Florida DrupalCamp 2011 Wrapup

While we're fresh off the heels of Florida DrupalCamp 2011, it's a good time to take a look back and see how we did as well as try to figure out how to make next year's camp even better. Using results from our post-camp survey as well as feedback from my fellow organizers, here's a closer look at some specifics.

While we had approximately 240 people attend the camp, we had only 36 attendees complete the post-camp survey. This paltry 15% completion rate was our own fault (last year we had a 28% response - case study) - we forgot to hold back some free books for a random drawing for completing the survey, as we did in 2010. Also, we didn't have a reliable method for emailing all attendees, something I'll discuss later in this article.

Attendee Demographics

In the past, the Florida Drupal user community has been very beginner-centric. In 2010, over 40% of attendees reported that they have been using Drupal less than 3 months. This year, that percentage was down to less than 20%. Also, 35% of 2011 attendees rated their skill level as "Newbie" or "Beginner" (it was over 45% in 2010). We also continue to make strides in increasing local meetups - almost 40% of respondents indicated that they're going to start attending local meetups.

The number one reason respondents attended the camp was, not surprisingly, "to expand my Drupal knowledge" with 69%. Networking opportunities was second with 28%.

Marketing

Posting information about the camp on groups.drupal.org/florida continued to be the best way for us to reach the local Drupal community. Over 40% indicated this was how they found out about the camp. Word-of-mouth (25%) and local meetups (11%) were the next two highest responses. Our twitter feed, direct email, or "some other way" were all below 10%.

Hotel 

The Florida Drupal user's group is more regional than local - we encourage users from all over the state to participate in the group (as well as within their local group, if they have one). Knowing that a large percentage (33% in 2010 and 35% in 2011) of people will be driving more than 100 miles, we always secure a block of rooms at a local hotel. This year over 20% of attendees booked a hotel room for the event.

Sessions

Session quailty continues to be something that we actively try to improve each year. In 2010, 65% of the respondents rated the overall session quality as "excellent" or "very good". This year, we increased that number to over 85%! As part of our survey, we asked users for their "most favorite" and "least favorite" sessions - and made them required fields. This lead to comments like:

  • No "least favorite session", so [I] flagged same session as "most favorite" so they would cancel each other out...
  • All very good - I really liked all that I attended.
  • You shouldn't make some of these fields required. "Please select your least favorite session" implies that the session was poor. None of them were that I attended. 

We need to be sure to keep this in mind for future post-camp surveys!

Location and Wifi

With a new location in 2011, we knew we'd have some challenges, first and foremost was the wifi situation. There was a strict policy and complex login procedure for the wifi that left some people without access. Those who could get on were (for the most part) satisfied. The new location did provide us with two auditoriums, multiple classrooms, and common areas. While some people noted that the layout was less-than-ideal (the rooms were split among two buildings and multiple floors, pretty much everyone agreed it was a beautiful location. Plus, we couldn't argue with the cost (free!) Was the challenging Wifi and other issues an acceptable trade-off? We're still trying to answer that. 

Reliable email blast

As I mentioned previously, while we used the excellent COD distribution for the site, we didn't properly plan for sending mass emails to our attendees. The issue wasn't on the Drupal side of things, it was an email account issue. We'll be sure to get this right next year.

Messy Lunch

While most respondents (77%) thought the food was "very good" or "excellent", we did receive a bunch of comments that made us think that serving all-you-can-eat, make-your-own burritos may not be the way to go in the future. For starters, it makes for a slow food line. Since we didn't have dedicated tables and chairs for lunch, some people found it a bit awkward. Cleanup was another issue. In a situation like we had, boxed lunches would have been better.

Coding for a Cause

This was our second year doing Coding for a Cause, where we attempt to build an entire site in a single day for a local non-profit organization. This year, we reigned ourselves in a bit and only attempted a single site. Unfortunately, just like last year, we failed to complete the site by the end of the day. With two years of (painful) experience under our belt, we've learned some valuble lessons:

  • Coding for a Cause needs a dedicated volunteer to get it organized. It's a more time-consuming job than it appears. This volunteer should be dedicated to Coding for a Cause and not have to split their time with other camp activities.
  • Set up development environment and code repository prior to event - this can be a momentum killer first thing in the morning.
  • Meet with client to determine wireframes and mockup prior to event. With voluteers ready to go, it is best to be able to hand them marching instructions as soon as they arrive to work.
  • Set up empty theme prior to event - again, needless time wasted early in the day.
  • Assign team leaders prior to event - this enables team leaders to recruit people before the day of the event.
  • Build vertically, not horizontally. This is something that dawned on us as we were licking our wounds after failing to complete the site. In the past, we built our teams around Drupal-isms: theming, content types, views, content, etc... We realized that we could be more efficient if we built teams around features (not necessarily in the Drupal sense) - team 1 builds the "news" section, team 2 builds user profiles and displays, team 3 builds the "board of directors" stuff. Not only does this remove the dependencies from the process (team 1 doesn't need to wait for team 3 to finish a content type), but it also will give newbies a sense of the complete process to build a feature. This was a head-smacker moment once we started really thinking about it (about 24 hours too late!)

Overall, Florida DrupalCamp 2011 was a success. I'll resist the urge to offer (more of) my own praise, instead I'll wrap with up with some quotes from the attendees when asked, "What was the highlight of Florida DrupalCamp for you?":

  • Seeing all of my friends and colleagues in one place and being able to meet more people - overall, the networking was AWESOME, and worth the $10 all by itself.
  • Seeing people successfully using tools and techniques I'd played with in the past and never quite figured out. Couple of "a-ha" moments that are already making a big impact on the way I work. Best $10 I've spent... since the last DrupalCamp :)
  • Realizing the Drupal opportunities available.
  • Overall, I was impressed by both the camp and Drupal. Looking forward to using it and am glad to see such an active community for it.
  • Smiling faces, loving on the Drupal

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