Supporting Drupal platform development

I am posting from the basement of 800 Robson Center Vancouver BC at the Open Source CMS Summit / DrupalCon 2006. This is without a doubt the most fun work-travel event I've taken part in (I've done more than twenty in the past year). One year ago at the DrupalCon in Vancouver there were about a dozen of us. In Portland six months ago there were thirty or fourty. Today there are well over one hundred Drupaler's in attendance hanging out, learning, hacking, discussing, drinking beer, and scheming for Drupal world domination.

The Drupal software, the user base, and espescially the economy around the platform have seen an explosive growth in the last year. When we started CivicSpace a year and a half ago there were only a few of us who made a living in and around Drupal. Today there are well over one hundred people employed to hack on Drupal between the contract firms and the user-developer base. With a little napkin math I estimate that in a year the Drupal economy has grown from ~$500K a year (10 X $50K) to well over $5M a year!

Despite this phenominal growth I have some concerns about what the next year holds in store for the Drupal platform and the community around it. As I see it, most of the value created by the Drupal community that vendors and consultants rely on to sell as services to customers come from unpaid core contributions. Examples of this are the majority of 4.7 improvements: multiple block regions, new forms API, installer work - these were all unpaid contributions to the community by volunteers or pro-bono work from Drupal firms. At the same time, many of the seasoned Drupal core hackers are getting job offers left and right to come and do Drupal consulting full time. This is creating a scenario in which while many more people are paying their bills through Drupal hacking and more and more business are built around business value created by the Drupal community, it is not getting any easier to make sure the heavy lifting on core work is getting done. For example: I know of no funding availiable to support key Drupal core projects such as continued forms API work, actions & workflows development, CCK, and most importantly; usability improvements.

In the next year I am expecting the economy around Drupal to continue on it's fantastic pace. I would not be surprised if by 2007 the economy was well over $20M annually. My big question here in Vancouver is: What can we do now to make sure that some of the money coming into the community over the next year is put back in to supporting the core work that we as a community are relying on?