Getting local getting personal
Since a few months I have been ignoring the support forums on drupal.org almost completely. Same for the support mailinglists.
However, my amount of support has increased a lot. I have been spending an enormous amount of hours on a much “lower” and more personal level of support. Mostly in Dutch, nearly completely on skype, jabber and by mail.
I was very reluctant in the beginning, about this way of support. First of all, the forums are considered to be better, because they are archived, and available for future. In reality, however, I see the same questions popping up more and more. I see an increasing number of questions asked that are never answered, too. The mailinglists support issues, are most of the time either completely RTFM questions or are of a higher level, a level that is very specific for the sender.
I found that, by explaining Drupal to new developers, they feel a lot more welcomed. Drupal.org has grown rather large. New developers often get lost. I think that we, as developer community should take more people by the hand and lead them around. On a personal level, or in your own language. Writing a handbook page about how to commit patches, does not even come close to explaining someone over Skype or Jabber how to make a patch.
When Dries recently pointed out that this, in fact, is the way we all started at Drupal, I dug deep in my archives, and indeed, I found some nice mails from oldschool Drupaleers telling me exactly how to commit a binary to the contribs! On a personal level. And off course we nowadays get developers questions answered on IRC or in the mailinglists. But that is because we know how to target these questions very well. If someone asks: “how can I make a table appear above a node when previewing”, I read often things like “look here: http://drupaldocs.org/api/head/function/hook_nodeapi”. Instead of the support that such a person would deserve, by being introduced in the hook system, in the way the nodes do stuff and in the nodes functions. I decided to do that more often. I believe that if all developers would do that more often, our developers-base can finally really grow! I plead guilty too, here!Not only for the supported person is this great! It is fabulous to see a developer make a nice Drupal site, for which you gave some support!I doubt that I would have learned so much about Drupal in half a year, as I learned in a few months. Monday I travelled to Amsterdam to help out a group of people with their Drupal site. It was an incredible eyeopener to see how (very computer and linux savvy) people struggled with, for me, very obvious stuff. No survey, or statistics of our forums can beat what I learned there. Looking over a shoulder, and explaining people how stuff is done, makes it very, very obvious, to me, what should and could be done easier!Quirks we take for granted. Inconsistencies that we are used to so well, that we don’t even see them as such. Bugs that have been around since 2003 or so, that we complete forgot about, because it has always been there. And so on. Supporting on a more personal level has opened my eyes a lot, for several areas that really need love, in order to make Drupal friendlier to the new developer!But the documentation and archiving issue remains. So I decided to turn all the chats and (those that are worthwile) into <a href”http://help.sympal.nl”>small blog articles. My Dutch archive is being moved over there, too, slowly now. Its all in Dutch, simply because it requires me only half the time to write Dutch, while the Dutch speaking audience is big enough by now.**But now action: **There is far too much bugwork before 4.7, and 4.7 comes first :). But I have already patches and proofs of concepts to make stuff simpler. Seeing that stuff is hard is only one-third of the work, helping people cope with these difficulties, is the next third, but getting it solved is the last third. For now, it all lives in the Sympal system, and in patches. After the 4.7 release, I will work towards a release of sympal too. But off course, I will commit all the patches, modules and scripts to Drupal.org too.