Code of Honor: Musings from DrupalCon Global 2020

July 28, 2020


Drupal is a free, open-source web content management solution, providing a back-end framework for nearly 3% of all websites worldwide. It’s the most flexible general purpose Content Management System on the market today and enables Clarity Innovations to provide a cost effective and adaptable platform for our clients. Concurrently, as an open-source framework, contributing code enables Clarity Innovations to add to Drupal’s ongoing development and help ensure that it remains the most adaptable general purpose solution available.

While Open Source requires a contribution of code to remain sustainable, it also requires financial support. So when the pandemic halted North America’s DrupalCon— an annual conference where the Drupal Community meets and exchanges information—the Drupal Association was hit hard by the potential loss of its largest source of revenue. This is one of the many reasons that the Clarity Innovations Engineering Team felt called to attend the first all-virtual DrupalCon—DrupalCon Global: The Open Source Digital Experience Conference—held from July 14th through the 17th. Here are some take-ways from the team.

First Time. Lasting Impression.

This was Technical Producer Allison Parker’s first DrupalCon experience. And, as a result, her expectations going in were a bit nebulous.

“Being a non-developer, I was a little nervous that most of the sessions would be over my head,” Allison says. “But I was surprised that there were so many sessions aimed at beginners. In fact, I ended up attending 17 sessions and have a list of six more that I want to go back and watch!  The most exciting thing I learned about was something called Layout Builder, which allows a site builder or content editor to create visual layouts without being stuck to a specific layout.”

Allison envisions using Layout Builder on Clarity projects that involve granting clients the ability to customize pages on their sites.  

Old Pro. Still Apropos.

Meanwhile, this was not Software Engineer Frank Anderson’s first rodeo when it comes to DrupalCon. Frank has been to every North American DrupalCon since 2012 and has even spoken at the last three conventions. He was inspired by this year’s “Driesnote” (a presentation given by Drupal project founder Dries Buytaert) where Dries made it clear he views Drupal as a Content Management System capable of feeding content into different sources.  

“DrupalCon always gives me many things to ‘Google’ afterwards, as well as a palette of tools to use.” Frank explains. “Clarity can then apply these to client projects when we are given the opportunity or when the solution fits the problem.”

Virtually Impressed

Clarity Engineering Manager Greg Watson has also been to a number of DrupalCons over the years, and was excited to participate in the first on-line DrupalCon in history.

“I was surprised at how proficiently most presenters handled the challenges of running their online sessions,” Greg says. “Yet aside from a few predictable glitches, people were very comfortable speaking to an unseen audience and task-switching between their prepared topics as well as finding and answering questions from the session chat messages.”

Despite the virtual format’s success, Greg admits that an online conference couldn’t replicate all of the positive aspects of a face-to-face conference, but—due to convenience and cost savings—he hopes that virtual DrupalCons continue in the future.

DrupalCon... Is... People!

For Software Engineer Simone Wood, the highlights of DrupalCons have typically been meeting people, opportunities to ask questions after sessions, and the immersion of an all-day conference. But Simone was surprised by how well the technology and the social aspects of DrupalCon worked this year, even in a remote context. 

“This year, the talks had a live chat side-bar, much like Instagram Live or Twitch,” Simone says. “And I loved that! It lended immediacy and person-to-person interaction to the sessions. I also really enjoyed learning more about the Live Caption Initiative Tool, which can be used when captioning a YouTube video or uploaded on past-event pages. Because the tool is free and open-source, I think it is a great resource for Clarity to use and contribute to when we can.”

To Protect and Serve

Technical Producer for Quality Assurance A.J. McGladdery—another DrupalCon first-timer—was similarly intrigued by the accessibility session and the ability to provide real-time transcriptions to spoken word media. He looks forward to working with Simone to utilize this technology to make Clarity’s video content more accessible. A.J. is also eager to explore the latest ways of protecting personal information and data for Clarity’s clients.

“I was impressed with the overall ethos of the open source community: striving to solve our modern world’s problems with the free exchange of software and ideas,” A.J. says. “I was surprised to see an entire community motivated by pro-social causes more so than profits."

UI and You

Lastly, Software Engineer Jeff Ong loaded up his sessions with a lot of UX/UI and functional design topics. He feels that he always walks away with a few interesting tools and concepts after attending DrupalCon sessions.

“I'm always struck by how Utopian DrupalCon sessions are: if only we all adopted this particular set of practices, every site would come in on-time and under budget and be a delight to use!” 

Though DrupalCon Global wasn’t the face-to-face celebration of all things open-source that we would have liked, the Drupal community really rallied together to make the virtual event both informative and interactive. Kudos to all of the conference organizers, especially given the challenges they faced. In whatever form it takes, Clarity looks forward to attending DrupalCon again next year!

At its core, DrupalCon is an open technology conference where Drupal advocates and aficionados convene to teach and learn from one another. In that spirit, whileDrupalCon content is currently gated for those who attended the virtual convention this year, session videos will be posted publicly on YouTube in early September. Thanks to Allison Parker, Frank Anderson, Greg Watson, Simone Wood, A.J. McGladdery, and Jeff Ong for their contributions.