drupal_icon I attended Drupalcon last week, which is a bi-annual Drupal conference for developers, themers and business development types like myself.  I had a great time, so here are some quick thoughts on the conference.

(1) Drupal people are really nice.   Conversations came easily and people are willing to share.  In his presentation, Kyle Williams mentioned that the reason he got into Drupal was because the community was so supportive and positive.  He’s right.

(2) Multiple people wondered aloud why the Drupal alien logo has to be so scary (see alien in upper right).

(3) There were few Republicans at Drupalcon.  David Cohn wrote a great article a few months back about how Drupal has helped power the progressive movement.  Based on the demographics of the folks at the conference and the sites showcased, Drupal is still being used much more aggressively by left leaning organizations than those on the right.

(4) Anyone that has used Drupal for any period of time knows how dramatic the changes are when a new version is released.  There are tons of sites out there still running on Drupal 4 and 5 due to how hard it is to upgrade.  In talking to folks at the conference, that really is by design.  The Drupal community is focused on pushing the code forward.  If the cost of progress is problems with backward compatibility, so be it.  This is in stark contrast to packages like WordPress that worry much more about relatively easy upgrades.

(5) In his presentation, Neil Giarratana mentioned that one advantage of Drupal is that tons can be accomplished through configuration using administrative tools as opposed to through customization, which inevitably involves hard core developers.  Configuration is relatively easy and cost effective while customizations are hard and expensive.  This has been my experience as well, so it was nice to have Neil articulate the divide so well.

(6) Neil also had a good quote, saying that Drupal is free in the same way a puppy is free.  By the time you feed it, take it to the vet, etc. it actually ends up being expensive.  This is true of all content management systems, but I think it is important for people who launch Drupal sites to account for ongoing upgrades and maintenance.  One of the great things about Drupal is that it is relatively easy to make changes and the development never real ends.  Companies should plan for that when they launch sites.

(7) On the negative side, the sessions at the conference were hit or miss, more so than at any conference I’ve been to before.  I saw a few sessions that were among the best I’ve seen at any conference and a couple I literally got nothing out of despite being interested in the topic.  As someone who submitted a panel idea that wasn’t accepted, the inconsistency got me wondering about how the sessions were selected.  My guess is that it was a bit of a hybrid between votes and editorial process. 

(8) On the positive side, Drupalcon was the first conference I’ve been to with a fooseball table.

(9) If you were on a PC, the wifi at the conference was spotty, particularly if you are on Vista.  If you were on a Mac, it seemed to work fine.  The Drupal community is definitely Mac friendly, so this was probably some sort of conspiracy. 

(10) I saw a lot of examples of great Drupal work at the conference, but I would put our work up there with anybody’s.  I’m really proud of the work my Bivings co-workers have done on complex Drupal sites like IJNet, Personal Democracy Forum, Techpresident and Wild Australia

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.