June 4, 2013

DrupalCon PDX Favorite Picks

By Johanna Bates

We haven't posted in way too long because we've been busy building some cool new sites, including this responsive beauty: http://jewishsocialjustice.org (design by the talented Carey Otto). And then Michelle and I went to DrupalCon Portland.

I've been building and theming in Drupal since version 4.7 (whenever that was), but back then I was technology director at a small, statewide nonprofit. My org could only afford send me to one conference per year, and that was always my beloved NTEN NTC (a conference made awesome under the leadership of Holly Ross, the new E.D. of the Drupal Association). So this was my first DrupalCon. It was about 1000 people bigger than the NTC; I believe about 3500 people attended. With conferences over 1000 people or so, I've noticed a general trend toward a more corporate, less personal feel, and I definitely noticed that at DrupalCon as well. But there were lots of opportunities for personal connecting (BOFs and the hallway track), and I did get a lot out of my trip.

Being the front-end code person, and someone who's been loving SASS and responsive web design, there were lots of sessions for me. I learned some cool things and did get very excited about the big changes coming in Drupal 8, including the Twig templating engine. But I got more out of other parts of DrupalCon than I did out of the sessions. Here are my top four picks for my favorite parts of DrupalCon:

  1. Karen McGrane's Keynote: I loved this. It was about the web, content management, technology, and the future. It's worth your time if you want to watch it.
  2. Jonathan Snook's SMACSS Session: I had already read the book, and I loved it. It's a style guide for people who love CSS and have some form of OCD (like me). But it's not dogmatic and it's approachable and it makes my brain happy. Though it's a bit comical when SMACSS is paired with Drupal at the moment, since the "div soup" markup and CSS classes in Drupal are still hard to control and messy. But this session was also really about the future, and what we can do to make markup and CSS be cleaner and more modular in Drupal. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  3. Women in Drupal Reception, Diversity BoF, hallway track: As you'd expect, there were many, many straight white male developers at this conference (many of whom are great allies). But in these less formal events, I met many people who were not straight white male developers, and it was really inspiring to be in a rooms full of Drupalists who are a little bit more like me, and to hang out with them in the hallway. Thanks to Ashe Dryden for her diversity session and for helping make diversity conversations happen at DC.
  4. The Sprint: I almost skipped the sprint on the last day, but there was a chance Drupal Twig wouldn't make it into core, and people had told me how great the sprint can be. So I made myself go. I think there were 600 people there. It was great. I was in the Twig room. There were helpful people and mentors everywhere. There were lots of other sprint beginners like myself, other front-end coders and other types of Drupalists who had never rolled a patch. There were women visibly leading code initiatives. My mentor, Cottser, helped me learn to roll my first patch. I learned things, connected with people, and was there when Twig made it into core. I am so glad I went.

SUMMARY: What do these favorite things have in common? Some are notable because they are *not* about Drupal specifically, but about the web in general and its future. This is a very good sign. See this post about Drupal getting off its own dang island. The other things that excited me most are about the future of Drupal, and how it can be a better. I don't think any Drupal themer will tell you that the D7 theme layer is a joy to work with. Or even that it's reasonable. I've seen people burning out a bit on Drupal lately. But I came away convinced that many changes in D8—though they will require a bunch of new learning—are heading in the right direction and will help us build the web in a healthier way. I feel energized by that future. And hey, I love to learn, or I wouldn't be working in open source technology.

Next up: Erin and I will be attending Design4Drupal in Boston later this month. We will do our best to report back.

Photo credit: Michael Schmid