This past Friday I attended Drupaldelphia, Philly’s annual Drupal meetup. The Drupal community is a network of open-source developers around the world, and regional meetups are a common way for the community to get together and talk about what’s up and coming in the world of Drupal development.
Held at Temple University’s Alter Hall, the event featured a keynote address by Earl ‘Merlinofchaos’ Miles, a major figure in the Drupal development community responsible for popular tools such as Views and Panels. Miles addressed the sold-out 300-person crowd about his own experiences working on Drupal, how the content management system has grown over the years, and where it’s heading.
After the keynote, we broke out into sessions. There were 5 blocks of sessions, and in each block there were 5 different sessions occurring simultaneously, giving attendees a total of 25 sessions to choose from. Sessions were structured for a variety of different experience levels (beginner – advanced) and roles (from developers to designers and business administrators). There was something for everyone, ranging from those who had just heard of Drupal and wanted to learn what sets it apart from other solutions to developers who have been working with Drupal for years and wanted to sharpen their skills.
My first session was on “Semantic Site Building,” run by the talented Jody Hamilton of local Drupal heavyweights Zivtech (who were also a sponsor of the event). Hamilton provided examples from her years of Drupal experience, talking about the best way to name and organize the many different pieces in a Drupal site, while also sharing stories from working with other people’s sites that she was brought in to “clean up.”
From there I headed back to the main room for “The Power of Views,” presented by Ted Bowman of Six Mile Tech. He specializes in custom Drupal training, and had a detailed Powerpoint presentation followed by a live example illustrating the key concepts that he went over. Views is a powerful way to create custom feeds and lists of different types of data in Drupal. For his presentation he demonstrated setting up a smart image gallery, but the concepts could be applied to a wide array of applications.
After a quick lunch and some gossip with my fellow attendees, I went into what ended up being my favorite presentation of the day: “Infrastructure Potpourri.” Amir Tahvildaran of The Math Forum at Drexel University covered a variety of different free tools that, when orchestrated together, greatly add to the development process. He touched upon version control before going into Selenium (a browser automation tool useful in testing), Hudson (a continuous integration server solution), Nagios (a system monitoring tool), Puppet (a configuration management tool), and finally Vagrant (for setting up virtual environments). Working together, these tools give any programmer a great deal of power and valuable time-saving efficiency. And while these tools will make any Drupal project easier, they are by no means Drupal specific and have applications for many kinds of web or software development.
Next up was “Deployment Strategies: Managing code, content, and configurations” again presented by Jody Hamilton and Howard Tyson of Zivtech. Tyson and Hamilton demonstrated several techniques they use at Zivtech for managing and deploying the sites they work on, and had some great recommendations for improving any team’s workflow. As they were filling in for the originally scheduled speaker who was unable to make it, their impromptu presentation was all that much more impressive.
I finished up my day with the session “Requirements & Drupal: Planning for Successful Projects,” by Jon Riekse and RJ Townsend. As a Business Analyst, Riekse’s presentation focused less on nuts-and-bolts and more on workflow and process, important considerations when planning a project. Townsend added his programming knowledge to balance the presentation and give the room all the important considerations they would need to successfully plan and execute a project.
Overall it was an exciting day of learning and networking. I spoke with developers who had traveled from New Jersey, New York City, and Washington DC to attend the event and swapped many great stories about our various experiences working on different types of projects. The community is certainly a diverse one, but we all have one thing in common: we all see a great deal of potential in Drupal and are excited as to where it’s going to take us! (as well as where we are going to take it…)