In May 2007 Dries wrote a blog post identifying the levels and thresholds associated with ascending the Drupal learning curve. He identified specific levels (thresholds) that individuals involved with using and/or developing for Drupal ranging from new users (I “suck” threshold) to active contributors to the Drupal community (“I kick ass” threshold). In response to the know-do gap between those who simply struggled in the Drupal community and those who actually advanced the spirit, mission and vision of the project the Drupal Dojo was born. The model was based on the Japanese concept of the dojo, which means: “the place of the way” and is defined as a training facility, usually led by one or more sensei; the Japanese term for “teacher” . The primary purpose of the Dojo was to provide a structured and safe learning environment for individuals looking to ascend the Drupal learning curve and connect like minded individuals (students) to other individuals who have experience and expertise (teachers).
From the outset of the initiative the Dojo was a tremendous success. For those that were familiar with the features, functionality, intricacies and nuances of the application it is an extremely flexible framework capable of being shaped into anything a developer needed it to be, however that same flexibility also breeds complexity and confusion with each new feature release. The associated learning curve has increased exponentially for new users, but fortunately they had a great resource in the Dojo, and could turn to the members/teachers to overcome the challenges with becoming proficient with the platform. As a result, demand and supply were united and under the leadership of individuals like Josh Koenig (joshk) , Addison Berry (add1sun), Dmitri Gaskin (dmitrig01), Joon Park (dvessel), Joel Farris (senpai), and Victor Kane (victorkane) the community thrived. However, with all volunteer led and driven projects, the success of the community are generally tied to a passionate core of volunteers, who much like everyone else don't always have time to carry-on with the vigor as they started with. In addition, the Dojo proved itself to be an excellent training and recruiting ground, and many of the initial key contributors went on to new opportunities or assumed more responsible roles (as a result of their involvement) that significantly impacted their ability to carry-out the mission and vision of the Dojo. The immediate result was the fact that the Dojo was a victim of its own success and has labored to maintain a relatively meager existence since late-2007. And despite numerous attempts to resurrect and formally re-define the Dojo over the past two years the Dojo has failed to find firm footing with which to grow from largely due to a lack of a formally defined leadership structure and a achievable plan to both formalize the mission and vision and a leadership structure to help realize the goal. Most recently, in October 2008 Josh Koenig attempted to once again rally the Dojo for a comeback, but it struggled to gain the critical mass to move forward in a timely manner; at least until recently. Upon a close analysis of the history and legacy of the Dojo, the missing ingredient appeared to be someone who could assume the roles and responsibilities left open as the prior cadre of leaders took on new roles or moved on from the Drupal community.
However, notwithstanding the false starts and numerous challenges facing the community, the demand for a resource similar to the Dojo has not subsided. In fact to date the group has over 1900 members, with new members joining almost daily. Fortunately, a number of individuals continued to keep the idea of the Dojo alive. Thanks in large part to the individual effort of gusaus and a number of other dedicated volunteers, a new plan slowly began to take shape. Key among the principles, finding the right people to fulfill the right roles to provide passionate stewardship to the Dojo and help guide it back to it's respected place in the Drupal community. Over the past 12-months the Dojo has continued to produce a number of lessons, made an investment, funded totally by donations, to replace the previous screencasting/web conferencing system with DimDim a fully featured web conferencing system, and recently introduced a new Media Ninja class. To that end, the Dojo 2.0 team appears to have been reborn, similar to a phoenix rising from its own ashes.
The new Dojo team has lofty, but achievable, ambitions, starting with a significant redesign of the Dojo website, and using the momentum and experience gained in that project to fuel and produce new learning activities for members of the Dojo. There are many more great things to come, but the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.