DrupalCon ’11 Thoughts

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This week I am in downtown Chicago making new friends and attending sessions and parties at DrupalCon ’11. I will have to say, I’ve been to a lot of conferences in the past 6 years but it is rare that I meet a community that is as enthusiastic and friendly as the Drupal community.

The conference officially opened yesterday with a keynote by Dries Buytaert. His talk was titled “What is Drupal?” which was actually a bit misleading, because he didn’t really discuss what Drupal is, he talked more about what Drupal is becoming. Dries is the founder and CTO of Aquia. Having been in similar keynotes more times than I like to remember, I was fully expecting Dries to spend his hour touting what Aquia had done, the customers they were working with and the cool sites they had built. To my great surprise, Auqia wasn’t mentioned once. Instead he spent a good portion of his time talking about where the Drupal community was taking Drupal and touting some of the large sites that were using Drupal, without once mentioning who was building these sites out.

One of the points of the presentation was that while there were a lot of contributors to Drupal 7, 50% of the patches were submitted by 30 people. He then proceeded to show their names and pictures, call each by name and ask those present to stand as the audience showed their appreciation for what these people had done.

The main thrust of the presentation was Drupal 8. Dries made it clear that while Drupal 7 was out and all was good, the core developers were already turning their attention to Drupal 8. Dries identified and owned several problems with the development process and proposed fixes to them. The new process will be more streamlined, have better communication and should keep things moving along at a good clip. The most ambitious of the new processes is the goal that there will never be more than 15 mission critical bugs open at any given time. This means that a major release of Drupal will never be more than 15 mission critical bugs away.

One of the points that he brought out that was especially interested was that in the past, people have felt that performance of the core was almost an afterthought. That features were being committed without regard to the performance implications. One of the changes he Is proposing is that performance be a priority for the core developers and that with every change the performance impact be considered.

The rest of the keynote was dedicated to making sure that the Drupal community knew that their future was secure, a message every community wants to hear. He talked about some of the initiatives and conversation surrounding Drupal 8, giving everyone an idea of where things were headed.

If I sound a bit like I am gushing, you have to understand, I have been to a lot of keynote speeches. I’ve heard talks by Jason Calacanis and Tim O’Reilly. I’ve seen keynote speakers spew marketing messages at developers like they are nothing more than potential marks, and I’ve seen them speak in front of an audience of hundreds of developers but talk only to pundits in hopes of some positive press. So yes, pardon me if I find Dries’ approach of talking to the community like they matter as refreshing. It is obvious why Drupal is taking off like a rocket these days; the community and the ecosystem co-exist peacefully and actually collaborate. The heads of the community are actively involved in it and do not attack those trying to use Drupal as a platform on which to build a business. I’m looking forward to the rest of the conference.

About Cal Evans

Many moons ago, at the tender age of 14, Cal touched his first computer. (We're using the term "computer" loosely here, it was a TRS-80 Model 1) Since then his life has never been the same. He graduated from TRS-80s to Commodores and eventually to IBM PCs.   For the past 10 years, Cal has worked with PHP and MySQL on Linux OSX, and when necessary, Windows. He has built on a variety of projects ranging in size from simple web pages to multi-million dollar web applications. When not banging his head on his monitor, attempting a blood sacrifice to get a particular piece of code working, he enjoys building and managing development teams using his widely imitated but never patented management style of "management by wandering around". Cal is happily married to wife 1.33, the lovely and talented Kathy. Together they have 2 kids who were both bright enough not to pursue a career in IT. Cal blogs at http://blog.calevans.com and is the founder and host of Nomad PHP