Like almost everything in the Drupal world, DrupalCon is, in part, a labor of passionate enthusiasts who donate their time. Every year, the Drupal Association appoints a program team who work together to select sessions for upcoming DrupalCons. The program team is unique to every conference, but volunteers of past cons (called “globals”) are asked to join the committee to assist the newer members and pass on historical knowledge.
DrupalCon sessions are divided into tracks, which generally stay the same, but have evolved over the years. For Amsterdam, we have:
- Coding and Development
- Core Conversations
- Drupal Business
- Site Building
For Amsterdam, we’ve added two new mini tracks; Case Studies and PHP. We’ve also added Business Showcase (formerly Day Stage) and the Community track is now a full day summit on the Monday.
Each track has a Chair (or Lead) - someone who takes the lead on setting the theme of the track, generating interest and inviting speakers, and selecting sessions. Last year, I was the Track Chair for the Coding and Development track for DrupalCon Prague. This year, I was lucky enough to be asked to be a “Global” (or co-chair) for the Coding and Development track for Amsterdam. This means that I was there as support for the new track chair, Pedro Cambra (pcambra). I was helped by veterans of previous DrupalCons, Jason Yee (jyee) and Larry Garfield (Crell).
Pedro and team have done a fantastic job of canvassing for speakers and helping people with their session proposals.
There’s a lot of elements to session selection. We need to make sure that sessions are of value to a wide audience. The presenters must be engaging speakers who can interest a large crowd of attendees. We try as hard as we can to bring in new (to DrupalCon) speakers, and speakers who bring something from outside of the Drupal sphere. We want to make sure that the diversity of the community is represented and encouraged. And we need to work across track teams to ensure that one speaker is not speaking in several tracks; both for the sake of their stress and sanity in preparing the talks and to ensure that everyone who applied has the best chance of speaking. Finally, we need to make sure that sessions fit both the theme of the track and of the conference.
As you can imagine, balancing all of this can be quite challenging!
Each track team ranks their sessions as makes sense to the team. In the Coding and Development track, Pedro, Jason, and I rated each session and speaker out of 5, paying special attention to the quality and relevancy of the submission and the speaker's rapport with their audience. If we're lucky, we've seen the speaker present before, but if not, we can view any available slide decks or recordings to get a sense for their presenting ability. This is why it’s very important for prospective speakers to include speaking history in their session proposal. A speaker doesn't need to have sessions online to be selected - it just makes our job easier. We refined the 128 submissions in the Coding and Development track down to a top rated 25 or so sessions, which were then filtered to make sure that there is no overlap and that the speaker wasn’t speaking in another track.
Being so involved in the planning of content for DrupalCon is an enlightening experience. The breadth of knowledge, experience, and creativity in the Drupal community is quite literally overwhelming. The 510 sessions submitted this year illustrate just how passionate the community is.
There’s no better way to get a sense of the Drupal zeitgeist than to pore over hundreds of sessions. This discovery exposes us all to new technologies, projects, and methodologies, and at least for me has made me aware of people in the community that are doing fascinating, challenging, and important work - people I might never have found otherwise. There’s also a degree of humility to be observed when considering the diverse and very well informed views of your fellow content team members.
After two weeks of review, ranking, and deliberation across timezones, I present to you with the 90+ DrupalCon Amsterdam selected sessions.
If you are interested in becoming involved in DrupalCon planning in the future, let the DA know. It's very rewarding, and the team dinner during the conference just caps it all off!
Cameron Tod (cam8001)
DrupalCon Amsterdam Coding and Development Co-Chair