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Drupalcon Sydney 2013 wrap

Posted at 20:48 on Wed, 13th February 2013 in drupal, travel.

The first Australian DrupalCon was held last week in Sydney for around 400 delegates. I had the privilege of attending (in the process loosing my DrupalCon virginity!) and wanted to share some notes on my favourite sessions, as well as dish up some opinions :)

Drupalcon Sydney logoI'm a techie by trade (in case it wasn't obvious), but decided to attend a range of different session topics in a bid to get better value out of the longish trip. It also couldn't hurt to bring some first hand knowledge back home for colleagues in other roles, that couldn't make it. So I went to sessions in a mix of Business, Case Study and Developer/Technical tracks.

You can't avoid the keynotes of course - Dries's Keynote impressed, inspired, motivated, and outlined the Drupal Projects ambitions. He started off by sharing some recent "big win" Drupal projects, like mta.info that remained online despite large amounts of traffic during Hurricane Sandy and Obama's wethepeople petition site for helping democracy in the US. He followed on from here by talking about some of the new exciting features in Drupal 8, and timelines for a stable release. Having Dries's keynote at the start of the conference really set the scene for the conference and reminded us all why it's a great project with good leadership. Anyway, onto the sessions:

Case Study: SCMP.com

Having done quite a bit of Drupal work for a local publisher over the years, I was interested to see the South China Morning Post.com case study by Josh Waihi. Josh was a keynote speaker back at DDU2011 Brisbane too, so he's pretty well respected in the Drupal world. Josh talked about some of the challenges of online publishing and ways, including the "pay wall" and a reward system, to help users to register and ultimately prompt a subscription. He also talked about the size of the project, the partners, the team, the project management style, effort, and provided some very interesting statistics on this all. It's incredible how big this project is: 800,000 nodes, with another 400-800 nodes added on a daily basis. Lots of panels, views, and custom code. It's very reassuring to see big sites like this get pulled off with Drupal, and local Australasia (NZ!) agencies involved too.

Site building: State of the nation in mapping

The State of the nation in mapping by Rik de Boer was another favourite. I hadn't messed around with Drupal mapping stuff for a long time, and wanted to catch up on things for a possible hobby project. Apparently Google Maps is not the way to do maps any more - it's basically too restrictive, complicated, and performs poorly. Openlayers also apparently has similar sorts of issues. Meet Leaflet JS! Checkout the leafletjs.com site for an explanation of what it's all about, as well as examples of the ease of use. But what's awesome is there are a bunch of Drupal Leaflet supported modules that let you build leaflet maps of things, quite easily, without a line of code. Rik talks about the what modules to use, their exact versions and performs a demonstration of the build. Definitely check it out if you have any plans for doing maps or presenting data in Drupal.

Business/Project Management: Applied Agile

Another session of interest was the Applied Agile for Drupal projects by Vesa Palmu of Wanderkraut. In the places I've worked, its often been a mix of different project management methodologies, and it's never been formalised. Perhaps there was some Agile involved in there, but Vesa helps to make it clear about what Agile really is, why it exists, and why it works well with Drupal and most software development projects. An interesting point he made, which I see all the time, but hadn't actually figured out, is something called the "Pareto Principle" when building Drupal solutions. It's also known as the 80/20 thing. In Drupal projects, usually 80% of the clients requirements can be provided with 20% of the effort, and its up to the business/client (and not the developer!) if the final 20% of requirements (usually polish) is required with the remaining 80% of the effort (or budget). I often forget this kind of thing, and just try to get all the clients requirements done and usually go over budget. He also provided some good practice ways of team structure and organisation. Definitely a must see for anyone building Drupal sites in a team of more than a few people.

Miscellaneous Development stuff

I didn't see much development specific sessions for Drupal 7, but there was a lot of good introductory stuff for new Drupal 8 features and core architecture changes. If you're interested in this kind of thing, see the "Symfony Components: A travel guide" and all the sessions for the "Core Conversations Summit".

Summary

It took the drupalcon team only a day or two after the conference to get all the drupalcon sessions up online, so don't take my word for it - check them all out here: http://sydney2013.drupal.org/program/schedule.

At the end of the conference, the organisers went through the success of the conference in terms of their costs (itemised!), their revenue, and their overall profit - which ultimately goes back into the Drupal Association. It seemed like a pretty well organised conference, with some very valuable sessions, and lots of opportunities to network. A big shout out to all those Drupalers that myself and travel buddy/colleague Sam Hassell, came across and made the conference an enjoyable one!

In a nutshell, you couldn't have asked for a better Drupal conference. Well done to the main organisers Owen Lansbury and Neil Kent, as well as the dozens of other speakers, volunteers, organisers, and sponsors involved. Bloody good job!