First-timer impressions from DrupalCon Europe 2020

  • Laurent Constantin

The corona situation forced DrupalCon Barcelona 2020 to be fully hosted online, and was therefore renamed to DrupalCon Europe 2020. How was the experience? And how did I end up here?

You will find my first impressions about the conference in this article, as well as a bit of a background story, and some tips. Enjoy.

Background

I have been working as a backend developer on PHP projects for more than 15 years now. I joined Liip in Lausanne a bit more than two years ago, and at first, I was mostly involved in Moodle projects.

About one year ago in late 2019, we founded a team (we call it Circle ®) to craft digital solutions based on Drupal in Lausanne. The Drupal knowledge has already been within Liip for many years, as we use and contribute to it in many of our locations, including Fribourg, Bern and Zurich. I was onboarded and coached by others Liipers; I grew my skills and got in touch with the Swiss Drupal community. Everything looked promising! After a couple of months, we nevertheless decided to stop the adventure, and continue with other projects. That being said, I had the opportunity to work with Drupal 8 for a couple of months, and it was far more evolved, than the somewhat difficult memories I got from earlier versions of it.

So I decided to keep my ticket for DrupalCon Barcelona, even if it meant to spend a few days at home watching talks instead of being at a great venue full of people in the beautiful city of Barcelona. Let’s be clear, it is the first DrupalCon I have ever attended, I did attend some conferences for other projects (Symfony and Moodle).

The conference format

Well it all started with an email, telling us how to get familiar with the online platform, and how to use it or seek for help. I was surprised to see that the online event did not abandon the "networking part" of a conference. A “virtual exhibition” was available where you could find the different sponsors and meet them. A “meeting hub” was available to connect with other attendees. You could even ask for a buddy that can catch up with you and help you through the conference. DrupalCon Europe even planned social events in the evenings, but I wasn’t in the mood to attend them (yet).

The rest was as usual, you had different tracks you could subscribe to and watch. A chat and live Q&A area were available for each talk and it’s all quite straightforward to use. The platform uses a Zoom integration. Unfortunately, it did not work on my Linux distribution on the first day. It’s quite an unpleasant experience to miss a few minutes of the first talk because of technical issues. Fortunately, a workaround was available, and the issue got more or less fixed on day 2.
Furthermore, all the sessions were recorded and are available to watch later. I guess that this can be expected for a first full-online experience, and overall the platform was great. I can’t imagine how much work it has been to turn this event from an in-person to an all- virtual one. I was quite impressed by the result!

The talks

I attended a few talks, they all focused on specific topics, but some are more “developer”-oriented than others. I did a bit of everything, including “business” oriented talks. I still can’t figure what to say about them, some were more than excellent, others felt basic or too simplified. There was something for every kind of profile, but overall I felt disappointed by most of them. (To be honest, it’s something that has happened in the past. I probably enjoy the social part more at these events, or I don’t choose the right talks). However, there were very good talks that I personally enjoyed:

The feeling

Having mastermind speakers is quite a thing. You can listen to talks by people that have been doing Drupal for years, sharing their overall experiences on Drupal and no matter the topic they share, it’s a pleasure to listen!
It makes me realise how huge the community is and how difficult it is to drive it in an embracing, contributive and constructive way. Drupal has evolved a lot, specifically since the switch to Drupal 8. But managing the technical aspect is not all there is in a community. Finding ways so people can have a safe place to discuss, interact and contribute is something too. A strategy to center humans and their rights in Open Source Design is one aspect they tackle, but there are many more that are worth the efforts. I can say that I like the direction that Drupal is taking, and it’s a pleasure to see that everything is built together to provide one of the best CMS out there! Even if the learning curve is still pretty steep and should not be neglected.

I was worried about having a fully remote conference, but I shouldn’t have!. The experience was great, I had very little issues, and the number of talks was impressive.
I recommend you to have a look at the talks in advance, book them, and don’t hesitate to switch to another one if your gut feeling is telling you to do so. I also recommend you to keep some space in your schedule for your daily business, ongoing projects, in case you will have to answer some emails or do a few meetings here and there. Last but not least, I recommend connecting with the community, there are amazing people out there, and it’s always great to share and build connections.

Congratulations and a big thank you to DrupalCon Europe 2020 and everybody involved, making this event a great online experience!

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