DrupalCon Latin America 2015 Bogotá will live on as one of the classics

Let the debates begin

For too long now there’s been a widespread tendency awash in the Drupal Community according to which Drupal 8, and hence the Drupal Project in general, has turned somehow into something reserved only for Big Drupal: big shops, big agencies, big companies with huge resources.

A conference showing that hope is still alive for a solution to this problem

Grass roots enthusiasm, D8 teen spirit, much needed long absent leadership and community courage facing up to critical issues should overflow into DrupalCon Los Angeles in May

An incredible DrupalCon, DrupalCon Latin America, ended a couple weeks ago and I haven’t seen any cool DrupalCon wrap-ups capable of really sharing with the rest of the Drupal community what an extremely well-organized and just plain special community experience it was. I am sure I’m not the only one who felt completely invigorated by it all. Let’s take a look at why, and see how we can make it contagious.

Great Venue
Attendees from all over
Quality of presentations
Drupal 8 properly positioned
Now we know when to start switching to D8
Much Needed Drupal leadership
Huge participation in the Sprints and beyond

Great Venue

The venue was well chosen, which gave a great feeling of security, organization and just plain competence all-round. For those of us staying in the hotel on the same premises, we had the feeling of forming part of some kind of Olympic Drupalean village and the foyer was just a natural meeting place for everyone as they arrived each day, and even for a few days after the DrupalCon was all over. Everything just worked, even the WiFi was no more spotty than any other conference (except during the sprints, well what do you expect with record percentages of attendees participating)? One great touch was how Lingotek, a cloud-based translation management system, pitched in to provide live interpretation for presentations ¡Espectacular!

Attendees from all over

It wasn’t huge. Yet despite the modest number of people attending (just under 300) those who are never fooled by numbers knew it was truly an international conference and didn’t have the flavor of a DrupalCamp at all. It was a Señor DrupalCon! A cursory view of the attendees list shows that all major players knew they had to be there, and 99% knew they had to say something coherent when they did. Latin America is poor, in revolt, with a 500-watt amplified local settings version of the world economic crisis, but we’re obviously a firm part of the future, and most presenters (99% as I say) went out of their way to highlight solid and extremely active Latin American participation in the Drupal community and project.

Quality of presentations

Training camps plus DrupalCon prequels…

Not only were the presentations interesting but cut to the core of what people are concerned and anxious about at this critical time in Drupal, and in website and web application development in general. That’s why the conference was a success. It had this way of facing up to stuff with courage as a community.

There was a proper debate among the keynotes. Something for everybody? A lot of wishful thinking? Time will tell. But a “pushy” Big Tech rerun by Dries (rerun because big data aggregation (“Netflix… Google… development efforts will shift towards using contextual data collected through passive user behaviors”, and the like, in fact already being implemented on drupal.org – do people realize that?) was roundly countered by a slogan that figured prominently in “the other keynote” (see following section): “Drupal 8 – For everyone, out of the box”.

See the full list of presentation videos https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpeDXSh4nHjQUcahLMrBws9OAaNrJf07z .

My own picks:

So, facing up to stuff that worries and concerns people who actually work for a living and need to exercise their right to access Free Software. That’s what needs to be replicated in the Drupal Community time and time again and that’s what made for the high quality of the presentations.

Drupal 8 properly positioned

For too long now there’s been a widespread tendency awash in the Drupal Community according to which Drupal 8, and hence the Drupal Project in general, has turned somehow into something reserved only for Big Drupal: big shops, big agencies, big companies with huge resources. That Drupal 8 is out of range, too difficult and too big and maybe even cumbersome for single developers, small shops, for companies on a budget. Once said, this impression has been left floating there for quite some time. However, this DrupalCon absolutely smashed these misconceptions, many of which I myself have shared for some time, and provided a much clearer view of what’s going on:

  1. Even if you stick with Drupal 7, you still have to learn a bunch of new stuff to learn in this day and age (front-end stuff in terms of javascript frameworks and SASS, backported stuff from Drupal 8, REST, distributed apps, etc.) so get used to learning new stuff. Learning new stuff is good.
  2. The best route is to stick with progress and the industrial mainstream, development fellowship with what’s really moving. For those who feel PHP is being superceded by a new generation of programming languages and their attendant frameworks, there exist many new fast-moving eco-systems, in the Javascript world, in the Scala and Java world, in the Go world; too fast-moving some would say and they have their fair share of framework choice panic themselves. Most of these can be used perfectly well in conjunction with modern Drupal 8 distributed approaches. But for many it’s all about the PHP renaissance, and one area that’s definitely moving is the Symfony eco-system, so strong in itself it’s a safe bet for many, independently of the fortunes to be faced by Drupal in the future.
  3. Hear this: Drupal 8 is for everybody:

Larry Garfield, in his presentation at DrupalCon Latin America 2015 in Bogotá summed up the benefits of Drupal 8 in startling fashion (see

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lLILaIZr44) and [slides](http://www.palantir.net/presentations/dcbogota2015-drupal-and-us/#/2/1) when he explained that not only is Drupal 8 a new generation PHP Platform, but that far from what we have been led to expect, namely that it will only be useful for experienced developers and for large companies with huge resources, in actual fact it can do much more than any other CMS framework, for everyone, right off-the-shelf even for plain old site-building right in core without any configuration. It’s worthwhile going into a little detail here:

  • Benefits for site builders **for everyone, out of the box**: Build real sites with what comes in core, without any configuration
    • More fields in core (Entity Reference, Date, Link, Email, Telephone) with the Field API (rich data model just with core)
    • Views API and UI in core (saves 6 months in terms of being able to use Drupal 8 after initial RC release, compared to having had to wait for views when Drupal 7 was released, without Views in core)
      • Admin uses views, much more customizable (VBO in core!)
      • Content modeling, editing, assembly, delivery out of the box
      • Content delivery
    • Configuration management based on versionable YAML text files; the configuration is no longer mixed with content in the database
      • Much better solution for dev -> testing -> production workflow and deployment
      • Everyone, large and small, has the right to have access to configuration management tools
      • Real Configuration API
      • Config import/export built in
      • Modules can include default config
    • Translation (of interface, content AND configuration!) has been completely revamped, compacted, improved and better integrated in core
  • Benefits for content editors
    • Rich editing experience (in core: WYSIWYG editor, editing in place, more usable forms; works without configuration)
    • Back to site button (instead of overlay 🙂 )
    • Accessibility WAI-ARIA, keyboard control, voice control with Drupal Announce API so that reportedly a sight-impaired person may edit in place. Best accessibilityt there is. All built in and automatic.
    • New text-based help system (including context-sensitive help)
  • For themers
    • Out with IE6-8
    • Module for IE8 if you need it
    • HTML5 + CSS3
    • Everything responsive out of the box (including menus and toolbars)
    • HTML5 Forms which also work on mobile!
    • Twig (https://www.drupal.org/theme-guide/8/twig) template engine.
      • Instead of PHP required for templates, designers only need knowledge of TWIG
    • 25% fewer divs
  • Benefits for coders (under the hood)
    • Modern version of PHP 5.4, re-visioning how Drupal uses a modern language.
      • Interface-driven development
      • Loose coupling
      • “Hack core without hacking core”; fewer Drupalisms
      • No more Not Invented Here; now Proudly Invented Elsewhere
        • Symfony2 components (HttpFoundation, HttpKernel, DependencyInjection, EventDispatcher, Routing, Serializer, Validator, Yaml)
        • Symfony CMF (Content Management Framework, co-authored by the Symfony, Easy CMS and Drupal communities)
        • Zend Feed (including Atom, and with greatly reduced dependencies)
        • Doctrine Annotations
        • Guzzle (best Http client in PHP)
        • EasyRDF
        • Twig
    • Plugins: same pattern used all over
    • Unified entity API, used all over
    • Unit tests with PHPUnit
    • RESTful pipeline
    • Drupal has gotten off the island, meaning that general development experience in many PHP projects transfer to Drupal 8 and multiple platforms
    • Drupal Console built on Symfony Console for scaffolding and code generation, instrospection and profiling

In addition

  • Block is just another entity
  • The Drupal 7 context module is now in core

A very recent article by Alex Pott, “Drupal 8 and the Enterprise” http://chapterthree.com/blog/drupal-8-and-the-enterprise also does a good job of outlining how Drupal 8 really is for everyone, out of the box. (However, the point raised by Nedjo Rogers concerning difficulties with Drupal 8 support for installation profiles or something similar to features module is worthy of consideration, see my comment (and also the author’s very clear reply).

Now we know when to start switching to D8

“The Other Keynote” even included excellent criteria for knowing when we can start using D8 for actual projects, stating that the single most important block for this is the current absence of an automatic upgrade path for beta to beta releases. And it’s best to wait until a release candidate is out or about to be out.

Much Needed Drupal leadership

The “Other Keynote” as I am calling it was very refreshing, almost like a breath of fresh air in its defense of the project and its positioning in terms of free software for everyone. But, such a keynote is neither more nor less than what you would expect Drupal leadership to say. It’s just that we haven’t had that kind of spirit here since nineteen sixty nine…

I was also impressed by the leadership shown, for example, by Cathy Theys (@YesCT) both in making sure the event was a success, as well as in gaining support for the sprint events and sharing “The Drupal Way” to many first timers, despite language differences.

Huge participiation in the Sprints and beyond

I think a record was broken in percentage of attendees participating in sprints. The level of enthusiasm was enormous and quite a bit was done. Just another indicator of this having been a very special DrupalCon.