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Charlotte Drupal Drive-In 2015

This past Saturday was the second annual Drupal Drive-in event in Charlotte, North Carolina. Somewhere between a camp and a meetup, the Drive-in was conceived as an informal and ad-hoc gathering by its organizers, Thomas Lattimore and Mark Shropshire. Instead of an approved schedule of sessions, we spent thirty minutes after a general introduction nominating topics and speakers for inclusion, and then deciding which should be more formal sessions and which could be break-out talks in one of the smaller conference rooms.

Almost fifty people were in attendance, and the facilities at Classic Graphics were perfect for our size. Five main sessions were chosen for the large room:

  • Front End Development Best Practices
  • BOA - Dev Ops with Barracuda, Octopus and Aegir
  • Backdrop CMS - A demonstration
  • Shell Devel - Vim, Tmux, Tmuxinator
  • Migrating Sites to Drupal (Migrate module / Feeds module)

I stayed and attended all five of the main sessions, and though I learned something in each of them I personally found the Backdrop and Shell Devel sessions especially interesting. I had never installed and tried out Backdrop before, so I followed along with the session and got my first local build of the Drupal forked CMS up and running. While I fully agree with Shropshire, who presented the session, that this type of fork is healthy and important for our community, I’m still a little ambivalent about the value of project as a whole.

Upon installing it, for example, one of the first things I noticed was that there was no WYSIWYG in core. Drupal 8 ships with CKEditor, so it seemed odd that Backdrop, a fork which claimed as one of its primary ambitions the improvement of user experience, was lacking this feature. When I raised the issue the response was that it is in the pipeline, and will be included soon, so that may well be a very temporary issue.

To its credit, the Panels-like layout system looks great, providing a lot of flexibility while also improving the somewhat confusing-at-first interface of the Panels module. The larger question remains though – as Drupal 8 moves forward to embrace modern PHP best practices and facilitates wider involvement with non-Drupal PHP developers, what kind of developers will Backdrop attract long term? It’s impossible to know now where the project will lead, but Shropshire’s session certainly made me more curious about the potential it may have.

The session on Shell Devel had a lot of crossover with a recent blog post by our own Bob Kepford, Efficient Drupal Development with Tmux and Tmuxinator. I rely on a regular multi-tabbed terminal and PHPStorm for my day to day development, but getting to see in person the multi-pane setup and cross project configurations that are possible with Tmux and Tmuxinator has me considering the switch. Three different speakers briefly showed us their setups as part of this session, and between them it was very clear just how personalized every aspect of such a setup can be.

One of the things I try to do at any camp I attend is to mentor someone interested in becoming a contributor, and this camp ended up being no exception. I spent the latter half of the lunch break helping a project manager, who had never used git before, to submit his first documentation patch to core Drupal 8. With a little more guidance during another session, he had already pumped out a second patch by day’s end!

Drupal Drive-in Charlotte 2015

Image courtesy of @CharDUG

Overall the Charlotte Drupal Drive-in was an excellent camp with an innovative structure that other small camps may benefit from considering. I learned a few things, and hopefully helped someone else learn a few things, which is what it’s all about. Thanks again to the organizers for the hospitality!

Additional Resources

Efficient Drupal Development with Tmux and Tmuxinator | Mediacurrent Blog Post
Dropcast, Episode 0 | Mediacurrent Podcast

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