personal Democracy Forum, RootsCamp and others. When we attend these events we often talk about Drupal either formally as part of scheduled presentations or informally with other attendees. This is an important part of community evangelism -- spreading the word about Drupal and the Drupal Community to people who may become inclined to participate either by contracting with us or another firm to build a Drupal Site, or developers who may begin using Drupal. Another important part of evangelism is blogging. Of course blogging serves many functions including marketing, knowledge management, documentation, publicity, and communications. In the last few months we have launched a blogging stipend program to support team members efforts blogging about Drupal and other important topics related to our work. In that time we have seen a marked increase in the number of solid, on-topic blog posts about the work we are doing with Drupal. And just last month Trevor Twining launched the DrupalNews Podcast with support from our blogging stipend program. Look for new episodes every Thursday. We welcome and encourage comments on our blog, and it is worth mentioning here that registration is no longer required thanks in part to Mollom.

In Conclusion: Participation and Contribution Are Important

We absolutely recognize the importance of contributing to the Drupal project and Community. In our four and half years we have constantly worked to increase our contribution and believe we are at a place now where it is ingrained in our company. Looking back over the last year I think we have improved tremendously. Can we do better, I'm certain we can. In the year ahead we will strive in every way to raise the bar.

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Hi Gregory, I was doing some research on open source friendly contracts and I remembered Civicactions talking about their contracts being available under CC license. I still believe that's a great contribution to the community, for many shops finding a lawyer that is current in open source is prohibitively expensive. How does this work, should one take up contact to receive a copy of those contracts or do you have them up somewhere? Cheers, Kristof