DrupalCon Chicago FTW
This year, DrupalCon was hosted in Chicago, which isn't quite as warm as San Francisco, but was still an exciting place to be. About 3,000 Drupaler's took over the Sheraton hotel for a week. It was a bustle of activity, a frenzy of learning, and more business cards, literature, and stickers than I knew what to do with!
Between the core conversations, presentations, keynotes, and general networking, there were countless opportunities to learn about the many aspects of Drupal; from front-end development, coding, theming, and mobile Drupal development, to usability, accessibility, and search engine optimization (SEO).
- The keynote speeches always make me lean toward the future with much anticipation. Dries' speech in particular I found very interesting, just to see how far Drupal has come through the years. It really makes me appreciate all the work the community has done, and encourages me to better my own skills to give back more. In particular, Dries' quote about mobile development really caught my attention, "If we were to start Drupal from scratch, we would design for MOBILE FIRST and desktop experience second."
- Microsoft apologized for IE6 with an advertisement in the DrupalCon guide. I'd say it's too little too late, but thanks for trying fellas.
- The lunches at the Sheraton were pretty darn good, the dinner at the Field Museum party was excellent.
- The Drupalcon Chicago app for both iOS and Android was definitely a hit, and useful. Intially my gripe was that I couldn't mark which sessions I had signed up for, but that turned out to not be a huge hindrance as I found myself session jumping more than once. I sometimes switched to something more technical, with the intent of watching the more philisophical discussions Drupalcon sessions on archive.org later. The app also featured the ability to rate sessions right from your phone, which was handy.
- I got to meet Dries, the creator of Drupal, and the folks who made Drupal Gardens!
- There was a good variety of tracks to choose from, unfortunately there were many times when I wanted to be two places at once. :)
- I left my Nikon batteries at home. I was so sad, but at least I had my backup point-and-shoot. Check out some of the other attendee DrupalCon Chicago photos on Flickr.
- My laptop battery was put to the test due to lack of outlets ANYWHERE in the session rooms.
- The innanetz were sketchy, it was definitely hard for the Sheraton to compete with the awesomeness of the wi-fi in the Moscone Center last year.
- There was a good variety of tracks to choose from, unfortunately there were many times when I wanted to be two places at once. :(
My favorite sessions:
One of the most entertaining presentations was by King Morten. Beyond the hilarity though, he really had some good things to say about how theming could be improved. One of the challenges that themers face is the the ton of CSS files that Drupal core and contrib modules come with, so before you can start writing your own CSS, you have to overwrite others' CSS. Stop the madness!! Morten brought up many specific ways Drupal 7 deals with this problem, including the Mothership module, "Fix everything that's wrong." It will "modify the ton of css files that drupal core lays on top of you, quick & easy - so you can get to the job of writing css - instead of overwriting evertything again & again."
This session was all about how web designers need to be focusing on the mobile browsing experience, and how that can ultimately lead to better websites. It's about clearing out the clutter, and making sure that the top tasks that users are looking for are easy to find. After all, it won't be long until the number of users browsing the internet is higher than those using a computer. Overall it really changed my way of thinking, and opened my eyes to how important this is!
Design Thinking is "a discipline that uses the designer's sensibility and methods to match people's needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity." -TIm Brown of IDEO.
The key takeaways from Samantha's session are helpful to keep in mind:
Listen to your clients. Really listen. Designers should be in all meetings with stakeholders. Establish a common language, to make sure that the terms you are both using mean the same thing to both parties (hint: use examples!!) And most importantly, iterate rather than creating Frankencomps. Iteration via moodboards and style tiles eats way less budget than iterating full mockups.
As I watched Ryan's presentation I have to say that I was very excited to see how easy Drupal Commerce really looks. All of the finishing touches are still in the works, but as a whole e-commerce on Drupal has been made simpler to build on, easier to modify, which results in cleaner code and easier to use websites. One of the great things about commerce is that it doesn't try to do too much on it's own, but it leans on other contributed solutions like Rules and Views, which makes sense.
Always a favorite, Dmitri did a great job presenting and wowed the crowd with how much easier life can be with not only Drush, but with Drush Make, Features, and Profiler. If you haven't yet looked into these three Drupal modules, what are you waiting for?! Seriously take the time to learn about these and install them, and it will save you hours and hours down the road.
I have to say that after returning home and trying to use Features to roll out a handful of content types, CCK fields imagecache presets, views, panels, modules, and taxonomy terms, it did speed up the process but it wasn't foolproof. I still had to create the Taxonomy terms by hand, and clean up the panel, but overall it was a real time saver.
There were plenty of fantastic sessions all around, and a big thank you to Lullabot for throwing a great after-party / fashion-show. It was definitely a good time! Overall, DrupalCon Chicago can be summarized as a total success. I left with a happy tummy, a brain percolating with ideas and knowledge, and a whole lot of vinyl swag to decorate my Macbook. FTW.