Episode 228  on September 27, 2018Lullabot Podcast

Upcoming Changes to DrupalCons

Mike and Matt talk with the Drupal Association's Senior Events Manager, Amanda Gonser, about upcoming changes to Drupalcon events.

Transcript

Matt Kleve:
For September 27th, 2018, it's the Lullabot Podcast.
Matt Kleve:
Hey everybody, it's the Lullabot podcast, episode 228. I'm Matt Kleve, senior developer at Lullabot. With me as always, co-host of the show, senior front end developer Mike Herchel. Hey Mike!
Mike Herchel:
Hi Matt.
Matt Kleve:
Hey let's dive right in today. So we're talking DrupalCon.
Mike Herchel:
Yeah there's some changes with DrupalCon within the next couple years and we have the correct person to talk to about that today.
Matt Kleve:
Funny how that works.
Mike Herchel:
Yep.
Matt Kleve:
We're bringing back an old friend from episode 183.
Mike Herchel:
Oh good research.
Amanda Gonser:
Wow it's been a while.
Matt Kleve:
Yeah. I just Googled that real fast, I don't remember these things.
Amanda Gonser:
I was gonna say I'm impressed.
Mike Herchel:
With us we have Amanda Gonser, who is a senior events manager at the Drupal Association. You're our of Portland, Oregon. Is that right?
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah we're a remote team but I live and work out of my house in Portland, Oregon.
Mike Herchel:
And awesome. So let's get started, what is your role at the DA and planning DrupalCons, how long have you been doing it? Etcetera, etcetera.
Amanda Gonser:
Sure. I started at the DA almost four years ago, it was just my four year Drupal-versary, but I actually set up my [inaudible 00:01:20] account for researching for doing the interview.
Matt Kleve:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Amanda Gonser:
I was part of the community before so I've been there about four years and my role has changed quite a bit in the time that I've been there. I just sort of came on as DrupalCon coordinator and then I moved to working with a lot of volunteers on programming with the track team and summit leads and people that run trainings and sprints. And now after Nashville, my role transitioned into the events manager, so now I lead the DrupalCon team and future DrupalCon events will now fall in with [inaudible 00:01:51].
Matt Kleve:
Right on. And just so everybody's on the same page, our next DrupalCon we're talking about is up in your neck of the woods in the Pacific Northwest right?
Amanda Gonser:
It is, I'm so excited. And every day I put out into the universe that it's going to be sunny because from what I hear, DrupalCon, although I wasn't in attendance, was the rainiest DrupalCon so I'm hoping that Seattle, where we are in 2019, is a bit nicer weather.
Matt Kleve:
What time a year is that? It's gonna be when?
Amanda Gonser:
In April, so it's really hit or miss but again, I put out into the universe, I ask every day for a sunny DrupalCon.
Matt Kleve:
Well I that's generally what happens at DrupalCon right? We always pick wonderful locations at strange times of the year. I remember being very cold in Chicago and very hot in Austin, so I suppose rain in Seattle would be normal right?
Amanda Gonser:
I mean but nobody can top Nashville where it was snowing when we arrived and about 70 degrees when we left.
Mike Herchel:
And correct me if I'm wrong, at DrupalCon Los Angeles, it rained.
Amanda Gonser:
It rained a little bit.
Mike Herchel:
Yeah but still that's a lot for Los Angeles right?
Amanda Gonser:
That's true. So maybe in Seattle we'll do the opposite and it'll be very sunny.
Mike Herchel:
Yeah let's hope so.
Matt Kleve:
And so we have you on today because there's been some talk about some changes to DrupalCon and we just wanna get your perspective and some clarifications and you know, learn a little bit about that.
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah for sure. Happy to talk about it.
Mike Herchel:
So first up, let's talk about different tracks. I guess there's a builder track now. Tell us how the track format is changing, and maybe compare and contrast it with the previous years.
Amanda Gonser:
Sure. The new structure is a lot of change, I will agree. But at the same time we've worked here at the DA really hard to ensure that the core of the event, which is essentially what DrupalCon has always been, doesn't change too much that it's hard to process or that it really changes the experience because people who have been coming to DrupalCon for years, we wanna make sure that they're still really getting what they want out of it and it's being improved.
Amanda Gonser:
So just for context, in my time at the DA, we've done two DrupalCon a year, sometimes three. And we had a really small team. And that's a lot to ask to execute each year. Even though we're event pros, that's still a lot on our plates so normally between Cons, we try and make improvements but we were so strapped for time it was really hard. Like normally we're planning DrupalCon Europe before we even finish with DrupalCon North America and so once the North America Con ended, we'd have a week of breath and then we'd jump right into the European conference.
Amanda Gonser:
And so this year, because we did not plan DrupalCon in Europe, we were able to really step back and kind of take a big picture view of what's happening in Drupal, what's happening in the market, what's happening in our community, and process a lot of the feedback that we've getting for the past two years and try and take that and put it into a new format that better serves the community. We get feedback in a lot of ways. That can be evals from speakers, we get them from our surveys, we get a lot of just random feedback through the customer service portal, we have conversations with people at DrupalCon, around DrupalCon, and people on the track teams and summit leads, they're also constantly telling us what's going on in the community. What are people thinking, what do people want? So that's kind of where we were when we finished with Nashville. And so we stepped back and said "well what's a way that we can make this conference better?"
Amanda Gonser:
And then you kind of look at it, the community has been served by DrupalCon since it started, but the community is also changing so when DrupalCon started, it was primarily for I'll just say developers. It was people who were making Drupal, people who were building Drupal. There's the word build. So that's where the builder part is gonna come in in a minute. So it was for people who were making Drupal, and then it grew and people who are selling Drupal, Drupal agencies, Drupal shops, they started coming so then content got added for them. And then people who are picking Drupal for their organizations, there's CTOs, they starting coming and end users started coming. People who manage a Drupal site at their organization. So all these people have very different needs, they have very different requests for content, and because we were doing the rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, we'd sort of Frankensteined it to a sense that we kept adding on content but all these different audiences really want different experiences.
Amanda Gonser:
And while there is a lot of importance in the cross...not cross-contamination, that's not the word I wanna say. Cross- pollination. It's really important that people connect but also that they get what they're going there for. So when we set out making a new and improved DrupalCon, we wanted to make sure that each experience was targeted to the person who's attending it. So a builder track, as it will now be known, essentially DrupalCon [inaudible 00:06:45], is almost the same DrupalCon. It's the same people that are going, it's the same content, it's laid out a bit differently but it's essentially the same DrupalCon.
Amanda Gonser:
On top of that, and kind of four conferences in one, we have three other tracks now. So we'll have an agency leadership track. And this is an audience that we used to serve with a business summit and then some business sessions. And then they sort of self-organized dinners and things. And we definitely heard a need from them that they want a more high quality focused conference, and so they're getting their whole own mini conference.
Amanda Gonser:
And then two audiences that we haven't really been serving much with content are the executives who are from customers. That's the Johnson and Johnsons, the Pfizers. And these are people that are coming to DrupalCon but there's really not a lot of content for them. We've kind of tried in case studies here and there that would appeal to someone like that, but we haven't had a lot of focused content. And they're an important part of the community. They're influencing whole organizations to adopt Drupal or to keep Drupal, so we want to make sure that they have content. So now we'll have an executive summit, so essentially a track for that group.
Amanda Gonser:
And then last but not least are people that are end users. People that maybe don't even know that they're using Drupal, but are managing a Drupal site at an organization at a customer, and it's their job to use a Drupal site to achieve their organization's goals. So the feedback we've gotten from the people that had been coming was that the content related to the topics they were interested in, UX, content strategy, content editing, was very technical because it's definitely geared towards our builders. The people that are making Drupal sites. And so we'll have a more marketing, customer journey, [Martec 00:08:35] sort of track for that group.
Amanda Gonser:
So that's kind of what it looks like and it's because really, the community is much larger than just those who are building the software. It's the people that are using it, the people that are selling it, the people that are adopting it. We wanted to make sure that this is the largest Drupal event in the world, which sounds dramatic but it's true, and so we wanna make sure that all of those audiences are served under one roof. And in this case, it's the Washington State Convention Center.
Mike Herchel:
Okay. So how is the spread of sessions? Is the builder track going to comprise the majority of the sessions? Is the quantity of sessions going to be spread equally among the multiple tracks?
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah that's a great question. So sessions, as I mentioned, the builder track is still the bulk of DrupalCon. I posted a blog a couple days ago or maybe last week, and I'm happy to pass it along to post here with the podcast. It kind of visually shows how the building will be split up into different tracks and the builder track takes over an entire level of the Washington Convention Center. It'll have the regular mini mini sessions, probably over 125 to 150. Just like normal. It'll also have the [BOFFs 00:09:51], it'll have the labs, the hands on labs. So that's where the majority of attendees will be going. Especially people who have attended in the past. In general, they'll probably attend this track. We still anticipate about 3000 people in this track, so the majority of the content in the programming will be here.
Amanda Gonser:
For the agency track, that'll be more about 50 to 75 people. And they'll have one or kind of two track program. And then the content and digital marketing track will also be able 60 to 75 people, so again, a much small end scope. They're much smaller audiences for us, and we wanna give them content but we definitely don't wanna detract from the content that we've served the builders with.
Matt Kleve:
How siloed are these different tracks? I guess I'm taking it from the perspective of if I'm a CTO and I might wanna learn about all of your great CTO sessions that are gonna be there, but maybe there's a core conversation about where Drupal is going in the future that I kinda wanna get my ear on as well. I'm a technical guy, can I go see that too?
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah there's a bit of flexibility in the way that the tracks are set up. The content and digital marketing will be happening, it's just a one day track, it's happening on Wednesday. And then we're inviting those attendees to actually join the sessions that are happening in the builder track because we recognize that there's a lot of cross-pollination that could really be beneficial. We can have round tables, we can have discussions. It'd be amazing for someone who is using a Drupal site to meet someone who maybe created the distribution that they're using. We really wanna make sure those kind of connections are still made at DrupalCon and so there is a bit of flexibility between the tracks but primarily, consider it that the agency leadership, with the content and digital marketing, and the executive summit are three new conference that have been added to DrupalCon. So the people that have been coming to DrupalCon won't necessarily go to those sessions, but we'll work to have people who are in the new conferences that haven't really been included before slowly kind of work into our existing community.
Mike Herchel:
So to clarify that, the builder track, we don't go to the other sessions? Are we not going or are we not allowed to go? But they are allowed to go? I know that kind of sounds weird but I figured I would just clarify.
Amanda Gonser:
Good question, I'll clarify. If you buy a builder track ticket, which is the regular DrupalCon that you know, you will stay in the builder track. If you buy content and digital marketing, you will do the ticket that is Wednesday and you're invited to come on Thursday but it's a very different kind of conference. The content and digital marketing will be very marketing-focused, very customer journey, very [Martec 00:12:35], and so people who would like to stay and collaborate and meet people from the community, they'll have the opportunity to come to the builder track. Same with the agency and leadership. It's going to be pretty focus and they won't intermix too much in their track, but the way that we wanna bring people together is not really through sessions so much as the exhibit hall and the keynotes and the social events and the sprints, and so everyone is invited to all of those things. Same with the [BOFFs 00:13:02]. We wanna make sure that we offer spaces for people to collaborate, but in general, if you buy a ticket to a track, you will stay in that track for those sessions.
Mike Herchel:
Okay. So my understanding is on the builder track, when you create your session, you're able to tag your session with front end, JavaScript, PHP, etcetera, correct?
Amanda Gonser:
Yes. That is new and something that the track team has been talking about for quite some time. We find that it's hard now because of the use of the word track. So I'll try and explain it. But we used to have, as you know, in DrupalCon, we would have the front end track, the back end track, the PHP track, the being human track. And these were great and they had amazing sessions in them, but it was really siloing off the content and so if there was a stellar session in the front end development track, if I didn't consider myself maybe part of front end development, I may have missed it when it could have been really beneficial for me.
Amanda Gonser:
So we started talking about making tags, which is what the sessions are now organized in in the builder track, and I think that there's something like 37 tags and so a session can be up to three tags, and it can kind of have different subject areas so you can go to a session that like you mentioned, maybe it's a session that's about JavaScript and front end development and maybe it also includes data. And so someone who is interested in any one of those three things would know that maybe this is a session that interests me.
Mike Herchel:
Okay. So let's move on to the overall format of the Con. In previous years, Mondays would kind of be a summit day, maybe a coach sprint day. Then Monday through Thursday would be three days of sessions. Fridays would be a contributions sprint day. That's changing.
Amanda Gonser:
It is changing a bit. So when I started, for context, my first DrupalCon was Los Angeles and on Monday there were sprints and there was a business summit, there was a community summit, and the first ever higher ed summit that was apparently at DrupalCon. Summits though are really popular and people are very excited about them. I consistently get feedback that it was so nice to meet the other me at a different university or a different government agency, so people are really valuing the summits and the kind of one day, one topic mini conferences essentially is what they are. And so they've grown. We had quite a few in Nashville and they're all very full and we continue to get asked for more summits.
Amanda Gonser:
People really like these specific vertical topics. And so we've added quite a few more but also recognized that verticals are fantastic but also people want to talk about horizontal topics like [inaudible 00:16:00] Drupal, which was a summit in Nashville. So we've added some other topics that are more horizontal.
Amanda Gonser:
And so now, I mean gosh we're at something like 12 summits so we have a lot of content going on while also still offering the trainings and so that's just way too much to have to choose from on just Monday. And before we even started adding them, people were consistently saying "I hate that I have to choose between a training or a summit". And when we see when people register, we say "what's the main reason that you're coming to DrupalCon?" And consistently it is to network and for education and so we got a lot of feedback that people didn't like that they had to pick between those on Monday. They wanted education and networking. So they wanted a training and a summit. And so the way that we looked at doing that is that people want more of both, and so we've split now Monday into Monday and Tuesday and we've consolidated Wednesday, Thursday...whoops sorry, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday into Wednesday and Thursday. It seems a little different but it's not actually much less session time.
Amanda Gonser:
If you remember, Tuesday started out with a [inaudible 00:17:13] and then have questions, Wednesday we'd have some keynotes and some sessions, and Thursday had a keynote, some sessions, and a closing session. So what we've done is we've just gotten rid of one of those keynotes [inaudible 00:17:26] Thursday number, so it's a full day and then we'll end the day with keynotes. But now Wednesday will have a keynote and then sessions. Thursday will have sessions and end with a keynote and closing sessions. And when we kind of look at the time and hours, be that in sessions, be that in exhibit hall, be that the hours that the sprint contribution lounge is open, it's really not like we're losing that much time it's just structured differently.
Matt Kleve:
I like what you're talking about with the summits. I guess it's not something that I had ever considered before because I've never been a summit-goer. But giving those folks the opportunity to see the summit and then maybe attend the Drupal training that they wanna see, that's a great opportunity.
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah well thanks. I'm glad that it makes sense to you and you like it and maybe we'll catch you in a summit this year.
Matt Kleve:
I don't know. As a builder, what kind of summit would I go to?
Amanda Gonser:
Gosh there's so many.
Mike Herchel:
Yeah I'm pretty sure there's a performance and scalability summit.
Amanda Gonser:
There is.
Mike Herchel:
There's probably some other type of summits.
Amanda Gonser:
There's a security summit, a decoupling summit. If you're interested in more of a vertical, you could go to the non-profits summit.
Mike Herchel:
I heard there's a farming summit.
Matt Kleve:
No there's not.
Amanda Gonser:
I will put it in the feedback. [crosstalk 00:18:38]
Mike Herchel:
Summits still cost money though. Prior to this year, it was a couple hundred dollars I believe to attend a summit. Is that changing?
Amanda Gonser:
Nope that is the same. The summits, I believe they are about the same price. I know the community summit is always...well it used to be free, but we had a lot of problems of lots of people signing up and then the summit would sell out, quote unquote.
Mike Herchel:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Amanda Gonser:
And they wouldn't show up. So now we charge a $10 fee and if that's not possible for someone, we definitely as that they reach out and we will sign them up but that's the summit that is the most low-cost. But the rest of them are more or less the same price and the same with the trainings.
Mike Herchel:
So are summits going to be Monday and Tuesday? Like if I have a community summit, is that just a one day summit and then I can go to a different summit on Tuesday or they are two day summits?
Amanda Gonser:
Nope there are no two day summits and that's a good question because it could be confusing. Everything on Monday and Tuesday is a one day program, so you can go to two things.
Mike Herchel:
And there are trainings both on Monday and Tuesday? Is that correct?
Amanda Gonser:
Yes.
Mike Herchel:
Cool.
Amanda Gonser:
And the way that it's laid out, and this is a little content program matrix-y. The idea would be that they're not super conflicting and you could maybe go to a training and then participate on a summit to use that networking with something that you just learned. Or you could do a training and then build on it with a more advanced training the next day. The idea is that it is complimentary content.
Mike Herchel:
There's also some changes within the sessions themselves. In previous years, sessions were what, like 45 or 50 minutes long, is that correct?
Amanda Gonser:
They normally 60 minutes, yeah.
Mike Herchel:
Yeah? Yeah? So what about this year?
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah so this year we have two session options. We have 30 minutes and we have 90 minutes, which is more like a hands-on lab. So those aren't even exactly...the word session may be a little different. It's more of a hands-on, mini training.
Amanda Gonser:
But the feedback that we've been getting for a couple of years with the 60 minute sessions is that a lot of time is spent, in the beginning, explaining the background of the topic that's gonna be talked about and then kind of getting into what they're gonna talk about, talking about it, and then finishing about 15 minutes early for Q and A and that really the meat of the session, what the topic is about, is only about 25 to 30 minutes. And definitely there are sessions that don't do this, but a lot of feedback that we got is that a lot of them were and it would be better if the sessions were shorter so they would be more to the point, and if you wanted to hear a session about a specific topic, you would get all of the 30 minutes about that one topic. It wouldn't be as long and drawn out as they have been in the past.
Amanda Gonser:
So we've changed the majority of the sessions to be 30 minutes. Close to what we used to have is the 25 minute sessions at DrupalCon, and we had a lot of good feedback about those sessions. Because they're shorter, they're really engaged and people are right to the point and definitely passionate about what they're talking about so the majority of our sessions are now 30 minutes.
Matt Kleve:
I like it.
Mike Herchel:
Now is there gonna be any breakdown between how many 30 minute sessions are accepted versus 90 minute sessions?
Matt Kleve:
And if I wanna submit a talk, how do I? There's just an option for me of how long of a talk I wanna give? How does that work?
Amanda Gonser:
When we started offering multiple times for sessions, the first time that we did it we said, back then it was I believe 60 minutes, 25 minutes, and we also had an option that said full. And the track team found that that was just really challenging because well shoot, if we pick your session for 25 minutes, what are you gonna cut from your 60 minute session? So what we've done now is in the call for papers, you can submit it as a 30 minute session and if you also want to submit it as a 90 minute session, that's a drastically different session. So you'll submit another call for paper submission because you would have to explain the session differently because it's a whole extra hour of content.
Matt Kleve:
Do you feel that limiting a session to 30 minutes might cut that Q and A time that could be useful to somebody?
Amanda Gonser:
It could, it definitely could. And I know a lot of Q and As get turned into [BOFFS 00:23:03], there's a lot of open space in the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. I think that a lot of these conversations can be moved to the hall. There are a good chunk of speakers that don't even want to have Q and A as well. And it's not something that we require, but a lot of times, and I'm not sure if you've been in sessions where the speaker just runs out of things to talk about at 40 minutes and so the session just ends early. So if you want to have Q and A, that's definitely something that we can pre-arrange and people have reserved [BOFFs 00:23:34] before. We also have longer time in between the sessions to make sure as you run around the convention center that you're able to get to the sessions that you want. But don't tell me that I said this in a couple months, but if you go over a few minutes, maybe I won't be there right away to cut your session off.
Mike Herchel:
Alright. So that's gonna be the sound clip that we share on social media there.
Amanda Gonser:
To answer your question about how many of each, that's something that I'll probably leave to the now no longer called track team, because they're called the tag team. You're welcome.
Mike Herchel:
I think of the tag each other in.
Matt Kleve:
Are we talking WWE or are we talking 90s rap?
Amanda Gonser:
I mean it's up to you, it's whatever you desire.
Mike Herchel:
It can be both.
Amanda Gonser:
I think a lot of it will come down to what is submitted. The program team looks to pick the content that's best for the community. They are community members serving the community by putting together the programming so if a ton of 90 minute sessions come in and they say we cannot do without these, then maybe we convert what would be a regular session room into a hands-on lab room. Or if we barely get any 90 minute sessions, then maybe instead of having multiple lab rooms, maybe we cut it down and we have more sessions that are 30 minutes. So that's not something that we have like a quota to fill but we'll kind of see what gets submitted. So that's more up to you all.
Mike Herchel:
Let's get into the more contentious part of the podcast and maybe talk about price increases. In the past, DrupalCon has been maybe in the neighborhood of what, like $450 and then it's been steadily increasing over the past couple years. And of course there's early bird prices and stuff like that. Now this year, there's a pretty decent size price increase.
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah there's a lot of change around pricing. I'm curious where you see that it's increased in the past few years because the last price change that happened was before my time and it was in DrupalCon Austin.
Mike Herchel:
I don't have it in front of me but I was under the impression it was going up maybe like $100 a year or something like that. You know, honestly that might have been when I noticed it is Austin.
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah I think that the last price change because from the time I've been here, which has been since Los Angeles...
Mike Herchel:
You would definitely know more than me on this.
Amanda Gonser:
It's a trivia question. It can be the one that I answer that night. But pricing really hasn't changed since DrupalCon Austin and when we take a look at what the attendees have been asking for and we've been spending these years where we haven't had time to re-imagine the conference. People are asking for higher quality sessions, more speakers from different projects from different organizations, more off the island speakers, more grants and scholarships, all day coffee. They've been asking for a lot of things and I totally agree that these are valid things to ask for and things that should be at DrupalCon but of course it costs money. And I'm really happy to say that our team is small but mighty and very scrappy and we try our best to be great stewards of the budget and invest money in things that will bring value to the community.
Amanda Gonser:
So when we looked at re-imagining the whole conference, we also kind of gave ourselves permission to say "well in order to do this, we're gonna have to make some changes". And the DA's been going through a lot of changes through the past years from the lay off and lots [inaudible 00:27:22] around the executive director and now even with Megan leaving, more change there. So we're going through a lot of changes in the process, we're becoming a much more professional, non-profit organization.
Amanda Gonser:
And so when we started looking at ticket pricing, we kind of wanted to make sure that we are benchmarking ourselves and seeing what other non-profit tech associations are doing, and a lot of them, if you look at our conference versus others, DrupalCon is still really low priced in looking at other tech conferences. And when you look at other non-profit organizations, for example NTEN, a lot of non-profit provide pricing for people that are members or non-members. This is across conferences just in general but it's seen a lot for non-profits and so when we started looking at ways we can make the changes that we want to make, serve all of the communities that we wanted to serve, and do it within budget, we looked at changing the price.
Amanda Gonser:
And so when you look at the pricing now, you have supporters, which are supporting partners of the Drupal Association, and non-supporters. And this enables us to really support organizations who are, as [inaudible 00:28:37] mentioned in the [inaudible 00:28:39] note in Europe, many who are funding contributors to really make a big impact and send more of their staff. They're getting a discounted rate at this point. So it's not really...I know it's a big shock for our community but it's not really that uncommon to see this kind of pricing structure. And so what used to be early bird pricing, $450, is now not so much different than what the pricing is now if you are a supporting partner.
Mike Herchel:
Now a supporting partner, like when you say supporting partner, you're talking about an organization like Lullabot that sponsors the DA, correct?
Amanda Gonser:
Yes. And I wanna just make sure, it's not sponsors DrupalCon, it's a whole program of supporting partners.
Mike Herchel:
Now is a supporting partner like if I have a membership to the Drupal Association but I'm also an independent contractor, that is not included correct?
Amanda Gonser:
It does not. Our memberships start as low as I believe something like $15, so it's a very different commitment than say an organization. And that's not to say that a freelancer, that that's a small commitment, that's an amazing commitment. Especially with such a diverse audience that we have and so we recognize that that is something that people are going to feel a financial stress on. But of course you try and plan the conference for the majority of the people and then for these sort of cases where people do need extra support, that's where we took the money. It's not like we've raised prices and we're gonna do our next staff retreat on a yacht or anything. We're taking the money and re-investing it in DrupalCon. So we've increased our grants and scholarships. We've also increased the money that we're putting towards our inclusion [inaudible 00:30:26], which brings underrepresented speakers on stage, and we're definitely taking the money and putting it back into the conference. So for people who it is a challenge to make this new price, I have highly encouraged them to apply for a grant or a scholarship. It's such an easy process.
Mike Herchel:
Yeah so the argument could be made that by having the supporter, like the partners, have a lower price with people like Lullabot, those are the people with jobs that could support the higher price as opposed to say, when I was at my previous job, I worked for a non-profit association that was not a supporting partner of the Drupal Association, and at that point we did not have the money. We did not have a lot of money. And part of the reason that I was able to attend DrupalCon was because it was $450 or however much. And I think one of the big concerns between me and a lot of other people is that because the price has gone from, looking at DrupalCon Nashville, the early bird price was $450 and the early bird for Drupal for Seattle is $795.
Amanda Gonser:
For non-supporters, yes.
Mike Herchel:
Yeah for non-supporters. And that would potentially price a lot of people out.
Amanda Gonser:
I could but I guess I'm curious. So a very comparable conference would be NTEN, which is a non-profit tech conference, and their starting price for members is $599 and non-members is $899 so I don't really know if our event is really pricing people out. I think that we're still a better price than comparable conference and I don't know if once a person applies for a grant or a scholarship, say they get a free ticket, I feel like that's definitely an option that's available for them. I'm not sure if that's something that when you promote the podcast, you can encourage people to apply for but we put more money there specifically because we changed the price and we recognize that while this works for a good amount of our community, there are people that are gonna need more funds and we're willing to make sure that they get there. We would just ask that they please apply.
Matt Kleve:
I agree what you're saying and I also...I'm picking up what Amanda is saying. I like the comparison that you're making. I went to a...when I was at a previous non-profit using Drupal, I went to another non-profit tech conference that was a for-profit organization who sells non-profit software. And I went to see what their registration was this year. $875 to $1225, depending on how early you register.
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah.
Matt Kleve:
Conferences aren't cheap.
Mike Herchel:
I'm looking just while you're talking I'm doing a little bit of Googling and I'm seeing the Leracon price is $425. WordCamp which is like ridiculously cheap is only $40 but that's just because they have a whole bunch of money in their ecosystem.
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah. Their conference model is set up very different than ours and they have a for-profit behind them. And we definitely, like I mentioned, our next trip isn't on a yacht. We are re-investing this money.
Mike Herchel:
I completely understand. I trust the DA, I know that the DA is non-profit and everyone there engages with the community, does a great job. I don't think anyone's disputing that and no one's accusing the DA or wasting money or anything like that. But the question, and I guess we're just not gonna know until Seattle happens, is that going to negatively affect the attendance? And of course we hope not and I hope not too.
Amanda Gonser:
Me too.
Mike Herchel:
A follow-up question to that is, if it does negatively affect attendance, is it possible...like is that something that would be revisited going into Minneapolis or anything like that?
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah I'll say that any change, you can't be 100% sure how it's gonna play out. We're definitely watching it, we're definitely trying to get the word out more to underrepresented groups that may nee a grant or scholarship or could apply for the inclusion fund when they submit their call for papers. We're trying to get the word out about the grants and scholarships program, making sure that people know about it, that there's more money, that you should really apply. We're doing the best that we can to get the word out and appreciate you having me on the podcast so I can help spread that message even further. But definitely as we do with every Con, especially now that we're not having to personally play DrupalCon Europe, we have a lot more time on our plate to be more strategic and if something needs to be changed or we need to pivot on something, we're totally going to look at this conference once it happens and see where can we improve? Where can we move levers? Where can we make changes? That's definitely something we are 100% committed to.
Mike Herchel:
Now as far as applying for grants and scholarships, do you have to have a special...is that open to absolutely everyone?
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah.
Mike Herchel:
I'm looking at me six years ago and I wasn't contributing back to Drupal, I didn't have any type of underrepresented status or anything like that, is that something I could still apply for?
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah. Just to be super clear, anyone can apply for a grant and a scholarship. The word underrepresented because on our call for papers we have a optional question for you to self-select if you identify with one or more of the underrepresented groups because we wanna make sure we're doing our best to make sure that our speaker line up represents our audience. And so that's a optional question on the call for papers. And if you do select something there and you get a session, you can elect to have part of the inclusion fund pay for you to be able to speak at our conference. So just that clarification but yeah anyone can apply for a grant and scholarship.
Mike Herchel:
What's the process?
Amanda Gonser:
On the website, under the Community header, it'll say grants and scholarship and it is just a web for that is really quick and easy to fill out. The questions kind of revolve around why is it important for you to have this scholarship? What would be the impact if you were to come to DrupalCon?
Amanda Gonser:
And so there are grants that go towards people that it's important that they're there to move the project forward. So these can be contributors, maybe someone from Europe that really should be in the room having these conversations but maybe like you explained, maybe they're a freelancer and maybe they've already used their conference funds and their company can't send them so they would apply for a grant. And then there's the scholarships. And this is all the same web form, and you can just pick between the two. These are people that are doing something with Drupal in their community, they want to do something more with Drupal, they want to get involved.
Amanda Gonser:
So they're kind of two different tiers in there. And in the process you can ask for just a ticket, so if the ticket price is cost-prohibitive to you now, you could ask for just a ticket. There are also people that are asking for travel funds, so that covers their travel and their lodging while they're at DrupalCon. So there's different levels of what you can ask for and what you could receive.
Matt Kleve:
We're talking with Amanda Gonser from the Drupal Association about DrupalCon Seattle and beyond. And the changes that are happening to DrupalCon. We'll talk a little bit about DrupalCon Europe, something that you had kinda nodded to before.
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah.
Matt Kleve:
And some other changes and perhaps some questions that Mike asked out on Twitter. Coming up right after this.
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Mike Herchel:
Welcome back we're talking with Amanda Gonser with the Drupal Association and we're talking about DrupalCons.
Matt Kleve:
Hey in our last podcast we talked about Drupal Europe, right Mike?
Mike Herchel:
Yep yep. We did talk about Drupal.
Matt Kleve:
And we talked about how it wasn't DrupalCon Europe.
Mike Herchel:
Yeah. But there is gonna be a DrupalCon correct?
Amanda Gonser:
There is, it'll be in Amsterdam in 2019.
Mike Herchel:
And there's some changes coming correct?
Amanda Gonser:
There are but I'm not sure how much people would notice if you're attending the conference versus if you attend a Drupal Europe or last year you attended DrupalCon Vienna.
Mike Herchel:
Okay. So let's talk all about the changes. My understanding is that there's gonna be a different group organizing it?
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah so DrupalCon Europe is going to now be organized by a organization called [Clonie Events 00:39:50]. They're a professional event management company. They attended DrupalCon Nashville to see what a DrupalCon is like. They were also very present and able to talk with people at Drupal Europe, so people might have already met them but they're an event company that is working in coordination with the Drupal Association, and they will have a license to run DrupalCon Europe.
Amanda Gonser:
So for some context, DrupalCon Europe has been going on for quite some time, before my time. But it's always been a break event kind of event. So the way things are structured in Europe are a bit differently than how they're structured in North America for convention centers and hotels and things like that. And so we were doing the best that we could with the small team that we had, but always just breaking even.
Amanda Gonser:
But it's really important to serve the European community, I know there are a ton of contributors over there. There are a huge ecosystem of Drupal shops and businesses and organizations that are using Drupal, so it's really important that that community has a conference and that place where they can all come together in a melting pot. But it was just when we were starting to really look at how it was looking financially, it wasn't a really good investment from our part and what we were coming out with wasn't exactly what the community wanted. And so we were overtaxed as a staff.
Amanda Gonser:
We didn't really have capacity to plan two huge conferences with the resources that we had. And no matter how much we tried, we just couldn't come up with enough savings opportunity to make it better than break even so half of our staff...well half of our DrupalCon staff was spending half of a year on a conference that we didn't any return for. So as we're becoming a more mature organization as a non-profit, that's not a smart way to be spending your resources, be the money or staff. And so we looked at different options and ways that are more sustainable to still serve the European community but doing it in a smart way. So we announced that we would not be doing DrupalCon Europe in 2018 and the community banded together and definitely produced an incredible conference. Sadly I wasn't there but it looks amazing on Twitter and I've heard great things.
Amanda Gonser:
And even though they did an incredible job, they've also said they had a hard time doing it. It's not an easy feat to put on a DrupalCon. And so they were able to, I believe, break even or just do a little better than break even and this is a group that organized it without having to pay for staff. So it's just very clear that the way that the event is set up, it's not the best for the DA to manage as we've been managing it. Nor should it fall on the community's back to plan such a huge event [inaudible 00:42:48] every year. So Megan Sanicki, it's her last day here at the DA.
Matt Kleve:
Aww.
Amanda Gonser:
But she [inaudible 00:42:55] into how to kind of solve for these challenges and spoke with other non-profit organization leaders and tech conference leaders and checked out different conference models. And so this event is sort of like, now this is an example. It's not exactly the same but sort of how Ted Talks. TEDx has conferences all over the world but they're not all managed by one group, they're licensed out. So that gives the Drupal Association to now license our DrupalCon, and you have to meet parameter X, Y, and Z so it feels like a DrupalCon but it takes the resource-heavy part of planning it off of the Drupal Association so we can invest our time in other things that the community needs or has asked for.
Mike Herchel:
So my understanding is that this organization is a for-profit organization and is taking over the organization of DrupalCon Europe. How is the community going to kind of keep the spirit and the feel of DrupalCon Europe alive over there?
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah definitely. So if you really think about it, the Drupal Association is also kind of an event company. That is a lot of what we do. So it's not so so different having an event company in Europe host it. And [Clonie 00:44:14] has done the best that they can to communicate to the community that they definitely get that this is a community event, they want that feel, they want to make sure there's trivia night, that there are contribution spaces. And so the group that organized Drupal Europe, [Badi 00:44:32] and Leon will be heading a committee that will help advise on the programming.
Amanda Gonser:
So the thing that makes DrupalCon Europe so Drupal [inaudible 00:44:40] what happens. So it's not the logistics, it's not the AV, it's not the financing, those are more of the behind the scenes things that volunteers maybe don't really wanna be doing. Volunteers wanna be engaging with other volunteers, they wanna be setting up sessions, they wanna be leading contribution sprints, they wanna be engaging in [BOFFS 00:45:02]. And so the community will really have full authority over that. They'll be planning the programming. They'll be the ones managing the summits. They'll be the ones setting up [BOFFs 00:45:12]. They'll be the ones leading the sprints. So that's what I mean when I say I don't think it's going to be too noticeable from an attendee standpoint that it's not organized either by the Drupal Association or just community volunteers. That's it's managed by this private event company because what they'll be doing is supporting so that the community can actually have the conference that they want and that they essentially just had in Drupal Europe, but they'll have the logistical support behind them so it doesn't make it such a burnout.
Matt Kleve:
So this licensing of DrupalCon Europe to this private company then makes DrupalCon Europe better than break even from the beginning?
Amanda Gonser:
Yes. That was the intent. And in a sense it is that but there's also this additional benefit that is not...I mean it could be quantifiable if we plugged in some numbers but the main benefit for the DA to do this is that it frees up our DrupalCon staff and everyone who touches DrupalCon at the DA. It frees up a lot of our capacity so we can serve the community in other ways. We hear a lot about people want events to bring their customers to, they want support in different ways of the community and so this frees our team up to do things like that as opposed to just being stuck in this two conference week, that's all the capacity we have to do. So yes, it is going to be beneficial for the organization planning but so beneficial for us at the DA to be able to have resources back again.
Matt Kleve:
So here's a question. Mike, when we knew we were gonna be talking to you Amanda, Mike reached out on Twitter and said "hey do you have any questions for Amanda?" And on Twitter, Mateo, Mateo [Gilobash 00:46:55] who works at Lullabot mentioned was "hey will a DrupalCon that's organized by a private company aim to maximize the organization's financial benefits or the community needs?" He said "we already have amazing camps like Drupal Austria, do we need to introduce that private factor into our community?" He says he's conflicted.
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah I think that's a valid question. I followed that tweet and I think [inaudible 00:47:20] kind of jumped in and kind of already said, what I'll try and echo is that essentially the DA, you consider us an event company. And we have been running DrupalCon Europe. And that's what the Drupal Europe folks said when they organized and so putting this private event company into it is not going to change it. Yes, they're going to be looking to for sure break even, but the intent is not to raise prices, to change anything financially. They want to have this model and provide this conference, and the program will be provided by volunteers from the European community. So I definitely don't want people to be conflicted, I want people to be excited that we found a way to sustainably continue to offer this conference for the community and the things that the community likes to do, they get to do. And the things that the DA doesn't have capacity or resources for, are [inaudible 00:48:15]. And so in the end, kind of everybody wins in this scenario.
Matt Kleve:
Now is the DA going to make money off of this? Is the DA getting like a flat fee from this company or is it like a percentage? Do you know the breakdown to that?
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah so if you look back when we announced that we were accepting proposals for this license, there is written into the language that once it were to reach a certain level of profit, the DA could get money back. We don't anticipate that being a money maker. That's definitely not something that we're counting on or expecting, nor really the reason behind it. If it got to be wildly successful in the future, that could be a way that the DA could get a small percentage of the profits.
Matt Kleve:
So we talked about how DrupalCon was happening in 2019 in Seattle and then Amsterdam follows that. Did I hear Minnesota because I hadn't heard that yet.
Amanda Gonser:
Minneapolis don't you know?
Matt Kleve:
No because I haven't been paying attention. So Minneapolis will be the 2019?
Amanda Gonser:
2020.
Matt Kleve:
2020 geez.
Amanda Gonser:
We're getting really far into the future now.
Matt Kleve:
I know. That's great that we know that now so we can plan for it.
Mike Herchel:
So what's up after Minneapolis?
Amanda Gonser:
So after Minneapolis will be some more DrupalCons and those cities have not been selected yet because we have an RFP out for 2021, 22, 23, and 24 so a lot of conferences plan their cities years in advance because it takes a lot to get a conference into a city because the hotels have to be on board, the convention center has to have the space available at the price that you need. So planning as far ahead as is good for your organization is ideal so you can get the best city for your community at the best rates with the best hotel prices. We're trying to get a bit ahead of the curve on that.
Matt Kleve:
So who fills out those RFPs?
Amanda Gonser:
Like which cities?
Matt Kleve:
Yeah you said there was an RFP out for future DrupalCons. Who's actually filling those out?
Amanda Gonser:
You're more than welcome to look at the RFP, it's pretty detailed. But in it, we explain the space that we need. DrupalCon is a really big program with a lot of concurrent sessions and [BOFFs 00:50:41] and exhibits and a lot's going on at the same time so we don't fit in a lot of city's convention centers. And then we have an ask on the hotels and we ask for certain price ranges. And so the cities that respond are cities that have availability when we're asking for it. For DrupalCon North America in this specific RFP, we're asking sort of like "in the spring time", and then we list out specific religious holidays or national holidays that we'd like to not have the conference over. And then we ask them a lot of other questions and if they meet the requirements, then they submit a proposal to us.
Matt Kleve:
And it would be like the Convention and Visitors Bureau or something like that.
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah and each city is very different in how they do that. Some of them play together, sometimes the convention center submits a proposal and then the hotels submit separate proposals. In my dream work, when I dream about RFPs, it is one beautiful proposal that includes the convention center and the city and the hotels in one nice proposal.
Matt Kleve:
Amanda what does DrupalCon mean to you?
Amanda Gonser:
Gosh DrupalCon to me...one it's my job but it's so much more than my job. I came here not knowing what a Drupal was and it took me a while to pick up on it.
Matt Kleve:
You had to learn how to pronounce the Drupal?
Amanda Gonser:
I did and also, my first week I got a video called "Learning How To Do Drupal Hugs". Like the sad hug and it was a very interesting video.
Matt Kleve:
Was that Joe Shindelar's video?
Amanda Gonser:
Yeah.
Mike Herchel:
Yeah yeah.
Amanda Gonser:
And it was my first week and I was like "what is this?" I had no idea. And now I totally get it because it's so much more than a job. I mean I work in a community. The fact that I get to work so closely with so many different volunteers from different parts of the community, from different parts of the world on different conferences, it's really just an amazing place to be and I'm so happy to serve the people that I work with and the people that work with me.
Matt Kleve:
Mike what does DrupalCon mean to you?
Mike Herchel:
It's a place...it's like kind of a high school reunion of people that you actually want to see you know?
Matt Kleve:
Yeah.
Mike Herchel:
Like for me, it's about connecting with old friends and kind of learning new things. I like to say that conferences are good for number one meeting people, hanging out with people, but also learning what's new, what it's use cases are, and maybe how to pronounce it.
Matt Kleve:
I agree. I mean I like the getting together and being with people. I think it's also feeling the pulse of the community.
Mike Herchel:
Yeah yeah.
Matt Kleve:
I got to the point where I was going to a DrupalCon and I know who's gonna be talking and I know what they're gonna say and it was boring to me. But then I've had a couple off and I'm really kinda looking forward to Seattle.
Mike Herchel:
Yeah you're coming to Seattle?
Matt Kleve:
I need to get back into it, yeah.
Mike Herchel:
Yeah I'm going. I'll see you there.
Amanda Gonser:
[inaudible 00:53:38] Apply for a grant or a scholarship. I wanna see you there too.
Mike Herchel:
And hopefully I'll have my session accepted, hint hint.
Amanda Gonser:
[inaudible 00:53:47] No matter how many hint hints people give me.
Mike Herchel:
I know I know.
Matt Kleve:
Do you have anything else you need to add Amanda?
Amanda Gonser:
No I think that that's good. Do you think that that'll satisfy the people's questions?
Matt Kleve:
I hope so. If they have any further questions, what should they do?
Amanda Gonser:
They can email me, they can leave a comment on...I don't know how you post this, if you post it with comments. They can tweet at me.
Matt Kleve:
Yeah they'll be comments on the podcasts on our website. Yep.
Amanda Gonser:
And just when you publish it, if you'd just send it to me so I kind of keep my eye on it but yeah. I would love for people to tweet me, send me an email, just amanda@association.drupal.org. It's also on the website. They could contact us on the website. There's lots of ways that people can get in touch but I really hope that people recognize that the changes that we made are to try and better serve the community and communities that aren't being served. And I welcome feedback and definitely want to incorporate it into future conferences and what this conference is is a couple years worth of feedback that we've tried to reimagine the conference to include.
Matt Kleve:
Right on. Thanks a lot.
Mike Herchel:
Well thanks Amanda.
Amanda Gonser:
Have a nice day guys.
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