Reflecting on Drupal Slack
Over the last year or so, I've got quite engaged with Drupal slack. I've loitered in channels like #d9readiness and #config, discussed issues with members of the security team, and asked questions to module maintainers (and received answers!). But most of all, I've helped people out in the #support channel. This has been an interesting experience in many ways, so I thought I'd share my reflections. The Drupal slack workspace is intended for the community, so if you're reading this - it's probably for you too. Hopefully my thoughts might help prepare you to use it as an effective tool.
Ultimately, I've got stuck in as a way to contribute to the Drupal community in a new way as part of our CM contribution challenge. That has given me motivation to give more than I get, but I've been pleasantly surprised how much I - and ComputerMinds - have benefitted from being part of Drupal slack. When we've been unsure about the status of a module or the way forward with an issue, it's been great to be able to reach out to exactly the right people. Especially in the current climate that limits our ability to meet people in-person (e.g. at Drupalcon). So, thank you to those people that have helped me :-) We've even received sponsorship to work on some module issues after discussion on slack - we ended up becoming responsible for releasing security fixes for the Commerce Ingenico project after it had been shut down due to vulnerabilities. That's a win for us, and it's a win for the community, who can use that module once again.
Slack has benefits, but also drawbacks, as it is yet another system clamouring for attention in a crowded digital world. So it's important to use it appropriately for the good of the community, but also wisely for your own sanity. Drupal's challenging learning curve means that there are a lot of people out there wanting help, and the #support channel is full of them. (I've spotted some of the most experienced drupallers asking for help there too; so it's not just for newbies.)
Sustaining a good level of support is a challenge, especially doing so with a friendly manner. My approach has been to answer questions I know I can help with and avoid those that I know other people would be better placed to answer. Some questions can suggest a shaky foundation of understanding, so unless I'm sure I can help fix that, I tend to stay away from those too. Often a question is a symptom of a deeper issue - either with someone's website, or their understanding of Drupal components. On the whole, I believe I have helped a lot of people - and not just with their immediate questions. Some people come back to me with direct messages weeks or months later, knowing that I might be able to help.
Unfortunately my mental health has suffered a bit since the coronavirus pandemic began, so I've had to keep an eye out for things that may be contributing to that. Slack offers connection to people 24/7 - which can be good, but it's not a truly deep connection, and can be relentless. While my motivation for interacting with Drupal slack was to try and contribute to the community, that's not entirely for it's own sake. ComputerMinds want to help Drupal and its community flourish - but that's partly because we want that for our own benefit! So I decided to focus on supporting people that might be within closer reach, by skipping over most posts from outside UK business hours. (I'll happily reply to DMs/threads asynchronously though if necessary.)
In conclusion, I think Drupal slack is a really handy tool for connecting with the Drupal community. I'm very glad to help people through it, even if that means only making a difference slowly, to one person at a time. There are some incredibly helpful people on there who I see answering questions again and again. I tried to be one of those for a while, though I learnt to take care to make my offering sustainable. If you need help, try out Drupal slack. If you don't .... then you can probably be a help to someone there! Most of us are a mix of those extremes anyway. Try to be kind on slack - to yourself and others. I figure if we all help each other, we might make climbing that Drupal learning cliff a bit more personal, and a bit more pleasant. Win-win!