Anyone Can Give Back to the Drupal Community

My Experience in the Drupal Community

Confession…I used to be someone who thought I had nothing to contribute to open source communities/projects. That was until about 2 years ago when I started Crowd Communications Group. Up until that point I worked long and hard for other people, unfortunately putting their needs and wants ahead of mine. By founding my own small consultancy, I was able to find freedom and begin my journey to giving back to the community and projects that had allowed me the opportunity to get free in the first place.

So here is the abbreviated story of how I got rid of the negative talk I was carrying around and got very involved with the Drupal community in a relatively short time. My hope is that this account may inspire you to realize that you…YES YOU… can start giving back in your own special way starting today.

Getting Involved

In order to get involved you need to get a little uncomfortable first. What I mean by this is that you have to take a risk and do something you normally would hesitate to do. This could be as small as jumping into an IRC channel or as big as speaking at a Drupal event. Being that I had a decent amount of event and project management experience, it made sense for me to get involved by volunteering to help organize the local DrupalCamp.

DrupalCamp NJ 2013

silver-sponsorTruth be told I was registered for the first DrupalCamp NJ in 2012, but missed it for silly work reasons. That said, I came into volunteering for year 2 of the camp so many of the kinks of starting a camp were worked out. Where I decided to lend a hand most was in getting sponsors and helping with some various and smaller logistics for the camp day.

Now this was a time commitment and it grew as we got closer to the camp. Just for a reference we started work in September and didn’t finish until February. A lot of what I ended up doing was reaching out via email and phone to potential sponsors, informing them about our camp, and following up with them. Then about a month and a half prior to the camp I started to do some more hand holding and stayed in contact with them on a fairly regular basis, every 2-3 weeks. Additionally, as we got closer to the camp I participated in planning committee meetings and discussions about the sessions, program, and other details.

Presenting at DrupalCamp NJ 2013!
Presenting at DrupalCamp NJ 2013!

On the day of the camp I helped sponsors get settled in their space and also helped with some other tasks. Once things settled down I attended several sessions, chatted with some great people over lunch, and then gave a presentation on Workbench module. Yes, you read that correctly, I also submitted a session for the camp and subsequently presented. You see once you start to get involved it tends to snowball. After the camp was over and things were cleaned up I joined the other organizers, speakers, and attendees at the after party and celebrated a job well done. One huge benefit to working on the camp was the ability to get to meet so many people from within the local and national Drupal community.

DrupalCon Portland 2013

drupalcon_pdx_icon_2Now that I had gotten rather involved with the camp and local Drupal user group, I decided to attend my first DrupalCon. I registered for a training and continued to meet some great people in the community. After a few days of sessions I really felt like I had arrived (I even asked a few questions at the microphone). I was no longer afraid of being a community member and so I pushed myself again, this time into working on Drupal core during the Friday code sprint. Now I was new to Drupal core development, but the mentors helped get us up to speed real quick and I worked on several issues, making simple patches before heading home. Over the next few weeks and months I dabbled in core development and it is still something I want to work more on leading up to and at DrupalCon Austin 2014.

DrupalCamp NJ 2014

gold-badge-2014Given my very positive community experiences up to this point, I decided to get even more involved in organizing year 3 of the camp. Whereas the previous year I focused on sponsorships, in 2014 I assisted with many other tasks including marketing, design and development of the site, budgets, giveaways, training, etc. It is very rewarding to see all of your hard work pay off by the feedback we received from all those in attendance. I’m happy to say that together with the help of the other organizers, we were able to continue to grow the camp and make it a must attend event in the region. Being so involved also made me appreciate others in the Drupal community more, there are many rockstars and superheros who we should look up to as we strive to give back.

NYC Camp 2014

nyccamp-logoThis started out as a small favor to one of the other people in the NJ community and quickly grew into a much larger task. NYC Camp is at least 3-4 times larger than DrupalCamp NJ and is an international event, not only because it was at the United Nations, but also because of the attendees coming in from around the globe. What started out as help with this specific summit changed into running the Training Day, which I was happy to do. Additionally, over the course of the Summit and Camp Days I stepped up and ran around where needed. It was through the hard work of many volunteers that the four days of the camp went well.

“Looking” in control at NYC Camp! (photo: BlinkReaction)

My experience illustrates a great example of why our community is great, because anyone can play a big role. If you show up with passion and a general sense of wanting to help the community you can achieve that rockstar or superhero status in no time. At NYC Camp there were so many great stories, from 4 days of core sprints with one of our youngest and most eager community members, to the Drupal Association executive director making her first core commit on Sunday. What NYC Camp shows is how important it is to be involved in any way that you can.

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to run or volunteer at a camp, give a presentation, or commit code to give back, you just have to show up and care. Of course it would be nice if you did one or all of those other things, but it will take time. The important thing to remember is that you need to take a risk and raise your hand no matter how big or small of a contribution you are willing to make. Next time you have the opportunity, step outside your comfort zone and give back to the community, you won’t regret it.

P.S. – Hope to see you at the Community Summit on Monday, June 1 at DrupalCon Austin 2014!

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