126: Getting the most out of a code sprint - DrupalSouth shows us how

The DrupalSouth code sprint was a huge success and a standout feature of an already excellent conference. I put this down to some ingenuity and some great preparation. I interrupted two of the people who made it all happen, Dan "dman" Morrison and Heike "HeikeT" Theis from Wellington, New Zealand, to get to know them better and talk about how they put together the code sprint at DrupalSouth.

Live from the DrupalSouth Code Sprint!

How to prepare a model code sprint

If you've been to many of these events, you'll have seen how getting everyone up to speed at a sprint, who is doing what, and so on can end up eating a lot of time and productivity. I am not talking about mentoring time and helping new contributors – that is very productive! I'm talking about how the DrupalSouth team was able to eliminate a lot of friction by planning and informing participants at a high level of detail and then add structure and motivation to the mix.

Plan in detail with clear instructions and information:

  • When/Where
  • What to expect
  • What to bring
  • How to prepare
  • How to help
  • Whom to contact for help

Really, go check out the announcement page, the fantastic level of thought and detail, plus all the useful Drupal Ladder and other helpful links. Now copy it and paste it into your code sprint page as you are preparing :-)

Add structure and motivation

So far, so good. Now make your code sprint awesome: Dan and Heike can up with a set of actionable, bite-sized code sprint tasks (and bonus tasks) across 5 areas of contribution to Drupal 8. Anyone who completed the tasks for a given area was given a nice tag to add to their conference badge ... they also made a difference to Drupal 8, and got props from the rest of the conference all weekend. I saw more than one person sporting multiple badges being congratulated on Saturday and Sunday.

The contribution areas and tasks were split out into these categories. Check out the full list of code sprint tasks on the DrupalSouth site!

  • Community Contributor
  • Developer
  • Builder
  • Tester
  • Patcher

The concrete, doable tasks, combined with the clear preparation instructions allowed people to arrive and get stuff done, feel useful, and be productive right out of the gate. Dan explains the problems that this structure helps fix: "I've been a [code sprint] mentor at a few previous DrupalCons. My experience had been that you get a big number of beginners who just want to join in and they get told, 'Here's an issue in Drupal core that's been open for 3 months, please patch it. They are people who haven't got the latest version of Drupal on their laptops. Some of them haven't even installed it locally before, so I saw this big gulf between what we want our core contributors to do in the code sprints ... yes, we'd like to close issues, we'd like to do patches ... and what these people thought they were going to do. I've seen faces drop when they realize that we're talking about Drupal N+1. These are people who are involved with Drupal, who are using it on a day to day basis. They're site builders, they've now just taken the step to get involved with the community. They've got a Drupal 7 site and we're talking about Drupal 8 ... We're talking two years in the future."

Heike continues: "We are trying to bridge the gap to get people onto the [Drupal] Ladder. We pick them up when they arrive and we introduce them to those tasks and then we basically pass them on. However, most of these things are actually a good point to then go to the Ladder and continue."

All of the materials are backed up by more documentation on the DrupalSouth website, which includes links to the Drupal Ladder. There is also healthy overlap between this set of tasks and the Drupal Ladder, "but it's our job to make it a little more in your face with a physical piece of paper; there's something you can point at. People are actually leaning over the table and looking at the thing together when they're doing the collaboration instead of each looking at their own laptop," explains Dan.

Heike sees one more benefit: "This bridged the 'I am on Drupal 7' gap. Now they're telling me to get Drupal 8 on my machine and get it running. I saw quite a few people who are there now and see it."

Download, remix, share!

Here are copies (including links to all original resources) of the DrupalSouth:

The DrupalSouth team was also kind enough to prepare copies of their sprint cards and badges to share with everyone! Click these links to see the files. Download them as .svg files to edit and remix for your next sprint!

Simplytest.me shout out!

"Simplytest.me enabled us to get people moving a lot faster; people who weren't able to do the whole Git/patch/IDE thing were still able to contribute to half of our tasks by warming up a full instance through simplytest.me and running a patch. They can take a screen shot without running Drupal 8 locally; they can apply a patch and confirm whether the problem still exists. That meant we were able to have a wider range of tasks. They could do it with the iPad. It was great."