197: Easy scaling from brochure to massive hub with Drupal - Bart's Bash

David Bishop from NinetyOne Consulting and I sat down to chat at Drupal Camp Bristol 2015. Our conversation essentially covers three main topics:

  1. The sailing charity, Bart's Bash, invites you for a day out on the water in Barcelona harbor on September 20th! If you are coming to Barcelona for DrupalCon, come early. Contact David, who is kindly coordinating this and matching people with boats.
  2. Bart's Bash is an amazing charity in honor of a respected British Olympian, Andrew "Bart" Simpson, who died young in a tragic sailing accident. While organizing what they thought would be a small fundraising effort, the charity singlehandedly kicked off a new movement and inspired a new, international movement and community in sailing. More on this in the podcast audio!
  3. A great Drupal scalability and functionality story: David Bishop built the small, 2-page brochure site to support the initial funding effort and then ended up building it out to include mapping, community sign-ups and groups, real-time data-ingestion and -processing. In 2014, the site collected sign-ups and processed race data for 30,000 sailors in 17,000 boats from around the world - wow! More on this below ...
  4. Along the way, we talk about creating a new handicap system in international sailing and how Drupal got Bart's Bash into the Guinness Book of World Records. What a show!

Bart's Bash homepage at www.bartsbash.com

The path from zero to huge for BartsBash.com

When I asked him why he's stuck with Drupal as his technology of choice, David said, "It's a platform that I have not found any project I haven't been able to build on yet." The website for Bart's Bash is a case in point.

  • Build a one-page site for maybe 50 sailing clubs to honor Andrew Simpson and raise 10,000 pounds as part of their usual Sunday races (spoiler: they ended up collecting £366,391.95). In stead, within 2 weeks, 350 sailing clubs from around the world wanted to take part in the event.
  • Added maps - During the year the event was being organized, 750 sailing clubs ended up being involved on the day. Added the Openlayers Module to create maps of the participants around the world, "and that was a really easy thing to plug in."
  • Built participant sign-up and integrated JustGiving fundraising. Thousands of sign-ups pour in. "That was a big step. We built an online process for people to go through a six page sign-up where they gave us the information: what boat they were going to be sailing, they could sign up for a JustGiving fundraising page within the sign-up process. And the sign-ups started to come in. And we were starting to get the picture that this was going to be a busy and a popular site. As we got nearer the event, we passed a few thousand people signing up quite quickly."
  • Added user-created sailing club pages to site. Sliced and diced the data with Views to show how big the event was becoming. - "There were two strong community-engaging tools that we used. One was the ability to create this directory of all these sailing clubs, which didn't exist before we created it. Secondly, it was how we used Drupal and lots and lots of break-downs of Views to show lots of top tens of different bloat classes in different countries to show the volume of people signing up ... so that you could see this momentum.
  • Build handicapping and results calculation system in Drupal - Given that Bart's Bash was ostensibly a race, participants wanted to know know how they did. The organizers even created a new, international multi-class boats handicapping system, the "Bart Number", to make this happen. "In Drupal we had two challenges: One was collecting the results from all these sailing clubs. Sailing clubs traditionally work with CSV files. They were happy with that, but we realized on the day that actually asking 750 different teams to create a CSV file to one standard was problematic :-) ... They all uploaded their own data and we had to do some tweaking. Then I used Drupal and Drush and cron jobs and we built this little engine that crunched through and it validated that it had all the value it reuiquired and then it did the calculations. That was one of these great things. I'd never used Durpal as a data processing engine before and yet it stepped up to that challenge quite nicely. I was using things like the Watchdog logging mechanism to have a headless view on how it was getting on crunching the data. I could get real time performance information out of the system without having to impact it by writing to the database. We crunched all the results and we built what we called the 'Bash Board'. Because we knew what class of boat people were in, how far they'd sailed, and we knew how long they'd taken. We were able to measure the total distance sailed by everyone ... all 30,000 results that we'd received. We realized we had sailed twice around the world, putting all that together," 17,000 boats and 30,000 sailors.

David and Bart's Bash--"Now kind of a global brand in sailing"--are now building a set of online tools with Drupal to help sailing clubs do community outreach, market sailing to schools, organize courses, and so on. "Drupal again is coming back to enable the foundations that deliver on a global scale."

"Drupal has enabled a community totally unrelated to technology to do a networked event. And I think that we're on a tipping point where the technology is in the hand enough that we can now actually quite easily organize these global events. There were a handful of global events going on in the sporting world already; they have some very big sponsors behind them. And that's how classically they've needed to be organized. Whereas now, this was organized by lots of individual teams in their home location and the cost cost and requirements for doing it were very minimal, which is great."

Bart's Bash 2015 - join in! Come out on the water in Barcelona!

The organizers of Bart's Bash have extended a special invitation to any and all traveling to Barcelona for DrupalCon: "If you are going to DrupalCon Barcelona and are arriving early and fancy a taster of sailing on the Saturday before the conference kicks off then contact David, who is collecting interest. More details will be sent to those registered for the event who have also sent their information to David nearer the time."

Learn more about Bart's Bash

Guest dossier

Interview video