Not a developer? Your skills are needed at Drupal community sprints!

01/13/2016 - 16:21 -- Kay V

Do you use the web frequently to get stuff done?
If so, you're the perfect contributor to the Drupal project. Desired qualifications include (insert all of your areas of expertise here, as well as that of friends and colleagues; after all, very little of our world is isolated from the web)! Your participation is much needed.

No exaggeration: your abilities and perspectives are key to the success of Drupal.
Take an example: having no experience with software development or with Drupal is in fact a rare and important qualification at Drupal community sprints. The fresh perspective it brings is, by definition, available only to the inexperienced, and the person who provides that perspective has a unique role in resolving some of the community's stickiest challenges. Each level of experience has its benefits, whether you're just getting started, have spent some time with Drupal or have been at it since the early years. Ultimately, the more diverse the backgrounds of people engaged in the project, the stronger the ever-changing product becomes.

Why not come to the next community sprint near you, or lend your energy and knowledge to one of the many working groups that meet regularly? Opportunities to team up with community members are almost endless, and experienced community members are quick to help you identify good entry points.

What good comes of your effort? What is really at stake?
Drupal 8 is now out. It offers vast improvements over previous versions of Drupal. However, much of its power is untappable at the moment for three primary reasons. First, contributed modules bring functionality that many websites can't launch without. The work on a large number of contributed modules is just getting underway. Adoption of Drupal 8 will only take off once more modules are ready. Second, Drupal core needs to continue improving to meet both known and new requirements. The effort around core is necessarily large and ongoing. It needs new contributors to keep momentum. Third, clear documentation on features and best practices is needed to enable the community's collaborative effort as well as to enable adoption. Other efforts need your attention to ensure Drupal's continued success, as well. Connect with community members for help discovering where your efforts will add value.

What value can you contribute if you're not a developer?
Here are a few areas where diverse perspectives lead to stronger outcomes. Ideally the list gets your own ideas flowing. Most of these efforts work best with pairs of people, especially of someone with experience and someone new:
- Team up to describe minimum requirements for software to translate your area of expertise to the web. How can Drupal help you and your partner help you complete tasks from your respective jobs? Only the folks who experience the need can provide many of the most vital details. The best descriptions are in plain English (not technical jargon), have a laser-like focus on minimum requirements, and are brief. Writing accurate requirements takes a skill that only comes with practice. Count on it being a bigger challenge than it seems, and bringing a lot of satisfaction as your abilities improve.
- Confirm that newly developed features work correctly and meet stated requirements. The effort to make sure all requirements are addressed is an enormous one, and its effectiveness improves as more people repeat what someone else has done. By convention, the Drupal community requires that someone write up this confirmation before the related work can be included in a release. Valuable work often sits for long periods waiting for just this effort, and it can be completed by virtually anyone.
- Help identify where users need control over settings and where controls can remain sparser and simpler. This effort requires careful thought and a good deal of imagination. It's best undertaken while the development process is underway, as a close collaboration between a developer and a partner.
- Transform an expert's description of how something works into words anyone will understand. As development and testing work reaches the point where code can be released, developers and testers are generally very close to the topic. Explaining it to someone with more distance, and ideally less expertise,

Only by leveraging a vast range of skills and viewpoints can the Drupal project advance.
The list of key skills needed in this effort goes well beyond code development. No matter your level of experience with Drupal, you most likely have insights and abilities that are desperately needed on the project. Some of the most valuable perspectives are from those who have no experience with Drupal at all.

How can you get started?
Sprints are among the most important opportunities to contribute, primarily for the opportunities they offer people with a range of skill-sets and perspectives to collaborate face-to-face. The last weekend of January 2016 is a Drupal Global Sprint. If you're in New England, you are invited to sign up to sprint in Boston that Saturday and Sunday.