2013: DrupalCon Portland Session Notes & Thoughts

DrupalCon 2013: Summing it all up…

It’s always hard to judge DrupalCon’s effectiveness, mainly because I am always confused as to how im measuring it.

  • Did I enjoy meeting up with new and old colleagues? Absolutely.
  • Were the sessions amazing? Not enough of them were.
  • Were the BOFs amazing? They would have been better if the more popular ones were in bigger rooms (EDU, Aegir)
  • Did I enjoy DrupalCon itself? Ask again later.


The Good:

  • EDU Unconsortium
    • I’m hopefully going to be able to help with the new attempt to provide a central place for all Educational Drupal users – http://edudu.org
    • It’s an idea started by colleagues at Stanford, UC Davis, and UC Berkeley.. and now a few of us are going to lend some time to help get it off the ground (and to continue making it a useful resource)
    • I’m putting this in the “Good” category, because it’s always good to hear what challenges or successes are happening at other institutions, no matter the size.
    • The take away from all educational-centric sessions, is that NC State remains in the dark ages in terms of brand consistency. It actually emitted open laughing from the audience in 3 different sessions when the premise of a University not attempting to implement a single, unified web brand/presence was mentioned.
    • It took several conversations and explanations about how NC State is “decentralized” for colleagues to understand why there is seemingly no push from the top to standardize on a platform, or at least a single look and feel.
  • Aegir BOF
    • @theanarcat— one of the creators/core maintainers of the Aegir project attended, and graciously spent time answering questions and discussing things with us.
    • Aegir should be the gold standard if any one is running a Hosted Drupal Service, and yet some people dont even know about it (see “The Bad” section below for more on this).
  • New tools that i didn’t know about
  • Helping colleagues
    • For the first time, i was able to share a lot with my colleagues (both old friends and new) regarding the Hosted Drupal Service at NC State…. as well as more compartmental help regarding individual components (Aegir configuration, Views tips, Accessibility tips to name a few).
    • I am glad im at the stage of being able to give back, rather than just being a taker of knowledge from others.

The Okay

  • BOFs
    • The amount of BOFs on offer were great, but they were all set up through the Unconference “White Board” method… meaning that the board filled up half way through the 2nd day… and who knows what other topics didn’t see the light of day.
  • The Keynote
    • Dries started out by saying we “need to do good” with our time, and our usage of Drupal. IE: to help people, to advance opportunity, to embrace the open-source way of doing things. And i totally agreed, and was on board.
    • But, then he proceeded to inextricably link his perception of “success” of Drupal with the number of websites using it. I think that a better product will drive more adoption of the product, whereas the drive from Acquia (the business-arm of Drupal, run by Dries) seems to be “lets just get everyone in the world to use Drupal and then everything will be peachy.
    • If they fix the editor experience (which is on the cards for Drupal 8), then i think there’s a chance Drupal may become a more attractive option for those people (including me) who use WordPress for more simple blog-ish sites. Hell, this post is on a wordpress blog… because it takes less to maintain than a Drupal site if all im doing is blogging.

The Bad

  • The conference website
    • Why didn’t they just use COD (http://drupal.org/project/cod)?
    • What the crap was the scrolling table thing for the schedule, that was almost unusable on a mobile device?
    • Why should i have to use an app made by a 3rd party just to navigate to which sessions i want to attend.
  • The black-listing of Aegir-related sessions
    • As i said above, Aegir should be the gold standard for managing large drupal environments….. but not everyone knows about it.
    • Aegir sessions were NOTICEABLY absent from the schedule. None were approved. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
    • All we got was a BOF that almost didn’t make it on the board. And whereas the BOF was great, it should have been more. It should have been a session in its own right, maybe even a panel, in a huge room that im sure would have been packed.
    • Why is it seemingly blacklisted? Because Aegir represents a way for people to manage large scale services themselves, and therefore would not require the help from the sponsors of DrupalCon. And that’s what is disappointing: the slow creep towards Drupal being a wholly owned and operated system for businesses to make money from, rather than a true open source collaborative community. Acquia has the right to make money from Drupal just like any of us do… but the lines are becoming blurred between Drupal the open source software, and Drupal the business (aka Acquia/New Media/Pantheon/Commerce Guys/the list goes on)

Wrap it up

  • It was worth attending. That’s for sure. But more now than 4 years ago…. the sessions at DrupalCon are becoming less important for me.
  • Sure, the people are the best thing about attending a conference, but you at least expect sessions that drive conversation, or enquiry, or collaboration. DrupalCon Portland didn’t do that for me, but hopefully im in the minority.
  • The next DrupalCon is in Austin. In June. Wow, that’s going to be hot. Not hawt, like awesome dude!…. but hot as in melt your face off hot. And of course im looking forward to it.


Very rudimentary notes that i took in some of the sessions are in this Google Doc: