DrupalCon 2018: A little bit country and a whole lot of amazing conversations

Way back in 2014 I started working for Pantheon and at first it was just another gig, working in Open Source and selling a platform. Then I got sent to work the booth at this event in Austin, TX called DrupalCon. It was there that I met the users of the platform, the developers, face to face. It was there that I finally understood what it meant to be part of the Drupal community. Drupal events will always hold this extra special place in my heart which is way I was so darn excited to get to go to the SuperBowl of Drupal, DrupalCon 2018

This was the 2nd time in a year, and in my life, I had been to Music City USA. While a little more familiar, there was a ton left to explore and so much I have not yet gotten to do. I think the fact that the city was not as mysterious made this trip seem to fly by extra quick. From the time I land until I flew out felt like a few hours, not a few days. Lot to cover, so let’s rock it!

Food And Fun

Sunday Night

I landed and was immediately invited out for a night of good fun with the Drupal community. There were a lot of folks that rolled into town early to take advantage of the night life and sights of Nashville and it was like a whole ‘evening of hugs’ where we couldn’t walk too far without getting a hug from someone you had not seen in a while.


Coffee and tea and some high carb breakfast options were on hand as we started the day of training and Partner Day. Not terribly coffee but not great either. I opted for tea for the rest of the event after that first cup.
Lunch on day one had a very solid vegan option: tofu steaks, quinoa stuffed peppers and some pickled veggies on the side. Can’t find a picture of lunch options on Twitter, so here is
There was the Opening Reception for the sponsor area/main floor for the event with grits and other options. Since there was cheese in everything save the mushrooms, I found some crackers to munch on and a little fruit, but otherwise saved room for a the food at our Pantheon Team Dinner a little later that evening.
Monday night found me at the Pantheon team dinner, which happened at Pinewood Social, a super hip bowling alley/mixologist bar. I put a short hold on my ‘vodka+soda only’ approach and indulged in some good Tennessee whiskey. I carried this over from our team dinner to the official unofficial Drupal Bar Crawl, alo known as the DrupalCrawl. This year we crawled into HQ Beercade Nashville and many of us did not crawl anywhere else, given you could play most of the games for free, including one of the greatest games ever sponsored by a beer, Tapper which you can play here


This was the first full day of the conference and for me it started really early and I brought my own coffee. There was a coffee option but I didn’t see it til later in the day.
I had my hopes up for lunch and unfortunately the option for the catered line was not quite as stellar as the previous day. Though not too bad, cold quinoa salad had my protein needs covered and there was as much fruit as I could eat. The veggie sandwich was just OK.

Tuesday evening found me at the Pantheon Parter Dinner. We gathered at the Country Music Hall Of Fame for a great evening of celebration, a few speeches and some quality meals. It was awesome to hear so many experiences and points of view being shared. There are few things that inspire as much confidence in the community than agency leaders sharing what is working and what they are working. This ‘collabratition’ approach is pretty unique to the FOSS world and it is part of what makes it so great.

Can’t find a tweet for this, so here are some of my favorite Drupal people instead:


Tuesday night ended with some amazing singing by the community at a couple different places. First was the official Mediacurrent after party with much singing. I didn’t go, but thought it deserved a mention

Then a good number of us went first to Ms. Kelli’s, but there was another convention that had already settled in there. But thanks to the quick thinking and hard work by the amazing Stephanie El-Hajj we found ourselves in a much better spot without any competition from any other conferences at Wild Beaver.

Can not find a tweet with a pic, so here is another group enjoying another Karaoke bar in Nashville:


After a long night of singing and rejoicing with the community the next morning was a little rough, so thank goodness for that conference coffee!
Lunch was a serious step up from the previous day with green beans and potatoes along with more quinoa salad. Very full at the end of the meal.
One of the things that stood out was the cards on the tables that gave people talking subjects. I sat at the PHP table be happenstance and had a really great conversation about deployment pipelines and automated testing. There were a lot of topics

Wednesday night brought the Official Pantheon + Lullabot party at FGL House

And yes, there was an after party

Unfortunately I had to leave Thursday morning. It was for a good cause, one of my best friends in the world’s wedding in NOLA.


Training Day

Automated workflows in Drupal 8 with GitHub, Composer and CircleCI

I didn’t have a session accepted at DrupalCon this year, but I did get the chance to co-present part of David Needham’s awesome training. I want to take a second to tell everyone reading this to stop for a few minutes and go read Martin Fowler’s definitive paper on Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery. So much of our modern work as website professionals come from thought leaders like this. It is amazing to stand on the shoulders of such giants and participating in discussions like this. Also, getting to lay down knowledge with the likes of Drush maintainer and all around genius Greg Anderson is intimidating and inspiring all at once!

Partner Day

While I didn’t get to attend this event, it looked like it went amazing. Worth a mention here.


The official Pre Driesnote Fun You can watch it online, but it is not nearly as fun as being there!

OK, I will admit it. This is my favorite part of the actual conference. My real favorite part is hanging with the community but as far as planned things officially on the schedule, nothing beats the Prenote. Lead by the one and only JAM who is one of the most recognizable mustaches in all of Drupaldom. Every year he and the rest of the amazing community team go out of their way to wake us up and have some good clean fun before Dries gets up and takes a more serious tone. I do hope you can go next year and see it yourself.


There was a lot said in this year’s keynote delivered by our project lead Dries Buytaert. With an introduction that was second to none by my colleague and team lead Steve Persch, the tone was set to get serious and address some big picture things that affect our entire space.
Rather than try to summarize the talk, I encourage you to go watch it. Below are tweets I thought captured the spirit of the event well.

And the rest…

Unfortunately, other than the Prenote and Dreisnote, I only got to go to 2 sessions with the way my schedule worked out. Fortunately I get to go to more sessions per year than the vast majority of people. Also fortunately all the other talks are recorded and available on the DrupalCon site

Don’t trust your gut: agency operations metrics
Ashleigh Thevenet

I will admit, I misread the topic description and thought this was going to be a talk about client KPIs, which is something that is of great interest to me currently. Instead I got an amazing overview of what an agency COO actually cares about, Which in and of itself revealed more about KPIs than I anticipated. This is also one of those talks that stands out as unique to the FOSS world. Literally a COO standing up and saying ‘this is how we do things where I work’ and providing spreadsheets to show how. Dummy data obviously, but if you are a freelancer or small agency and want to know how to get to the next level, her spreadsheets are freely available to clone and leverage. I left feeling amazing about this whole space and our future together.

Raw Notes:
Don’t Trust your gut,
Chief operating officer at BlueSpark
Metrics of her,
number of hours spent with her life
Context makes data meaningful
Lot of spreadsheets in the talk
Billable hours,
got to understand where you are spending your time before you can optimize them for billable time
Adapted the billable hours matrix for annual revue per role planning
rev, profit, margin at various utilization rates
Booked Capacity vs Capacity comparison with Monthly and Annual sales targets
Under contract was a runway pipeline
gives actuals and updated a lot
things shift, availability. extention of contratact, act of god, etc
sheet needs to be as fresh as possible
values of accounts
timelines and budgets for all current accounts
remaining budgets
time left
Will my current config of team be able to complete the work they have lined up
how did the team perform
how is the
Let’s back up to the Billable Hours template
rate and expenses
lists out whole team individuals, roles and such
number of hours per week
realistic utilization planning is the goal
potenial revenue per role is the thing she cares about a lot
helps understand when and who to hire
expenses are import to track as well
want to end up at 98% of realistic target
ie 34 hours not 40 a week,
80% utilization losing money
All project projections
timeline, start date and end date for each phase
Weeks to complete,
fill in rates and hours for each phase
rate x hours = contract value
time logged, from Jira, manually pulled in
then pulled into actuals tab
Weekly velocity to complete, the number of hour s and weeks and how many hours per week need logge to stay on track
Color coding will help yo a great deal at seeing things at a glance
easy to get overwhelmed but this is needed to project revenue
things will deviate, so you must adjust as you go
assigned some of the work to ‘unknown’
Unknown Frontend and Unkown Backend
makes planning more flexible
color coding red not booked enough, green capacity,
blue under water, overbooked
sometimes 4 to 5 week differentials with how days fall can be tricky
eventually all comes down to hours though
lets you shift projects as needed
don’t try to adjust in your head
important to see big picture as you plan each individual part

Extending the abstract class of privilege: outcomes and lessons learned
Farah Sabbagh
Ashraf Abed

Of all the talks about privilege I have attended, none felt more poignant or a straight up punch to the face than this one. The stories they shared shook me and made me feel sad and angry and really wanting the world to be better than it is. I even found myself squirm as they completely debunked the idea of ‘seeing past race/gender/ect’ being ‘colorblind’, which I will admit here and now I have said before. That does not work in a world where no one else is ‘colorblind’ and only blinds you to the intolerance going on around you.
It gave me a lot to think about and some straightforward examples of how to be a better ally all around. Very grateful for Farah’s and Ashraf’s courage in speaking up and helping us all get better as a community and as people.

Raw notes:
Lacking access
real story, got arrested for speeding
that cop became an ally but every cop after had same initial reaction
this affected his life later as had to admit he got arrested
We all have biases
blindly trusting our intuition in social interactions is naive
think before you speak, reassess your initial reactions!
Keep your bias to yourself
Unconscious gender bias
people assumed she knew less than she did when she started out
took her until a job change to get out of that rut
women tend to be assigned tasks that are less impressive
contributes to women being overlooked for promotions
long term impact on their career paths
consider adopting self-selection task assignment
trak, support and encourage female employees to work complex tasks
don’t assign women empathy-based tasks by default
She was accused of being too social to be a real developer
accuser had ‘feelings’ for her
she was new, didn’t have tools to handle the situation
but ‘luckily’ got sick and when came back he was gone
They walked her to her car every day
turns out the accuser had fallen apart mentally and was a threat after that
she stayed around for too long
BAH was a great move for her, a lot of women in tech and improved herself a lot
wording really matters
women they have spoken with are just as interested in pursuing a programming career
Female students are typically top performers
how to extent privilege?
-encounrage and reassure them –
give them homework to see if right for them before class starts
let them see if right for them, don’t penalize them for not wanting to keep going
encourage they will fit if they want it
strongly endorse them to key decision makers using Truthful information
Want to help grow Drupal?
we put a ton of thought into patches for Drupal
Put that much effort into helping your female colleagues
really lay it out clearly, it might feel like overkill but it is necessary
employers make a lot of decisions in the wrong direction with female employees
Older people also have this Bias
assuming they can’t learn new tech
her dad is an accountant, even though he was performing well, they pushed him to retire based on this bias
assuming they don’t want to learn
assume they will just be slower pace
people are not crediting all the experience that is brought ot the table
forgetting most technical problems have been solved before
Racial bias
black person early in career usually has to prove their personality doesn;t fit a preconceived notion
to be seriously considered for tech, black grads must be well spoken, charming,
others can get away with being quiet
‘but I don’t see color’
thats a start but it is not enough
the objectivity ship has sailed
too many others see color for neutrality to work
underprivileged people have faced barriers all their lives
evaluating a person’s fit for tech truly objectively would be to give them experiences, exposure and support before evaluating them
You can’t truly test aptitude with a programming test
posted his grads group picture on FB, got terrible racist hateful comments
people that do see color create a really crappy environment
There’s more
Family life – assumptions that people with use their family as an excuse to work from home or leave early
assumptions that people with visible disabilities are less able to perform
single employees are assue to be available 24/7 because they don’t have things going on and they have ‘no one to look after’
Whose job is it to fix this?
nothing is too small – small things can make a big impact
track, support and encourage individuals from underrepresented backgrounds
reach beyond your inner circle
participate in free training events such as GTD, hour of code, etc
Encourage your employer to set up paid internships
AT THE LEAST: RAISE AWENESS! thereby extending privilege
ripple effect can go far – a single top developer can impact Drupal significantly
what does better look like?
Documentation initiative
package contrib Composer dependencies in a .zip file (like core does) (think, bad internet connections)
auto-populate tailored documentation
resulting in centralized docs
D8Academy got involved
people who never heard of Drupal dl and install and contribute
Barrier free sprint
step by step instructions very easy to follow for novice
Drupal only benefits from inclusion

Wrapping Up

It was with very mixed emotions I left early to go to a very joyous occasion, a wedding. While I was super looking forward to see a best friend from college ‘tie the knot’, I was sad to leave all the fun and excitement of my Drupal community. I was super fortunate to get to attend and be there for what I got to be there for, but it flew by. It was an absolutely a pleasure and an honor to be there and can not wait until 2019, when Drupalcon goes to Seattle!