Drupal core developer summit at DrupalCon SF

On Saturday, April 17th, before DrupalCon San Francisco, I'm helping to organize the very first Drupal core developer summit. The goal of the Drupal core developer summit is to talk about ways we can improve Drupal core, and the core development processes, all while having a good time socializing with fellow core developers.

To make it lively and fun, we'll do a series of 10 minute lightning talks. In between the lightning talks, we'll have a number of meatier discussions or breakout sessions. The lightning talks will be divided in two categories: the first 8 lightning talks will take the format: "Why X sucks and how to improve it" where X can be anything in Drupal core; the last 8 lightning talks will take the format "Wouldn't it be awesome if ...". The idea behind the lightning talks is to educate core contributors about problems that need to be fixed, to present foundations for solutions, and to bootstrap collaboration.

The event is open to all, but ... in order to attend, you must be prepared to do a 10 minute lightning talk. To secure a ticket to the Drupal core developer summit, you have to submit a 4 slide presentation by March 17th, 2010.

We expect one background slide to provide context or to talk about the history of the problem, one slide with a clear problem statement, and a couple of slides to propose a solution. You can focus on big things (i.e. How session management can be made more scalable) or smaller things (i.e. Why drupal_get_schema() is slow and how to make it faster). Everyone who submitted slides ahead of time will be invited to attend. All slides will be shared publicly, but not everyone will be invited to present as we'll only have time for 16 lightning talks. Some talks will be hand-picked because they are important or particularly intriguing, other talks will be randomly selected the day of the event.

This should be a lot of fun!

Comments

moshe weitzman (not verified):

We're gonna get all the core developers together for the first time in 5 years and talk about how newbies can try out patches? Its an important topic, but inappropriate for this day, IMO.

The slides are pretty.

jhodgdon (not verified):

I wanted to let you know that the way this is being organized and presented gives me a feeling of "we're trying to exclude people", rather than "we're trying to include people". That really bothers me (and from discussions I've had recently with other folks, I'm far from being the only one who got this feeling).

It also doesn't make sense to me that every attendee needs to submit a presentation, when only 12 will be used. It seems like a huge a waste of time and effort, when we could be spending that time making and reviewing patches for Drupal 7. Having that as a criterion makes very little sense, anyway. How about the criterion being that you have a patch in D7? Or just say "it's an exclusive club and we'll invite who we want to invite", which is the feeling we're getting from the current state of affairs anyway?

I'm also not excited about the proposed format of the day. I would prefer to see more (or all) breakouts and small group discussions and less (or no) presentations and lightning talks. We need to face the fact that Drupal is too big for everyone (assuming we all have lives/jobs) to be involved in every aspect of everything, and forcing everyone to listen to everyone's gripes is not going to help people get focused on something they can actually work on.

Given that... I'm probably just going to change my travel plans and skip this (if I would have even been invited in the first place, which I don't even know).

--Jennifer

Dries:

The event is open for all as long you submit a short presentation -- to me that sounds as inclusive, if not more inclusive, than charging a 200 USD entrance fee. I don't think I have a reputation of trying to be exclusive.

While some people might spend a few hours working on their presentations, it should take no more than 15 minutes to make an acceptable presentation. The presentation is not be wasted either -- forcing people to think about what we can do better sounds like a good thing to me, and every presentation will hopefully be the start of an issue in the drupal.org issue queue.

In fact, I think there are real advantages to having, and giving, those presentations. Every format has its pros and its cons. If all you want is breakout sessions, then worry not, because we'll have breakout sessions throughout the entire conference. That is what DrupalCon is all about.

I really like your work on Drupal 7, so I hope that you'll give it the benefit of the doubt, and that you'll attend. I, for one, would love to learn how you think we can improve documentation in Drupal 8 (among other things). It is an important topic. So, are you in? :)

Ben J (not verified):

... it should take no more than 15 minutes to make an acceptable presentation.

I have to disagree with you here. I'd like to work on the next version of Form API, but I by no means fully understand the existing version, nor would it take less than 15 minutes to understand the history of FAPI in order to make a single, background slide. Perhaps FAPI is an exception, but I think the barrier to attend is greater than you think.

Dries:

I agree that a "Form API, the next generation" presentation could be a lot of work and that for some people it can be scary. Public speaking is scary for some, let alone to talk about the Form API in public.

I wonder though, if it wasn't required that you submitted a presentation, would you have prepared equally well for DrupalCon SF? Would you have gotten a similar opportunity to share your ideas, and to bootstrap working together on those ideas?

Ben J (not verified):

That's a good point, Dries. By requiring a presentation submission it is possibly raising the quality of discussions and outcomes. However, if chx were to make a "Form API, the next generation" presentation and I just attended and learned the background etc I may still be able to share and work on those ideas.

The line has to be drawn somewhere, so if I'm passionate about contributing something and I have to make a presentation I will. I still think it's a greater barrier than we've seen with contributing and could exclude a bunch of people who otherwise would have been really helpful.

jhodgdon (not verified):

Dries: "So, are you in?"

I will be there for both sprint days and DCSF itself, but not the summit. If the DCSF organizers make BOF time available during the summit, I will definitely organize a BOF about search in D8 and beyond. I'm not sure about a doc BOF -- there is a movement afoot around the Handbook doc, but I'm not really involved in that (Addison, Ariane, and Lee would be better to contact; my focus is on the API doc, which mostly is a matter of "get folks to file and fix issues" rather than "we need a total revamp", I think).

The thing is, I had something else going on here the day of the Summit that I wasn't excited about missing, so my lack of excitement about the format tipped the balance and I'll be flying down early Sunday (living 2 hours away from SF is a plus).

--Jennifer

PWolanin (not verified):

Dries - I think the approach here is generally good in terms of making it an open event, but your 15 minute estimate is absurd to the point of almost being an affront.

To come up with a few semi-coherent slides took me at least two hours.

Probably a two or three hour commitment is not to high a bar for the committed, but it's a much more substantial bar than you are acknowledging, and will likely mean some contributors who should be there won't be.

catch (not verified):

I agree with Jennifer on the structure. 16 ten minute presentations is 160 minutes of presentation time - 2h40m. Given context switching that's going to end up taking up half the day.

The four slides I'm about to submit took about an hour to do, and they were 90% copy and paste from a Drupal 8 issue that's already open. Albeit about half the time was figuring out how to get PHP syntax highlighting into google docs (turns out screenshots of vim is the quickest), but still.

I didn't submit any presentations for DrupalCon this year because I overdid it on presentations last time, and frankly I'm only submitting slides for the core developer summit so I can turn up, and hope mine doesn't get picked. I'm sure many other people will be the same. Which means we'll end up sitting there for 3 hours listening to unprepared presentations that people only wrote to get in the door. Just because it's ten minutes doesn't mean any less preparation time to make a decent talk, and I would rather spend that time ensuring Dries is kept to his promise to sing at the keynote ;) Maybe some of the slides could be used as the basis for group breakout discussions, or to open those up, instead?

I can see the reasons for doing this over "you have to have at least one patch committed to core", or "don't call us, we'll call you" or something else arbitrary, but I've seen at least one other core developer decide not to come due to this requirement as well, so its obviously rubbing some people up the wrong way.

dmitrig01 (not verified):

I did the same thing as catch. I threw together a few slides and am hoping they don't get picked.

I think that possibly some (most?) of this would be alleviated by (1) letting people back out if their presentation is picked (I certainly would) and (2) have a space for people to give lightning talks, but have another space where people can focus just on coding.

Maybe a better solution (although now it's too late) would be to just let people show up if they think they're qualified. I think that that would be a suitable filter ("only come here if you've had experience patching core").

Kieran Lal (not verified):

We did consider making the summit invitational based on open criteria like having a prior Drupal core commit, but Dries insisted that it be more open. Not everyone will like this format, but then many core contributors don't like attending 2000 person events to talk to one or two people. Some core contributors may fly in for Saturday and Sunday and then leave because they don't like attending big events with lots of people. I came up with the idea of the summit based on feedback from Drupal core developers at Drupalcon Boston who said that an 800 person event was WAY TOO BIG for them, and they wouldn't attend Drupalcon any more.

It doesn't surprise me that people who do high quality work, are going to take longer than fifteen minutes to prepare their slides, but that's because they have something important to say. Those are the people who we want in attendance at the core summit.

When we put together the outline for Drupalcon San Francisco, we made a few important changes. We added the core developer summit to get focused attention on core development at Drupalcon. As the organizer for Drupalcon Boston, I also knew how hard it was to get enough core content scheduled into the Drupalcon program.

Second, the feedback from DCDC and DC Paris was that having a sprint at the end was not as productive, because people were burned out. So we added two days to the beginning of Drupalcon. Saturday is for the core summit, and Sunday is for sprinting/BOFs to actually break into small groups and work on the ideas discussed the day before. During the presentations on Saturday, there will be Q&A for each presentation and we will be explicitly trying to connect people who are interested on working on ideas brought up during the lightning talks.

So the ratio is one day of lightning talks, 3 days of focused presentations, BOFs for the three days of Drupalcon, and then Sunday and Thursday are code sprints/BOFs. We don't know if this is the perfect ratio, but we will continue to listen to feedback and adapt to make this event successful.

Cheers,
Kieran