Last week the community had its first online DrupalCon Global. It was a great experience for our team--better than many of us expected it to be. We posted daily summaries of our session notes and comments on the event last week for Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3. Our team also took part in the Friday Contribution Day as well, with most of our work focused on preparing contributed modules for Drupal 9, the Help Topics project, and documentation.
Now that we've had a bit of time to recover from the flurry of last week's activities, we want to share our overall impressions.
While the sessions for the main conference were hosted on the Hopin.to platform, the community contribution work was managed using the Drupal-based Open Social platform. This let different groups manage their communication and organize in one central location so attendees could browse through the various contribution options.
Blake spent time working on preparing contributed modules for Drupal 9, and he said "I was really impressed with the tooling that's available to help module maintainers with the process (the Upgrade Status tool in particular)."
Amber is a lead for the Help Topics project,
It was really great to work on some Help Topics issue triage and writing on Friday. I had fun playing cheerleader and recruiting help. And I also got some writing in! It's been hard to make time for the module this year and it was great to set aside a day to work on it. Incidentally, I feel recharged and more motivated to work on community tasks after DrupalCon. (One of the benefits of DrupalCon in general, I think.)
How did this compare to other conferences?
Most of our team has attended in-person DrupalCons in the past, and some people have attended other online conferences, especially this year. It's interesting to look at the pros and cons of DrupalCon Global in that context. We really liked attending from the comfort of home and while we missed the intense socializing, we also appreciated getting a break and being able to recover our energy for each day of sessions. It has a different energy from in-person events, but different isn't bad.
Philippa summed it up,
No matter how good, conferences can be exhausting. While I would have preferred the opportunity to socialize more with the community face to face, I really liked the digital session format. It enabled me to attend more sessions and absorb more information than a live conference where I struggle with feeling overwhelmed.
Another advantage of the online event is not having to worry about overcrowded sessions. Switching back and forth between sessions was also easy, making it possible to attend more sessions and find topics that grabbed your interest in a given slot.
With the socializing and networking requiring more active effort, there was also a feeling of this being easier at an online conference where you already know some people. While this is also true at in-person events, the extra work to meet new people felt like a much bigger barrier at other conferences, and was less likely to happen. Running into people we knew from the community or other events in chat rooms made this event feel more comfortable from the start.
We also liked the Hopin.to platform. While few of us were brave enough to click on the Networking button (which puts you into a direct message with another attendee who wants to chat too), we found that the platform was easy to navigate and the addition of the chat to each session, as well as the event in general, was a nice perk. It allowed participants to engage with each other, ask and answer questions, provide links, and generally added to the experience. It could be distracting at times, but you can close the chat window in those instances. The chats were beneficial enough that we wouldn't mind seeing something like this added to in-person events as well.
One thing that was notably missing at this DrupalCon was access to the recorded sessions shortly after they were presented. At a regular DrupalCon, the session would be uploaded to the Drupal Association YouTube channel very quickly. Given the time zone issues and scheduling, many (most?) people missed sessions because it was simply not a good time locally. The lack of quick video availability made it feel like the entire conference was not accessible. However, we understand that, given the nature of this conference, it made sense to not "give it away for free" so quickly. We'll also note that the videos from the sessions will be made available on YouTube for the community in September.
Our favorite sessions
There were a lot of good sessions. Here are some of our favorites:
What I liked most about these back-to-back sessions was the storytelling format that brought substance to abstraction in a way that proved very illuminating for me. Explaining how Olivero was conceptualized - from its beginning as a passing conversation at a previous DrupalCon to its current place as a core initiative was super compelling. Specifically, and from a content strategy standpoint, I was very interested in learning about how they defined the scope of such a large project, and how accessibility and simplicity were major conceptual drivers to reign the project in.
The Performance & Scaling Summit was a really good refresher on some of the tools and techniques I should be using on a regular basis as a status check on our sites. I'm guilty of not being as proactive as I could be in this department, so it was nice to see how I could do a better job of integrating profiling into my development process on a more consistent basis.
Shift Left: Addressing Digital Inequity for the Black Community contained a lot of good food for thought. It's a session I plan on re-watching when the recording becomes available. (See our notes and impressions in DrupalCon Global Day 3.
I was really happy with the number of sessions that specifically addressed diversity and inclusion, and in general the human part of technology. I liked the groundwork laid in How to improve psychological safety in your organization, which had lots of good resources for teams of different sizes. In addition to Amber's pick of Shift Left, I also learned a lot in the Software for a diverse community starts with a diverse team and Trans Drupal: Designing with transgender users in mind sessions.
This was a great conference. It was well run and had high quality sessions for a very wide range of interests and skills. We're impressed with the quality of the event, especially given the circumstances for it coming about online, and the short timeline that the Drupal Association and volunteer team had to pull this off.
While in-person conferences tend to be more about socializing and networking for many of us, the online venue drew us more into the sessions themselves. We all managed to consume and be able to engage with the material better at DrupalCon Global. We do miss the social time and the serendipity of in-person events, but there's no reason both kinds of events can't become part of the community's future event list.
Did you attend? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.