Retrospective: My First Time at DrupalCon
It is hard to describe my excitement at DrupalCon Dublin, my first DrupalCon indeed. After a year of preparations by the local Irish community it was hard to believe that it was actually happening.
I think I was pretty well prepared and knew what to expect. A couple of blogs from fellow Annertechies had helped to plan it, especially Mark's Get the Most out of DrupalCon Dublin.
Having become a father for the second time only two weeks before the event and spending the previous fortnight on paternity leave, I really enjoyed sharing a full week with my otherwise distributed work colleagues and, shall I say, friends. We even had a headquarters: booth 901, which was only a few steps away from the Drupal Ireland one.
Most of Monday was spent doing the pre-note rehearsal. I must say I really enjoyed being part of it. I had a pretty small part: I was one of the "O'Drupals", the trad band that would be playing a couple of tunes. As the conference took place in Ireland and I knew how to play the Irish drum called the bodhrán, I thought it would be a good way to break the ice.
I also found myself collecting stickers of previous DrupalCons. I have no clue why I did that, I suppose I wanted to go back in time and somehow compensate for my absence in previous events. I guess I wanted my laptop completely covered with these stickers like all the committed druapalists you see at the conference, they seem to have been everywhere! On second thoughts I decided to just keep the stickers, without trying to showcase something that didn't actually happen, so my laptop currently has only 2 stickers: DrupalCon Dublin and one for Drupal Ireland (that I happen to have designed myself).
Tuesday started early. I was there at 6 in the morning for a pre-note rehearsal. The last minute rehearsal went well as did the real performance. I think the O'Drupals played as good as we could have, a trad band consisting of 3 guitars (one of them electric), two bodhráns and an occasional flute here and whistle there didn't feel very traditional to me from the purist point of view, but hey, we did very very well, I think everybody enjoyed the music and we were even sharing the stage with the one and only Dries Buytaert, not a bad place to be when you are at the beginning of the second day of your first DrupalCon.
The highlight of the day for me was probably the Keynote by Dries, right after the prenote, I really enjoyed it. Really looking forward to start using the new D8 Block Placement or Menu settings tray. I think both are really going to affect site builders' usability. Also enjoyed his meaningful moments and how Drupal and its community actually improves people's lives. My lowlight would be "Streamlined Front-end Development with Pattern Lab and Twig", a session that I was really looking forward and that left me feeling like maybe I had too many expectations on this one.
I didn't make it to the welcome party that we, Drupal Ireland, had organised to be on a boat just outside the Convention Centre but I heard the following morning it was a great success and a lot of people went to have a pint of the black stuff with the local Drupal Community.
A mistake (I think) I made was not to attend the BoFs and to go to the sessions instead. "21 things I learned with Twig & Drupal" by MortenDK was the most enjoyable so far. I really enjoyed how he explained how designers and developers are thinking very different and how the themers kind of fall in the middle. By the end of his presentation I felt that I should have really be looking more often into the DrupalTwig Slack Channel and I already decided that I have to go to Frontend United in Athens next May.
It is amazing how much I took in of almost everything he said even though his non-stop presentation style reminded me of a Ramones concert where songs are played at twice the original speed and one linked to each other with a "one two three four". I have already watched this talk on YouTube again. This is actually one of the good things I found at this DrupalCon. Sometimes there is an overlap of two sessions I wanted to attend: no problem, watch it later on YouTube. Sometimes I want to refresh something in particular as during the DrupalCon there is a lot to take in and energy and concentration levels reduce significantly as the day goes by: again YouTube saves the day.
As happened on Tuesday, I missed the evening side of the Conference. The Realex Web Awards 2016 took place that evening and ireland.ie, a collaborative project between Annertech, Big O Media and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and others which happens to be the first site I worked on in Annertech around nine months ago, was nominated for "Best Arts and Culture" website and "Most Beautiful Website in Ireland" and you know what? It won them both!
And then it was announced that ireland.ie had won one more award, the overall icing on the cake "Best Website in Ireland" award. I felt so proud of my fellow annertechies and rest of the collaborators when I heard the news, it had been a really enjoyable project to work on and it was great to see it rewarded.
And finally, when things couldn't get better, there was one more trophy to collect by Alan, Anthony, Mark, Karen and Tom, my fellow colleagues representing us at the event. They went on to collect the "Web Agency of the Year" award. I truly believe days like these don't come very often, it is such an honour for me to be part of such an amazing team.
On Thursday I really enjoyed "Creating Layouts and Landing Pages for Drupal 8" by Suzanne Dergacheva and how she explores different theming approaches for landing pages such as using Paragraphs to define the call to actions or create a new content type for the call to actions and reference it with the Entity Reference Field and use the Inline Entity Form.
I also learnt something about DrupalCons the hard way: If you really want to go to something, don't go there just one minute before it starts, don't stop to talk to everybody you know and meet on the way to the second floor. "Drupal 8 hidden power: Entity Reference as a component-based site builder", a session I had been highly anticipating as one not to be missed already had a full room when I arrived, and I was forced to go somewhere else. I know, I can watch it in YouTube afterward, but being there in person would have been A1.
As with the rest of the night events, I couldn't make the Trivia Night but I really wish I had been to this historic occasion. Trivia Night was taking place in the country where it was born: in Ireland. And it was happening in a really astounding venue called the Round Room in the Mansion House. And this is something you can't really watch on YouTube. I will have to wait a full long year and get to it at DrupalCon Vienna.
In general it was a truly enjoyable and memorable experience, much more than I had anticipated. I know I didn't go to all the sessions I wanted to and that I missed the BoFs and most of the social side of the DrupalCon, but meeting great people at the stands, learning lots at the sessions, celebrating the awards and making new friends was more than enough to make it an extremely beneficial week.
I am already looking forward to the next one, it might be even better, at the next DrupalCon in September 2017.
Ricardo Flores Galán UX Designer
Ricardo is our Lead UX Designer with almost 20 years' experience in the industry. A native of Spain, he is multi-award-winning UX designer, and is a regular contributor at UX events across Europe.