Making Knowledge Accessible: Kevin Thull on Drupal Recording Initiative

Empowering Drupal: Initiative to Make Drupal Talks Accessible to All
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Drupal has carved its niche as a powerful and versatile platform. To enhance the accessibility of Drupal-related knowledge and foster the sharing of expertise, the Drupal Recording Initiative, spearheaded by Kevin Thull, a Freelance Front End Developer at Blue Drop Shop, has taken centre stage.

The primary objective of the Drupal Recording Initiative1 is clear and concise: to facilitate the recording of Drupal and related talks at camps, summits, meetups, and other events beyond DrupalCon. Kevin Thull, the driving force behind this initiative, emphasizes making these recordings easy, turn-key, affordable, and readily available.

In a conversation with Kazima Abbas, sub-editor at TheDropTimes (TDT), Kevin Thull shared the inspiration behind the initiative's inception.

"When I was first learning Drupal via recorded talks found on Internet Archive, it became apparent that most local events were not recording their talks," 

Kevin explains. 

"So when I became an organizer for my own local camp (Drupalcamp Fox Valley, 2013), I used the knowledge I had gained from the company I worked for at the time to attempt my first go at recording talks on a budget. I learned that what works for recording a marketing talk does not work for a technical talk."

Kevin's determination to find a lightweight, low-cost, device-agnostic system to record talks led to the creation of the Drupal Recording Initiative. This initiative aims to fill a crucial gap by ensuring that valuable technical talks are recorded efficiently and available to a broader audience.

Kevin Thull speaking at a conference.

Over the years, Kevin Thull's recording efforts have yielded significant milestones, including winning the Aaron Winborn Award at DrupalCon Nashville in April 2018. His passion for recording Drupal-related content led to the capture of his 1000th video at Drupal Camp Asheville in July 2018. Moreover, the launch of Drupal.tv in January 2019 further expanded the initiative's reach. Kevin and his team notably recorded an impressive 100 out of 106 talks at DrupalCon Amsterdam in October 2019.

Elaborating on the roadmap for the initiative's goals, Kevin Thull stressed his primary focus on succession planning and he's redoubling efforts to mentor individuals through Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions at events and communication on Drupal Slack.

"My primary focus going forward is succession planning. I was on the road to burnout leading up to 2020, but that year was shaping up to launch the creation of several equipment hubs outside of North America. London in March 2020 was the first and, unfortunately, the last. Now that events are slowly ramping up again, I am redoubling my efforts at finding folks that I can mentor via BoF sessions at events and communication on Drupal Slack."

When asked about the technology and tools employed by the initiative to record and make Drupal-related talks available, Kevin highlighted two primary components: the Hauppauge PVR Rocket and the Zoom H2n audio recorder.

"The Rocket is a pass-through recording deviceHDMI in and outthat records a compressed video file directly to a USB thumb drive," 

Kevin explains. 

"Its intended use is for recording console gameplay. The Zoom audio recorder serves as a multidirectional microphone for the recording but also records to an SD card for redundancy. The rest of the setup is USB power and various cables, dongles, and digital media."

Kevin emphasizes the importance of simplicity and reliability in the recording setup, stating that adding unnecessary complexity can introduce potential points of failure.

Hauppauge PVR Rocket and the Zoom H2n audio recorder are the tools for the initiative.

Kevin Thull shared the challenges that spurred the formation of this initiative. He revealed that initially, camps were merely reimbursing his personal expenses, a situation that placed part of the tax liability on him individually. He meticulously tracked donations and expenses in a public Google sheet, but he yearned for a more official framework that could encompass open accounting practices and serve as a centralized repository for documentation and statistics related to the initiative.

Furthermore, Kevin came to a profound realizationthat as the sole driving force behind this initiative, he posed a significant limitation on its growth and availability.

"I also realized that, being only one person, I was also the limiting factor on growth and availability. So as this idea took on a life of its own, it felt important to put together a roadmap along with open accounting via our fiscal sponsor Midwest Open Source Alliance2 on Open Collective,3 documentation on GitHub,4 and a project page5 on Drupal.org."

Within the Drupal community, the Drupal Recording Initiative stands as a vital resource that goes beyond merely catering to knowledge-hungry individuals. It serves a dual purpose by creating opportunities for both learners and speakers.

"When I first started recording events, I was focused solely on the consumption of knowledge because that’s how I first started learning Drupal. And then I thought of it more from the attendee standpoint: if they wanted to attend more than one talk at the same time, they would be able to catch any they missed online."

But the impact of his work extended far beyond just attendees. Kevin recounted how he received heartfelt thanks from speakers whose careers were positively influenced by his recordings.

"It wasn’t until a speaker thanked me because I was helping their career by making it easier for them to include a list of their talks on their resume. Or that they were accepted to speak at DrupalCon because I recorded a version of their talk."

Furthermore, Kevin emphasized the importance of inclusivity, stating that the initiative removes barriers for individuals who might be uncomfortable attending events for any reason, thereby ensuring that knowledge is accessible to everyone.

Recording equipment cases and the badges of Drupal events, Kevin Thull has covered

Additionally, the initiative removes barriers for individuals who may not have the means or comfort to attend events in person. It democratizes access to knowledge and aligns with the open-source ethos of the Drupal community.

The Drupal Recording Initiative, under Kevin Thull's guidance, serves as a hub for accessibility and knowledge-sharing within the Drupal community. Through dedicated efforts, innovative approaches, and a steadfast commitment to open-source principles, this initiative makes Drupal-related talks readily accessible to a global audience, contributing to the growth and cohesion of the Drupal community on a global scale.

Disclaimer: The information provided about the interviewee has been gathered from publicly available resources. The responsibility for the responses shared in the interview solely rests with the featured individual.

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