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What do you do at your Drupal Meet up?

At DrupalCon, Barry Madore & Allie Micka from Advantage Labs organized a BoF: Drupal x10 inspired by Dries’s keynote. There were some interesting examples given.

Boston Drupal users group

Growing the community is really a learning gap. At Acquia, we’re working with partners to roll out Drupal training... yet we need to seek out more avenues for learning. I see one of the biggest challenges and opportunities for growth is the local user group meet-up. What works in these groups? What kinds of support do they need? I'd love to hear from you. What are you guys doing at your meetups?

Edit: I forgot to link to the info at the Drupal Meet up organizer's guide!

Just for fun

At DrupalCon recently meet-up organizer said to me:

“We have monthly meet-ups at a pub. I just want to go there and drink beer and talk with other developers, but new users come expecting to get trained. I just want to relax and socialize.”

It’s harsh, but also fair. If a meet-up to fosters connections between developers outside of the issue queue, well then, that is a great purpose and function. It’s social. (see a list of social events on Groups.Drupal.org)

But where can we direct new users? They would also benefit from being able to ask questions and learn from one another.

How they do in Boston

At the Boston Drupal User Group, they meet in a classroom at MIT from 6:30pm-8pm, the first Tuesday each month. Moshe Weitzman is normally the organizer, but this week, Stéphan Corlosquet convened. As they arrive, people sign up on the board, and take turns in front of the group- sort of like lightning talks. Mostly people were asking implementation questions. And they got answers quickly. Many answers. Even some of the simplest questions lead to “how many ways can you skin a cat” debates- which everyone learned from.

In the photo above, you can even see someone raising their hand- it is afterall, a classroom. I can't imagine that happening at the Dublin Drupal meet up.

The Pub effect

This form of dialoque and turn-taking suits a classroom. But not likely a pub. Of course, the Boston group did go to a pub afterwards on campus. I had to sit outside- because I didn’t have ID on me. (Oh you zealots, you puritans in Boston!) I didn’t feel left out, because some non-drinkers joined me on the steps outside to wax philosphic about The Future of the Internet.

But what about people for who avoid drinking for either religious or personal reasons? I for one was excited about the movement for “Drupal Happy Hours” on the last Wednesday of each month in many cities. This is great for the social aspect of Drupal... but I worry... what if we’re excluding some people?

Alternatives: Local dojos and study groups

So, we know we can create great opportunities to build social connections, but what does this mean for new Drupal users? There might be some alternatives that work better. The Drupal Dojo works virtually, with volunteers presenting each week. Some groups are starting up local face-to-face Drupal Dojos. See a list of local Dojos. Lynn Bender from the Geek Austin group organized a Drupal Theming Study Group, which started in August. It will be interested to hear from him how it went. I suspect we might be able to develop models that work and can be replicated.

“There is a rich social life to learning, and we can’t tear these two apart.” says John Seely Brown presenting at New Culture of Learning in a World of Constant Flux (video). John Seely Brown’s references research that shows “nothing beats collaborative study groups.” However this was done at Harvard with full-time students. How we can interpret this for professionals with limited time- is another challenge.

In fact, Acquia is working with Web Enabled on a Introductory Self-study group for Drupal. I’m really interested in making a better welcome-wagon for Drupal. Think of it as a book-club for existing open educational resources already available (hat tip to P2PU.org).

Please forward the sign up link to anyone you think might be interested:
http://tinyurl.com/selfstudydrupal - A book-club for open educational resources in Drupal, for absolute beginners.

How do you organize your meet-up?

I think it shows that there are so many different ways people are holding meet ups, and small differences in venue or structure can change the outcomes. I’d love to hear:

  • How are you organizing your meet-ups?
  • What's working?
  • What’s not working?
  • What kind of support do you need?
  • What would you like to get out of them?


Posted on by Dave Terry.

Hi Heather,
Enjoyed the post - those are viable links you reference for a group just starting out or those with an existing Drupal meetup looking for fresh ideas.

No shameless plug intended, and this is a bit out-dated, but here is an article I wrote last year about how we organize, structure, and topics discussed for the Atlanta Drupal User Group (ADUG).

http://www.mediacurrent.com/blogs/best-practice s-planning-your-2010-drup...


Posted on by Greg Knaddison.

Hi Heather,

I actually feel like the pub situation is a great place for newbies to talk to old hands on a more equal level. Sure the people who want to talk about "hard core" stuff can go do that in a corner, but folks interested in a looser conversation that covers "why cck and views are so awesome" for the millionth time can also occur in that environment.

I think this is something a lot of meetups struggle with. Advertising an event online means it will attract both the super knowledgeable and the dabblers. I made a handy graph of the situation that I have termed the "local user group two hump problem":

You proposed some alternate ideas on how to solve the problem, but the point seems clear that there are two clusters of knowledge levels and we need to promote appropriate and fruitful interactions between those groups.

Posted on by nikkiana (not verified).

The New York City group has three regular meetups.

1. The traditional meetup. For us, this is the first Wednesday of the month. Prior to the meetup, on g.d.o, we gather up what people might be interested in presenting and/or hearing about on the event thread. The meetup starts with a go around the room with quick introductions, who are you and what do you do with Drupal, from there typically two tracks appear... One is a BOF style group for newbies, and the second is typically short presentation style, usually between one and three presentations. Depending on the mood, what people are interested in, the moon, etc... sometimes a more experienced BOF will break out. This works out well for us because our meetups tend to be on the larger side (perhaps someone else has a more accurate count, but I feel like I've seen a range between 30-60 in the past year). After the meetup, there are social drinks.

2. Happy hour. This is the last Wednesday of the month. The entire purpose of this meetup is social. Very rarely do laptops get pulled out here (though these days the occasional iPad will). It's purpose is largely meet and greet. Usually not the place for in depth technical discussion, often the discussion tends to lean towards talking about general morale, business practices and general open source philosophy.

3. Play days. I'm not 100% sure if a regular schedule has been set up for this, but typically these are on a Saturday once a month. These are intended to be more of a hands on workshop type of meetup. There's no agenda with them, just bring what you're working on and help each other. I've yet to go to one of these so I can't really say specifically what goes on, but they meet in a coffee shop and there tends to be a mix of skill levels sometimes trending towards newbies.

Beyond that, occasionally we'll do additional social events (this past Monday we did a barbeque for Labor Day) and twice a year we have Camps.

I think I'm going to need to come back to this... I have more to say, but duty calls...

Posted on by Stella Power.

In Dublin we meet on the last Wednesday of every month. It's in a pub and is quite informal and more for socialising and general Drupal chat, rather than any formal learning process. However more often than not, at least one or two people will take out laptops to show off their latest project, provide assistance or to get help with a problem they're having. By and large though, laptops remain hidden. We have discussed meeting some place else so we can hold some lightening talks first and then go to the pub, but the numbers attending can be a bit unreliable (anywhere between 2-15 people), so we haven't done anything about that yet. So yeah very interested in to hear what others are doing.

Posted on by grantkruger (not verified).

In Portland, Oregon, USA, meetings take place every 2nd Wednesday of the month at 6pm in the offices of a local Drupal shop. These meetings are well organized and generally consist of a couple of presentations or a series of flash presentations, followed by some Q&A and announcements time. Afterward we retire to a local brewpub for some social time and discussions.

We also have a second social and/or co-working meet-up on the 4th Tuesday of each month at 5pm at a local brewpub. We meet, work on our projects, and ask questions of our neighbors with no formal agenda. One of our members gave it a super cool (and fun) name that really deserves to spread to other Drupal User Groups, namely Brewpal. It combines the brew with the Drupal.

Posted on by markferree (not verified).

Next Monday I'll be running the San Francisco user's group first users helping users session prior to the regular meeting. Many people new to Drupal are probably intimidated by the technical depth of a lot of the presentations at SFDUG and I'm hoping that these people can get their questions more easily answered in a free-form discussion.

I've definitely noticed Greg's two hump problem and I'm hoping this approach will help meet the beginners needs without toning down how technical the presentations can be.

Posted on by hefoxed (not verified).

"what if we’re excluding some people?"

Personally I've been quite disappointed that the after-meetup ended up at the muddy, as I find it to be too loud and too crowded for me to be any way comfortable, and I don't drink (taste icky). However, the majority of people do like it, so majority wins. Also, like yesterday, I roped ben, dan, and scott into going down to central square for some dinner at middle east, so there is alternatives (but I guess, not for those that do not know anyone :(). I'd advise people to spice it up when they can.

Posted on by heather.

Thanks so much everyone for your feedback! I think we're starting to see some patterns emerging. I'm going to let this post simmer and see if there's any more feedback.

Then I'll distill it into a page on the event organizer's group.

@Dave thanks for that link! It's great. I like how you organize a schedule ahead of time. This builds up expectation. Shows how tight your group is! I see you use Meetup.com instead of g.d.o. I wonder what specific features you think g.d.o should add to help groups?

@Greg - lol, love the graphic. Spot on. I like how you talk about the group having space to break into groups, instead of the classroom-style where all focus is on one topic. Sounds like some other folks have discovered the same thing.

@Nikkiana - thanks so much for this! What you say makes alot of sense. It sounds like a good way to start, so people get to see who else is there, and then break off into two "tracks". Especially good for your larger group. You guys have such a range of options, including the social and collaborative opportunities.

@Stella - I deffo hope we can work on a plan. I'm v excited I'll be staying there :) *squee* Really changes my outlook. It's partly why I'm getting more obsessed about growing community, because I want Sligo to be a Drupal Town.

@Grant - Sounds like you do something similar as the Boston group does. I noticed not everyone goes to the pub, so it offers an alternative. You guys also have the social co-working meet-up like they do in NYC. I would love to participate.

@Mark- That's an awesome solution to the two-hump problem. I'd like to find out more about what these kinds of boot-strapping groups need. I think that is the area we could develop study groups in.

@H Fox! If I knew you all went to Middle East café! I sat on the steps w Riche, Erik and Stéphan. Alas and alack. Soon you'll be in a city with likely more Drupally goodness :)

Posted on by John Faber.

San Francisco has a Vibrant Drupal User Group which I got going about 2 years ago. We have about 550 members so far and our meetups regularly have between 50 80 people at them.

I run my meetups quite organized with a case study and a tech showcase session each month, with plenty of time for socialization at the end.

This month we are starting the Users Helping Users thanks to Mark Ferree who is helping Drive this initiative.

Our Group totally Rocks each month and if you are a Drupal person who is in SF on the second monday of any month come on down!!!

h ttp://www.meetup.com/SFDUG-San-Francisco-Drupal-Users-group/

Posted on by chachasikes (not verified).

Thanks for starting this thread, Heather!

We love to meet up here in Minneapolis, too.

We have
* monthly User Group meetings at Advantage Labs
* monthly Happy Hour (on Worldwide Drupal Happy Hour Day, first thursday of every month!)

Other activities I've heard of, attended, or organized in the last year or so:

* Local documentation sprint
* Test writing workshop (training presentation, then afternoon of helping contributed module developers write tests for their module.)
* GeoJune - Last year, 1 month dedicated to working on/documenting a module, with barbeque
* Drupal Open Garden Project - 2 months this summer working on Drupal & volunteering for improving our local food system
* Drupalchix meetup
* DrupalCamp planning meetings
* Coffee shop geek outs (spending an afternoon together working on drupal issues)
* Mentoring at public library: at our local library we can reserve study rooms - this is probably possible in any city. We meet for 2 hours and talked about basic themeing in Drupal.
* Lab hours at Advantage Labs: scheduled time for novices & others to come get help in person.
* 'Online office hours' over skype - something I tried this summer with people (including local people) I was mentoring - which was something i could keep up with for a set amount of time.
* Local Mentoring: I got a *lot* out of mentoring and trying to explain Drupal to folks in my community & helping new developers set up their development environments. So +1 on the local study groups!
* Drupal representation at an art installation/interactive museum of open source.
* Arts & Crafts night - in-person drawing of technical concepts (we've done this 4-5 times in the last 2 months, it's not only Drupal, but I'm working up to it.)

All of our gatherings have generally low-attendance numbers, but it's all very, very social and about individual & real, on-going, long-term connections & interdependence.

Outreach can be a challenge - since not everyone reads g.d.o - but there are so many ways to connect with new people by finding activities that allow for exchanges, bartering, & peer to peer learning.

Posted on by scor (not verified).

Heather, you were not the only one excluded from the bar, we also had a bunch of students from MIT under 21 (hi Charlie!) who could not join us at the bar afterwards. It's actually pleasant to stand outside with this weather but that does not work for everyone and for the whole year. I wonder if we could find a more friendly/open post-event venue.

I was planning to organize some small hands-on gatherings prior to the regular meetups to get interested folks started on practical stuff which might not be so well suited for larger audience. Topics like how to create / review patches, write tests, use git, etc. These topics are better handled in smaller groups where a couple of mentors can go to everyone's machine to show them (based on their setup) how to roll a patch, install git etc. I never got the time to really organize it but I hope I can try this out soon in Boston. Not sure what to call it, we might wait and see if it happens and where it goes... I don't know if it qualifies as a dojo, the goal would be to avoid any "online" or video conferencing overhead, but really to give full attention to the few folks who attend, and get their hands dirty with patches, tests, etc. Maybe we can make a deal and later ask them to also help with mentoring. There are enough docs online, we also need these more physical/verbal training for people who don't know where to start.