Making Drupal (An Open Source project) Sustainable

Gokul N K
Gokul N K
Feb 9 · 9 min read

Most people had written off the concept of open source just two decades ago. But is an unstoppable force today. How can we make sure it stays this way or gets better.

Drupal : An open source project I was part of

Open source today is unequivocally the engine of innovation; whether that’s powering technology like operating systems, cloud, big data or IoT, or powering a new generation of open source companies delivering compelling solutions to the market.

Paul Santinelli, General Partner NORTH BRIDGE

In survey in 2016 by Blackduck, it was observed that 96% of software products developed that year used open source software. I am assuming that this number must have only gone up in the last three years.

Today we no more need to spend our energies on convincing businesses or companies that Open Source is an idea that can work. But barely a decade ago it was a tough job to convince people and organisation why they should trust open source.

They couldn’t fathom the fact that people will give away software for free. They were not to be blamed. They just underestimated the power of people coming together and collaborating for something bigger than themselves irrespective of what their reasons was for being a part of it.

Now that we have crossed that bridge we need to ask ourselves some tough questions and we need to be brave enough to accept that we may not have answers for all of them. We will figure out these answers as we go along. But do we want to is the question?

I will start with mine.

How much is Drupal worth?

Is Drupal valuable to the world? Of course yes. Drupal is used by top colleges, governments, media houses across the world and there are software services/solutions companies who work on only Drupal. So yes, Drupal is worth something.

Why Drupal Video by DA

How much is Drupal Project worth to the world. That is a difficult question to answer. Nevertheless an important one. The reason for this is that I strongly feel that Drupal is creating enough value but not capturing it. Creating value is not sufficient. You need to capture that value as well.

And what happens when you don’t capture the value you are creating? Innovation stops. And when innovation stops the project is no more viable and it will become another ghost town. It is for this reason that we concentrate both on creating value and capturing it. Understanding what Drupal is worth helps us in doing that. I will discuss how we can do this.

What should be the role of Dries and Acquia?

Drupal started as a pet project of Dries. Its destiny was changed when Dries made it open source. The community made sure that Drupal is what it is today. Everybody who has spent some time with Drupal would have heard “Come for the code, stay for the community.” It is this community that is the most important asset of Drupal or any other Open Source project for that matter.

At various times in the the lifespan of this project, many in the community felt that Dries and Acquia had disproportionate control over the project.

At the same time, some of the most active and most proficient core developers started to work for said company within the past three years, and in some cases, their core contributions suddenly and sadly dropped to nearly zero. Without any doubt, it’s merely an economical truth that free contributions and commercial enterprise interests are mainly incompatible, and of course, everyone needs to decide on their own on how to use and invest their resources. Nevertheless, 19% of all core maintainers (including the only two people being able to commit changes) are paid and influenced by a single, dominant (third-)party, which obviously presents a serious conflict of interest today and in the long run.

The above excerpt is just one of such concerns and an early one. You can read about these here(Drupal Crisis), here(Does Acquia suck up all Drupal talent)and here(Inappropirate influence of Acquia on Drupal). A lot of these concerns have been addressed. Drupal Association addressed a lot of these and played its role in reducing the concerns around some of these. But again there were some concerns about DA itself.

What should be the role of Drupal Association

The role of DA was not very clear and there have been many attempts to address that. This article role of Drupal Association in Drupal community is the first one I knew of. Since then the role of DA has been defined much clearly and it is getting more formal with time.

But one particular incident, the banning chx from community which got ugly ( 0, 0.5, 1, 2 and 3), underlined the important of making the governance more transparent wherever possible and more distributed in all cases.

Though it is clear that governances needs to be more decentralised and has to be passed on to the community, we still need to accept the fact that Dries, Acquia(along with other Drupal companies) and DA have played their role in making Drupal what it is today. So I personally feel that these entities should also have higher say in the process we follow in decentralisation of power.

Decentralisation of Power

Irrespective of your opinion about Drupal Association you have to agree that Drupal Association is the neutral entity that has most impact on Drupal Project today. You can read this this blog to know what DA has done in 2019 and what it is planning to do in 2020.

So I feel that this project of decentralisation has to be led by them. If you have any better suggestions do let me know in the comments or on twitter.

What do we need?

I feel that following things are critical for making an open source project sustainable.

  1. Get a market driven valuation for the project(an ongoing process).
  2. Make sure that all the parties who had contributed to Drupal till date are rewarded for their effort from this value. They may not be able to encash it right away but it will be theirs when ever they are entitled to claim.
  3. Use that value to drive the long term goals of the project and create more value in the future.
  4. Break down this valuation into tokens which can be used to reward all the parties who align themselves with the long term goals/direction of the project.
  5. Decentralise the power sources and enable the community to actively engage in decision making of the project.

As we read the requirements it becomes more and more clear that cryptocurrencies are an ideal suit for this use-case. What I have seen is that most of the cryptocurrencies and alt-coins try to create communities around their cryptocurrencies. But I think the real case for cryptocurrencies is to help the existing communities which are already creating value but are finding it difficult to put a number to the value they are creating and are not able to make decisions in a decentralised way at the scale of their communities.

Which cryptocurrency?

Of all the cryptocurrencies out there I think Steem is a great fit for running this experiment. There are multiple reasons for this and I will explain why as we go along. But for now just understand that both Drupal and Steem projects have content and communities at their heart and hence it makes them a right fit.

Steem is a social blockchain that grows communities and makes immediate revenue streams possible for users by rewarding them for sharing content.

This is the short definition of Steem from their website. If I were to write this I would have written it as

Steem is a social blockchain that grows communities and rewards users for creating value in the community. The rewards for each value creation is in turn decided by the community.

Steem has a concept called “Smart Media Tokens” using which any community can create their own token. This token will have nothing to do with the value of the Steem token or the Steem community. The token would just run on the Steem blockchain. The community creating the token can decide all the settings for the new token that will be created using Steem blockchain. If you are interested in the details of how it is done checkout

How can we do it?

Let me jolt down the highlights first. The numbers are all just made up, which obviously needs to be discussed and changed by the community/DA.

  1. Create a new token for Drupal on (Should we call the token DROP? :P )
  2. 40% of tokens to given to DA so that they can oversee the project, do whatever they are doing currently and pay salaries of their teams.
  3. 20% of tokens to be given to users who have commits to core and contributed modules. Probably we can split up this 5% in such a way so that users who contributed initially get more tokens. By this rule Dries might ending up getting more tokens (He can choose to donate them to DA or lock them up for couple of years to signal his future commitment to the project)
  4. 10% of tokens to be given to users who would have made non code contribution to Drupal.
  5. 10% of tokens to be given to companies who had invested in Drupal, sponsored Drupal camps/cons etc
  6. 20% of tokens to be considered as Universal Basic Income. Allot all these tokens equally to all the account holders on

The above will be the allocation of the initial tokens that we be created.

Steem has a concept called Steem Power, where you get additional benefits for locking in your tokens. For Drupal we call it Deep DROP. In steem the lock-in period is 14 weeks but with respect Drupal I feel it should be longer and 52 weeks might be good.

Make sure that all the tokens provided initially are Deep DROPS so that those who own them can sell it only after 52 weeks. Steem also has a concept called inflation where new tokens are generated regularly. To whom these tokens are distributed again depends on those who own SteemPower and how they vote. For Steem this inflation rate is around 9.5% and this keeps decreasing every year by 0.5% until the inflation reaches 0.5%. To make sure that initial distribution of tokens doesn’t decide the direction of the project, DROP token should have an inflation of 100% initially and should reduce by 10% every year until it reaches an inflation of 25%.

Out of the tokens that are created by inflation, in Steem some share goes to the Steem witnesses, content creators and content curators. In the case of DROP I think 25% should go to DA, 25% to code contributions, 25% to non code contributions and 25% to curators(those who identify best code and non code contributions).

For making all important decisions we can have a Drupal Proposal System to which users can vote. Their vote will be valued based on the Deep DROPs they have. This will add more transparency to all decisions related to Drupal especially those taken by DA. This will be similar to Steem Proposals

How will the tokens be valued?

I think it is better not to attribute a value to these tokens for the first year until things gets settled down. As discussed above we can make this happen by make sure that all tokens released in the first year happen with a lock in of 52 weeks. That way these tokens can be distributed but they cannot be traded on exchanges.

Drupal has created so much value over the years. So it should not be very difficult to build the value for these tokens organically. As a first step DA can start allocating some tokens all those users who buy its memberships. DA can also accept these tokens for all the things where they accept money(For the first year they can set how many tokens they will accept for each of the things. Once the tokens become traded on exchange they will find their price equilibrium and then they can accept the equivalent number of tokens).

Will it be all smooth?

Definitely not. When things are distributed and decentralised they will not be smooth. They are not supposed to be? :P

But it makes sure that things are decentralised, community has a say, things are transparent and above all it makes the community resilient and make sure that it become sustainable in the long run.

Abrupt End

I have been thinking about this for quite some time. It has been a couple of months since I started this draft. It is not complete yet. But I will still publish it. I will keep updating this if I get any good feedback.

Copyrights for this post?

Do whatever you want with this. My only intention of writing this is to start some form of experimentation with cryptocurrencies to make open source sustainable. Drupal being one of the biggest open source projects today, is in a very good place to start this experimentation.

I hope this reaches the relevant people. If you like this idea and feel that it is something that we should try it out make sure it reached right people. This is just a start and I am sure that there are many great people in both Drupal and Steem who can take this to its logical end.

Tagging some people to whom you might reach out to take this forward.


  1. Andrew Levine



Gokul N K

Written by

Gokul N K

Inquisitive, Student, Teacher and a wanna be Story teller. Working on

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