Drupalcon Austin: Toads in Texas

Turns out that Toads migrate south in the summer. At first, we assumed this was some instinctual need to get as close to the sun as possible.

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Turns out that Toads migrate south in the summer. At first, we assumed this was some instinctual need to get as close to the sun as possible. But then we realized it was just the bright beacon of Drupalcon drawing us in. We must obey our master.

This summer’s Drupalcon had the largest turn out yet. Just one more indicator that the Drupal community is continuing to grow and thrive. Austin was a courteous host and conveniently built their convention center right in-between the Rainey Street and 6th Street food, booze, and libation stations.

Here were a few of this Toad’s take-aways:

  • Dries gave a fantastic keynote this year, with a thought provoking analogy to how the number of user steps involved in taking a photograph continues to be reduced as technological innovation provide ways to bypass the need for human interaction. This results in significantly more complicated cameras, but less time and effort on the part of the user. So what does this pattern look like when applied to the past, present, and future of the web and websites? Where does Drupal 8 fit into this? Time for us all to start figuring that out, but it's safe to assume that it will involve more complex inner workings, and a lot less clicking.
  • Drupal 8 still is not ready for prime time. Dries himself recommended that if you are embarking on a large Drupal project and do not have a core contributor on staff, then it's best to stick with Drupal 7 for the time being.
  • When it is ready; Drupal 8 is going to be ready to put on its suit and tie and strut into the enterprise. Promises of even greater extendability, scalability, and dare I say “headless” development are going to thrust Drupal into direct competition with many of the proprietary enterprise solutions.
  • Core needs contributors, and the current core contributors are getting a bit exhausted.
  • Dries hinted at Migrate being rolled into core in 8.1 and Media for 8.2.
  • Sam Boyer gave an inspiring talk on stomping out complexity. The thorough comparison of "simple" and "easy" and how they should apply to how we think and approach solutions should be required viewing by all serious Drupal developers and system architects of all flavors. I'll just leave this link here and you can come back and finish this post after you've finished viewing Sam's session (don't worry, I'll wait). STOMP COMPLEXITY
  • Dependency injection is a beautiful thing. It solves many problems and enables your applications to be more flexible and scalable. A room full of alpha-nerds repeatedly tried to derail the session to prove that they were smarter than dependency injection. They failed.
  • We need to be more mindful of how we name things semantically when plotting site architecture. The data structure of a site is the most important thing, as it will influence all future migrations. If a site is large and has many types of content, it is a good idea to use a fields document during planning to use as a naming roadmap. Later the site builder can use the fields document when setting up the content types, taxonomies, etc. It's easier to see poor naming or inconsistencies in a spreadsheet then after everything is spread throughout Drupal.
  • "Catching problems early and stopping them is cheaper than later, because you build around and in to the problems." - Jody Lynn
  • Metal Toad is not the only kid on the block doing AngularJS on top of Drupal, and the future of this combination looks optimistic. As we move to Drupal 8—which has an out of the box REST API—slapping a fat client app on the front-end is only going to get easier. I tip my hat to some of the fine work the Devs at Mediacurrent are doing with
  • Drupal and enterprise can be a two-way street. The more you reflect on Dries' keynote, the more it seems like getting Drupal into the enterprise is a no-brainer for survival of the community. I was surprised to see some community backlash to the idea of Drupal going all Don Draper and infiltrating walls with deep pockets, but there is no denying that Drupal 8 is going to be primed and ready for this task. Drupal is going to give businesses increased return on investment, reduced time to market, and break the bonds of vendor lock-in. On the flip side, the Drupal community is going to be able to mature and thrive once it can tap into a whole new classification of client. This will allow us to bypass the threat of doom (and/or gloom) if we as the community remain stagnant (as one may have derived from Dries' keynote).
  • Surprisingly enough, Metal Toad is not the only agency that has had difficulty applying agile to enterprise clients! Sweet, sweet validation! While scrum came from and excels within internal teams creating a product, it commonly faces issues when applied in an agency that is working with external clients to create projects. While many agile zealots will stand by their infallible scrum, the reality of the situation is that no matter how much we in the agency subscribe to the acclaimed manifesto, the client introduces a wildcard. The more enterprise the client, the more likely they are to subscribe to older methodologies such as waterfall. The key take-away I had was that we need to spend more time upfront evaluating where the client stakeholders and product owner fall in the agile vs. waterfall battlefield and then take the time and budget to properly train the client on how we would like the project to flow. You should always ask product (or "project") owners two questions: "Who do you need to get an approval from?" and "Can you commit to at least 10 hours a week?". If the answer to either of these questions are not favorable, the outlook for agile is suddenly less favorable.
  • When doing project discoveries we should always clearly outline requirements and establish goals & objectives as early as possible. We should question everything, even the clients goals. I also learned that my counterpart over at Phase2 is a darn good speaker. Well played, Jordan Hirsch.
  • Shameless Metal Toad promotion: our own Adam Edgerton gave a fantastic look into the growth of a Drupal agency from 10 employees to 35, and beyond. (I'll give you one guess what company he is talking about...)
  • Portland needs to up their coffee and donut game: we got lazy and Austin swooped in and one-upped us. This is unacceptable.

Thank you Austin, it was real.

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