The Creative Destruction of Drupal

Loretta Prencipe
Just 31 years old, Dries Buytaert already has an impressive hit list. He's the creator of Drupal, an open source content management system, and CTO and founder of Acquia, which works with enterprise customers on Drupal projects.  With 2 million downloads since inception in 2001, more than 750 developers have contributed code to Drupal 6, the latest version. There are more than 400,000 Drupal-based sites. 

Acquia, which Buytaert founded in 2007 to bring Drupal into the enterprise, is backed by North Bridges Venture Partners, Sigma Partners and O'Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures. Enterprise-level companies using Drupal include Turner Broadcasting, Zappos and Sony.
Currently Buytaert and team are working on Drupal 7. 

CTO Edge: You've used the term 'creative destruction' in discussing the Drupal development cycle. What is creative destruction for the Drupal open source community?
Buytaert: Creative destruction comes from an economist. I think most people in the Drupal community are not familiar with the term's history.  

'My style has always been very collaborative. I try to work with the community to come to a consensus.  My goal is to let the community run with things and only step in to help-when they don't arrive at a consensus. '

Dries Buytaert
creator of Drupal

Through new release cycles, we innovate and make progress.  When I started Drupal, we were focused on getting the technology right.  [With newer versions], you break backwards compatibility in order to make drastic changes to the technology. With releases of new Drupal versions, we required Drupal coders to rewrite parts of their custom code. This is important to innovate.  We want to keep the framework flexible and lightweight. This is the basis of innovation.
We strive to maintain the competitive edge in Web technologies.

There is resistance to rewriting code sometimes. Some developers have more of a short-term focus. The long-term focused developers see the importance of backwards compatibility and creative destruction. We've been able to maintain the philosophy of backwards compatibility and most agree on the value of breaking backwards compatibility. It's important to note that we choose to break code-but never data. 
CTO Edge: You use Twitter, blogs and other social media to reach the Drupal open source community. Is there an age gap in the CTO community, a difference in how CTOs over 40 and under 30 communicate and manage?
Buytaert: I've had no issues with age. I've been working on Drupal for a long time. My style has always been very collaborative. I try to work with the community to come to a consensus.  My goal is to let the community run with things and only step in to help-when they don't arrive at a consensus. 
[Communicating through social networking] may not be common with older CTOs. I also wear a lot of different hats: Drupal community member, creator, CTO and founder of Acquia. These all have different roles and have different mechanisms of communications. It's very important that I can combine all: Twitter, blogging, discussion forums-all these different communication channels that help me do what I need to do --- target a different audiences which try to work on how to advance the technologies.

If I want to communicate with core developers, I use my blog, or Twitter for broader outreach. With Drupal users discussion forums work best. These are critical tools that help me effectively manage the Drupal project because people are everywhere. I need to be able to communicate the most effective way to combine the social media technologies-social communication.
CTO Edge: How has the audience using Drupal changed?

Buytaert: When Drupal was started, it was for developers. There's been a shift from just developers to end users. End users are anyone from individuals, small business owners, marketing managers to content editors, even to CIOs.
Two years ago Drupal adoption in enterprise was bottoms up; developers doing small projects. Drupal then spread virally within an organization-moving from bottom to top.  As Drupal moves up, we see more VPs of marketing or IT managers; we need to convince both still.
When I started Acquia, I talked to people with existing Drupal sites. We were talking to developers to convince them to work with Acquia. Now it is becoming a bigger brand in the social marketing space. We see that we are being approached by decision-makers, such as VP of marketing and CIOs, who look at this differently than developers.  They want to mitigate risk, save time and money. That was part of the goal, the reason to start Acquia to get to the CIOs and VPs commercial-grade support, scalable hosting and electronic services.  We're seeing that it is working and starting to become an effective interface for CIOs and others in management teams. 

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