DrupalCon New Orleans 2016 Report

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Joe says:


Hello Folks,
Here are links to the Higher Ed Drupal resources we mentioned in today’s meeting:
“Edu Drupal Unconsortium” (EduDU)
Website (not a lot of activity lately):
Slack Team (lots of recent activity):
Anyone with an @email.arizona.edu address should be able to create an account for the Slack team.
DrupalCon Higher Ed Summit
Various notes from DrupalCon 2016 Higher Ed Summit (a Google Drive folder that is basically a bucket of various people’s notes):
Joe Parsons
Senior Web Developer, Campus Web Services
The University of Arizona – Campus IT Operations
(520) 621-5616  | Computer Center 337



Minutes: from:



At UA web developers group, we get together and try to help each other out. There's a leadership team who get together to talk about what the group can do. Secretary and chair are up for election next month. We already have one nomination for secretary, which involves taking notes and posting them on the website. The chair is also up for election. Mike is currently the chair. The work there is running the meetings and anything else that needs to be done. If you want to nominate someone or put yourself in for consideration, email the leadership team, email Mike, or say something on the UA-Web list.

UA Digital is still going on - there may or may not be a meeting this week. UA Digital is a group that makes the UA branding guidelines. Palantir is one of the new approved Drupal vendors and they're starting a project with arizona.edu.

Attendees want to learn about Drupal 8, how this impacts UA Digital, whether the conference was worth it, and headless Drupal.

We'll have a panel discussion today with these people who attended DrupalCon New Orleans

  • Chris Green - web developer at University Relations marketing, working on the president's site, arizona.edu, and news. Also involved in UA Digital.

  • Joe Parsons - campus web services at UITS, formerly at the graduate college. Also involved in UA Digital.

  • Mike Hagedon - UA Libraries manager of web development.

This was the 12th North American DrupalCon - there are international DrupalCons also. The next ones are in Dublin and Baltimore next year. About 3000 people attended this conference. It's a good place to meet the celebrities in the Drupal world.

There were a bunch of tracks. Was there anything surprising?

Chris mostly went to things he didn't know anything about yet - Symfony and PHP. Joe and Mike went to a bunch of different tracks. One of the new ones was the horizons tracks. Joe attended some talks in this track - they were very forward looking topics like frontend frameworks, decoupled Drupal, and headless Drupal.

Pantheon talk about recent history of WordPress. One of the presenters was one of the people in the WordPress community. The new calypso tool for WordPress is a recent development. It's a frontend for the admin side of WordPress created entirely in JavaScript. Developed by Automattic (which is similar to Acquia in the WordPress world). Calypso is used on wordpress.com, but it's probably going to be part of the full release. WordPress recently rolled out a REST API and that made it possible to write a decoupled front-end. Core maintainers and contributors for Drupal were in the talk and it was interesting to hear the conversation, which was constructive, but a bit sensitive. Backwards compatibility is a big deal in WP. But for Drupal, it's handled by migrate; it's not as important in core.

The tracks were really wide-ranging. From core conversations to UX, and Symfony and PHP tracks. Many levels of nerd.

How did you choose where you spent your time?

Joe: This can be challenging because every hour there's something in every track. Then there are BOFs that are more grassroots. The sessions are available after the fact, so my strategy is to get to the stuff that's not going to be recorded first. These BOFS are pretty informal - sometimes the person running it has an agenda. I went to an interesting BOF about distributuions and features. There was a short presentation and then questions and answers after. A lot of what Donna does at DrupalCon is engaging with vendors, and since she had to leave, I ended up doing more of that than usual.

Chris: I chose things I didn't know anything about. It was my first time, and it was overwhelming. Next time I'll probably download the app. When you go to the vendor hall they give away a ton of stuff! There's a lot of swag. One thing we did that was helpful was to create a slack channel where we could communicate about what we were doing.

Mike: I tried to choose talks on topics that are harder to Google. I've learned to pace myself instead of having to go to every talk.

Joe: If I get into a session that's not what I expected or is really different from my level, I go find a different session.

Joe: I went to the higher ed summit on Monday. It was people from other higher ed institutions at an extended BOF. There was a panel discussion and then breakout sessions. That was the biggest value-add from this conference. Making connections with people and talking with them is really helpful.

Chris: Another tip - don't forget that the summits and trainings are separate from the conference. You have to register separately, and if you're not going, you can fly in on Monday.

Mike: Yeah, networking is helpful at any conference.

What did you learn at the Higher Ed summit?

Joe: It was just cool to realize that a lot of the things we struggle with are not uncommon. We can also find out how other people solved some of the problems that we have. For example, we're working on hosting Drupal sites with Acquia and at the summit we could hear from others about how they're managing hosting for their Drupal sites on Acquia and other platforms.

Mike: The energy of being around other people interested in the same thing you are is  powerful, and being around 3000 other like-minded people is amazing.

Joe: There is a huge advantage of actually being there. Talking with other people at these kinds of conferences is one of my favorite thing about open source.

Chris: It's really helpful to bring back solutions that other people have used to solve the same problems you're working on.

Joe: Going to the social events is also really helpful. There's a DrupalCamp that happens in Phoenix about once a year, and that's another good place to make connections. That's the same thing I like about UA Digital. UA Digital is on a smaller scale, but it's that same kind of collaborative environment where we are networking and trying to solve problems together.

Is Site in a Box produced by one of these big Drupal companies?

It used to be produced by Kwall, yeah. They were at the conference. There are several Drupal agencies and a lot of them are really big. Palantir, ffw, kwall, acquia, pantheon. If you've heard their name in Drupal. Kwall, Palantir, and Acquia are companies on our approved vendor list for the University.

There's a project in progress called UA Sites, being developed with UA Digita, that's intended to replace Site in a Box.

It's not so much that they'll sell you software, but it's more like they help you with your project or do your project for you. They try to make as much of available open source tools as possible. There's a range of vendors and what they do. For the most part those vendors are committed to open source.

What are you most excited about?

Chris: I learned that I don't know as much as I thought I knew. Drupal 8 is scary and probably not ready for us yet. I learned Drupal 7 and 8 are totally different.

How close is the relationship between Drupal 8 and Symfony

Mike: Ryan Weaver is a symfony person and he gave a Drupal 8 training, so that might tell you something. Some things are a little different but many things are similar. Drupal 8 is based on 20-some Symfony components. On the module-writing level there are some things that are specific to Drupal but not much. Most of it is the same as writing for Symfony.

Chris: Check out KNP university and if you follow the Symfony track in the DrupalCon website you can see the module they created in the training. Also twig is completely different. If you're a developer or if you're a themer, everything has changed. The site building experience is pretty similar. Many things went into core that you used to use a module for.

Mike: I'm most excited about Drupal 8. I started listing the Drupal 8 equivalents for modules we use on our main website. Friday is a sprint day and about 9 of us from different Universities and one of the maintainers of the CAS module worked on the Drupal 8 port for CAS. Will and I are working on one of the challenging issues that's blocking many others.  Because of Symfony's architecture, you can overwrite components of core more easily.

Joe: I'm also most excited about Drupal 8. The first day was the Driesnote. It's always a summary of where Drupal is at. Drupal 8 has adopted a semantic versioning system. The minor versions can add functionality and they're planning to release every 6 months. A new feature that went into 8.1 is BigPipe which is an idea for enhancing performance that the Drupal community got from Facebook. It give percieved performance gains by lazy loading things differently. Dries also announced proposed initiatives. One of those was theme component library; how to offer something like web components.

Configuration management interface?

The CMI system in Drupal 8 allows all the configuriation that Drupal needs (simple and complex variables) to be exported and imported into sites with ease. You build a site, then you can export that configuration and deploy it to a new site. Either the whole thing or bits and pieces. In Drupal 7 we rely on features and other contrib solutions to make that possible. Packaging something into a feature isn't handled by core's configuration system, but the contributed Features module will be going back to its roots and handling that in Drupal 8.

Our next meeting in June. There are some notes that There's a slack channel and website for edudu - idea sharing for people in higher ed who use Drupal. Joe will share that with UA Web and UA Digital.