Study of French Drupal Contributors
As part of a course in managing innovation in a global context, I looked at existing organizational behavior literature, research on French language and culture, and talked to several active French Drupal contributors to paint a picture of how French language and culture impacts Drupal innovation.
In January of 2014, I traveled with a dozen students, two professors and an earnest French bus driver named Gerard to France, in order to study how innovation happens in cultures that are steeped in traditions, history and a language that is far removed from that of the United States. During the trip, we traveled up and down the countryside and visited cheese farms, a vineyard, and multiple roadside gas stations—and also visited Airbus, Dassault Systems, Michelin, and other globally operating French enterprises. Upon returning, I was tasked with writing a 10-15 page research paper on a topic of my choosing, as long as it discussed French language/culture, and how it impacts innovation. Naturally, I chose Drupal.
The purpose of this paper is to examine how French language, culture, and work attitudes influence the way that Drupal contribution happens in France. Specifically, this paper seeks to answer the following research questions:
- How does Drupal's use of English as a common development and documentation language impact the willingness of non-native English speakers to contribute code and documentation?
- How does France’s Loi Toubon impact innovation by French developers within Drupal?
- How does the French attitude towards work and personal/family time impact time spent on contributing to Drupal?
- What lessons can American managers learn about working with French colleagues? How can Drupal encourage more cross-cultural collaboration with the French?
The focus of this research borrowed from the literature on open source contributors, as well as literature on cross-functional, globally distributed teams. In addition to these sources, it borrows heavily from Hofstede’s framework of cultural dimensions (G. Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 1991), as well as sources specific to French language, politics and culture. Information pertaining to Drupal was taken from several official project websites, including Drupal.org (the official home of the Drupal project), localize.drupal.org (home of all Drupal project translations), and Drupalfr.org (home of the French Drupal Association). Additionally, interviews were conducted over Skype with four high-volume French Drupal contributors, to gain a first-hand perspective from the French Drupal community.