DrupalCon Global kicked off of this week and the Drupalize.Me team was there to participate. The originally scheduled DrupalCon North America in Minneapolis was canceled earlier this year due to COVID-19 and the great team at the Drupal Association worked magic to create a new DrupalCon experience with DrupalCon Global, the first online DrupalCon.
Almost everyone on our team has attended in-person 'cons in the past, so it was interesting to feel the differences between in-person and online. Philippa has never gone to a 'con before, so it was awesome that she could experience DrupalCon for the first time. We've gathered all of our notes from day one, along with links to videos of sessions to check out if you are registered. (Note that the session videos will be available on YouTube for the entire community in September. In the meantime, you must be a registered attendee to access the recorded sessions on Vimeo.) We'll keep a daily commentary going all week.
The Hopin.to platform
DrupalCon is using Hopin.to to manage the conference. The live sessions are delivered here, along with the ability to chat with other attendees in chat rooms, as well as randomly meet others one-on-one through a networking feature. The exhibit hall is also managed here, and you can "visit" an exhibitor's booth either by expressing interest so someone contacts you directly or by entering their chat room to talk with them and other visitors.
We found that the platform worked pretty well and it was pretty clear where things are. Besides being online of course, the big difference in sessions with this is that there is a chat room for each session so attendees can talk and ask questions during the presentation. This ended up feeling like both a plus and minus for many of us. On the one hand it was neat to see people engaging at the sessions and be able to "talk" while the session was in progress. This can really add to the session with interesting comments and conversations, and people helping each other out with questions. On the other hand seeing the back-channel chatter can be distracting or overwhelming, especially when there are large groups of attendees. You can close the chat window while you watch though, so if you find it annoying you can toggle that closed. There is a small button at the top of the chat window, between the timeline and the attendee count.
Joe sums up what many of us are feeling with the overall online experience so far.
"I'm quickly realizing how much I rely on the serendipity of in-person events to get to me to interact with others in the community, which is my favorite part of DrupalCon. But it's all primarily chat based, and a bit more opt-in than when someone walks up to you in the hall and says, "Hi Joe!". Being an active participant and not just a lurker is likely to be the hardest part of hopin for me."
One of the great things about an online conference is that it is much more accessible to many more people. It's also heartening to see the Drupal community highlighting diversity and inclusion. There is always so much work to do, and we were happy to see time scheduled in the event for 8:46 minutes of silence observed in honor of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. We hope this conversation continues and leads to lasting change in our community.
Another aspect of inclusion for online communities is the issue of time zones. Addi lives in Denmark, while the rest of our team live in several time zones in the United States. The main event is largely scheduled on American times, which meant that Addi missed a fair amount of live sessions and the first trivia night, being too late at night. That said, it's great to see that there are multiple trivia nights this year, with different days at different times so that everyone can participate. On the flip side, some of the initial sessions of the days are scheduled quite early in the morning for our folks who live on the U.S. west coast. There's really no way around time zones and live events, and it'll be interesting to see if there are more ideas that spring up after this 'con about how to create a more "live" experience for people who are not in the main targeted time zones.
Finding and scheduling sessions
You can find the schedule for all sessions both on Drupal.org and in the Hopin Reception area. Here is the schedule for Day 1. Don't forget that you can make your own schedule to follow by using the "My schedule" feature on Drupal.org or you can add sessions directly to your own calendar in Hopin. This can be a great way to cut down on the overwhelming list of sessions and it can help you figure out when you can watch live in your home schedule versus needing to go back to watch videos later once they get uploaded.
Here are some somewhat random notes from sessions that we attended on Tuesday. We've also provided links to both the session page and the on-demand library video where possible (and we'll add the video links as they are put online).
There was a pasta intermission! Before the sessions started, Vincenzo De Naro Papa from Amazee.io showed us the authentic Italian way of cooking pasta. It was a fun way to make things feel homey and relaxed before things got kicked off, though a fair number of people were probably confused about whether they were at the right conference when they first entered the main stage area. :-)
- (Addi) This session covered a lot of things that we do well, and some things that apply more to larger organizations than we are. It also introduced some new ideas for me to look into within Osio Labs: Personal user manuals and documenting the Andon cord process (how do you stop work to address problems?).
- Details about Drupal 10: shorter release cycle (targeting June 2022), limited to ~5 official initiatives with a focus on improving the beginner/new user experience.
- JS Menu component
- Automated updates
- New front-end theme (Olivero)
- Easy out-of-the-box (complete Claro admin theme, Layout builder, and Media)
- Drupal 10 readiness (dependency end-of-life timelines, e.g. Symfony 4)
- Q&A session will happen on Wednesday instead of happening right after the talk.
- (Joe) It's nice to see the hat tip to diversity and inclusion, and hopefully that continues to expand within the community and continues to result in real change. This year's speaker lineup is the most diverse, and it's great to see that.
- (Addi) I really like the emphasis on DEI and that people have generally been very supportive of this stance in the chatrooms. Tim Lehnen's talk at the end of Dries' presentation was good to see.
- (Joe) Adjusting to remote work, remote community, changes how we engage and how we gain a sense of "belonging". For many people remote work/working from home is becoming the new normal, not just a temporary thing.
- (Philippa) Four panelists, working for widely different organizations, spoke about how, in recent months, they've used Drupal to help communities, governments, and organizations fight the effects of Covid-19. For example, Christina Costello, Web Developer, Redfin Solutions, LLC, spoke about her agency's work with the Rural Aspirations Project. They helped set up a Drupal 8 website for them using the Claro theme for admins, which delivered good content moderation functionality and gave them something they needed very quickly amidst the statewide shutdown of schools: a CMS offering a quick and efficient approval process for content editors. The result was that in a very short time, they were able to help connect rural communities in Portland, Maine with good, creative online learning opportunities for kids. For instance, the site connected a Portland, Maine-based comic strip artist with kids in rural areas, who learned how to draw what they were experiencing in quarantine in a comic strip. Cool!
- (Amber) Interesting panel of speakers who talked about both client solutions and workplace issues they needed to solve at the onset of the crisis. Interesting mix of Drupal modules and solutions that helped us and our clients quickly deliver new types of content as well as remote workplace adjustments.
- (Amber) Lessons learned, caching, and other strategies for scaling decoupled or progressively decoupled Drupal sites. Lots of good real-world lessons. Goes way beyond a basic demo of "turn on JSON:API".
- (Amber) Learned some helpful strategies for redesigning a site, including sketching out user flows. Also great information about setting content component priorities.
- (Ashley) This session took a look at web development and the way that we build websites today and how the landscape is shifting. Traditional or "Monolithic" CMS platforms like Drupal and WordPress are being used less in favor of a more component based model. Despite the shifting landscape, CMS like Drupal can still play a critical role but will become more of a secondary concern
- (Joe) Amber, Philippa and I had a team, and tried to have both a Google Meet and the Hopin session open at the same time, which made it feel like you where in loud bar with everyone talking over everyone else. It was kind of fun, and Fatima did a great job of being a lively host. But it's just not the same as Trivia in a pub. I'm glad that effort was put into keeping this tradition alive in some form though.
- (Amber) It was fun to do a "happy hour" with co-workers during trivia. Definitely not the same as the in-person experience, but still fun in its own way.
Well, that's our quick summary of day one as we gear up for day two. We'll be back tomorrow with our day two summary. Are you attending DrupalCon Global? What are your thoughts, tips, and highlights so far?