Drupal Design Camp Boston 2011: Why Drupal Camps are Important

Jun 28, 2011 · by Suzanne Dergacheva

Last weekend, five members of our team went down to Boston for the third annual Drupal Design Camp. Held on the MIT campus at the Stata Center, the camp was a great success, extremely well organized, and lots of fun to attend. On the drive back to Montreal, I was thinking about why Drupal Camp is so important to both building a local Drupal community, and to fostering the talents of individuals.

In Montreal, we're currently planning our fourth Drupal Camp for this September. I think the value that Drupal Camp has brought to the Montreal and Boston communities over the years has been substantial. Here's a recap of Drupal Design Camp Boston 2011 and why Drupal Camps in general are are vital to our community:

Getting Invovled in Drupal Camp

Drupal Camp is more fun if you get involved. Aside from just showing up, there are lots of ways to contribute, and it can be a great way for those new to the community to meet other Drupalers. At the first Drupal meetup I attended in Montreal, there was talk about planning a Drupal Camp. Next thing I knew, I had volunteered myself to create the camp website, and my partner Alex was busy getting t-shirts printed. Before we knew it, we were solid members of the local community.

This year in Boston, our team presented two sessions: one case study and one more technical presentation on fields in Drupal 7. This got our whole team involved in the camp, preparing for the presentations, presenting, and helping answer questions after the talks.

Volunteering at Drupal Camp is another great way to get involved. Helping to organize connects you with your local Drupal ecosystem. You don't have to organize the whole event, volunteering to help at the registration desk is also greatly appreciated, and a super way to introduce yourself to other attendees.

While sponsoring Drupal Camp can get visibility for your organization, it's also a great way to connect with the camp organizers and get in touch with the community. Sponsoring a Drupal Camp is less expensive than a DrupalCon and it's a great way to start the conversation with potential local business partners or recruits.

Scheduled Sessions

Drupal Camp Boston Presentation
Drupal Camps are smaller than DrupalCons, so presenting a session tends to be less intimidating. Presenting about Drupal at every opportunity is a great way to consolidate your Drupal expertise, get feedback on your latest project, and contribute back to the community in person. Drupal Camps are also an opportunity to prepare a session for DrupalCon, by practicing the presentation and getting feedback.

There were lots of different session topics at Drupal Camp Boston, everything from typography and CSS3 to jQuery Mobile and how to use git. The session selection team chose sessions that would appeal to different types of attendees including designers, project managers, themers, and developers. Here's a list of some of our favourite presentations from the camp. We recommend checking out the videos once they're posted:

  • The Art of Wireframing: After attending this session, I heard project managers and developers alike talking about how to optimize the wireframing process.
  • Working with Media in D7: Drupal 7 was the hot topic of the camp and this talk about integrating media into websites was of interest to both designers and developers. The talk covered how media is handled with entities in Drupal 7.
  • Hollywood Storytelling and the Drupal Development Process: This session got everyone talking about project management methodologies. The session is also on the schedule at DrupalCon London in August.
  • Responsive Grids and the future of Drupal Theming: Jake Strawn talked about mobile design and building a responsive grid theme.


Birds of a FeatherSince Drupal Camps are born out of open spaces, Birds of a Feather sessions (BoFs) are also really important. BoFs are group conversations around a given topic. Anyone can join in and contribute, and they're generally not planned in advance.

At our first Montreal Drupal Camp in 2008, the entire camp consisted of topics suggested at the beginning of the camp and posted on cue cards on the wall. The last Drupal Camp New York took a similar format, with topics suggested in advance on groups.drupal.org and scheduled during the first hour of the camp.

At Drupal Design Camp Boston, BoFs were held for an hour at the end of each day. While this didn't provide as many time slots for BoFs as some camps, there were lots of tables, chairs, and free space at the Stata Center where attendees could gather to discuss topics of common interest.

Promoting Initiatives, Events, and Distros

Drupal Camp Boston Evolving Web Table
Drupal Camps are a great place to promote new ideas, initiatives, modules, and distributions to the Drupal community. We took the opportunity to promote Drupal Camp Montreal 2011 by handing out save-the-date cards for the event at our sponsor table. Todd Nienkirk started a dialog about the Drupal Themer Experience initiative. There was also talk about the growing popularity of the Conference Organizing Distribution, which was used to build the camp's website.

Come for the Code, Stay for the Party!

Drupal Camp Boston Socializing The Boston camp's organizing team put on a fantastic party at Flat Top Johnny's, walking distance from the Stata Center. The free pool tables gave everyone a chance to mingle, socialize, and of course talk about Drupal. Social events are one of the most important parts of Drupal Camp, as they gives attendees time to revisit what was learnt throughout the day and network with others in the community.

I remember being surprised at my first Drupal Camp about how much information people were willing to share, from specific advice about what modules to use, to information about how to run a Drupal shop. By sticking around for the social events, you get more opportunities to share and receive information, and get to know who's who in the community.

Drupal Camp Road Trip

Drupal Camp Road Trip
We drove down from Montreal to attend Drupal Camp Boston, and there were lots of attendees in town from New York and all over New England. Drupal Camp is great for bringing the larger Drupal community together, and attending a Drupal Camp in a different city is a great bonding experience for any team of Drupalers.

Join us at Drupal Camp Montreal 2011

Drupal Camp Montreal Promo Materials
Finally, I have to give a plug for the camp I'm helping to organize this September. Drupal Camp Montreal will be held September 16-18th at McGill University. September is a great time to visit Montreal, and there will be some fantastic keynote speakers coming in for the occasion, so you don't want to miss it! There is also talk of organizing a multilingual code sprint in conjunction with the camp. The Drupal Camp Montreal website will be updated soon, and you can also follow the Montreal Drupal Community on Twitter for updates.