Episode 059: 2019 Twin Cities Drupal Camp

Chris Weber and Dan Moriarty, volunteer organizers for the 2019 Twin Cities Drupal Camp are today's podcast guests. We'll be talking about the changes to this year's TCDrupal Camp and fond memories of previous camps. 

TCDrupal Camp is a three-day conference for open source enthusiasts, designers, hackers, geeks, developers, UI experts, IT managers and anyone else that wants to find out more about Drupal. It’s a great place to learn, code, network and have fun with your fellow Drupalistas.

Host: Ivan Stegic
Guests: Chris Weber, software engineer at The Nerdery and Dan Moriarty CEO and Creative Director at Electric Citizen
Running time: 32 minutes 

In this podcast we'll discuss: 

  • TCDrupal Camp's location at St. Thomas
  • Format changes: three days instead of four, 45-minute talks
  • Fewer days, but just as many parties! And food trucks, board gaming and karaoke
  • Focus on expanding talks to topics outside of just Drupal 
  • The House of Balls, a Minneapolis institution
  • How TCDrupal Camp's spontaneity is what makes it great
  • TCDrupal Camp's history
  • So much Drupal goodness coming to Minneapolis (DrupalCon 2020) how will we manage it all?

Links:

TRANSCRIPT

IVAN STEGIC: Hey everyone you're listening to the TEN7 Podcast, where we get together every fortnight and sometimes more often, to talk about technology, business and the humans in it. I'm your host Ivan Stegic. My guests today are Chris Weber and Dan Moriarty, two of the volunteer organizers of this year's Twin Cities Drupal Camp.

TC Drupal Camp

IVAN: Chris is a software engineer at The Nerdery, and Dan is CEO and Creative Director at Electric Citizen. Hello Chris and Dan. Welcome to the podcast.

CHRIS WEBER: Hello, hello.

DAN MORIARTY: Hey there. Thanks for having us.

IVAN: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Dan Moriarty, I love saying your name. The whole Sherlock Holmes thing, I just love it.

DAN: Yeah, and I will take that anytime. I'm always happy to reference my evil ancestors. [laughing]

IVAN: [laughing] Oh wait! Relation? Are you related to a fictitious person?

DAN: I’ll claim that.

IVAN: [laughing] That's awesome. Well I'm glad that you are on the show with us today talking about Twin Cities Drupal Camp this year. So, Chris, tell us about the camp itself. When and where is it this year?

CHRIS: Well this 2019 version of our camp, is going to be at St. Thomas which is in downtown Minneapolis. We've had it at St. Thomas for a number of years, so it should be familiar to folks that have gone to the Twin Cities Drupal Camp before. It's a really good location, really large open space, very, very lighty and breathy. We’ll be having it on June 6th through June 8th. June 6th is a training day. The 7th will be filled with excellent talks, sessions. And then the 8th will be kind of something a little bit new that we're doing. We're having an unconference on that day, as well as providing a space for people who want to sprint on core contributions. And we’re very excited to have the camp again here in the Twin Cities.

IVAN: And so that's a little different than how we've done it, I would guess, every year since we started, although I don't remember the first year. But that's a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, as opposed to Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. So, we have one day of sessions as opposed to two. Dan, do you want to talk through kind of the reasoning behind that, and why we decided to do it that way this year?

DAN: Yeah. So, it's something we've talked about off and on for a few years now, and we really as a group decided a couple of things. One is, four days was becoming a fairly large time commitment for a lot of people to participate in the full range of camp activities. And then another reason is we generally saw a bit of a drop off in attendance when we went from the weekday to the weekend. And so, as sort of a trial thing we're doing this year is reducing it to three days, with keeping our focus on the sessions like we've always done on Friday. But then on Saturday, making it a little more open free form, which is the unconference, which we can get into, just to see what that does for our numbers and helps more people participate than on the weekends.

IVAN: So, is the unconference style going to be very similar to the way we did BOFs (Birds of a Feather meetings) in the past? Or, how's that going to be structured?

DAN: You know, that's how I picture it. Although it is still a matter of discussion between various camp organizers, how exactly we're going to do it. But the way I'm envisioning it—and Chris can correct me if I'm wrong—is we're going to largely be in the atrium area on Saturday as opposed to going to the classrooms, and people will sort of self-organize into different groups around that large space just to have informal discussions about whatever topics they would like. And then ideally we'll have a few moderators available, floating around the room to sort of help facilitate conversations and make sure people are in the spaces that they find most helpful.

CHRIS: That's right. In the unconference format, we're looking for interesting things to talk about. Tim likes to bring up that Tim [Ericson] and Wilbur [Ince] were the genesis of this idea, when we were talking about adding it to the camp. He likes to talk about the law of two feet, where if you're in a conversation that isn't providing you with what you need, you could use your two feet in order to find another conversation that is more engaging. Then in that way, kind of like plan your own day out of what talks are engaging you and finding the information you need. But the format is very much like a BOF. Instead of slides and rooms, and a more instructor-led conversation, where one person is just talking for an hour or whatever, it's more of a conversation, sharing of input and allowing more people to provide information than just one person at a time.

IVAN: I love the idea of doing that. It really allows, I think, the community to drive what the topics are and the discussions that are being had. I think that's a good experiment. I'm looking forward to participating and seeing how that affects our camp next year. I was going to ask about Thursday. Usually we have trainings on Thursdays, right? Can you speak to what the trainings are this year?

CHRIS: It looks like Drupal 8 content migrations. This can be a getting started with building sites with Drupal. There is a Drupal 8 crash course for content editors, marketers and project managers. Then intermediate to advanced CSS for practical peoples. I think those are all of our trainings.

DAN: Those are the four trainings, and then on top of the trainings we're also hosting a mini-camp this year.

IVAN: Oh really? Well, tell me about that. I know Backdrop has always got such a great presence at TC Drupal Camp every year. What is that about?

DAN: So, in the past we’ve hosted sessions on Backdrop. Every year we seem to draw some of the leaders behind the Backdrop community, and we'll do that again this year. Particularly Jen Lampton, who's helped lead and create the Backdrop community, she's coming, as well as several other prominent Backdrop contributors. And, what they've decided to do this year in the form of a mini-camp, is hold the day of sort of sessions, all in one room dedicated to Backdrop. And we as a camp decided to provide a room to sit alongside the training sessions for people that are interested in contributing to Backdrop, or learning about it to attend to this free session.

IVAN: I think that's a great idea. And why haven't I reached out to Jen and Nate about Backdrop? We should totally have them on the podcast.

CHRIS: There you go.

IVAN: That's awesome. We will make sure we do that. If you happen to be listening out there, Jen and Nate, please send us an email before we do. But yeah, we'd love to have you on the podcast. So that's great.

So, trainings on Thursday, Backdrop CMS minicamp as well in one of the rooms, and then sessions on Friday. So, I would imagine there is a keynote on Friday? Let's talk about what the day looks like on Friday.

DAN: I can tell you definitively we've got five rooms. So, five tracks if you will, and each track will have six sessions throughout the day, for a total of 30 sessions. We're starting the morning like we typically do with a welcome session at 9 am, going into our first session around 9:45 and continuing with the last session ending around 5:00. We will have a keynote this year during the lunch hour on Friday, and I'm happy to tell you about that.

That is a local group called the Asian Penguins, a Linux user group made of boys and girls grades 6 through 8, and they're based out of Hmong charter school in St. Paul. Their director Stu Keroff, is coming to tell the story about what they do, how their work is helping bridge the digital divide in the metro area. He works with the students to teach them Linux, and they repurpose old computers installing Linux on them and giving them away to families in need. So, we’re excited. He's going to bring some of his students with him too, and they're going to do a presentation for us on Friday.

IVAN: Oh, that's wonderful. That's really wonderful to hear. So, the Asian Penguins. Wow, how did you guys find out about them? Meet them? Involve them? What's the story behind that?

CHRIS: Matthew Tiff could probably give you the full answer of how that connection was formed. We found out about them through him, and then we were able to find out more about their organization. And it just sounds like a really great opportunity. I know you share an interest in making sure that tech is accessible to kids as well, Ivan, and it's really great to hear what they're doing.

IVAN: I'm not surprised that Matthew is involved in that.

DAN: Yeah. Matthew had hosted Stu on his Hacking Culture podcast a few months ago, and then recommended them as a potential keynote speaker. So, we reached out to them and we're just finalizing the details on that now, and it should be up on the site by the time this podcast comes out.

IVAN: Oh, that's great. I'm looking forward to hearing what they have to say. So, keynote over the lunch hour. Sessions in the morning, sessions in the afternoon. Can you tell me a little bit about a session format? Are they the same as last year? How long are they? What do those look like?

CHRIS: Yeah. We actually had quite a bit of a debate on how long our sessions should be. You know Drupalcon has moved to a format of half-hour talks and longer talks more than an hour. Right? It's like an hour and a half. And we were concerned about what is the appropriate amount of duration, so we wanted to make sure that we've got a lot of talks that people can give on Friday. But at the same time we were concerned that a half hour might be too short. We're trying 45-minute talks out this year. We're gonna see how that goes. And as a result, we were able to fit about 30 talks into that Friday.

IVAN: Is that 45 minutes of speaker time, or is that 45 minutes of session plus questions?

DAN: It gives time for questions at the end of sessions, unlike 30-minute sessions. You know that was a common experience at DrupalCon this year, is, there really weren't any time for questions at the end of those 30-minute sessions and speakers are really hard pressed to fit all their content in 30 minutes. So even though DrupalCon experimented with this and I think that's fine, we as a group felt like 45 minutes was a much better time slot, and I wouldn't be surprised if they go back to that at feature DrupalCons.

CHRIS: I wouldn't be surprised with that either.

IVAN: So, the 45 minutes is inclusive of the questions then?

DAN: Right. I mean, the assumption is that the speakers will have time then to answer questions.

IVAN: Got it. Ok. And so, let's talk about the five rooms and the five tracks you have. What are the tracks this year?

CHRIS: Well the tracks are similar. If you look at the website right now, they're almost identical to the tracks that we had last year. But we're making an effort this year to be inclusive of talks that are tangential from Drupal. Not every talk has to be about Drupal. We've got talks about GraphQL, JSON integrations and Ruby on Rails. We wanted to make sure that we've got some talks about mental health. We've got talks on a wide area of topics and not necessarily specifically about Drupal.

IVAN: That's great. I'm looking forward to seeing the list of sessions come out. I'm hoping, fingers crossed, that my session made it. When is that session list going to be published?

DAN: That's a good question. [laughing] The announcements will have gone out to the accepted speakers well ahead of this podcast being released. I don't know that we'll have them accepted and published on the site at that point, but we'll be publishing them hopefully by, what would you say Chris, mid-May at the latest?

CHRIS: Yeah, hopefully earlier, but that is largely based upon how we can contact folks. As our good friend Joe [Shindelar] was telling us, we've never had somebody tell us they either can't make it, or say that they can and don't show up. We've had a really high success rate, and we’d like to keep that going, but there's always the possibility that the worst could happen. If we don't get a hold of somebody, or we have to strategically plan, it's better to have everything figured out before we publish. And so, we're putting the effort in now in order to make sure that can happen.

IVAN: So, if you're listening to this podcast there's a chance the sessions have been published but there's a chance the sessions have not yet been published [laughing]. And if they haven't been published, we promise they will be published in the next week after you listen to this. So, fingers crossed.

DAN: Absolutely.

CHRIS: Let’s hope it works out.

IVAN: Let's hope it does. Ok. So, one of the things I love—I love a lot of things about the Drupal Camp in Minneapolis—is the parties. There's always the speaker party and the sponsor appreciation party, and then there's the Friday night party and the Saturday night party. But if the camp is one day short of four days, does that mean it's one day short of a party as well?

DAN: Absolutely not. [laughing]

IVAN: Oh good. Let's hear about what’s going on there.

DAN: Right. Well we do have a few changes this year. I think one of the big ones is that our Thursday night party, which is the day that camp opens after the training, we're trying something new, sort of inspired by our friends at Midcamp in Chicago, and that is changing the Thursday night party to the welcoming party. And what this means is that we're extending an invitation to anyone that is involved or interested in participating in our conference to come to the welcome party on Thursday.

CHRIS: That's right.

IVAN: And where is that party this year?

DAN: The unofficial plan right now is that we're going to host that at Pizza Lucé in downtown Minneapolis.

IVAN: And what about Friday? The Friday night party?

DAN: Yeah. So, Friday we're going back to the House of Balls.

IVAN: Oh yeah. I love that place.

CHRIS: Yeah, it's a really great place.

DAN: House of Balls, we’ve been at, I think this is our fourth year at this, sort of amazing, eccentric art studio/event space, just off of downtown Minneapolis. And we're going to have some of the same great things we have every year. We're lining up a food truck. We're going to have free food and drinks and most importantly, we’ve lined up karaoke.

IVAN: Oh yeah. That sounds amazing. I'm secretly hoping that Marc [Drummond] is able to give his five-minute talk about hotdish again.

DAN: Yeah, Chris, are we going to try to do any of the lightning talks this year?

CHRIS: Well I don't know. We like to be flexible. We're kind of a spontaneous crowd. We've got a number of events planned for the day. You know, we're gonna have some board gaming, and it seems like the board gaming thing has gotten even stronger here in the Twin Cities community. We're going to have some food and, of course, there will be Foursquare.

DAN: Foursquare.

IVAN: I hope Les [Lim] brings his ball.

Foursquare

CHRIS: We lean on Les for both the rules and the gamesmanship and the setup of that. We should side note, we should double check with him, if he's going to do that again this year, or if he wants one of us to take that on. And, yeah, in years past we've had lightning talks and we've also had karaoke. I do know for a fact that we will be having karaoke again this year. I don't know if we'll have lightning talks, but there's room still, I think Dan, we just need to put a plan into action to see if we can provide equipment and time for that.

IVAN: I'm a proponent of the lightning talks, so if you need votes you have one from me, and if you do need something to help make that happen, please ask, I'll do what I can.

DAN: Great. I think we've got a volunteer to run the lightning talks. [laughing] 

CHRIS: Sounds great. That's how this works.

IVAN: [laughing] Ok, well, if I get to run it that means I get to give one too.

CHRIS: [laughing] Indeed. You can kick us off.

IVAN: Alright. Let’s do that. Let me know the details, and I'll help make it happen.

DAN: Alright. Sounds good.

IVAN: Alright. So that's Thursday and Friday taken care of, and what are we doing Saturday? Are we doing anything Saturday?

DAN: We will. We'll do our traditional post-camp party. It is at a location to be determined. So, you have to stay tuned to the website or the newsletter to find out when and where that's going to happen.

IVAN: Well I'm glad that's still happening even though we don't have the fourth day. Stay tuned on the website. That's tcdrupal.org and subscribe to the email list, I'm sure that'll be mentioned in the email as well. One more question. How do you register for camp and what does it cost?

CHRIS: Well you can go to our website at tcdrupal.org/register and you can register right there. We've got a nice big link for you right there in the top of the page, just click on that, go on over to registration. Registration remains inexpensive, especially compared to other Twin Cities camps which we've been able to look at the cost of camps nearby. Our camp's only $50. We are providing means for people who want to contribute more. Like myself, I tried to come in at the Community Contributor level. How much is that again Dan?

DAN: Yeah. So that's $150, and that includes camp registration, a free T-shirt, and it also means that you are helping support the camp above and beyond, which is really key to us being able to offer all these things, including the parties and the free training and all the sessions and the venue.

So, that's kind of a new, it's not new, but what's new this year is, is we're really trying to emphasize to anyone that uses Drupal professionally and that can afford it, please consider coming in at the Community Sponsor level, Community Supporter level. It really helps us out. But anyone is welcome to come to camp, and as always if anyone wants to come and can't afford it, please contact us, and we would be happy to set you up for free.

IVAN: What's the best way to contact you?

DAN: Yeah, so, go to the website tcdrupal.org, go to the contact page and just shoot us a message, and one of us would be happy to get back to you. Or you can hit us up on Twitter as well.

CHRIS: Yeah. Like Dan said, if you fill out the contact form on site, you're sending an e-mail message to the entire team. Someone's going to see that immediately. And, again, we're available over Twitter just like the rest of the Drupal community. We all kind of hang out there.

IVAN: And, there are sponsors again this year, like there were last year. There always seems to be a plethora of sponsors for camp, which is just so awesome to see for our little community. Are there still opportunities to sponsor? What options are left, if they are?

DAN: Please, please, please, always welcome more sponsors. The more sponsors we get, the more we can do. You know, we really are wanting and planning to offer free lunch to everyone at camp this year on Friday, and getting a few more sponsors really help make that happen. And so, we have some great sponsors so far including TEN7, thank you for that.

IVAN: Yeah!

DAN: And, you know, we have a few platinum sponsor slots still available. We have unlimited slots at the gold and silver level. And so anyone who wants to consider both helping the camp out and maybe getting a table to tell people about your organization or what you do, you're very welcome to do that. And again, just come to the website. There's information about how to become a sponsor,  or to just get in touch with someone.

IVAN: So, that URL is tcdrupal.org/sponsors, and there's a great little button there that you can visit the sponsor page for more information about the benefits of each of the sponsor levels. Yeah, it's been great to see the same companies coming back to the camp and coming back and providing to the community. It’s always a pleasure for us to do it, and I'm sure it is for you too Dan for Electric Citizen and for the others that are also doing that.

I’ve asked this before of members of our community and of members of the organizing team that always puts on this volunteer event. It's volunteers that do it. I'm amazed that it happens every year. But DrupalCon 2020 is in Minneapolis next year, and DrupalCon just happened last month, and we have our camp in close proximity to it. So, has there been any discussion about what, if any effect DrupalCon in Minneapolis is going to have on our camp next year?

CHRIS: So we've had a lot of internal discussions about it, and while we have a lot of energy in the Twin Cities, it seems like the prevailing wisdom is that we want to try to find a couple of smaller events. The work that we anticipate we're going to put in around DrupalCon is really too close to where we would want to have our camp here in the Twin Cities, to make both the contribution we want to put in to make DrupalCon a success and the contribution we want to put in in order to make our camp a success. That said, it's still kind of up in the air.

We haven't had the powwow that we really need in order to come to a firm decision that, “Hey, we're not going to do a Drupal Camp,” or “Hey, we're not going to do a Drupal Camp like later in the fall sometime that day of the year.” So, I guess the answer that we have right now is that, we want to continue to be active. We want to do things in the Twin Cities surrounding Drupal and getting together an event. And I think we've got different ideas on how to accomplish that, but the main thing we want to do is to continue to talk about Drupal, celebrate Drupal and promote knowledge and learning and inclusiveness.

IVAN: So, "Stay tuned. We're evolving the decision as time progresses," is what you’re saying?

CHRIS: Yeah. So, we don't have a good answer yet. We're all so laser focused on getting this year's camp put together and have it be so awesome, that we've postponed any other kind of discussion of what's next, until we're done.

IVAN: And thank you for being so laser focused on the camp, and Dan and Chris and everyone else that's helped organize the camp, Jer [Davis] and Tim [Erickson] and all of the other volunteers. It's just always so amazing for me to see the camp happen and for all those people to contribute and for there to be so much empathy and care that it happens in the most equitable and fun and cheap and value-based event that we can put on, and I think that's great. So, thank you both for doing that and for contributing.

CHRIS: After this is all done, there’s so much gratitude to make sure people get, based upon their efforts that they've been able to put in to make this thing a success. And the thing that we keep talking about, it's really our deliverable at the end of this is our process, because our process has been pretty good. We keep on iterating on it, so that we can have the confidence that, “Hey, we can put together a camp like this,” and we could feel really good about that process.

DAN: And not only that, but I've been involved in many years of camp organizing for TCDrupal, and I feel like every year is good, but the gang's really getting along well this year to where I'm not even daunted by the thought of doing it again next year.

CHRIS: I would love to do it again.

IVAN: You heard it here first. [laughing] We’re already thinking about the following year's Drupal camp. That's great.

CHRIS: So that's the high we're on right now from all the good work we’re doing. We’ll see how we’re feeling after this.

IVAN: [laughing] No, you can’t go back now. You just said that you're not even worried about it. So, let's actually just spend a minute before we close here, and say this is version 9 of the camp, if I'm not mistaken. I think the first one was in 2011, so, this would be version 9, and so the next one is the 10th anniversary. Right? So, we should celebrate that somehow.

DAN: Well, we are. It's called Drupalcon 2020, [laughing] and what better way to cap off 10 years of active community growing, stewardship, caretaking, whatever you want to call it. I myself came to this Drupal community group as a lone wolf developer looking to find some other group of people that I can nerd out about Drupal with. And my story is basically the story of how successful this community has been. Thanks to all of the people who have welcomed me in and made me feel like I belonged. I'm here today helping plan the next one.

IVAN: I love it. I think it's precious and amazing, and I'm always amazed by all of that. So, yeah. I hope I'm right about it being the 10th anniversary, because I feel like there were different incarnations of the camp before 2011, but I think 2011 was the first official one, right?

DAN: It was. Yep, you're absolutely right.

IVAN: Ok, good. Well, thank you both for spending your precious time with me today. It's really been a pleasure talking with you Chris and Dan.

CHRIS: Same here, man.

DAN: Yeah, thanks so much for hosting us.

IVAN: Chris and Dan are two of the volunteer organizers of Twin Cities Drupal Camp happening from June 6th, a Thursday to June 8th, a Saturday, at the University of St. Thomas in downtown Minneapolis. Tickets are still available and they're reasonably priced starting at $50, and we're hoping that includes lunch as well.

So, head on over to tcdrupal.org and register now. You can find the camp on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The handle is @tcdrupal. And, of course, the Twin Cities Drupal group is also on groups.drupal.org/twin-cities for other local events that happen outside of camp, and they happen every month, whether it's the happy hour or something else, it is on.

You’ve been listening to the TEN7 Podcast. Find us online at ten7.com/podcast. And if you have a second, do send us a message, we love hearing from you. Our email address is podcast@ten7.com. Until next time, this is Ivan Stegic. Thank you for listening.

Ivan Stegic

Founder and President
 
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Ivan Stegic

Words that describe Ivan: Relentlessly optimistic. Kind. Equally concerned with client and employee happiness. Bowtie lover. Physicist. Ethical. Lighthearted and cheerful. Finds joy in the technical stuff. Inspiring. Loyal. Hires smart, curious and kind employees who want to create more good in the world. His favorite things right now: the TEN7 podcast and becoming the next Björn Borg.