DrupalCon Denver: Tools and processes

The Drupal community has put on nine "DrupalCons" before (not counting joint conferences), growing from just dozens of people to now an established, international professional event at last height of nearly 4,000, at DrupalCon Chicago.

But of course it's not enough to say "the community organizes the conference", it's really small groups of specific people, carrying out many tasks, some tasks those individuals have prior experience in, but many they're doing just because they care.

Next March in 2012, contributors, evaluators, geeks, entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts will gather in Denver, Colorado for a week to teach, learn, network and have fun. I want to share a bit about how a group of us have been setting the path for DrupalCon Denver, the routes we chose and why, so come along for a survey back.

What's happening

Right now under a hundred people have made financial commitments to being in Denver in 160 days. While 6 months isn't very long, we're not worried at all about another (extra) 4,000 people showing up, so much so that we we've set in stone the following decisions:

  • Denver, CO, North America, earth, on the morning of the 19th of March through the evening of the 23rd
  • The Colorado Convention Center at 700 14th Street
  • Room nights at the Hyatt Regency at 650 15th Street
  • Mitchell Baker, Luke Wroblewski and Dries Buytaert will keynote

To focus efforts we've decided to describe the conference with a theme on the growing influence and use of mobility in computing solutions, paying homage to Drupal's roots and strength as a publishing platform. Our theme is "Collaborative publishing for all devices". We've further divided the primary content of the conference into a set of tracks, to shape an experience to the expectations of our attendees. We have eight tracks, not all of which will have speakers throughout the three days.

You can propose to speak at DrupalCon, up until October 26th. The community shapes this conference, by contributing their ideas and working it to a presentation.

We also just opened up registration. Until just a few months before the conference next year tickets to attend are $350, and discounts are available to applicants.

How we are planning

Hopefully our planning and communication doesn't seem like a black box. We can't make you read (despite best efforts to transmit dream commands), so you may know little about how we arrived here and what we're planning.

"We" and "us" is as easy to use as "community", but to break it up some, there are groups of people in categories like production, content, marketing, and communication. For some of us, it's our day job to put on this conference (and wrap up the final parts of the last one as well as getting the next one started). For everyone else it's a side times of the day, evenings or weekends.

Many people on the team have specific roles. For example:

  • Conference program content such as track chairs, keynote speaker coordinator, and BoF manager
  • Communication and marketing such as running social media or overseeing copy
  • Sponsor coordination and sales

There is some overlap between individuals and roles, and of those people where this isn't their formal job, they volunteered in an informal process to take over the duties.

Our tools, in order of importance and general usage are:

  • Open Atrium for asynchronous discussions and task assignments
  • IRC for real-time collaboration
  • Skype for weekly status updates
  • Google Docs for text and spreadsheet document storage and session selection

On the systems side, the website is hosted on OSL infrastructure under drupal.org with deployments controlled by Jenkins and code in bazaar. Since that's a tightly controlled setup we have a manual mirror in git with submodules, but it's not always kept up-to-date.

Our process isn't transparent (still working on mind wires), but it shouldn't be opaque. If you start looking you'll see us, we're not hiding, and you can join. This page on groups.drupal.org/denver is what we have right now for you to start with. It's not perfect, I know, but you're reading this right now, and I hope it helps.

More personal stories

If you're hungry for more, some members of the team are blogging about DrupalCon as well: