WordCamp Baltimore: All about that B2B – Bay Area to the B’more

I love Baltimore. Every time I visit I find a new reason to like it even more. It was here that I first gave my improv talk. It was here that I got to take part in the largest to date DrupalKaraoke event. And it is here that I returned for WordCamp Baltimore 2017, WCBalt

Food and Fun

Speaker Dinner

As per the normal custom, got to participate in the Speaker/Sponsor dinner and hanging out. We gathered at Spark, a coworking space inside of Power Plant Live, the entertainment complex tha feels a bit like a little tiny Las Vegas, sans gambling. We had pizza and refreshments. Some of us journeyed a few doors down afterward to extend the eventing’s activities but we didn’t stay out too late, as the one and Sal Ferrarello was set to once again host the pre WCBalt breakfast early the next morning. I tried to get up for this, but I didn’t make it.

Can’t find a tweet with a pic, but it was in the same place as last year, so here is a tweet from then:

Day 1

The coffee at WCBalt reminds me of what you would find at a church function, meaning it is made in small batches in old fashion electric percolators. Snacks were plentiful and flowing throughout the whole event, with rotating selections of chips, candy, soda and such. I was never wanting for snacks.
Lunch on the first day was absolutely outstanding, with hearty vegan options of beans and rice, mixed steamed veggies and fried plantains. I ate way too many of that latter, as they were sorta like a fried banana candy.

After Party (Networking Social)

WCBalt joined the growing list of camps that are attempting to stem the tide of people not making it back out for the after party by turning the event into a networking social immediately following the last session of day one. I have mixed feeling about this to be honest. I am very much in favor of the inclusion it brings. No matter who you are or the circumstances, if you made it to the venue, this is an accessible function. There is no alcohol but there were some pretty spectacular appetizers. They ordered from Dooby’s which got all the locals excited. They had tremendously great vegan Kimbap, a sort of Korean sushi and veggie pot stickers, as well as pork buns, spinach artichoke dip, cookies and some fantastic looking donuts. It was great to connect with so many people but what felt like all too soon, the crowd thinned and we had to find elsewhere to go.


Since the after party ended so soon and there were only (the very tasty) appetizers, some of us wanted to go grab a proper meal before we found later night fun together. One of the greatest side effects of my dietary choice is it helps narrow down the crazy wide array of options a larger city tosses at you when you google search for ‘Restaurants near (an address)’. I stumbled across the menu for Of Love and Regret and was excited to try this out. An amazing beer list, fine spirits and creative cuisine in a very stylish old building across from Natty Boh Tower. Bette than any of that though was the company of my fellow WC folks. While plugins and continuous integration strategies are great subjects, getting to hang out and talk about more human things is part of what keeps me going out on the road. So many new connections and friends made along the way.


My top Karaoke bars are:
1 – Bow Bow Lounge (Cinatown in San Francisco)
2 – Otter’s Saloon (Minneapolis, MN)
3 – Walt’s Inn (Baltimore, MD)
A small group of us made it out to Walt’s Inn to celebrate a great first day at camp. Walt’s has ridiculously cheap drink specials and a heavy hand when pouring. The only downside, which I do not remember them enforcing last year, is a 2 drink minimum before you can sign up for singing. Fortunately, if one person signs up you can get any number of people to back you up. We rocked B’more with a stirring rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Freddy and the boys would have been proud.

Day 2

Coffee and tea were again available and pretty alright.
Lunch however was a bit of a letdown, especially in light of the previous day’s bounty of awesome, filling options. They ordered Dominos and the only vegan option were 2 side salads we would have to split between all the dietary restriction folks that are Gluten, Dairy or Animal Product adverse. I have learned on the road to carry backup food and was OK, but if you are reading this and are organizing an event where you plan to order pizza please, please, please either get it from somewhere that offers vegan cheese or gat a few pies with no cheese and extra veggies. Most pizza dough is vegan and so is the sauce. Not the healthiest meal but a filling one and no dairy involved.

In liu of a lunch tweet here is Mr. Trash Wheel


Opening remarks


The Future: Why Open Matters
Aaron Campbell

I had just seen the first version of this talk back at WordCamp Sacramento a few weeks before and was actually pretty excited to hear the next evolution. I love this central premise in this talk, that we have only gotten here in our technological advancement arc by openly sharing information. This has always been true. From the earliest roots of language, to Newton and Calculus, to the internet, which is the greatest information sharing system ever devised. We are at a place now where some people do not agree we should be sharing and open with information. We face a new kind of existential threat where the very same openness that helped create some of the monster tech platforms might not help further our freely shared knowledge base. It is in this light that he made a ‘call to arms’ for us to own our own data and make sure a free and open internet continues to exist. No easy answers here, but an important conversation that needs to be had.

Raw notes:
History teachers
not a fan of history
but important for this talk to go back in time
1994 super important year
changed all our lives
how we shared informations
but before that 1990
SNES changed Aaron’s life
such a giant leap from qbasic gorillas
but that game and DOS taught him to code/modify the source code
before internet, books from bookstore
open code he did not write, just modify
standing on the shoulders of giants, from 1100’s is that saying
Newton 1675 paraphrased
sharing information has evolved
technology has improved knowledge base you can access
books were a huge jump
stores of information
then computers
then internet – single most effective information sharing tool in history
closed systems are not necessarily bad, just potential hazard
risks are OK sometimes, but looking from history
sharing is what advances us
now we are risking private hands of big advances and not share
divorcing net neutrality
trying to treat all data the same
should be easier than it is
handling all data the same weight is a lot easier
but morally and ethically this is not so easy
not illegal stuff, just bad info
“If I was in control I would wipe out this bad info from the internet”
small groups that hold minority opinion are sometimes right
majority rule and suppressing voices and info
then who decides what is true?
Internet is where people go to learn things
historically, putting that in the hands of a limited set of people has issues
only way to overcome those mistakes is to distribute all into to all people
then people can decide
must allow things we don’t care for, it is possible we are wrong
love that people can prove him wrong
most be allowed to have progress
What happens to the internet in the future
can we make info free to create a next isaac newton?
Steps we need to take make sure it stays around
1) use open alternatives. Don’t give single companies closed monopolies.
2) Spread the word about this idea. Inform and inspire people to keep it open and accessible
3) Vote and make your voice heard, but please be informed
4) Vote with your money, support businesses that support the open web!

Write Better Javascript
Ethan Butler

I am not even going to pretend I absorbed all this. It was a very quick paced delivery and jammed full of awesome knowledge. Part of this is my just lack of personally using JS day to day. Without a direct application only so much is going to seep through. I think it is vital to understanding the future of the internet to undertand it though and I hate not trying at least. I did glean some knowledge and didn’t know JS can directly do Map/Reduce. This is a terrific talk to watch if you are thinking about building JS and want to do it right!

Raw notes:
Javascript is the future
(I came in late I assume he said that)
“Writing webpack direct is like inviting demon into your home”
recapping modularity
write doce i
you need a bundler
JS makes it hard to express your ideas
transpiliation to the rescue?
Future specs!
Languages move faster than browser tech
real language features
babel is the go to, really only game in town for transpilers
(I got distracted and missed more)
Object notation
He deconstructed an object for us
Object destructuring is a newer thing
Object assign – data method on the object primative to merge objects
Promises are if you expect a return at a future unspecified time
resolve or reject
used is Ajax a lot
async/await is a more powerful alternative
we can use transpiliers to leverage new features without worry about browser
final problem for today
hard to debug
Functional programming
avoids mutable data
program is just an evaluation of user input
same input gets the same output, every time
Bugs happen because of side effects
pure functions a + b + c example
Data – arrays of objects for the most part
array.map – iterate over the values and transform it
array.sort (not a new thing) compare values pos, neg or 0, to sort posts for instance
array.includes – see if includes a string, so a search, can use for strings or anything really
array.some – true if callback is partial match of term
array.every – true if every value matches term
array.reduce – flatten values to a single value,

Making Your Code Easy To Extend
Sal Ferrarello

Sal is a great guy but also a terrific code writer. If you look at his github repos they are well commented and have clear readme files (which is vital to any project). This talk was not about that aspect but the cleaner the code the easier it is to build off of bu other later. If you are contributing code at all this is a must see.

Raw notes:
(missed first 10 minutes)
MU Plugins -best kept secret in WP
Best place to put code as pugins and not worry about client deleting them
the code expects it
Add actions – do_action – await for a thing to happen
not returning a value
takes control and then give chance to do own thing
he likes bootstrap to acheive effects
wrote a email stop plugin stop-emails
used do_action
takes focus and says log email to a file
using DIR .
solves a problem for a plugin request without actually modifying the plugin
by exposing that do_action and tiny bit of code
esc_html( $btn_text ) .
using include

SASS isn’t Scary
Beth Soderberg

Last year at WCBalt 2016 I met Beth and heard her amazing talk I Learned to Code Through WordPress and So Can You
. I have sent this talk to a good number of people who are getting started or want to get started. Clear an straightforward, I really appreciated her approach. I was excited to see this same style applied to a talk about something I really didn’t fully understand, Sass. Just like JS, I don’t touch it all the time, so my limited functional understanding is limited. The lightbulb turned on for sure and I can’t imagine someone approaching a larger project without this approach. For sure one to see when it hits WordPress.TV

Raw notes:
Beginner, welcome, you do need to know a little CSS
that is it for CSS
A preprocessor is a anguage that compiles to another language
all kinda the same, syntax is a little different but converging on a set standard of ideas
Preprocessors bring programatic methodology to CSS
DRY: don’t Reprat Yourself
Reusable libraries – pulling from a standard set of code
ability to define abstract values, let the computer built to do the math
CSSS preprocessors are NOT CSS
CSS don’t have to follow the rules of the CSS specification rules
Modularity – don’t get lost by stuffing everything in one file
programmability + automation + modularity = scalability
Potential challenges
Fear of change
old way fels inefficient even for small projects
Set Up is sometimes hard, uses Ruby and is unfamiliar to most
Issues are normal, you are not alone
Debugging is harder with SASS since there are so many partials
“Why is this not telling me where this is coming from?” – Beth’s least favorite part about SASS
Bloat – easy to write crappy code in SASS just like CSS, just way more code created
Still want the thing you are compiling to to be as small as possible, avoid bloat
Maintainability – can be an issue for legacy especially – inherited sites are much harder
once compiled to one file can at least make it approachable though
Why SASS over LESS?
Work team preference
Overall in the WP community – lot of resources and blogs about this and WP
Accessibility written books/resources
Less is still a thing though –
Syntactically Awesome Stylesheets
Sass is a extention of CSS
Really helps you use Compass
Sass has 2 extentions
.sass and .scss
Learn SASS slowly but also learn CSS first
avoids duplicating selectors
reflects markup structure
uses indentation to indicate heirarchy
should eb limited to 4-5 levels
less typing
Nesting Properties with Shared Namespaces
in simple examples not that impressive, but in production real world saves a lot of time and effort
can reference the parent selector
invoking varaibles
good uses
font stacks
image paths
font sizes
Allows defining a group of styles once for use throughout a style sheet
should be used for common patterns independent of HTML markup
80% of mixins have less than 5 declarations
Mixin Libraries
write your most common mixins once and reuse accross projects
write your own
Sass CSS3 Mixins
Breakpoint and more!
Operators – letting the machine do the math
and underscore-prefixed Sass file is prtial
Don’t generate CSS files directly

Conquering Continuous Integration and Deployment
Tessa Kriesel

I am a huge fan of Tessa and her relentless work for Girl Develop IT, which is a great organization teaching women to code. I am also a real fan of the content of this talk since I also discuss and deliver these worts of enablements and trainings at our shared employer Pantheon. No matter how deeply you understand something like CI, seeing the crowd react to this information is always enlightening.

Raw notes:
First let’s look at what daily things we routinely do
She lays out a list of daily dos
Automating tings in your life
Invest the time in automation
can be hard to fit it in
walks through automating updates
look at slack to show off visual regression tests
explains Backstop
pics comparing 2 versions of a site
build steps
setup containers
install dependencies
running automated testing
behat (behavioral testing)
containers are awesome
Github is where all the code lives

Sketches: The Universal Language
Joshua Wold

Joshua was last of the Would brothers I had not met. All working at the top notch XWP, they further the state of the art of WP in their own ways. Joshua is much more design minded and brought those sensibilities and skills to his session and to the WordPress Core Team. Anyone who has seen my site can likely attest to my lack of design skills and I feel very lacking in my visual communication abilities. One of my mental blocks has always been my self consciousness around nonexistent drawing skill, always worrying it is not good enough. I was very encouraged by Joshua to not care at all about this i the early stages of sketching. He showed how with some very simple lines and shapes and a few basic notations you can turn a page long written description, that might take hours to interpret, into

Raw notes:
How should a portal be set up
how to communicate with the client on what they want
and how the designers are thinking about it
He did a sketch to try to understand what the client was trying to say
the whole conversation changed for the better
cleared up confusion
Once the client saw the issue more clearly, was able to move forward much better
a quick sketch in 10 minutes changed everything
the tech doesn’t really matter, he used an ipad
most people are visual thinkers
hard to put into words what a website looks like, easier to sketch
they are building a house
miscommunicated on paper, once saw in person, visually saw what was issue
if you have a pen and a napkin you can sketch
simple lines and shapes and arrows are all you really need
just draw something and share it
does not have to be pretty just to get idea across
Gutenberg example (see his handout)
Ticket management…hard to recall what ticket messages mean
if you can sketch wire frames an attach to ticket
gets anyone no matter what their native language is to get on same page in seconds
stay in the ugly lines as long as you can,
once you move beyond that it can takes hours to make any changes
He has been able to contribute to core by adding sketches to help everyone communicate
simle really is better, just standardize a few simpe elements like clickable buttons
Sketching: paper and pen really is the best way to go for initial phase
next best is ipad pro, + Paper 53, then Balsamiq for squiggly lines (tells people you are not done.
Prototyping: Adobe XD, Illustrator, INvision
Sharing CloudUp, Quicktime, Tapes for Mac
It is more important to get on same page with clients than to dwell on tech or pretty sketches

My session

Everything louder than everything else! Navigating stakeholder needs through better discovery

I have only given this talk one other time, at MIT, and was very happy to give it again! The talk is basically me cramming all I know about the discovery phase of a project or sales process into 35 minutes of slides with a lot of references to Motorhead along the way. I love sharing tools that I have gathered over time by earning it the hard way. It was great to see so many people nodding along and asking questions as they were trying to apply these “best practices” to their situation. Thank you too all who had such kind words afterwards in person and on social media.
During the Q & A, both times I have given this talk, there indirectly arose the matter of ‘what is the goal of a website’. I think I am going to write a talk on that next.

Closing and cleanup

Wrapping Up

After a great camp it is always a little sad to pack up and part company with folks. I got to spend a rare personal evening meeting up with an old friend who lives in the city and seeing yet another new-to-me vibrant part of the old town. Every time I visit I find new surprises and reasons I like it a little more. Plan your visit today!
I am not sure when I will be back to Baltimore. I certainly hope I will again before too long. For sure I plan to return next year for WCBalt 2018!

DrupalCon 2017: Baltimore is way nicer than you think it is

After #WCRaleigh I headed to Baltimore, MD to DrupalCon 2017.

This is THE BIG SHOW for Pantheon! The biggest event for Drupal every year. This was the 4th one I have attended in the US, 5th overall. My first DrupalCon was in Austin, TX in 2014. It literally changed my life. Before that event Pantheon was just a really awesome job in the valley, for sure my favorite so far. But from day one of that event a few years back I realized that Drupal was way more than a pile of code. It was a real community.
Austin was also where it first hit me what the heck Free Open Source Software was really all about. Free as in speech, not as in beer. Free as in society, as in enthusiastic voluntary community.  Walking away from this year’s event, I had been reminded of that point and feel an urgency of renewed purpose for making this whole free and open internet thing work. More on that later.


My week at DrupalCon started with the Community Summit. This is meant for the folks who have organized community events like DrupalCamps, Meetups or anything else community focused. I arrived fairly late in the day, due to a few travel hiccups. The day was already in full swing and I raced to catch up, which was not too hard since everyone was eager to help me get on the same page. I was very grateful to be included in the conversation and feel I saw some real progress in the team I joined. It was awesome to work with my fellow MidCamp organizer Avi Schwab  and organizer of DrupalNorth Aiden Foster to further the cause of making Drupal Community happen. I highly encourage you to go participate locally and do what you can to keep things growing.

Directly after the community summit ended, the conference floor opened up to attendees to meet and greet the sponsors. This is when we got to roll out this year’s version of Booth Demo Magic. This is one of my favorite things about working at Pantheon. It is part magic show, part TED talk and part “Mother of all Demos”. This is where we unveil the amazing work we have done and get people fired up about the future of the state of the art.

This year was the best year in in my attending. Watching the demo is the only way to get a Pantheon shirt, which is screen printed in front of you on demand and in previous years, this was the main reason a lot of people who already knew us watched the presentation. This year, dropping the names of tech we were going to show how we integrate with caused such a huge stir that I think we might have had the same turnout even if we didn’t have the best shirt of the convention. As people passed and I said “Do you want to see CircleCI with automated testing setup from a single CLI command” heads snapped our direction, eyebrows raised up and people turned around to go find a place to sit in front of our screens. It was amazing. Really set the tone for the rest of the con.


Food and Fun:

Monday night dinner:
Every year Pantheon sends a large number of us Pantheors to DrupalCon and many of these folks work remotely. DrupalCon gives us a rare chance to sit down as a group and have a good meal. We were not disappointed by the friendly staff and quality of food from Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion. Very tasty and I found out there is a ‘secret vegetarian’ menu they do not advertise but which has some pretty OK offerings. If you go, ask for it.
No Drupal event of this size would be complete without a good old fashioned bar crawl and I left the Pantheon team dinner to join the unofficial official #Drupalcrawl as it pulled into the last scheduled stop, Tír na nÓg Irish Bar & Grill. It was so great to see so many of my friends from all over the world in one spot to raise a glass to Drupal. Special shout out to the crawl organizer Jason Mickela. He is one of the nicest people ever and the smoothness, inclusiveness and togetherness of this event re-enforced that notion. If you are looking for a low stress thing to do with your local Drupal (or any other) community, suggest a pub crawl and let the bars do the heavy lifting.

Coffee before a keynote was mandatory and I dug into my snack bag for breakfast, which is mostly almonds and a few other goodies to keep me going on the road. Coffee was abundant and OK for a trade show.
Lunch on the other hand was absolutely amazing. I went with the special meals option and was rewarded with fresh and delicious food that looked way better than what was on the buffet lines. I had a delicately crafted mushroom ravioli and pretty great veggies on the side. The care and attention to folks with dietary restrictions was pretty epic and I applaud the Baltimore Convention Center catering team. Well done!


Tuesday Partner Dinner:
Working primarily with agencies here at Pantheon over the last 3 years I have had the extreme pleasure of getting to be part of the Partner Dinner at DrupalCon, an annual tradition to say thanks to the fine folks at our partner agencies that leverage our product for their livelihoods. It is such an honor to get to sit and talk with these folks and hear the stories of how their lives have been impacted by the tech we work on.
The food was pretty OK. For the second time that day I went with a mushroom ravioli and a very lovely bowl of berries for dessert. Not to knock this place but the lunch was, by comparison, on par with the quality of this upper scale private dining venue. I ate my fill and I think they nailed portion sizes, which was great because I didn’t need to be in a food coma to make it to the next stop:

DrupalCon Karaoke!
If you have been reading this blog, you already know how much I love karaoke. The music, the drinks, the togetherness and most importantly the act of publicly displaying the love for a song. We were in real luck in Baltimore as the Tin Roof had live band karaoke! A four piece band backed up singers, giving them the choice of hundreds of songs. They even claimed to know many more than were in the songbook but they listed out the most popular for us all.

There were about 100 Drupal folks gathered together and we didn’t all get the chance to take the stage, but we all had a chance to cheer and sing along. The band was even so gracious as to extend their time. Being a particularly dark and rainy night in Baltimore, we got the vibe that without the love of the con-goers they would have wrapped it up early and called it a loss. Thanks to the good Drupal community believing enough we made it one of their best nights ever we were repeatedly told. Karaoke is an amazing way to bring folks together. Make sure you are singing with your community!


Again, the lunch options for special diets were pretty good, though I had the bar set extremely high the previous day, so I wasn’t as bowled over. I had a poblano stuffed pepper with daiya and I think cashew based filling. That part was awesome. The rest of the meal was chips and run of the mill guac. Living in California I will admit I am completely spoiled on fresh super high quality avocados, so most pre-packaged guacamole is belh at best. Desert was a cookie, which I did not try. Coffee was pretty OK too.Wednesday night brought the largest of the out of venue events:
The Lullabot/Pantheon party!Poster for the Pantheon + Lullabot party, head of the T-Rex fossils and the logo of both companies

Every year this party gets a little bigger and wilder. This year was the biggest yet and was a real hands on experience. The party took place at the Maryland Science Center! We were surrounded by dinosaurs, interactive exhibits and all sorts of fun and drinks. Really an amazing time and so many good memories made. The photo booth was hopping from open until they kicked us out at the end.

The un-official after party:
All I will say about this is vegan liquid nitrogen ice cream, Chaz Chumley on DJ duty, Andrew Mallis and his crew to the rescue on supplies and community making a crazy night awesome! That’s about all I care to say. Other than that, you really just had to be there. After all…what we do is secret.

The morning started with much, much coffee and the best keynote of DrupalCon! Lunch was a pretty solid veggie wrap, chips, cookie and salad. Of the 3 days, this was the most standard convention fare of the week on the special diets menu. Nothing to complain about but nothing so outstanding as that ravioli on day one.

For dinner there was a large contingent of folks I like going to get some crab, which Maryland is pretty famous for. I accompanied them to get a drink but looked elsewhere for food. I was certainly glad I did for a couple reasons.
First, it was the best greens I have ever eaten at this pretty awesome vegan soul food joint called The Land of Kush.  Even if you are not down with the plant based food path, seriously go check this place out. Pretty epic food at ridiculously low prices given the portions.

The other reason I was glad to have split off was the walk back. Yes I walked across Baltimore and I think I hit every best neighborhood in the whole city on that walk. Baltimore is only known by many folks because of The Wire. This show focuses exclusively on crime in “America’s Finest City” What they leave off is there are parts where it feels like the nicest parts of Manhattan or DC. From the Washington Monument to Power Plant Live, I followed a path filled with quiet parts, statuary, interesting and very old architecture. I felt very safe the whole time and recommend this walk if you ever get the chance to be in this east coast gem of a town.

Trivia Night!
My official end of DrupalCon was once again this fun filled evening of trivia and fun with us answering some interesting and at times frustrating questions at the Baltimore Soundstage. It was great to work with my old friend Jeremy Rasmussen and some new friends to have a good time and a few laughs. It was an ideal way to cap off the event and I left exhausted but very happy.


The Sessions

Since I was there to hustle at the Booth Demo Magic I didn’t get a chance to see many sessions. I did see a few though and really wish I had been able to see more.
The Prenote!
Every year JAM is the Master of Ceremonies for this lighthearted spectacle, designed to get us awake and ready for the Driesnote and the rest of the day. This year there was a bit of a somber, slow start. As you might know there was some controversy in the Drupal community over the last few months and JAM addressed this at the start. It came as a plea for healing and h provided a few links with resources he thinks will help guide us to be a better community overall.
With the tone now set to a bit darker than expected, we saw a colorful cast of costumed characters emerge on stage and the real prenote fun turned on. We met a green haired DrupalCon newbie named “B. Ginner” who was shown the ropes by a whacky bunch of community folks through song and dance. The biggest lesson is that at DrupalCon, “you can’t go two steps without a hug”. In fact this is officially part of the PHP coding standard, PSRB8.
If I had not already sensed it, this was the signal that DrupalCon was going to be good this year. Really good.

Here are my unfiltered notes:
“Sorry I hurt you, It hurts to see you hurting. Q&A best time to talk about that”
Focus on software
Drupal 8.3
15,000 sites per month launch with D8
YMCA not just a website, interconnectivity between systems is powerful
Drupal has evolved, from project for hobby to something as a powerful to power things
“enterprise” is misleading, non-profits and libraries are not really enterprises
Ambitous digital experience
ecosystem is ambitious as well.
“I was right” city of SF story
Lot of modules to port, please do that
1 million D7 sites need to be migrated
6 month release cycles are important
Depricated APIs will still be supported
D9 will Be d8 without the deprecated pieces
Going to make upgrade path simple and lot of time to update code as D8 evolves
8->9 should be as easy as 8.2->8.3
7-8 might be the last hard upgrade
Core team has added 4 people, with hundreds of hours of contrib
Previews of what is coming
impressive editorial process changes
autorespond-bot is on git hub (based on obama admin whitehouse work)



Project Management: The Musical!

The first non-note talk I got to see was “Project Management The Musical!” by the amazing duo of Allison Manley and Joe Allen Black. This was to be the final performance as they were retiring the session. I had been there over a year before in Midcamp when they had premiered it and was eagerly looking forward to see the last show in the run. It knocked my socks off and for only the second time in any session I have attended, I was part of a standing ovation. The other time was the opening show they did.
Rather than explain a musical to you, it is best to just go check it out here!


Know your friends, pick the right fights   

horncologne (JAM) and mathias.schreiber from Typo3

This one caught my eye as it was on the community stage and featured one of Drupal’s more colorful characters, the awesome mustachioed JAM, from the prenote. He was presenting with an unexpected guest, Mattias from Typo3 community. If you are not familiar with their PHP CMS project, you should take a look. They use some of the same PHP libraries and there is a lot to learn from it, much like we can learn from WordPress or Joomla.
What they spoke about shook me to my core and was a personal wake up call. I make my living off of the open source world and that world is under attack. They explained that although free and open source software seemingly has won the battle for acceptance in the enterprise world, that fight is far from over. While we have enjoyed a golden era of FOSS acceptance as the seemingly default ‘right’ approach, the large proprietary software makers have not gone away or even shrank. They are using their size and vaults to lobby for position harder than ever. They duo shared a few stories that have left me concerned in ways I had not thought about before.
There is a set of laws on the books, but not yet enacted in places like France that say ‘a CMS must have a creator maintained SLA’. Yes, that means all CMS must have a creator to deliver SLA for their software to be considered for government contract. Who would be eligible in Drupal or WordPress? They also discussed the Canadian government’s recent RFP that was written to exclude open source on similar grounds. This is a troubling trend.
They also shared Joomla’s story of temporarily losing tax status for their event governing organization. This would have been disastrous had the other open source communities not banded together to help define German tax law. How close did we come to a slippery slope there? Too close to comfort for me.
The good news here is that it is not too late. We still have an upper hand as we have a whole community to act, which is more valuable than any pile of cash. We just need to work together to continually make the slice of the (web technology) pie bigger for all of us. Let’s compete against the non-CMS market and the proprietary stacks. There is enough room for all open source to win online!

Creating a Culture of Engagement: The ROI of Transparency and Communication

Anne Stefanyk

She started off with a dance party! I felt way more energized after that for sure!
I went to this talk because I am very interested in project and team management subjects. The more I learn it seems the technology, though sophisticated, is not the hardest part of a project to manage. It comes down to how you work with the other people involved. Disengaged employees are not good employees. Satisfied employees are OK, but not going to go above and beyond and ever do more than told. Solid though and not too hard to engage though. Engaged employees are thrilled to be there and feel personal stake in the effort. You want as many of these folks on a team.
Openness is the key to achieving this. Share everything. Trust your team.
It is important to remember that communication is different for different people. For example introverts find group exercises and discussions distressing, and extroverts might not do well with just online exchanges. Read books to help understand other’s perspective and definitely listen when given advice. Engage your teams.
The Q & A was very good with some real advice and tricky situations discussed. I was very glad to be there and this is a talk you do not want to miss!

Wait, there are 35 Symfony Components? What Cool Stuff am I Missing?

Ryan Weaver

Drupal 8 is built on Symfony, which is a collection of 35 independent libraries.  Drupal uses less than half of them! That means that there’s a ton of other good stuff that you can bring into your project to solve common problems…as long as you know how, and what those components do!
That is the session description from the website. I couldn’t describe it better. Go look at his slides This was the best technical talk I saw during the whole con.

 Avoid DEEP HURTING! Deployment beyond git


Another technical talk, and the last non-note session I caught.  I have no need for such tools in my current role, but I strive to understand the deploy process and affiliated tools better all the time, since it helps me relate to the developers I am helping use my platform. Our presenter delivered a lot of humor and fun cartoons along the way while discussing a very serious issue and delving into multiple github repos. I felt very grateful at the end that I don’t have to hand build such a system nor maintain it. Very informative talk.

Technology and Its Workforce at an Ethics Crossroad

The last session I had the opportunity to see was the day three Keynote delivered by New York Times contributor and author Zeynep Tufekci.
Here is the short version. We are barreling towards Huxley’s dystopia, not Orwell’s. We are giving so much of our data away to folks who, admittedly are maybe not currently going to abuse it. But what about their successors? What about 2 generations out? These are tough questions. There are a lot of good things happening, but the potential for abuse is astounding. Make sure you check this out, if for nothing else than her story of a bus driver commandeering a bus for an earthquake relief process.
This talk really reiterated for me that the Free Open Source Software fight is more important now than ever before.


Wrapping up

I left Baltimore early in the morning for WordCamp Chicago. It was an exhausting week and I left feeling a little sore, but in amazing spirits about the future of Drupal and with a renewed sense of purpose toward FOSS. This was the best DrupalCon in so many ways. Go visit this city, it is a real American gem.