When developers first began gathering to talk about Drupal in the early days of the project it was an informal affair. Around 50 people gathered in Antwerp in 2005, growing to 500 in Szeged in 2008. There wasn’t much commercial activity around the conference then, and it was entirely organised by volunteers - but the events were loved by those who attended, and formed the basis of the community that Drupal is known for today.
Step forward to Chicago in March 2011, and around 3000 developers, designers, project managers, UX specialists, business people and many other disciplines gathered at a highly professional event. The conference is now on the same level as the developer events run by organisations such as Microsoft or Apple. The event in Croydon, near London in the UK, this Autumn also attracted a larger audience than any previous European event.
But while that growth is a great success, there are those in the community who miss the smaller, more informal community-based events. Dries, and the Drupal Association, made clear their view that there is a need for both types of events, each having a distinct role:
- Drupalcon will be encouraged to grow and be the major conference. Currently there are two events per year - one in North America, the other in Europe. There are plans to hold a third in South America. These events will be professionally organised by the Drupal Association.
- Drupalcamps will be completely community organised, but with support from the DA. Anyone can decide to organise one, anywhere, at any time. The aim is for the camps to mainly target local audiences in one country, region or city, and for them to reach out to new users and participants in the project.
As a result there’s been a drive for more Drupalcamps, from all sides of the community, and from the number of new event announcements it seems that we are entering the age of the Drupalcamp.
The role of Drupalcamps
I asked Jen Lampton, one of the organisers of the Bay Area Drupalcamp, ‘What makes Drupal camps different from DrupalCon, and why are they a necessary part of community activity for Drupal?’ — and her answer was so long she decided to blog it instead!
MortenDK led the organising team for Drupalcon Copenhagen, but has also been involved in many Drupalcamps. He says:
The importance of the camps cant be denied, it’s where new people can get a chance to look into this Drupal thing, it’s where you will meet your brothers in arms, it’s where the foundation of our community is built! As a bonus it’s normally cheap — and you will not be freaked out by suddenly speaking in front of 800 people that maybe knows even more about this than you ;)
The foundation of the Danish community is built on top of the DrupalCamps, and was for us the direct reason that we even dared to take on the DrupalCon monster — if we hadn’t done 3 camps before the conference we would never had taken it on.
But the camps also have the benefit that experienced Drupalers are often happy to travel to them to spread their experience to newer community members, because it’s also fun and rewarding for them. Morten says:
I’m actually excited to be using my next 2 weekends in Berlin & Copenhagen hopefully speaking for 50 people about the wonders of theming & that html5 markup thingie!
Drupal Association Support
The DA is very keen to encourage and support the growth of Drupalcamps, and has included a number of events as recipients in the initial round of Community Cultivation Grants. In its statement the association says:
We are seeking to support current and future organizers and leaders of Drupal Camps, Drupal Meetups, Drupal Sprints and other creative projects that are spreading information within the Drupal community and educating individuals outside the community about Drupal. Grant awards range from several hundred to several thousand dollars per project and are funded directly through our membership program.
The first round of grants means that events are now being organised in New Hampshire (USA), Western New York (USA), Brighton (UK), Berlin (Germany), and Singapore.
If you’d like to seek a grant for an event you’re organising, the second round of grants is open now and runs until 30th September.
The camps are designed to be as accessible as possible, so they obtain funding through sponsorships to keep ticket prices low (or sometimes free). Business is good in the Drupal world, and there seems to be an enthusiasm among Drupal companies to get involved in sponsoring camps and supporting the community. Each camp I’ve been looking at has secured a good range of sponsors. One of the biggest sponsors, of course, is Acquia who last year spent US$30,000 on sponsoring Drupalcamps alone, and also offered free hosting to many of the events. Explaining why they support the camps, the company’s CEO, Tom Erickson, says:
Drupal Camps are an extremely vital part of the Drupal ecosystem. They foster learning, cooperation and business development. I’ve spoken with several Drupal developers who made the decision to learn Drupal over other technologies because they were excited by the community they encountered at their first Drupal Camp, and continue to attend them to extend that camaraderie and learn more. Camps are very accessible, offering a low pressure, low cost way to become part of the community. Camps create links between individuals looking for work, Drupal agencies looking for staff and businesses looking for both.
Finally, you can see a listing below of upcoming Drupalcamps that we’re aware of. If you know of a camp that isn’t listed here, please email details, including the web address, to editor [at] drupalradar [dot] com.
We’d also love to provide coverage of these events - so if you plan to go and you have writing/journalism experience/enthusiasm, then we’d love you to be a guest blogger, covering the event for us. Please do get in touch. We’ll also be trying to get to some of the camps ourselves.
This looks set to be the age of the Drupalcamp.