Joining a new Community (Part One)

Back when I first came across Drupal, one of the main points that kept me involved with it was the open source nature of the Drupal platform. Even more appealing was the community driving the progression of Drupal. It only takes a few moments on Drupal.org to see the large number of user contibuted modules and themes to expand Drupal. I saw myself many years down the road as one of the many contributors to Drupal. Maybe a custom module or theme, maybe someday if I got really good at programming, a patch to Drupal core. This of course was something I saw as a distant goal, years down the road. Then again, it may not be so distant after all.

Is it possible for someone new to Drupal, or just web development in general, to contribute to the Drupal project? Absolutely, and it is easier than you may think. I always envisioned the Drupal contributors as the hardcore nerds who have been working with Drupal and PHP since it's early days. Of course that demographic is accounted for among the Drupal contributors, but by and far it is not the only one. Sadly, this mindset also kept me from exploring the fact that nearly anyone can start contributing to Drupal regardless of experience. In fact, for someone just starting out, jumping into contributing is a great way to gain deeper knowledge of Drupal itself. I'd like to direct your attention to this section of the drupal.org website. It is specifically meant for new contributors to Drupal. There are different categories of tasks available to cover all types of skill sets. Don't know how to program in PHP, no problem, grab a documentation issue and go to town. Reading through documentation (it's not as boring as it sounds) not only improves your knowledge of Drupal and development topics but also allows you the chance to give back to the community at the same time. If you see something erroneous with the documentation, fix it. Have you been learning to code but aren't quite ready to submit your own patch, review someone elses code, test it out, re-roll it if need be. There is even a section for novice related code issues that are best suited for those still learning. The more you poke around d.o then the more you realize that it truly is a bastion of knowledge at your disposal.

The best part about this is that the Drupal community is extremely tolerant of beginners, welcoming even. Don't understand a module or the best way to use its functionality, leave a comment. Don't understand why someone wrote a patch the way they did, leave a comment. Whatever the issue is, just ask and you will most likely get at least one if not many responses. IRC is also heavily used by the Drupal community, check out this list of Drupal themed channels, hop on there and ask a question whenever you need to.

For a long time, as I was teaching myself Drupal, I didn't bother to ever look into these resources. I realize now how foolish that was, I was basically shooting myself in the foot and hindering my own progress moving forward. Drupal is maintained and pushed forward by a community. To ignore that community goes against everything Drupal is. If you are new to Drupal, go to d.o and explore. It is certainly not just for downloading modules and themes. I think you will be surprised at the many ways you can start interacting with the community and as I'll go into in the next part of this post, how those interactions can make you want to push even harder to become a better developer.

About the Author

John Cunningham

I joined the U.S. Marine Corp at the age of 17. I served for five years part of which fell during Operation Enduring Freedom. Following the Marines, I attended the university of Central Florida and received my Bachelors of Science in Biology.

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