Technical Lessons Learned: The Day We Fight Back

holly.ross.drupal's picture

There certainly was a lot of discussion generated by's participation in TheDayWeFightBack. I did want to report that the campaign did a great job, generating over 180,000 emails and nearly 90,000 phone calls to the American Congress on the issue.

I really appreciated the comments and wanted to follow up on just two aspects of the discussion:

The technical implementation of the banner
The Association's messaging about the initial discussion

Because what's done is done, and because the Association would not participate in any movement like this without a discussion with the community, I want to avoid the politics here and NOT discuss whether or not can/should be engaged in political endeavors. I'd like to take that up elsewhere.

So let me share a little of my personal perspective, and then I would love to hear more from you so that we can do better in the next scenario where these kinds of issues get raised (which may or may not be a political action).

The Association's management of the initial discussion
When the campaign was first brought to our attention on staff, I took it to the board to learn about's history in political issues and get a gut check about this one. We decided to take the issue to the community for discussion. Staff agreed that the Association group was the appropriate place to post, and followed that up with posts on the DA and Drupal twitter feeds as well as the Drupal Facebook page. We encouraged staff and commenters to share on social media as well.

I heard feedback that this discussion was missed by many, and I absolutely want to make sure that when we have critical discussions, they get in front of as many people as possible. SO - where else should we cross post? What else should we be doing?

Technical implementation of the banner
One of our initial concerns, raised in the discussion thread, was that we had no idea what the banner might look like, what information it might collect, or how that information might be stored. I heard a ton of feedback about the intrusiveness of the banner and that, when coupled with the ask for information, how it seemed like the site had been hacked.

It's certainly POSSIBLE that we could have altered the code prior to launch, that just really wasn't on our radar as an option for participation. But we learned that lesson. So if you have additional feedback about what feels acceptable to you and what does not, I would love to hear it.

Thanks again for all the constructive help on these specific matters - we are really grateful that this community is so supportive and helpful.


As far as notification of the

Jaypan's picture

As far as notification of the discussion, the News and Announcements section of the forums on d.o. seems like a bare minimum, due to the name of the forum. People expect to get relevant news and announcements there. An announcement was made regarding the campaign after the campaign was live, so obviously someone thought that forum had relevance, but no post was made regarding the campaign before that point in time. As such, some members of the community who generally stay on d.o had no idea of the campaign, and there were a few comments from people who thought d.o. had been hacked.

As for implementation, anything like that needs to be tested out in the future before usage. There were some serious issues with the ux:
* bugs on some platforms
* the popup, even when closed, covered some buttons preventing site functionality
* the popup would not stay closed after being closed
* there was no way to permanently remove the popup
* there was no link in the popup to explain what the relevance to Drupal was, furthering the feeling of d.o. being hacked
* the popup covered a significant portion of the screen - on my iphone it was over 80%. On a PC it was a good 1/3.
* slow loading for the popup

In the future if there are to be campaigns like this, I think that we should require full control over the UX. Any campaign should be thankful for Drupal participation, with more than 1million users on d.o. In turn, they should respect that we need to have our own UX to prevent issues like the ones we faced with this one. In all honesty, their coding was sloppy, and it led to frustration with users.

Only local images are allowed.

Front page?

Riaan Burger's picture

If the banner are to appear on the front page, would a block asking if we would participate also on the front page be feasible?

I should really follow the news and announcements forum, but do not. I get my Drupal news from The Daily Drop which would have probably picked up the news from the Drupal Planet. In this case, I happen to have been subscribed to the GDo group.


WorldFallz's picture

I agree with what jay posted 110%... there's not much more I can add.

Also, based on a post in the other thread, I think we have to keep in mind that linux podcasts, twitter, and facebook hardly qualify as news. I find that frequent users of social networking sometimes forget there's still a sizeable population of folks that don't use it every single day... and some not at all.

I make a point to be aware of current news and events and for whatever reason I hadn't heard a word about this. Contrast that with SOPA which I had known about almost from the beginning.

And the implementation was horrid-- at the time I originally only had access to via an ipad and smart phone-- both of which were rendered useless by this pop-up (crashed on almost every. single. pageload.).

I can only imagine what a first time visitor might have thought.

So the two things I think we need to come away from after this:

  1. communicate better -- if something like this important enough to be allowed to take over for a day, I think it's important enough to warrant a front page post on itself. If folks balk at that-- than I think it's a strong signal that participation should be questioned completely. Also, please remember != and i would venture a guess that lots of users rarely visit
  2. thorough testing is required -- more testing needs to be done on more devices.

I heard feedback that this

David_Rothstein's picture

I heard feedback that this discussion was missed by many, and I absolutely want to make sure that when we have critical discussions, they get in front of as many people as possible. SO - where else should we cross post?

Drupal Planet, in my opinion. I think a large part of the community uses that as a way to keep up on the latest Drupal happenings.

Overall, I think this was

greggles's picture

Overall, I think this was handled as well as it could have been given everything that was known beforehand. You asked for feedback, you listened to the feedback, and we went ahead with something that had broad support.

It appears this change wasn't put through the "front page process". While it wasn't exactly a "front page post" it did take over the front page. Since that's as official a process as we have for the front page I think it should have been followed and then people who care about that can monitor that. I'm sorry I didn't think of suggesting that before this post went live.

While the banner was a little...weird...I imagine it was also extremely effective at driving engagement. Given the nature of the problem it seems like an OK balance.

Just want to note that there

tvn's picture

Just want to note that there was an issue per "front page process" opened for the post itself a week before it went up:

Oh, that's great. I didn't

greggles's picture

Oh, that's great. I didn't see it get scheduled in a revision of so I assumed the issue hadn't been created. The issue is the more important part of the process, but following it completely seems ideal.

Hmmmm...and now that I've

greggles's picture

Hmmmm...and now that I've looked at the issue I see that it didn't really get the proper +1s that it should have. So, ideally that should happen. I think that usually comes about either organically or via pinging people (e.g. in irc). I know you know this, tvn, just stating it as what I think the ideal is inside the broader converstaion.

I don't think it's so easy to

Garrett Albright's picture

I don't think it's so easy to leave the merits of the political involvement out of this discussion, but…

On a technical level, once it became apparent that the banner had such a terrible implementation - it was XBOX hueg; it couldn't be entirely removed and sometimes un-minimized itself; it was causing conflicts with Dreditor, a tool some of our most prolific hackers rely on - it should have been gone for that reason alone, replaced with some less obnoxious manner of getting the message across (if it still needed to be). Even from those that supported the involvement, I didn't see too many people defending the implementation of it other than "it's only here for a day" and such. It was "only a day" that we had to stick with that trashy thing on our community hub, but it was a day too long.

+1 with what Greg

Mediacurrent's picture

+1 with what Greg said.

@Holly - to preface, I think you've done an outstanding job with making the DA a more transparent and communicative organization. With that said, I think "polling" the community for feedback (or lessons learned) is a dangerous precedence. I believe webchick had some thoughts on this before, but a forum like this typically generates an incredibly small sampling of opinions. And those opinions typically come from the most active members, who actually respond to questions. These forum opinions or votes can then get easily misrepresented as the pulse of how the "majority" of the community feels about an issue.

Frankly, I would like to see the Board not punt so many issues back to the community for feedback. Ultimately, the Drupal community elected the Board to carry out its mission and we have to trust those empowered in the roles to do what they were elected to do.


The front page

drupalshrek's picture

The front page (i.e. lest there is any doubt) is where the discussion should have been announced, in the "News" section. I (like I suppose many others) go there pretty much every day. If there had been a news item like "Should fight back?", I would have certainly read it and commented/voted on it.

How many hoops do we want? A

greggles's picture

How many hoops do we want?

A post to discuss having a post on the front page to discuss having a site wide banner?

Feels onerous to me.

drupalshrek's picture

This thread is to discuss "The Association's messaging about the initial discussion". If it feels onerous to you, you are perfectly at liberty not to discuss it. My post is indeed a post to discuss where to post about an upcoming post, by someone who doesn't feel that it is so onerous to post such a post.

Your post, by contrast, is a post about a post suggesting where to post about an upcoming post, but yet by someone who feels it is onerous to post a post to discuss a post about an upcoming post. Seems illogical to me.

While there were complaints

Jaypan's picture

While there were complaints about the implementation, I don't think anyone has said we shouldn't have had the banner because of the implementation problems. The people who have had an issue have had an issue because of what the banner represents. So the discussion would be on whether or not Drupal should be making a political statement, not just on having a banner on the front page.

Only local images are allowed.

Thanks everyone - I

holly.ross.drupal's picture

Thanks everyone - I appreciate the discussion here. As usual, we have some conflicting opinions, but there are good ideas here for us to discuss internally and weave into our processes regarding how and where we post discussion topics.

Also agreeing that more testing ahead of time is required. We won't necessarily accept the code as is next time around. It honestly did not occur to us - once privacy concerns were put to rest - to worry about how the banner would be implemented. Huge lesson learned there.

Regarding implementation

Crell's picture

I agree with the others who have noted that the coding of the insert left much to be desired. That they didn't have it ready for us until the last minute was a serious problem, and we should probably have pushed them harder on that.

If we were to join any such campaigns in the future (and I am open to the possibility in limited, focused areas relating to the principles of Free Software), we should make access to any banner code and the ability to tweak it as needed a prerequisite of our participation.

We did have about half a week

drumm's picture

We did have about half a week between seeing the banner code and needing it on the site.

I didn't have time to really look at the banner myself. I could have put a demo banner on a dev site as soon as possible.

Regarding the discussion

Crell's picture

This is in no way a question unique to this topic, or to DA-instigated discussions. It breaks down to "how do you define 'the community'" and "what constitutes reasonable notice to the community". Previous instances off the top of my head include:

1) The Male/female -> male/female/trans/other change on d.o's profile form. The original change happened without any discussion of more than 3 or 4 people, and THEN generated a discussion. Of course by that point a strong bias was already in place and the discussion went nowhere.

2) Who gets to vote for the DA "At Large" board members? That was a long discussion that settled on a fairly broad definition, but we still have a hard time getting even 1% voter turnout of what we've defined as eligible voters. I wouldn't be surprised if 95% of the 99% that don't vote don't even know they can.

3) In a recent issue about changes to the CoC, I noted that it's really really easy to miss discussions of that sort if you're not following the right queue or g.d.o group at the right time. The result was that a new g.d.o group was created, which like the /core group feeds to the @Drupal Twitter account as well as Drupal Planet. The assumption being that if you are "community enough" that you'd want to be involved in such discussions, you're "community enough" to be following Drupal Planet or the @Drupal twitter account. (The former has a few hundred thousand readers, I think. The latter has not quite 49,000 followers, according to Twitter.)

A quick scan of the @Drupal stream shows that the only mention of Day We Fight Back was announcing our participation on the 11th. There wasn't a notice about the original discussion. I believe I heard about the discussion from Holly Ross's Twitter stream, which she posted to when she posted the original discussion.

So I don't think we need a new policy or channel yet. (I actually don't think it's appropriate for the home page, as that's mostly a marketing page, not developer page. Sorry, it's true.) We need to make use of the newly-created channel that already has thousands of readers it reaches. It's fairly new though, so it's quite possible Holly and others didn't know about it yet. In that case, well, now they know. :-) Let's make use of that next time.

(Which poses the interesting observation that those who follow Holly on Twitter were not quite unanimous in supporting DWFB, while those who follow @Drupal are not as unanimous. Holly, any amusing comments? :-) )

2) Who gets to vote for the

Jaypan's picture

2) Who gets to vote for the DA "At Large" board members? That was a long discussion that settled on a fairly broad definition, but we still have a hard time getting even 1% voter turnout of what we've defined as eligible voters. I wouldn't be surprised if 95% of the 99% that don't vote don't even know they can.

I'm part of that 95% (or at least, I am if I'm an eligible voter). Do you have a link somewhere with more information on this?

Thank you.

Only local images are allowed.

Actually... no

Crell's picture

You know, in about 100 seconds of searching on I can't actually find a precise statement about it. Which is itself problematic. Holly, want me to file a bug report somewhere? ;-)

Jaypan: At-large board member positions are opened up for nominations and public voting once a year. If you follow @DrupalAssoc or the DA newsletter (both on, you'll get repeated announcements about them. Voting is open to anyone who has logged in to within the past year, and whose account is older than, I think, a month. Meaning you should be eligible in the next round, which I believe is late this year.

More information on elections

holly.ross.drupal's picture

Hi you two -

Sorry for not replying to this thread yesterday. Full of fun meeting times!

I'll confess that when we started the elections process this year, I spent more than half a day digging up post on ADO and GDO related to elections to see if I could string together how they had worked in the past. I call this Drupal Archeology and I am working on my PhD. Do you guys want to be on my thesis Advisory Committee? :)

At any rate - I tried to summarize the process in a blog post on ADO and the Association GDO group:

I will agree that elections should be baked into the IA of the site somewhere. No need to file a bug report Crell. We are working on a redesign of that this fall.

In the meantime, I would also encourage folks to watch the ADO blog: Most of our posts there also end up on Drupal Planet - but that's the most up to date and steady stream of info re: elections, D.O initiatives etc. So - while I know we 100% have to work on getting our communications out in the right channels, that particular channel is always full of news for those who want it.

Lastly - We are likely pushing the timing of the next elections out by a couple of months. We want to be able to bring new community elected members on in a way that matches the timing of in-person board meetings. That's when the rubber meets the road and the new member can have a great experience. But there will be more on that a bit later - on our blog and elsewhere!



Thanks Crell - I've signed up

Jaypan's picture

Thanks Crell - I've signed up for the newsletter so that I can keep up on top of this.

Only local images are allowed.

I just posted the follow up

holly.ross.drupal's picture

I just posted the follow up discussion: Should participate in political issues at all?