Design4Drupal: Seeing Richard Stallman’s office and the Freedom Trail in Boston

There was a certain magic in the air at Design4Drupal. I am not sure if it was because it was set in MIT Stata Center, which was designed by Frank Gehry, or if it was that you could see the inside window of Richard Stallman’s office (though I didn’t get to see Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s office), or if it was because the father of Responsive Design, Ethan Marcotte was the featured keynote speaker on the second day.  Maybe it was a combination of that and being in summer in Boston on the Freedom Trail with awesome folks from the Drupal community.  Anyway you look at it, this was a great event.

Food and Fun

I was fortunate enough to get into town the Thursday evening before the event and meet up with some awesome Drupal folks for drinks at the oldest tavern in the USA and some awesome dinner right beside the statue of Paul Revere on the Freedom Trail.

Lunch Day 1

We had wraps.  I had the black bean and salad.  There were cookies and muffins from breakfast left.  Unfortunately I can find no pics of this.

Dinner Day 1

There was no formal plan for dinner on Friday night, with the official after party scheduled for Saturday.  We were left to our own devices and a group of us wandered to one of the fine breweries in the area, Cambridge Brewing Company.  This happening spot just off the MIT campus had great service and a really good selection.  I had the lentil burger and shared some Shishito peppers.  I was delighted that for some people at the table eating these Japanese delights was a first.

Drupal Karaoke

If you find yourself in Cambridge, do yourself a favor and go to Courtside for Karaoke on the weekend.  The fun loving DJ made this a night to remember.  He danced along to and sang back-up for a lot of songs in between his DJ duties.  I was very impressed with the quality of performance from my Drupal community members!

Lunch Day 2

The wraps were replaced with Jerked chicken and awesome spicy vegan patties with greens and sweet potato mash.  Again, photographic evidence does not exist as far as I can find.  It was delicious.

After party

I unfortunately missed the after party.  I got on a plane to come back to my beloved San Francisco instead.  From all accounts it was a pretty good time, though this is only pic I can find.

The Sessions

Opening Remarks

Using Data to Build the New Mass.gov

Kyle Magida and Connor McKay

This was a really great insight into how the Commonwealth is using Drupal 8 and machine learning to better serve the people.  At the heart of their success there is a story about the management of metadata from the User Journey.  This project serves 42 major agencies, 150 other agencies, plus all the other commissions and offices.  This adds up to 100s of authors, 15 content types and only 4 design team members to keep a handle on it all.  Drupal is at the heart of this approach.  Being open source, it helps them avoid procurement, which allows them to move faster and freer.  This is a really great case study on the consumable API for metadata and relationships.  Check out the recording (to be added to the session page on the design4drupal.org site)

Making mass.gov data-driven and constituent centric

Brian Hirsch

This was almost a continuation of the first session, but went into a lot more detail on the nature of the project and how it came about.  Basically, they had come to a point of too many pages to go manually refresh, over a million individual pages on mass.gov!  They needed a strategy to go after the high value targets first.  They decided to start at the top, applying the 80/20 rule.  The research shocked everyone once they started down that path, 10% of content serves 89% of page requests.  The user journeys aligned with 20 different ‘clusters’ of government services.  This helped steer them into a clear path where they have now updated the most used pages to be compliant for serving people with disabilities.  It really comes down to unstructured data vs structured data.  He said “The page metaphor is evaporating. The idea of title and body is useless and outmoded, We needed to think in terms of ‘chunks of data.'”

Keynote Day 1 – Agile Design

Kelly Albrecht
Kelly started off his talk with a very surprising (to me) fact: Over half of CIOs consider Agile strategy discredited. His central point is that we are mostly misunderstanding what Agile is really all about.

Agility is adaptability to a change in the situation. Think Spiderman.  “Your agility is measured by the speed and effectiveness of your response.” This is completely reliant on a central set of values.
Values: Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, Courage.  Issues arise when there is a violation of one of these values. Very few of us are not doing the best we can. Very few of us are intentionally doing poorly.
Iterations provide an optimized awareness into a larger effort
getting into a shippable implement- make the best version of this you can
breaking larger things into workable pieces. Planning reduces stress
Agility is bringing good thinking to action quickly. Agile does not tell us not to have a plan, but to always be planning.

My sessions

I was very honored to be able to give 2 talks at this camp.  First up was a new talk I developed around the discovery process for sales and project planning with references to Motorhead. Everything Louder Than Everything Else!: Navigating stakeholder needs through better discovery

I also got the chance to share my love of storytelling with Every project is a story: Applying storytelling to your client interactions

How to Make Friends & Influence Strategy

Breann Kopcza

5 things to know:
Know your audience
Share a purpose
Get involved
Own a communication role
Keep your POV simple

 

DAY 2
Debugging, Profiling, & Rocking Out with Browser-Based Developer Tools!

Mike Herchel

It was wholly appropriate that we were at MIT, the birthplace of the term ‘drinking from a firehose‘ to see this talk.  I did my best to keep up with him but after he showed me you can turn on from the document.designMode flag, I was distracted.  Here are the parts that I did write down.
Cmd + Shift + C = devtools open (no more right mouseclicks needed)
H key toggles visibility via the hidden property when you have highlighted an element in Chrome dev tools.
in the console insert: document.designMode = ‘on’; (mind blown).
chrome://chrome-urls/ (works in airplane mode), flags-> experimental canvas dev tools
requires restart and then turn on under settings in dev tools

This does not to this talk justice.  This is a weeks worth of tools and tips in this talk. Seriously go check it out once posted on the session page.

Keynote – Responsive Design: Beyond Our Devices

Ethan Marcotte

It was a real pleasure to see one of the thought leaders of design, the man who coined the phrase Responsive Design.  He started off by asking “Where is this all going?  Where do we go past Desktop design?”
As we are moving from page to patterns, it matters a little less what the answer is.  He said “I thought I would redesign patters, instead they redesigned me.” Since going down this path has lead him to a single driving question that keeps him up at night, “What if someone doesn’t browse the web like I do?” This is the most import question in his process.
A well crafted responsive design is device agnostic – a good guiding design principal.  He feels we are in a golden age of automation tooling for style guides creation.  He talked about tools like Pattern Platform Labs and Fractal.  He ended by telling us all to go and read a work that has really inspired him:
The Language of Modular Design by  Alla Kholmatova

We are not preparing for more desktop browsers, though their numbers are not shrinking.  Instead we must learn to expand our understanding of the smart phone and realize that there are a billion new users coming online soon. They are in developing countries, young and on a 2G connections.

 

Wrapping up

Boston is an interesting city with a lot of history.  I dig the vibe as it reminds me of the bay area in a lot of ways.  I am looking forward to going back next month for WordCamp although that will not be in the same building where the Web standards that we leverage are written.  I am still a bit in awe that I got to participate in this camp and deliver 2 talks in those sacred halls of learning.

 

 

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