Defending Drupal

The last 7 years of my life have been all WordPress, all the time. In that time we went from powering around 2 million sites to many tens of millions. Today, W3Techs says:

WordPress is used by 23.6% of all the websites, that is a content management system market share of 60.8%.

I wish that sentence had a semicolon instead of a comma, but wow. Drupal, by comparison:

Drupal is used by 2.0% of all websites, that is 5.1% of all the websites whose content management system we know.

Sometimes, people like to pit WordPress and Drupal against each other, as if we are fighting each other, rather than fighting proprietary software. At WordCamps, meetups, or any professional gathering where someone asks a question (or makes a snarky comment) about Drupal, I point out that we are far more similar than we are different. “Open source CMS built with PHP” describes us both, as does any description of the contributor model, or even the economic models — how many times have I heard Acquia is to Drupal as Automattic is to WordPress? (A lot.) We’ve even shared booth space at the OSCON expo.

To drive the point home I often say that if you were stuck in an elevator/sitting next to someone on a plane, how psyched would you be to be sitting next to a Drupal person, who would totally get all your references and be able to have a conversation you’d enjoy? That usually gets a nod or two. Because, yeah, we’re a bunch of open source geeks who care way too much about things like software licenses and commit status and number of props. We are, in short, both ridiculous in the grand scheme of things — we’re not curing cancer or ending world hunger. At best we are powering the websites of those who are, and if we ceased to exist tomorrow, it wouldn’t be the end of the world (just of us). But free software is awesome, so yay! Let’s all be friends!

At conferences, people sometimes have been confused if I’m hanging around with Amye or other Drupal women I know and like. They ask, “Aren’t you rivals?” And then we laugh at them. Cue the more-alike-than-different stuff.

So I was kind of bummed today after all those years of defending Drupal and claiming kinship to see it pissing* all over WordPress today. But I should backtrack.

For years, people in the WP community have wished there was a way to pay the more advanced contributors to work on core full-time. Sure, Automattic, 10Up, Human Made, and other companies have been contributing some people, but there are only so many donated employees a company can float. We all get that. For a while people talked about the WordPress Foundation as a way to pay people to work on stuff, but that didn’t wind up being possible. So when people started doing things like Jtrip’s Indiegogo, it was a natural evolution, though it seemed not very scalable.

So when I saw Ruby Together a few weeks ago, I thought it was amazing.

screenshot of

Then came the Drupal 8 fundraiser, and I thought that was pretty cool too. Matching donations and whatnot!

And then I saw this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.49.35 AM

I smiled, recognizing several people I quite like. But that one in the lower left, what?? I clicked through and saw this:

fundraising website for drupal 8 featuring a graphic of the Drupal logo peeing on the Joomla and WordPress logos

I was like, “What?”

Then I was like, “No, really, what?!”

I get it, this person thought this shirt from a previous Drupal event was funny and would fire people up to donate. But really?

That shirt is so completely tasteless I am horrified that the Drupal community endorses it.

And now we’re back to Drupal is pissing on WordPress.

I’ve given so many talks at WordCamps with a component about how it’s important to be nice, respectful, and welcoming — including the use of appropriate language and imagery — to the point that some people would really like to tell me to shut the fuck** up (or have!). I have extended that “let’s be nice” spiel to talking about Drupal multiple times. I would never design a tshirt that showed the W pissing on the Drupal (and I’ve designed a controversial WordCamp shirt or two in my time) because it’s not funny, it’s just tasteless and disrespectful. So that Drupal shirt makes me sad. I know that probably none of the people I know and like had a hand in making it. But it bums me out that as a community they seem to think it is okay, good even, if they’re willing to put it on the front page of the fundraiser.

“You can feel good about our project without putting down other projects, so let’s keep it clean.” I said something similar (s/our project/yourself) to my nieces and their friends when they were in 9th grade and had a habit of putting down other girls to feel better about themselves (as so many adolescents do). I hope more people will remember this in the future, and just because you can think of a snarky/sarcastic/mean/tasteless joke that elevates your side and pushes down the other doesn’t mean you should.

In any case, one person’s misstep shouldn’t be cause to demonize a whole project community. Assume good intentions. Reach out when something is awry instead of devolving into one-upmanship. Competition is healthy but there’s no reason to be jerks to each other. And also? Thinking there are sides is really silly. We’re all ridiculous open source CMS geeks. We’re all one side. Let’s stand together, y’all.

I’ve always hated the Calvin peeing stickers, and so has Bill Watterson.

** Profanity used intentionally to illustrate that it’s not appropriate language in a welcoming community.

28 thoughts on “Defending Drupal

  1. Yeah. The image is pretty nasty. It falls in the thoughtless tribalistic hatred category. I hope it gets pulled.

    > We’re all ridiculous open source CMS geeks. We’re all one side. Let’s stand together, y’all.

    That’s exactly why I’m heading to a Drupal meetup tomorrow. Don’t tell our boss. ;)

  2. Jen, as you know I have been using (and building with) Drupal far, far, far longer than WordPress. But at some point I got really tired of waiting for Drupal to release a better admin interface. I remember thinking over 2 years ago, “Drupal 8 is coming. I can’t wait.” Yet, it’s still not out.

    Both Drupal and WordPress have amazing, flexible, extensible frameworks. Both are awesome for building non-CMS applications on top of. But, when it comes down to actually using the admin interface, WordPress wins hands down. The end users I train on WordPress find the learning curve to be far easier than that of Drupal. This is quite different for developers who already know how to think in abstract terms.

    I still like Drupal and think it’s a great application framework and CMS, but I cringe whenever I think about trying to train an end user on the default Drupal admin UI. When I dug into this issue, I found a great team of folks working to improve it, but I also found a lot of differing opinions on what makes a good content admin UI and UX. It felt, to me, like the Drupal community lacked a strong leader in this department, and lots of well-meaning people were floundering about trying to fix the admin UI for Drupal 8. I have not looked recently, but can only hope they’ve figured it out so they can be as good as WordPress.

    I’m not a huge WordPress evangelist, but I do recognize its rapid adoption rate correlates directly to the ease-of-use that end users find when they first encounter it. This is something Drupal has never figured out, but I hope they do.

  3. I fell in love with WordPress in 2005, and have been paying the bills mostly with Drupal since 2010. While I recognize the depth that can come with picking one thing and focusing on it, I am thoroughly convinced that knowing the approach from one CMS makes me better at building things with the other. Each has its own philosophy, not to mention a past that it would like to shake off. (Drupal no longer has an unusable UI! WordPress is for far more than bloggers!)

    I’ve had to develop a bit of a thick skin when it comes to members of one of these communities criticizing the other. Some of it is constructive, and some of it is annoying gang mentality stuff like the piss stickers. Half the time it seems to be thoughtlessly rallying the team, and the other half is strongly opinionated people whose technical preferences somehow translate to disrespect for anybody who doesn’t share them. I hope communities will do whatever they can to discourage that behavior.

    I intentionally wear Drupal shirts to WordCamps, and WordPress shirts to DrupalCons. The last time I wore a WP shirt to DrupalCon, a stranger stopped me in the lobby just to thank me for coming. These communities have so much to learn from each other – hopefully they can do that with open minds.

  4. Hey, thanks a lot for the heads-up about this on Twitter. (By way of introduction to the WordPress community, I’m a Drupal core committer, Drupal Association board member, Acquian, among other various hats. Hi there!)

    I want to voice my 500% agreement with your post. I greatly admire the WordPress software and community, and I’ve had nothing but fantastic interactions with WP folks. Our projects do indeed share a ton in common, including our joint combined open source PHP super powers.

    Just to provide a bit of an explanation here (*not* to make excuses, but to provide some context), the D8 Accelerate fundraiser is set up on the platform. This platform was chosen because it allows not just “official” DA board members to raise funds, but literally anyone in the Drupal community can create their own fundraising page to help with the effort (similar to how e.g. Movember works). This makes a ton of sense “in theory,” given how many hundreds of local community leaders and company owners and etc. that we have around the world.

    So I want to clarify that the person with the offensive image in question is *not* a DA board member, or representing Drupal in *any* official way. He is a Drupal community member who started their own page under the larger D8 Accelerate fundraising banner.

    I reached out to him via Twitter to ask him to change the image, and referred him back to this post. My sincere hope is that he’ll read this and realize the adverse impacts it had, and change the picture himself (ideally, along with an apology). If that doesn’t happen, we can pursue other measures. I completely agree this should be a pro-Drupal 8 page, not an anti-anything else page.

  5. My apologies for the mess created. It was just a joke. It’s not about the platform or the community. Not even a moment was my intention to offend by using that picture. I was really surprise to read your post. I never thought it could be offensive as I saw it as a joke. My bad :(

    As I understand from your post, you feel the rivalry it’s not related to that t-shirt picture only, but it’s something that confirmed some sides stories that you tried to defend. I can assure you that most of the people in the Drupal community know and/or use WordPress, including myself, and that none of us has something against a certain platform that we build with, or any platform for that matter. My opinion is that even those who did that t-shirt had nothing evil or bad in mind. I will finish by saying sorry again and adding that, people who ask if Drupal and WordPress are rivals don’t understand technology or communities.

    I definitely didn’t want to make it personal and I changed the picture right away. I hope we can end the controversy here and we can show that it’s not about hate or rivals in open source but about the love of open technologies.

    It would be nice to have a coffee together @ one of the WordPress or Drupal events some day, and smile about it all…

    • Thanks for taking it down! My main point is that images like that (or cetain jokes, memes, whatever) may seem funny from one person’s perspective, but from other points of view it’s mean and vulgar, a couple of qualities that tend to proliferate on their own without help from people who have the ability to make jokes and images that don’t hit below the belt. :)

    • Yes, but the Streisand Effect doesn’t apply here. My post wasn’t trying to censor or hide the fact that the image was used, it was trying to raise awareness and sensitivity so that people would avoid using images like that in the future. So the post did exactly what it was meant to do.

      • “… the Streisand Effect doesn’t apply here”, umm yes it does, in a way, you know what I mean. “… so that people would avoid using images like that in the future”.

        If you’re trying to get people to stop using it (especially when ‘IT’ occurs so very rarely sometimes/often brings more attention to ‘it’ than had ‘it’ been left to die a slow, unpublicised death.

        Don’t get me wrong, child porn and school yard bullying should never be left to roam the internet unchallenged but a tongue in cheek image about 2 pieces of software… I reckon most people on here wouldn’t have known about it had you not posted it.

  6. Profanity is just words,the context and emotion behind them and the way they are received is what gives meaning to those words.People really need to chill out a bit and relax.

    WordPress can be welcoming and swear or produce controversial clothing a the same time.The two things are not mutually exclusive and depend on perception for meaning.

    • Perception is subjective, and if we have the power to choose words and images that don’t carry potential aggression, hurt, or other insensitivity (we are generally a bunch of privileged, educated people with decent vocabularies, after all) then why wouldn’t we unless we cared so little about the feelings of others that we thought a word or two was more important than someone’s feelings? That would be a pretty sucky attitude. I vote empathy.

  7. Thanks for stepping up Jen!

    WordPress and Drupal are the top 3 Open Source CMS systems, together with Joomla. I am active in the Joomla CMS Open Source community and I do not like it if people bash other Open Source projects. I have friends who use WordPress, and we sometimes tease each other a bit about our different choice of CMS. But we do it respectfully among friends.

    Open source projects can benefit much from each other and work together.

    Just think about the XML-RPC Denial Of Service vulnerability of last year. Both WordPress and Drupal were affected, but the two projects worked together and created a security fix & coordinated their communication about it.

    Or CMS Garden, an initiative to have all open source content management systems together with a shared booth. I helped out in 2013 and met very nice volunteers from various Open Source CMS. We shared our knowledge about the similarities & differences between software, the distribution, extensions, the organizations and the communities.

    To read more about this cooperation between Open Source CMS projects, please see my blog post: or

  8. Great article, great point. I too find myself head to head with Drupal followers, on occasion. But it almost always stems from a misunderstanding of what each CMS is, and that they ‘re so similar! I’ve gotten the classic, “WordPress, oh that’s nice for blogging” spiel from a Drupal friend of mine. But in the end, we both need to calm down, and realize we may not know enough about the rival to make any judgment calls.

    …then we play ping-pong, have a beer, and keep on keepin on with our development :)

  9. Jen, the fact that you want them not to use this kind of imagine in the future is still censoring. It is Streisand effect even if this was not your intention. You “unintendedly publicized the information more widely, on the internet” (WIKI’s half of definition)… and might transform also in the self-fulfilling prophecy. :)

    We all heard about Charlie Hebdo. Now, I really understand why people can get upset about some cartoons… I find it strange that you feel something so strong about it… and neither do I understate webchick’s reaction that ended with censoring a cartoon.

    Anyway, very good initiative Drupal! I will also donate some money. Anyone wanna join me?

  10. FWIW, here is a brief summary of the Drupal vs. WordPress war that went on within Occupy Wall Street. In October of 2011, a group of us launched a WordPress Multisite, that used BuddyPress in 10 days of feverish work. We got 3 million visits in the first couple of weeks and we had over 9,000 registered users in 100 Working Groups (each BuddyPress Group had a specific focus, e.g. tech, artists, labor, former securities exchange commission employees, etc.) Each Group had their own shared calendar, discussion forum and shared documents. With Multisite we were able to centralize the work to manage plugins and similar things, while we could support the decentralized management of content in BuddyPress Groups and related blogs.

    Then, Sam Boyer led a Group of Drupal developers to frighten less technical occupiers into thinking that WordPress would not scale to meet the needs of the movement. We had already done load balancing across 4 servers with 16 GB of RAM on each. Nonetheless, within a few weeks, word spread that the WordPress installation was going to be replaced by a “much better” Drupal system. This resulted in a rapid decrease of interest in volunteering to help maintain a system that was planned to be taken down and unnecessary divisiveness within the Group. At the time, I used a pot luck dinner as a metaphor for what had happened. It was as if the WordPress people began planning a big potluck dinner and finished making the appetizers before anyone else had even gotten started delivering anything. The Drupal people could have made some soup (or anything else that was needed). But instead, their message was: “We can make much better appetizers than you, so we’re telling people to not eat your appetizers. You may as well throw away your appetizers.”

    The WordPress site remained in operation for almost two years and was actively used during Occupy Sandy (the hurricane) one year after the initial occupation. The Drupal people never delivered anything during that time (that I ever heard about anyone using).

    That said, I do think that Drupal used in the right context is a powerful and valuable technology. It’s not the code that’s the problem, it’s some of the people!

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