Lessons Learned - 2010

Here are some thoughts, after the 2010 Seattle Drupal Clinic. They are based on feedback from the volunteers and participants, as well as participants in a workshop in Vancouver B.C. in November 2010 based on the same or similar curriculum.

Technology
  • Having the students use either WebEnabled or Acquia DAMP and set it up before-hand worked out well. The WebEnabled servers were up to the task.
  • The WiFi was mostly OK, and everyone was able to complete the workshop (as far as I know). There were occasional transient problems with WiFi connectivity; several participants noted that the WiFi was "slow", so that wasn't great. Maybe next year we should bring additional router(s) with WiFi and hook them into the network cable in the room? I am not sure if this would help or not, but it might.
  • If more people used DAMP rather than WebEnabled, the load on the WiFi and reliance on WiFi would also be reduced (since they'd be on their own servers rather than connecting to the network). So maybe we could encourage that more next time?
Venue
  • I think the venue was fine (North Seattle Community College). It had plenty of parking, a good projector, adequate space (glad we limited to 35 participants! Maybe 30 would be a better number next year though, as some people had to sit pretty close to the screen).
  • Next year we should be sure to have more extension cords if we use the same room.
  • Also maybe include a campus map on the workshop web site, so people can find the place!
  • One person suggested I should have a microphone (note: I had a cold).
  • The rental in general was hassel-free.
Curriculum/Pace/Presentations
  • Since setting up with WebEnabled is actually pretty easy and takes very little time (DAMP should also be easy), it might make sense to start a little earlier rather than having so much time for "arrive and get help setting up".
  • The curriculum worked out better than last year, I thought, and it worked out well that people had their own copy of the step-by-step. Next year: print out a few extras and bring to the workshop (we had to make copies there, as some people didn't bring their own). One participant's comments indicated they didn't see the detailed step-by-step guide (not sure why).
  • A participant suggested alternating lecture with hands-on.
  • One participant wanted more time on Views.
  • One participant wanted a workshop oriented more towards content editors rather than site builders, or a separate workshop for that. Jennifer's note: the stated purpose of the workshop was site building, and I personally don't think a workshop on content editing would be very useful. Whoever builds the Drupal site should be able to train the content editors on what to do in the space of an hour or so -- at least, that has been my experience in building sites. Probably, we should make it even clearer in the announcements who the audience for the workshop is -- I think this person was probably sent to the workshop by her organization (UW), and it wasn't an entirely appropriate choice on their part.
  • One participant suggested "Add a short bit about how CSS and PHP scripting work with Drupal in the presentation side". That seems like a good idea.
  • One participant suggested talking about upgrades to Drupal 7/8/etc.
  • A few people commented afterwards in the survey that the pace was too fast, but most said the volunteers were able to help them catch up. Most people liked the pace, and most said they learned things and improved their level of knowledge.
  • Regarding the showcase, one participant commented that they would have liked to see some admin screens. [Jennifer's note: I doubt that really would have helped much, in the available time, but it's something to think about.]
  • One participant requested follow-up workshops to cover more in-depth/real-life structures for web sites. A similar suggestion (or maybe it was the same person) was to solicit ideas ahead of time (real-life problems people are having with their sites), and work through several ideas as a group. And another (or again, maybe the same) participant requested having time where a volunteer could help someone with an existing site to answer their questions.
  • One participant suggested having a group question/answer session at the end, then breaking out into groups to cover topics. [Note: We tried that last year in Seattle, and it didn't work out too well. See the 2009 archive for details.]
  • One participant suggested breaking the workshop up into two days, because attention drags at the end of a long day.
  • Additional requested topics to cover: more modules and configuration options, theming (how to integrate your planned design into Drupal), overview of the structural design of Drupal (nodes, blocks, etc.), multi-site installation, sequence of building a site in Drupal (what to do first, second, third, etc), common mistakes and pitfalls.
Volunteers
Given the minimal of technical difficulties and individual help needed this year, probably 3 roving volunteers would be enough for next time.
Food
We used Mamas Brown Bags for the lunches. They delivered more or less on time (I ordered them for 30 minutes before we needed them, and they came 15 minutes before we needed them, so that worked out fine). The lunches were fresh and contained the items advertised. I didn't hear any complaints, and no one on the survey rated the food any worse than "Neutral" (most gave it good or great).
Cost/Tickets
  • Charging $25 for the workshop meant only people who were really interested registered, and almost all showed up. No one complained about the cost, at least not that I heard or in the survey. Some participants indicated they would have been willing to pay more, especially if it was two days instead of one.
  • Of course, we can only do it for that cost if the presenter and helpers volunteer their time.
  • The $25 cost was adequate to cover the lunch and venue rental.
  • Using EventBrite worked out fine. They have credit card processing and charge fees; those fees were added transparently to the $25 workshop cost, bringing the total to nearly $30 for participants.
  • EventBrite paid promptly. You do have to pay for lunches up front, but the venue we used invoices after the fact.
  • Charging for the workshop also meant that we didn't have to try to scrounge for sponsors, or find a free venue.