Central Denver Drupal Meetup Recap, March 2013

This is the first meetup recap we've done that specifies we're talking about the Central Denver meetup, because we now have 3 monthly meetups in Denver (in addition to several elsewhere in Colorado). So far this hasn't hurt attendance at the original meetup at all. It was another crowded room. Specifically, we had 40 people show up to talk about Drupal.

I know the exact number because we took a survey during introductions. The question was "what do you do with Drupal?" and I counted everyone's answer across several broad categories. The results: 85% used Drupal, 80% did site building (browser-based configuration), 60% did custom PHP module development, 50% worked in Drupal's theme layer, 32.5% wrote JavaScript, 20% did systems administration, 17.5% did project management, 12.5% did design, and about 20% mentioned something else not covered in those categories (e.g. training, hosting, sales). Astute readers will notice that adds up to more than 100%; nearly everyone uses Drupal in a few different ways.

Varnish!

After introductions, Brad Jones gave a presentation on using Varnish with Drupal. Varnish is an open source "reverse proxy" cache, which means it sits in front of your web server (e.g. Apache), and either passes on requests to the server or sends a cached copy of previous replies from the server for the same content.

Drupal, of course, already has a cache system, and Brad explained how Varnish improves on Drupal's cache with both speed and flexibility. On the speed side, Varnish serves cached content from RAM rather than a database. In addition to skipping the database load, it skips loading a full web server and PHP. Even with minimal configuration, Varnish can dramatically speed up a Drupal site.

To demonstrate the flexibility of Varnish caching, Brad showed an example of how Varnish could be configured to cache pages for authenticated Drupal users. He also talked briefly about "edge side includes," which can be used in Varnish to cache part of a page without caching the whole page. Brad posted slides from his presentation for anyone who wasn't able to make the meetup.

Views!

After Brad's Varnish presentation, Clayton Dewey gave everyone an introduction to Views. Views is the most-used module in Drupal, so we often assume everyone knows how to use it, but around 20% of attendees at the meetup were unfamiliar. I've personally been using Views for years and have written a few modules that integrate with Views, but I still learned a lot from the presentation. Views is used mostly for creating lists of content in Drupal, and Clayton walked through how to build an example list of ska bands. He showed how to use both field and entity displays, attached displays, grouping of results, and integration with Nodequeue.

Several members of the audience also shared some tips on getting started with Views, including the drush vd command, leaving comments on displays to describe preprocessing, using tokens to merge fields today, and useful modules that integrate with Views such as Display Suite, Views Bulk Operations, and Draggable Views.

Due to time constraints, we weren't able to cover Vagrant, VoIP, or any other technologies that start with V. We only had a bit of time for general Drupal Q&A. Fortunately, we have plenty of Denver meetups coming up! We'll have the whole Drupal alphabet covered in no time.

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