DrupalCon PDX - Favorite Moments

Last week 9 of us from Aten attended DrupalCon Portland, 2013. With more that 3,300 registrations, this was the largest DrupalCon yet. Our team was privileged to be sponsors, speakers, and co-organizers for the event. As always, there were plenty of incredible sessions, so many people to catch up with, and no shortage of after-parties. Here are a few highlights from the team.


A recurring theme that surfaced in a number of sessions was that of changing processes. Responsive web design has had a huge impact on how we design and develop websites. Jared Ponchot's talk, "Designing on Purpose: Design Process & Deliverables in the Responsive Age", dove into the UX side of designing for a responsive web while Sam Richards and Mason Wendell gave front-end developers lots to think about in their session "Managing Responsive Web Design with Sass and Breakpoint".

I'm extremely excited that Twig is going to make it into Drupal 8. This change will be one of the greatest boons to front-end development for Drupal in years. Jen Lampton has done a fantastic job leading the initiative and it was great to see so many people working on Twig at the code sprints on Friday.

Finally, John, Garrett and I spent a lot of time discussing the future of Center and Prototype, the base and starter themes Aten uses internally to kickstart projects. They're now full projects on drupal.org and we're planning on having a release for each in the coming weeks. Exciting stuff!


It was good to see so many people turn out for the "Drupal DoGooders Happy Hour" that went to benefit Aaron Winborn. A couple rooms full of people were able to enjoy some food and drink, and talk with Aaron and his family via Google Hangout. I think we all appreciated being able to thank Aaron for the years he spent contributing to the Drupal Community and to give a token of our appreciation back to him and his family.


My favorite part of DrupalCon was probably Ashe Dryden's "Programming Diversity" session. I'm sure I wasn't the only audience member hoping Ashe would give us a silver bullet for diversity problems in our industry. Instead, she explained the complexity of the problem and gave us some practical approaches to helping solve it. One of her tips, "Have the hard conversations," I unfortunately had an opportunity to apply while still at DrupalCon, in some hard conversations I might have let pass without Ashe's well-designed slides fresh in my mind.


What an amazing week! Though this was my 5th DrupalCon, it was also my first opportunity to actually be part of a company that had a booth. That was an interesting perspective to the conference from the get go. It was fun to be able to greet people, talk about the awesomeness of Aten, and hand out scout books.

I didn't make it to too many sessions this time around. However, I ran the "Making Drupal Meetups and Events Rock" session with an amazing panel of Drupal contributors. We had great feedback from that session and more questions than we had time to answer.

The other highlight of the week for me was the "Women in Drupal Meet & Greet Reception" on Tuesday night hosted by Aten Design Group and Squishy Media at the Squishy Media offices. Despite the torrential downpour we had an amazing turn out. Women started piling in right around 6pm, and continued throughout the night. Squishy Media had to send the final ladies home around 11 pm. Beyond great networking, events like this do so much to promote women in the community.


For those who didn't catch the featured Coding/Development session, "Development, By The Numbers" was a fantastic look at the long term readability and maintainability of open source projects. The short end of that is Drupal is looking better and better as time passes. The concepts and tools discussed, such as checking cyclomatic complexity with phpmd were invaluable, and I encourage every developer to check it out.

I also had a great time attending a couple of BoFs. One was on non-profits and NGOs, and people expressed frustrations in upgrading distributions, which was extremely valuable given that Aten maintains the OpenAid distribution.

I was delighted at the opportunity to host a BoF on Vagrant, and it was a little awkward given my utter lack of experience in hosting "BoFs"–but I had a blast nonetheless. The Drupal community could use some input from those who have DevOps experience, and I hope to have inspired others to contribute back to the DevOps Drupal group.


I had a blast in Portland. It was great to get a chance to see coworkers face-to-face again after working abroad in Australia for the last 6 months.

I was super excited to see Jonathan Snook present on SMACSS after reading his book a couple times and having presented on the subject myself in the past. He didn't disappoint.

For me, the highlight of the conference was Karen McGrane's keynote, "Thriving in a World of Change: Future-friendly Content with Drupal". Karen's thoughts on structuring content for longevity and flexibility are a fundamental shift in how we view website development. Read her book if you haven't. Drupal is ahead of most platforms when it comes to structured content. However, Karen warned we may be taking a step back with in-place editing features in core. While easy to use, in-place editing leads authors to believe their content will always live within the context of the current page. We should be encouraging authors to look beyond the page.

Since sessions were recorded, I've been catching up on a few that I missed while at the event. "Plugin Haikus" is one of those, and is definitely worth watching for anyone interested in a better understanding of the cTools plugin system–something that's been on my mind a lot lately.


Drupalcon seems to always be as much about kicking with cool folks as it is about sessions, and this round was no different. I especially enjoyed getting to high-five John Ferris in person, as he's been representing Aten in the southern hemisphere since last December.

The front-end track contained some really great content, the highlight for me being Jonathan Snook’s "Scalable and Modular Architecture for CSS". The session was essentially an overview of Snook’s excellent book of the same name, which reaffirmed some of the front-end approaches we’ve been building for at Aten.


The DrupalCon 2013 highlight for me was having so many people from the Aten team in Portland; it’s always a good time when we get out of the office together! We enjoyed watching sessions by our team members, roaming the streets of downtown Portland, trying new restaurants, new bars, and debriefing in our hotel lobby. Ken Woodworth, Aten’s Art Director, flew in from our Rochester, NY office, and John Ferris, Front-end Developer, was able to join us all the way from Australia; it was great to see them!

Spending time at the booth talking to old friends, new friends, and colleagues is always a treat. We shared hundreds of our DrupalCon Portland sketch books, new posters, and great conversation about our work and clients. These times always reinforce my gratitude for being able to work with such a great team doing good work for an amazing client base.


For my part, DrupalCon is always a great opportunity to connect with people – clients, friends, other shop owners, and even colleagues – who we otherwise just don't see very often in person. I had some great conversations and was inspired by the sheer growth in the Drupal community... there are some incredible organizations doing all kinds of great work, and it was great to see that again first hand.

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