Drupalcon NA 2010 and beyond

jredding's picture

This post is an open discussion on the future of Drupalcon management. After Drupalcon Boston held in March, 2008 it became clear that Drupalcon was (is) growing at a rapid rate and that the underlying management infrastructure needs an upgrade. Changes were made for Drupalcon Europe as well as for Drupalcon D.C (2009) and these have proven to be successful. The process still needs to evolve such that we not only meet the demands of the attendees (expected to be 1,200 strong at D.C) but give these attendees the high quality conference they expect. In short, we can and should do more.

Drupalcon Background

Drupalcon (Drupal Conference) is the only official Drupal conference put on by the Drupal community. Two conferences are held annually, one in North America and another in Europe lending to the names Drupalcon NA and Drupalcon Europe. North America is held every spring and Europe is held in the fall with an approximate 6 month gap.
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The first Drupalcons were put on by a group of volunteers that got together and simply decided that they wanted a Drupal conference and made it happen. Usually the Drupalcons were commingled with a larger conference (FOSDEM, OSCMSS, etc.) but beginning with Drupalcon Szeged (Europe, 2008) they became a freestanding conference with a decent sized, and paid, support staff.

How a Drupalcon is organized today

After Drupalcon Boston it became clear that the old model of a few people getting together to put on a conference wouldn't scale to 1,000+ attendee events. Attendees were spending a serious amount of time and cash to come to Drupalcon and the management team needed to step up to deliver a quality conference. The current model is as follows.
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Drupal Association
The Drupal Association is the maintainer of Drupalcon. The Association maintains the name as well as the final decision on where and when a Drupalcon occurs. It also engages in a supervisor role for Drupalcon management but it does not manage Drupalcon. Management, and ultimately all kudos and thanks, goes to the next people.
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A community team

Members of the Drupal community band together to create a Drupalcon team. This is usually always based on geography but doesn't always. For example the Drupal Hungary community collaborated and put on the highly successful Drupalcon Szeged, 2008. This team sends a proposal to the Drupal Association asking to host Drupalcon. The association and the team meet, discuss and eventually agree to let the team host Drupalcon. After acceptance the Association will supply the team with initial capital to secure/rent venues and get the gears turning. This team then kicks into gear.

The team is responsible for all aspects of Drupalcon (which is why we owe them great respect and thanks). The team is responsible for fundraising the capital needed to put on Drupalcon by soliciting sponsorships or other actions. As recent Drupalcons cost nearly 200,000 USD this is no small feat. They also build the website, filter the sessions, contact attendees, answer all attendee questions, arrange hotels, provide maps, find the venue, setup chairs, run power outlets, etc. They do everything.

Events management company

Beginning with Drupalcon Szeged a budget was allocated for the hiring of an events management company. An events management company should handle all aspects of the venue including room allocation, chairs, projectors, power, food, coffee, signage, etc. Prior to Drupalcon Szeged all of this work was done by volunteers from the Drupal community which proved to be unsustainable (i.e. we were burning out our volunteers at astronomical rates). This model was continued with Drupalcon D.C. The idea is focus the community on the more important aspects; sessions and the attendees.

Summary
So that's the current model.
Drupal Association --> Community Team --> Events management firm. In all it starts with as little as 3 people and grows to around 50. Outside of the events management firm few people are paid. In fact the key people that organize the conference are all volunteers.

Moving forward and our challenges

From this description it seems as though things are running fairly well particularly since Drupalcon Boston and Drupalcon Szeged were highly successful and Drupalcon D.C is on track for being another success. Things may very well be A-OK but we do have some challenges that still need to be overcome.

Our challenges

Planning is becoming more arduous and tedious <br/>
The hiring of an event planner has helped things and our current community teams are doing a great job at it. However at the end of every Drupalcon these teams are rather burned out.
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Maintaining consistency <br/>
Because each Drupalcon is held in a different geographic region as well as the simple fact that hosting Drupalcon is incredibly hard work we find ourselves with a new team for each Drupalcon. Although we are not reinventing the wheel at each Drupalcon we are repeating an incredible amount of work.
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Marketing<br/>
78.6% of the people that responded to the Drupalcon Szeged survey (around 260 people) discovered Drupalcon from drupal.org. Drupal is growing and the successes of Drupalcamps as well as Do it with Drupal have shown that there is a large base of users that are completely unaware of our community. We need to reach out to them.
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Increase session quality<br/>
Feedback from surveys and personal interviews have shown that while Drupalcon is highly successful and people enjoy the conference the sessions are not entirely up to snuff.
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Keep it accessible and affordable <br/>
As the conference has grown so have the costs. Sponsorships and volunteers have been key to keeping the ticket price of the conference affordable (<$300), however, we're starting to see that this may not be a sustainable process.
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What we are doing

Some of the quality enhancements are easy. For example a decision was made to choose the next year's Drupalcon one month before the current Drupalcon thus the deadline for Drupalcon 2010 is Feb. 2009. This gives the organizers more time to plan and execute the conference. Others enhancements are not so easy. <br/>
Marketing, increasing session quality, keeping it affordable, etc. are currently being looked at and are the subject of this post.
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At Drupalcon Szeged a proposal was raised to hire a single events management firm to handle all Drupalcons. Although we decided against this for Drupalcon D.C (the D.C folks had a great firm lined up), its still an option on the table for 2010.
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The O'Reilly proposal

This proposal is only for North America at the moment
Earlier this year Dries met a few people who talked to a few people and it eventually led to O'Reilly events contacting the Drupal Association. For a quick review the O'Reilly company has a publishing company AND an events company, the two are tied only by name. At the moment we are currently engaged in talks with O'Reilly events regarding the management of Drupalcon. <br/ >
So what does this mean? <br/>
First lets go over what it does not mean. It does not mean that a decision has been made and it does not mean that the community has no say in this matter. This is, again, the reason for the post. <br/>
OK, so if O'Reilly does Drupalcon what changes? <br/>
Without getting into major details (we can do this later) O'reilly would become this central events management firm. They (O'Reilly) would handle all logistics including venue scouting, A/V, electrical, Internet, chairs, coffee, food, etc. The location, date and session are all determined by a committee between O'Reilly and the Drupal Association with both parties having to be in agreement.
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What is the benefit to the Drupal community and Drupalcon? <br/>
1) Focus on session quality. With the major pieces of the event being taken care of the community has focus on what the conference is really about; networking with other Drupalers, learning more about Drupal and strategizing as well as defining the future of the project. <br/>
2) Outside speakers. O'Reilly has a vast network of previous presenters as well as reviews on how they did. Drupalcon could tap into this resource to bring in some outside speakers on various topics. <br/>
3) Marketing. O'Reilly puts on tech conferences its what they do. They know how to reach the techies, the geeks, the managers, the contemplators, the decision makers, the developers, the project managers... well you get the point, they know people.
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What is the benefit to O'Reilly? <br/>
O'Reilly charges an entrance fee and they get a cut of that. So in short,

Cons? <br/>
We waited to bring this issue to the community until after we had a chance to have some serious talks with the O'Reilly folks. They (O'Reilly) are extremely receptive to the feedback as well as working within our community should this be what is decided upon. Here is a list of potential "issues" we have discussed with them. <br/>
a) Ticket prices: Drupalcon has historically been sub $400 per ticket. O'Reilly conferences are typically not this inexpensive. Although there is no final decision O'Reilly is very receptive to discovering way to keep the entrance fee low. <br/>

b) Location: The Drupal community gets to choose the location and provided that its in a major city and has the infrastructure needed to put on a conference of our size Drupalcon can happen there. This means that Drupalcon won't always happen in San Francisco. <br/>

c) Sessions: The Drupal community is actively involved in the session decision process and there is no indication that are currently processes will change. They will augmented by people with loads of experience in helping to find excellence speakers and pair them up with the right topics as well as scheduling them accordingly. <br/>

d) Drupalcon remains Drupalcon. The name will not change. <br/>

e) NO publishers will be locked out. As this is O'reilly events and not O'Reilly publishing no other publishers will be barred from booths, sponsorships or the selling/trading/giving-away of books. We appreciate the publishers that are printing Drupal books and they are always welcome equally in Drupalcon. I will stress the word; equally. <br/>

Stop rambling and listen

This is exactly what I need to do at this time. I've rambled on quite a bit and now I(we) need to hear from you. Post your feedback, comments and suggestions. If you have the time and are willing to get involved please do so. Drupalcon is the community's conference and you are the community.

Comments

To avoid confusion

jredding's picture

I accidentally posted this in the Drupalcon Paris 2009 group. To be clear this post is regarding Drupalcon Europe and Drupalcon North America BUT the option of O'Reilly is currently under consideration for North America only. I apologize for any confusion.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

East and West coast event ?

JBI's picture

What do you guys think about Drupalcon as a West or East Coast's event ?

Summer in Europe and Winter in North America (US ?) Ok.

But, Is there any preference for an East Coast venue ? I remember reading this somewhere something like shorter flight from Europe than a city on the West Coast.

Don't get me wrong I love SF or LA :) And in France we have a leading compagny AF83 named after the Air France flight that connects Paris and San Francisco.

JB Ingold

PS1 I attended Boston and Hongary's Drupalcon.
Is there a way to look at former Drupalcon's website ?

PS2 I haven't seen your post on Drupalcon Paris 2009 group :)
It would be of some interest for us in France. It's a interesting piece of background information. We can see how things are going forward and getting even more professional.

Past DrupalCons . . .

oadaeh's picture

PS1 I attended Boston and Hongary's Drupalcon.
Is there a way to look at former Drupalcon's website ?

Here's the format:
http://$city$year.drupalcon.org/

So, for Boston, it would be http://boston2008.drupalcon.org/.

AFAIK, it only goes back to Barcelona 2007.

re

jredding's picture

Drupalcon North America is open to both coasts and all countries at the moment it is 100% dependent on where we can find a good team to help pull off the event. There is not built-in bias for the east coast (2007 was in Sunnyvale, California) nor for the US. In fact people would love to have a conference in Vancouver (B.C), Toronto, or even Mexico City (ok, maybe that's just my wish ;) ).

In regards to flipping summer/fall at the moment there isn't a plan to do this. If there are compelling reasons but right now the spring/fall and skipping summer seems to hit the largest population of attendees.

btw: I removed it from the Paris group.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Midwest?

Crell's picture

There's two timezones in North America that have never had a DrupalCon. There's more to the US than just the coasts. OReilly or no, let's work to correct that oversight. ;-)

Denver

jredding's picture

I've heard there is a great group of Drupal folks in Denver. International airport, plenty of hotels, decently inexpensive and great hiking all around.

Is that not mid enough? ;)

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Denver / Boulder...

Boris Mann's picture

...are both amazing tech / startup towns, and only getting more so.

Mountain

Crell's picture

Yep, Denver would be good. Chicago too for the same reasons (minus mountains). St. Louis would probably qualify although I don't know of any big Drupal shops there. I'm not sure what there is further south from that, but probably something.

In any case, just reminding people that there's more to North America than the East Coast and West Coast. ;-)

Now, back on topic...

Texas

obiwan's picture

"not sure what there is further south from that..."

Don't forget Texas! Dallas and Austin have great tech and start-up communities, and Dallas is central with large International airport and many conf centers. Our drupal group in Dallas isn't as large here yet as some other cities, but maybe by 2011 or 2012 Dallas or Austin could host Drupalcon if the association ever wants to venture away from the coasts...


Lee Raney
Dallas Drupal Group
www.ChurchFinder.com

Not the association...

Boris Mann's picture

To be clear ... it is currently up to groups in local areas to submit proposals. It's not a matter of the Association deciding to have it in one place or another.

DRUPALXSW

forestmars's picture

Not to mention a Drupalcon in Austin would give people the opportunity to stay on for SXSW, which would presumably also have the effect of greatly increasing the presence of Drupal there.

This is based on the regular Spring Drupalcon date of the first week in March; this year we moved it to April in order to be able to have it in the Mosconi center.

Transportation and Chicago River CodeSprint

toursheet's picture

Chicago's transportation is incredibly convenient with plenty of Cabs, Buses, and Trains. In fact Chicago's Walkscore ranks #4 in Most Walkable Cities in the USA. Also one could theorize a Chicago River architecture tour that includes a 2 hour Bon Voyage code sprint in the middle of Lake Michigan. We would just need a giant boat with good WiFi. :-)

I think you're forgetting

drewish's picture

I think you're forgetting about folks that might be coming from Asia. In that case the West Coast is much closer.

yearly fundraising

kvantomme's picture

As I mentioned in Szeged I think it would be healthier if the big ticket sponsors are recruited on a year basis by the association.

There are a number of advantages:
-Lower risk for sponsor fatigue if 1 official team contacts the big ticket companies.
-No need to move 20k twice across borders: the "risk capital" would become a sponsorship
-A longer time horizon would make it easier to get sponsorship from big companies (e.g. Adobe, Microsoft, etc.)
-Continuity in the fundraising team - relationships with key accounts
-Higher value: a company could become the '200x official Drupalcon sponsor' => higher bargaining power


Check out our new company blog on http://www.pronovix.com/blog

--

I blog and Tweet

agreed

jredding's picture

I think a central fundraising committee would be a good idea and would definitely help us overcome the consistency challenge. Our problem with this to date has been recruiting this committee and keeping them motivated. We've unfortunately had several cases of very excited people that quickly become bored of the process of fundraising (i.e. keeping proper track, making "sales" calls, etc.).

If we could come up with a good process it could definitely smooth over some of our hurdles.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

make it doable

kvantomme's picture

Have you asked these volunteers what exactly went wrong for them? Was it the system, or overload? I know cold calling can be a bore, but things change when you have an existing relationship.

Maybe we could have more people that are responsible for just a few key accounts (2-3)?

--

I blog and Tweet

Amazon is better

jredding's picture

Amazon is better suited to answer this question but my guess is exactly what you mentioned. Overload. There is a lot of work to do when fundraising. You can't simply call someone, you need to track it, avoid duplicate entries and ensure that each call is well backed and the history with the client is properly tracked.

I'm sure it would be doable if we have a good leader but with an all-volunteer ran non-profit association this can be a challenge.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

batsonjay's picture

Kieran could answer with more specifics than I can, but from my perspective running Acquia, Kieran became practically unusable by Acquia for anything except Drupalcon fundraising for 2+ months, starting from January 07. In the last few weeks, we were worried whether we'd make the required sponsorship level. At the end, went over our target. But there was plenty of last-minute scrambling.

The community

mikejoconnor's picture

In concept, I think Orielly could do great things for DrupalCons. They have great marketing, a lot of experience running conferences, etc. I just have a few concerns.

One of the main things that draws me to DrupalCons is the sense of community, and I think that is partially because it is a homebrew conference. Organized, presented, and attended by Drupallers.

They will augmented by people with loads of experience in helping to find excellence speakers and pair them up with the right topics as well as scheduling them accordingly.

This sounds like we will be presenting session ideas, but Oreilly will be selecting the speakers. Have you settled on a workflow? How many community members will have the chance to speak? I'm sure Oreilly has the best of intentions, and will bring in some fantastic speakers, however what is the potential cost to the community?

Will an Oreilly DrupalCon feel corporate?

How will the added cost effect part time Drupaller?

following up

jredding's picture

You had a lot of great questions and comments. I'm going to try and answer them one by one.

I think Orielly could do great things for DrupalCons. They have great marketing, a lot of experience running conferences, etc. I just have a few concerns.

Yes this is a very good reason why partnering with O'Reilly is beneficial. We are great at developing software and organizing, marketing, however, is a bit lacking.

One of the main things that draws me to DrupalCons is the sense of community, and I think that is partially because it is a homebrew conference. Organized, presented, and attended by Drupallers.

While I didn't audio record our meetings with O'Reilly (would've been nice) I'd like to emphasize that we've made this very clear to O'Reilly. The Drupal community is first and foremost a community and that is something we need to maintain. So the question here would be
"What is the line that defines a "homebrew" conference and a "corporate" conference?"

We have talked with them at length about the processes used to define the conference. For example they want to work with us to define sessions as well as the location of the conference. Thus we'd maintain our existing processes for this (i.e. submit sessions and then vote on them). We would also have a lot of involvement in the planning of the conference to plan things like BoFs and other events.

They will augmented by people with loads of experience in helping to find excellence speakers and pair them up with the right topics as well as scheduling them accordingly.

This sounds like we will be presenting session ideas, but Oreilly will be selecting the speakers. Have you settled on a workflow? How many community members will have the chance to speak? I'm sure Oreilly has the best of intentions, and will bring in some fantastic speakers, however what is the potential cost to the community?

I'm not sure where you found the first quote but its correct. One of the benefits of going with O'Reilly is that they will help augment our speaker selection process. They will not only find outside speakers to talk but will also with our community presenters to help increase the quality of the presentations.

Here are some more direct answers.

Have you settled on a workflow?
Pretty much but nothing on paper. The idea is that this is a collaborative process. We, the community, will find the majority of the sessions through whichever processes we want (most likely our current submission and vote process). They will have some input into this process but they have stressed that we know Drupal better than they and are better suited to choose the actual topics. They will, however, work with the chosen speakers to make sure that they are prepared and ready to present the topic. I like to think of this as quality control.

How many community members will have the chance to speak?
This is up to us. My guess is that it is all community except 3-5 outside speakers; which is similar to our current conferences.


I'm sure Oreilly has the best of intentions, and will bring in some fantastic speakers, however what is the potential cost to the community?

This is a good question and exactly what we are after here. Personally I believe that there is very little cost to the community and a lot of benefit. Mainly in that we can focus on the sessions, presentations, BoFs, events and the important aspects of the conference. If I were to find a cost, it might be in that we would lose a bit of the true community built feel by having the "O'Reilly" name branded on it. To be honest though I don't see that as a loss.

Will an Oreilly DrupalCon feel corporate?
What do you think?
Personally, I think with enough information from our community and good communication coupled with processes with O'Reilly we can maintain our look and feel while also increasing our quality. However a question here might also be if "corporatizing" the conference a bit (I'm not saying going to everyone in suits) is a bad thing? We do want to make sure that our current Drupal shops have business (i.e. good clients) and that the Drupal developers have jobs (i.e. good Drupal shops). Wouldn't (and shouldn't) this conference also try to help that out?

How will the added cost effect part time Drupaller?
If you are referring to the cost of a ticket we are working hard to ensure that this is minimized. At the moment we are working hard to keep it sub $400 with $300 being a target. We have made it clear to O'Reilly and they understand that accessibility is a factor in our conferences. We have talked about having tiered pricing as well as doing scholarships/subsidies for certain people. Nobody want to exclude anyone or make a really expensive conference. What we want is a high quality conference that helps to encourage the use of Drupal as well as provides us a place to work together and define the future of Drupal.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

O'Reilly does grassroots conferences too

Amazon's picture

The O'Reilly folks know how to do community conferences. They help with private conferences on their campus like foocamp which is very community oriented. The OSCON and ROR conferences are very community oriented. At those conferences you still can see community members getting up and playing musical instruments and sharing personal stories about what makes the community great during or after keynotes.

They understand how to accommodate open source communities and have 10 years of experience doing it. Case in point, they run OSCON which has free attendance to the expo floor. They run web 2.0 in San Francisco which also has free attendance to the expo floor. Both conferences give you a good run of the conference center and use of the infrastructure. They also provide room for the unconferences which provide informal on the spot sessions which are a big part of Drupalcon.

The attendance at these conferences are huge because they provide a mix of free and paid conference events. Right now we charge one price, and that price probably excludes 80-90% of people who might attend if they could get partial conference attendance for free.

Kieran

Quality control?

dragonwize's picture

They will, however, work with the chosen speakers to make sure that they are prepared and ready to present the topic. I like to think of this as quality control.

That is a very general statement. Can you speak more about exactly what they will be doing with the speakers?

While I would not mind them making sure that a speaker has the proper equipment to hook up to the AV systems, I would defiantly not approve of them having content control of a speakers slides or speech.

probably similar to Drupalcon Boston

greggles's picture

I think this would be similar to Drupalcon Boston where the presenters were simply required to have an outline/slides ready 2 weeks prior to the conference. I don't think O'Reilly will be auditing the content of the presentations, but they do want to make sure that the people who present have put some time and thought into the presentations.

--
Growing Venture Solutions | Drupal Dashboard | Learn more about Drupal - buy a Drupal Book

yup...

jredding's picture

Exactly. They don't know Drupal so they will not be checking the content of the presentation. They want to make sure that the presenter is prepared; which means that the presenter knows the date/time/location, they have slides and/or material presentations ready, they know the expected audience (expected skill level, number of people, room layout, etc.), and, importantly, they have all their questions answered.

I don't know the exact dates but I would assume that this means that a percentage of presenters have slides/materials in one to three weeks before the conference. They did mention, however, that this is not required just encouraged. So if you're a good presenter but can't get your stuff together until the last minute, its not a problem. If everyone procrastinated then its a problem.

The goal here is a good high quality conference. If there are specific concerns please voice them so they we can be sure we've covered all bases before deciding if this is a direction we'd like to go.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Supporting resources?

Crell's picture

Most of our presenters are amateur presenters. (They're professional developers or business people, not professional presenters.) And, to be honest, it sometimes shows. What could be useful, and what a company like O'Reilly might be able to offer offer that we really could not do on our own, is online resources for presenters about what makes a good presentation at a grassroots-y tech conference.

Not full on training in public speaking, of course, but even just a few pages of Dos and Don'ts, tips for what makes a good set of slides, suggestions on pacing (and how to make sure you don't have too little or too much content) could probably be very useful to a lot of people, especially those giving their first presentations. (I've been giving tech presentations for years myself and like to think that I'm at least decent at it, but I'd appreciate having such resources available even just to help sanity check myself.)

Is that something O'Reilly would be able/willing to include as a form of "quality control"? It's probably something they could offer to any organization they're hosting a conference for with little or no changes.

I agree wholeheartedly with

gdemet's picture

I agree wholeheartedly with Crell that providing speaking resources is key to improving the quality of Drupalcon presentations, but I think there's a couple other things that we should be doing as well:

  • Soliciting attendee feedback immediately after each presentation, either through the Drupalcon Web site, or through rating cards handed out in each session (although the latter approach is more "low-tech", it does tend to garner a higher percentage of quality responses). Attendees should be able to rate each session on a five-star scale, and have the opportunity to provide more detailed feedback if desired. This would allow us to build up a database of who has done successful Drupalcon presentations in the past, allowing track chairs to better schedule sessions for future Drupalcons without having to rely on institutional memory of whether someone is "good" or not.
  • Stop allowing people to vote for session proposals before the submission deadline, and make it more clear what role votes play in the session selection process. Currently, people can vote for sessions before the submission deadline, which gives a big boost to early-submitted sessions and penalizes later-submitted sessions, even if they're of higher quality. When I was a track chair for Szeged, we only used user votes for tie-breakers, because it became clear very quickly that some of what ended up being the most engaging sessions had hardly any votes, because they had been submitted right before the deadline.

Stop allowing people to vote

GregoryHeller's picture

Stop allowing people to vote for session proposals before the submission deadline,

There should be no voting until all sessions have been submitted. The system is too easily skewed by the early voting. The listing of sessions also results in skewed voting because people might not page through 10 or 20 pages of session proposals and vote on every one.

There should probably also be some editorial pass taken on sessions so that people who propose similar sessions have an opportunity to either team up, or differentiate their sessions topics before voting takes place.

it would also likely be more useful if people had a fixed number of votes they could use, AND/OR incorporating a multiple axis rating system that might include at least these two:

If selected, how likely would you be to attend this session 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
Regardless of whether you would attend this session, how important is this session to drupal 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

http://www.CivicActions.com
http://www.GregoryHeller.com

editorial pass

Gábor Hojtsy's picture

I don't know of a Drupalcon before where there was no editorial pass on the conference. Drupalcon Washington DC is not announcing the program yet exactly to have time to do this editorial pass on the sessions.

Gabor, My suggestion is that

GregoryHeller's picture

Gabor,

My suggestion is that an editorial pass take place BEFORE voting starts. Since people are making session proposals "in a vacuum" the may find that there are numerous similar session proposals. The editorial process would afford an opportunity to suggest combination and collaboration BEFORE the voting begins.

I understand and expect that after the voting has closed, the organizing committee then makes additional editorial decisions about which sessions get selected and uses total number of votes as one of the criteria in those decisions.

-Gregory

http://www.CivicActions.com
http://www.GregoryHeller.com

I agree with early voting being bad

Chris Charlton's picture

I highly agree that voting on sessions before the cut off date is having a negative affect for all interested and invested in these events. The numbers get heavily skewed, and hidden gems end up not making attendee short lists.

Chris Charlton, Author & Drupal Community Leader, Enterprise Level Consultant

I teach you how to build Drupal Themes http://tinyurl.com/theme-drupal and provide add-on software at http://xtnd.us

public speaking...

jredding's picture

Our community rocks and has already taken a few of these steps.
http://dc2009.drupalcon.org/session/presenting-you

She (emmajane) will be do a short session before the conference to help presenters be better prepared.

I don't know the specifics of what O'Reilly would provide in terms of tips n' tricks or online training. I can clarify this with them and get more information.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Quality control

Amazon's picture

Professional conference organizers rely on domain experts to do quality control. No one likes attending a session that was poorly prepared, or written in the session before. That means any professional organizer is going to rely on Drupal community members to review presentations and ensure that presentations and write-ups are submitted on time for printing, advertising, and marketing promotions. Getting a quality program locked down is key to getting enough attendees to not lose money on a big conference.

One of the challenges that has been raised is that Drupalcon charges it's speakers to attend the conference. A very select few speakers are vocal that they should not be subject to rigorous quality reviews if they are in effect paying to present. At Drupalcon Boston, by making almost 100 presenters pay to actually attend Drupalcon we were able to move costs around and keep ticket prices below $200.

A lot of costs are not linear, but have huge step functions when you move to a large conference. For example, wireless for 300 people is just a matter of borrowing a bunch of your friends WAPs. Wireless for 1000 people can be $2500-5000 per day!

Kieran

LA Convention Center Wi-Fi cost

Chris Charlton's picture

Wi-Fi for less than 300 people people originally was costing us over $2500... and yes, the charges are per day. Otherwise folks have to buy their own Wi-Fi for about $25/day, so when there's free (stable) wireless at a conference and people just eat it up, no one reminds themselves they have to pay at the hotel too, at the airport, at Starbucks, etc. Wi-Fi is cool, but it ain't cheap, and no venue cares if the event is for free community software or not.

Chris Charlton, Author & Drupal Community Leader, Enterprise Level Consultant

I teach you how to build Drupal Themes http://tinyurl.com/theme-drupal and provide add-on software at http://xtnd.us

cost, cost, cost!

chx's picture

First DrupalCons were free, then it began to cost a few ten bucks now a few hundreds and now we inch into few thousands?? Cos that's what an OReilly conference costs, make no mistake.

Edit: https://en.oreilly.com/oscon2008/public/register#pricing 595-2090 bucks.
Edit2: https://en.oreilly.com/toc2009/public/register#pricing 595-1645 but then it's only two days.

Edit:3 Greg asked "how much would i feel ok". Well, I think 200USD is the limit for me. However, I have no probs with tickets eventually going above that. If it can be arranged that we have a scheme like in DC and the community gets a chance (drupal.org, planet, twitter) to snatch the tickets early before O'Reilly announces it far and wild that registration is open then I am fine. Another idea: deep discounts for CVS account holders.

Edit4: and scholarships for those in the need, yes. We need to think of our students.

Listed costs are high, but not everyone pays that much

gdemet's picture

Yes, conferences run by O'Reilly and other similar organizations have very high listed admission costs, but there are also generally a lot of discounts available to folks from academic institutions and non-profits as well as business sponsor and group discounts. Also, people who are either presenting sessions or who are on panels usually have their admission costs waived, and sometimes are compensated for travel expenses as well.

Pretty much the only people who pay full price admission are those from the corporate sector who can afford it, and who expect to pay that much for a professional conference.

cost

Chris Johnson's picture

chx, thanks for making these points. (CVS discounts...I like that idea. ;-)

Large conferences are complicated and expensive to put on. What if we had more frequent, but much smaller, conferences (<$150 and <250? people) and one large (larger than today, and $300 to $1000) one every 1 to 2 years? Not saying this is a good idea, just trying to stimulate ideas for solutions.

Think outside the box.

For reference, "ancient" history looks this way:

  • DrupalCon 1 -- Brussels, February 2005 / Free, less than 50 attendees
  • DrupalCon 2 -- Portland, August 2005 / Free, less than 100? attendees
  • DrupalCon 3 -- Amsterdam, October 2005 / Free, about 100 attendees
  • DrupalCon 4 -- Vancouver, February 2006 / Free, about 150 attendees
  • DrupalCon 5 -- Brussels, September 2006 / Free, about 150 attendees
  • DrupalCon 6 -- Sunnyvale, March 2007 / Free, attendance?
  • DrupalCon 7 -- Barcelona, September 2007 / 50 Euro (~$70), about 450 attendees
  • DrupalCon 8 -- Boston, March 2008 / $195, about 860 attendees
  • DrupalCon 9 -- Szeged, August 2008 / 80-120-160-200 Euro (~$120-$180-$240-$300), about 500 attendees
  • DrupalCon 10 -- Washington DC, March 2009 / $120-$175-$200-$250, attendees ??

Other numbers

Boris Mann's picture

Boston was 950, IIRC? Sunnyvale was ~300+, bursting at the seams.

People have some expectations around a DrupalCon. i.e. core team, lots of dev talks. Its already been shifting to have a mixed business focus. Like hiring everyone with a pulse in sight :P

Drupalcamps are getting to be 50 - 150 - 300+. They are the right thing to be happening more often and remain free / very low cost.

Sprints, of which I see more of as well, I also see as fulfilling part of the mission of the original DrupalCons: concentrated hack / development time to move pieces of core forward. In fact, aside from a 1 day code sprint usually attached to DrupalCons, we need those smaller sprints to get dev work done these days.

I think twice yearly NA / Europe is still a good split -- with, of course, the option to move that "second" Drupalcon around to other places. With Do It With Drupal and camps, its clear that you could do many more NA-based offerings. I think O'Reilly could definitely make this work.

long live the low-cost DrupalCamp

greggles's picture

My opinion is that we should try to keep DrupalCons as cheap and "grassroots" as possible but that as Drupal grows and DrupalCons grow it is inevitable that the price will rise and some of the grassroots feeling will go away.

So, we should work to make DrupalCamps highly successful complements for DrupalCon - cheap (or free) to attend, open and interesting to people of all levels, etc. It's slightly off-topic to this thread, but I think that for people concerned about "DrupalCon isn't what it used to be" some of the concern can be reduced by increasing the number of really awesome camps.

--
Growing Venture Solutions | Drupal Dashboard | Learn more about Drupal - buy a Drupal Book

Into this..

jredding's picture

I'm into this too and we've been trying to work a model to help support these. Hopefully we can talk more and get together a good design/model going at Drupalcon this year.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

I concur re drupalcamps vs

GregoryHeller's picture

I concur re drupalcamps vs cons. I think that the community and the organizers of both events should be really clear about who the events are for and what the focus is.

There are many people who would benefit greatly from a Camp (based on my experience planning and attending a number of them) who would realize much less benefit from attending a Con. I also think that Cons may be more impactful when they are "smaller" and have a more focused audience.

What follows probably belongs in a different thread, but I'll post it here and maybe Jacob can suggest where the conversation could continue:

It would really be wonderful if the association could develop a policy/fund to help camps. It doesn't take much to make one happen, usually between $500 and $2500 for a camp that can serve 100 people (depending on whether food and refreshments are included).

Maybe some portion of the revenues from DrupalCons could be dedicated to supporting drupal camps? or the association could create a fund to allow companies to sponsor multiple drupalcamps rather than having to deal with sponsoring each one individually. For example, there could be a Drupal Association Drupal Camp sponsorship fund with 3 levels (bronze, sliver, gold) maybe at levels like 1000, 2500, 5000 and the association would then distribute funds to camps that apply for them, all participants in the DADC fund would be listed as sponsors of the local camp. The local camp could then have additional sponsor levels if they wanted like a "Platinum" level.

The DA would probably have to set a limit on how many camps would get funding in any given year, and some requirements for applicants. Perhaps any left over money gets donated back to the fund. admission can't cost more than $20, and a few others.

Such a program would help new camps start up, and would also make it easier for DrupalCamp sponsors to support camps throughout the year.

http://www.CivicActions.com
http://www.GregoryHeller.com

Camp entry fees

Chris Charlton's picture

I'm a supporter of camp registration fees, like $20 (plus or minus). This helps organizers break even on costs (expected or not), and assures the organizers that those who are registered are most likely to show up, bringing in "real" numbers early on. DrupalCamp LA and SANDcamp were free, but they each had tremendous support from local sponsors and corporate sponsorships, but I do know each camp was JUST able to cover all costs at the last minute with final sponsor payments.

FYI - if you sponsor a Drupal community event, send the checks ASAP... don't lag.

Chris Charlton, Author & Drupal Community Leader, Enterprise Level Consultant

I teach you how to build Drupal Themes http://tinyurl.com/theme-drupal and provide add-on software at http://xtnd.us

that is the idea

jredding's picture

Large conferences are complicated and expensive to put on. What if we had more frequent, but much smaller, conferences ($150 and 250? people) and one large (larger than today, and $300 to $1000) one every 1 to 2 years? Not saying this is a good idea, just trying to stimulate ideas for solutions.

This is the idea with Drupalcamps. Many Drupalcamps all around the world and then one large conference that happens once a year. Drupalcon is that conference. It happens once in North America and once in Europe. Drupalcamps are getting larger and larger and growing in quality as well.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

DrupalCon 5 -- Brussels,

Jax's picture

DrupalCon 5 -- Brussels, September 2006 / Free, about 150 attendees

This one was not free. I'm pretty sure it was about 50 EUR and you got a t-shirt.

point taken

jredding's picture

This point has been received and O'reilly is fully aware of it. In our first face to face discussion with O'Reilly this was the major take away for them. They understand that if they were to do the conference that the ticket prices, compared to their other conferences, would have to come down. When we met them again we reiterated that ticket prices were a big factor. Our talks did shift to the topic of "accessibility" instead of pure ticket prices. It has been made very clear to them that our community would not be happy with a $1,000+ ticket price.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

I agree to discounts for CVS holders

Chris Charlton's picture

Good idea that contrib folk should be considered for Drupalcon discounts ($50).

I have no problem paying a few-several hundred dollars for events where I'm networking and actually learning new techniques and must-know tips/tricks/info.

Chris Charlton, Author & Drupal Community Leader, Enterprise Level Consultant

I teach you how to build Drupal Themes http://tinyurl.com/theme-drupal and provide add-on software at http://xtnd.us

My opinion as a Drupal Camp

andremolnar's picture

My opinion as a Drupal Camp organizer:

Outsourcing to a single vendor for all future events (NA or Global) sounds very un Drupal like. Its simply less open.

The biggest problem is that hiring somebody like O'Rielly will make Drupalcons much more expensive to attend. I also can't help but feel that the Association (who gets its money from the community) wouldn't get their money's worth. That's double bad for the community.

The second problem is that the conferences would start to all feel the same. With something like a Big Mac, you expect sameness globally. With something like Drupal, I expect uniqueness. There was already fear after Drupalcon Szeged that there wouldn't be another conference quite like it and that future conferences would never again be in a 'small' city with lots of character.

The honest truth is that I want Drupalcons to be LESS like tech conferences. I want them to be more un-conference like. I would prefer something less like a conference and more like a 'super camp' (tm).

What I can appreciate is the desire to keep organizers from burning out. But, if an organizing committee / event team is willing to take on the task, it should be up to them to decide how much of the work they want to outsource.

Finally thought: Event organizers like O'Rielly should bid on specific events if they want to do them. Any company should have an equal opportunity to run a Drupalcon.

andre

The biggest problem is that

jredding's picture

The biggest problem is that hiring somebody like O'Rielly will make Drupalcons much more expensive to attend. I also can't help but feel that the Association (who gets its money from the community) wouldn't get their money's worth. That's double bad for the community.

This is not necessarily the outcome. We have talked to O'Reilly and they are fully aware of the issues of cost and are willing to work with us in regards to lower the price of attendance.

Finally thought: Event organizers like O'Reilly should bid on specific events if they want to do them. Any company should have an equal opportunity to run a Drupalcon.

All companies and communities have equal opportunity to run a Drupalcon. O'Reilly did submit a proposal to put on Drupalcon 2009 alongside proposals from Philadelphia, D.C and L.A. D.C was chosen because of the great team in D.C and that it seemed to have all the pieces for a great conference. Everyone felt it was too soon to go with O'Reilly because several items (including price) needed to be worked through first as well as communication with the community.

I'd also like to take the opportunity to address the issue if going with O'reilly with "corporatize" the event. I don't think this is necessarily the case. The big reason why O'reilly is a consideration is because we see the current processes unsustainable. Every team that helps put on Drupalcon ends up getting burned out as there is a ton of work to do.

Working with a company like O'Reilly would allow these teams to focus on the important aspects of the conference such as sessions, BoFs and events. I hope that this point isn't missed.

We, the community, are strongly relied up on to determine the sessions, BoFs, etc. thus this is still our conference. O'Reilly is there to help us with marketing as well as event organization. These two pieces are extremely large and often "behind the scenes" but we can not ignore

A good question would be what makes the difference between a "community" ran event and a "corporate" event. Is the attendees? the venue? How the sessions are ran?

I ask this question because we have explored the option of paying an events management firm to handle all of the aspects the conference outside of session management, BoFs, events, etc. (in fact we have hired one for the past two conference but I'm referring to stepping this up).

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Unconference?

Crell's picture

What is the feasibility of a "formal unconference" (if that's not too much of a contradiction) as part of an O'Reilly-run DrupalCon? E.g., Instead of BoFs spread throughout the conference and a one day code sprint, have a 2-3 day "all BoF and code sprint uber-geek fest" before/after the formal conference, and then leave the main days to the structured presenters? Is that something ORA would be able to do, and/or something we're interested in?

good idea.

jredding's picture

that's not a bad idea although the costs would be the same per day as the main conference.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Complicated

Boris Mann's picture

It's essentially like running two parallel conferences that just happen to run right before / after. And both have radically different needs and audiences.

concurrent unconference

GregoryHeller's picture

concurrent unconference track would be tricky, 3 day unconference before or after 3 day conference would likely be untenable for many attendees (i couldn't take 6 days).

one full day unconference after a scheduled conference sounds good to me.

http://www.CivicActions.com
http://www.GregoryHeller.com

Unconferences are the norm for big conferences

Amazon's picture

Unconferences alongside the main conference is all the rage, all the leading technical conferences I went to in 2008 had a parallel or overlapping unconference. First, conference organizers want lots of attendees. Lots of attendees translates to companies paying more to address larger audiences. In the Drupal community think of it this way.

Conference sponsors are looking for an ROI. In some cases that's being a good corporate citizen. In other cases it's marketing, or talent development. Either way, having more people is generally better for sponsors who are paying half the costs or more. Unconferences allow us to settle this tension between those who pay thousands in salary and travel costs and don't mind paying a few hundred dollars for conference admission and those who are very sensitive to costs and just want to do networking and social interaction at Drupalcon.

O'Reilly ran unconferences at both OSCON and Web 2.0 so they are well versed in what it takes to run a parallel unconference.

Kieran

Why not hire an individual? (UPDATED)

GregoryHeller's picture

Has the association considered hiring an individual to SUPPORT local event planning teamslocal drupalcon planning teams? There are plenty of people out there who work as conference planners, the community already has a ton of experience. It is not like we don't know what we are doing, the probably problem seems to be that we just don't really have the time (all the time) to do all the things that we should be doing when planning a DrupalCon.

A conference planning individual could work on contract for a retainer fee and get paid some percentage of the net.

UPDATE: as reflected in my correction above (And comment below), i intended this suggestion to be applicable to the "local event planning teams" the plan drupalcons, not smaller drupal events like drupalcamps, etc... sorry for the confusion.

http://www.CivicActions.com
http://www.GregoryHeller.com

Managing employees is a lot of work

Amazon's picture

Managing employees is a lot of work for the association volunteers. Both Jacob and I have put a lot of time into helping with local group organization in 2008. So did all the local event organizers. I am not convinced that interjecting a bureaucracy into that growth pattern is the right thing to do. I'd rather see it growth through sharing best practices and openly sharing knowledge and efficiencies.

We are exploring long term event planning relationships for Drupalcons because it's relatively similar from one Drupalcon to the next.

Kieran

one catch I see

jredding's picture

The one "gotcha" I see is that a lot of Drupalcamps are free and operate on very minimal budgets. Moreover the community encourages this so that the camps remain accessible and happen more often. Once money gets involved and things start to get bigger and bigger they need more infrastructure and that necessary infrastructure is usually where people get bogged down, frustrated and ultimately burn out.

I like the idea but I still think the proper course is to encourage low cost, high frequency events instead of low frequency high cost events that, in my experience, tend to burn out the volunteers.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Not sure what you are

GregoryHeller's picture

Not sure what you are responding too here Jacob. I was suggesting that instead of outsourcing to O'Reilley, the Assoc consider in-sourcing to a conference/event planner for drupalcons to assist local groups who would continue to be responsible in the way they are now for proposing and organizing conferences. The paid planner could provide continuity from con to con and also help establish things like annual sponsorships, and other logistical issues that local organizers probably run into and get sandbagged by.

Regarding camps being free and operating on minimal budgets, they do, but i have never seen a camp that did not have a sponsor which means that money changes hands or in some cases a sponsor pays a vendor like the venue directly. I made a separate suggestion that the association establish a fund so that companies who want to sponsor camps to do not have to deal directly with 17 different camps every year and different people from year to year but rather could budget some set amount and give it to the association to administer. I know that at CivicActions I would be happy to participate in such a fund since camps often take maybe 2 to 4 months to plan, i could blow my entire camp sponsorship budget in the first 3 quarters of the year and not be able to sponsor a camp in december, for example, because i didn't know it was going to happen. Rather than change the planning process for camps i am suggesting changing the funding process, in part, by aggregating sponsorship dollars and distributing them evenly through the association. If 10 shops put in $2500 and 20 shops put in $1000 that assoc would have $45000 to doll out to camps which could provide the majority if the funding necessary for maybe 30 to 40 camps who could then get a few local sponsors and possibly moderate attendance fees ($10 to $20) to fill in the rest.

A sponsorship structure could account for event price and give more money to camps that cost less. or sponsorship could be granted as a matching fund, so the association could match dollar for dollar all outside sponsorships a camp assembles (up to some reasonable limit) before a certain date.

I'd be happy to write something more detailed up about this idea and propose it to the association if you are interested.

http://www.CivicActions.com
http://www.GregoryHeller.com

my bad

jredding's picture

sorry I was confused I thought you were referring to Drupalcamps.

Not sure what you are responding too here Jacob. I was suggesting that instead of outsourcing to O'Reilley, the Assoc consider in-sourcing to a conference/event planner for drupalcons to assist local groups who would continue to be responsible in the way they are now for proposing and organizing conferences. The paid planner could provide continuity from con to con and also help establish things like annual sponsorships, and other logistical issues that local organizers probably run into and get sandbagged by.

At the moment this person is me. I originally wanted to focus on Drupalcamps and smaller events and although I am still trying to meet that mission a lot of my time has been sucked into doing exactly what you describe. We're trying to create continuity from con to con as well as working with the groups that are proposing to run/organize the conferences. It is a bit of work and I'd never turn down money ;) but at the moment I think we can run this as a volunteer position, like other positions on the Association.

It is a very good idea, however, particularly when you mention the piece about sponsors and sponsorships. This has been requested over and over again and currently we don't have a decent model for many sponsorship strategies from conference to conference. This piece is highly labor intensive and a single dedicated individual could provide extremely valuable.

In regards to Drupalcamps, your proposal is, again, a common request. It has been brought up and I think this year might be the year we get all the ducks in a row to start doing something like this. At Drupalcon I would love to form a committee to start down this path to assess the feasibility of it. The main drawbacks to this are the mundane details such as tax reporting, legal liability, structure, etc. I don't anticipate these being large obstacles but they do require some thought and need to be written down and anticipated so you're not blindsided by a lawsuit or the tax man.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Netroots Nation...

Alex UA's picture

Has anyone talked with the people at Netroots Nations (the liberal blogger/net activist convention formerly known as Yearly Kos)? I definitely think that it would be good to learn from their experiences, given the close relationship that Drupal has with the blogger/net activist movement, and given that they now have a full year-round staff dedicated to the convention.

I'm friends with some of the folks there (I'll likely be helping out this year in some way since it's in my state), Advomatic built their site, and I'm sure many other members of this community are involved in the convention in some way. I know a tech conference is different from a tech-enabled political conference, but I still think there are enough similarities to make it worth a talk. Want to start a conversation with them?

Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg
ZivTech: Illuminating Technology

Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg
ZivTech: Illuminating Technology

More information never hurts

jredding's picture

I'd definitely like to hear what challenges they faced and how they overcome them. One of the differences that I can see in this is that there really isn't a company doing netroots style conferences as in the tech industry. O'Reilly saw an opportunity to do tech conferences a while back and picked up that ball and ran with it.

One of the things that shouldn't be overlooked is that O'Reilly provides more than conference management. Their marketing arm as well as the simple brand-name clout they bring to the conference could be beneficial to the conference. Not only to draw more attendees but also to bring in more speakers from a more diverse background.

Managing the innards of the conference is very important but we also have to look at what someone like O'Reilly brings to the table and (a) if we need it (I say yes) and (b) what it would take to do it on our own (i.e. what does it take to roll out a marketing arm like O'Reilly's?)

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

ASIA NOT A PRIORITY FOR DRUPAL EVENTS

marcrobinsone's picture

I think it's very obvious that Asia is not a targeted hotspot for Drupal events in the near future -- minor nor major ones. And yet we hear the blabber about the super-luxurious cost of Drupalcon tickets abroad.

I say, we in the Asian regions make our best effort to plan, organize, and collaborate Drupal events in the next 3-6 months or 2009. The consequence of not being able to derive our own events here in the Asian regions makes us feel more and more left out as DrupalCon(s) in Europe/US keeps on moving forward.

In addition, Asians have a harder chance of getting VISA to US/Europe while the other way around is relatively easier. If you are an American wanting to visit Asian countries... most likely you'll get there. But if you're an Asian wanting to go to American/European countries -- praying to your respective gods might not even help. NOT TO MENTION, attending Drupal events in EU/US has been proven to be a lucrative effort. However, no-one is to be blamed in this somehow "unfair" condition. Jacob is positively right in his post above (that it is a community effort other than getting sponsors to support the event).

Seeing things in a different light (considering the economic crisis in the US), I definitely think that events here in Asia would cost much cheaper than that of the foreign counterparts.

marc.robinsone
South-East Asia / Philippines

Perspective

jredding's picture

I do think it is unfortunate that there is no current plan to put on a Drupalcon in Asia but to place this into perspective there are also no plans for Russia, Australia, Africa, Eastern Europe, South America, Central America, Mexico, or India. Nobody is singling Asian countries out. To understanding the reasoning behind this one has to look at how Drupalcons or any technology conference come together.

As I stated earlier Drupalcons are collaborative events that begin with a local community. Someone from the local community steps up and suggests that a Drupalcon be held in their local community. The next step is that they get organized. These individuals pull together a proposal to not only demonstrate local demand but also that adequate infrastructure exists to hold such a conference.

When choosing a conference the decision always comes down to benefit. Questions such as the following are asked
Does the location benefit (i.e. help to grow and strengthen) the local community? (dependent on a local community existing)
Does the location benefit the attendees?
---Is airfare and hotel lodging accessible and inexpensive?
Will the location benefit the attendees by connecting them to other people?
---Are local companies looking to hire?
---Will the conference help to encourage new companies?
---Will the conference location help to bring in a diverse audience?

Then of course there are the logistical items
-Where are the majority of attendees traveling from?
-What can the attendee afford? (domestic airfare is always cheaper than international)
-Can we host 1,000+ people responsibly in said location? (hotels, restaurants, entertainment, family options, etc.)

At the moment almost every one of these questions is answered by the local community that has stepped up and decided to run the conference.

For an example Drupalcon D.C was decided as a great location because (amongst other reasons)
(1) Drupal meetups occur regularly and are growing
(2) D.C is situated close to NYC and the N.E which have had awesome Drupalcamps (hosting well over 600 attendees combined)
(3) D.C has a number of Drupal shops including several startups
(4) D.C is home to several companies that have built a company based on Drupal or has chosen it as the architecture of choice for their complex website/web offerings

I am not saying that these are the only criteria when selecting a location. I am saying that location alone is very low on the list of deciding factors.

In regards to the other factors you mentioned (Visa, financial, etc.) I hear you and your points are taken. However I ask that you not assume that these are issues not shared by others. We are working extremely hard to ensure that Drupalcon is affordable for domestic attendees as well; which make up the vast majority. People have shown to be sensitive to ticket prices as well as to the cost of travel and lodging. Moreover others also struggle with Visa issues the U.S is no gem in this category. If this issuance of a Visa was our only criteria we'd probably always have Drupalcon in Canada.

So what do we do?

The best advice I can give is to follow the footsteps of those in front of you. Before a Drupalcon was held for the first time there was markedly high demand for it. Several Drupalcons that have followed also arose out of demand. For example Drupalcon Sunnyvale was actually a OSCMS conference wherein Drupal was invited. The demand for Drupal far outweighed the demand for other CMSes thus we kinda just took over (sorry everyone else). Drupalcon Boston was another example. Through some clever networking by some community members (i.e. not the Drupal Association) Drupalcon was invited by AIIM to colocate with them. After the successful event Drupalcon was invited back (we declined for '09 but the option is open for '10)

The point to which I am getting at is that of demonstrable market demand.

A really great up and coming example is that of Peru. Although the local news is reporting on the growth and strength of China and Asia Peru is silently building up actual demonstrable demand in the Drupal world. A few really awesome Drupal community members have hosted several successful events bringing in hundreds of people. They have even been coordinating with local universities to increase demand for Drupal. India is also high up on their on the silent but absolutely staggering growth trend. This has been documented and put out on the web for all to see.

Honestly I'd see a Drupalcon in Peru or India in the next few years if they don't just do it themselves before that.

I'll sum up. There is no prejudice or bias against any Asian countries. What there is are strong and active communities in Europe and North America that are organizing and growing organically on their own. Drupalcon is simply visiting them.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Straight-forward

marcrobinsone's picture

First of all, I have to say that I am not hurt by the fact that there is no obvious "market demand" for Drupal here in the Asian regions. To tell you honestly, it is same for all other open source software/communities due to the fact that 'Open Source' is yet to bloom in our respective regions (seriously, most people only know MS b/c it is being taught exclusively to as early as 7-year-olds).

In my feedback response above, I just intend to share my point-of-view... given that we --Asia/Russia/Europe/America/China-- will soon bump into this kind of issue (market vs. demand vs. support vs. all other topics under the sun) and there's no avoiding that. I'm also sure that quality is the main priority of the organizers which we definitely applaud for. Also I do wish to thank you for sharing a minimal-yet-comprehensive checklist for event organizations. I dig that (bookmarked and all). The market here behave very differently (and I'm sure you noticed that in your stay in China) is cruelly different in terms of perspective, development goals, way-of-thinking, language, and all other cultural differences. Which is why it is easy to say that we don't deserve our own Drupal events in a straightforward manner. Don't raise an eyebrow yet because we acknowledge that the event-organizing body is simply a catalyst that responds to the effort of interested parties to establish events. I'm not pointing fingers nor playing the blame-game. I also understand that we have not yet reached our prime in terms of local community involvement. Bottomline is -- we need help! we need to be nurtured by our brothers & sisters there in the vast majority of the Drupal community. Sad to say, but I think this kind of issue has never been and never will be discussed at the DrupalCon(s) so I'm not hopeful for it either.

Someday we'll know. Maybe...

Suggestion..

jredding's picture

There are awesome communities in Mainland China and Taiwan as well as Malaysia, Singapore and, of course, the Philippines. Maybe these groups can ban together to share tips n' tricks to organizing their local communities. Maybe there are some regional synergies that can be found here?

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

all I can say

marcrobinsone's picture

I'm working on it in my own special way with-or-without the gratuitous help of the Drupal community.

That's all I can say.

Drupal event(s) in Asia

Chris Charlton's picture

I know of the "Asia Open" conference that was Drupal + Adobe + IBM (I think) oriented. Drupal users organized that show.

Chris Charlton, Author & Drupal Community Leader, Enterprise Level Consultant

I teach you how to build Drupal Themes http://tinyurl.com/theme-drupal and provide add-on software at http://xtnd.us

Perspective....

dopry's picture

What is the goal of DrupalCon? What purposes does it serve? That question seems to be unanswered here. I think that's something that should be included in your survey...

Frankly what I want from DrupalCon is an opportunity to share ideas and expertise with other developers. I'd like DrupalCon to serve to help build social ties between the people who actively work on Drupal, provide an incubator ground for new ideas, share experiences, and educate people about new code in core, and fun site building techniques.

So my experience working with various production crews in assorted capacities...

1) Planning is Arduous...

After a convention crew and producer will all be exhausted, no matter how hard you try to be organized. Throwing cash at someone else for the execution will not change this.

2) Maintaining consistency

This can only be done by keeping key figures in key roles within a production team. Several groups I've worked with have used an apprentice like system to train and replace team heads.

3) Marketing

Is marketing really important? How does the growth of DrupalCon itself grow Drupal? If growth is an issue should marketing be widened? Who is DrupalCon for anyway?

4) Session Quality

Yeah the like the Adobe Marketing Dweeb at DrupalCon Boston, who miss represented several important technological aspects of Flex. The one I remember is that you no longer need JS to get URL args passed to you Flash/Action script. In fact Flex just formalizes this technique by supplying Adobe blessed JS with Flex to do this so you don't have have to include that code yourself anymore. He did have his materials prepared... I don't think O'Rielly will help with session quality.. just session presentation which are two vastly different things.

5) Accessibility & Affordability

This seems like a big challenge. I mean convention centers that cater to 1000's are not a cost effective approach to controlling costs either. We're talking 1200 people.. Most Hotel's can handle this volume and there is no commute to the convention needed as far as accessibility is concerned. There is also the possibility of mass booking discounts or kick backs from the hotel as your volume grows... You also get to build a relationship with a single organization that spans many cities for your event venue. Volunteer for Admission programs, discounts for speakers and presenters.

What is the goal of

jredding's picture

What is the goal of DrupalCon? What purposes does it serve? That question seems to be unanswered here. I think that's something that should be included in your survey...

Frankly what I want from DrupalCon is an opportunity to share ideas and expertise with other developers. I'd like DrupalCon to serve to help build social ties between the people who actively work on Drupal, provide an incubator ground for new ideas, share experiences, and educate people about new code in core, and fun site building techniques.

You bring up an excellent point and one that has been talked about and discussed but not in this post. You're correct in that it should have been brought up though. At the moment there is no "official" description of Drupalcon but all descriptions used seem to be what you just said. A few months ago I proposed this as the two line description of Drupalcon.

Drupalcon brings the Drupal Community together twice a year to learn about and discuss the current state and the future of the project. Drupalcon also helps to strengthen a local community by welcoming newcomers to Drupal and providing them with resources to utilize Drupal successfully

If we mix in yours we get something like.

Drupalcon brings the Drupal community together to help build social ties between the contributors of Drupal, provides an incubator for new ideas and to the community to share ideas, educate each other and exchange site building techniques. Opportunities are provided to meet and network with Drupal companies as well as to meet new entrepreneurs and developers.

I added that last piece in because we can't forget about our businesses and Drupalcon is a great place for them to network, find new developer and grow and expand. Fostering our developer community by giving them the opportunity to learn new skills is awesome but making sure that they have a paycheck is just as important. We all seen enormous benefits when Drupal developers move from hobbyist to full-time dev.

Of course we are not forgetting that we do have a lot of awesome and talented developer that are hobbyist or students; which is why we are working hard to ensure that the conference is still accessible.

1) Planning is Arduous...
After a convention crew and producer will all be exhausted, no matter how hard you try to be organized. Throwing cash at someone else for the execution will not change this.

No it won't change this but it will shift it to more experienced hands, instead of a constantly rotating crew.

2) Maintaining consistency
This can only be done by keeping key figures in key roles within a production team. Several groups I've worked with have used an apprentice like system to train and replace team heads.

agreed. This is one of the reasons why going with a company like O'Reilly is appealing. Currently Drupalcon is nearly all volunteer ran and most certainly all volunteer ran at the key roles/figures level. Volunteers are great but can only last so long until they need to move on.

3) Marketing
Is marketing really important? How does the growth of DrupalCon itself grow Drupal? If growth is an issue should marketing be widened? Who is DrupalCon for anyway?

Marketing is massively important. The surveys we have conducted indicate that >80% (probably close to 90%) of Drupalcon attendees only know of it via drupal.org yet we know that there is a massive group of users and developers that do not use drupal.org. The success of events such as Do it with Drupal, private training, Drupal based companies, and, even the inclusion of Acquia Drupal into Redhat is not only demonstrating that but also growing a large community of users that are completely unaware of drupal.org.

These people are developing and using Drupal yet only a handful of them contribute back to the project.

One of the items that makes Drupal so successful is the number of modules available for download. Also one of the main complaints of Drupal is that the modules are often unmaintained or don't move to the next version fast enough.

Drupalcon is one of the many ways we can encourage these users to become active in the community.

4) Session Quality

Yeah the like the Adobe Marketing Dweeb at DrupalCon Boston, who miss represented several important technological aspects of Flex. The one I remember is that you no longer need JS to get URL args passed to you Flash/Action script. In fact Flex just formalizes this technique by supplying Adobe blessed JS with Flex to do this so you don't have have to include that code yourself anymore. He did have his materials prepared... I don't think O'Rielly will help with session quality.. just session presentation which are two vastly different things.

It's highly likely that you're correct. Bad session may always make it through.

I hope though that since O'Reilly is experienced at putting on conferences they might have companies as well as individuals on a "Watch list" for poor presentations. Currently we only know what happens at Drupalcon they, O'Reilly, know what happens at every conference they do and also have years worth of data and attendee surveys. The hope is that their experience could help weed out the poor presentations before they even get a chance.

5) Accessibility & Affordability

This seems like a big challenge. I mean convention centers that cater to 1000's are not a cost effective approach to controlling costs either. We're talking 1200 people.. Most Hotel's can handle this volume and there is no commute to the convention needed as far as accessibility is concerned. There is also the possibility of mass booking discounts or kick backs from the hotel as your volume grows... You also get to build a relationship with a single organization that spans many cities for your event venue. Volunteer for Admission programs, discounts for speakers and presenters.

Its a huge challenge. Hotels are approximately the same cost and almost all hotels with decent sized convention centers will require that you do room blocks (i.e. guarantee X number of hotel rooms). This opportunity was available for Drupalcon Boston, in short the deal was "Guarantee 500,000 USD in hotel room rates and you can have the conference rooms". The hotel rooms were almost all $200-300 USD/night and most of our attendees ended up taking a shuttle or driving in from hotels that were significantly cheaper (<$150/night)

-Jacob Redding

Status of the O'Reilly proposal

kthull's picture

I'll admit I haven't read the entire thread, but has the decision been finalized regarding O'Reilly? I work for a company that hosts an annual conference and uses internal staff along with outside contractors to host our conference each year. We typically hit 1,200 attendees (this year's conference just wrapped last week and we were considerably down this year). We deal with marketing, room blocks, managing outside presenters, breakfast and lunch through the hotel (we have our conference at the Hilton Chicago each year), off-site parties, on-site a/v, on-site organization/facilitation of the concurrent sessions, etc.

It is a huge undertaking and I've been involved with our conference for 17 years now and know some great contractors who very likely would be able to pull off this event without bringing in the potential negative connotation of being under O'Reilly. I'm also guessing the that overall fees associated with pulling it off would not be as high as a company whose sole function is churning out conferences that already carry a higher ticket price.

Perhaps a similar model might be considered for drupalcon.

Kevin

Still undecided

jredding's picture

The decision has not been made and the Association is still considering proposals for Drupalcon 2010

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Working with a more

highermath's picture

Working with a more traditional conference planner is one of the possibilities going forward.

Key words: "It is a huge undertaking"

batsonjay's picture

Um, I think this is how we've been doing Drupalcons - internal staff plus outside contractors.

And it is why doing Drupalcon's has become something we're seeking outside assistance for. As the company that hosted Drupalcon Boston, and contributed a lot of one employee's time to Drupalcon Hungary, and looking at what hosting did to Development Seed, I assert this is why the Association needs to look at a more turnkey approach.

I'm surprised to hear "... negative connotation of being under O'Reilly." I thought O'Reilly was generally well thought of -- putting on OSCON, supporting Open Source in general.... ????

There may be a company other than O'Reilly that can provide more external assistance than we've been getting to date. We should explore options that are more in the middle (vs. turnkey). But let's not underestimate how much improvement professional management can add to Drupalcon, too.

I was commenting on the

kthull's picture

I was commenting on the noted turnover rate of organizers mentioned at the opening of this thread and some of the fears mentioned upthread about higher admission cost or a corporate feel if O'Reilly managed drupalcon. Meant no disrespect.

ETA: I was also suggesting the same group of contractors handle the drupalcons. Similar to a full blown company, but in a more affordable, less visible way since the concern mentioned on the opening of the thread dealt with turnover and the need for drupalers to focus on content, not event management.

The negative connotation is

drewish's picture

The negative connotation is the insane price of admission to their events.

Can we define insane

jredding's picture

I've been looking for the number that defines an expensive ticket to Drupalcon.

Currently our ticket prices hover around $200 USD and in previous conversations I've gotten the feeling that $300 USD is the upper limit on pricing.

Is a $400 ticket expensive?
$500?

This is not just in regards to O'Reilly but even if we continued to do this by hiring an outside firm. As we push greater than 1,400 people our costs grow quite considerably. We have to hire more staff, bigger space (huge expense), etc.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

do we need continued growth?

GregoryHeller's picture

There seems to be e sentiment that if drupalcons continue to grow in size, then we need to change the way they are organized and need to bring in a firm that is expert in organizing big conferences. But i would like to challenge the notion that drupalcons need to nearly double in size year over year.

I would probably not want to attend a drupalcon that had a target size of 2000 or 2500 attendees. I think it would be too big, and too hard to make the important connections that i see as one of the primary reasons I attend the conferences. I have spoken to many people at and after DCDC and the consensus i heard was that, while the conference was excellent, and its coordination rocked, it may have been just a little too big. I know that I did not get to talk to all the people that I should have spoken with because there were just too many people there, too many good sessions and too many good bofs.

So in a sense, if the ticket cost were 50% higher or more, i am sure it would weed out some people who could no longer afford to attend, maybe that would control growth, but it would also change the audience of attendees skewing towards professionals making their living with drupal, and not some of the fantastic "hobbyist" contributors to the community. Some companies may also choose to send fewer people if the cost per person increases.

I think that instead if increasing ticket prices, i would look at restricting the number of tickets sold and perhaps adding a third drupalcon each year an encouraging people to attend the conference most local to them. to ensure that high quality sessions continue to be presented at each drupalcon, some presenters could be sponsored to travel to all of them and present on the most important topics to the largest audience of the community. I would also add that if the video production continues to improve at each conference and video and audio of sessions gets posted as promptly as it did this year, people who can't attend in person, can still learn from the presentations.

It might also be interesting to look into live simulcasting of one day of the conference so that satellite events can take place similar to the way that Beaming Bioneers works.

Maybe the association could survey the community about what they feel would be an ideal size for drupalcon? and how many drupalcons they would attend in one year?

http://www.CivicActions.com
http://www.GregoryHeller.com

Artificial vs. Natural growth.

jredding's picture

Just a few thoughts on this.

According to our current and past surveys the number one reason why people attend drupal is Networking and meeting other people in person (gathering of the virtual team, meeting old & new clients, meeting module maintainers etc.). The second is personal growth and development.

Although I understand and agree with idea of live streaming the event to assist those that couldn't attend (there is a large population that would benefit from this) I don't think it will stem growth.

I also don't believe that adding a third Drupalcon into the mix will stem growth but rather add mass confusion and frustration into the mix. I draw this conclusion mainly because people go to meet other people and to listen to and hear from certain members of our community. Unless we expect chx, webchick, dries, moshe and a long list of other people to fly around the world to 3 different Drupalcon we're just begging to frustrate the audience.

Adding a third Drupalcon in under-served areas around the world might help but the demographics don't really show that happening. For example adding a Drupalcon in Australia or South America would definitely be a boon to the area but could also have negative effects.
1) I don't see it reducing attendance to Drupalcon North America, the current attending population is not significant enough (i.e. we have a lot of Americans, Canadians and Europeans at the N.A or E.U conferences)
2) It might add a lot of frustration unless we can guarantee that not only certain key Drupal people will attend but also that a larger percentage of them will attend.

With that said I'll get to my point. I'm of the opinion that what we are seeing is natural growth and not artifical or marketing generated growth. This is to say that everyone currently attending wants to attend, saw value in it and will return. Moreover we had 1,400+ people in D.C and we are confident that we could have had 1,600 to 1,800 if we had the room. Again this is purely demand driven and not a team of marketers cold-calling or mass-mailing people to sign up. We had twitter, drupal.org and a few other somewhat minor marketing.

I will qualify this that we did have a increased marketing presence for the conference to diversify our audience source. This was done because previous conference were pushed nearly 100% from the frontpage of drupal.org and we received feedback that people found out about Drupalcon too late thus we diversified our marketing somewhat to get the word out. In short we had a "get the word out" campaign and not a "increase attendance" campaign.

The conference was planned for 900 people with a possible 1,200 people. We undershot actual demand by a decent margin.

If the conference is getting too big is a good question. We have not asked those question and maybe we should but I can't help but wonder if its any of our business. What we are seeing is the natural growth of our conference. Its very possible that our natural size is about 2,000 to 2,400 or maybe it is 1,600 - 1,800 like we saw this year. Heck it might even be 3,000 or upwards of 5,000. The point is we don't know.

If we put a cap on the attendance of Drupalcon that significantly undercuts demand (i.e. cap at 1,200 but demand of 4,000) the only thing we are doing is frustrating those that couldn't attend.

So I don't believe we are growing for the sake of growth
We are growing in response to a demand.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Yup.

batsonjay's picture

+1 to Jacob's comments. This is natural growth. We can't stem the growth of Drupal; it will simply grow. Thus, Drupalcon will grow. Full stop.

The other thing that is highly likely to happen - whether planned or not - is that the demographics of the attendees will change as it grows. An increasing number of people won't want to come to Drupalcon to see or meet chx / webchick / .... We had people from the National Security Agency at DCDC. They didn't care about networking; they wanted information. They wont' be the first, or last people that come to Drupalcon NOT because they want to live the Drupal lifestyle, but because they want information, and Drupalcon is always going to be the best concentrated place to get it.

Plus, if we compare Drupalcon to Linux World, Drupalcon is still a drop in the bucket; the latter can hit 10,000 people. Yet many, many, many techies still get value out of Linux World - but so do Fortune 1,000 CIOs, etc.

So, the question is "How do we handle this growth in order to meet the needs of those who seek to come?" Professional management? Conferences within the conference? ...?

I hope we continue to think forwards - not (only) to the "good old days."

The value of Drupalcon

goldentoque's picture

An increasing number of people won't want to come to Drupalcon to see or meet chx / webchick / .... We had people from the National Security Agency at DCDC. They didn't care about networking; they wanted information. They wont' be the first, or last people that come to Drupalcon NOT because they want to live the Drupal lifestyle, but because they want information, and Drupalcon is always going to be the best concentrated place to get it.

Every one's reasons for coming to DrupalCon will often be different. I love attending the sessions, and get a great deal out of them, but the vast majority of the information I come home with is not derived from a presentation, it comes from the conversations in the halls, chats over lunch, or over a beer at midnight in some seedy little local bar. The fact that we are a community made up of such diverse individuals and in other cases groups points even more to the fact that a DrupalCon can not satisfy everyone's needs or demands, but has to do the best job possible to do so, no matter how hard that goal is to achieve.

As I am the owner, employee and somtimes customer of my business, cost is a huge factor. I don't mind paying for International travel, four or five star hotels, and a modest conference fee, but I try to minimize and contain my costs as much as possible, and I hope that the local organizers and the Association do their best to help minimize these costs as well. This is one reason why it is important to release host cities and dates as soon as possible, and also to not schedule DrupalCon at times like August (when intercontinental travel and hotels can be double what it is at other times of the year). Right now at the beginning of April, many airlines are just a week or two away from running their september specials, and although still 5 months away there is a very short window for people to plan ahead, and a $500 savings on airfare for one person can be huge!

Personally the threshold I would like to see tickets not cross is $300. I can save up for 6 months for hotels and meals, but if registration for Paris was announced tomorrow at a cost of $700, I and I am sure many others would have to wait some time to register, specially seeing as when you buy your event ticket, you also would likely be locking in your flights as well.

I know this has strayed from the original question posed, but I think it all helps in determining the direction of DrupalCon.

Darren Mak

Ticket price

jredding's picture

Ticket prices have been historically set at the lowest price we could set them based upon projected attendance, projected sponsorship and maintaining a level of consistency. Thus far no ticket price has been set to change the target demographic, reduce attendance or any other reasoning.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Want to clarify: I am not

GregoryHeller's picture

Want to clarify: I am not suggesting a higher ticket price and the effect it might have is a good thing. To the contrary, i think it is a bad thing. I think that the ticket price should stay "low" and i like the "sliding" pricing that DC offered this time around, except that given the timing of the sessions selections it made for some tricky planning on our end.

Also, i meant no slight by the term "hobbiest", I was looking for a word to describe people who do not make their living using drupal or delivering services around drupal.

http://www.CivicActions.com
http://www.GregoryHeller.com

sliding..

jredding's picture

I think that the ticket price should stay "low" and i like the "sliding" pricing that DC offered this time around, except that given the timing of the sessions selections it made for some tricky planning on our end.

The timing of the final session list is being worked on. We all recognize that many people in the community wait until the final session list is defined and then purchases their tickets. We were better at D.C than before but can still improve upon this.

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Beaming Drupalcon

JuliaKM's picture

Just wanted to agree the idea that a major Drupalcon that beamed to satellite locations around the world would be amazing. This would help bring focus to local Drupal groups and also add the community feel that can be missing as conferences grow. Since the sessions would be simultaneous, we could still all talk to one another and ask questions via IRC. You could also have simultaneous code/docs sprints at the end of Drupalcon.

More like USD 200

chx's picture

There is no single ticket price (thanks god) -- as long as there is a chance to get a ticket below 200, I am happy. I am not going to react to GregoryHeller's post. Must. resist.

Thanks for the input

jredding's picture

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

Thoughts from DC DC

dragonwize's picture

I live in the DC metro area and so was a community volunteer that helped with Drupalcon DC. I've talked with some of the awesome peeps at devseed that made DC DC a success and other volunteers. In those conversations O'Reilly was not hated but also definitely not preferred.

When comparing the drupalcons and how they went, consistency and re-inventing the wheel were high on the list of issues. Because most Drupalcon organizers have to learn the same things the last ones did again. O'Reilly would help with this but not much since they would only be handling NC DC. If we are going to pay someone a lot of money then they should be putting on great Drupalcons all over the world. Hiring a different company in every country would be a huge amount of money and would be far from fixing the consistency issues.

The money was of course a hot topic as well. $300 was also the limit most were willing to pay. I think it would be hard to get O'Reilly, considering their history, to get and stay under that.

Keeping the community nature of the cons was also a important note. The community banding together to put on the conference, lower level recognition like the Individual sponsorships, lots of spots for anyone to speak, and many other parts that are just part of an open source environment were talked about being critical to future Drupalcons.

Most of that is already been said several times here. I just wanted to lay the foundation for an idea that many of us thought to be a good way forward.

We currently have 2 DCs a year and looking to add more and they are growing drastically both in attendees and sponsors. In DC DC we banked $100K for the association. I am not saying we will always make that much, I am sure we won't but with multiple DCs making at least some money we will have a good deal of money being made from the DCs alone.

Our proprosal: We could hire a full time person(s) whose sole job would be to put on DCs around the world.

We would keep with our current strategy of lots of local community involvement along with a local conference management company. This would bring consistency by lessening the re-invention of the wheel and re-learning of most of the major conference tasks and would be done the same for all Drupalcons so we can learn from one and apply lessons to the next.

This would also help us keep the price down considerably by using the community. What is hard for current Drupalcon organizers is not helping or getting tasks done but spending full time doing it for months for things like attaining and communicating with sponsors, etc. With someone to take those full time tasks and use the rest of their time to teach and delegate the local community and the community at large, it would be much easier to not only put on DCs but put on better and better ones.

Thoughts?

This is essentially what I

kthull's picture

This is essentially what I was getting at, only using the same set of contractors no matter the location. Essentially a traveling show group to run the Drupalcons, but headed by someone with a personal stake in it. With our company's annual conference, the same core group have run it going on 5 or 6 years now. But we've had some key staff in different positions change out year over year prior to that. I can tell you even though 80% of the event organizers were the same, those years where we had to break in someone new were more difficult for that reason.

From my perspective (and again based on being part of that core group running our 1,200 seat conference for 17 years now) you want a project manager "on the inside" at the heart of this. Someone loyal to Drupalcon (and whose career depends on successful Drupalcons) will likely make better decisions and fight harder for the attendees than an outside firm who emotionally has a small(er) stake in it. You need passion from that one person calling all the shots. It is a long hard road getting there and a gruelling few days on-site. I've seen the chaos and the amount of dropped balls when led by someone who is new or not all there.

Also key is the same set of on-site event staff. Your hotel liaison, a/v crew, etc. It's not a huge group of people but again, you need experts who will make this happen without a hitch, because in hotels there is always a hitch at every corner. Without experienced people, those speedbumps start to be felt by the attendees and that's what you don't want.

Years ago we had extremely positive pre-con meetings with the hotel. "Oh, yes...we'll be on top of that." "That was an issue last year, but we have stronger people in place." But get on-site and it's just another four days for the majority of the hotel staff and so we would scramble to get things done...simple things like getting more chairs, picking up trash left by attendees, getting electric set up for an exhibitor booth. Invariably, the manager at the pre-con meeting was not on yet or gone for the day. That was when we saw the value in keeping key people on as contractors and we hire them back each year to this day.

You definitely want the same core group, or as much as possible, running your shows for the best attendee experience. Year after year we rate very high on our post-con surveys for the organization of our event.

Open to it, but...

jlambert's picture

I'm open to bringing someone in to do conference management as this is a crushing responsibility for those that take it on.

However, I would strongly suggest that we do a one year, two conference evaluation deal, and then re-evaluate as a community. There are a lot of downsides to bringing conference organizing outside to a commercial company, and we should all feel it out.

We might also consider opening the conferences up for bid. This is tremendously important, as the market is highly competitive right now for conferences due to the down market, and we have the advantage. I would not like one company, even if it is Tim's company (and his company is full of stand up people in my experience), to get this without a bid process.

There's a lot of money, credibility and pr on the table here. It would be important to negotiate for things like marketing around conferences (budgets, and specifics) including cross-conference marketing (php conferences promoted to drupalcon for example).

Jonathan Lambert
http://www.workhabit.com/

they are open

jredding's picture

We might also consider opening the conferences up for bid. This is tremendously important, as the market is highly competitive right now for conferences due to the down market, and we have the advantage. I would not like one company, even if it is Tim's company (and his company is full of stand up people in my experience), to get this without a bid process.

They are and have been. I've been contacted by one events management firm and also by O'Reilly because we have an open proposal process. Admittedly we could market this a bit more so that it doesn't sound as though we're only looking for proposals from the community but at the moment we are undecided as to if an events management firm is the best way to go. Thus far the community has been absolutely amazing at organizing these conferences and taking away this opportunity might not be the best choice (then again this it the point of this entire thread).

-Jacob Redding

-Jacob Redding

.

highermath's picture

.

It is unlikely that we will

highermath's picture

It is unlikely that we will find a single organization to do conferences worldwide. Unless someone makes us an offer that we can't refuse -- DrupalCon, presented by Fred's Well-Armed Drug Cartel, perhaps -- we will start any relationship with a conference promoter as a one time run.

For North America, I intend to present this to at least two conference production companies as an RFP. I am working on that right now. O'Reilly, however, is a stand-alone option, that needs to be considered separately, as they offer a unique package. Whether we go with O'Reilly or another company, the Association still bears fiscal responsibility for the event, so we will be paying them, not the other way around.

I don't think that the competitive approach we have taken in the past is sustainable, and I hope that, over time, the responsibility for DrupalCon production will be guided principally by regional (i.e. Europe, N.A., etc.) program committees working with local user groups.

Cary

My mistake

highermath's picture

We are actually in discussions with an event production organization that has presence in 64 countries.

Cary

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