DrupalCon 2010 : Day One

DrupalCon 2010 is my first Drupal Conference, and I believe the first one for someone in OIT at NC State. So there’s a lot riding on this trip….I mean….I’m going to learn all there is to know about Drupal, and then come back and solve web content publishing for NC State University…right? Maybe…probably not though.

What I’m looking forward to is learning best practices, and networking with other people who administer Drupal for larger organizations.

There’s something wierd about blogging about DrupalCon while using WordPress for the actual blog. But i guess that’s a good thing. I can figure out if there are easier ways of doing things, and if WordPress 3.0 will stack up to Drupal 7.

I’m taking my full notes on Google docs (not that anyone would be interested in reading those), and then formatting them for this blog. If you’re interested in full session notes, just let me know and i’ll be happy to share the Google Doc with you. I may end up just attaching it as a PDF or something to this post.

Google Doc with notes public here: http://bit.ly/cXV5L3

Session #1: Welcome to Drupal(con)

This was really helpful, because they did a great job of going over the basics, without being too dry. I am now confident that I (an by extension OIT) are further ahead than several attendees at the conference. We are already using most of the “standard extra modules” if you could call them that (Taxonomy, Views for example).

I’m most looking forward to learning about the new things coming in Drupal 7, which they gave a brief feature list for, but I didn’t have time to write it down. I’ll be in the Drupal 7 session tomorrow though, and that should give me more information.

They ended with the Drupal song, which is a little wierd…I’m not going to lie. But actually, I like the fact that these guys (and the community) are that passionate about Drupal that they’ll sing a wierd song in front of thousands of people (and even more watching online).

Usefulness: 10/10

Session #2: Accessibility in Drupal 6 and Drupal 7: Write accessible modules and themes

This was quite frustrating for me, because it really didn’t have anything to do with Drupal, other than passing comments. The title of the session was “Write accessible modules and themes” but more a more appropriate title would have been “learn about accessibility in general, and we’ll mention a couple of things about where you should put a “skip to content” link in your theme code.”

The presenter was very knowledgeable on the subject, but I guess i was hoping for more things I could walk away and do. The title of the the session lead me astray i guess.

Some guy asked if you wanted to make a site accessible, couldn’t you just output it to RSS. I’m guessing he got a lot more out of this session than I did.

Overall, it was just very generalized, and not specific to Drupal. I wanted more action items, more specifics for Accessibility in Drupal itself.

Usefulness: 2/10

Session 3 : Theming with Fusion: a new approach for layout and modular styles

This was a really good presentation, which left me wanting them to go on about it for another hour. They demonstrated the concept and the modules, but I really wanted them to show me how they got to that stage.

I didn’t take many notes, but their demo website and sandbox are pretty cool, and i’ll definitely be working on this a little more when i get back to the office.

It’s basically another layer of abstraction that will help the lifecycle of theming. Instead of having to create and maintain themes separately, and require css or coding knowledge to update them, Fusion and SkinR provide a method of managing everything through the Drupal Administration interface. This sounds like something that could be helpful when we start thinking about how to roll “official” themes and templates out to campus.

Usefulness: 10/10

Lunch: Westfield Mall

Nice to get outside and walk a little way. Easiest method to get there….turn left out of the Moscone Center, walk down Howard street until you get to to 5th, then take a right and walk a few blocks until Westfield Mall’s gold doors are right beside you (on the right). The food court is awesome down there (one level down from where you walk in). Too many choices, so definitely worth the 7 minute walk (maybe more, maybe less).

Keynote Speech: Dries Buytaert : The State of Drupal

Really was looking forward to this. It’s kind of like the equivalent of getting to see an Apple Conference Keynote given by Steve Jobs.

I think the part i liked the most was his honesty about the state of Drupal. He use statistics, and actually paid attention to them. The best quote/snippet from the speech (for me) was “WordPress has about 8.5% of top million sites. Only 2% of all drupal sites are in the top million. So let’s not fool ourselves in the issue queues about where or how important we are.”

The information about Drupal 7 was interesting too:

  • 6611 patches
  • 732 people contributed
  • more than 70 modules contributed to the core
  • due to increased code base, is now a little slower, but more scalable, and able to power bigger sites
  • 114 critical bugs left to fix
  • best case June release, worst case September (based on trend of bug fixes to time)

Drupal 7 will incorporate RDF concepts/features so that we can take advantage of the semantic web. Better searching. Better content sharing.

Microsoft is making Drupal available via their http://www.microsoft.com/web service. See http://www.microsoft.com/web/gallery/AcquiaDrupal.aspx for more information.

Session 4: Drupal 7: What you need to know

Hoping to hear more of the details about Drupal 7, I chose this session over the Aggregate and import with Feeds! session, which did have some interesting things in its description. This one was jam packed, and was yet another session that had an overflow room where people could watch the video/audio feed. Glad i got here early, with a seat, with a power outlet (battery prior to this was 42 minutes remaining).

This was really cool, and I took by far the most notes of any session yet.

Highlights for me:

  • jQueryUI and jQuery are now required/used for the core in D7
  • Admin Menu now implemented as a core module, and is also user configurable
  • Database abstraction layer implemented, so it now supports anything that talks PDO. This means SQLite, Oracle…anything that works with PDO
  • Image now a core field when you create content
  • CCK now implemented as core, and called “Fields.” This means that you can add fields to anything that can be identified by the system (ie: you “could” add fields to fields that you’ve added to fields that you’ve added to fields that you’ve added).
  • You can now update the core AND install/update modules via the web by using the URL of the module. This is similar to WordPress, so you never have to download, upload modules to do updates. Everything is through the UI, which is going to be an awesome change for anyone who manages Drupal sites with differing module sets.
  • New appearance panel with new base themes (Stark). No more table-based base themes…all CSS…only CSS.
  • Huge strides were made in accessibility for D7. New skip to content link by default in the base themes, but a lot of work has gone into making the admin panel accessible, as well as making it easier (or defaulted) for users to make accessible content on the site.

Usefulness: 10/10

Session 5: CCK Demystified

Wondering how much of this will be unnecessary when Drupal 7 comes along with CCK built-in.

This was a really good, well-paced talk where we went over the actual steps of installing the module (and then adding more later when he forgot about ones he needed for the demo), and then actually using CCK on a site.

It was easier than i originally thought, but the same rules and caveats apply: be careful, very very careful if you’re manipulating existing data. IE: don’t edit CCK fields when you’re already using them for live data on your site.

The good news is that CCK, being built into Drupal 7’s core, will be easy to upgrade to if you’re using CCK in Drupal 6. I spoke to the presenter briefly afterwards, and he said that there was nothing to wait or worry about, and that there’s no reason not to use CCK now in Drupal 6 (even if Drupal 7 i coming out in the next 6 months).

Usefulness: 8/10

Session 6: From Photoshop to Drupal Theme

This is (yet another) session that i was REALLY looking forward to. Nearly all the other people in attendance self-identified as “novice or intermediate” themers, which is where i identify myself as well. The presenters made sure to tell anyone who thinks they are an expert, that they’ll be very very bored, and to leave now. I like that. It means they were going to take us from start to finish, rather than assuming too much.

They did a really good job of breaking out each piece of the template, and some best practices, which i needed to hear.

What they did not do, is an actual process from PSD to theme, but that was okay. They didn’t have enough time to do that, but they did do a good job of stepping through the process bit by bit.

Usefulness: 7/10

Wrapping up Day One….

All in all, this was a really good first day. I snagged a Drupal tote bag, and a pack of cards for the Drupal Card game….yes….someone made a Drupal Card game. I enjoyed each session, getting something out of all of them, except for the accessibility one.

The number of people is a little overwhelming in between sessions though, as you are literally pushing past a couple of thousand people within 15 minutes to try to get to the bathroom/water cooler/power outlet.

This is the biggest DrupalCon ever, and it would have been even bigger if it wasn’t for the volcano problems stopping people from Europe getting here (a lot are reorganizing local DrupalCons to make up for not getting here).

Tomorrow should be just as good. I have a lot of sessions mapped out already, and, as usual, there are more than i can’t get to, because there’s not two of me.