Web Development is a fast-paced industry that changes everyday. This can make it very difficult to stay up-to-date on new trends, best practices, tools, and techniques that can help make your website stand out.
At the Collaborative for Educational Services, we have moved onto building all of our websites in Drupal. Drupal is an open-source content management system (CMS) that is extremely customizable, secure, and is backed by a large community of maintainers.
Drupal has become the most powerful and popular open-source CMS used for making websites, which is why it is very important stay in touch on new updates, security releases, and the new modules that are being contributed by the community.
There are a few major Drupal conferences that take place every year, one of which is called DrupalCamp. DrupalCamps are small, 2 days on average, conferences that jam in a ton of training workshops and seminars presented by experts in the field. I was lucky enough to be able to attend DrupalCamp Colorado last weekend, my first time ever being a part of a Drupal, or web development in general, conference.
My first day at DrupalCamp Colorado
The day started off with a huge turnout of fellow Drupal developers and enthusiasts. I was immediately amazed by the positive attitude and friendliness of the crew and the attendees.
The amount of talent at the conference was staggering. Drupal has been around since 2001 (technically) and is now working on releasing it’s 8th major version, but seeing what these fellow developers have both contributed to the Drupal community and to their clients, is impressive.
Lingotek, one of the sponsors, demonstrated their translating module, which utilizes a 3rd party server called TMS. Matt Smith, the Director of Integrations and Principal Engineer, talked about their module’s ability to instantly translate content on the fly as well as the ability to translate module URI strings and UI elements, creating a fully translated website.
The sessions offered at DrupalCamp Colorado were amazing and were all targeted towards handling large Drupal installations. I will not overcrowd this post with information about each of the sessions I attended, but will instead focus on the information presented by the 2 amazing keynotes -Michael Meyers and Ken Rickard.
Our first keynote speaker, Michael Meyers
Michael Meyers, who runs the Large Scale Drupal (LSD http://www.largescaledrupal.com/) program at Acquia, a non profit that helps the community by providing projects, code, events, networking, supports, and more. Michael focused his talk around large scale Drupal installations. Here is some of the points he discussed:
Some of the largest websites in the world are using or switching to Drupal.
- Weather.com is in the process of changing over to Drupal 7.
- Sport Illustrated, also running on D7, received the highest traffic they’ve ever had when they published an article about Lebron’s return to his former team.
- And major events such as March Madness, streams the entire event on a hosted Drupal site.
- And lastly, the Grammy Awards, which happens once a year, are also streaming the entire event on a Drupal website.
Drupal’s place in education:
- 30% of all .edu sites use Drupal
- 70 out of the top 100 schools in the country use Drupal
Michael also talked about the importance of contributing a project to the community and how that can increase your chances of receiving faster and better support, give you the ability to learn more about best practices, share skills, and how your contribution helps create and may have made important projects possible and successful.
He then gave an interested comparison to demonstrate this using 2 company types. The first was a DIY (Do it Yourself) corporation that started working on a project but did it in a private repo with custom code. The problem with this is there is little to no outside support in case something goes wrong and recruiting new employees is harder as there is little room for growth in a private project setting and harder to find and identify someone with the right talent.
The second company however was Collab Inc, who before starting their new project, they reached out to community to see if a solution was already available. If there wasn’t, they immediately created a Drupal project/sandbox that allowed the Drupal community to use and provide insight, documentation, ideas, and also help fix any issues with patches.
Collab Inc began to build a reputation for themselves by attending meetups, local events, and with their contributed projects and collaborative support. This made it much easier to look for additional employees as the potential for growth with further contributed projects is much more attractive to other developers. It is also easier to identify potential candidates by looking at their Drupal profile. The Drupal profile allows a transparent insight into a members reputation and experience – based on contributions, commits, documentation, member length.
Michael Meyers finished his talk by talking about the community strength of Drupal and how opposing companies like Sony BMG and Warner Music Group were able to help each other out during the creation of the Five Star module – pointing out that the companies are not competing on technology instead are competing on business goals.
Our second keynote speaker, Ken Rickard
Ken Rickard, the Director of Development and Professional Services at Palantir, spoke about Drupal’s place in Enterprise settings, and what you, as a developer or consultant, need to be aware of.
Ken explained what an enterprise is – including multiple stakeholders, capital investment, and the possibility of legacy dependencies.
When working on an enterprise project, there is a large chance that you may be faced with one or more of the following concerns.
- Many large enterprise companies use 3rd parties like Oracle to handle their data, which can be very difficult to interact with both because of software and API limitations but also because of the sensitivity of the information being accessed requires special privileges and can take a long time to gain access.
- Being that Drupal is an open-source application, many enterprise level organization still frown upon these type of tools because of legacy issues or history with other systems – even though the advancements and reliability of open-source applications today are far beyond what they used to be.
- You will often be dealing with a siloed organization, where the departments and their opinions are completely separate on what the goals are for the business.
- Also, more often than not, you are considered the change-agent. A website is more than just appearance and content, it can often have huge impacts on the way a company works internally. With this comes a lot of responsibility and risk.
With these concerns, there are some things you can do in order to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
- Make sure all stakeholders are present at all the important decision making meetings
- Set clear boundaries on decisions and establish roles
- Create schedules and milestones and make sure everyone is on the same page
- Don’t assume everyone is the same – where are the skills? who are the blockers?
Ken finished his presentation with discussion some instances where he and his team worked with enterprise organizations and talked about some of the pitfalls they came up against.
Overall, the DrupalCamps and DrupalCons that are put on by volunteers, developers, and companies around the world help make Drupal what it is today and what it will be tomorrow. I plan on attending many more of these in the future and hope to one day present at one as well.