About Me: 

Hello, my name is Riaan Burger, from Johannesburg, South Africa. After training in the sciences and mathematics,  I became a teacher, a developer and an entrepreneur.  I also ran a series of Goth and darkside nightclubs, building online social platforms for the communities, first as extensions to phpBB, then as a custom CMS.  But soon I became convinced that Drupal’s code base was the best on the market.  Demand has evolved my one-man company, Burtronix, to where it is today, with ten programmers. We have a flat structure and all work from home, focusing on quality, security and open source (all on Linux). What we love best is being super-productive through innovation. The Drupal project and community are a perfect fit for us; we see Drupal as human-scale software that brings people together and serves diverse and interesting communities.

I'm also the person who built TopDrops.org and ModuleCharts.org over two Christmas weekends in 2014 and 2015.

Board meeting attendence: 
Have you served on a board or committee?: 
If so, tell us about it.: 
Drupal Association South Africa (DASA) board from inception. Travelled the country initiating/facilitating regular meet-ups in all major centres. Steering committee for DrupalCamps in Southern Africa. Condominium/Sectional Title management boards for estates of 300+ housing units. Management boards of clubs and concert promoters for acts touring South Africa.
What perspective will you bring to the board when discussing strategic topics?: 
As an experienced developer in open source software; as a small business owner for two decades; and as someone away from the mainstream, involved in promoting Drupal in new and emerging regional markets, I bring a broad and holistic perspective to strategic discussions. I also have considerable experience in fund raising and sponsor management. I am rigorous in drawing up and managing budgets; delivering value to sponsors and participants; securing work flows to ensure wide participation and avoid any one sponsor taking over an event at the expense of smaller sponsors. In this way, I have helped promote the Drupal project and brand as something valuable, people oriented and inclusive. This inclusivity chimes with my philosophy of turning a little money into a lot of value. I see fund raising as one of my most important priorities, to grow the community and to help stabilise the Drupal Association’s budget.
What existing board topics are you most passionate about? and why?: 
Sustainability Doing more with less can pay great dividends. I want to enhance the work the Drupal Association does: the community-made tool sets and work flows, documentation and other reference materials have supported many developers and users over the years. Now I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the high level work of strategy and implementation. It was Drupal’s code base that first convinced me but it is these things that have retained me and the many people that form our community. In transforming the financial management of DASA, we have been able to confirm that all activities have remained within budget and now also that financial discipline have been maintained. I will always rely on the expertise of professionals but am also a firm believer that financial health begins at home, and to this end I am on familiar terms with all the Drupal Association financial publications. Growing Drupal & moving forward We should all see ourselves as mentors. Inspiring one person can be immediately beneficial; mentoring a group and uplifting them has knock-on effects that can benefit whole regions - even continents. My hope for Africa (and I am sure this will resonate in other parts of the world) is three-fold: to continue and enhance the supply of our easily referenced documentation and standardised, freely available, community-supporting work flows (see my remarks below); to enable local communities to bootstrap themselves, by providing off-line solutions, alternatives and supporting material they can use to organise and grow in their unique and diverse markets; to have their contributions further recognised on Drupal.org by building out the programmatic work flows and automation of the site and by enhancing easy community participation for remote members through upgrades to groups.Drupal.org. DrupalCon - Because of distances and costs, DrupalCon events are often inaccessible from many parts of the world. The recordings and associated information generated by DrupalCon are great resources but we can expand on this. Two ways that spring to mind are sub-titles (this may lead to there being a module for that); and better indexing and centralisation of the videos on Drupal.org. I look forward to discussions on how we can bring DrupalCon to more people in better ways.
What additional strategic topics would you like to introduce?: 
Open Source Advocate I am an open source radical: we understand the need for some closed source components but in most situations I advocate maintaining as open an environment as possible - hence Linux over Mac OS and Windows; LXC/D over VMs or Docker; Mattermost over Slack; GitLab over GitHub, Drupal.org over GitHub etc. and even GPL over BSD licensing. In short, I am passionate about matters of software licensing and community open (libre) freedom. Disclaimer - While these are my personal convictions, my management style is consultative and I am always fully committed to whatever decision is made by my peer group. Practical Missionary Work Problem - South Africa is in the unique position of being both a developed and a developing country economically and technologically. We have insight into both “first world" issues and the struggles of the newly empowered. In countries with poorer infrastructure, bandwidth constraints can prevent you, for instance, from managing your site with GitHub; because of power shortages, people often have to meet physically to swap source code. Solution - A program to supply Drupal.org and other source, documentation, video tutorials and DrupalVM on USB - sent by sneakernet. This has the potential to convert a lot of minds to our ecosystem while the various countries bring their infrastructures up to date to support this nascent Drupal industry. The costs would be small and so long as guidance is provided by the Association local sponsorship and innovation should be able to ensure sustainable expansion in a market with the biggest growth potential.
What unique skills would you bring to the board?: 
Among all the other talented and insightful individuals in the Drupal community, I feel that I have a rare skill set, combining programming, financial and people management and communication skills with multiculturalism and understanding of different environments. My leadership style is thoughtful, consultative and flexible but incisive, and I lead by example. People and diversity are the stuff of life; you are not just a programmer or administrator - and it is the person behind that I want to know.
How have your past contributions to Drupal prepared you for board candidacy?: 
I have been involved in Drupal for many years. From an ad hoc user group meet-up I motivated and led the formation of DASA (Drupal Association South Africa), with public elections and term limits. The group ethos was to be as inclusive and diverse as possible, and to give more than to take. We facilitated many meet-ups and DrupalCamps in South Africa, and the community here remains healthy. I am also the managing owner of a successful small(-ish) but diverse web development company with good financials.
Why should we vote for you?: 
With my broad and deep skill set and the enthusiasm and motivation I bring to everything, I feel that I can not only help sustain the Drupal project going forward but also make a real contribution to broadening and enhancing it. That said, I urge everyone, regardless of whether you vote for me or not, to make an informed choice: read all the profiles - and vote with conviction. Your active participation in the process can only strengthen the community.

Questions for the Candidate

chuta’s picture

I have no doubt at all, seeing your passion and love for The Drupal Community as demonstrated in your input in establishing Drupal User group in South Africa. Defintly you have what it takes to influence stuff in the right derection for us for Africa. However i will like to know what you intend do to draw a much desired attention of the Drupal Community towards Africa. We have peculier circumstances that erns us special attention. Please share.

Riaan Burger’s picture

Hello Chuta,

Thank you very much for your kind words.

You in particular and the folks in Nigeria opened my eyes to a whole lot of the unique challenges faces by African users of Drupal. South Africa can feel  very well developed at times and when we had power outages of 4 to 8 hours a day about twice a week for a few months, it was really just a tiny inconvenience compared to Nigeria where that may be the only amount of time you have power for if you do not run your own generators at great expense.

It also surprised me to hear that tools like hosted git repositories are often considered more as a (too expensive) backup tool rather than as source revision control or as part of a deployment work-flow. Without such work-flows it will be tough for small businesses and individuals to compete and we need to figure out ways to address this and then document it well on Drupal.org.

The Facebook page you guys maintain for Drupal in Nigeria inspire your local community. I'm not big on social media, what with one YouTube video now and perhaps two Twitter posts, but when I do visit Facebook I always see some decent interaction on the Nigerian page. I feel we may be missing such things on Drupal.org, but also feel strongly that we need to match user profiles with the actual content on Drupal.org where we can then recognise it. Perhaps as a cross-post field, so that you can post on Groups.Drupal.org and link to a Facebook post. In such recognition on Drupal.orgwe can help leadership groups form in Africa and support them.

We need to become more aware of the particular ancillary challenges to adoption in the empowering world and while some may be particular to Africa, many may be shared. Perhaps somehow some of this need to be unsiloed (brought out of the groups silos and into more shared space) from Groups.Drupal.org into something like the Documentation pages. I'm not sure yet, because such pages can be tough to maintain by a community, but I'll definitely continue to consider options and input!

It is important that we get Africa to bootstrap, with assistance in planning and Drupal.org infrastructure where possible. Some innovative thinking will have to go into addressing this for regions with poor infrastructure to help the talent grow while the governments build what will surely be a more supporting online business ecosystem in the next decade.

Kind regards,

Ballo’s picture

During a moment of crisis in 2015 I contacted the Drupal Community in South Africa for urgent assistance. Riaan came to the rescue and we have since struck up a fantastic working relationship. He is the champion of the underdog who is willing to take on projects (like mine) that don't necessarily bring the biggest monetary rewards. He is always willing to go the extra mile for his clients and friends. I can't think of a better candidate to join the Board!

Riaan Burger’s picture

Thank you very much for the comment Ballo. I have to confess that I also really enjoyed the nature and subject matter of your project, your rich understanding of it and the exciting way in which you share your knowledge. Ballo is a historian, custodian of African heritage and a community leader in his own field.

ChristopherK’s picture

During all my interactions with Riaan, I am always in awe of the knowledge and fervour he has for Drupal and Open Source as a whole. Having the privilege to work with him on a project in 2015 exposed me to the elegant manner in which he approaches solutions using Drupal.

He has an immense understanding of Open Source and Privacy, which is always at the forefront of his interactions with others and is clear in his approach to solutions. His ‘no shortcuts, always do it the right way’ attitude is exactly what we need to ensure that Drupal as a whole remains the solid platform it has evolved into. I believe that Riaan would make an outstanding addition to Board.

Scheepers de Bruin’s picture

Knowing Riaan since Drupalcon Paris leaves me with no doubt that this man has the Drupal community foremost at heart and is a champion for the people within this community.

Having had the privilege to work with him these past few months has been an incredible journey of discovery, learning and frankly leaves me in awe at how calm, competent and objective Riaan manages to approach every challenge and situation.

Riaan would be an outstanding asset and a boon to the board.

Riaan Burger’s picture

Hey ChristopherK! Thank you man - yes, I miss you so far away and also miss having worked together. We should really make a plan again. You and your whole team are amazing people to work with. Maybe with the "better" weather (I like the rain, wind and cold) coming in winter to Cape Town I'll come for a visit.

I really also appreciate other developers such as yourself who recognise those values. We are the custodians of people's private information and it comes with a lot of responsibility and we are the ones who understand the technical intricacies of our clients' products, so it is our responsibility to plan ahead, do things right and keep security and technical debt in mind and in check.

Riaan Burger’s picture

Hello Scheepers. Oh Paris! That was a very enjoyable DrupalCon, especially since such a large contingent of people from around here went in a group and spent a week before exploring the place. Always feel a bit odd replying to you in English when we share a common first language. Baie dankie vir jou wonderlike persoonlikheid en vriendskap!

markpape’s picture

Riaan has been instrumental in igniting Drupal meet-ups in Durban in the last year, a process which i have been privileged to be involved in. 

I concur with others here, Riaan's enthusiasm, knowledge and dedication to Drupal and the Open Source community would be invaluable.

JimmyReload’s picture

I've known Riaan for a quite a while now (12+ years) and he was the person who originally introduced me to Drupal all those years ago. Through multiple projects I learned that his understanding of the web and Drupal in general truely is remarkable. In that time I've also been witness to the evolution of his company Burtronix into what it is today, run entirely on open source software. I also witnessed the creation of the Drupal Association of South Africa, in which I'm led to believe Riaan was fundamental to its success. I therefore feel that he'd be an outstanding addition to the international Association board of directors.

Riaan Burger’s picture

Hey markpape, I seem to click all the wrong reply links, see my reply to you below.

Riaan Burger’s picture

markpape continues to man the Durban Drupal meet-ups and it's been more than a year since I was there to help start one up. I look forward to visiting again this year and, if there's a spot open for me, to speak, maybe about gpg git singing while maintaining a good git history and with signed merge commits too.

Riaan Burger’s picture

Hmm, no, it appears the reply links may be messed up.

Riaan Burger’s picture

JimmyReload! Great to see you here you super silent person on Drupal.org you. JR is the man that got me to migrate from Windows to Linux (earlier years was Mac and then pre-PC computers) and as a security researcher always kept asking the right questions as I learned. From far away London, we envy each others' weather and we were friends already for years when we adopted Drupal in the Drupal 4 era.

eddiehat’s picture

We run an NGO that supports music professionals across the African continent by providing free information, knowledge and opportunities  for them to exchange and collaborate. Our Drupal-powered portal is at the heart of all of this. Unfortunately we had a terrible start into Drupal. Long story short - the company that developed our initial portal left it in a huge mess.  We feel privileged to have met Riaan and his team at Burtronix in South Africa at a time when we were  hopeless and seriously considering changing the CMC altogether.  His service has been amazing. In a few months website performance improved by over 80% and our traffic has grown by over 300%  in the past year.  At the moment Riaan and his team are wrapping up a massive revamp of our site.  No doubt this is going to  transform our business. I have to say, however - what I really like about Riaan and his team is the culture of care, respect, professionalism and passion for Drupal and their clients that is so evident in everything they do.

Riaan Burger’s picture

While this does sound like a business endorsement, and it is that too, it is also very mush a Drupal community matter. Eddie and his team at Music in Africa sourced Drupal talent from across Africa and make a concerted effort to touch the lives of many people throughout the continent. Their work supporting grass-roots music talent (not just the musicians either, but the whole musical ecosystem) and highlighting culturally unique artists and even musical instruments (running workshops in the making and maintenance of such) gives me and many more people insight to so many countries and encourages us to deliver on the Drupal supporting infrastructure to their work. This is the perfect example of how Drupal is social software. Of course their NPO, Music in Africa and the Goethe Institut also sponsored our last DrupalCamp Gauteng in 2016 with a great venue! Thank you Eddie!

Wayne Oliver’s picture

I have known Riaan for probably 4 years already... Time sure does fly.
Having met him at time (at a meetup) when I was taking over messy drupal projects that left a bas taste in my mouth. 

He was one of the people that helped restore my faith in the platform and basically kept me in work within the drupal community for almost 2 years.

We also worked together on a talk for drupal camp 2015 in Cape Town. 

Still have those slides?

In closing I can't think of anyone else with such enthusiasm for drupal. Forward / out of the box thinking FTW.



Riaan Burger’s picture

Wayne is one of those systems administrators that you can talk to about anything Linux and he will both understand what you are talking about and always have some new methods to add to enhance your work-flows and skills. I mean everything, from basic desktop stuff to multi-server fail-over hosting and massive scaling. His friendly nature means he migrates easily between expert positions, so forms a community back-channel of communication bringing together clusters of usually company siloed people both at Drupal user group meet-up and in general life. Thank you for the comment Wayne!