Many of us, here at Forum One, recently attended DrupalCon Denver, the official conference of the CMS’ open source community. We each took some time to put together our perspectives on the conference, the Drupal community, and the future of Drupal.
Aaron Zinck: I'm encouraged by the risks the Drupal community seems prepared to take to position Drupal 8 for success. In the near term, the Layout and Configuration Management initiatives are exciting in that they promise to solve two of Drupal's thorniest problems. In the longer term, the adoption of Symfony should address some of our long-standing architecture weaknesses. On a different note, check out WYSIWYG Fields. It’s not quite ready for prime-time, but it’s the smartest approach I’ve seen for handling embeddable content.
Adam Gregory: As a longtime Drupal Community member, I was encouraged to see the level of support not just from the community members, but also from the business and open-source communities. I like seeing the Drupal community grow not only through individual developers, but also in company and commercial support. The Drupal community has traditionally grown on the support of small, individual developers. But for Drupal to sustain its growth and trajectory and compete with proprietary companies like Adobe, Microsoft, or Vignette, we must grow the commercial support base of companies that provide professional-level services. It was very heartening to see such an expanded base of companies stepping up to that plate, ForumOne being one of the leaders.
Andrew Cohen: The diversity of the Drupal Community continues to astound me. One minute I’m talking to a high school teacher who is using Drupal to help her students build their school’s modest website. Another minute, I’m speaking with someone from a Fortune 500 company who is looking to build a complex cluster of presences. Drupal continues to demonstrate that it is accessible to projects with modest requirements and limited resources, but also robust enough to power the most complex, high-traffic sites imaginable.
Chris Wolz: I had a great time at DrupalCon with our team and with clients. Here are some takeaways for people who may not have attended a DrupalCon.
- I really like the energy and pragmatism of the people building and using Drupal. As one example, listen to this funny, frank, humble, and visionary presentation of the “SWOT” of Drupal by its inventor, Dries Buytaert.
- I see strong growth ahead for Drupal. I heard encouraging discussions about improving the UX of Drupal, the Drupal 8 2013 rollout with a focus on mobile, the “Large-Scale Drupal” Initiative, and Drupal’s adoption by big organizations (i.e., government agencies and large nonprofit organizations in the DC area). Drupal versions will come and go, but Drupal will continue to evolve.
- I expect we’ll be seeing more effective marketing of Drupal. Big web technology spending decisions will increasingly be made not by CTOs, but by CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers), and Drupal is not now presented to them in a very user friendly manner. I was in several discussions about a more coordinated and open-source approach to developing marketing messages and materials for Drupal that others can then take and use on their own. This will be valuable, and we’ll be involved.
Courtney Clark: User experience continues to be a concern for Drupal enthusiasts. I talked to several Drupal developers who expressed the need for better UX across the board (Drupal admin, Drupal.org, sites developed with Drupal, etc). The more usable the experience, the easier it is to sell Drupal. I was also blown away by the Drupal community! I’ve never been to a conference that had so many smart, capable, and excited attendees.
Dan Mouyard: The growing energy and enthusiasm around improving the theme layer in Drupal 8 was exciting. The HTML5 initiative has been hard at work for over a year updating the core templates, theme functions, and form elements to HTML5. The Mobile Initiative started picking up steam late last year, making core themes responsive and devising strategies to make the Drupal admin interface work on mobile devices. At DrupalCon, a new initiative started to coalesce around improving the underlying theme layer: making it more consistent, simplifying the process of pulling data into templates, and possibly including Twig, a new templating language.
Dave Menefee: Drupal is experiencing a new growth spurt, driven by usability concerns and mobile access. There’s an opportunity here for us to show how well we can design usable sites that work across all devices and create user-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and very useful sites for our clients. My experience at DrupalCon also drove home to me the vast expertise available to developers in the community.
Kerry Thell: With my business development hat on, I’m always looking to see where there are opportunities for us to develop into new sectors, find new clients, and work with partners. After meeting with several folks during the week and walking through the sponsor fair, I loved seeing the number of people in the community doing excellent Drupal work. We’ve been doing great nonprofit Drupal work for years, and I’m encouraged by the amount of growth (and competition!) in the marketplace.
Kurt Voelker: Two big things stand out for me. First, across the community, we’re doing amazing work with Drupal, and I don’t mean just technology work. We’re powering real progress in health, education, international development, policy research, citizen engagement, and better government. Second, on the technology front, the pace of innovation for Drupal 8 is really exciting. The technologies that will be central to digital publishing tomorrow — HTML5, services, mobile, noSQL — are very quickly becoming realities in Drupal today.
Norman Bucknor: In the battle between big-core and small-core Drupal, big-core seems to be the winner. Drupal 8 will be packed with more features out-of-the-box as it pulls more and more contributed modules into core. The advantage is an easy to learn, preconfigured CMS; the disadvantage is performance. If the trend continues as it did from 5 > 6 > 7, then Drupal 8 will be slower than Drupal 7, and performance will be a much larger issue when architecting Drupal sites in the future.
Stein Setvik: It's exciting to participate in the Drupal community, witness its explosive growth, and see the passion and skill each person in the community brings to the table. My big takeaways from this year's DrupalCon.
- The community's conviction that UX, especially in the areas of content editing and layout, is critical for Drupal's continued success, the various initiatives to improve Drupal’s UX (inline editing and drag-n-drop page layout, to name a couple), and the numerous opportunities there are for UX buffs to get involved, help out, and have an impact!
- There's a quickly accelerating shift to the front-end and towards a division of labor where the server manages data and the browser takes on the work of displaying it and building the interface to interact with it. To quote Ethan Winn, "The Web Apps are coming!" Yes, Drupal's mastered the back-end. But now it needs a front-end JS framework to help it kick butt in the front-end arms race as well. JQuery isn’t enough. To the rescue comes Backbone.js, a popular, powerful, and lightweight MVC JS framework and the exciting new Backbone module, which integrates Backbone.js with Drupal. Check out Ethan's fantastic presentation. This is definitely an effort to watch and get involved with. Exciting stuff! Ignore at your peril.
William Hurley: I was heartened to hear in the keynote some mention of areas where Drupal wasn’t going to take over the world, places that can use improvement, and direct comparisons to products that are competitors in the marketplace. Without that sort of honest self-assessment, it’s hard to push to get to the next level. And I think one of the key areas, as Dries identified, is treating content creators and editors as important users. I’m excited to see the work that’s gone into modules such as Workbench and Panelizer and what that may mean for an even better Drupal 8.