One year ago we started to work on building a Drupal community group in our city, Saint Petersburg. Here in this article I'm going to tell you our story, share experiences and results, give some advice to people who are at the beginning of the way and ask for feedback from folks who has cut their teeth on organizing regional community groups.
Saint Petersburg is one of the biggest and most famous cities in Russia with a population of over 5 million inhabitants. It's probably the most popular tourist place and cultural center in the country.
We are on the north west of the continent, not so far from Finland and Estonia. To see where we are click here.
Here in S. Petersburg historically and geographically we are a bit conservative, as many Northern people, and quite distanced from each other in my opinion. We often shift our focus to building personal possessions rather than social capital. But it's changing now.
Where everything started
One year ago I had the chance to attend DrupalCon Munich. It was something incredibly awesome that I've never seen before. Different people from all around the world presented ideas, shared experience and collaborated together working on the best content management platform. I had a lot of discussions about Drupal community principles there.
Advice (for guys who have not ever been at DrupalCon): Your first DrupalCon will probably change you dramatically as it happened with me and many of my friends so pack your bag and go there. Be ready to get excited!
When I came back I shared my impressions and new knowledge with a friend of mine Alex. He was excited as well. We didn't have doubts, we decided to build local community group in S. Petersburg.
I believe that any business should start from research, and we did this as well. We tried to count drupalists here in S. Petersburg by searching on forums, social networks and blogs. We've found about 50 potential members, people who are curious about Drupal, writing about the framework or providing professional services on Drupal base. Not too many and that is reasonable because there are many proprietary CMSs that spend good money for marketing. But we were ready to reverse the situation.
The next step was the publishing of an article at Drupal.ru with a call for interest in organizing a local community group in SPB. It is obviously the most popular Drupal-related domain in Russia. They have a lot traffic on the site, but it's probably not ideal place for newbies due to criticism and sarcastic attitude of some of its users. We got contrastingly different feedback from the article readers. Some of the responses were negative and some of them quite promising. We met several mates from our city there and invited them to an offline meeting. Then we started to build our small community and its site.
The next stage was dedicated to the community web site.
Why not to use Drupal Groups or another platform, you ask?
Russian platforms, as I mentioned before, are not often friendly to newbies. Drupal Groups is a great platform with a bunch of useful features but it's in English. The problem is that our guys primarily don't speak English well. Anyway, we use these services for posting announcements and discussing community projects.
So we've built our community web site to be an intermediate level between global and Russian communities, pros and newbies, clients and service providers, people excited about Drupal and looking for a better platform.
We used Drupal 7, the stable and mature version. We've built it responsive even if nobody around was aware of the responsive design. Since Alex and I started we have spent a ton of time building the site, fixing bugs, optimizing hosting environment, working as content managers and moderators.
Advice: Your own community web site is not a toy, it requires much time to manage related tasks especially if you have your own business or work in company. So start building a local community from a social network or Drupal Groups if you are not sure that you will have time to manage all the related tasks at least before your community starts to help you with that.
For this year we have created groups in all popular social nets, including explicitly Russian ones.
For example, Vk.com audience is very active but less professional as I see it in general. Google+ group is growing but too slow. Twitter is quite popular here. LinkedIn and Facebook groups don't work as we would expect.
Advice: Choose no more than two social networks and target your efforts to them. It's also a big job actually.
Our events are the most exciting and interesting part of our community life.
We have two main kind of events, such as Meetup and Drinkup. This decision is based on our own experience and best practices.
Drinkup is a relatively new idea of one of our members. It is an informal meeting that is in a pub or bar. It doesn't have an official program of discussions. Just friendly chip-chat. Newbies can ask their questions there. Pros can discuss their challenges and give an advice. Sometimes even potential clients join us to talk about their project and find a developer. We organize it regularly, every Thursday.
Meetup is usually a one day event with presentations, reserved venue and attendees registration. It looks like Camp but it's a little bit smaller. We are still keeping them free of charge because some of our awesome members provide a venue. Attendees usually follow 'bring it yourself' principle and help others with their own favorite dishes and sweets.
Advice: You can organize whichever event you like, even if it is Drupal masquerade or marathon. Just try things out and determine which one fits your guys needs better.
Drupal Meetup #5. Attendees (photo by Alexey Tsarkov)
Also, we organized several contrib Code Sprints where beginners worked together with mature developers. Isn't it the best way to get actual skills? I suppose it is.
Advice: Before you start contributing to Core you can learn best practices, code standards and tools by contributing to contribs. But I can agree that core experience has much worth.
A couple of times we joined Drupal Association initiative called Global Training Days. The second time was more successful because our members trained our new members. Even if the trainers did not have much experience they had willingness to help others and a fire burning in their eyes!
Advice: Being a trainer is not too difficult if you have a good curriculum. But please don't try to teach all knowledge you have learned over several years in one training because any brain has limited bandwidth ;)
Our results in numbers
- Over 130 registered members
- 5 Meetups
- 3 Code Sprints (contibs)
- 2 Global Training Days
- A dozen of Drinkups
Soon we're going to build some sort of Board of Directors to share responsibilities and collaborate efficiently.
Also, we have an ambitious plan for the next year - we'd like to organize a Drupal Camp in Saint Petersburg in Summer of 2014 and maybe invite you to speak and attend there! Interested? Drop us a line.
I'm noticing significant changes comparing the community group in the past with the current state. Our members have started writing posts, joining discussions, helping others, proposing own initiatives and contributing together. I'm proud to conclude that we have achieved Synergy!
I'd like to thank our members for such a remarkable year of challenges and achievements that we met shoulder-to-shoulder, people for sharing with us their community expertise and worldwide Drupal Community for being the friendliest community in the world!
Happy Birthday Drupal SPB!
Birthday DrupliCake (photo by Alexey Tsarkov)