In this paper, we have examined the impact of French language and culture on Drupal contrib. While there can be no doubt that the French have given much to the Drupal project, including several of the project’s key modules, this study provides a few key lessons for the American Drupal community.
- Localization and translation are vital to communicating in an increasingly global world. As Americans, it’s easy to assume that everything can be done in English. But we live in an increasingly global world, and we need to focus more effort on making Drupal easier to deploy in multiple languages. While localize.drupal.org has an impressive number of non-English versions of Drupal available, the process of actually making a standard Drupal site multilingual10 is difficult for many developers, and we need to find ways to make it easier.
- Provide employees with time to volunteer. When shops make time in their employees’ days to work on Drupal contrib, it allows them to support the community without having to sacrifice their free time. It also provides important reputation benefits for the shop itself. While there are several American companies, such as Lullabot and Palantir, who already do this, more Drupal shops should follow their lead.
- Understand the factors that drive employees’ sense of competence (or incompetence). The need to feel competent is a primary human motivator (Ryan & Deci, 2002). While many aspects of the Drupal community support the competence of those who choose to volunteer their time—for example, our commitment to providing documentation and support for new contributors—we also should take into account the impact that working in English can have on a non-native speaker’s feelings of competence.
- Understand the impact of different cultures in work teams. In Drupal, multi-cultural, widely distributed teams are quickly becoming the norm. Understanding how someone’s culture impacts their work life, and their ways of giving feedback or collaborating, can go a long way towards resolving many of the issues these teams face.
- Take the time to build relationships, preferably through face-to-face contact. Another important lesson from the French community is the importance of face-to-face contact, and building relationships with coworkers. Finding ways to encourage that kind of contact in a distributed team—whether through regular Google Hangouts or yearly retreats where everyone converges in one place—can help provide important feelings of relatedness among colleagues, another primary motivator (Ryan & Deci, 2002).