On Saturday, October 2nd 225 Drupal'ers from primarily around the Southeast convened for an intensive day of learning and networking at Drupalcamp Atlanta 2010. The event was highlighted by a blunt, but highly insightful morning keynote by Jeff Wapole from Phase2 Technology. Jeff asserted that the Drupal community is at a major inflection point. As the title ("Execution – The Drupal Community’s Next Big Challenge") of his presentation implies, Drupal must be prepared to compete, innovate, and respond to the forthcoming demands that lie ahead.
The planning committee began organization efforts about six months ago, and our mantra this year was to significantly raise the bar of our inaugural camp. Understandably, there are more unknowns the first go-round, but the lessons we learned from last year were invaluable. Here is a recap of a few of the larger items that we altered:
- Charged $25 for registration v. FREE
- Moved venues from Kennesaw State University (suburb) to the Georgia Tech Research Institute (in-town)
- Significantly enhanced our website and added features that were inspired by other camp sites
- Outsourced video production to allow for professional, complete coverage of every session
- Added more value to our sponsorship benefit packages, including booths for the higher levels
- Offered more defined tracks including one for beginners
The initial feedback and overall survey results (42% completed) indicate that attendees had an enjoyable time. The highlights for many including just getting to network with like-minded peers, the impromptu hallway talks that inevitably take place, and the overall value they got for the modest cost. Those who attended last year chimed in to say there was noticeable upgrades in parking, more centralized meeting rooms, signage, the website, catering and overall organization. Respondents appreciated that this was a volunteer-led initiative that was staffed and hosted at a free venue. Many commented about how impressed they were with Walpole’s keynote and liked how it was targeted at all facets of the community.
However, there was some very fair constructive criticism– the areas of improvement most often cited included:
- Larger breakout rooms – the more popular sessions were very cramped
- Extra caffeine or coffee if the budget allowed
- Better organization during the install-fest; some newbies complained of still feeling "lost"
- More "hands-on" workshops that allow for immediate application of what was taught
As with most Drupalcamps/cons there was a lot of mixed feedback on the sessions. The speakers ranged from 13 year-old rising Drupal rock-star Annika Garbers to long-time community contributors. Overall, there were few complaints about the four session tracks as a whole, and 98% of the respondents indicated being "satisfied" or "extremely satisfied" with the quality of the presenters. However, some attendees noted that it was obvious which speakers had spent more time preparing. There were some that felt that this could have been alleviated if there was more active speaker recruiting. One commenter suggested that we could have done a better job at encouraging more session participation. We were limited to having only one BoF room due to the set-up of the venue, and in a perfect world we would have had a lot more space for attendees to break-away.
The geographic location of those who attended was diverse – over half of the respondents flew or drove over 100 miles to attend. Some other feedback that we are paying close attention to:
- 34% of attendees would like to see an expanded schedule over 2 days
- 44% want to see pre-event paid training options from service providers akin to what Drupalcons are now doing
- 87% said professional growth and development was one of the key deciding factors for them to come
Next, we used a variety of methods to promote the event. I thought other camp organizers may be curious to how folks heard about Drupalcamp Atlanta. Despite all of the social media tools available these days good ole’ word of mouth referrals was how 40% of attendees learned about the event. We also announced before our user group meetings (32%), posted on Meetup.com (8%), Twitter (20%), Linkedin (1%), groups.drupal.org (21%), and leveraged last year’s attendee list. Another valuable marketing tool was announcing on university listserves – Georgia Tech and UGA both had multiple attendees that learned about the event this way.
However, there is an inherent problem in promoting Drupalcamps that all organizers should remember. We need to do a better job of outreach and introducing Drupal to organizations who have never used it before. We tend to focus promotional efforts to those already involved with Drupal. For instance, only 13% of respondents classified themselves as having no experience at all with Drupal – more than 40% have been using for 2+ years. In essence, let's constantly be thinking about ways to attract beginners by evangelizing outside the existing fish-bowl.
Overall, it was an awesome time. We packed in a full day of sessions that one normally expects to find in a pricey conference and even capped things off with an after-party. One of the survey statistics that was the most inspiring was that 100% would recommend Drupalcamp Atlanta to others next year.
What was your experience – are there any highlights or particular sessions you found value in? Anything you would like to share?
P.S. Before you ask, we hope to have all the video footage available soon (1-2 weeks) and posted on the Drupalcamp Atlanta website.
Slide-decks are or can be posted here and please use event "DCATL" and tag "Drupalcamp Atlanta 2010"
Many photos have been uploaded (compliments of Alan Neal)
You can still take the feedback survey if you have not already