Chris Luckhardt is a familiar face in the North American Drupal scene. An active member of the Toronto Drupal community and a frequent attender of camps, meet-ups, conventions, and more, Chris is a Drupal master in many ways, and an expert in others.
“I’m a Drupal specialist and I do photography on the side,” Chris says of himself. “I tend to do a lot of everything, which is why I call myself a specialist — because I specialize in different elements of Drupal. My favorite areas of Drupal are site building, dev-ops, and front-end development, and I do a lot of agile and scrum project management."
An Industry Veteran
Chris began his Drupal journey with Drupal 6, back in 2008. He’d already worked in web technology for a while, like with Microsoft's proprietary ASP and C#, dabbled in open source products like PHP, and worked with Linux, Apache, and mySQL.
“I knew that open source values aligned very well with my personal philosophies,” Chris said. “I’d worked on some proprietary software, and by the time I’d finished one particularly bad DotNetNuke project I decided I was going to move on in my career and go totally open source. Around that time, Drupal 6 came out and it coincided with a DrupalCamp Toronto event that was happening. It must have been Toronto's third or fourth DrupalCamp. James Walker, who had a hand in forming the Toronto Drupal group, was there, and I talked to him about what I was looking for in an open source solution to work with. He said, 'yeah this is the right option based on everything you’ve told me,’ and that was how I got started. I’ve considered him a mentor for years.
“I took the time to learn Drupal properly,” Chris continued. “I went to a few Lullabot workshops back in the day, took on some projects, and the rest is history. We all started at one point,” he said of his fellow Drupal users.
“For me, learning things the Drupal way was the biggest challenge, as opposed to coming in and doing some PHP coding. What helped me learn — and what helps me to this day — is the user group meetings. I think by far being involved in the community is the most important thing. It's the gateway — asking questions and seeing presentations is really valuable. Of course, the issue queue is the best way to self-learn, but in my opinion the best learning happens from talking to people, because someone has stumbled across your problem before."
Drupal: Powered by People
When it comes to that community, Chris is concerned about how to grow it both locally and globally. “We have a very specific problem here in Toronto, but I think everyone has dealt with it too. We have a batch of old-school Toronto Drupal user group members who date back to 05-08, and we have an influx of new people. This means we have a set of introductory and beginner users — you know, people who come in like, “what’s a Drupal?” — and then we have the advanced users branching into all sorts of wild territory with Drupal.
"It’s hard to cater to both groups in one meet-up and even at our DrupalCamps that we plan every year. We recognize, if we try to cater to the introductory users we’ll turn away the advanced users, and they won’t be interested in coming out, but if we do really advanced sessions and training at our meet-ups, the new people show up and they won’t have any idea what’s going on.
“Between James and myself, we decided to address the problem by doing an introductory presentation and then a more advanced presentation during our meetups. For bigger events, it’s a little different. I created the schedule at the last DrupalCamp, and I engineered it so that there would be enough difference between overlapping session timeframes that it would work to the benefit of both the introductory and the advanced attendees…though unfortunately there's not much middle ground."
Linguistic Barriers to Entry
Chris’ other observation about problems with growing Drupal is the language barrier. “I was presenting at a DrupalCamp in Kyoto, and someone raised his hand and said, 'I want to learn Drupal, but I don’t understand Views. How do I learn it?’ So I told him that there are tons of tutorials on YouTube, and he responded, 'But...they are all English.' It occurred to me that those videos show you what to do, but if you don’t understand the spoken information -- why would I click this button, why would I do that -- the vocalization aspect is incredibly important. So there’s a real serious lack of Japanese documentation for people to learn Drupal— and not just Japanese, other languages, too. There’s some work being done by the Japanese community organizers around translating some of the books, like Emma Jane and Angie’s books, so it’s a start.
“So, the biggest challenge I see with Drupal and Drupal.org is how to manage the education… And, actually, sometimes I feel bad about calling myself a Drupal master because the learning curve never stops. It only becomes less dramatic with years of experience."
To see how we plan to address some of the challenges Chris has identified, keep an eye out for conclusion to our Personas series, or look at the results of the user research we’ve performed on Drupal.org.