Welcoming people to Drupal's diverse and inclusive community

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The importance of welcoming people to the Drupal community

Our meetups and in-person interactions are where we welcome and include new people in our community. Of course, people come and go from every community; new faces bring new ideas and innovations.

Everyone has a story about the first person they met in the Drupal community.

At the beginning of DrupalCon Nashville at the Community Summit, someone told a story of how they attended a meetup and literally no one talked to them or even really acknowledged their presence. As a result, the individual never returned to that meetup. Organizers of meetups absolutely need to make a concerted effort to make sure that everyone who attends is - minimally - welcomed and acknowledged - that is community-building 101. This story really sat with me because it made me question whether I’m doing enough at the local NYC Drupal Meetup to make people feel welcomed and included.

Remembering who welcomed me to the Drupal community

I ran into Robbie Holmes (robbiethegeek) at DrupalCon and standing in exhibition hall, we reminisced about how he was the first person who welcomed me to the Drupal community. An interesting fact about our relationship is that we grew up around the corner from each other in Brooklyn and knew the same people, but met for the first time in the Drupal community. For many years, Robbie, with the help of others in the community, would always offer to split off from the general, sometimes very technical discussion, to offer a newbie discussion where people new to Drupal can ask them anything and get help. To date, Alexander Ross (bleen) was initiating these discussions at the NYC Drupal Meetup, but it is not reasonable to expect one person to be responsible for welcoming people to the Drupal community.

We all need to start welcoming people to our community.

So, I am going to commit to helping ensure that our "Welcome to Drupal” discussion happens at every local NYC Drupal meetup and make sure that I am not doing it alone. Luckily, I have plenty of friends in the NYC Drupal community who would be okay missing one or two discussions to help me welcome people to our community.

What are three immediate things I can do at the NYC Drupal meetup to welcome people

As many people know, I have included the Contribute module's message into the Webform module and even have a few slides about "How can you contribute to the Webform module & Drupal?" in my DrupalCon Presentation titled "Webform: There is this for that". After my experience at the Community Summit and several great conversations with people at the conference, I decided to step back from the Contribute module's message and think about what is the most important thing that needs to be said to people new to Drupal. At 5 AM, the day of my presentation, I decided to include the below animated slide, which starts off with saying "Hi". BTW, please read my last blog to understand why I feel saying "Hi' is important.

Hi! Welcome to our diverse & inclusive community! How can we help you? Here is how you can get involved.

Welcome to our diverse & inclusive community!

In addition to saying the oh-so-important “hi”, including the words, diverse and inclusive, when we welcome people and in our software's user experience could have a profound impact. It will definitely distinguish us from other communities. The reality is that these are just two extra words being added to our greeting, and we need to follow-up these words with real actions and meaning. We need to take it one step further.

How can we help you?

Saying "How can we help you?" is the easiest most direct way to break the ice and make someone feel comfortable and welcomed. It’s akin to saying, “hey, you matter and you have value.” Robbie and Alex are role models for the best approach to welcome people to a meetup, which is to say that we are hear to listen to the problems and challenges that you face and want to help you find solutions.

Here is how you can get involved

The 'Getting Involved' section on Drupal.org does a great job of welcoming people and directing them to all the different ways to get contribute.

As an open source project, we don’t have employees to provide Drupal improvements and support. We depend on our diverse community of passionate volunteers to move the project forward by working on not just web development and user support, but also many other contributions and interests (such as marketing, organizing user groups and camps, speaking at events, maintaining documentation and helping to review issues).

At Drupal meetups, I think there is specific opportunity to grow our communities diversity of speakers and presenters at local meetups, and even at DrupalCon by encouraging and helping people put together a presentation and practice public speaking. I really enjoy seeing people presenting what they are working on and/or what they love about Drupal. I personally remember that nervous shaky feeling of getting up in front of a group of people and giving my first case study presentation about Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. At the same time, I have seen the professional value of public speaking, and how valuable it is to have this noted on my resume and personal website. Including a bullet point on your resume that says you presented at local Drupal Meetup says so much to a potential employer, starting immediately with the fact that you are more than just a coder and you participate in the software community. The ability to communicate with others is key to growing and developing any community. Drupal is not an exception to this fundamental rule - no organization is. And it can only enhance what we have created to date.

Closing thoughts

Open Source has proven it can redefine how software is built and it has resulted in redefining how online communities collaborate. Now it’s time to make certain that everyone is invited, able, and comfortable enough to join our communities and even make them comfortable standing up and presenting in front of their fellow developers and get involved in our community.

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