The ESIP Drupal Working Group sponsored two ESIP members to attend the May 2016 Drupal Conference (DrupalCon) in New Orleans to help these members grow their Drupal skills, learn new technologies and expand their professional networks. Inigo San Gil of the International Long Term Ecological Research Network was one of the two members sponsored; he shares his DrupalCon experience below.

DrupalCon New Orleans is my sixth DrupalCon and I feel I’ve gained from many perspectives over time. A disclaimer, I love Drupal. Love in a mature way. The honeymoon and infatuation are now gone, but still love her, deeply and maturely. I hope some of you feel the same way. Drupal provides tons of ways for you to feel the love.

DrupalCons are a yearly meet up in North America, and are that rare and useful conference where you can refresh your knowledge, see where Drupal is going, meet new and old friends, revamp your wardrobe and give back to Drupal. The Drupal community and product moves fast enough to have something new to watch at each consecutive event. Sure, many things are similar and, well, there is one constant thing: Change. Brutal change. Innovations.

Over 3,000 attendees came to New Orleans to participate in DrupalCon, from all over the world. There was a substantial presence from India (perhaps fueled by recent DrupalCon Asia); Canada came in close second as point of origin.

It is official: Drupal 8 (DV8) is out (it was released on November 19, the birthday of Drupal founder Dries Buytaert). D8 is in its infancy. The contrib space (the modules you install) has to catch up, as do some critical features in core, such as the new migration system. A word on migration, this is shaping up as a full system, not just content, but structural features. I participated in the code sprint, and focused on the migration track, performing one.

D8 is built on a mix of hooks and classes. That is, D8 is fundamentally Object Oriented (OOP) but when you pop the trunk, you may see good old hooks implemented here and there. Feeling cozy? I am. The Drupal learning cliff is still there for some.

The Internet of Things and Drupal. Watch a session about Raspberry Pi and Drupal. Turn on your toaster as your car approaches your house. Ask Alexa (Amazon Echo) to turn your heater/cooler, or your ToTo as you close the door. Rumor has it Tesla not only runs their websites on Drupal, but also some of the on-board systems in their cars. See Dries’ keynote to learn more.

I heard D8 is slower—if you do not take some time to configure it correctly, which is no easy matter yet. Please do not charge a person who read about performance tuning for 10 minutes to deal with your tuning. Check vid for the afternoon session on Thursday if you are up to it. Oh, and then there is the BigPipe initiative. I first heard of it at the Barcelona DrupalCon from Wim Leers. Shortly after, BigPipe was included in core, right in the next minor version release. What it is? A huge gain in performance by virtue of prioritizing which parts of the pages are rendered first. That is, the page rendering is done in stages, asynchronously, but ensuring priorities. In some cases, results can dramatically alter the perception of how fast a page loads.

The classic Science on Drupal Birds of a Feather session was well attended. All participants took time to introduce themselves and explain why or how they use Drupal. There were familiar faces—I recognized about half of the folks in the room. During the free form, two topics were echoed throughout the corners of the room: Visualizations (D3 being the most commented on) and DOIs.

Interestingly, I heard several speakers leaning on “science says” as a way to back their insights and messages (sadly, with no specific references to the actual science). There is some respect toward science—friends rejoice and do not take it for granted.

There was a New Orleans style funeral for Drupal 6. Yes, music band, parade and the cops stopping the traffic so citizens had time to reflect and pay their respects. We all offered our best eulogies.

Burnout was a small but consistent theme. At least two regular session talks and a plenary discussed burnout. Amazee’s head of tech, Michael Schimd discussed techniques and solutions to deal with stress and to treat nicely your most needed muscle in our sport, our brain. I find myself doing all things he said (except ingesting ungodly amounts of water), and I felt connected to him and the simplicity and effectiveness of his talk.

Much harder to deal with was Dave Reid’s talk on burnout. It’s not that it was complex, more that seeing a friend hurt is never fun. The plenary on the second day was quite dramatic—all about what makes us humans special: our touchy feelings, experiences. But basically, the message is you think you know your audience, but maybe not. And also, you may be dismissing too easily those ‘edge case’ or rare visitors. Interesting, but an edge talk, I am afraid.

Socials are always abundant and special, and are a critical part of the conference that fuel the friendship of the Drupal community. And participation can pay off in unexpected ways. For example, on the first Tuesday social sponsored by our friends at Lingotek and Mediacurrent, I had an incredible surprise. I decided to wear the very cool Lingotek t-shirt to the event. Once I arrived at the Rusty Nail, two Lingotek leaders greeted me, and gave me an iPad on the account of being the first person wearing one of their t-shirts. How lucky is that? But what’s better is having the chance to meet new folks, discuss projects and share enthusiasm.

Come to the next DrupalCon! Baltimore will host the 2017 U.S. DrupalCon in April. Before that, DrupalCon stops by Dublin in September 2016.

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