After a few days of recovering and cleanup, here are my notes, thoughts, and analysis of DrupalConDC 2009. Everything here should be taken as my opinion and not reflecting the position of Blue Parabola, LLC… except where I'm right. 😉
Honestly, there were so many things good about this conference, that I had problems limiting myself to three, so I decided to start with the most important.
First of all, Bonnie Bogle of Development Seed deserves a huge round of applause and appreciation. She was one of many people organizing things and making things happen, but she was the lead organizer and a disproportionate amount of the stress, work, and effort rested on her shoulders. Bonnie, thanks.
Next, despite the sheer size of the operation (~1400 people, 80+ sessions!) there didn't seem to be much chaos/confusion. The schedule was posted online well in advance, everyone had a printed version, and there were monitors with schedules on both ends of the common area… and combine this with dozens of "Birds of a Feather" (common interest) sessions. I don't have a clue how many sessions really happened but it was rare to have an unscheduled session.
Videos! The best part of all is that every session has videos online… already! Many of the videos went online the night the presentation happened and all (I think) are online now. If you missed the conference or just missed some sessions, check out the DrupalConDC video library. I've grabbed a few already.
Finally, the most striking session for me was James Walker's session on "Why I Hate Drupal". I've been a Durpal user for over 4 years and he pointed out, named, and ridiculed a number of issues that I haven't been able to verbalize. He did a great job and I couldn't disagree with him on a single one. Watch "Why I Hate Drupal" here.
Yes, I snuck in a fourth item. 😉
As with most of these conferences, power was a problem. They were smart and installed a handful of surge protectors in various places, but they were limited to the back rows of the rooms. Luckily, my Power Squid saved the day… for the people around me at least.
There were a number of sessions that didn't match their content. I don't mind a presentation that drifts off course as the audience asks questions or things take a different turn. I do mind when the session description doesn't match the content. I won't out these people here, but I'm hoping the DrupalConDC crew will use something nifty like Joind.in*.
* I'm biased towards Chris Cornutt over at Joind.in. I think moving feedback/rankings of presentations online will result in better, faster feedback to the presenters and other conference organizers. But I digress…
And The Ugly…
There were two things that really struck me about the Drupal:
First, there were a number of people there who knew how to configure Drupal backwards and forwards but not how to develop modules, interact with a database, or anything related to PHP. This is odd. As in very odd. I don't understand the situation where someone would understand the system to that level of detail and not know any PHP. It's still not as bad as Michael Tutty's tweet:
Someone actually said this: "But I like Drupal a lot better than PHP. It's powerful, much more so than PHP as far as I'm concerned." Um.
Finally, there's a weird myopic oddity in the community. In James Walker's "Why I Hate Drupal" he pointed out the "Not Invented Here" problem that exists. Whether we're parsing ini files, interacting with the file system, or doing just about anything else, the code is contained within Drupal itself.
I saw this specifically on display in one area: There's an effort to manage VPS (Virtual Private Servers) via Drupal. I simply don't understand that one because you'll still have to have your existing management console. No matter how secure your particular Drupal installation is (both software and accounts), you've opened another angle of attack. Even worse, someone who has ftp access to your Drupal installation could upload modified/new modules and cause all kinds of chaos. There were numerous other examples of this type of thinking, but hopefully they'll quietly atrophy into nothingness.
All in all, I had a great time. The size and scope of the conference was simply amazing, Dries keynote was interesting and educational, the community was great, and even the sponsors were fantastic. I'm hoping to catch the next US-based DrupalCon and look forward to getting more active in the community side of things… this past week was motivating.