On April 25–28, 1,300 Drupalists came together in Portland, Oregon for the first in-person DrupalCon in more than two years. Even though this is just half of the event’s usual attendance (covid is still to blame), we were beyond excited to finally see our friends and partners in person. Nothing beats hanging out face to face.
The pandemic may have caused the event’s usual crowd to shrink, but the number of sponsors remained about the same, which means that Drupal agencies were as ready as ever to continue supporting the Drupal community.
Most agency owners we talked to saw a major influx of clients during covid, which, as fantastic as that is, had caused them to struggle to hire enough employees and keep up with the demand. Their local pools of Drupal developers dried out quickly, and that also drove candidates’ salary expectations through the roof. But there’s hope (shameless plug alert): you can always work with a Drupal development partner like ourselves to close your talent gaps.
Ukraine, naturally, was another major topic on everyone’s lips, and we, as Ukrainians, couldn’t be more grateful for all the words of support we received, including those from Dries Buytaert, Drupal Founder and Acquia CTO — but more on that later.
DrupalCon Portland, like any other DrupalCon, had a lot of great sessions to choose from, some more technical, some less. No one could visit them all, but we did visit a fair few and want to offer you our list of the five best sessions. If you didn’t get the chance to come to DrupalCon Portland this year, we hope that our list will help you feel like you were still part of the event. And if you did come, we hope you’ll enjoy revisiting some of DrupalCon’s choicest presentations.
In this article
The first session we recommend you to check out is a panel discussion about all things open source between Dries Buytaert, WordPress Core Contributor and Google Developer Relations Engineer Adam Silverstein, and GitLab VP of Quality Mek Stittri.
The speakers started off by sharing the good (more accessibility to events and education for people who can’t travel) and the bad (endless Zoom meetings) things that have happened since the world became more digital due to the pandemic and then quickly moved on to a much more pressing subject of transparency on the web. Dries, for one, said that he believes that algorithms behind technology that can have an immense influence on people’s lives, like DNA tests or Google ads, should definitely be out in the open. Moreover, a lot of algorithms, like those used in self-driving cars to help them decide whose life is more important, a driver’s or a pedestrian’s, should be regulated by governments.
The panelists also talked about blockchain, the borders that appear (or disappear) because of regulations like GDPR, DevSecOps, things the world could learn from Drupal in terms of security, and software licensing.
Dries Buytaert’s keynote on the state of the Drupal projects, a.k.a. Driesnote, is always the heart of any DrupalCon. Dries started this one off acknowledging the loss and destruction happening in Ukraine as the russian invasion continues and the impact it has on the Drupal community. Ukraine is the sixth most active contributing country in the world and would rank even higher if the counting was done per capita, so Ukrainian Drupalists are essential to Drupal. Dries went on to show a video featuring a number of Ukrainian Drupal developers who thanked the community for their support and for standing with Ukraine. Huge thanks to Dries from us too for talking about Ukraine and mentioning ways to help first thing in his speech.
From there, Dries gave an update on Drupal 10. Its release has been moved from June to December because there’s more work to do on the CKEditor 4 to CKEditor 5 migration path. It has to be perfect because CKEditor 5 is a complete rewrite, so there will be no upgrade path or backward compatibility.
Drupal 10 will also call for updating to Symfony 6.2 and, as a result, PHP 8.1. Now is a good time to start planning all the updates for that transition, Dries said. Drupal 9’s end of life is scheduled for November 2023, which will give everyone about 11 months to update starting from the release of Drupal 10.
Dries also talked about the cool changes and features that will come with Drupal 10: Olivero and Claro becoming the default (and stable!) front-end and back-end themes for Drupal, CKEditor 5, Starterkit (a new way to create themes in Drupal), and automatic updates, the community’s most requested feature.
Then, a more ambitious part of the keynote began: Dries laid out the roadmap for Drupal 11, which will come as a result of a change in vision from Drupal being for ambitious digital experiences to Drupal being for ambitious site builders. The grand purpose of this shift is to use the wide spread of Drupal (one in 30 websites is built with Drupal) to make the web a more open, diverse, creative, and secure space.
An ambitious site builder, in Dries’s words, can get a lot of things done through the UI and by installing and configuring modules. That said, they can also use custom code to make their site look and work exactly as they want it to.
The two-year strategy that will help this vision come to life will include two steps — making the core composable and accelerating innovation — by way of six concrete initiatives:
- Project Browser, which will make it easier to discover great modules,
- Starter templates, which will provide Drupal site builders with all the necessary modules depending on the type of website they want to create (event management, blogging, etc.) right from the start,
- Stable automatic updates,
- Move from Drupal CI to GitLab CI,
- Smaller Core through module migration from Core to Contrib,
- Keeping Drupal up-to-date and secure and managing all third-party dependencies to be as ready as possible for Drupal 11.
It was great to learn where Drupal is headed in the coming years, so do watch the presentation in full if you want to know all the details:
In this presentation, Dori Kelner, Principal at Insightful Culture and a managing partner at a web development agency, shared her approach to tackling something we all know too well — impostor syndrome. 70% of successful people experience impostor feelings at some point in their life and 80% of CEOs feel out of depth in their role, according to the stats Dori shared at the beginning of her speech.
Before you start asking us, “What on earth does impostor syndrome have to do with Drupal?” consider this: Dori made a very clear point that impostor syndrome is not a self-development topic, but a business problem — by being hard on yourself and not realizing your full potential, you’re detracting from the value you could be bringing to your organization.
She went on to share the thought patterns of the five types of perfectionists (the Perfectionist, the Expert, the Soloist, the Natural Genius, and the Superhuman) and the reframes they could use to change these patterns. She also gave a few tips that have helped her with impostor syndrome:
- Give your inner critic a name — it’s impostor syndrome.
- Remember that you are not alone — other people often feel the same way, they just don’t talk about it.
- Collect positive feedback — say thank you to compliments and write them down so you could reread them when feeling bad about yourself.
- Quiet your inner critic — take out a pen and write down three reasons why your doubts are a lie.
- Meditate — awareness of your breath and body will give you space to notice and reframe your negative thought patterns.
- Show yourself kindness.
There’s much more insight into impostor syndrome in Dori’s full speech, so if this topic resonates with you, give it a watch:
Moving on to a more technical plane, we want to suggest that you watch this session by Alexander Varwijk, Lead Front-End Engineer at Open Social, a long-time client of ours. In it, Alexander walked the audience through his implementation process of the three GraphQL operations (query, mutation, and subscription) in Open Social, shed some light on the inner workings of the GraphQL module, and showed the library underneath it to prove — it’s not all that scary.
He also touched on turning a schema into data with Drupal, using modules for a modular API, pagination according to the Relay specification, reasons why we load data the way we do, and testing an API to make sure it works as expected. In addition to all that, Alexander briefly highlighted the work in progress for authorization using OAuth scopes and API monitoring and security.
A must watch if you want to work with GraphQL:
Ryan Szrama, Centarro CEO, delivered a great presentation of a new version of the Commerce Kickstart distribution as a response to Drupal's switch to Composer and configuration management in core.
He talked about a new approach to distribution development and maintenance required by the evolution of Drupal development and site management standards, gave a guided tour of the new Commerce Kickstart’s features which will make the onboarding process for Drupal Commerce merchants easier than ever, and explained the strategy Centarro had implemented to make certain that a single distribution could support multiple use cases (demo store, full-stack project base, and headless project base) without any need for site builders to work against or undo out-of-the-box features and content.
All ecommerce website builders, go have a look:
And that concludes our list of DrupalCon Portland’s best sessions. We’re still reeling with excitement after the event and hope you’ll enjoy watching or revisiting these presentations. And if you want to go through the whole list of sessions from this year’s conference, you can do so with a dedicated YouTube playlist.
If you, like those Drupal agencies we mentioned at the beginning of the post, are experiencing a lack of Drupal talent, check out the Drupal development services we can offer to alleviate your pain and get in touch with our team through the contact form. Expect a quick response from the guy on the right!