There is an unspoken annual ritual among most dedicated Drupal developers. Each winter, we begin to whisper to each other, “Are you going to DrupalCon?”, “Did you submit a session?”, “The submission deadline approaches…”, “I’m not sure, I’m not sure…”. As time passes, whispers get louder and we all flounder over our calendars and finances, planning everything months in advance.
As borders closed, hearts sank. Plans had been made, sessions accepted. I should have guessed, but virtualization of an event coordinated and attended by people who build the internet for a living was a huge success.
I was able to attend my first DrupalCon remotely with three other Taotians – Bree Benesh who is our VP of technology, Rolando Scott who is one of our tech managers, and Nick Wilde, who is not only a fellow tech lead but was also a presenter (of one of the most successful sessions with 180 attendees! Woo!).
In the wake of my experience, I was left feeling inspired, empowered and excited. Drupal is an open-source community, built upon the efforts of people who, for the most part, volunteer their time. Of course, there would be a powerful sense of community – it’s a critical part of the backbone that has lead to the CMS’s success.
There was no session topic on virtualization of a major global convention, but we all learned a great deal from attending. There was a lot of discussion about this – how it’s working, and how many people were able to participate despite health, distance, dependants, finances, scheduling so far ahead, or investment of time. The community as a whole really made the best of this situation. We realized how much more inclusive it was and saw how much value there was in this.
Sessions like Volunteer Led Strategies for Helping the Drupal Community impacted me deeply, as we viewed familiar challenges through the lens of tech and the Drupal Community. I went in thinking I would walk away a more knowledgeable developer, but I am left with a powerful motivation to be a better teammate, a more involved community member, and a braver collaborator.
During DrupalCon, topics of accessibility were popular. It was bittersweet to find that we do and strive for here at Taoti surpasses the technical level of what I caught in sessions. Knowing this and being passionate about accessibility, I’d love to present next year on our technical standards and processes! But I still walked away feeling like I’d levelled up – sessions like Trans Drupal: Designing with transgender users in mind and Designing for an Aging Population really open one’s eyes to how broad the topic of accessibility is, and how increasingly important it will be as we move forward.
Flexibility, Reusability and 3D Assets
On a more technical front, there is an increasing focus on flexibility and reusability – another hot topic here at Taoti. Our tech manager Rolando championed the topics covering this and decoupling Drupal. This means we still use the Drupal admin interface but paired with another framework on the front end (such as React or Vue). Why? Because you get all brawn of Drupal, none of the front end restrictions. It’s important to use the right tool for the job, and as the web evolves, we need to be flexible enough to evolve with it.
One of the most exciting sessions for me personally (because I love VR!) was the plainly named Government Summit. During the Web Components segment, presenters hooked us in with a demo of how the Smithsonian used Drupal to integrate and manage 3D content. I actually pitched a very simple version of this same idea in a proposal a few years ago to the Royal BC Museum, so it was especially exciting to see it come to life. The second half was a lightning speed but still very engaging training session of how to use web components that left attendees in a daze and drowning in open tabs for later.
What about Drupal 9?
Optimists and skeptics alike have been waiting for this day since we were told there would be a smooth upgrade path from Drupal 8. Let’s be honest; upgrades have not historically been the easiest thing. Good news – it seems this time really will be different. While there was a lot of talk about Drupal 9 and the changes we need to be aware of, there was a sense of trepidation-free excitement. Score one point for team optimism!
The topic was ubiquitous, but I really enjoyed expanding my back-end skills while simultaneously learning about Drupal 9 in the session Preparing Custom and Contributed Code for Drupal 9. And of course, now we get to talk about Drupal 10. If this interests you, be sure to watch Driesnote.
It’s barely been a week, and I am already planning for next year’s event. In the interim, I will happily work away on some accessibility module ideas and fill my teammates’ ears with all the ideas I now have.
So if you are looking for help from some inspired Drupalists, drop us a line! And if by chance you want a Drupal 9 website that has interactive SVGs, responsive image cropping and 3D assets, make sure you ask for me specifically!