Kevin Thull: Drupal Archivist

If you've ever watched a Drupal Camp or Con session from the comfort of your home, you likely have our guest Kevin Thull to thank. Thull has recorded almost 1700 Drupal sessions, and he keeps looking for more ways to contribute to the Drupal community.
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Kevin Thull

Drupal Developer and Archivist

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Yet another person that joined Drupal because of the helpful, welcoming community

How Kevin got started recording sessions

Going on the road to record Camps

Giant red button debut


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 am your host Ivan Stegic. My guest today is Kevin Thull, a freelance frontend developer and President of the Midwest Open Source Alliance. You may know him as the guy whose session recording kits are omnipresent at Drupal events across the globe. He’s also the 2018 recipient of the Aaron Winborn Award, an award that is presented annually to an individual who demonstrates personal integrity, kindness and above and beyond commitment to the Drupal community. Hey, Kevin. Welcome to the podcast. It’s a great pleasure to have you on.

KEVIN THULL: Thank you. It’s great to be here.

IVAN: I have so many questions. [laughing] I feel like there’s so much to explore. So maybe you’ll consider coming back if we don’t get to it all?

KEVIN: Definitely.

IVAN: Awesome. Okay, I thought we’d start with some background. So right now, you live in Chicago, and you went to the University of Illinois at Chicago. Are you a lifelong Chicagoan?

KEVIN: I am. Born and raised.

IVAN: Born and raised. So, where did life in school start for you?

KEVIN: I’m on the northwest side of Chicago. So, I went to schools in that area. As far as UIC I went there for Bioengineering. My dream was to create artificial limbs, and then I learned I’d pretty much be in school for the rest of my life. I said nope! [laughing]

IVAN: [laughing] Wow. Bioengineering. That’s amazing. What was the motivation for artificial limbs?

KEVIN: It just seemed an interesting and really useful career. At the time, I graduated college in 1989/90, so there wasn’t a whole lot of advancement at that point. So, it just seemed like a really interesting and rewarding career to go into.

IVAN: Yeah. I’ve seen those artificial limbs that are 3D printed these days.

KEVIN: Yeah, it’s incredible.

IVAN: It really is. Do they use Raspberry Pis, I think, in some cases? Or, I don’t know what it is, but it looks like there’s a really inexpensive way to get things done these days.

KEVIN: Yeah. There was an event at my old job sponsorship conference and one of speakers was one of the inventors of that 3D printing, or some of the innovators of it, and it’s just an incredible story.

IVAN: It really is. It’s kind of what technology and the internet, the original idea behind it was trying to accomplish. Right? Something that can bring the masses. Something that’s cheap and life-changing as a technology, whether it’s hardware or software, it doesn’t matter.

KEVIN: Right. Yeah.

IVAN: So, I have to ask you, since you’re in Chicago. White Sox or Cubs?

KEVIN: I grew up on the northwest side, so Cubs fan forever.

IVAN: Cubs fan. Yes.

KEVIN: I don’t really follow sports at this point anymore.

IVAN: No? Well recent World Champions, I have to give it to you that it’s probably okay to stop following it. Right?

KEVIN: Yeah. And I actually lived near Wrigley Field when that happened.

IVAN: What a beautiful ballpark.

KEVIN: Yeah. It’s wonderful. I hope they don’t change it.

IVAN: Yeah. I’m just so excited about baseball these days, given that the Twins are now number one in the league, and have the best average. We really needed that. I feel like it’s a good omen that that’s what happened to the Cubs who went to the World Series, and now maybe the Twins can do it.

KEVIN: Yeah, that’d be amazing.

IVAN: Definitely would be amazing. [laughing] So, let’s talk a little bit about Drupal. You’ve been in the Drupal ecosystem for more than 10 years with many different areas of interest and expertise from being a site builder to developer, to being involved in the community. Do you remember your first experience with Drupal?

KEVIN: Yeah. Vividly. [laughing] Drupal 6 was just shiny and new, and I was using a product to essentially build a static site, so I was using an early static site generator, just this Perl script that let me create both a car parts website and a couple different product websites, we’ll put it at that. Since it was UI-based the site kept timing out during the rebuilds for the owners of their sites, and telling them, “Oh, you can log in through SSH and run it there.” It was not an option. So, I started evaluating other systems and it was really down to between Joomla and Drupal.

IVAN: Ooh, Joomla.

KEVIN: Right. But feature set, similar, they looked equally capable on paper. So, I looked through support forms, because I’m not a coder by trade, I guess you can say. I can't code my way out of a paper bag, is how I’ll define my programming skills. I’m good with CSS and SaSS, but in terms of the rest, even though I went to engineering school, you’d think I’d be better at it. I looked at the community forums for both, and Joolma’s answers were, “Sure we’ll help you for a bounty,” and Drupal’s answers were “Sure we’ll help you. Can I move in with you to help you build this thing?” Sort of that feel. So, at that point I went with Drupal.

IVAN: Yeah, it was the community that got you hooked, it sounds like.

KEVIN: Absolutely. Then I struggled because there were no migration scripts at that point, so I had to find some custom PHP to brute force it into the database, which worked, data tables were a whole lot easier in Drupal 6.

IVAN: Of course.

KEVIN: Yeah. Then I didn’t quite understand the whole contrib cycle. I was like Drupal 5 versus Drupal 6. Well Drupal 6 is new I’ll use that, and then realized I was sort of stuck waiting for contrib to follow-up. I ended up doing an Ubercart site, struggled with a make/model/year selector, and my first community event, because I had learned a lot through videos. You found videos on from past events, and that got me a long way. But then I was stuck. 

I was very, very introverted, very shy at the time. I still am a little bit. So, I committed to going to an in-person meetup. I was living in the suburbs at the time, and there was a meetup posted and it’s like, “Well ask your questions and we’ll have Jeff Eaton there because he wrote the book on building Drupal," or he’s one of the writers. I’d been listening to Lullabot podcasts. I was having celebrity anxiety. So, he showed up, and I asked my question, “How could you do this?” He’s like, “Oh, I’m so sorry, 'cause basically there is no solution for that right now.” At least I felt good that it wasn’t me. And if he can’t figure it out, then...

IVAN: Is that code still around that you wrote?

KEVIN: No. The site owner ended up migrating out to BigCommerce at some point. He had several different sites. But we had it going for a while, doing lots of imports and CSV files. So, it was a pretty intense project.

IVAN: So that interaction with Jeff Eaton, was that your first in-person involvement in some sort of a community event?

KEVIN: Yeah. It was the very first Drupal Fox Valley meetup.

IVAN: Drupal Fox Valley meetup. Is that still around?

KEVIN: They are. Yeah. I’m sad I don’t live in the suburbs. That’s one of the reasons I’m sad I don’t live in the suburbs, because it’s a pretty far west suburb but it was a great, great group. I met a lot of wonderful people there, and I count that as one of the reasons that I am where I am today, being part of that group in that community.

IVAN: So that was your first exposure to the community. Is it also the first time you started participating and organizing events as well?

KEVIN: More or less. I did some light volunteering at the Chicago Drupal Camp when it was around, but we ended up as a suburban group. It’s a decent commute. There’s a good community in the suburbs so we decided to have our own DrupalCamp Fox Valley. That was October, 2013. That’s also when I decided I was going to record the sessions, because at the time where I worked, we hosted a marketing conference where I basically was involved in recording sessions. So I’m like, well, a) I learned when I started Drupal from session recordings; b) I do this for work, so it was a no brainer in my mind to do that for events that I’m organizing.

IVAN: So, 2013, there’s the first set of sessions that you decide to record and it’s at a meetup? Or it’s at the Fox Valley Camp?

KEVIN: Yeah. We had our Fox Valley DrupalCamp, or DrupalCamp Fox Valley.

IVAN: So, did you go into that camp thinking, “Okay, I’m going to record every single session?” Or did you say, “Let’s iterate. Let’s choose one room and see how it goes?” [laughing]

KEVIN: No. I figured, I do this for work, so, we’re going to get them all, and the method was have a camcorder in the back of the room just to see when slides change, get the slide presentation from the presenter, make stills of each slide, and then kind of rebuild what would be a screen share. Because that was the process that I did at work, but it was for marketing conference.

IVAN: I see.

KEVIN: So, there were maybe 30 slides or so. At the work event, it was a union hotel, so we brought in AV to do the keynote as a live video production, but in the breakout rooms, to cut costs we just got an audio file from them. So, I would get their deck and any videos that they were playing and kind of rebuild it based on the audio and just what I call the "reference record" to see where those slides change.

IVAN: So, you actually had to rebuild every session there was on any live capture?

KEVIN: Correct.

IVAN: Alright. So that’s kind of version one?

KEVIN: Yeah. That was terrible.

IVAN: Was it? [laughing]

KEVIN: Well, there was one talk, it was like a 45-minute talk and over 100 slides, so it took like three hours to rebuild that.

IVAN: Boy, that was really time intensive.

KEVIN: Yeah, and you know, demos were lost. It’s just a completely different medium. It’s funny because friends of mine at the time were like, “Why are you investing so much time in this, in the post-production? You know, nobody’s going to watch these.” I’m like, “It’s important.”

IVAN: Yeah, and it really is important. Thank you for investing the time. It’s such an asset to the community now, I can’t even imagine what it would be without it.

KEVIN: Yeah. I never once imagined it would be what it is today. [laughing]

IVAN: I would love to know about what the next iteration was after you decide, “I can’t handle doing four hours and 100 slides for a 45-minute talk.” What’s the next iteration?

KEVIN: So, shortly after that event was the first MidCamp. That was March of 2014. We were fortunate enough to get the Drupal Association recording kits. So, the same laptops and splitters that they use at DrupalCon. Because apparently if your event falls in the window of when they’re not needed to be shipped or in shipping or en route, you can just pay the FedEx cost to borrow the equipment. So, you get this giant Pelican case, you could fit a body in it because it’s stuffed with laptops and equipment. And that was also a pretty horrible experience, because it was just a lot of setup. They didn’t work terribly well. Every once in a while, in the recording there would be a dropped frame, so you just see a one-second blue frame. So, of course, I edited those out. It was pretty low res and at the end of the event we were exhausted because it was our first one, it’s like, Oh now we have to drag this giant case and find a FedEx to send it home.

IVAN: So, were the laptops themselves doing the recording,  and you had to have your presentation on the laptop?

KEVIN: No, there was a splitter. So, the presentation computer fed into a splitter that split to the projector and to the recording MacBook. So, the MacBook was basically running a capture software. And to this day that’s the same type of equipment they use at Drupal Con. So, if you go into a session at DrupalCon you’ll see off to the side a table with a laptop on it that has a note saying, “Recording. Do not Touch.”

IVAN: Really.

KEVIN: And it’s just always on.

IVAN: I always wondered about that. Okay, so that’s version 2. So that’s 2014. So, what happens after that? You’ve reduced the amount of time you spend on post-production but you’re still not happy. You still want something better.

KEVIN: Yeah. So, I think it was, DrupalCon Austin was that year, so March is when we did the laptops. Went to DrupalCon Austin. We actually met with the people who produce the videos and I was brainstorming with a fellow organizer, there’s got to be some sort of solution that’s lightweight, inexpensive, device agnostic and no drivers. We kind of came up with this base requirements list and started looking, and it was really difficult to find stuff, because it turns out this is a very lucrative industry, recording events. They don’t want to give away their methods. Even the prosumer-level equipment is really expensive. So, I found this device that the intended market is to record your console gameplay, so it’s HDMI in and out, it records to a thumb drive and it’s got an audio mixer so it can pick up the gameplay audio from your console and then also your commentary through a headset. And it has a standalone mode, because lot of those console gameplay systems require you to either hook to a console where there’s some sort of interface or attach to a PC so you can run it through software. But it’s the only one that had a standalone mode. So, I’m like, well let me try it. So, I bought one and it worked. So, the second DrupalCamp Fox Valley, which was then later in 2014, was where that kit first debuted.

IVAN: Wow. And what was the cost of the kit at the time? Do you remember?

KEVIN: At that time, they came with a lav mic. So, just the unit itself was, I want to say, $180.00 plus dongle, so maybe low $200 per kit, which is really cheap.

IVAN: That’s really reasonable, yeah. Plus, you have to supply the thumb drive, right?

KEVIN: Yeah. When I think of cost per kit, that’s equipment plus dongles plus recording gear. But we have issues where if you had multiple presenters, you’re handing around this lav mic which is not a great way to deal with it, and every once in awhile there was no audio on the record. So, you’ve got the screen recording, no problems, but it’s silent. So those were lost. That’s when I decided to add in the zoom voice recorder which serves as the mic, but also records to an SD card.

IVAN: So that’s the omnidirectional mike that’s hooked up and right next to the console?

KEVIN: Yeah.

IVAN: Okay, so that’s the next version after the Fox Valley Camp?

KEVIN: Yeah. That was all exciting. It was promising. I got most of the recordings for Fox Valley. I was going to BADCamp that year, so that was September 2014, BADCamp was San Francisco, would’ve been late October. I just wanted to show off the kits and they’re like, “Well can you actually record some sessions?” I’m like, “Okay, sure.” I probably had two or three at the time. So, I brought them with me, they’re compact, and I recorded sessions and failed miserably.

IVAN: Really?

KEVIN: I think I caught maybe two out of 20 or 30 that I tried.

IVAN: What was the main issue?

KEVIN: So, this time they were bus powered. So, it would plug into the presenter's laptop.

IVAN: So, the assumption was there’s enough juice coming out of the laptop that’ll actually give you consistent power to power it.

KEVIN: Well there’s juice, but if that power gets interrupted before the file is written, then you get a zero K file.

IVAN: Oh, no!

KEVIN: Right. And generally, with equipment it loses the connection; it writes the file, powers down. Not so with this one. So, then that was wonderful and terrifying. It’s like, Okay, good, failing is important.

IVAN: Absolutely.

KEVIN: Right. Because if it’s working you don’t know how to break it, and therefore you don’t know how to fix it.

IVAN: Exactly.

KEVIN: So that was late 2014. March 2015 MidCamp No. 2 is coming up and I was a little scared, because it worked and then it failed, and here we go again. And, MidCamp was a success. So, it’s like, okay, great. What this tells me is I need to take these things on the road and just get more variables into the equation. So, shortly after MidCamp, I sent out a Tweet saying, “Hey Camps, if you’ll cover my airfare and hotel, I’ll record your Camp.” And St. Louis and Twin Cities took me up on it right away.

IVAN: Yeah, we did. It was like a no brainer for Twin Cities DrupalCamp. We were like, Oh, Kevin’s going to record it?” I think I remember voting yes on that request. I’m like, “Yeah, absolutely. Bring him. We’ll do it.”

KEVIN: Yeah, so that was also terrifying, because like, Oh now this someone else’s money. But by and large it worked really well. In St. Louis, I had 100% capture. So, like, great, this is good. But over time just various variables helped me to iterate on the kit, or whether that’s documentation—because BADCamp there was one year, there’s no time between sessions, and you’ve got six rooms over four buildings, and you’re the only one doing it. It’s like, “Okay, I guess I’m going to make instructions and put them at the podium because I’m not going to be there.” And it worked mostly.

Kevin Thull

IVAN: The giant red button, when did that make its debut?

KEVIN: The red button was part of what I call the beta kit, the 2014 Fox Valley version. So, it was the camcorder, there was the Drupal laptops, the DA laptops and then the Big Red Button. So that was early on the process and it’s just been a matter of smoothing out the whole bit.

IVAN: So, you took it on the road, you got different variables for the kit. Did the kit stay very similar after your beta process or did you change anything major after you were done with Twin Cities and St. Louis?

KEVIN: The bulk of the changes were adding in redundancies and taking out other variables. So, I added in the digital voice recorder, but then I got a remote for it. So, you hit the red button on the video, you’d hit the button on the audio record, and then when you’re done you stop both. Then so many times people forget to do the audio record, and then I realized, why don’t I just leave this thing to record all day long and take that out of the equation. One less thing for presenters to think about. And that worked.

There have been times, and sort of been the bane of my existence for a bit, because invariably someone would bump the power, or they’d turn off the power strip that everything’s attached to. Well, the video recorder powers on automatically. The audio recorder has to be turned on once it’s got power. So, I would lose it that way. Now there’s batteries in there, so there’s a failover. I now discovered there’s a hold switch so you can’t accidentally stop the recording, which has happened before. So, audio has become pretty solid in terms of capturing it.

Then just accidents. I had a four-port USB power, because one of the AV guys, when BADCamp failed miserably, he’s like, “Maybe there’s not enough USB power for some of this stuff.” For the laptops we’ll get a separate powered hub. So, I did but I thought I had to plug it into the laptop, and so, if the laptop went to sleep, it turned off power to the recorder. In one session I accidentally forgot to plug it in, and I think I know who the person is who, what I call happy accidents, her laptop went to sleep, and her recording continued. I'm like, “Oh, it’s because it’s not plugged in.” Because it’s not plugged into the laptop. So, it didn’t perceive that as a signal loss. Yeah, so, just lots of documentation and happy accidents throughout the years.

IVAN: And are you now at a final version of the right or do you have additional changes you want to make for the future?

KEVIN: The issues are currently, for whatever reason, if it’s not Mac OS, even though there’s a voice mixer, an audio mixer in the unit, there’s still no audio on the screen record. So, I don’t know if somehow rather than dubbing the non-audio from the presentation plus the spoken audio from the presenter, rather than mixing them, it’s completely wiped out. So, I had some time before someone’s session who historically had no audio, so I’m like, “Let’s look at your audio system and pick whatever is not chosen.” I assumed that it was choosing HDMI, and we would have to set it to headset. But it was set to headset. I’m like, “Let’s choose HDMI.” Then it worked. So, it’s like, “Oh, that’s cool.” But it’s still not 100%. Either you choose it, there will still be no audio, or it’ll be bad audio that has to be replaced. But it’s improved.

IVAN: I’m just amazed at the speed at which you get these sessions turned around and available online. What’s the secret to doing that?

KEVIN: The unit records to an .mp4 file on the thumb drive that’s attached to it. So, assuming you’ve got good audio, you already have a compressed file to upload to YouTube. So, as long as I go in, like any large break I’ll swap out media, see what I’ve got, fix anything that needs fixing and upload it, assuming then it has decent internet.

IVAN: So, really, you’re not doing any postproduction. That rig does it all for you.

KEVIN: Ideally, right. Yeah. When it works, it works really well. There are some small fixes. I’ve got enough experience where I’ve gotten quick at it. I think my most challenging was last year at DrupalCamp Montreal, it was a completely French spoken session that had no audio. So, trying to time that was tough.

IVAN: Oh, yeah. [laughing]

KEVIN: [laughing] I don’t speak French. So, eventually I figured it out.

IVAN: And what do you think the Achilles heel is with the whole system?

KEVIN: People. And that’s my next focus. When I’m doing it, I get close to 100% capture, pretty consistently. When others are doing it, it’s generally 80% or less, which I’ve learned is still okay. Because it means there are other people doing it, I’m not the blocker. But also, it’s just a matter of presence and making sure that everything’s being checked and rechecked. That a) you’re connecting the presenter laptops; and b) when sessions start, you’re verifying that the recording is recording. You still may lose the one or two that way, but it’s really just a matter of finding the people who care enough to make sure that it’s as successful as possible for any event that they’re managing equipment.

IVAN: How many sessions do you think you’ve recorded since you started in Fox Valley?

KEVIN: I do keep track.

IVAN: You do? So, this is not a guess. Okay. How many. What are we up to?

KEVIN: 1,646 total.

IVAN: Wow.

KEVIN: Although there’s more than that, because I don’t have numbers from Chattanooga. That includes sessions I’ve captured plus sessions—I call them proxy captures. So I now will send equipment to Camps through FedEx. And with instruction documentation. If needed I’ll do a video call with them to kind of go over how the kit works, troubleshooting stuff.

IVAN: And are the kits still around $250? Or has that changed?

KEVIN: So, by adding in the voice recorder that all totals about $450 per setup, which is still relatively affordable. I can get eight of them into a carryon-size Pelican case.

IVAN: That’s great.

KEVIN: They’re portable. They’re lightweight.

IVAN: Yeah. Wow. The quality on the recordings are nothing to be ashamed of. They’re all HD, the audio’s great. I don’t know how you get such great audio. You even get the questions from the auditorium as well.

KEVIN: That’s the audio recorder. I just have it set to multichannel, I think the auto gain and meeting is the setup. The preset. So, it does a good job of it.

IVAN: Yeah. I’m just so proud and amazed and you should be commended at every chance you can get, because this is such an amazing service and such high quality. It’s just amazing to see.

Am I right in saying that you started something called the Drupal Recording Initiative?


IVAN: Tell me about that. What is that?

KEVIN: Yeah, this is a funny story. DrupalCorn Camp in Iowa last year, I was very happy to be able to record it. It was one of the first non-Chicago Camps I went to in 2014-2015, but they always had a way to record their sessions. So, I was never going to record theirs, even though I wanted to. This last year they reached out, I guess they didn’t have their typical contact and they wanted me to record it. So, I’m like, “Yes, absolutely.”

Then Matt Westgate of Lullabot, he gave a keynote and either right before or after that, he just nonchalantly asked me, “So, how’s the recording initiative going?” In my mind I’m like, “Oh wow, you just named this thing.” Because forever I was just like, “I’m just recording stuff.” So, it immediately got an upgrade. So, I had to kind of figure out what that was.

So I tried to do a year-end blog post to say how it’s gone for the year, do a little reporting, and the DA [Drupal Association] reached out to me after that, because this past year I realized that a) because this is bigger than just me, I need to start mentoring people, and so they offered to let me do a guest blog post on the DA’s blog so that it would amplify that. So, I’m like, great what am I going to write?

So, I came up with the initiative. Basically, broke it down into various buckets, like training and mentorship, expanded coverage, improved documentation, funding organization, content discoverability, and that was just basically December of last year. Now it’s just a matter of a three to five-year roadmap.

IVAN: So, this is quite recent. So, this is the end of last year you’re through about six months of it. How’s it going?

KEVIN: Surprisingly well. I think it just goes to show when you create a plan, you’ll start…

IVAN: …you’ll start working on the plan.

KEVIN: Yeah. If you don’t have a plan, you’re not going to achieve results. If you have a plan, you have a roadmap and things to shoot for.

IVAN: And how do we find out more about the Drupal Recording Initiative?

KEVIN: One of the items was open accounting, and in order to do that I put it on Open Collective, whether it links through show notes or something. But if you search "Drupal Recording Initiative," you’ll pretty much find it on open collective and I’ve got the entire initiative spelled out there.

IVAN: Excellent. We’ll link to it in the transcript and the show notes of this podcast episode, so keep it tracked there. But, it’s on, and as you said if you do a search for "Drupal Recording Initiative" it should be one of the first results. And I think it was for me.

KEVIN: Excellent. So, it’s working. [laughing]

IVAN: [laughing] So, it’s working. This is actually a really good segue into a question I had about the Midwest Open Source Alliance. It did say on the recording initiatives webpage that it’s hosted by the Midwest Open Source Alliance. What is MOSA? I’m sure that’s what you call it. Right?

KEVIN: It is what we call it.

IVAN: Okay. What is MOSA?

KEVIN: Yeah. MOSA was born out of the fact that the Drupal Association used to provide fiscal sponsorship for events, primarily in the U.S. They ended that program with the recommendation transfer over to Open Collective because they can be your fiscal sponsor. The DA took 10% which went to the Drupal project. Great. Going to Open Collective was going to take 10% and fund Open Source in general, also good but they were going to take a 10% on that initial deposit in addition.

So, as an event, we had already paid our 10% to the DA, so we were going to lose another 10% just to transfer. I wasn’t okay with that, especially because we didn’t know anything about Open Collective. So, that felt like a big jump to me. And there’s still issues like insurance, and getting sales tax exemption in Chicago is an issue.

So, some of the issues that we had when the DA was running this sponsorship program were going to not be fixed by moving the Open Collective. So, some of the MidCamp organizers got together, and we had been talking about this for a while, and that was the impetus to form our town nonprofit.

IVAN: And so, the Midwest Open Source Alliance is a federally recognized nonprofit, and you behave the same way that the Drupal Association did. You are fiscal sponsors for camps. I know that Twin Cities DrupalCamp uses you right now.

KEVIN: Yeah. It was primarily a solution for MidCamp, but we realized that if we could fix this for one, we could fix it for more. We tried to keep the scope smaller, geographically by Midwest, but also open the scope and just call it open source.

IVAN: And are you the fiscal sponsor and the insurance and everything else that a camp needs? Like the Open Collective and like the Drupal Association was to us?

KEVIN: That’s the intent. We’re still working on the insurance part. For any camp to be part of MOSA we have to designate an at large board member. So, in this case that was Dan Moriarty. So, he then is a representative of MOSA, so he can sign insurance using MOSA’s name. So, it’s not his name or his company. I didn’t even know that was a problem until I heard about event organizers being sued, because of something on their website.

IVAN: That’s awful.

KEVIN: Yeah. So, this is important. Even with the DA, at one point they provided insurance, and then they realized they couldn’t because it really wasn't part of their structure.

IVAN: The liability.

KEVIN: Yeah. So then here I am buying event insurance under my own name.

IVAN: Ouch.

KEVIN: Which is terrifying.

IVAN: Yeah, that is terrifying.

KEVIN: You do what you can to get your Camp out.

IVAN: Right. And how is MOSA funded? Is it also through a percentage that the members paid?

KEVIN: Yeah. So, we’re taking 5% from events and that’s been enough because it’s all volunteer run. We take 0% from initiatives, so donations. The Recording Initiative I do pay 5% platform fee to open collective but no additional cost. Because Open Collective itself is not a fiscal sponsor. There are fiscal sponsors on Open Collective. MOSA is now one of those, and the fiscal sponsor decides what percent they’ll take. So, for camps we don’t organize that through Open Collective, so that way we can get 5% to help keep the lights on. But for initiatives, we don’t need to take anything.

IVAN: And you talked about a plan for the Drupal Recording Initiative. What kind of a plan is there for MOSA? What are you guys hoping to achieve in the next few years?

KEVIN: We’ve got a project board on GitHub mostly to sort of finish. We’re building the bike as we’re riding it. It’s like, oh we have to create a nonprofit and run an event. And, oh, Twin Cities is actually going to be our next event, so now we have to figure that out. So, we’re getting documentation and things of that nature, hashing out insurance. We want year-long insurance for Board members, but also how to cover all volunteers of an event during the phase of the event. So, in theory, events don’t need event insurance. MOSA’s insurance would cover it, in theory. There’s a lot of time to talk to a lot of people to get a lot of quotes.

IVAN: Well, you guys are doing a wonderful job, so I wish you all of the best of luck for MOSA. I know that it felt like TC Drupal was looking for something like MOSA, and I’m just glad that we’re in the Midwest, and we’re able to take advantage of the Open Source Alliance.

KEVIN: Yeah, I’m glad it worked out.

IVAN: So, I think the last thing I want to talk to you about is the Aaron Winborn Award. Last year in 2018 in recognition of this incredible service you’ve been providing to our community, you received the Aaron Winborn award. What an honor to receive that. How did that make you feel?

KEVIN: It was incredibly humbling. I’m definitely not here for anything but to give back. So, to have to stand up and thank people. I understand that people really appreciate what I’m doing, but I’m not here for that. I’m here to just make videos available. So, it’s hard to go up there. I’m a very much behind-the-cameras kind of guy. It was wonderful.

IVAN: It was wonderful to see you accept that.

KEVIN: Thanks. Yeah.

IVAN: Did it change your approach to how and what you’re doing? Did it make it more intense? Did it change anything about your approach?

KEVIN: I don’t think so. I think, if anything, more people know me. [laughing] So I’m now Drupal famous.

IVAN: [laughing]

KEVIN: But aside from that, I’d say no.

IVAN: Well, it’s just wonderful to see. You’re just such a great example of how you can contribute to the community without writing a single line of code. Right?

KEVIN: Well, that’s the whole point.

IVAN: You’re a front end developer. You’ve written code. You’ve got patches in there, but you get an award for not writing code. So, that’s just a testament. So, what do you think your advice would be to those who just joined the Drupal community, or even to any open source community who maybe are not developers or who are young developers, or who just started writing code, maybe they’re afraid to show what they’ve written? What would your advice be to them about wanting to contribute?

KEVIN: Just, if you’re passionate about giving back to a community that you’re getting benefit from, don’t let the fact that you’re not maybe working on core module development, don’t let that stop you. There are so many ways that are either technical-lite or non-technical to give back. Documentation would be a great example for Drupal, because it’s still a sticking point. Plenty of opportunity to contribute there. But, at events you always need "day of" volunteers. There are plenty of non-standard ways to get involved. And also especially to bring in any past experience you have. I did video work, that’s not at all Drupal related, but look how big of an impact it’s made.

IVAN: Kevin, thank you so much for spending your time with me today on the podcast. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

KEVIN: Well, thank you for having me.

IVAN: Kevin Thull is a freelance frontend developer and President of the Midwest Open Source Alliance. You can find him on Twitter @kevinjthull and on @kthull. And we'll have those in the show notes and in the transcription on the website. You’ve been listening to the TEN7 Podcast. Find us online at And if you have a second, do send us a message. We love hearing from you. Our email address is [email protected]. And don’t forget, we’re also doing a survey of our listeners. So, if you’re able to, tell us about what you are and who you are, please take our survey as well at Until next time, this is Ivan Stegic. Thank you for listening.

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