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DrupalSouth Wellington 2014

Posted at 14:35 on Sun, 23rd February 2014 in drupal, travel.

Some thoughts and notes taken away from the DrupalSouth Wellington conference between 14-16th February 2014.

Whenever these conferences come around, I always question if its worth the cost. This one was particularly difficult because it was in New Zealand, some 5000+km's away from Perth. Reminiscing on the value of last years Drupalcon Sydney and with some generous subsiding from my employer, I was fortunately able to attend. As per last time, I came back not just with new ideas, techniques and things to experiment with, but also feeling inspired and excited for Drupal!

Coding Sprint

Coding sprintThe Drupal 8.x coding sprint, business day (suits!) and PreviousNext training days kicked things off on the first day. I hadn't been to a coding sprint before and had heard great things about them, so I gave it a go. People of all experience levels are encouraged to attend as there are tasks and activities to suit all. Dman was curating things and had organised us with a hitlist of Drupal 8.x issue queue items to attack. I had a go at a few of these and then eventually got into some drupal 7 to 8 contrib conversion tasks with PreviousNext. I only started the process off for a smallish module but plan to come back to this at a later date. I hadn't previously done any Drupal 8 coding so this was a bit of a steep (but nevertheless fun) learning curve. One of the other things I ended up doing was chatting a lot to people with similar passions for Drupal and open source. Thanks to Paul, Brenda, Kent and Charles who shared a table with me.

The next 2 days of the conference were packed with sessions and keynotes. Below is a summary of some of my favourites. Video or audio recordings of some of these are likely to be on the drupalSouth website in the near future, otherwise, google around for the presentation slides, they're out there.

Everything you wanted to know about Drupal 8

By larowlan & kim.pepper from PreviousNext. These guys covered as much of the Drupal 8.x changes (from a programming perspective) as they could in 60 minutes - and they did a great job too. The OOP features, the dependency techniques, the 12 external components and 13 symfony2 components used, the new configuration system, the unified plugin system, the basics of theming and a status update of Drupal 8's progress. If you're a Drupal 7 developer now and haven't looked into Drupal 8 too much yet then checkout this session when its gets online or grab the session slides from the Previousnext website.

Keynote by Crell on 8.x features

Crell at drupalsouthEmma Jane's keynote (run prior to Crell's) raised some interesting questions about Drupal's direction and vision. It was good scheduling by the DrupalSouth organisers though, because Crell came out and talked about the Drupal community, it's progress, it's power and the awesome features of Drupal 8, reassuring most that the lack of an official vision was probably ok.

Crell is responsible for the WSCCI (Web Services and Context Core Initiative) initiative in Drupal 8, which is all about transforming Drupal from a "first-class CMS to a first-class REST server with a first-class CMS on top of it". This basically means that everything in Drupal is a response instead of just a page, so Drupal can serve up content or data to any kind of device or application, be it a mobile application, web kiosk, your internet enabled fridge, etc. The mobile user market is expected to grow 25 times in the next 5 years, which is why Drupal 8.x has gone in this direction. The WSCCI initiative is also about decreasing the hoop-jumping for programmers by implementing a "robust unified plugin mechanism" across all of Drupal. Read more about the WSCCI initiative on g.d.o/wscci.

Crell's keynote is also a good one to watch if you want to get up to speed on Drupal 8 as a whole (not just programmer specific like the PreviousNext presentation).

Can I TWIG It? Yes, You Can!

twig-logoMortendk shows us the 3rd party templating engine used for Drupal 8: Twig. I initially went into this session thinking I'd not learn much, given I had used a similar technology (php pear library smarty) in the past and knew why something other than php was great for templating. But to my surprise there was definitely a few good tips I had no clue about and here they are:

  • Pages are still built the same way with regions, nodes, fields, etc, it's just the templating that changes. The basics are that it's a lot easier to print variables (e.g. {{ somevariable }} ), loop through things with neat helper functions (e.g. loop.first, loop.count, loop.last), and more.
  • Child templates can alter parent templates if the parent templates have twig blocks setup (I still need to do a bit of reading on this)
  • Translations of text can be achieved with the trans tag (no more t()!)
  • If a variable is an array and is echo'ed, twig can work out what type of variable it is and print the necessary markup around all of the array values. e.g. the {{ attributes }} might be an array of the class or data-* attributes, but it all gets printed out nicely without messy template code (I still need to read up on this a bit more).
  • Similar to the devel_themer module (but better since it doesn't rape your machines cpu due to the massive JS overload), if you set "twig_default = true" in your settings.php, your markup will get populated with html comments containing the relative path and info for which template (twig) file was used to generate the markup - less guess work!
  • You can set "stylesheets-remove: system.theme.css" in your theme's info.yml file to tell Drupal not to include a system or module's css file.

You can grab slides here. One of the things mortendk puts a call out for is themes - we need to get Drupal 8 themes created before Drupal 8 comes out - this will help a lot with the uptake. I've certainly put it on my todo list, if not for mortendk, at least as an exercise to learn more Drupal 8 - now to find the time!

Form enhances function

By keyhitman (or Colin) - brings to light the importance of good frontend design and talked about some design theory. I'm a developer by trade and work with designers quite a lot, so I got a lot of value out of this session. Colin talks about design elements - lines, shapes, sizes, colour theory, page layouts, typography, and lots more.

Colin was a really good presenter, throwing in a few jokes and adapting his presentation off what the audience backgrounds were and their feedback.

Other sessions

The Maria DB Galera session by Daniel Black and Cross Browser testing with Selenium by Scott Whittaker were also very insightful sessions and recommended once they come online.


Outside Te papaThe city of Wellington was gorgeous too. There was barely any wind and no rain - just blue skies and a clean, pollution-free city. I'm told by people that February really is the best time to visit Wellington, so well done to Josh and the DrupalSouth team for the timing, venue and great conference.

Complaints? I think we can all agree DrupalSouth at the Te papa Museum in the heart of Wellington was pretty damn awesome. If I had to pick something out, I guess you could say another day of code sprints would have been nice and perhaps a free conference t-shirt would have been a nice bonus, but hey, we don't go to conferences for collecting apparel.

Well done to Josh and the DrupalSouth team for a great conference. Next year DrupalSouth will be heading to Melbourne, see you's then!