DrupalCon: an organizer’s perspective


It felt like yesterday when it was announced that Sydney would host the DDU in 2013 at the Melbourne DDU 2012. After the great camp that Melbourne community had delivered, I was inspired to volunteer with the local Sydney team in putting on the DDU in my own city. But what I didn't expect was that DDU 2013  was going to turn into a the first DrupalCon held outside the U.S and Europe. The conference was held in Coogee at the Crowne Plaza, overlooking the beautiful beach.

My involvement in the organization of the DrupalCon evolved overtime. My first role was to gather content for the website. Just before the site launch, I got the opportunity to attend my first  DrupalCon in Munich. This gave me a  taste of what a DrupalCon is like. I got to meet members of the Drupal Association, whom I was working with putting on the DrupalCon together, as well as the organizers of DrupalCon Munich. The one advice that repeatedly was given to me by Munich organizers, was that if you have something that needs to get done, do it sooner than later. This has proven to be a VERY useful advice. Attending DrupaCon Munich gave me ideas on sessions and speakers to have in Sydney.

After returning from DrupalCon Munich, our original local team expanded. We not only had members from the Sydney community, but also members of the community from around Australia as well international international track chairs. During that time I took on the role of being the volunteer co-ordinator. This role involved assigning volunteers to the remaining roles left like such as:

  • Help Desk
  • Student Ticket Applications
  • Scholarship manager
  • News/Blogger

Assigning the roles above required a bit of coordinating like emailing volunteers whom have signed up and asking them if they were willing to take on the roles. Often I did not know these people personally nor have I worked with them before, but fortunately they all turned out to be the right person for the role.

There was also coordinating onsite volunteers such as registration desk volunteers and room monitors on the day of the conference. As for coordinating onsite volunteers, I found that to be a little challenging. My first challenge was that there was not enough room monitors. That was mainly because most of the onsite volunteers were signed up for registration and many of the attendees wanted to attend sessions. I was also restricted to assigning onsite roles only to attendees even though I had people that wanted to volunteer, but did not have a ticket. I tried to attract attendees to be room monitors by doing the following:

  • Sending out tweets
  • Posting information on G.D.O
  • sending group and individual emails to people who have volunteered, but have not being assigned any roles
  • The D.A has also asked scholarship recipients to volunteer, which was helpful.
  • Asking track chairs to be room monitors.

This did take a bit of time planning and it was quite time consuming. Sometimes I felt like I had failed to attract volunteers, but was told by Donna Benjamin, who has many years of experience in organizing and volunteering in events, that finding volunteers is not an easy task.

Luckily it all went to plan during the event. I had enough room monitors, as a few came on later and track chairs did a lot of rooms. I guess for me the most challenging thing was that because I had no experience in being involved in event organizing, I really did not know what to expect and what kind of things could go wrong. If I were to volunteer on this scale again, I think I would not have taken it all so personally. And maybe if I knew earlier what my level of commitment were going to be during the event, I probably wouldn’t have taken up the role since I really didn’t get much time to attend sessions or take part in the event.

Another small task that I was responsible for carrying out was organizing  ‘Women in Drupal’ dinner. The turnout was solid as we had around 30 women from all backgrounds and diversity and they really were there to have fun. My boss didn’t attend but he opened a bar tab to cover the event which everyone appreciated and helped everyone socialise. The only tiny controversy that came out over that dinner was that I had originally called it “DrupalChix” dinner, which I thought was innocent and proper, but then it was brought to my attention that ‘DrupalChix” was somewhat offensive and the proper term was ‘Women in Drupal’. What I found interesting was that the issue of being a women in a predominantly male community was not raised by women - it didn’t even seem to be discussed at the dinner. It seemed that men were more concerned about it than we were and had brought up the lack of women in the community, which made me wonder why that would be. There isn’t a call for more asian or hispanic or homosexual community members, which are likely also a minority in our community.

Overall my involvement in DrupalCon was an experience that I was glad to have. It did gave me a different perspective on the community and what role I want to play. This year I want to focus more remotely, on contributing on code.  However, that doesn’t mean I won’t be attending the next regional camp: Drupal South Wellington 2014

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