Quicker Drupal adoption: The 10 minute challenge

Challenge

Spend 10 minutes 3 times a week for 4 weeks answering questions in Drupal.org forums. When? Starting July 1 (2008). What's that? "I don't know enough yet" OR "I'm too busy developing core". Don't make up your mind just yet. Read on...

Why?

If you could measure adoption rate throughout Drupal.org, my hunch is that the Forums create a faster adoption than Drupal Groups, Modules, Issues etc. The forums are lacking responses and that adoption rate is slowly declining (IMO).

Newbie's live in Drupal forums. If they can't find what they are looking for, they will move on - leaving the love from Druplicon behind. In sincerity, why again, because you have knowledge that someone else doesn't. Chances are you started out in the Drupal forums. And, the forums need a new breath of life from the Drupal community.

Drupal Stengths

First, find your Drupal strengths. What are you good at? Theming? Coding Modules? FAPI? Drupal setup? Certain modules? D5, D6, D7? You decide. I suggest focusing on two areas of Drupal you are really good at (or two modules you know inside and out) during the challenge. If you created a solution, not available on Drupal.org, blog about the solution or check the forums to see if someone had a similar problem - then share. Think your strengths and your humble beginnings as a newbie - not about wasting your time on a newbie.

Finding Posts

Here are a some ways of finding the posts you can answer - using your Drupal muscles strengths:

1. If you are new to contributing to the forums you might start on the main Drupal forum page. To search by a specific keyword you can use Drupal forum search. Don't be afraid to use the "advanced search" feature to narrow your results.

2. Chances are you use a RSS reader to keep up with news on the web. All Drupal Forum topics have RSS feeds. Why not add a few Drupal forum topics to your RSS reader; give Druplicon some love and put your RSS reader to work.

3. Use Google and the site: command. One of my favorite ways to find content for a specific site is using the Google site operator. Here is an example.

4. Narrow down your searches using Google "site" command AND date feature in Google advanced search. By narrowing down by date, let's say the last 3 months, you can find recent posts quicker.

Thinking Like Newbies

This next step is actually hard. We have to think like newbies! When searching for posts to answer try to look for keywords that a newbie might use in the post title or body. Remember, they aren't going to know the Drupal lingo just yet.

Refer to Drupal Documentation

The Drupal Documentation (Handbooks) team has worked hard at getting good documentation up. Refer newbies to the documentation when possible, it will cut down their "hold my hand" time and mature them into adoption quicker. If you know of other sources outside of Drupal.org content don't hesitate referring the newbie to that source.

Summary

The goal of this challenge is to enhance Drupal adoption for newbies. The strategy is not to help anyone and everyone but to specifically use your Drupal strengths and refer newbies to reliable sources (Drupal Handbooks etc). If just a small percentage
of active Drupaler's participated in this challenge, we will see a positive change in the community that will have a lasting effect.

Poll

Use the poll on the right to show our participation. Feel free to comment on the poll to be automatically updated on July 1st.

Comments

I agree, the forums are sorely lacking in support. Major blemish there on the face of Drupal!

@Mark, personally I just hate the idea of wrong "first time" impressions. I was one of those folks, only by patience and the community size did I decide to come back and try again. Thankfully someone reached out in the forums. Then I was convinced to stick with Drupal and that the community was strong enough to keep Drupal afloat.

The community still is strong, especially on the developer (core / modules) end. We just need to find better adoption methods. catch (below post) mentioned some good points. Naturally though, people will run to the forums first, that is a web thing, not a Drupal thing - meaning we all hunt for forums on new sites to help us find what we are after.

I should've said I think the idea of dipping into the forums a couple of times a week is a great idea in itself - and it's necessary before it's possible to do any of the other stuff I mentioned too.

I was very much a newbie for some time, and stuck around on the forums for a while before venturing into the issue queue. As soon as I found the issue queue though, I barely looked at the forums any more.

There's a few issues here:

When I first started using Drupal, the forums were used for development discussions as well as support. That no longer happens due to groups.drupal.org. This means that there's very little reason for non-newbies to ever look in the forums.

There's a lot of forums, at least 5 of them are used fairly indiscriminately for support. When I've done 'a few minutes a week' answering support requests, I found it hard to find stuff to answer due to that reason.

More to the point, I think we should be making an active effort to nab people out of the forums and into the handbook, groups and issue queues. So many support requests are often decent bug reports about modules that the maintainers will never get to see. So either the forums need to become productive places for non-newbies (which I feel is unlikely at this stage), or we should be trying to slim them down and point newbies to where all the action is more effectively.

@catch, thanks for the indepth comment.

Yes, for developers, the issue queue is a great place to find help. I love all the conversations that takes place to solve problems inside Issue pages, not to mention the patches.

When I first started using Drupal, the forums were used for development discussions as well as support. That no longer...
>> I personally find groups to be annoying at times. I hear a lot of talk but little action, of course this is not for all groups... Also, a lot of us don't agree in g.d.o :) which makes "getting things done" harder, burns more time, causes community problems etc. This happens in Forums too though.

There's a lot of forums, at least 5 of them are used fairly indiscriminately for support. When I've done...
>> I agree. That is why I added "finding posts" section. It would be nice to have RSS on forum search results, that would be a time saver as well as "sort by" time.

More to the point, I think we should be making an active effort to nab people out of the forums and into the handbook, groups and issue queues...
>> Yep, that is right. I should have mentioned that (groups / issue queues). But, I personally find it difficult to remember all those nodes, I use del.icio.us often in those cases. I remember a lot of requests for the "favorite" or "bookmark" modules. Maybe that should be considered...

Yes, forums do need to be more productive. I think there are a few things to help out. Recycling nodes (archiving old ones that have no answers them - not making them available on search) and/or displaying similar nodes (title and brief teaser) below or to the right of the main content.

Another idea is to have a rating system to where when a solution is provided, the user asking question marks the user who gave the solution, much like what Expert Exchange does.

If you have a question about a specific module (or a feature request for core, or bug report for core) - the issues queues are often better than the forums as well. Depends how busy the maintainer is and what sort of question you're asking, but the advantage is that things can be tracker in one place, and the issue queue as all the advantages of statuses etc. If we could just get people out of the habit of posting bug reports to the forums (and searching the issue queues) that'd be really handy - I don't have many ideas on how to do this though.

I agree that groups can be very unproductive at times (although sometimes it's very good too) - I do think it's a real issue that there's duplication of some stuff between groups and forums (although the 'deprecated' forums help with this).

sepeck started some sticky posts for each forum explaining how it should be used and pointing to related resources - could do with more of those. Eventually I'd like to see different blocks based on forum with similar information - since I imagine a lot of people land in forum threads via google.

Related topics - definitely, that's on it's way I think with 'pivots' (see the drupal.org redesign group on groups.drupal.org). Ratings/karma I'm less sure about - there's all kinds of issues getting that to run properly.

Great idea and thanks for pushing us on this topic. I had been ignoring this but your mention of RSS got me thinking. I currently monitor "drupal security" via a google blogsearch rss feed. This is great. Now I've added a few more blog searches (thankfully google blog search also pulls in issues and forum posts from drupal.org) so that I can help on issues where I really know the topic.

Hear hear! I'm very glad to see this post and to see some of the great ideas it seems to be generating in the comments.

Personally, my own rule of thumb has been to try to "pay it forward" by posting responses to at least two questions for every one that I ask.

I usually focus on the posts that have zero responses. I'd love to see a page on drupal.org that lists the forum posts that have no responses. I believe the WordPress support forums have such a list, to help direct support where it is needed most. Ideally, a link to such a list could be added to the "Contributor links" block.

I've noticed that the weekends seem to be especially high in questions garnering zero responses. I suspect that's when the hobbyists have time to ask their questions but all the professionals are off the clock.

A more ambitious idea I'd like to see implemented is to set up a forum/email gateway, similar to Yahoo or Google groups. That way the various mailing lists and forums could cross pollinate, rather than functioning as separate groups. I believe there was a forum/email gateway module in the works at one point, but I haven't checked on its status in quite a while.

@Matt V, Thanks for the input...

A more ambitious idea I'd like to see implemented is to set up a forum/email gateway, similar to...
>> Development Seed has provided a Email to Forum recipe... I think this setup would help Drupal forums but I think only certain roles should be allowed to use this setup. Otherwise, the forums would become even more noisy and crowded, with long vertical scrolls - taking hours to read, think, process, reply etc. But, I think it is a good idea :)

During my first few months learning Drupal, I spent a lot of time in Forums. I tried to give back as much as I took.

I used to try to help in IRC a lot too.

I guess these days, there is so much "noise" in forums and IRC that it's a bit more of a pain. I truly get tired of reading about how much Drupal sucks and why everyone should switch to frontpage :)

But I'll add the support forum back to my blogroll and commit to helping out a bit for a while.

@Harry, I definitely agree on the noise. No matter where you go there will always be someone in the crowd ready to nag and think negative. They want to be spoon fed. Better "support" structure could ease some of that.

I agree with what someone said in the above comments, have a special page listing nodes with no responses (archive them by months, years, topic etc).

Another idea I have done a few times, if I help one person/post, I Google search for similar posts/problems and respond pointing them to the solution.

Thanks for adding the support forum back to your blogroll!

Great post! A few things I've found as I've been helping out a lot these past few months on IRC:

So many people just don't know what they're looking for. It's not that their question is particularly hard or obscure, but they don't know what a "view" is, or they think they know how to accomplish something but actually they're down the wrong path. For example, someone who "is trying to remove the administrator login on the front page" but who is actually confused by the Drupal installer. Or someone who thinks they want a user profile template file, but actually just needs to add profile fields. I see a lot of these questions, and it's easy to get stuck looking at how to answer the question they're asking rather than getting to the root of the problem. I ask a lot of questions when someone asks me a question ;) Also Chris wrote a blog post on this very thing: http://www.collectivemind.net/node/7

Seriously, you could just be like a newbie-to-google translator sitting on IRC and help 50% of the questions.

Also, I'd like to highlight how much you can learn by helping others. I don't know many of the answers to questions that people ask when they ask them -- but the big difference is I know how to find the answer. See above, about knowing what you're looking for. I may not know the exact code for a particular Views argument, but I know how to help you find it. And then I learn how to do it in the process. You can learn a ton by stretching your own abilities and going out on a limb trying to answer questions you may not 100% know.

Even from a business perspective, I've gained valuable insight. We're selling Drupal themes. In that business, it pays to know what modules people are using, where people are finding documentation to be lacking, what they're trying to do with their themes, how many people are on D5 vs D6, etc. It's a very qualitative and self-selecting group of course, but I think any Drupal business could gain from seeing what others are looking for and trying to accomplish.

I 100% agree with this. The number number one reason questions sometimes go unanswered in the support forms and on irc, is because people are asking the wrong question.

So if you can just find out what someone actually wanted to do in the first place - change a string, add a link or something - then you may often know the answer. For example anyone knowing the most basic css can probably answer 5 support requests in the views issue queue a week - "how do I change the background colour?" "How do I get the image next to the teaser?" (although ones like this should really be won't fixed with a link to resources) . And yes, you can learn a lot answering questions in #support you don't already know the answer to - since it forces you to think about issues in a different way, research modules you haven't used etc. etc. it's a similar learning experience to reviewing patches ;)

Great post.

@stephthegeek, You are right, Drupal terminology confuses folks. After reading your comment, I asked myself why doesn't Drupal.org post a "glossary" page, add it as a primary link (top tabs) and let the documentation team populate it. I would love to assist in this.

Well, this is doable. I left the forums because of "high friction" threads and I do not feel like returning. But I can see the good in this initative. So if others are willing to sift through the drek, then I am happy to help in the forums, send me the relevant (menu v6, fapi) threads, I can always be found in #drupal .

@chx, thanks for considering the effort / challenge. There is plenty of friction in the threads, but other communities experience the same thing; we aren't alone...

If this challenge was taken seriously maybe we (the Drupal community) can rid some of that in the forums.

Good challenge. I used to try to help a lot more in the forums, but the repeated questions do get tiresome. It's true, though - I remember when I first came to Drupal and my frustrations at never getting any answers to basic questions.

@brenda003, Yes, many questions get repeated a lot. As I sit and read these comments and browse the forum pages, I am wondering how we can rid that.

There has been some good ideas in the comments above that I think could ease some friction we experience, as helpers, and create a positive impression for "hold my hand" newbies.

I was looking at the Upgrading Drupal forum yesterday. It would be great to see a "Summary Block" above the main forum topics, in this case, a block outlining some screencasts (webchick's upgrading 4.x to 5.x is coming to mind) and other nodes that users end up find solutions from.

If we look at traffic to the forums, where people are coming from (within Drupal.org), and where they end up going (to find the solution), then it might be useful to know what content should go in each of those top "summary" blocks, above the forum topics. Basically, whatever nodes are being read most, to find solutions, those are probably helping a greater of the community. We need to direct more traffic to those nodes...

BTW, I haven't seen you in IRC lately, staying busy?

Nice, I like the comment_notify module!

I agree about directing more traffic to those nodes, and a summary block sounds great. Much better than a sticky post because most people won't actually check stickies, they just don't. There will always be posts asking questions that've been answered elsewhere. Seems to be the nature of any kind of forum. But if you have a block summary with useful, understandable links, those would probably be used more.

I always lurk on IRC even if I'm not very active lately, been too busy to get much involved in anything much more than vaguely keeping tabs on stuff.

I think that we're going to see increased Drupal adoption for Universities . Multisite support, multi-lingual support, accessibility and open source are all working in Drupal's favor at the moment.

@ydl, I agree. Please do not spam me with links. Keeping the conversation on the post is welcomed but link spamming is not. Thanks

A bit late to the 10-minute challenge party, but definitely an interested supporter. As the sponsor of this great idea, and with obvious design chops, what about a web badge for folks to tout their participation in this?

If drupal wasn't so complicated and lacking a solid framework, there wouldn't be a need for forum issues, the same questions get asked over and over again speaking on deaf ears apparently. It's a waste of space.

"lacking a solid framework"? Show me another OpenSource CMS that has a stronger, more flexible, and easy to build on framework. Prove it and I will paypal you $100. Personally I think you are talking trash or smoking too much of something.

Obviously you don't know what opensource and community is all about. Drupal has a great community, large and cumbersome (to get things done quickly) but still strong, active, growing - translates to Great!

i see this post is oldish, but i

i recently spent sometime digging through the lowest of the low: the deprecated fora... sadly, there's not functional way to "lock" a forum in drupal. so the deprecated fora get used again. like breaking the skin on a healing wound- those dastardly old topics keep breaking out again.

http://drupal.org/forum/6

i only attacked one forum- usability, in the hopes that there were some gems, and actually there were! it was the assignment given me at the drupalcon usability sprint. it wasn't glamorous, but it was satisfying.

anyway- i like your idea of the 10 minute challenge. it's very true!

it's sad that as the community gets larger, it gets more striated- and the different levels won't intertwine as much.

I stumbled across this thread searching for some answers about drupal. I am one of those newbe types everyone refers to. Yep, don't know much, but i love my nine button mouse.lol

may sound bad, but to be truthful about it..I have had a time of it. But after 6 weeks, i have the bones of a community site stuck together...stuck together..well it's probably all wrong in the eyes of a drupal elvis or a drupal web chick.

I have only looked in the forums once or twice. It is a confusing place to even find my question. And I read a lot of posts about d4,d5..darn..D6? Maybe it's similar, but i don't know. I really don't want to post in the forum because it's like a black hole of info. And I don't want to repeat a question, because it has to be there someplace..but where? how do i find my question? mmm...answer, look some place else.

Maybe consider going through the old unanswered posts and clean them out.

I bought the building powerful websites book and the pro drupal dev. book. 1st one, i picked up 4 or5 tips, but figured out most of that book already. The other book is for this winter snow days..it's a little over my head..but i will get it..

I found most of my useful info scattered all across the web from different drupal people. I have read a lot of stuff on drupal.0rg. I have to say that the video tutorials that I watched helped a huge amount. Because the video not only shows you the moves in the interface, but the good ones explain everything quite well too. A good example is node/604 on bryght about tabs with views.
My point..2 things.. maybe consider some sort of sorting in the forums to find the questions easier??.
To help new people stay with drupal, maybe a collection of video tutorials that are the good ones. So the newbes can actually see how it is done.

You will all laugh, but it took me a month to find out how to make tabs. I thank bryght for that and sent him a note thanking him for his work.
That is how i found out how to work cck too, different tutorial on the web someplace.

I don't know the answer, but it seems that things are so spread out, it makes answers harder to find.

I vowed almost from the start to stick with Drupal through thick and thin..I like what the more knowledgeable Drupal folks have to say. They are smart people and their words ring in my head.

I will leave with this. when i get to know this stuff better, I will most certainly help people find answers. I have no pay forward rule of 2-1 or 4-3...I will just help everyone i can.
thanks for reading, and thank you to everyone involved with Drupal...some real good people.
Dave

yep, am a human lol, at least i can read this captcha

heya Guest14665 :) i don't know if you've found it yet- but there might be like-minds on groups.drupal.org who are trying to do something similar to what you're working on. in fact, one popular idea for the drupal.org redesign is to move forum support requests into 1) the issue queue for the relevant module or 2) into groups.drupal.org

best of blogs on drupal is here, in case you didn't see it:
http://drupal.org/planet

i have a funny story about the blogs having better information... i was working on a problem with some others in IRC, and it was a real head-wrecker.

i immediately wanted to make a handbook page, so i whipped one up, then i linked back to it in IRC. (IRC channels are logged, so this can help searching later, and it's a good follow-up for anyone who is interested on the channel). ANYWAY! one of the guys who was helping me was a bit put-out. he was like "oh, i wanted to put that on my blog, and get the traffic".

what he saw as "i helped figure it out, it's my idea" i saw as "this is a great PHP snippet and needs to go into the handbook".

it's all a matter of ego with the blogs, i think! alot of that stuff should be in the handbooks (or at least duplicated there.

i wish there was some way to 'tag' blog posts and list them back at the drupal site.

anyway,

since you're just beginning, now is a great time to take part in the drupal.org redesign. also take note on usability problems you see.

and come over to groups.drupal.org, and drop me a line- (i'm heather over there). i'd like to help you find some suitable groups there.

good luck to ya!

Interesting. So many people just don't know what they're looking for. It's not that their question is particularly hard or obscure, but they don't know what a "view" is, or they think they know how to accomplish something but actually they're down the wrong path. For example, someone who "is trying to remove the administrator login on the front page" but who is actually confused by the Drupal installer. Or someone who thinks they want a user profile template file, but actually just needs to add profile fields.

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