I've been in the streets of Dries for three and a half year now. It feels even daring saying it are Dries' streets because I know he does not like it if people give him too much credit. But it is true. Dries I believe the key factor for Drupal's success is your astounding ability to gather the right people around you. This combined with a mixture of leadership and fostering self-empowerment appears to work pretty well.
Having started with using the system for my diploma (I guess you say bachelor elsewhere), it has been an amazing ride. But the story of drupal is not so much unique as it is a story of open source. Seeing a new youtube star the other day one can feel the upside of the digital revolution and the new channels of communicating and doing things via the internet.
Like in every other social community there are downsides as well. Even at my first drupalcon in Barcelona I was a bit worried about the quasi-religious way Dries keynote was celebrated. This was not much different from Steve Jobs presenting the Iphone. Give us a sign, we will celebrate whatever you say.
Still this does not need to have negative effects. Personally I find it very important to go outside the community from time to time. Yes, there is a life outside of drupal. Take a bit of distance now and then and balance comes back quickly. Also Mr. Buytaert takes care of staying a normal community member as far as this is possible. If you have been inside the project for a while, he will come up to you at a Drupal Camp and have a little chat. Simple, ingenious method. Which does not say there is not a real interest in the person spoken to.