The main sessions and talks at Drupalcon are on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so the Monday is often perceived as a quiet day to do other things, but there are a number of activities to get involved with. These include training sessions to improve your Drupal skills, the Business Summit where business leaders can network and learn from each other, and the Community Summit where community leaders and enthusiasts can share knowledge and issues and make plans to improve their local Drupal communities. I attended the Community Summit, and will summarise my day.
I almost didn't go to the Community Summit, as it appeared to be 'Sold Out' over a month before Drupalcon started. I understand that this was due to the limited size of the room and logistical issues around coffee and lunch but I think the fact that it appeared to be sold out was a shame and lead to fewer participants. In contrast to the training sessions and Business Summit, the Community Summit is free, to reduce the barrier for entry. This makes it easy for people to sign up and then decide not to attend at the last minute so on the day there were perhaps 25 people where 40 or 50 people had signed up. We did manage to gather a few more by tweeting on the conference hashtag but I think we will need to consider the strategy for future community summits to ensure we maximise potential attendance.
The day was expertly facilitated by Donna, from Australia, in an un-conference style with attendees writing issues that we wanted to discuss on stickies and scheduling collections of topics into time slots for the afternoon. This is a great way to ensure the agenda for discussion is relevant to the attendees and increases engagement.
It was a diverse mix of people with attendees from Greece, India, England, Australia, Slovakia and other places. We also had Jenny from the Wordpress community who had come along to find out more about the Drupal community and share notes, which was really interesting.
To get things warmed up, a number of people gave a short lightning talk of up to 5 minutes, to make an announcement or explain an issue they wanted to discuss. Some of the ideas:
There is a perception in the business community that Wordpress has better SEO out of the box. Can Drupal do this better? Are there aspects of Drupal that can be promoted better?
Sitebuilder conference. Let’s setup a conference aimed at site builders: introduce people to Drupal’s capabilities without code. In the same way the front end united focusses on the front end, let’s concentrate talks on site building. “All node, no code”
Ironcamp. Came from community summit in Amsterdam. Iron camp will be in Prague to bring business from western to eastern Europe and develop the community in Eastern Europe.
Success story from the Greek community. Revamped the community in Athens, local meetups, a Drupal Day and a Drupal Camp in Athens 2016. This has lead to Frontend United being hosted in Greece 26/27 May 2017.
Signpost users to local community via Drupa.org. When you sign up to drupal.org, you should be told about all the Drupal meetups that are near you and encouraged to join.
Wordpress community question and answer
Following the lightning talks, Jenny of the Wordpress community kindly (bravely?) offered to give a Q&A on any aspect of the Wordpress community. This was a great opportunity to understand how they do things and explore the similarities and differences. Some of the key points we learned were:
Camps and conferences
- Where Drupal has the larger Drupalcons and localised Drupalcamps, all wordpress conferences are called Wordcamps.
- Wordcamp Europe is of comparable size to Drupalcon Europe, around the 2000 mark.
- Even the larger Wordcamps are kept low cost (€40!)
- Wordcamps provide childcare!
- Camps are heavily sponsored to keep the ticket costs down.
- The Wordpress community has two types of meetup, officially recognised meetups are part of the chapter programme and independant meetups.
- Official Wordpress meetups are supported with:
- A funded meetup.com account
- Costs for venue hire (but not food or drink)
- Developers who do not release their plugins and themes under the GPL are not invited to speak at conferences or allowed to run official meetups.
- The perception from Drupal community that Wordpress has a more proprietary software culture with plugins and themes that cost may be somewhat misguided
Funding and sponsorship
- Camps are heavily sponsored to keep the ticket costs down.
- Wordpress companies are encouraged to give 5% of their time to contributing to Wordpress core https://ma.tt/2014/09/five-for-the-future/
- Dries posted a similar suggestion apparently on the same day http://buytaert.net/scaling-open-source-communities
How can we help people start and expand meetups and Drupalcamps?
This seems to be a perennial topic at the Community Summit. People always want to know how to help start or nurture or grow local communities. There are plenty of resources out there, but these are often hard to find either by search or by navigation. For example, searching for “Drupal Meetup Guide” does not take us directly to any useful resources.
There are plenty of great resources if you know where to look or what to search for but perhaps my Google fu was taking a day off. Some of the existing resources include:
- Event Organisation Drupal Group
- Organising Events
- Drupal event organising guide (How to organise a Drupalcamp)
- Drupal Meetup Guide (How to organise a meetup)
One suggestion that came out of this observation was to get involved in the documentation overhaul on Drupal.org to improve the navigation structure and the SEO of guides for meetups, camps and local community leaders. Note to self: find the documentation team at the sprint on Friday.
How can we improve local meetups?
As an organiser of the Oxford Drupal User Group, I am often trying to force myself to do more work to improve our meetup. Asking others members of the Drupal community for suggestions is always interesting and encourages me to try new things. Some of the interesting ideas that came from this discussion include:
- Plan specific topics for discussion and advertise in advance.
- Look to other communities to see what they are doing. Where do they meet? How do they run meetups?
- Try distributed meetups, streaming the meetup to people who can’t attend in person.
- Invite remote speakers to talk via video link.
- Invite other communities to speak at your meetups.
- Use http://leancoffee.org/ to decide what to talk about at agendaless meetings.
How can we help communication across geographical boundaries?
Members of the Indian Drupal community raised the issue of communicating with communities that are far away or in different countries. Drupalcon Asia was a success, but does not appear to have stimulated the local communities as much as expected. Following Drupalcon, there are fewer meetups and Drupalcamps than hoped. It was noted that most of the Drupal community drive in India comes from agencies, but most of the clients are from Europe and North America. So perhaps this bias of community towards those who work with Drupal rather than use Drupal skews the community. India is a large place, and I know from experience in the UK that often user groups in different cities often do not communicate with each other and have even scheduled Drupalcamps on the same day. This may be exacerbated in a country the size of India. In the UK we floated the idea of a national UK Drupal Association to coordinate better between local groups and support user groups to run meetups and Drupalcamps. This didn’t get off the ground at the time for a few reasons, but I still feel a national level organisation could focus on the specific issues of the country or region, and it sounds like similar conversations are happening in India.
It was a great day with enthusiasm and passion on a number of topics. I met some interesting people and gathered some great ideas. My key takeaways are:
- As community leaders we need to keep the Drupalcon Community Summit going and increase the reach at future Drupalcons.
- The Wordpress Community has some great ideas and processes that we can learn from.
- We can contribute to meetup and Drupalcamp guides to improve visibility and findability.
- We can suggest improvements to the Drupal Association and Drupal.org to encourage users to get involved in local meetups (and start one if there isn’t one).