The Drupal Association from the inside

The Drupal Association (DA) is getting ready to vote on new members next week. We are looking for more people to help carry the Drupal community forward. But what does it mean really? I know when I was accepted last year as a Permanent Member, I had a very fuzzy idea of what I was getting into and what was expected of me. For folks out there that are thinking of applying or wondering if you even want to, I thought I’d share my experience over the last year to try to give a little more insight into how it works and what we need. Some of the stuff I talk about is just an informal description of what is laid out in the statutes. If you have any interest in how the DA formally runs itself then the statutes and regulations are the documents to check out.

Permanent Members and the Board

The first point of confusion for a lot of people is terminology; the difference between Permanent Members (PM) , the General Assembly (GA), and the Board of Directors (BOD). To state it plainly, everyone in the Association is part of the GA. The individuals in the GA are referred to as PM. The PMs then decide who amongst them will be on the BOD. The BOD are the real movers and shakers who vote on policies and how we spend our money. Here is a li’l graphic to help out:

The main responsibility for PMs is to vote for the BOD. Each person on the BOD is elected to a specific role and they are responsible for carrying out that role, be it treasurer, event coordinator or kool-aid mixer, while their term lasts. Only the BOD have a vote on important issues like budget and official DA actions. The PMs can (and should) be part of the discussions and attend meetings, but at the end of the day the vote is left with the BOD.

Day to day work

The day in, day out work of the DA tends to come in spurts. Almost all communication within the DA is through the DA mailing list. That is where proposals are put forth, issues raised and email to the DA is reviewed by everyone. This past year there was discussion around things like trademark/licensing/legal work, as well as large projects like the DrupalCons and the redesign. There is also simply handling and responding to emails that come in asking for clarifications on things, some of which we are responsible for and some we are not. The running of the website also falls to us, from updating content to making sure memberships are being processed. A big responsibility for all the PMs is to keep an eye on the work of the DA and the decisions that the BOD makes. We are also referred to as Community Ambassadors and it is our job to call bullshit, propose alternatives and to represent the larger Drupal community’s needs.

Meetings and voting

Whenever a vote is needed, normally an IRC board meeting will be called. Obviously not everyone can make every meeting, being spread all over the world, so the minimum requirement for a regular vote is that at least half of the BOD must vote. All PM may attend the meeting and are asked for their opinions in the discussion period before the vote. Typically we like to hash out as much of the discussion as possible on the mailing list prior to a vote to try to keep meetings to reasonable lengths. They typically go on for about 2 hours, even with that. We also call a meeting at each DrupalCon where all PMs that are at the ‘con will attend the meeting in person. There are also instances where a vote requires the entire GA and not just the BOD. This is required to remove or add people from/to the GA or the BOD, or if any of the statutes need to be changed. Other than the annual election, full GA votes are rare. All of the meetings are captured and summarized by the secretary of the DA and then posted to the DA site where all members can review and make comments.

A year in review

I am a PM on the DA, not on the BOD. As a PM I don’t have a clearly defined task that I am responsible for aside from electing new members and the BOD. I’d have to say that for me, personally, most of my time the last year was spent attending our sporadic meetings with a little bit of email work. I also have to admit that I don’t think that my very low level of activity is a good thing. Much like the Drupal community, PMs are in a position where it is more a case of jumping in to do things when and where you can. I have enough things going on that much of the day to day work on the DA ends up getting short shrift, and I’m not the only one by far.

Going forward

This is where I hope to see some major changes in the coming year. In terms of my votes for who to add to our GA, I’m looking for people who have goals and have a proven record of actively pursuing them. I also really, really want to inject some new ideas to help us figure out how to inspire and organize non-BOD members to be more active and useful to the DA. We need everyone that earns that spot on the GA to help move things forward rather than riding the stream. And, yes, I accuse myself in that statement. So, do you have a vision? Some real time and energy to put into it? Do you want to help make the DA kick ass or kick some asses in the DA? Then you have 6 days to talk to us and let us know.