As my third DrupalCon approached, I was looking forward to it being my first as a Drupal professional. I had attended San Francisco and Chicago on my own while working at IBM simply because I knew eventually I wanted to make Drupal my career. After joining Mediacurrent in September, I completed that journey and now could truly see DrupalCon from the inside.
That’s not to say you have to be a Drupal professional to enjoy it, but it does give you a different perspective. While previous keynotes by Dries Buytaert were interesting and important, all of the sudden they take on new life when they impact your livelihood. Innovation was the key word for Dries’ talk. While the community keeps coming up as the biggest strength for Drupal, the weaknesses, or at least the solutions to them, are rooted in innovation.
The aging framework of Drupal is the most technical of the weaknesses and hence has the biggest technical change. By bringing in parts of Symfony to shore up the underpinnings of Drupal, the platform can be upgraded and the focus for Drupal developers can be on what Drupal does best. Dries also pointed out the rudimentary authoring experience as a key weakness. This also can be solved through innovation—let’s not only copy what works well but let’s improve the authoring experience. Finally, Dries continues the common call for a shortage of Drupal talent - which is an issue but not as big a one in my book as some others.
It is important to stop here and note what Dries has been able to continue to do. In entrepreneurial circles, pivoting is a common theme—if your business model isn’t working, pivot and head another direction. This isn’t saying that Drupal isn’t working, but it does need to continually innovate, or pivot, to grow and stay ahead of the current, and future, competition. As in Chicago, Dries reiterated the point that if he were to build Drupal today, it would be a mobile platform first with desktop being an afterthought. With the direction the market is heading, that seems like an obvious thought, but it’s not often that businesses are willing to pivot and, in the case of building on top of Symfony, start to give up control of pieces in order to stay ahead. It was inspiring to see that Dries is willing to keep Drupal at the forefront of the web experience world.
As always, there were good sessions and bountiful BoFs to attend. With this being my first time as a Drupal professional, I also got to meet a lot of great people doing really interesting things with Drupal by manning Mediacurrent’s booth for a couple of hours. One session I attended was on RFPs and how to get clients to change their RFP process. The biggest takeaway from this was that, while clients may rely on RFPs, there are ways to educate them to make the RFP process more useful. The one thing to avoid are open RFPs—if you must have an RFP process, make it a process where select vendors are invited to participate instead of involving every vendor willing to bid, whether they have the knowledge and/or experience to successfully complete the project or not.
Day two started with a keynote from Mitchell Baker of the Mozilla Foundation where she covered Open Source and Intrnet Freedom. The best part of the day was a Project Management BoF where 40+ project managers talked about anything from requirements to client expectations to testing. I hope that we're able to continue the discussion well after we leave Denver.
I look forward to the final days of DrupalCon (including the code sprint day on Friday) and the excellent guest keynote speaker that is lined up. Clay Shirky and Jared Spool were great to hear outside expertise on last year and I’m sure Luke Wroblewski will be just as good. There are also a couple (not as many as I'd like) good project management sessions to attend and old friends to catch up with. If you’re here at DrupalCon, be sure to stop by our booth (#418) and introduce yourself. I’d be glad to meet new Drupal friends.