Growing Drupal through local groups
by Kieran Lal
##Acquia and growing Drupal
Part of my responsibilities at Acquia are to help grow the number of Drupal users. The Drupal community is growing quickly and the credit for that growth belongs to thousands of contributors and hundreds of Drupal evangelists. I've been personally working on growing Drupal for years, but recently I've begun working closely with my fellow Drupal association members Jacob Redding and Moshe Weitzman to explore how we can work with local groups to grow Drupal. In the rest of this blog post I cover information that I've gathered working with various members of the Drupal community and have shared with the Druapl infrastructure team, groups.drupal.org managers, and the Drupal marketing group. On Monday, June 9th, 5PM PDT Jacob and I will be hosting a web seminar to share our research and solicit feedback from local group organizers.
##Groups.drupal.org is growing
Currently, http://groups.drupal.org , GDO, acts as a rallying point for community events and helps reduce friction in Drupal event organizing. There are 8300 GDO users who are members of local groups, and events appear to be on track to grow from almost 400 in 2007 to 800 in 2008. GDO user growth is accelerating at a rate of 34 additional users per month, with almost 1,200 new users in March 2008 alone. This site now has over 1 million page views per month.
GDO has slow growth in the number of unique visitors climbing from 64,000 unique visitors to 84,000 unique visitors per month over 9 months ending March 2008. We believe that some improvements in user workﬂow and interaction design could dramatically increase the rate of participation on GDO.
Currently, 73% of visitors stay less than 30 seconds, with an average visit of 466 seconds. An upgrade of Drupal properties to Drupal 6 would enable the use of OpenID to further increase the total amount of users who could become members of local Drupal groups and ultimately attend local events. The authenticated user re-use rate for GDO is approximately 20% based on analysis over the last 24 months. This assures the Drupal community that GDO is a growing web property and worth putting further effort into.
##Long tail of local groups
Local groups are growing in number, now 224, with a growing number of members per group in a long tail distribution. 80% of local groups have less than 50 members. Most of Drupal’s core community joined in the ﬁrst few months of the creation of GDO two years ago. Current growth appears to be distributed and organic, representing a good opportunity to increase growth of new Drupal users.
Drupal is well received when the technology is presented by evangelists along with community collaboration best practices. The long tail of local group organizers provide an excellent opportunity to address new Drupal users. I have conducted interviews with Drupal association local group lead, Jacob Redding based in China. In the US I've interviewed Crystal Williams in LA, Dave Terry in Atlanta, Elvis McNeely at Purdue, Andrew Morton in Portland, Nathan Gasser in Philadelphia, and Moshe Weitzman in Boston. I also interviewed Gabor Hojsty in Hungary, and Roy Scholten in Europe. My interviews have revealed that local event organizers have consistent goals: improve organizational efﬁciency with social publishing, create business networks, identify services customers, work on translations, collaborate on industry solutions, and cultivate and recruit technical talent.
##Organizing toolkits and suggested event topics
My ﬁrst recommendation is to edit and package existing Drupal event organizing content, combine it with videos, and redistribute to local group organizers. This can be done through the creation of a series of marketing products including: meet-up kits, Drupal camp kits, and conference exhibition booth kits. For example, the online event organizing website Meet-up has good online guides. These kits can be an excellent way to distribute marketing expertise widely in the Drupal community. We've put together an example of an event organizer kit. The distribution of professional marketing messaging, materials, and techniques such as local press releases can help improve the Drupal communities marketing capabilities.
Secondly, local event organizers are challenged by their perceived isolation and lack of resources. There is also a perception that no one will come to local meet-ups unless someone “Drupal famous” comes to the meeting. We can support local event organizers by providing tools to edit a steady stream of fresh content and reﬁne it for local event organizers to present at local meetings. Furthermore, we can help train local organizers how to grow
their local communities by addressing adjacent communities such as PHP, MySQL, and designer communities.
##Recognize, empower, and reward organizers
Next, Drupal has a strong base of evangelists and solid organic growth. However, there is a glass ceiling within the Drupal community that we need to help local organizers break through. We can produce a local ambassadors page that promotes and recognizes local organizers. This recognition combined with increased authority and perhaps access to special content is a well known model for building loyalty and empowering organizers. In addition we could add proﬁle ﬁelds for adjacent user groups, so we can identify members of adjacent groups and contact them directly to help make connections between communities. In order to facilitate connecting local organizers with adjacent groups we need to research and notify local organizers about adjacent groups and suggest presentation topics and cross attendance between community meetings.
If local organizers and local leaders are identified openly on http://groups.drupal.org then it will be much easier for adjacent communities, like PHP, MySQL, designer communities to invite Drupalers to present at their events. If we give organizers resources for booth kits, Drupal user groups, and Drupal camps we can facilitate the growth of Drupal through local group growth.
##Add new users to the Drupal community
A key marketing goal for the Drupal community is to add new users to Drupal. We can accomplish this goal by leveraging local groups to reach out to new users in adjacent communities. We can facilitate this local evangelism by identifying local groups, helping to schedule Drupal presentations to these adjacent communities, and participating in social publishing bake-offs with competitive social publishing platforms. On Monday, Jacob Redding and myself will be presenting these ideas to Drupal local group organizers to get their feedback. If you are interested in evangelising Drupal in your local community, please join our first web seminar in the American time zone.