In less than three months, thousands of Drupal users from across the globe will descend on Baltimore, Md. for DrupalCon, the largest gathering of Drupal community members in the world.
If you’ve never attended the conference before, you’ve been missing out. The weeklong event is one of the greatest opportunities to be exposed to Drupal best practices, learn about new modules and network with a collaborative community.
This year’s event, scheduled from April 24-28 at the Baltimore Convention Center, will be my seventh DrupalCon. If you’re interested in attending, there’s still time to register.
I first attended back in 2011, and what I discovered at that first event is what I still love most about DrupalCon: It’s a conference focused on solutions. Many of the sessions address specific problems that need to be solved, either within an organization, a community or the software itself. For example, there are sessions geared toward project managers to help them better understand how much effort is involved in a project in order to better estimate timing when they deal with a client
Simply put, what you learn at DrupalCon is very applicable to everyday life.
I always try to attend conference sessions spread across the Drupal environment — front-end, back-end, presentations on specific modules. This year’s DrupalCon features 12 distinct tracks that will enable attendees to pick and choose what resonates most to them, including:
- Being Human
- Coding and Development
- Core Conversations
- Front End
- Project Management
- Site Building
- User Experience and Content Strategy
The lineup of sessions looks great, but honestly, one of the aspects of DrupalCon I enjoy most are Birds of a Feather (BOF) sessions. BOFs are informal, ad hoc meetings to discuss a specific topic without a pre-planned agenda. BOFs tend to feature more intimate conversations due to the smaller number of participants, and they also are usually a lot more interactive than the scheduled conference sessions.
The conference sessions are also recorded, so it’s easy to go back and see what you missed.
One of the best BOFs I ever attended focused on Drupal performance in higher education, something we at Duo are actively focused on. It was a really informative conversation that centered on some of the larger platforms built out specifically for the higher ed community. Presenters talked about various techniques and strategies they implemented, as well as how they architected each part of a website to make sure it would perform well and scale.
I still find myself going back to lessons learned in that session to this day, which gets to another reason I think everyone involved in the community should go to DrupalCon. It’s good to be able to step away from your work for a few days and think about what you can do to better yourself and your workplace — that’s why nearly the entire Duo team attends. DrupalCon exposes you to new information and provides you with time to actually absorb what you learn. The day-to-day grind of client work often prevents that possibility from taking place.
Perhaps the most important reason to go to DrupalCon, though, is for the people you get to interact with. Drupal founder Dries Buytaert often speaks about making sure anyone can become a part of the Drupal community. He doesn’t want anything to block someone interested from becoming more involved. That ethos exists at DrupalCon, even if the majority of attendees are already deeply entwined within the Drupal network.
On the final day of the conference, for example, there are mentorship programs that enable anyone — even someone who has no programming experience — to receive guidance and advice from people with more Drupal knowledge. I think it’s good that we have that, because at the beginning, it can be difficult to navigate the Drupal waters.
I can’t stress enough how uniquely collaborative the Drupal community is. Our CEO Michael Silverman likes to tell the story of how at every DrupalCon, he and about 10 other consulting firm CEOs get together and discuss what aspects of Drupal work for them, what’s been challenging and how they can make Drupal better as a whole. “We’re less competitive and more cooperative,” he says.
When I’m at DrupalCon, one thing I like to do is have lunch with random attendees. I try to sit down with a few strangers each day and learn how they’re using Drupal, what they like and how it could be improved. It’s one of the most satisfying experiences of the event for me.
So, will I see you there?