Organizing face to face drupal training's was one of those no-brainer good ideas that we've talked on and off about doing for more than a year. In the month leading up to the phenominal DrupalCon Vancouver I was personally getting pinged multiple times a day with requests for leads on Drupal hires. Servicing firms, startups, and organizations rolling out large Drupal projects all wanted to bring web developers on board who had the requisite knowledge and experience working with Drupal. The only problem was the well was getting dry; a glut of new work met a finite number of trained and hire-able Drupal hackers, leaving a lot of work on the table and my email box flooded with emails inquiring where I was hiding all the Drupal talent.

In the weeks after returning from Vancouver we quickly reached a critical mass of interest and started getting serious about organizing the first training events. Noel got to work putting together one in NYC and Gregory from CivicActions and I started figuring out one to be held in San Francisco. We threw up drupal-camp.org, spawned some threads on the Drupal consultant mailinglist and in a short while had some dates picked out, a trainer lined up (Jeff Robbins from Lullabot), and a venue (Compumentor) for the first Drupal Camp. The only hitch was we had only given ourselves two weeks lead time to sell out 13 registrations at $500 apiece (used to cover the costs of the training) and Jeff had already bought his ticket out to San Francisco.

...But we sold it out in a five days and ended up taking a long wait list with half of the attendees flying in from out of state. Did we mention Drupal talent is in high demand?

The Camp

Drupal Camp SF was focused on training web designers & developers how to make complex Drupal sites that don't look "Drupaly". Our training was focused on three areas:

  • Lay of the land of the Drupal software and community
  • Drupal software concepts (nodes, themeable functions, phptemplate, etc.)
  • How to build out awesome looking Drupal sites (conceiving a theme, modules and tools to use, tips and tweaks, etc.)

The training lasted two full days. The first day was mostly instruction and the second was mostly a facilitated workshop. You can read our original agenda here and read some notes I took on the Drupal Camp SF Wiki. We also video taped most of the session and will be working on editing and releasing back the video in the future.

Lessons Learned

We definitely made our fair share of mistakes, but based on the feedback we got from the attendees, Drupal Camp SF went very well. Here are some of the lessons we learned along the way...

What we would do differently next time:

  • Not arrange our tables in a column and station the organizer at one of the long ends. We ended up with what was later labeled as a "participation gradient" where students closest to the facilitator get plenty of direct instructions and the folks in the back feel left out. Fortunately we fixed this problem the next day by arranging the tables in a U shape centered around Jeff (the instructor) which worked out much better.
  • Give students more detailed pre-requisites that suggests up front what skills and concepts they are expected to know and what versions of Drupal they are expected to work off of.
  • When buying snacks don't assume everyone ascribes to the healthy organic bay area cuisine. I.E. don't buy 4 cases of juice and no soda :)
  • Try to dig into more hands on work earlier in the instruction. Instruction is obviously useful, but with 15 open laptops students will be eager to dig into working examples and code early on.
  • Prepare more. If overcommitted organizers try to put together a training with only two weeks notice it will show.

What worked surprisingly well:

  • Everyone runs into relatively the same problems. Remember all those questions you had while you were learning the ropes of Drupal? "which theme / theme engine to use? how do these themable functions work? what's this put in moderation queue option thing used for? what version should I use? what module do i use for ......? " etc.. Well guess what, those are the same exact questions your students are probably grappling with. Prepare to address them, and when your done consider helping out improving the handbook. Having Jeff as the instructor worked out really well because he is still relatively new to Drupal and the "pain" was still fresh from his own experience climbing Drupals learning curve. This made him especially adept at answering questions and commiserating with students, i.e. "I feel your pain...why don't you try this...".
  • People loved being plugged into the community. Being able to leave with working knowledge of the ins and outs of Drupal is great, but being able to establish working experience within the Drupal community that can be used to find answers when instructors are unavailable is invaluable. You can help students through this by spending time explaining how the Drupal community functions and frequently exposing them to resources such as the handbook, DrupalDocs.org, mailing lists, and the Drupal issue queue.
  • Students love it when you take notes for them. A lot of URL's, module names, and tools to use will fly by and students don't want have to deal with trying to keep track of them while at the same time paying attention to the instruction. If you have someone on hand to transcribe all the main points addressed and record all links for the students they will be very grateful. You can check out the notes taken at Drupal Camp SF here.
  • Ask your students what they want. Before the camp we put all the attendees on a mailinglist and asked them to introduce themselves to figure out where people were coming from. After the first day of training we made everyone fill out a brief survey to get a feel for what was working and what needed to be changed. Based on that feedback we got a very good read on things and were able to adjust course appropriately. After the camp we had attendees fill out another survey about their over all experience. This gave us very valuable insight and feedback on the camps, allowed students to have more of a say on how things were run, and allowed us to bring our attention and resources more in line with what students needs were.
  • People want to have fun. Take everyone out for beers afterwards. By the end of our two days a lot of interesting connections were made amongst the attendees at the camp. This only happened because people had time to socialize as well as learn.

Future Camps

Our goal in organizing Drupal Camp SF was not just to train 15 folks, we wanted to help figure out the model for Drupal training events, develop curriculum, and see similar events happen all around the world. It looks like SF Drupal Camp is going to be the first of many other events. The next camp will be held on May 13th 2006 in New York City. There are also people starting to organize camps in Salt Lake City Utah, Seattle Washington, and Washington DC. If you are interested in organizing a camp please join the mailing list and introduce yourself.

It looks like it's going to be another meteoric year for the Drupal project. As more and more high profile sites, companies, and Drupal based projects are launched there will only be be increasing demand for Drupal talent. The only realistic way I see to meet this demand effectively is to put in place training material and events. Drupal Camp are a solid step towards this goal and so far it looks like we are off to a great start. Many thanks to Gregory Hellor, Jeff Robbins, Dan Robinson, Greg Beuthin, John Lorance, and Josh Koenig, and all our attendees who made Drupal Camp SF happen!

Drupal Camp SF Credits

Sponsors: CivicActions, CivicSpaceLabs Foundation, CompuMentor
Producers: CivicSpaceLabs Foundation, CivicActions

Comments

bonobo’s picture

The link to the notes for the conference seems to be broken -- could it be updated?

Thanks for taking the time to write this up and share with the folks who couldn't attend.

Cheers,

Bill

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http://www.funnymonkey.com
Tools for Teachers

Zack Rosen’s picture

I will go and fix them

bonobo’s picture

It's now fixed -- it was the link to the notes in the Students love it when you take notes for them section -- and, FWIW, in my years as a classroom teacher, I have also found that to be very true :)

Thanks,

Bill

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http://www.funnymonkey.com
Tools for Teachers

Boris Mann’s picture

I believe DrupalCamp Toronto will take place at the same time as NYC. We should do some iChat video crossover...

Zack Rosen’s picture

Do you know where this is being planned? Is there an agenda / format lined up?

Roland Tanglao@bryght.com’s picture

I am not one of the organizers but I have an iSight if that will help!

noneck’s picture

our facilities will have the ability to stream video & sound to 30 people. let's talk synergy!

celinet’s picture

Compumentor + Greg Beuthin, John Lorance links are broken; here is he url:
http://www.compumentor.org/

Zack Rosen’s picture

Fixed

Roland Tanglao@bryght.com’s picture

again, thanks for sharing the notes,! Are there any course materials, audio or video available?

adrian’s picture

i want us to have courseware.

--
The future is so Bryght, I have to wear shades.

Zack Rosen’s picture

We are working on editing them. If you know any good video editors let me know :) If you want the raw footage soon I can try to work something out.

rickvug’s picture

I would love to see those! If you need some bandwidth help hosting them, let me know. I have about 200 - 300 gigs a month I'm not using that I could spare for the foreseeable future. Let me know if bandwidth is an issue for you.

Rick

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Rick Vugteveen |rickvug.com @rickvug on Twitter

adrian’s picture

I've decided to organize a DrupalCamp Johannesburg (that's in south africa, for the uninitiated) near the end of June.

I want us to start putting together an official curriculum though.

--
The future is so Bryght, I have to wear shades.

Zack Rosen’s picture

Let's take this planning to the Drupal Camp Group

http://groups.drupal.org/groups/drupalcamp

sime’s picture

Our goal in organizing Drupal Camp SF was not just to train 15 folks, we wanted to help figure out the model for Drupal training events, develop curriculum, and see similar events happen all around the world.

That is cool. great work all round.

mandric’s picture

great work.

just the first survey link gives access denied.
http://drupal-camp.org/camps/sfapril/survey

--
survey junkie

AndrewC’s picture

What I would be interested in is a Drupal theme camp.

Prereq: Solid working knowledge of Drupal and experience as a Drupal admin. Basic understanding of CSS and at least some limited experience using and modifying stylesheets.

Topics: The Drupal theme engines, how they interact with the themes, modifying existing themes, and some time on building/designing new themes.

rcross’s picture

Hey,

The original post said that the course material would be contributed back to the community and I've also noticed that a few people have asked about the videos that were made and even offered some hosting. However, I've been waiting for an update and also asking around but I can't sem to get any links. Can someone point me in the right direction or has this effort been ditched?

-Ryan

Zack Rosen’s picture

Sorry for the delay. We are still trying to line up the editing work. We are looking into perhaps editing in mutliple training videos from other Camps. We will announce something within the next week.

rickvug’s picture

I've been unable to attend all of these meetings and I am sure that plenty of solid knowledge will be picked up through watching the videos.

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Rick Vugteveen |rickvug.com @rickvug on Twitter

k.iverson’s picture

Any chance you will do another Drupal Camp SF later this year???