DrupalCon Los Angeles Report

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Dries Buytaert DrupalCon Los Angeles

Last week, the Drupal Community gathered in Los Angeles, CA, for the DrupalCon Los Angeles Conference. The weeklong event gave people the opportunity to sharpen their Drupal skills, see how others have utilized Drupal for website solutions, and get a preview of some of the great new features that will be available in Drupal 8.

I must say the Drupal Community clearly demonstrated that being a tech person doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. As an example, the conference kicked off with the pre-keynote presentation titled, “Snow Beauty and the 101 Mermaids Show”—an actual musical presentation poking fun at the trials and tribulations of utilizing Drupal development to satisfy user’s needs. Some top Drupal contributors gave it their all singing and dancing for the DrupalCon audience.

Then it was time for the Driesnote address. Drupal founder Dries Buytaert took the stage to recap the history of Drupal and gave his vision for the future of the web. It was a fascinating look at how it all started and some of the key events that has propelled Drupal to be one of the most popular content management systems.

Dries recounted how he created Drupal in his dorm room in 2000 as a quick message board for him and his friends. It then quickly evolved into an experimental platform—including things like blogs (then referred to as online diaries) and RSS feeds. But the key event happened in 2004 when U.S. presidential candidate Howard Dean (remember him?) made the decision to leverage the internet to campaign. He used a vehicle called Dean’s Space (a distribution of Drupal) to raise millions of dollars. Although Dean didn’t when the presidency, people realized that this technique was game changing.

This was the big turning point for Drupal—as it then got mentioned in major publications such as Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal. The publicity led to a lot of great people joining the Drupal Project.

Also fascinating was listening to some of the contrasts between Drupal’s beginnings and today’s Drupal environment. For example, Dries was amazed when 27 people attended the very first DrupalCon. Of course, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the thousands that were at DrupalCon Los Angeles. And, Dries explained how he initially ran drupal.org on a shared hosting account. When the server crashed, he replaced each page with a donation button for a new server. Within 24 hours, they had raised $10,000—and the magic of the Drupal Community could be seen for the first time.

As for the future of Drupal and the Drupal Community, Dries explained, “What it all comes down to is providing the right information to the right person at the right time.” He then talked about the need to make some big changes to the web. “Specifically, I believe that we have to transform from what I call the pull-based web to a push-based web”, Dries told the audience. The much anticipated Drupal 8 will contain key elements to help with this transformation of the web.

While some sites are already using version 8 of Drupal, they don’t recommend that you do–as they’re still working on fixing the last bugs before issuing release candidates. The stretch goal is to have Drupal 8 ready for DrupalCon Barcelona in September. In getting a preview of some D8 features at the conference breakout sessions, it certainly looks like it will be worth the wait. According to Dries Buytaert, more than 3,800 people have contributed to Drupal 8. “I really do believe Drupal 8 will be a game changer,” he said near the end of his keynote address.

Many web hosting companies participated in or sponsored DrupalCon Los Angeles. In addition to website management platform companies like Pantheon and Acquia, other well-known hosting companies such as SiteGround, Arvixe, and InMotion Hosting also had a presence at this year’s conference.

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