DrupalCamp London 2017 - Sunday

This weekend I’ve been at the fifth DrupalCamp London - a gathering of 500 or so designers, developers and business owners using Drupal.

I blogged previously about the CxO day on Friday and day 2 on Saturday. Today was the final day!

We kicked off with Jeffrey “jam” McGuire, who’s work involves advising companies on the value that open source and contribution can bring.

This keynote presented a challenge to the audience: selling Drupal isn’t enough anymore. We need to provide value to businesses at a higher level.

There was much concern over whether Drupal 8 would make things “too hard” and alienate users with small sites. But those technical aspects aren’t really the problem. Increasingly, IT is becoming commoditised. Work that was previously high value is now much more readily available. WordPress, Squarespace and Shopify all provide a means to get a website online for no or very low cost. Medium and Facebook take things one step further - you can have an online presence without a website at all.

Jam referred to a TED talk by Simon Sinek on the what, how and why:

By focusing on the why at the center of this circle, we can begin to create more value for clients.

This idea is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and had some a discussions on in yesterday’s freelancers’ BoF. I’m keen to explore ways to diversify my Drupal offering to clients, perhaps with training, workshops or research.

After a coffee break, I heard Florian Lorétan speak on Elasticsearch. I don’t have any experience with this, but as a volunteer at DrupalCamp I was monitoring the room, and sometimes that means getting to hear talks that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought about going to.

Elasticsearch looked interesting - more widely used than Solr, and with a developer-friendly RESTful API. Florian showed an example of using it with Drupal’s serialization API to provide the search index with appropriate content.

ElasticSearch is new to me, and some of what was covered went over my head. But I’ve seen enough to pique my interest, particularly with regard to saved searches. I hope to play around with it more in future.

Next up was Mark Conroy on all too common scenario of a client signing off a Photoshop design, without considering real content or the variety of devices on which the site is browsed.

Mark’s most hated design tool is Photoshop, and his rant against it was a fun moment towards the end of the weekend. But it was good to have someone articulate the problem with using Photoshop for web design, and I found his explanation of how browsers and operating systems render fonts differently, and definition of a PSD as an approximation of how a website might look a helpful way I can in turn explain this to people.

Mark followed that up with an explanation of atomic design, and demonstrated using Pattern Lab with Drupal.

The weekend finished with a closing keynote by Danese Cooper. Danese has been involved with open source since 1999 and is currently chair of the Node.js foundation.

Danese gave a history of open source, and some of the pioneers of various projects - Larry Wall (Perl), Richard Stallman (GNU), Ian Murdock (Debian), Mitchell Baker (Mozilla) amongst others. People had to fight to get open source taken seriously, but now that they do, there is a new generation of developers who take that for granted. Many younger developers don’t know or care about the “open source vs free software” debate, for example.

Transparency is non-negotiable, however companies like to control things and people need to be reminded of that from time to time.

New recruits often don’t know when to push back, they expect code to always be transparent and aren’t aware of what rights they have because of open source. We need to stand up for things that we believe are wrong, both social (bullying etc), and technical - but be sure to support your argument.

I thought of the popularity of React at this point and it’s controversial licence.

We need to keep embracing the community, which is big in Drupal. It’s important to have a variety of people involved any open source project, and Danese referenced an article by Josh Berkus on how to destroy a community if we aren’t careful.

There are no “open source companies” per-se. Any for-profit company will always assess open source as a strategic move. But everyone needs to water the grass for projects to be sustainable, and companies must encouraged and given painless ways to financially support projects.

Ultimately, open source is about people.

To wrap up, I had a wonderful time at DrupalCamp London. It’s been the biggest DrupalCamp in the world (and it had the biggest cake).

A huge thanks to the speakers, sponsors, volunteers and core team that organised such a fantastic event!

See you next year for DrupalCamp London 2018?