Chris, Mike, Ron, Shane, Teddy and I spent last week at Drupalcon Austin. We learned a lot, and ate our fair share of Mexican food and BBQ. Following is a list of our key takeaways from the trip.
(1) Drupal 8 won’t be released until sometime in 2015. During a Q&A with Dries Buytaert and other key Drupal 8 contributors, they advised against using Drupal 8 if you have a project you need to ship in the next three to six months.
(2) In the same panel, it was mentioned that it took a year after Drupal 7 was released for the majority of contributed modules to get updated. The goal is to cut that time in half, to six months, for Drupal 8.
(3) When Drupal 7 was released, support for Drupal 5 was dropped immediately. Assuming funding allows, the plan is to perform critical security updates to Drupal 6 for one year after the release of Drupal 8. This is huge, as it will give the hundreds of thousands of sites run in Drupal 6 more time to make the transition.
(4) Drupal 8 will not support anything lower than Internet Explorer 9. This got a big cheer from the crowd. Drupalcon attendees are not big IE fans.
(5) 12% of the 100,000 most popular websites on the Internet are powered by Drupal.
(6) Paraphrasing Nica Lorber from her content session: “Clients underestimate the importance of content and won’t pay for it.” So true.
(7) Another tidbit from Nica: People read 20% slower online.
(8) Nica also made the point that flexibility is overrated when it comes to content. She recommends developing structures for content with clients and sticking to it: make decisions. I couldn’t agree more. On the web constraints actually help.
(9) If you want to see the bats emerge from the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, you’ll have to show a bit more patience than our Brick Factory team. We waited about 45 minutes before giving up on them.
(10) Ron heard a lot about Docker, the open source project that containerizes applications. He wrote: “Docker is really useful for managing and deploying applications and the software/libraries needed within the same or among different environments. Even the new Red Hat Enterprise version distribution that came out two days ago supports Docker.”
(11) Our front-end development team loved the “My Brain Is Full” session. Teddy wrote: “This session summed up how I view web development right now. Lots of technologies sprouting up at once that are difficult to keep track of, with the hope that these front end development processes will be streamlined over time.”
(12) The “Twig Playground” session was also popular with our team. Teddy again: “Morten DK was probably my favorite presenter because he did a good job of pinpointing aspects of Drupal theming that I don’t like and he cursed a lot. It seems that a lot of these issues will be gone once Drupal 8 comes around.” Shane: “Twig is a great addition in Drupal 8. This will make Drupal more secure, and it will also be more familiar to people who are switching from other platforms.”
(13) If you love music (vinyl in particular) and are in Austin, don’t miss Waterloo Records. Bring your wallet.
(14) Many of the Drupal firms we talked to have done a full embrace of Scrum, an agile software development framework. For many this has simply become how they do their work. I’m a bit skeptical of whether this will work for us across the board. I tend to think that the right methodology can change from project to project. From my conversations, Scrum seems to work best on projects with scopes that are less well defined and with clients who have time (at least ten hours a week) to be involved in the website build on a daily basis. If you want to learn more about Scrum, check out this session.
(15) Ron and Chris are much better at their jobs than at riding a mechanical bull. Ron and Shane are both pretty good a ping pong though.
(16) Great quote from Jordan Hirsch’s session on requirements gathering: “You can’t ever truly skip a discovery phase. You end up doing it even if the client doesn’t pay for it.” Yup.
(17) The audience shared Jordan’s pain when he talked about how destructive hidden requirements are to the web development process. Like the Salesforce integration you find out about two days before launch.
(18) I loved Adam Edgerton’s presentation on scaling a Drupal firm. One key point he made was that profit doesn’t necessarily scale along with revenue. A digital agency might make the same profit at $10,000,000 in revenue as they did at $4,000,000. He mentioned that once you get over 25 people you start to need process. At that point you are no longer a tribal company.
(19) An emerging trend is the use of Drupal as a backend system for content management with frontends that are 100% outside of Drupal. In particular, a lot of firms are using AngularJS on top of Drupal.
(20) Chris went to a session that talked about the importance of developing processes that are non-blocking. The web development process goes much more smoothly when folks aren’t constantly taking breaks to wait on delayed deliverables/approvals.
(21) Ron is excited about the configuration management software Ansible. He wrote: “I was sold when I heard that it is agentless, so you don’t have to install anything on the servers. Besides that, it uses current standard protocols and syntax and can also handle app deployments. It seems like a dream come true.”
(22) I can’t say enough good things about the tacos at La Condesa. Probably the best tacos I have ever had. Go now. We didn’t take picture of the tacos as we were too focused on eating them, but here are some other food porn pics from the trip.
(23) Drupalcon will be in Los Angeles in 2015. We’re fired up, ready to go.