Following up on last week's post regarding increasing DrupalCon's transparency, I would like to outline the evolution of the management of DrupalCon to help everyone understand how we got to our current position and where we are headed.

Before diving into these matters, I would like to recognize the very large list of community members who have been involved in the production and success of DrupalCon; every single one of them has left their imprint on this conference. You can find the exhaustive list of contributors on the respective conference sites; Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Vancouver, Barcelona, Boston, Szeged, Washington D.C, Paris, San Francisco, Copenhagen, Chicago, and London. A tiny fraction of these people include:

  • Bert Boerland
  • Dries Buytaert
  • Kieran Lal
  • Joeri Poesen
  • Gábor Hojtsy
  • Jen Lampton
  • Graeme Blackwood
  • Damien Tournoud
  • Eric Gundersen
  • Kristof Van Tomme
  • Heather James
  • Tiffany Farriss
  • George DeMet
  • Jeff Veit
  • Robert Costelo
  • Isabell Schulz
  • Ori Pekelman
  • Matt Cheney
  • Tim Millwood
  • Susan Macphee
  • Moshe Weitzman
  • Bonnie Bogle

...and of course, Cary Gordon, who has dedicated countless hours to improving the conference. There are many, many others. Every one of them has volunteered countless hours to painstakingly build the conference that we have today. If you bump into one of these people, thank them for their dedication to our community.

My Role

I (Jacob Redding) became officially involved with DrupalCon in late 2007 before the Boston conference. I had just been elected into the newly-created position of Events Manager on the Board of Drupal VZW. This was before the Association restructed from a working board to a policy board.

DrupalCon Chicago and DrupalCon London are the first two conferences that have directly fell under my area of responsiblity in my current role of Executive Director. In this capacity I have made changes to the management of the conference that I feel are in the best interest of the Drupal community. I have done this with the guidance and advice of both the Board and the General Assembly of Drupal VZW as well as the consultation of many of the people listed above. I can not take a smidgen of credit for the great conference that we have today; it truly is a team effort.

A little history

The first DrupalCon was held in October of 2005 at a small bar in Amsterdam; 40 people attended and from what I understand it was an awesome party.. and a great conference. In six years the conference has grown from 40 to over 3,000 attendees in North America and over 1,500 in Europe (have you bought your tickets yet?). A phenomenal growth pattern.

The Drupal Association, as a body of people and dedicated volunteers, has been at the center of the organization of these conferences. However, DrupalCon Copenhagen was the first conference that the Drupal Association organized; yes, the first. Before Copenhagen Drupal VZW had never formally organized a conference.

We have an absolutely amazing community that consists of highly dedicated individuals. In the past dedicated companies stepped up to host the conference. The Drupal Association merely granted these people with the "opportunity" to run the conference.

Here are a few examples:

  • DrupalCon Boston was ran by Drupal Productions, a subsidiary of Acquia,
  • DrupalCon Paris was ran by Drupal France et Francophonie and,
  • DrupalCon Szeged by a Drupal shop and travel agency in Hungary.

Although Drupal VZW owns the name of the conference and has always assisted the conference's organizer with the task of coping with such a huge task, the truth is that technically (and legally) speaking someone else ran the conference. As a volunteer-ran organization Drupal VZW simply didn't build a company to run the conference; it wasn't necessary as there were plenty of folks that wanted to run DrupalCon for the benefit of the community.

Let me emphasize this again; every conference, apart from Copenhagen, was ran outside of the legal jurisdiction of Drupal VZW and put on by an independent body. Yet these events turned out absolutely amazing; as of today, I am still stuned by this very fact.

Of course this couldn't last forever.

The seeds of change

As the conference grew the folks at the Drupal Association noticed several trends.

First, the conference was becoming expensive to put together, putting the burden of  financial liabilities on the local communities was unsustainable.

Second, the conference was draining a huge amount of work that was mainly taken care of by volunteers that, more often than we were comfortable with, ended up being burnt out. Unfortunately we have lost great community members due to burn out.

Finally, we needed to increase the lead times for organizing in order to handle our growth.

In 2008 in the small town of Szeged, Hungary the Board met to discuss the future of DrupalCon. Several options were considered including outsourcing the conference to a major technical conference company that you have heard of and the sublicensing of the conference to a management company you probably haven't heard of.

The board decided that, in the best interest of the community, DrupalCon would not be outsourced.

This decision was made to ensure that the community would retain full control of the conference and to maintain low ticket prices.

The seed was planted for the changes we are seeing today.

Keeping the flame alive

The number of hours required to put on DrupalCon is intimidating and I have watched numerous volunteers burn out through the process; once the conference is over, they simply refuse to work on another conference.

Running a DrupalCon is not worth the loss of valuable community members. Action was taken to stop this loss.

Step 1: Build a team

In the fall of 2008 the local community in Washington D.C. created a legal entity that eventually became DrupalCon, Inc, a U.S 501c3 non-profit. This process took nearly two years with tax exempt status granted in Fall of 2010. Like every conference before DrupalCon Inc. operated and continues to operate completely independent of Drupal VZW.

Despite this independence, DrupalCon Inc. is governed and managed by highly trusted members of the Drupal Community. Technically speaking DrupalCon is outsourced, but to a company with strong ties to the Drupal Community.

Note: DrupalCon Inc. has formally proposed to the General Assembly and Board of Drupal VZW a method to "merge" these two entities to better support the community and definitively clear up any confusion between the two entities. Currently DrupalCon Inc. and Drupal VZW partner on projects that support the mission of both non-profits. Working with legal counsel, these two entities have been researching how they can best work together.

Step 2: Governance

In the Fall of 2010, Drupal VZW recognized that its governance model was not optimal and initiated a long process to define a new governance structure. This process was completed in the summer of 2011 and is currently being implemented.

Note: DrupalCon Inc. has recognized that this governance model is in the best interest of the Drupal community and has requested to adopt it immediately.

Step 3: Stop the burnout

After DCI hired its first employees, I left my position at Drupal VZW to start working at DCI with a partnership agreement with VZW so that I could assist both organizations. Since taking this position I have made many changes to the organization of DrupalCon (with the guidance and mentorship of many of the people above) to build an organization that can put on a million dollar conference without losing community members due to burn out.

Event Manager and restructuring

We hired a full-time Events manager to run the conference. DrupalCon London will be the first conference ran by a full-time events manager. Of course, DrupalCon would not be the conference it is without a strong local community and as such the local team retains a huge amount of control and influence in the conference (Read more about the structure).

Website Development

Did you know that every DrupalCon website has been built from scratch?

Each local team rebuilt the conference site from the ground up, often putting in hundreds if not thousands of hours. Most of these hours were volunteered but some were paid.
This was not sustainable.

We took a three step approach to fix this:

One: An investment (cap-ex for the accountant types) was made into a single reusable conference architecture. An RFP was put out and a decision was made to invest in COD. DrupalCon Chicago used this architecture and it was again used for DrupalCon London reducing our website development costs by an order of magnitude; (Read this post for more information or attend the upcoming Town Hall for more details).

Two: A full-time technologist position was created at DCI to quickly build new conference websites using the COD architecture. This reduced the time for deployment, created consistency from conference to conference while also allowing us to handle data management in between our three conferences, and reduced the cost of building the website. As you can imagine the question of who gets paid to build the DrupalCon website can quickly become contentious so we eliminated this.

Three: A budget was allocated to each conference to add features or enhance the unique conference website. This budget is significantly less than the previous budgets and control over it is granted to trusted members of the local community to make enhancements as they see fit.

Why do we rebuild the website for each conference?
To Show Off!
   Yes, that's right. We rebuild and retheme a conference website for each conference to show off what Drupal can do. It is as simple as that.

Graphic Design work

Because DrupalCon is now being ran by a central entity the graphic design work has been restructured. The local team is given a budget to hire a graphic design firm and they have two choices. They may either hire individuals or they may hire a single firm to do all graphic design work. If a single design firm is selected that firm will receive a graphic design byline credit on the website and a flat stipend to cover a very small portion of their costs.

This allows us to control our costs while also granting full creativity to the local community.

What is the local community?

We feel that a local community is vital to the DrupalCon experience. To ensure that each conference retains a local flavor we seek out a group of dedicated folks in the region where DrupalCon will be held to direct and guide the conference. However, conference management is ultimately the sole responsibility of DCI.

The selection of this group of individuals is arbitrary and has no formal process although typically it follows the local leadership of the community groups as found on

There is also a group of dedicated volunteers that will persist from conference to conference, which we call the DrupalCon Global Team. Each conference website has a volunteer link for anyone that would like to get involved.

Reducing Conflicts of Interest

Reducing or removing the potential for conflicts of interest or appearances of conflicts of interest is very important to us. To this end adjustments were made in the early part of 2011.

Website and Graphics Design

Modifications to website development and graphics design contracts have reduced the contract values to amounts that allow us to grant control to the local community. The local community is granted control with a check (as in Checks and Balance) provided by the Events Manager and a predefined budget that is set equally across all conferences and approved by the board.

Project Management

Because DCI manages the production of the conference outsourcing project management has been reduced or eliminated. If project management is needed it will be selected according to the vendor selection process.

Vendor Selection

Due to the manner in which most conference venues work there is rarely a choice in the vendors. However, when DrupalCon is allowed to choose their vendor DCI will either open an RFP on their website or seek out a minimum of three proposals to be decided amongst. Depending on the dollar amount the proposal may either be selected by the Event Manager, the Executive Director, or require a board vote.

Dollar Thresholds

As a control DrupalCon operates under the following internal thresholds:

  • >= $75,000 and/or material amounts always require board approval and may not be delegated
  • >= $30,000 requires board approval but may be delegated to staff
  • <= $10,000 can be delegated to staff to make decisions

Conflict of Interest Committee

The Board of Directors, Executive Director, or members of the Drupal Community may at anytime send a request to the Conflict of Interest Committee (COIC) for a ruling. The COIC is an independent body that is designed to look from the outside and make a recommendation on the actual or appearance of a conflict of interest. Although it is not required DrupalCon utilizes the same committee as Drupal VZW, this body is assembled of members of the Drupal Community.

This committee was created as a result of the restructuring of the governance of the Drupal Association, a process that was started in late 2010. 

Where will the next DrupalCon be held?

The timeless question. How the heck do we select the next location of DrupalCon?

Personally my process is as follows: I jump on my bike and ride until I find the mythical town of Shangrila. Once there I find a shaman, a chef, and a mother with her child. I ask for their advice and after receiving it I throw a dart at a map. Wham, DrupalCon City selected!

OK, perhaps that isn't the process. The reality is that city selection is a mix of a DrupalCon selection committee made of Drupal community members, board involvement, and the advice of DrupalCon's Events Manager, Sponsor Wrangler, and Executive Director. We solicit community input, sponsor input and recommendations.

Currently the North America Selection Committee is looking for a location for DrupalCon 2013. European selections will begin soon, and we are already accepting suggestions for DrupalCon 2014. This is a community process no shamans or darts involved.

Let's be clear though. DrupalCon is always a financial risk and ultimately the decision lies solely in the hands of the board and staff of DrupalCon Inc.

Is the process a secret?

Yes, it is secret.


Unfortunately the world is not as fair and equitable as all of the great folks that we find in the Open Source world. Sadly we have found out the hard way that if vendors (ex. Hotels) know that we are bringing several thousand people to their town they will raise prices. We do not announce or go public with any of our city selections until after contracts have been negotiated and signed, this provides us with the leverage we need to work out the best price for the Drupal Community. 

Let's Wrap this up

Hosting DrupalCon is a ton of work and over the last six years the manner in which it has been held has seen a lot of change. Ultimately the folks working with Drupal VZW or DrupalCon Inc. are working in the best interest of the Drupal Community, this conference exists to support the Drupal community and to provide an educational experience around Drupal that is unparalled!

Wait, I'm confused about Drupal VZW and DrupalCon Inc.

Let's be very clear:

DrupalCon Inc. is an independent body that is not controlled, governed or managed by Drupal VZW.

This is inline with every single DrupalCon held before DrupalCon Inc. existed. DrupalCon VZW has only ran DrupalCon Copenhagen.

Now, this may be confusing and we agree. Since early this summer Drupal VZW and DrupalCon Inc. have been working with legal counsel to find the best process to clear up this confusion and work towards a single body that can support the Drupal community. A solution has been found and is currently being proposed to the General Assembly and Board of Drupal VZW.

The Drupal Community is an incredible mix of very dedicated individuals that have created one of the world's largest and most cohesive communities. The strength of the Drupal project lies in the strength of its community. The dedicated volunteers of  the General Assembly and Board members of Drupal VZW and DrupalCon Inc. have been working incredibly hard to find a solution to this confusion. These individuals have volunteered hundreds if not thousands hours of their personal time to build an organization that is solely for the benefit for the Drupal community.

The Elephant in the Room

Lately the dedication of the volunteers of DrupalCon has come under question and I find it unfortunate that a community member used the confusion between DrupalCon Inc. and Drupal VZW to advance his personal agenda. The board members of these two organizations are very aware of the potential for confusion and have been working with legal counsel to resolve this as fast as possible. I am disappointed that my personal and private emails were used without my permission, taken out of context, and used to launch an attack against a non-profit organization that was designed solely for the benefit of the Drupal Community. 

I am however very confident in the Drupal Community especially in the light of the support for DrupalCon and the Drupal Association. At the end of the day, we are all working together to acknowledge our problems and work towards a solution. This is what makes us one of the world's largest and strongest Open Source communities.

I and everyone volunteering with DrupalCon acknowledge that we have a long path to becoming a transparent organization but this process has already been ongoing for some time now. Read more about the mistakes made, lessons learned, and how we are all moving forward.

There is still a lot of work to be done. Stick around and grow with us!


Still have Questions?

Join the next Town Hall meeting today at 11am in Portland, Oregon and online


Alex UA’s picture

I really don't know how I'm even supposed to respond to items like this, and I really feel like this goes directly against the tone you attempted to strike in the post where I asked for the Conflict-of-Interest investigation/audit. I certainly made mistakes in how I approached bringing this up, but to dismiss my concerns as a "personal agenda", making this "personal" again, is really disappointing.
Lately the dedication of the volunteers of DrupalCon has come under question and I find it unfortunate that a community member used the confusion between DrupalCon Inc. and Drupal VZW to advance his personal agenda.
What "personal agenda" am I supposedly advancing? How is this in any way, shape, or form personally beneficial to me? It seems odd, to say the least, to accuse me of attempting to deceive, when none of the things you've disclosed over the past week were disclosed before I launched the site. Is demanding accountability and ethics on a board (or, as you claim, boards), or demanding that "laws of the land" be followed and our community's resources remain owned/controlled by the community, really a "personal agenda"?

WRT secrecy, you say:
We do not announce or go public with any of our city selections until after contracts have been negotiated and signed, this provides us with the leverage we need to work out the best price for the Drupal Community.
But why have all of the meeting minutes or votes been kept secret (until the selective disclosure of some of them after the launch of the audit site)?

Also, I think it's important to note that the e-mails on the site from you that I published were not sent to me (in all but one case), but leaked to me, and were e-mails that are part of the official debates and votes around DC SF and DC Chicago. If you feel that they were taken out of context, then by all means, open up fully and remove the doubts.

Alex UA’s picture

The Board minutes around the vote that led to the awarding of DrupalCon to SF and Chicago are from 2009-08-25. Cary's motion also authorized Jacob to create a "pass through" to help receive and disperse funds for the events. This org ended up becoming DrupalCon, Inc. Though DCI was not actually created as a pass through or supporting (c)3, I have no idea whether that change was ever brought back to the full board or the DA General Assembly.

I also don't understand the claim that the DA doesn't control DrupalCon, as far as I know this still stands:
...Cary agreed that things like signing contracts like GroundSwell and conference venues can and should require Board authorization...

jredding’s picture


I will not refute you point by point. You began this debacle by publicly accusing individual board members by specifically mentioning them by name. You were granted access to discuss your issues with our lawyer wherein a resolution to these matters was outlined to you, but in your impatience you unnecessarily agitated a course of action that was already in progress. I find your actions regrettable and they will not be tolerated. As stewards of the Drupal Association we take allegations seriously and will do everything we can to defend and protect the assets that were painstakingly built by the Drupal Community.

With that said you are a valued member of this community and I do want to see us get past this. We have created an open forum and a conflict of interest committee that will accept private requests related to potential conflicts of interest so that this situation can be avoided in the future. Debates such as this are harmful to our community particularly when we break the trust between each other and the community. 

Finally, whether an email is leaked, accidentally sent, or printed out and left on your door step it does not justify your actions. You informed me that you were in possession of private messages that I had written and I explicitly asked you to respect the privacy of the mailing list they were originally written for.  It is important that as a community we respect the privacy of others. You ignored my request and used my comments as part of the justification for your attack. This was disrespectful to me and a violation of my trust.


Alex UA’s picture

With that said you are a valued member of this community and I do want to see us get past this. We have created an open forum and a conflict of interest committee that will accept private requests related to potential conflicts of interest so that this situation can be avoided in the future. Debates such as this are harmful to our community particularly when we break the trust between each other and the community.
Thanks you. I want to get past this too, and I agree that debates like this in public are not necessarily helpful, so long as they are not completely private (I should be able to give others in the community access to view and comment on my complaint). However, I do want to point out that I asked for the COI (which I'm still not sure you feel applies to the actions of the DA Board) back on March 3rd, as well as the procedures for reporting a COI. Notice all the responses I received?

WRT emails- we'll have to agree to disagree. Given that those e-mails were 1) the motion mentioned in the referred to minutes (and thus *should* be public) and another where a conflict-of-interest is admitted to in an "official" email channel, I think they are completely fair game to publish. The third e-mail maybe should not have been published- and I'll unpublish it if I bring the site back online.

And WRT lawyers- your lawyer is paid to defend you, and is not an impartial party to this at all (far from it considering she filed the paperwork, or didn't file in the case of the State of CA). With that said, I sent you an e-mail (which I'm happy to publish) asking you to confirm that her solution was actually the path you were taking, namely, the Board Members I had brought my complaint in private against were no longer in a position of power wrt DCI/DrupalCon. Not only was that e-mail not responded to, but you told me something very different in person (that you were looking for a way to "reconcile" these boards under one roof), and it's been made very clear that there was no real intention of separating the operations of the "2" boards. This was confirmed by Nedjo (assuming he has the correct info- afaik, DCI does what it wants in complete secrecy), who let out that when you stepped down as treasurer of both orgs, Tiffany became treasurer of both. Also, the DCI staff were only recently moved off of the DA staff page, yet they still continue to represent themselves as part of the DA, so I still don't think that claiming that the DA doesn't control DCI is correct (and I'd like to see proof to the contrary other than a piece of paper work, if it exists).