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Top Take-Aways From DrupalCon Chicago 2011

Top Take-Aways From DrupalCon Chicago 2011

With DrupalCon Chicago 2011 behind us and things settling back down around the office, we wanted to take this chance to review all the wonderful sessions we saw and things we learned.

DrupalCon Chicago was a great week for the Drupal community and was even more special for Promet because we are a Chicago Drupal Company. Read on to hear about what some of our team learned while at DrupalCon Chicago.


Andrew Kucharski - CEO

I had the pleasure of attending the CXO conference on the Monday leading into DrupalCon. At the event, I had the opportunity to learn about running, managing, and growing a business.

I particularly enjoyed hearing the keynote from Mike Marasco. Mike is the Director of the Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Northwestern University.

I enjoyed hearing about defining your company. I learned that you not only need to define what you do well but determine how you tell this to your customers. Promotion and buzz often do not come from the outside. How are you becoming your own biggest fan and talking about yourself?


Rachel Jaro - Solutions Architect

I mostly went to BoFs especially dealing with mobile applications, VOIP and Mapping.

My favorite is about Drupal Geospatial where the development seed created the TileMill .com for everyone to use. Mapping on its own is already a complicated and mundane task as well so seeing a useful tool like this makes me really appreciate open source.

I am also pumped that there is already a VoIP module for Drupal. It was implemented by MIT. For countries where mobile texting is more used than internet, it is really useful.

Lastly, I'm a bit disappointed that there is not much talk about mobile security. I am really concerned with mobile security and will be looking more into finding solutions to keep our projects secure. 


Steve Krzysiak - Developer

My favorite session was probably "Drupal on the go with jQuery Mobile." Mobile development has long been something that has interested me, and this session made me reconsider the industry and how native mobile apps may be overkill for some basic apps.

I also saw it as a project I may like to contribute to with a few ideas of my own. At the end of the conference, the absolute best thing I took away from it was the power of the BoF. Unlike sessions, BoFs are not recorded yet incredibly useful and mentally stimulating. I can't wait to get online and see the rest of the sessions I missed while in the BoFs.


Will Milton - Developer

I went to Larry Garfield's “Aphorisms of API Development,” and it was illuminating and, dare I say, inspirational. Here's why this session was great:


Simple, Useful Format

Here's how it went: Larry started out by letting everyone know what an 'aphorism' and an 'API' are, then talked about a particular problem with API development, then hinted at the solution, then gave the aphorism to remember and apply, and explained ways it would help.


Inter-related Nicely with Drupal

There's a trap that many presentations fall into where either their content is completely limited to Drupal problems and ways of handling that without acknowledging existing tools, or the whole thing is about something that is itself a gigantic part of the software development profession and they try to tackle it in an hour. Larry's piece was nice because he used his lexicographical knowledge of commonly used bits of Drupal core and contrib to give anecdotal evidence to his claims.


Good Advice for Developers

Why did I come to this thing? Oh, right, I do that thing with the code. One of the problems with this profession is that the old guard is from a completely different tradition than the new breed.

Back in the day, a computer science degree – if you could find an accredited institution that offered one – was of even less use than one that you can get now. These long-in-the-tooth nerds know things that it's difficult for young bloods like me to learn the way we learn everything (Google).

Specifically, the end of Larry's presentation was a gold mine of resources to check out. And they weren't Drupal resources, they were PHP resources, and software design resources, and wisdom from a master on how to get better at doing the thing we do. More of this, please.


Erin O'Flaherty - Business Analyst

I attended three sessions and the session I most enjoyed was the panel discussion, "Project Management as An Art Form." It was a great refresher course on the process that should be followed when handling a project.

The panel members went through each phase of a project and clearly detailed the role a PM should play in each phase. The most helpful part of the discussion was the advice to create a Risk Mitigation document. It was something I was taught to do in school; however, I had forgotten all about it.

I believe it's an essential part of the project and plan on performing a risk analysis with every project I am a part of.

Marius Ducea - Systems Administrator

I particularly enjoyed the presentation by Dmitri Gaskin "From Zero to Distribution using Features, Profiler, and Drush Make." dmitrig01 is a very active Drupal contributor, mostly known for his work on drush make. He is a great speaker and like most of his talks, this one also was driven by a demonstration from the beginning to the end. A great presentation that while introducing new concepts exemplifies them along the way.

  • He started from a completely blank slate of a new Drupal Install
  • Build the site up using standard modules, such as CCK and Views
  • Export it with features
  • Create a Drupal distribution using the Profiler distribution tool
  • Package the distribution with the Drush Make Packager

Also, I enjoyed many BoFs (like Dev-Stage-Prod, Drupal & Security and Aegir 101, etc.) and also had a good time organizing a BoF myself: Drupal Automation with Chef. As always whenever I go to DrupalCon I'm amazed at how many people attend such an event. This is the best testimonial on how healthy the Drupal community is (and growing every year bigger and bigger).

John Nollin - CMO

Where are the online marketing sessions? Surely there is interest in developing sites that not only perform functionality requirements but also ROI to the client. I was pretty disappointed in the number of sessions that covered not only SEO but also conversion, UX, and performance.

It's common for us to get all wrapped up in making sure a site "does" what a client wants it to do. In the end, what a client really wants its site to "do" is give them a return on their investment. We cannot stress this enough!

For this reason, I wish there were more sessions around topics like conversion rate optimization, search engine optimization, user experience, and performance. Of course, there was a cliche presentation on SEO but what about a session on site architecture? Maybe we need a session on product and service organization on the web. 

Something that Promet has put at the forefront of development is determining the best way to display content not only functionally, but also meaningfully for the user and search engines. In the end, I had a wonderful time meeting with many people and discussing projects.

I enjoyed hearing about how Drupal 8 will concentrate on the many different browsers and devices we will experience websites, web apps, and mobile apps on. Cross-device functionality and experience should be to D8 as UI was to D7!