Editors note: Since the publishing on this blog, a few of members of the Atlanta Drupal Users Group began organizing Drupalcamp Atlanta. Read more about the 2014 Drupalcamp Atlanta here.
Yesterday, we announced to the local Atlanta Drupal community that Mediacurrent would not be playing a lead organizational role in Drupalcamp Atlanta 2014. Below is the email I shared with the member list from the Atlanta Drupal User Group:
I wanted to reach out to the Atlanta Drupal community about Drupalcamp Atlanta 2014.
As many of you might already know Drupalcamp Atlanta has been largely organized by Mediacurrent for the last 5 years. We are proud that Drupalcamp Atlanta grew from a very small group of volunteers who put together the first camp in 2009 at Kennesaw State University to one of the largest, most informative Drupal events on the East Coast. Attendance has sold out early and progressively increased to over 440 attendees last year!
Regretfully, Mediacurrent will not be taking a lead role this year. I wanted to be transparent around "why" we want to lessen our involvement. First, organizing a camp with high standards is a huge commitment. We always felt like it was important that we have an event that was reflective of our awesome community - from Georgia.gov, Weather.com, Turner Sports, etc. Drupal has become a really big deal in our region and our community has some great stories to tell. In essence, we wanted to put together a top-notch conference that matched Atlanta's amazing Drupal community.
However, the level of effort to putting on the event was not getting any easier. It was getting difficult to scale. As the event grew, it took 400-500 hours and a variety of skills to effectively oversee. The types of skills needed include a project manager, event planner, developer, themer, marketing, sponsor coordinator, etc. The camp budget increased to over $40,000 last year, there is a website that needs to be built/customized (even though we can re-purpose prior years), a lot of logistics, sponsors to identify, etc. We have looked at alternate, more cost-effective locations and came up empty; almost all were the same cost (or higher) as the current location (Cobb Galleria), too small, or had existing conflicts (i.e. school/class schedule).
We have found that there are a lot of well-intentioned volunteers who want and do help. However, there still has to be a chief cat-herder and an organization or person willing to accept full accountability for the event. Frankly, as a business Mediacurrent can not make that kind of commitment this year. Furthermore, we want to ensure we dedicate as much time as possible to our customer obligations.
I mention all of this to see if anyone else would like to step forward and organize. We would be happy to provide knowledge transfer and assist anyway we can. If you work for a company that would like to take the lead on organizing the Camp, please reach out to me offline and we can further discuss.
If Drupalcamp Atlanta does not happen, then what next? On a positive note, Mediacurrent will be organizing a Drupal Business Summit on May 15th at the Atlanta Tech Village. If DCA is cancelled we would like to still organize a code sprint or some type of smaller event in early to mid-October that requires less planning, expenses, etc. - more details on that to follow.
I'm really proud of the role Mediacurrent has played in growing our local Drupal community. Unlike other cities or regional camps, there is no politics at work here, drama, or competition for control. To the contrary, Mediacurrent has a very special relationship with those in our region - you can call it the Southern hospitality way I suppose. The "locals" were extremely appreciative of our work and almost accepting that we were in the best position from a resource, skill, organization, and leadership standpoint to pull off a high-caliber Drupalcamp in our region. I have such fond memories of Drupalcamp Atlanta.
However, our business at Mediacurrent has been growing and the commitment to organizing Drupalcamp Atlanta was becoming more daunting. In fact, personally, I was beginning to feel burn-out. Even though the Camp had been incredibly successful it felt like it was time to pivot and for change.
Are there lessons for other cities to learn from our experience - yes. We should have sought and mentored other groups who we could pass the baton to. There was too much of a dependency on Mediacurrent to organize the Camp and we should have seen this coming.
Finally, the sky is not falling. Please do not misinterpret Mediacurrent's lack of involvement as a negative sign for Drupal or our company. I feel so fortunate every day - Mediacurrent has an amazing team. One of the things we are planning to do with our "extra" time is a company retreat to reinforce our culture and values. Even though we bring in our entire team for Drupalcamp Atlanta each year, having down-time was always really difficult during the lead-up to the Camp. We will also be staying heavily involved with Drupal in our region, speaking at more non-Drupal events, and giving back in any way we can to the open-source community that has been so good to us. Oh, and there is always Drupalcamp Atlanta 2015!
Onward and upward!