This is the second in a four part series discussing the results of a survey of the Drupal community. Find the first part of the series here

Those of you who have been part of the Drupal Community for years know the benefits of giving back to the community.  But as a researcher, I wanted to test those common beliefs about doing business with an open source community. 
In 2012, 250 organizations completed an online survey.  Results were analyzed and assumptions tested (and retested) using regression models. 
Below are five scientifically significant findings that came from those survey results.

1. Drupal Code makes firm more Productive.

Firms that used Drupal Code enjoyed higher productivity in creating software than those that did not.  This isn’t a surprise to long-term Drupal users, but it’s empirical evidence that backs up what a lot of proponents have been saying: when a company can download high-quality Drupal code, they can produce software quicker. 

2. Firms that took Drupal code, also gave back.

In the Drupal community, there is a very high correlation between those companies that took Drupal Code and those that gave back.  Drupal as a community doesn’t suffer the problems that many economists might predict – there are few “free riders,” that enjoy the benefits of the community without giving back. 
What do I mean by “giving back?” Statistical factor analysis – a process for identifying themes from multiple survey questions – showed that company-wide “giving” behaviors in Drupal split into “giving code” and “giving help.”  Giving code is a composite of contributing to Drupal core, docs, and themes.  Giving code was a composite of encouraging employees to volunteer in Drupal, paying employees to volunteer, and assisting other companies in the community for free.
Results showed that the companies that took code both gave code and help. Taking code was statistically and positively correlated with both giving code (.267*) and giving help (.504*).
*Significant at the 0.01 level.

3. Want friends in Drupal?  Give Code.

This one was unexpected.  Those firms that gave code formed even more social relationships than those that gave help.  Of course, it helps to do both, but firms shouldn’t neglect the value – both financially and socially – of contributing code back to the community.

4. Seeking Radical Innovation?  Use Drupal Code and Help Out.

“Innovation” is often thought to be either more “incremental” or “radical.”  Incremental innovations are smaller changes that improve on an existing idea or design.  Radical innovations are those that break a mold.  Software designers see both.  We found that a combination of behaviors – using Drupal code and giving help – allowed firms to develop innovations that were more radical than incremental. 
Each of these findings is very robust, meaning it was found to be true even when statistically controlling for important factors like firm size, age, and performance.

Next Up: The 2014 Drupal Business Survey
Jonathan Sims is Assistant Professor of Strategy at Babson College.  A 2013 PhD graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, he wrote his dissertation on entrepreneurship within Drupal. 
What research questions do you have for entrepreneurs in the Drupal community? Send you suggestions to or tweet @jonsims.



John_B’s picture

Those firms that gave code formed even more social relationships than those that gave help.

As someone who spends a lot of time helping on the support forums, this is obvious. Drupal is so developer-centric, that we all say there are lots of way to contribute other than code: yet the guys who contribute code get the kudos. That is a significant reason why getting non-coding contributions is more difficult that getting coding contributions. Just look at the massive backlog of patches awaiting review, even in the core issue queue: if code review got you mentioned in State of Drupal, the way Dries mentioned patch contributors in Prague (I think it was), there would be fewer coders and more reviewers. Same for documentation, support, etc.

clemens.tolboom’s picture

I've created an issue for suggestion the other issue contributors.

rosas rojas’s picture

Thank you man for your work.