DrupalCon Recap: Collaboration and Contribution

Drupal is the most flexible general purpose Content Management System on the market today—Open Source or not. Using Drupal enables us to provide a cost effective and flexible platform for our clients, while contributing to Drupal allows us to ensure it remains the most flexible general purpose Content Management System. As contributing to Drupal is the job of the Drupal Community, it’s essential that Drupal advocates and aficionados convene to teach and learn from each other. What better way to do that than at DrupalCon?

What is DrupalCon?

DrupalCon is a conference where the Drupal Community can meet each other and exchange information in real life. The North American DrupalCon bounces around the Continental US, yet DrupalCon also happens in Europe, Asia, and South America.

The conference spans multiple days starting with paid training. Throughout the week there are community contributed sessions,  a vendor exposition hall, and it all ends in community-driven project sprints.

Why go to DrupalCon?

At its core, DrupalCon is a technology conference, so a big part of going to DrupalCon is keeping up with the current trends in technology. These may not be just be specific to Drupal, but may feature trends within the php programming language and technology as a whole.

Besides having structured, focused sessions, simple hallway conversations are a great way to keep up with current trends. I missed quite a few session while hanging out in the halls talking to people, yet this isn't a source of stress because all of the DrupalCon sessions are posted to YouTube by the association. Additionally, much of their information can be learned from reading blog posts online, attending local DUGs (Drupal User Groups), or conversations on Drupal's IRC channels, but it's important to get fully immersed by congregating for a few days with community members that are not local. The point of attending the conference is the people, the networking, and those conversations in the hallway.

Open Source Contribution

A large part of getting together is working together. Much of the work on an open source project happens remotely. This is difficult with many core maintainers being spread all over the globe in different timezones. At DrupalCon, we have the remarkable ability to be in the same room. This allows for many opportunities for collaboration. Code sprints occur all week with Friday being reserved as a sprint day. There are no sessions or talks on Friday, leaving the whole day for contribution, typically in a room with round tables organized by topic: migration, twig, install-systems, etc. This is also a good place to work on contributed modules. While at the Baltimore DrupalCon, I wrote the Drupal 8 version of the Speedboxes module.

Exploring and getting familiar with Drupal 8

Any software project that is under active development will be a moving target, and as users of this software, it is important to stay on top of the latest versions. In an effort to do this, I submitted a session for Baltimore DrupalCon about exploring and evaluating Drupal 8 by re-architecting a Custom Learning Management System we had built for New Perspectives Online. By doing this session, I was able to both get more experience with a new product without having to learn on a high-stakes client project, and I also had the opportunity to share those experiences with others in the Drupal Community. Below is a video of my presentation.

Contribution isn't always about code. Contribution is possible regardless of skillset. Everything including bug reports, documentation, design, code, or even just attending DrupalCon is a worthwhile contribution.

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