Fresh off the inaugural Flyover Camp, co-organizer Karl Kedrovsky talks organizing local user groups, what it means to give back to the community, and why some furniture is timeless.

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You've done it once...you've done it one more time than most people, so you can absolutely give a talk or just share some knowledge on the subject.

This Episode's Guest

Karl Kedrovsky

Karl Kedrovsky

Karl is mostly focused on delivering content management solutions using Drupal but also has extensive experience in application architecture and Java/JEE development. He also does a fair amount of technical consulting, helps manage the overall software development and architecture practice within VML and co-organizes the local Drupal user group.

Transcript

Transcript

Chris:
We're back at DrupalCon Seattle and today I'm going behind the screens with Karl Kedrovsky. Karl, you are a co-organizer -- you help to organize the Flyover Camp.
Karl:
That's correct.
Chris:
And you organize the Kansas City Drupal users group. Tell me a little bit about organizing that users group and how that's going.
Karl:
Well, as we started at my job, at VMLY&Rs, we started doing a lot of Drupal work. We had a desire to kind of give back to the community and try to get to know a little bit more about the community, more people in the community. We started a user group about eight or 10 years ago, and it's been going ever since then. It had a bit of a hiatus early on, and then we picked it up again about six, seven years ago and been meeting monthly. Last Tuesday of every month we have a meetup. It's organized on meetup.com, so if you're in the area and you have a hankering to come to a user group meeting in Kansas City, hit us up there. We do it every month except for the last two months of the year, so we don't conflict with Christmas and Thanksgiving. but it's a good, small, tight group of folks within just the greater Kansas City area that meets every month. Talk about whatever people want to talk about. Usually have a small, short presentation on a specific topic. And then we have a lot of discussion. We've even helped people design and build their websites during the meeting, or have just general conversations about things people are interested in.
Chris:
That's great. So, very informal. You can kind of come as you are, bring what you want, and everyone's there to help.
Karl:
Yeah.
Chris:
How has it changed for you over the years? Have you been organizing it for the last eight or 10 years yourself, like with other people?
Karl:
Yeah, probably the last six or seven years have been helping organize it. Then over the last couple of years have been doing it primarily myself. Typically, had a co-organizer up until very recently.
Karl:
I mean, it goes really well as long as we're having nice, regular meetings. We have a good core group of people that are always involved every month, and we'll have fresh faces come in every few weeks. It's been pretty dynamic. The numbers that we would attractive have gotten smaller over the years. I think since Drupal has kind of, it's not the new, shiny thing on the block that everybody would be interested in. But it's a very stable kind of community, and a lot of folks that have kind of stuck to the Drupal platform will show up on a regular basis. We're not attracting 30, 40, 50 people anymore. It's usually 10 to 20 for a monthly meeting.
Karl:
But we've also tried to do a few things like training days. We've done that before on the the KU campus a few years ago, and we're always looking for opportunities to kind of work in the broader community, to really, to spread just the knowledge and experience that a lot of us have in Drupal with a broader audience.
Chris:
That would be opposed ... Not opposed, but different than Flyover Camp. The training days and things like that. Tell me a little bit about how as a community you were organizing those and what you wanted to achieve with that.
Karl:
Flyover Camp is something that people have talked about for probably the last 10 years. I can't tell you how many people have told me that we should organize a Kansas City Drupal camp. And then when I asked them if they'd be willing to volunteer, it's just like, "No." It's really been ... But this year a Todd Greathouse stepped up and volunteered to actually organize the whole thing. Now that we have a person that's spearheading the big effort, and he's got a nice group of folks around that are helping him out with all the different logistics. We're going to actually going to have the first Kansas City Drupal camp, which is called Flyover Camp, and it is going to be held on May 31st through June 2nd on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus, which is a really right in the middle of the midtown area of Kansas City, so a really, really great location. First two days of talks and sessions, and then the last day will be a contributor day.
Chris:
Great. That's exciting. I didn't realize this was going to be the first ... I know I hadn't heard of it before. I thought maybe it was a smaller camp, but this is the first one.
Karl:
First one. Yeah. We've been kind of, we've been long time attenders of DrupalCorn, which is the one in Iowa, which is just a little drive, and I've also attended the St Louis Camp. But those over the last couple of years haven't been annual events. So the kind of the impetus is like, "Well, we really like going to Drupal camps a lot." So if other folks are either taking a year off of organizing theirs or just haven't been able to organize one for for whatever reason, we can kind of step up and kind of fill that hole in the middle of the country.
Karl:
Which is kind of nice, because we're only a couple of hours from Des Moines. We're four hours from St Louis. We're really easy driving distance from Omaha, and Wichita, from Arkansas, and Oklahoma. There's a lot of really regional folks that we can, or areas we can draw from that don't have a campus super close. You can go to Austin. You can go to Colorado. But a lot of times those are, they're plane trips, or they're a bigger commitment. Having something right within the central Midwest there has really, really been desirable for a lot of people in the area. That's what we're kind of hoping for. For folks that want to come and attend a DrupalCamp.
Chris:
It sounds like a great goal. Because I'm in Denver, so we have DrupalCamp Colorado coming up at the beginning of August. But it's a more sparsely populated part of the country.
Karl:
Right.
Chris:
So, yeah, a lot of these other camps are plane rides and major trips, whereas I know that's a really great network of camps in the southeastern United States that all, they all go together to each other's camps, and they can do quick drives. It's a couple of hours. That's really great. You can now reach out to all these markets around your area. I hope it gets a great turnout. We'll make sure we publicize that.
Karl:
Yeah. We kind of see the same things. We go to St Louis and Iowa, you'll see the same folks in the Chicago, Minnesota, Iowa, St Louis kind of camps. That upper Midwest kind of group that that you'll see in a lot of camps when you go to one in any of those areas. Kind of the same thing going on as you have in the southwest.
Chris:
That's great. I want to know a little bit about some of the other community outreach things that you were talking about that you helped to organize for the community. One of them you mentioned was training days.
Karl:
Right. We've done the Drupal training days. I know when the University of Kansas started using Drupal a few years ago, and that kind of first year just gave us an opportunity, really an excuse, to try to just to do a Drupal training day as part of the official Drupal Association training days. We organized that, and a couple of folks, again, volunteered to kind of spearhead that effort. We met on the University of Kansas campus and just held a day of, essentially, introduction to Drupal, and we had a really good turnout. A lot of folks were really interested since they were moving to that platform as content managers, or as a site developers, or just folks that are department heads that are trying to wrap their heads around how the whole Drupal thing works. That was really, really successful, and we're always looking for opportunities to do those things.
Karl:
Again, a lot of the folks that are involved in the user group also kind of bleed over into some of the other community outreach. I know we had here at DrupalCon, that Acquia is sponsoring Girls Who Code. There's a lot of women in the ... The Kansas City Women in Technology is a big organization. It's actually where two keynote speakers for Flyover Camp come from. The gal, Jennifer Wadella, that organized Kansas City Women in Technology, also helps out with a CoderDojo Kansas City. They do a code and cupcakes program which gets girls and, generally, moms introduced into software development. She's going to be one of our keynote speakers as well as another gal from the same organization that are going to do a keynote at Flyover Camp. We try to kind of cross-pollinate.
Karl:
The Drupal community in Kansas City is relatively tight. It's relatively small as far as the broader technology community, but there is a very large technology community within Kansas City that we kind of all commingle with. It's not such a big market that you don't know just about everybody. Right? It's a relatively small market as far as technology goes, so you end up knowing a lot of people in a lot of these different areas. We'll try to get out into those as well to kind of give back to the community in different ways.
Chris:
That's really incredible. Now that Drupal, I mean, Drupal 8 has Symfony in it. We have lots of third party libraries. It's not just our own PHP code anymore, so we need to be adopting some of these other communities and working together.
Karl:
Yeah, yeah. We've got a pretty robust PHP community within Kansas City. There's a really good Meetup that's just around the general PHP community, as well as WordPress. They've got a really good kind of solid community and Meetup going around WordPress, as well, and the JavaScript, and just basic technology groups around KC are pretty vibrant.
Chris:
What's a lesson that you've learned in your years of organizing these types of events, and now maybe something that you've been able to take into organizing a full camp?
Karl:
Yeah, it's a lot of work. I think that's probably the biggest thing. Standing on the shoulders of others or the other giants is probably the biggest thing that helps people. Really, when we started the initial user group, things kind of were kind of all over the map, when people would come, and people would fall off, and sometimes nobody would show up. We finally got around to figure, it's like, "Well, other people organize these kind of Meetups. I wonder what kinds of things they do to make themselves successful?" And just look at the things ... Have a regular Meetup.
Karl:
That's why we always meet the last Friday of the month. Have a normal regular meeting place, which is why we almost always meet in the same location. And then, having a little bit of variability in the content, really knowing your audience and what they're going to want, and work hard to try and find people that will do the presentations and speak about the content, and try to convince them that they are indeed experts in something. You've done it once. You've done it one more time than most people. Right? So, you can absolutely give a talk or just share some knowledge on the subject. That, I think, has probably been the biggest thing is just really working with people to encourage them to get involved and learning from the mistakes and other things of others.
Karl:
When we started organizing this camp, I know Todd Greathouse, the guy that is organizing Flyover Camp, has been heavily involved with talking to lots of different people within the Drupal community on how to organize Kansas. Great to have the resource of the camp organizers groups. He's been on Slack a lot. He's reached out to lots of different people, the DrupalCorn camp in St Louis, and just folks all over the country that have been organizing camps for years. Just to understand how you do it, how you go about it, and just even easing your concerns. Knowing that most people sign up the last two weeks before the camp is reassuring when you don't have a lot of people that have signed up already. How you get sponsors, and how you organize what's important to people when they come to a camp. What are people really looking for? Because, as a first time organizer, we can't do everything, so we want to hit on the things that are going to make the experience for people that come to the camp the most enjoyable and most valuable, so that they get a lot of value out of the time and energy they spent to come.
Chris:
You mentioned Slack. What's one of the biggest resources you've been able to leverage outside of ... Or maybe even just talking to another person. If there's somebody who's in the market to try and get their local user group going.
Karl:
The Slack group that ... I haven't been in it personally at all, but Todd constantly is saying, "I'll ask about this in the Slack group," or "These folks in the Slack group told me we should be doing this and doing that." That has been an enormously big benefit. Just that broader group of community organizers within the Drupal community has been enormously helpful in like logistics. What do we need to do to set up a bank account? We didn't even have a checking account before. How do we take money? How do you find venues? How do we get sponsors? What are the sponsorship levels? And then there's always these weird things that you don't see from going to a camp. Like when you ask for a sponsorship and the sponsors tend to say like, "Well look, if we give you money, can we do this other thing?" And it's like, "Well, this is not something that people do blog posts about." Then you have a good resource to ask. It's like, "Okay, is this normal? Is this okay to do? Are people going to find this shady?" Or any of those kinds of things. It's helped us to make good decisions and be real transparent with our sponsors and the people that are coming to the campus.
Karl:
It's like, "This is what you get as part of the sponsorship." If we changed the rules midstream, or the things that we provide as part of sponsorships or just anything like that, that we're doing everything above board. But also that we're learning from the decisions that other people have made, and whether they have found those things either valuable or maybe have had a detriment to their camp, helps us make good decisions.
Chris:
Yeah. That's great.
Karl:
Yeah, it's almost like having our first year behind us already. You know? It's like, "Okay. All these mistakes were made." It's like, "Okay, we're probably not going to do everything right, but we're going to do ... We're at least one step ahead of where we would be if we were on our own."
Chris:
Yeah, yeah. You have a good view of all those potential pitfalls, and know how to navigate them now.
Karl:
Right. Yeah.
Chris:
That's a great resource. So yeah, there's a Slack channel out there for anyone who's interested in organizing a local community, and we'll put that into the show notes. Get ahead of ahead of the game a bit.
Karl:
Exactly.
Chris:
All right. I'm going to, well, I've never asked you Karl, what is your role in the Drupal community outside of helping to organize this camp? What do you do with the software?
Karl:
Well, mostly my involvement with Drupal is through my job. I work at a creative marketing agency called VMLY&R. We're a global, like I say, creative marketing agency, and we do a lot of website implementations. Most of our clients we do technology work for have a CMS implementation involved in the work that they want us to do. That's how I got involved with Drupal. It was the first content management system we wanted to use twice. This was 12 or 13 years ago, and we did a Drupal 5 site, and that was the first time that we had done a CMS implementation that we wanted to do again. That was back in the day when they were all just awful. And now we can honestly say that every CMS is awful, it's just some are less awful than others. That old saying was very, very true back in the day. That's how I got involved in Drupal.
Karl:
And then with it being a community, the guy that I built that website with, Dan Goldenbaum, was actually the first organizer of the Kansas City Drupal users group. He kind of set that up and got it started. And then when he moved to Atlanta a few years later, then I helped with the, what was then the co-organizer of the group, and I stepped in to help her out to organize it, and just picked it up a few years later when she retired. That's really been kind of my gateway into the broader community. And then, of course, coming to the DrupalCons and then attending camps around the Midwest, been able to get involved with quite a few different things in the community.
Chris:
Yeah. If you were, say, your employer were to give you a month off from work, fully paid. You get to take a sabbatical and do whatever you want to do, what are you going to do with that time?
Karl:
Well if I was going to take a month off ... I actually did that a couple of years ago as a part of a program we used to have at VMLY&R, and one of the things we had to do was a certain number of those days had to be applied to community service. We were, at the time, working with a domestic violence shelter called Hope House in Kansas City, and I spent my time developing a website for them. That has been, some of the work we do pro bono at VMLY&R is with groups like that.
Karl:
I have found that when you are doing things for people that have a purpose, it is a lot more rewarding than when you're just working for a client to sell product, or increase leads, or things like that, and where you're trying to just move the needle on money. It's when you're involved with an organization or people that are actually making a difference in people's lives either from day to day ... And it doesn't have to be as kind of a big and awful thing as domestic violence, but just things that kind of move the needle forward in people's lives and the things with purpose.
Karl:
I found that Dan Pink's motivation, if you've ever heard his TED talk or read his book on the things that motivate people, that was one of the big motivators for people that a lot of people miss in their normal nine to five job, where you're just coding the company's intranet site or whatever, and it's just like you're just doing it for a paycheck. A lot of folks just don't find, and I'm one of those people, that I end up getting a lot of value and a lot of motivation out of doing things that have intrinsic value other than just a monetary compensation.
Karl:
If I were to ... I really love doing web development, and as a development manager now, they don't let me write much code, unless nobody's paying for it. I use that as a good excuse to work on pro bono work, and then when I have free time outside of work, to help out with organizations and things like that, that have meaning in other people's lives, and it's very rewarding. And it's a lot of fun, because I actually get to code again.
Chris:
Yeah, that's awesome. All right, let's lighten this up a little bit here. We've talked a lot about the community, and the work, and I want to get to know you a little bit better. We're going to throw some of these fun questions into the mix here.
Karl:
All right. Let's see how these work.
Chris:
Yep. All right. If you could have an endless supply of any food-
Karl:
Oh. Any food. Sushi and ice cream.
Chris:
At the same time?
Karl:
One after the other.
Chris:
Okay, good.
Karl:
Yeah. Yeah. Not at the same time. That'd be good. It used to be pizza and ice cream, and that's still is kind of a fave. But my kids really like ... I've gotten really into Sushi, which is kind of weird, having two kids that really like Sushi. It's good, and it's fun to go out and just connect with the kids and hang out now that they're teenagers. It's kind of fun to go out with that.
Chris:
Oh, very nice. All right. What is your least favorite household chore? One that could just always be done, you never have to do it again?
Karl:
Least favorite household chore. Boy I've got a list. Ah, I'd have to say cutting the grass. Yeah, mowing the lawn. Even though I don't mind the time mowing the lawn, because it's like that 45 minutes that nobody can bother you.
Chris:
Yeah. Yep.
Karl:
And nobody wants to be in the yard near you. This is like that's not one ... That's one thing I could give up. If somebody wanted to come cut my grass, I'd let him.
Chris:
Yeah. Nice. All right. If you could be any piece of furniture, what piece of furniture would you be? What best represents Karl?
Karl:
Any piece of furniture? How about a recliner? I would have to say the recliner. Because I, there is one piece of furniture in our house that will never get sold, and that is the rocking recliner we bought right before my oldest daughter was born. She's 19 now, so it's old and kind of threadbare, so it has to hide in the basement. But that chair has the ton of memories, right, of all of the kids. Because that was the one you had when you had the babies and all that kind of jazz. I already told my wife, we're looking to get rid of some stuff in the house and things like that. It's just like, "Well, the one thing we can never throw away is the rocking recliner that we bought when Abigail was four." And so, I guess I would be a recliner.
Chris:
I like it. The reasoning behind these, the answers themselves are fun, but the logic, the reasoning that goes into them, that's the true story-
Karl:
Yeah, I love that chair. I sit in it every day. Yeah. It's fantastic.
Chris:
Awesome. I like it. All right. This is one I'm bringing back. Rapid fire questions. Five questions, yes or no, true/false type of answers.
Karl:
Okay.
Chris:
All right. First one, an easy one. We'll start off easy. Dogs or cats?
Karl:
Dog.
Chris:
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Karl:
Star Trek.
Chris:
Would you rather attend school at Hogwarts or have a wardrobe that opens into Narnia?
Karl:
Narnia.
Chris:
Beer, wine, cocktail, or none of the above?
Karl:
None of the above.
Chris:
All right. Mountain lodge or beach hut?
Karl:
Oh, mountain lodge. Yeah. Easy.
Chris:
Nice. That's my answer, too. I like that one.
Karl:
Yeah. Hot, dirty sand is gross. Nope.
Chris:
Not for you?
Karl:
No.
Chris:
That's just middle of the country. You're pretty far from a lot of beaches. So-
Karl:
I have in-laws that live in Naples, Florida, so we get a lot of beach time, but I'd still rather go to the mountains.
Chris:
Yeah. Excellent. Oh, we'll have to get you out for DrupalCamp, Colorado in August.
Karl:
I'm there.
Chris:
All right. And finally, Karl, is there anybody that comes to mind that you would like to say thank you to or share some gratitude with who gave you a hand along the way?
Karl:
Yeah. My best experience at DrupalCorn has probably been with Cathy Theys on contribution days. She is like, if you've ever had had the chance or the pleasure of sitting with her at a contribution day and have her help you with your first commit, that is awesome. She's done that twice for me, so I have a very soft spot for Cathy. I think she's an awesome person. Yeah.
Chris:
Absolutely. Yeah. She puts a lot of energy into organizing those things, along with a lot of other people, as well. But yeah, she brings so much to that. that's wonderful.
Karl:
Yeah.
Chris:
Karl, hey, thank you very much for taking a few minutes today.
Karl:
You're welcome.
Chris:
I appreciate it.
Karl:
You're welcome.

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About host Chris Albrecht

Chris Albrecht
His backend brings all the nerds to the code. Skilled in Drupal development and architecture, you can often find him running through the Colorado wilderness and hosting the Behind the Screens podcast.