DrupalCon Lille 2023

This year's DrupalCon Europe was hosted between the 17th and 20th of October, in the French city of Lille. My DrupalCon adventure began early on Monday morning when Chris Maiden picked me up to drive to France via the EuroStar train. We arrived in Lille a little after 4pm, which was really good going for a nearly 400+ mile trip.

The DrupalCon Lille Logo

DrupalCon Lillie was a first for me as I was there representing a company and so spent some time on the conference floor talking about services. Code Enigma, who I work for full time, had sponsored the event and organised a booth (well, a table). The booth wasn't so that we could sell anything, it was more more because we wanted to support Drupal and the sponsorship came with a booth. Driving to Lille allowed us to fill the car with 200 coffee cups, which we gave out at the event.

Once we had found a parking spot we wondered through Lillie, found our hotel, and met up with the rest of the Code Enigma group for a dinner of "Le Welsh"; a local favourite dish.

Tuesday

The first session I managed to attend on Tuesday was the Driesnote, where Drupal founder, Dries Buytaert, talked us through some of the headline initiatives being worked on in Drupal at the moment and why these are important. The presentation started with a very highly produced story, with some fantastic artwork depicting the "Drupal fairy" and the village of Drupal, as well as some surrounding villages like Rectopia and Contentville. This was an interesting way of showing how Drupal is different from other major players in the content management sphere in the form of an analogy.

The talk soon went onto show some of the main initiatives being worked on in Drupal currently, including the project browser, the new field UI and the new administration menu. These initiatives are not only to aid people used to working with Drupal, but also to help newcomers to the platform find their way around. This is especially the case with the project browser since it is difficult to know what are the best modules available for your needs.

Dries's final message was advancing the marketing surrounding Drupal and the creation of a Drupal marketing committee. He invited some representatives of the Drupal marketing committee onto the stage for a quick question and answer. In my opinion this is a sorely needed aspect of Drupal and something the community will really benefit from.

It can't be escaped that there's a bit of negative press surrounding Drupal, which I think is mainly from the complexity of the platform in previous years. The marketing committee will help the Drupal community by generating assets that can be used to argue the use of Drupal in projects, which I'm sure many companies are creating independently.

If you are interested in watching the whole Driesnote, Dries recently uploaded a video of his DrupalCon Lille keynote to YouTube.

The Driesnote from DrupalCon Lille 2023

Due to transporting the cups and performing various booth related activities I did end up missing the Women in Drupal Awards, which was held just before the Driesnote. Congratulations to the well deserved winners Tiffany Farriss, Marine Gandy, and Lenny Moskalyk. I will make sure to catch up with this session video later (if possible).

After the Driesnote was the first proper session with Oliver Davies and TDD - Test-Driven Drupal: an introduction to automated testing and test-driven development in Drupal. I have seen variations of Oliver's TDD talk over the years and I always seem to learn something new from it, and this time was no exception. I've been writing unit tests in Drupal for years, but Oliver gave me a new technique that I will certainly be employing going forwards.

Next up was Designing for Privacy: Balancing User Needs and Data Security, with Tarkesh Deva. This was a look at some techniques and decisions to make when creating privacy focused sites. After which Tarkesh looked at the site https://iq.laaha.org/, which is a UNICEF site created by women for women. Due to the nature of the information being shared the site makes privacy the central tenet of the site. This includes doing things like creating random usernames and not requiring any personal information to make an account so that women don't need to share data to register.

Sven Van Uytfanghe and Building Engaging Communities with Gamification, Commerce, and Integrations: A Success Story was next, which was a case study on a (not yet launched) Drupal site where users could earn "coins" by commenting, posting, liking or otherwise interacting with the site. These coins could then be used to get discounts on products on the shop. An interesting case study, that got me thinking about how to create this sort of system in Drupal.

The final talk on Tuesday was Translation management strategy for editors in Drupal 10 with Jeremy Chinquist. Jeremy focused on some strategies that can be used to aid in the translation of a Drupal 10 site, including asymmetric and symmetric translation. Perhaps most importantly was the tactic of hiding anything that couldn't be translated so that user's would get confused trying to translate something that wasn't needed. Really important lessons that were clearly gained from experience.

A picture of the TDD talk from DrupalCon Lille, showing a full audience.

Wednesday

Wednesday's first session for me was a Technical Writing Workshop with AmyJune Hineline. This was a 2 hour workshop that went over how to write articles, what to write about, who to submit articles to and even a quick look at markdown. The 2 hours went very quickly and I came away with lots of ideas and thoughts about the future of this site. I think I wrote continuously for the entire workshop and need some time to go over my notes and make sense of everything. It was also great to meet AmyJune in person and she has encouraged me and supported the site in the past, so I was chuffed I got the chance to thank her.

After this I attended Akhil Bhandari's talk called Design in Figma and deploy a pixel perfect Drupal website in days, not weeks! The talk looked at the tools that him and his team had put together to simplify the process of taking a Figma design and converting it to Drupal templates, using the Civic theme. A lot of work had clearly gone into this process, and that showed in how they were able to take work from conception to implementation.

Thursday

Thursday started with Single Directory Components in Core with Mike Herchel. It's always good to see Mike talk, and I'm glad I got the opportunity at Lille. Single directory components are indented to abstract away certain parts of the site theme into separate directories in order to make it easier to find everything that is connected to that component in one place. They are currently in Drupal 10.1.0 as an experimental module and should be stable in 10.3.0, although Mike doesn't think the API's will change much (or at all) before then. Unfortunately, Mike's presentation was interrupted twice by his computer hard locking when attempting to play a video. This was heartbreaking to watch, but Mike rallied and handled it really well. I don't think he managed to say everything he wanted to say, but I'll be looking into single directory components soon.

Next up was Hosted login: The future of the login with Raul Jimenez Morales. This talk looked at an unnamed IDaaS (IDentity as a Service) provider and how it could benefit a Drupal site. The essential premise was that the Drupal site (or sites) would only need to know the essential information to perform it's duties, and that if it was hacked then the identity and security of the user wouldn't be effected (at least not much). An interesting talk, although somewhat light on the details.

After lunch I attended the Drupal Core Initiative Leads update, hosted by Gábor Hojtsy. There's some amazing work being done in Drupal at the moment and this was just a quick showcase of some of the initiatives being worked on. There was config validation, the update of localist.drupal.org (which started just last year and is going well), the UI improvements, the administration toolbar, the GitLab improvements, the project browser work, as well as the promote Drupal initiative. Sascha Eggenberger took a closer look at some of the improvements in the Drupal administration UI there were hinted at in the Driesnote, which look really nice. The changes they are proposing look like really obviously good ideas, which is the hallmark of a good design change.

The final session of the conference for me was Björn Brala talking about How JSON:API 1.1 will make Drupal better. The JSON:API specification exists outside of Drupal, but Drupal will soon be taking advantage of the new version of the specification to leverage some useful features like extensions, error objects and link objects that follow RFC8288. Ultimately, these improvements will get better JSON:API clients for Drupal and allow some neat things like exploring with links to be built into the service layer.

Thursday night was the Drupal trivia night. I formed a team with the rest of the Code Enigma people and although we didn't come last (we think) we also didn't come anywhere near first. Really good questions with an awesome host who made the evening flow really quickly. Well done to the winners, I really don't know how you scored that many points!

Conclusion

Overall, DrupalCon Lille was a great conference. This year I didn't go to as many talks and sessions as I would normally go to and instead spent quite a lot of time chatting with people in the main conference hallway. It was good seeing old friends and making some new ones. I have lots of notes from the sessions I attended and will be sure to look into incorporating some aspects of them into my day-to-day tasks in the near future.

The food at the venue wasn't particularity amazing, but it was warm and nutritious so I was happy to eat it. The food in Lille itself was really nice. As I mentioned earlier, we went out for a local dish called "Le Welsh", which is more or less a take on Welsh Rarebit. In fact, looking into the dish after the conference I found that it was imported to the region in 1544 by a Welshman, so it clearly has some Welsh influence and is a popular dish nearly 500 years later.

It was nice to hand out cups and umbrellas and see people making good use of them at the event. The rain came to Lille in earnest on the Wednesday and so the umbrellas suddenly became really popular! We were happy to give them out as that was the main reason we had bought them. As long as people make good use of them Code Enigma were happy to supply them.

See you next year at DrupalCon Europe Barcelona!

A collage of images from my time at DrupalCon Lille 2023

 

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