Drupal.org - It's all about size.

It was 2003, six years ago, when I got started with Drupal. My user id is 4299. A few months later I contributed my first module (i18n). I can't tell how many modules there were at that moment, but Internationalization module is node number 5917.

Too many things have happened since then, most of them good. The community has seen an explosive growth, my job is now 99% Drupal, we've been to all these great conferences, companies have risen around Drupal, and many of us have drunk pints and pints of beer using Drupal as a excuse :-)

We are now more than 200000 users and the site has more than half a million nodes (content pages). So everything has changed quite a bit. But there's this single thing that, though it's seen many improvements, is still fundamentally the same, just bigger: drupal.org.

Good old times! We used to have useful forums where you posted something and in a few hours you got feedback from the right people, now they're still there just they're too crowded and dispersed. The issue tracker was a cool thing to handle module development, now you can search it for hours and still miss important things. Yes, we have groups.drupal, but to how many groups you need to subscribe just to know what's going on?

Well, there's this one thing that still works. It's drupal-dev mailing list, and you can still (almost) keep up with that one. But I'm gonna tell you a secret: That's mostly because young people and new Internet users in general don't use mailing lists anymore. I don't really have the numbers but I've consistenly observed that. You ever heard of Facebook or Myspace?

(Also there's this cool tool they call Drupal that allows you to run a community without needing old fashioned mailing lists!)

One more example: A module's issue tracker. Developers used to post there useful stuff for module development, everybody else used to post on the forums. Now they know no one reads the forum anymore (or at least not me) so they open support requests for the module trying to grab the attention of any of the module developers to point them to the right page in the handbook.

It is true that there are more people now helping with module development and maintenance. But certainly 100 people handling 1000 issues is way more complex than 1 person handling 10 issues. Really, how could I keep up when just one of the modules I'm maintaining has way more active users than the whole drupal.org had when I got started?

Actually this is a very good idea (Thanks Aron Novak and Alex Barth), which I'm afraid we'll need to implement for each of the modules, please read

So the question is: Are we properly handling growth? Will our infrastructure still keep up if we release Drupal 7 and the number of users doubles again? Will a magical redesign fix everything?

I've been doing some research in computer science books, management books, sociology books, history books and found this new break through technology (hope it's not patented in the US yet) to make big things manageable: You split the big thing in smaller manageable parts, and keep some ties to link them together.

And yes, we need groups.drupal.org, api.drupal.org and localize.drupal.org. But we also need devel.drupal.org, modules.drupal.org, handbook.drupal.org... and party.drupal.org... Just let drupal.org become the big hub to keep it all together.

I don't mean at all we need to ban novice end users from the modules issue tracker and build some exclusive old time developers club. We just need to place somewhere a visible line with a banner that reads something like 'Hey, this is for module developers. You are welcomed, but you may be better off asking at these end user forums'.

We do need to handle growth before growth handles us. And no, there's no such thing as a magical redesign that will make a site usable for thousands of users, thousands of developers, hundreds of companies and thousands of small development projects (we call them modules).

Of course, I may be wrong too. That no one has done it before doesn't mean it's impossible; but it certainly doesn't mean is possible either. Anyway books are no use anymore now we have the Internet.