Experiences and thoughts from my first Drupalcon.
If you come to the convention early to register and you stumble into the prenote at 8:00 AM because it's the first event of the day you might be surprised. The pre-note was a zany 45 minutes of popular culture songs mixed with as many Drupal community references as possible with some comical costumes. It was well put together and 'seriously' goofy. I shows the lighter side of the community and is a jolt to start the conference. See for yourself!
It opened with a speaker from the Drupal Association in a very professional but relaxed tone emphasizing the project organization and community which lead into Dries' speech covering the state of the project and goals. It's what you would expect from a keynote speech and while it contained a lot of information I found a lot familiar from following the community podcasts: Talking Drupal, DrupalEasy, Lullabot Podcast, and Mediacurrent Dropcast. The consistent message was reassuring that you could be active in the community on a day to day basis in the trenches or farther away looking at the big picture and still be facing the same direction.
Use cases can sometimes be very generic and shallow but jmullikin and tobby did a great job at explaining the architectural and technology of a large scale Drupal site. They walked through each layer of the technology stack from the back-end design choices, to content editor interactions with the site, to front end rendering. It was also an honest view of showing how they leveraged Drupal as a content management system doing what it does best while off-loading storage, caching, and integration of different content at the client using appropriate technologies and well worth the time.
This was proving to be a very useful and well structured talk as did all the other people standing along the walls and sitting in the isles of the session room. Unfortunately the firemarshall decided it was a safety violation and those without seats, like me, were asked to leave. The speaker, kccmcck was kind enough to give up her lunch hour and hold the talk again again during the lunch period so those who were asked to leave could still participate. Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend and will be checking back to see when the recording of the session is posted online.
Prestonso set out to give a hands-on start to finish example using Drupal as a JSON datastore for Angular 2. It's a very modern use demonstrating Drupal's flexibility to be a solid content management system for serving up content to a variety of clients; browsers, mobile browsers, and mobile apps.
Cmoscoe presented an interesting and rather case study of using machine learning to provide user recommendations based on image recognition services. It's a bleeding edge field but his example was relatable and demonstrated how his team found a solution while sharing the lessons learned along the way. Though it wasn't a technical the information was solid and beneficial to anyone looking for solutions to client problems.
rlnorthcutt gave one of the best Acquia sponsored technical talks all day. He walked through creating a custom entity in Drupal 8 in such a way that drush and Drupal console did a lot of the framework while borrowing code from different sections of core in such a way that the audience didn't get lost in the detail or miss the detail. He took, what seems to be a more advanced Drupal developer concept in a way that is much cleared than a simple written tutorial. His use of copying and pasting code snippets from the slide deck into the example code helped the audience visualize and understand the key aspects in his demonstration. It was a great session to have before heading out of the conference because it left you with the encouragement to try something new for youself AND feeling empowered to do it.
Ashleigh Thevenet gave a very professional and informational session on project estimation by sharing a technique to provide a balance between managing customer expectations, budget constraints, and project goals. When the customer understands an estimate without discovery and clear specifications can't be properly estimated it becomes possible to introduce a leading first bid for approximation purposes and then deliver meaningful results through billable time by helping refine the scope of the project, wire frames, and required features. The customer is constantly getting value for their investment and in control of how their budget is being spent on the project. As a developer who wears many hats it was refreshing to see sensible strategies to deliver value without over inflating estimates to cover the overhead of performing discovery and working with the customer to clearly formulate realistic project requirements.
Fabien Potencier gave a knowledgeable and tip-packed talk on twig in such a way that regardless of your understanding about twig development techniques you would learn something about what it can do, what it can do but you shouldn't do, or things to avoid for best performance. He was very passionate about using the right technique for the task at hand and demonstrating ways to make twig concisely readable.
I went to this session expecting to hear about 'View' modes but was surprised to see I had been neglecting and not properly using 'View modes'. Aimee Hannaford (Degnan) gave a VERY passionate (slightly eccentric?) session on 'view modes' and how they are everywhere and not properly used. She used some very meaningful examples and enforced good practices in a conversational and flowing manner. It's on my to-do list to re-watch this session before starting my next design layout.
Although this was a 'beginner' session and I'm familiar with CDN techniques used on existing projects it was refreshing to see what other problems clients are facing (and solving) with CDNs. Hooman Beheshti presented a very knowledgeable and frank discussion of technologies provided by CDNs and how measuring the quality of a CDN varies depending on the freshness of the CDN's cache (memory verses disk). Regardless of what web technology a project uses I walked away with new ideas to implement and consider next time I implement a CDN.
Things to Remember for Next Year
- Check the BoF (Birds of a Feather) board often throughout the conference. I didn't think I had anything to offer or gain from the BoF until I saw a past gathering that was of particular interest to me.
- If the session is important to you then get a seat - even if you don't feel like sitting. A few of the smaller rooms had limited attendance and participants were turned away due to maximum room occupancy restrictions.
Thanks to everyone who made my first Drupalcon possible. Up until this point I've attended attended DrupalCamp NJ and Drupaldelphia for a few years in a row and I have to say thanks to those involved in the regional events, while they weren't at the scale of Drupalcon they were every bit (if not better) than what I've seen at the North American conference.