Florida DrupalCamp 2012, held on the truly scenic Rollins College campus in Winter Park, Florida was another great gathering of the growing, and ever enthusiastic Florida Drupal Community. Rather than the typical blog post of all the great sessions (of which there were many), or the great networking (which there was), this post will focus on the some of the planning, logistics, and lessons learned from the organizers’ viewpoint.
This was central Florida's fourth annual camp, which has grown sequentially in size and scope, with more than 300 people, 40 volunteers, and 7 tracks of sessions (thanks Don Vandemark). A few highlights included our full-day beginner track, which proved extremely popular (thanks Gaelan Adams) with more than 60 attendees. Building on the experiences we’ve gained from past years, we once again held Coding for a Cause day where we attempted to build three sites for local non-profit organizations. Our partner in the event, the Central Florida Computer Society (CFCS.org) was as always instrumental in our success, acting as our fiscal agent as well as providing numerous volunteers throughout the day.
An aspect of our community that makes us unique is that we're geographically disparate. While we have regular meetups in no less than seven different areas of the state, in general, we consider ourselves all part of the Florida Drupal User's Group and work together in both community and business-related activities. Our planning committee is understandably spread out all over the state, so we never have any in-person meetings. Approximately 27 volunteers participated in the planning of the event with many of them taking part in many of the sixteen conference calls we had in the three months leading up to the event. In addition to this group, we had about 15 additional volunteers the day of the event.
To keep track of everything, we utilized Open Atrium for case tracking, DropBox for file sharing, Google Docs for document sharing, and FreeConferenceCall.com for our weekly planning conference calls.
Emphasis on Non-profit organizations
This year's camp had an increased emphasis on non-profit organizations, thanks to the active participation of the Rollins College Philanthrophy and Non-profit Leadership Center (PNLC). As our venue partner for the camp, we saw an opportunity to work with the PNLC to spread the word about Drupal to the local non-profit community and to provide valuable information to the organizations that the PNLC works with.
In order to reach out to these organizations, two of our volunteers (Diane Court and Lisa Thorell from t/g/h partners) worked with the PNLC to figure out what types of sessions would be most valuable and how best to encourage these organizations to participate. DrupalCamp veterans Ryan Price and Stephen Methany then planned 2 tracks of sessions specifically aimed at non-profit organizations.
Furthermore, we were lucky enough to have a keynote speaker that satisfied both the non-profit attendees and more general Drupal users. Michael Haggerty, founder and Chief Internet Strategist of Trellon spoke about the history of customer relationship management (CRM) systems in Drupal and where they're heading.
We did a much better job this year of tracking ticket sales. We (thanks Mike Herchel - who was also a marketing machine) tracked what percentage of tickets were sold at various points prior to the event. We plan on using this information to estimate overall ticket sales for future events.
- Tickets went on sale 90 days prior to the event.
- We reached approximately 50% of our total signups 20 days prior to the event.
- We reached approximately 75% of our total signups 5 days prior to the event.
- The first 63 days of ticket sales the price was $20 per ticket. During this period we sold 137 tickets.
- The last 17 days of ticket sales the price was $25 per ticket. During this period we sold 140 tickets.
- We gave away approximately 30 tickets to sponsors, volunteers, and Coding for a Cause participants.
In previous years, we used a hybrid approach for food and drink. Bringing some stuff in ourselves, having lunch catered from a restaurant, and having the venue provide a portion. This year, we contracted with the venue to handle everything, and it worked great (thanks Angela Cacciola) - including an ice-cream sundae bar for our afternoon snack.
For this year's camp web site, we reused our Drupal 6 COD site from last year's camp - it was a bit of a mess (although we had an awesome theme - thanks René Esteves). Lesson learned: start with a fresh install each year! Thanks to Andrew Riley and John Learned for keeping things working.
Not only was this year's camp our largest in terms of attendees, it was also our largest yet in terms budget. Our sponsors, including Trellon, Mediacurrent, DrupalEasy, TechWell, and Big Couch Media, provided the lion's share the camp's income. Catering costs were our largest expense.
Working with our fiscal partner CFCS, for the second consecutive year we had a budget surplus – this year totalling $2,435.90. Combined with surpluses from previous camps, our current overall balance is about $5,000. We're happy to announce that we're going to be donating $1,000 to CFCS as well as working with WebEnabled.com to provide two years of free hosting for the three Coding for a Cause participant sites.
Coding for a Cause
Our 2010 and 2011 Coding for a Cause (C4AC) events taught us a great deal. While neither event resulted in the successful launch of a site (year 1 because of internal client politics, year 2 because of scope creep), we have earned a great deal of knowledge in what is takes to have a successful C4AC event. We've learned that we need to have assigned project managers who work with the client in the weeks leading up to the event determining the scope, gathering content, and coming up with a plan of attack for the building of the site. In addition, setting up a development server and source code repository is something that should be done in the days leading up to the event as well.
This year, we did a much better job setting the scope of each site and assigning project managers. We selected 3 local organizations out of 18 applicants, and the C4AC leaders (Ryan Price, Joe Moraca, and Ben Hosmer) gathered a team of about 50 volunteers to plan, organize, and build out the sites.
Some quick information and current status about this year’s three C4AC sites:
- Aerostars is an organization where youngsters share their passion for aviation and aircraft building with mentors and aerospace professionals. Classes are offered in model building, aircraft structures, air frame materials, avionics, power-plants, simulators and other aviation topics. The site is 95% complete, just waiting for the transfer to production hosting. Current development site available at http://aerostars.org. Project manager: Lisa Thorell.
- Victim Services Center focuses on helping victims of crimes of all types. They offer support groups and assistance to crime victims, and are the only certified rape crisis center in Orange County. All of their services are offered at no charge as a service to the community at large. The site is 50% complet– we are mainly waiting on content from the client. Development site available at http://vicsvs.he1143.vps.webenabled.net/. Project manager: Dorothy Cleary.
- Feed Florida First - conducts food assembling and packaging events that help feed hungry children and families in the Central Florida area. The site is 95% complete–just waiting for the transfer to production hosting. Current development site available at: http://feedfl.he1143.vps.webenabled.net/. Project manager: Angelina Velton.
Post Camp Survey
Our post-camp survey has again assured us that we're doing a lot of things right:
- 77 responses
- 53% indicated this was their first DrupalCamp
- 60% traveled more than 50 miles to attend
- The vast majority were satisfied (rated "good", "very good", or "excellent") with the sessions, keynote, catering, WiFi, venue, and the overall camp.
Some interesting survey comments:
- Very well organized event. The venue was terrific. I loved that it was on a beautiful campus, rather than a stuffy hotel. I will be recommending this DrupalCamp to others. Well done!
- Every open source community seems to claim to have an outstanding community, but Drupal's community achieves this goal. Could not be a better community behind any system today.
- I had a great time, for my first DrupalCamp. It was a spectacular location, everyone was really awesome, and you kept us well fed. :)
- There was a tremendous amount of Drupal knowledge and talent gathered in one place to draw from
- I love the venue and the passion the speakers have for Drupal.
While our arms hurt a bit from patting ourselves on the back, we also continue to learn new things about what we can do better as our camp grows in popularity and attendance.
- One registration line for 300 people is clearly not enough. We should have realized this beforehand and have been prepared for it.
- People really value networking. Comments indicated they would have appreciated more of it, both during the camp and afterward at the after-party.
- We need to do a better job creating a after-party that encourages networking and discussion.
- Boxed lunches were perfect for keeping the lunch line moving, but having only a single line for breakfast and afternoon snack was less-than-ideal.
Florida DrupalCamp 2012 exceeded the vast majority of our expectations, and it taught us a lot about some logistical issues as the camp grows in size. With more than half of attendees new to a DrupalCamp, it also made us realize that not only did we have more attendees, more speakers, and more sponsors than previous years, but we have a real opportunity to build on it, and further develop the Drupal Community in Florida.
We are all pretty pumped, and looking forward to next year's camp, as well as South Florida’s DrupalCamp in the fall.
Additional photos from Florida DrupalCamp 2012 can be found on Google+ and Flickr.
There were a bunch of volunteers who helped out whose names I couldn't easily work into this post, but should be given props! They include Erik Bladwin (cat herder), Dan Eveland (t-shirts), Adam Varn (theming), Jen Long (marketing), Kendall Totten (marketing, printed materials), Maggie Ardito (marketing), and Phil Smith (best badges ever).
Florida will always be my Drupal "home". We deserve a DrupalCon!