DrupalCamp London 2018

It's been a couple of weeks since DrupalCamp London 2018 so I thought I would try to write up my experiences for the weekend. DrupalCamp London ran from 2nd to the 4th of March and consisted of a CxO day before a 2 day conference.

Getting to the conference this year was a little more troublesome than usual. The snow and frost from that week had caused chaos on the trains (not to mention the roads) and so after many cancellations and delays I eventually made it to London the night before the Saturday/Sunday conference. The snow didn’t just affect me though, a few people couldn’t make it and a few sessions had to be rearranged. Thankfully, everyone made it to the camp in the end.

The conference started with Ryan Szrama from Commerce Guys who talked about Doing Well and Doing Good. This talk was based on a blog post from Dries, who talked about Acquia and how they support Drupal and open source. At the time Dries and Acquia being criticised for not doing enough to support Drupal and this was his response to that. The fact that Acquia are doing well and making money should in no way be a problem when they also contribute to open source. Acquia actually employ people who's sole responsibility is to contribute back to Drupal.

Ryan questioned how can we maintain our values or doing good when we are doing well. How can businesses keep contributing back to open source when they are doing well because of the open source they rely on? He admitted this was a difficult concept to solve, but that you shouldn't be afraid of making money as that means you can provide for your family or allow your fellow workers to provide for theirs. Always have in mind that your businesses should be contributing back to open source in some way. Think about how you can optimise the day to ensure that he does the things that are important for that day. I think Ryan's key note was that you should always keep the right driving force in mind. Overall, this was a great introduction to the weekend and a nice reminder that community just as important as learning.

After the keynote I went to give my own talk on Drupal 8 Services and Dependency Injection. Having practiced the talk during the week and sprinting through it in no time at all (like, 20 minutes) I think this time went a lot better. I was a lot more controlled and careful to go through the content without rushing, at least not too much. When I submitted the talk I deliberately went for a complex topic that I had seen talked about many times before in order to challenge myself. From the tweets, comments and questions I received on the day I think the talk went down well.

If you are interested the slides for the talk are available, and the talk itself can be viewed on YouTube (although you can’t really see the screen all that well).

After a quick break I went to see Elliot Ward give a talk on the Out Of The Box Initiative. This was a session that was meant to be run by Mark Conroy and Gareth Goodwin, with Eli providing some extra information, but due to snow Eli ended up doing the entire talk with slides that he only received the night before. Eli did an outstanding job and the talk turned out to be a great introduction to the out of the box initiative. He only skipped a couple of the more involved theming elements, but I think this turned out for the better in the end as it simplified things a little. The out of the box initiative is way of installing a Drupal site that will show off what Drupal can do, well, out of the box. To this end the project is all about using the tools and techniques found in Drupal core and not using third party modules to provide other functionality. This is essentially in the form of an install profile and a theme that creates a recipe site called Umami. Out of the box is currently part of Drupal 8.5.0, although it’s still experimental and so it is currently hidden.

After a hearty lunch of sandwiches I then went onto see Steve Richards talk about Drupal 8 adventures with a premiership football club. This involved the techniques and processes involved in building the Arsenal football club website. Not only is there actually quite a lot going on within the site, but it also receives quite a high level of traffic. As a result there are lot of technology involved to cache and lazy load pages in order to allow Drupal to serve the high levels of traffic. This applied to both the website and also the API layer that the website also runs for the mobile apps. Fascinating stuff, despite my loathing of football.

Next up was Steve Cowie and his talk What Goes Wrong In Projects And What We Can Do About It. This talk looked at what can (and will) go wrong in a project and how we can mitigate these problems. This was a great talk that had a lot of lessons learned from real experience. One stand out lesson was that just because you told the client something, it doesn’t mean that they heard. This can mean keeping an audit trail of your emails can be useful, but having good documentation is essential. Being able to know what you are building and accurately translating the clients requirements is essential to the smooth running of the project. Overall, some really valuable lessons from an engaging presenter.

The final talk of the day was Learning Frontend Development As A Backender with David Thorne. This was a look at some Drupal and non-Drupal theme kits and how they were to use as a back end developer. As a backend developer I was interested in this talk as I had just started to look at some frontend theme packages. Unfortunately, David skipped over some essential concepts and I ended up being a bit lost. I think I was expecting an introduction into things like SCSS, gulp and other build tools, but the talk was much more higher level than this. However, I took plenty of notes so I could look stuff up afterwards and a lot of things David said in his talk actually made sense once I started to do my own research. David recommended using PatternLab as a theme starting point.

The social was at the same place as it was last year, in the Blacksmith and Toffee Maker pub, not far from the conference venue. The good thing was that they had booked out the entire pub this year and as a result it was slightly less cramped than it was last year. Also, due to various sponsors from some awesome people there was a free bar for most of the evening. I think booking a place out and letting people do their own thing is the best approach here as it allows people to chat and socialise after a busy conference day.

Sunday started with a keynote talk from Chris Teitzel called Calling All Superheroes. The essential message of which is that superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. Not all Drupalers are the same, and that’s a good thing. One great thing about the Drupal community is that f you engage with the Drupal community then the community will engage back. Not only that but companies work together to make the product better. This appears to be rare in the development industry and perhaps other communities where it is normal for people to fight each other for a piece of the pie. One interesting things that Chris mentioned was that security should be the new hippocratic oath. So as well as doing no harm it’s important for developers to promise to keep data secure. Ultimately, being a superhero is doing the right thing and not expecting the marketing return from that. This was a good opening keynote for the notoriously hungover Sunday morning slot.

After some much needed coffee was Justine Pocock with Why Designers Don’t Use Real Content. This was a great talk looking into the day-to-day processes of designers, why they make the decisions they make and how these designs are created into themes. Justine is front end developer with a graphic design background so she is in a good position to talk about this. My ultimate take home lesson from this talk was that designers should do things for a reason. So if you notice an element on a page then a designer should be able to say why they put it there. If they can’t say why it’s there beyond that it looks good then the chances are that it can be removed without affecting the functionality of the site. Ultimately, the best designs are not built by teams but are created by teams.

Just before lunch I went to see Elliot Ward give his second talk of the weekend, which was Get Your Bits In, Drupal 8 Migration. I have seen Eli give this talk in a number of different events and meet ups, but this was the best I have seen. In fact, this was, hands down, the best Drupal migration talk I have ever seen. Using the example of an internet monkey database Eli showed each step in performing the migration into (pre created) Drupal 8 content types. This involved simple data to content migration as well as content relationships and even media. On top of all this was a series of awesome slides with artwork of monkeys. Top work Eli!

The final session of the weekend was a keynote talk from Baddý Sonja Breidert. Baddý is originally from Iceland and took the Icelandic football team success as a case study on how the country approached the problem from the ground up to up-skill their population of just 337,780 people. They did this by improving the quality of the training by requiring all coaches to be UEFA trained, to create facilities to allow training to happen, and by getting schools interested in football. This can be applied to the Drupal community in the same way through better mentoring, training programs and making it easier for people to find Drupal training and education. A really good ending keynote that gave me lots to think about.

If you are interested in seeing the talks and interviews from DrupalCamp London 2018 then take a look at the DrupalCamp London YouTube channel.

Overall, DrupalCamp London 2018 was another huge success. I got a great vibe from this year, met some amazing people, saw some amazing talks and learnt loads of useful stuff. The fact that they are already planning next year’s event is great news and I’ll be sure to submit a talk. See you next year!

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