Drupal Association blog: Introducing the (unofficial) Drupal Recording Initiative

This is a guest blog by Kevin Thull (kthull).

Shout-out to Matt Westgate of Lullabot, who I met earlier this year at DrupalCorn Camp in Des Moines for casually referring to what I’ve been doing for the past five years as the “Drupal Recording Initiative.” It was yet another one of those moments when I realized that what I’ve been doing for the past five years is much bigger than just me.

Let’s recap

What began in 2013 as an effort to record sessions for camps in my local community became a passion project and a way for me to help a handful of other camps record their sessions. That was the extent of my “vision” for this project.

With the advent of Slack (specifically the Drupal Camp Organizer Slack) it became even easier for camp organizers to discover and request my services, and suddenly I was recording a dozen-plus camps per year. With more robust documentation and enough inventory to ship kits to camps that I can’t attend, I have nearly complete coverage of camps in North America.

Turning point

With this year’s milestones, funding, and recognition (and all the publicity that came with it), conversations at camps turned more toward “what’s next” and “how do you grow this” rather than “how and why.”

As I started to think along the lines of future-proofing, open-sourcing, and growth, I’ve made some steps in the right direction this past year (again with no goals or plan):

  • Tweaks to the kits and troubleshooting for more reliable recording
  • Docs moved from Google Drive to GitHub for discoverability and collaboration
  • A growing contributor list: basically anyone who has helped me in the trenches, expressed interest in doing so, recorded sessions with my equipment, or has their own set of equipment based on my setup.

The initiative

This is rough, and the point of this post is to get input from the community.

Purpose

Make the recording of Drupal and related talks at camps, summits, meetups (essentially anything outside of DrupalCon) easy, turn-key, affordable, and available.

Roadmap

The first five years evolved organically and overall successfully, but without a plan. Following are the goals for the next five years.

Training and mentorship

I’ve proven that I can do this and do it very well. My goal is to spend an increasing amount of time teaching and supporting others to repeat my success.

  • Improved camp support – I already offer support for a few camps, primarily via email and Slack before and during events; need to schedule more check-ins during events
  • Post event – Schedule post-event calls to debrief and discover gaps in documentation and training
  • Ongoing solicitation for contributors – Identify and somehow organize a group of people that can manage the recordings whether I’m on-site or not to continually spread the knowledge and coverage; the goal here is one new contact per event

Expanded coverage

While it sounds impressive to directly or indirectly record nearly all North American camps, it’s not enough. There are many more events than just camps, and there’s so much more to the world than North America.

  • Shipping kits – I’ve shipped to two events in 2018. The goal is to double that each successive year until there is sufficient global coverage of camps and larger events; smaller events like meetups would need to be covered by local equipment hubs, detailed below
  • Funding for equipment hubs – Navigating customs can prove tricky and equipment hubs within countries or regions would mitigate that risk; possible sources include crowdsourced funding or the Drupal Community Cultivation Grant (more info on this toward the end of the post)
  • Expanding beyond Drupal events – An early goal was to make a device-agnostic recording solution, so it only makes sense that it also should be content-agnostic; primary focus would be adjunct communities: WordPress, PHP, Symfony, Javascript, etc.

Improved documentation

Moving existing docs to GitHub was a step in the right direction. More visuals are needed.

  • Record a setup video
  • Record a troubleshooting video
  • Add more pics and diagrams
  • Create docs for speakers: what to bring, what to do, what not to do, how to optimize your laptop for presenting, etc.
  • Create docs for organizers: what is provided, what is needed from the venue or camp, what speakers need to know, what room monitors need to know, etc.

Higher recording success rate

In 2018, the capture rate based on my documentation and remote support was 80-85% versus 92-100% when I was on the scene. The goal here is to bridge that gap.

  • Better pre-event support and onboarding
  • Broader support for USB-c
  • Improved coverage for non-Mac audio issues
  • Better prep for volunteers and contributors for on-site coverage

Streamlined funding

This is an expensive endeavor, and I couldn’t do it without camp donations, and reimbursements for airfare and lodging. At the same time, incidental costs (food, entertainment, commuting, etc.) add up, and the current model limits me geographically.

  • Charge a flat fee of $1,000 per event (airfare and lodging typically runs $350-$750)
  • Roll surplus funds into new equipment and subsidized travel to events outside North America
  • Maintain existing crowdfunded campaign to cover personal costs (whether current GoFundMe or an alternate)
  • Potentially seek sponsorship or Drupal Community Cultivation Grant (again, see below)

Overall organization

This is definitely the squishiest part of the roadmap. Solo, this is easy to manage. But to grow, I need tools and I don’t know the best ones for this type of work.

  • Contacts – What is the best way to manage the growing list of contributors, as well as give recognition?
  • Scheduling – There should be an event calendar with ways to sign up as a recording volunteer
  • Accounting – There should be an open way to manage the funds
  • Outreach – What is the best way to publicly and continually reach out for new contributors, and to grow the base of recorded events?
  • Inventory – We need a managed inventory of equipment, who controls them, whether they are available or on loan, their condition, etc.
  • Options:

    1. Drupal.org community project
    2. GitHub project board
    3. Slack channel (they already exist in Drupal Slack and the Organizer Slack)
    4. Public meetings
    5. Other / All of the above

Content discoverability

I am not the only person recording sessions, but I am definitely the loudest and most prolific. But my tweets and siloed camp YouTube channels are not optimal for the greater community to find content. I don’t have the bandwidth to do this personally, but would contribute.

  • We absolutely need a Drupal equivalent to WordPress.tv (several solutions are in the works, but that also has been the state of things for years)
  • Aggregate content from all events, including DrupalCon
  • Include curation and content authors to annotate various versions of the same talk, or even unpublish older or largely repetitive versions
  • Add tagging for searchability
  • Add captioning for accessibility
  • Promote local events as well as the Drupal project

Wrapping it up

I’m continually thanked and reminded of how important what I’m doing is for the community. At the same time, it’s hard for me because it feels pretty routine and relatively easy (aside from the unknowns that come with each venue setup, and the hourly hustle to connect presenters and confirm recordings). Yet recorded content is also how I first learned Drupal and it’s the very reason I began this effort.

So the next stage of this unexpected, unplanned success is to create a structure to prevent my own burnout and prevent this initiative from hitting a plateau. If you want to participate, hit me up on Drupal.org, Twitter, or send me an email.

Lastly, for those who don’t know, the Drupal Community Cultivation Grant exists for things like this. I am very grateful for the Drupal Association offering me a grant to support this program, though I hadn’t yet applied (I should have and you should too).