Value Added Tax?

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet by the Drupal Assciation asking for feedback on, amongst other things, how it could make being a DA member more attractive. The survey appears to still be open, so if nothing else please go fill it out.

However, before you do so I would draw your attention to question 15:

How much would the following benefits interest you in becoming a Member (or renewing your Membership)?

and in particular one of the options listed there:

"Discounts on software (e.g., something like Adobe)"

When I read that I was flabberghasted. That would effectively mean the Drupal Association subsidising a proprietary software company, helping them to expand their market share. That's not why I use and support an open source project. In fact, I use and support open source software for the completely opposite reason!

Ah, I hear you say, but the Drupal Association has no control over the software project, so this doesn't matter. I beg to disagree. I think this would send a strong signal that the open source philosophy isn't actually an important part of Drupal.

I am amongst the first to admit that there may be a place for proprietary products in the world. In fact, I have an iPhone, which is a completely closed and proprietary device. Some (though not all) designers probably have perfectly valid reasons for needing to use Adobe's software.

However, I very much don't want to be part of an organisation or project that would support these proprietary software companies by providing them with extra sales. Especially not companies that try to sting their customers for as much money as they possibly can.

ps: The attached image was inexpertly created using The Gimp. Both I and it can do much better when not rushed ;-)


Don't assume the DA would be subsidizing the price, they might just be talking about obtaining a deal with adobe to obtain a bulk discount. Also don't forget that Photoshop is still the defacto standard graphics editing app, and Drupalistas do design work too, it's not just all PHP and CSS.

Thanks for the article and I agree with a lot of your points but at the end of the day I personally don't have a problem with it whatsoever. In fact, I think it's actually kinda cool. Being passionate about open source is great but like you said, you own an iphone, most Drupalers own a mac, I think it IS added value if our DA membership got us a discount on proprietary software that most of us buy anyway at full price.

Though I own an iPhone, I would find it extremely odd if (for example) membership of Linux Australia would give me a 10% discount on items from the Apple Store.

It's not that I don't want a discount, I'd love a discount on something I'm buying anyway. But I don't think it's appropriate for that organisation to offer discounts on those products to its members, because I don't think the values align.

I don't think you're even close to right when you say that most Drupalers own a mac (there's not even a reason for that).

I do have a problem with Drupal being associated with commercial software, and I also believe many others to. This is not "added value", this is a corruption of our liberty. Call me an extremist if you like, but I, and others, want to stay away from proprietary software as much as possible. Even if in the process some functionality or productivity will be lost.

Discounts on commercial software doesn't necessarily translate into the DA subsidizing it. It could simply be that the company would provide a discount to DA members on the basis that the DA is doing something positive. I know a couple of companies that work out deals like that with organizations similar to the DA.

Well it's not really a subsidy, it sounds more like free advertising in exchange for offering the discount to the recipients of the advert (current and prospective DA members). So cafuego's post comes down to whether that's a good deal or not.

Hi Cafuego,

the poll is meant to assess possible "extras" that would motivate people to become members. It is market research.

The idea behind the discounts on software is this: if a software maker like Komodo (or Adobe) has a product (like an IDE, or Photoshop), which is relevant to doing Drupal development, they might want to offer discounts on their own as a Thank You for supporting the Association. The thinking is that all three parties benefit: The Drupal Association benefits because more people are motivated to become members. The software company benefits because they get the chance to make a marketing offer to a qualified potential customer. The Member benefits because she gets a discount on a piece of software that she might have purchased anyway, thus saving money.

Perhaps you thought that the Association would pay the software company money. That's not the case. Software companies (and book companies, or any company that would value a Drupal developer as a customer) often are willing to offer a discount to acquire new business, and they would do this in partnership with the Drupal Association, but at no cost to the Association.

As a developer, I use several proprietary programs in my development. I often use the Komodo IDE (I also use Eclipse), and Textmate also factors into my diet (as does vim). I know that Adobe's Photoshop has played a role in the creation of many beautiful Drupal sites. As an advocate for free and open software, I would stop short of condemning my fellow developers for using these tools, if they help them achieve their goals of making great Drupal sites. Personally, I would love a discount on the next upgrade to Komodo, based on the fact that I am a Drupal Association member (safe in the knowledge that it wasn't just an act of the Association taking money from me and giving it to Komodo).

Maybe this new information will change your opinion of the survey question. Maybe not.

Another topic altogether is whether you actually took the time to find out the background of this before making high-profile public criticism of the Association. I completely support people's rights to be inquisitive and critical, but I sometimes think that the criticism reaction trumps any effort to get to the bottom of issues. As a former member, I know the Association truly has Drupal's best interests in mind, and wants dearly to be in line with the hearts and voices of the community. Despite that they must deal with a large amount of public criticism, sometimes justified, sometimes not. The overwhelming weight of criticism in the absence of acknowledgement of their very concrete and very positive achievements, is frankly disheartening, and undermines the morale of a group of people who work very hard to secure Drupal's future.

If you run into another case where you have questions about the Association's activities or intent, I highly recommend attending one of their outreach events:

There is also the trustworthy contact form:

Best regards,


Hey Robert,

I think we should deeply value those who are willing to post their concerns about the DA in a public forum, I think the planet is the best place to do this to get the communities broad perspective and to get a conversation with (board) members of the DA.

I have always disliked the fact that a lot of open criticism on the DA, is often ended with a "send them a contact inquiry" or "show up at a meeting", those are largely closed communication channels between a few people. Where as this is a channel, that a far larger audience can read and potentially respond. I think a lot of the criticism, comes from the fact that the communication is often in these closed channels. This can not be done by having IRC meetings, its a structural change in how the DA interacts with the community on all fronts.



To me, it's disheartening to see someone asking to limit reasoned criticism. These are valid concerns raised and are worth discussing. One should not have to pay homage to people every time they want to criticize them. Would you also say that we should praise President Obama everytime we disagree with one of his policy decisions?

The DA does a great job, but no one should be on that board if they can't handle criticism. That's just a given of being in a public position.

Hi Robert, thanks for your thorough response.

Yes, I'm aware the questionnaire is just research and does not reflect current policy. However, being research it most definitely will influence future policy. I did not mean to suggest that the DA might contemplate paying a software company money in exchange for members joining up. Subsidising was perhaps the wrong word to use.

It was not and is not my intention to attack the DA for trying to find ways of increasing membership and community involvement. I think it's one of the DA's more important tasks. But I will happily speak up about individual suggestions that I disagree with, in the hope that the issue is discussed. (Achievement unlocked! :-)

As an open source user and developer I think that the DA should think extremely carefully about which incentives they want to put in place to reward the people that join up. Money is a strong motivator and many people would take up an offer to receive a decent discount on a commercial software package. But I do not think the ends justify the means, and that is the point I was trying to make with my post.

I do not think that an organisation that is associated with an open source software project should be seen to promote specific (or any) proprietary software companies, regardless of the possible financial benefit to members. Surely there are other ways of providing financial incentives that do not clash with one of the core philosophies of the project. (Such as discounts on books or training. which are a great idea)

Open source-ness is an integral part of the core philosophy of the Drupal project and it is listed as the first item on so I expect it should make a difference to what the DA does and how it does it. On the other hand, I cannot find any statement of values on the Drupal Association web site.

Lastly, having been a member of the Linux Australia council for the past few years I am all too familiar with volunteers being criticised, every single decision being second-guessed and the feeling of abject dejectedness this causes. Still, I feel very strongly about this issue so I chose an open forum to post my opinion and raise the issue, in the hope that like-minded people would also speak up.

And that is why I am not generally a fan of the quiet behind the scenes email. In the interests of full disclosure - thank you, Vesa - I am married to a current DA board member, so it's really easy for me to contact the board. However, that does not facilitate open discussion. At the very least one of the commenters on this blog has now gone and filled out the survey, so that's a win right there.

For the record, I am in Melbourne, Australia and the outreach events are all scheduled in between 1am and 6am local time. This is why I have not attended them.

You have an interesting opinion here. I would like to challenge it a bit if you don't mind.

Let's assume for a minute there would be an evil corporation known as A. DA would work together with A to get discounts for DA members on products of A. In return A would get mentioned in membership benefits directory and could feel good for supporting the DA. Many DA members would purchase products of A with or without this deal and this would just mean they are saving money.

This deal would make DA more lucrative to potential members and DA would get more members because of it and other similar ones. DA members would benefit directly from this deal. DA might be helping evil company A in their marketing a bit, but at the same time benefits for both DA and it's members are substantial. Would it really be such a bad thing?

This was just an idea in DA survey. I think your post is excellent response to the survey because DA staff needs feedback on these ideas. I'm not saying DA should definitely do something like this, I'm just trying to understand your point of view.

Full disclosure: I'm a DA board member. However this is my personal opinion, not the official DA one + I didn't have anything to do with this idea. I just feel personally that it's an idea that could be worth exploring.

Personally, I don't mind the idea of the DA seeking a deal for members; it's a win-win for any members who use the common proprietary products and encourages these big commercial software companies to also help support open source. Perhaps once they have done something like this and see the numbers of customers who come displaying a DA membership for a discount, they might also recognize the value in being a DrupalCon sponsor or doing other things that help support the DA or other open source communities we might also be active in and care about.

I suspect the survey question was also there to see if this idea would be something that the average member (or prospective member) of the DA would find offensive, i.e. to find out if many of us share your view (and presumably strongly avoid all commercial software and don't want any connection between commercial software companies and open-source communities) or if they are happy to see such cooperation and funding come from industry giants who also benefit from what we do in open source and could benefit from the good PR of "giving back" to the greater IT community in various ways.

I do hope that the DA will forge more bonds of cooperation and funding, as long as it does not otherwise shape the Drupal project or have other significant negative impacts on the community.

Thanks for raising this issue and reminding us of the survey. I've gone and filled it out and made some suggestions of my own. :-)


Lowell Montgomery | (LoMo on

I joined as user id 41519 just shortly before the DA formed. Now it's up to nearly 2 million and Drupal runs a reported 2% of the internet.

Having been in the Drupal Association for a few months now after being elected by some of the community my biggest observation is we expect a lot of it but do not seem to be involved in helping it out in enough of the ways we need to in order to cope with the jump in demand from 40k to 2 million+ and 2% of the internet.

I've submitted a session for Munich, I'll do it as a BoF if not accepted, I'd appreciate your support as I think it solves some of the root issues resulting in these discussions by engaging our own community better:

I don't see an issue with this sort of market research being done.

When it comes down to it, many proprietary software packages commonly used in our industry are simply not replaceable by OSS alternatives. Open source and proprietary software based organisations can (and should) cooperate to help grow our industry for everyone's benefit.

I took this survey shortly after it was published. I read the question as Adobe being an example of any company that sells software. While some might strive to use open source exclusively, this doesn't work for everyone. I personally use a mix of open source and closed source apps. Adobe just happens to make up the largest percentage of my paid apps, and it is a huge portion of my budget for tools. I say this only to illustrate that Adobe was a good choice to use as an example as I am sure many that produce images also might be in my situation.

Now if they were offering a discount on Business Catalyst only, that would be different, as Business Catalyst is a CMS competitor.

Taking it further, wouldn't your agreement also be targeted at book publishers and training vendors that don't openly publish their content, like Oreilly, Lullabot and Build a Module? They are creating closed source content that must be paid for and not be redistributed. In contrast to NodOne, which publishes its material under Creative Commons.

Personally I feel that any company or organization that wants to support Drupal, the Association and/or its members should be considered. The idea is to promote Drupal and the Association, while providing incentive to joining the Association. I have already recouped my Association membership fee in discounts from Oreilly, thank you to the Association and Oreilly! This allows me to learn more and provides Oreilly incentive to continue to produce more Drupal content.

The days of static content are diminishing, dynamic solutions like Drupal are only going to grow. Building relations with companies like Adobe, for example, just means that as Adobe looks at ways to stay relevant in the changing landscape, that Drupal may be higher on their list of targeted solutions to support. A win for them and Drupal.

Thanks to all for an overwhelmingly constructive debate on this issue.

The DA has released the survey results!

79 people responded to the member survey.
22 people responded to the non-member survey.

It would seem "Discounts on software (e.g., something like Adobe)" was a somewhat polarising question.

Interestingly, more people marked this item as 0-Not interesting to me than any of the other proposed member benefits.

19% - 0 - not at all interesting.
20% - 5 - very interesting.

Compared with discounts to Drupalcon
9% - 0 - not at all interesting.
47% - 5 - very interesting.

So it would seem raising this issue for broader discussion and debate is not such a bad idea.

I filled in that survey and was one of the people who put 0, not interested.

I can't remember ever buying any web development software, all the development tools I use are FOSS so this literally has zero interest for me since I have no intention of starting paying for proprietary stuff instead.

While I didn't have the same strong negative reaction that cafuego did, I generally get turned off by 'special offers' tied to membership - it's just another form of targeted advertising, so it's possible I'm so numbed to it I couldn't even get properly annoyed by it at this point.

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