DrupalCon Global Retrospective

DrupalCon2020 Online Everywhere

DrupalCon Global took me by surprise. With the planning for DrupalCon Minneapolis in a seemingly very distant past, the new virtual format came together in July with a blur of last minute learning and organizing. Everyone who helped coordinate, explain, modify, moderate and more worked very hard to make the experience something unique and useful for attendees and they succeeded! Thank you to the organizers and especially volunteers who worked such long hours around the world.

With the news that DrupalCon Barcelona will be completely virtual as “DrupalCon Europe 2020,” which I believe is absolutely the right, though challenging, course to take, I’d like to share a few thoughts and highlights from DrupalCon Global.

DrupalCon Global exceeded expectations

The digital format enabled more people to attend DrupalCon, especially via the Drupal Association’s scholarship program. A virtual event can be more accessible for many people physically and mentally, as well as opening up the opportunity to people who can’t leave their family or fly across the world (regardless of pandemics). This is fantastic, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of inclusivity. When more people can join, participate, share, and learn the value to individuals and community as a whole far outweighs any direct business benefit. 

The sessions I saw were all excellent, and while the live text chat next to a session in Hopin was sometimes distracting, it was usually useful for sharing links, gathering questions, and connecting with other attendees. We don’t usually pass notes in person, but we sure did virtually. The “hallway track” morphed fairly well into the chat, as well as the chats in exhibitor booths where people could have conversations and wave hello at friends.

Leslie Mac’s session on event and initiative organizing, working with locals, and respecting the knowledge of the people who know their communities especially resonated. She recommended adapting your brand to the local community, rather than assuming the “national” message fits every smaller group the same. This applies well to the Drupal community and local meetups, as well as DDEV and the various CMS communities who use our tools. Knowing your audience and making sure they are represented in the creation of your project is a frequent recent theme.

Contribution time during the week and on Friday seemed to go well for mentors and contributors. Thank you especially to Rachel Lawson, Chris Darke and Matthew Radcliffe for the additional work putting together an on-demand workshop and contribution website. DDEV-Local maintainer and mentor Randy Fay also spun up some Zoom rooms to help contributors get started with their local development environments

There were more sessions that rocked than I have space for in this blog post. Our own plans changed a lot for this event, but Randy and I spoke in a couple sessions (EDIT: the public youtube links are live!):

The virtual conference juggling act

There was a lot going on for 12+ hours a day, 4 days straight. It was a little difficult to juggle the schedule from the events.drupal.org site with the schedule in Hopin, plus the addition of the contribution site and schedule. From the virtual events I’ve attended, there has been no unified solution to this. For Drupal contributions, we also wanted to bring new contributors into the regular space they would be using in the future, Slack. Plus live tweets! I was holding down Twitter for DDEV, myself, and Drupal Mentoring, and following tweet responses to sessions.

Understanding the possibilities for the booths and how attendees would interact with them took actually being in the booth live during the event. The value for sponsors was a little unclear, especially because sponsors often see the greatest value in “leads” which are a little more difficult to acquire and retain virtually. Reorienting to find other, more nuanced value such as via one on one demos, workshops, Q&A or more gamification might be the answer. 

Supporting the open source community

Whatever the platform and procedures, talking about it and sharing it early and often is key. For DrupalCon Global there were many demos, but details also kept changing, everything was very new, and until we could really get in and start participating with the full group it was hard to know how best to use the Hopin platform.

For booth staffers, offering something engaging and easy to drop in and out of seemed  to be most popular (collaborative DJing? Making pasta? Testing hot sauces??). Offer something a bit fun alongside regular, clearly advertised product demo times and have additional team members on hand to take questions in the chat, and take notes for followup. 

My personal experience is mostly from a developer/speaker perspective, so I would prefer to have the session recordings publicly available soon after the event. Many speakers want to share with their team, family, clients, future employers. While I suspect the password has made the rounds, in the spirit of open source the videos should be freely available as soon as possible.

Staying flexible is also crucial. There were a lot of rules at first, but as we became familiar with the platform I noticed that updates were made both to Hopin and to our DrupalCon instance to enable things that were going well. For example, Tim Lehnen at the Drupal Association was very open to giving us extra “live” booth time for Drupal Diversity and Inclusion, and many sessions/BoFs wound up having larger group chats. That’s the spirit of DrupalCon!

Maybe for DrupalCon Europe we can implement the holographic mentor idea as well.

See you on the Slacks

The benefits of a virtual conference are huge. Still, nothing is quite the same as seeing friends in person, exploring a new place together, and introducing new folks to the entire bustling experience. They are simply different creatures, there is no equating the two. I hope that in the future we can have DrupalCon Global every year, in combination with more localized events like Drupal Camps.

We’re looking forward to seeing you in “Europe” and I am looking forward to working with everyone to organize and plan for more contribution mentoring and DDI activities! Thank you again for a really great virtual DrupalCon.

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