Stanford DrupalCamp: The first time I have ever seen it rain in Palo Alto and a shorter camp than usual

I was super excited to be able to once again go to a camp close enough to SF that I didn’t have to take an airplane. Not to say I don’t love flying and SFO and all, but there is a niceness to being able to get in a car and when I exit to be where I am going. This is especially true when going somewhere as beautiful as the Stanford campus. FOr the second half of this event, weather was perfect as you could hope for, but day one had a little rain come our way. But even though it was a tad grey outside, it was bright, dry and warm inside as the Stanford and area Drupal community came together for a day and a half of sessions and conversations at Stanford Drupal Camp 2018.

Food and Fun

Since this event started in the afternoon on Friday, there was no morning coffee or lunch provided. Fortunately for me, the camp takes place at the fully stocked and staffed College of Law, so getting some caffeine and some grub was pretty simple. I didn’t even have to go outside. Soon after we started, catering set up some coffee for us and it was OK. I’ll rate it as pretty standard conference coffee.

Happy Hour

The camp organizers tried something new this year and rather than a single afterparty on the second day, they had a smaller happy hour each evening immediately following the last session of each day. We had chips and salsas and wine and beer and other goodies. But the real joy of this was having a chance to say goodbye to folks and have those hallway conversations that you were unable to have while sessions were rolling along. The other very nice thing is it was very welcoming to everyone to just swing through on their way out, even if they could only just stop by for a minute or two. No one had to have too long of a night or had to move their car to participate. We even had a little background music pumping, not too loud, but definitely gave the room atmosphere.

Day 2

We, the sponsors and catering folks, arrived early on Saturday morning to find that facilities had failed to get the building unlocked. While it was fun to hang out outside on a beautiful morning, it did make us a bit rushed to grab our coffee and, for those who partook, pastries that were offered before the first session of the day kicked off. I opted for green tea.


While a free event, we were still given a free lunch. Pretty typical sandwich fare for a camp with chips and apples to round it out, plus the leftover pastries. I opted to take a quick stroll around campus to soak up the beautiful day and recover from giving back to back sessions in the morning. I ended up getting a nice little bowl of tofu and eggplant over in the main student center. I also got to sit outside for a little bit when I returned and before the afternoon sessions kicked back up.

Happy Hour Day 2

See Happy Hour above.

Unfortunately no tweets of this event exist that I can find. So, here is a tweet about the awesome chips I discovered as a result of this event, Garden Of Eatin’s Red Hot Blues. For sure buying these if I see them on a shelf.


Opening Remarks:

This is the 9th year of this event. They explained the logic of the event was to have a Friday and Saturday camp so Stanford workers could more easily attend day one and the general community could more easily attend day two. The sessions schedule reflected this with more of a focus on Stanford specific content opening day.

Keynote: Stanford Off-Campus Learning Opportunities (SOLO)
Pauline Larmaraud

One of the challenges that most universities face, as well as large scale enterprises with many autonomous parts, is reinvention of the wheel by each division or department. In fact, one of the main reasons Stanford DrupalCamp exists in the first place is to give the Drupal users and excuse to talk to one another and learn what other departments are doing. It does not need to be this way though. If you build a better system and evangelize it correctly in the ecosystem, then you can unite everyone and empower them with better tools. While I was not sure what this talk would be about when I first sat down, I was very grateful to hear a case study of exactly such a new and more useful system being built and spread throughout the Stanford organization. It was proof positive that we can collaborate and use free and open source software to make our world better.

Raw Notes:
Off Campus study is good,
study abroad is very healthy and helps do things you can’t do on campus
each department though was working alone
Siloed from other design and reinventing the wheel every year
listened to stakeholders, really listened
what they really needed was an application management system
These groups that do off campus are not connected to a central system
each independent
had to build trust and buy in and backlog
user needs first
delivered early and often as they could
they were happy right off and on a good path
opened up more and gave more feedback
Partnership between Stanford OIA + Aten
was an agile process
They are agile, not in the buzzword sense
Agile is a communication framework
to get in alignment is the goal
the 4 values
1. individuals and interactions over processes and tools
2. working software over comprehensive docs
3. client collaboration over negotiation
4. responding to change
Really though
1. Talk to each other
2. Don’t just plan it, build it!
3. Work with one another
4. Be ready to pivot
get to a product ASAP and get it in front of users
Agile sprint ceremonies: planning, standup, review, retrospective
they used to do internal retrospective, with this process is the first time they did customer facing
Agile because they worked on it, found what worked for them
the platform they built:
browsing opportunities was key goal
immediately find what they are looking for
Drupal makes it easy to define a content type
CTA up and to the right makes it easy to find and draw more people to apply
Applying for opportunities
had to have a review and approval process
pull in other student info, like records and GPA, etc
MAIS data
made checklists page
Steps change often
people can give feedback on each step
Results, 2,200 applications in year one
they think it is better than last year, but that data is not available
increased engagement,
over 30 units using this for in country and international opportunites
even more collaboration

If it Ain’t Broke: How to tell if your website needs a full rebuild or a focused fix

I will always admit that I don’t work at an agency nor am I a professional site developer. However, I end up getting asked a lot by people outside the space questions about their website as if I did have such a role. This session armed me with a great approach to helping those people who ask ‘how should I fix my website?’ It is hard to know if a site needs some tweaks or if it is time for a whole hog rewrite. now, with a handfull of questions I feel I can better steer people, at a high level, toward an appropriate answer.

Raw Notes:
Only 3 main points
You have to have a website
Your website has other costs than time and money
Opportunity costs
switching costs
reality: tech moves very fast
apple watch example
What does that mean?
mobile optimized
fast load times
mobile fundamentally different than the desktop
Google loves good content laid out well
when is it a good time for a focused fix vs rebuild
they offer help at Kanopi to plot best path forward
POP Quiz!
Do you clearly understand your audience and their decision making journey
1, 2 ,3, 4?
How hard is there to make decisions in your org?
Any pressing events, deadlines that require this refreshed site?
so you currently have capacity for a rebuild (funds, staff time, opportunity costs?
how old is your website technology?
Is your site responsive?
Add up the score
Low: rebuild
Mid range: need more data
High: focused fix time
Reality – smart strategy & strong technical foundation leads to optimal website health
Swoop and Poop – done all the work, then Sr. Team member is not involved, but comes in and poops on the whole process, then leave.
need to have SMART goals
website should help achieve your mission
helps get stakeholders on the same page
How optimal is your user experience?
Do your homework!
analytics, heat maps, surveys, interviews, user testing
take the time to do it right
Also need to have a need for speed

resist: Open Source, Open Data, and the Government
Jordon Koplowicz

If you know me at all, you wil know that I love and belive in information being free and moving fast. I think free and open source software is a major component of this and it is why I do what I do for a living. This talk was the perfect marriage of new data sets to explore and play with and fundamentals about why this is important stuff. Highly recommend going through his slides for all the links.

Raw Notes:
Vital Signs project at Stanford
12 different agencies
bay area metro
taking all the data an presenting as visualization
was easy to convence them to be open
Open Source Government
been done for a long time, but adoption never been better is something we brag about for opensource
many, many government agencies and divisions and universities using it, many agencies within the cities and counties
central department of technologies does point to open source
UC system using starter kit all OSS, Drupal
government open data
standford open data: SNAP, Opendata, EarthWorks, Open Policing
How does this help resist?
open data means the truth is still out there
we can still make our own conclusions empower citizens
give people the power to play with data
OSS: we are stronger together
also contributing back
whitehouse petition platform
18f: US Web Design standards on github
Vital Signs: Tableau Public module
SF using drupal themes DAHLIA and SFCOIT
What do I do now
1 Use OSS – larger user base helps
2 Contribute back – share a fork
revolves arouns how you are giving people permission to use your IP
3 Use open data – be vocal about it. Only way to communicate is to let people know you are using it. Very rewarding to the people workng on this
4 Publish your data – publish or perish is still a problem but there are solutions

My Sessions

Stanford selected 3 of my talks this year.

1 So you want to speak at a camp? Yes please!

I gotta admit, when the time came to start this talk there were only 2 people in the room, which reminded me of The Evaporators song Half Empty Halls. More people showed up but we all had a sit down conversation and I was very pleased with how it went overall. Both those people who were there at the start said they knew they were for sure going to be giving a talk moving ahead. Made me feel really good.

2 Let’s Learn Git. No Excuses!

While I didn’t get extra time for it, I tried my best to teach Git as a workshop instead of ust a talk. There is a LOT to Git and impossible to cover it all. Feedback was great and helpful this time and I know one person at least got a better understanding of the basic ideas. I think Git boils down to forward in time, backwards in time, parallel universes and conversations before a merge. Even one person walking away with a better grasp,

3 Nobody Wants A Website. They Want Results!

I really, really enjoy giving this talk. My favorite part is the Q&A, which I have converted into a group conversation section. So much learning and great examples from the crowd, including one person who had their intake form mechanized to help people qualify themselves before any human needed to get involved from her company. So many good points made by the attendees, I was proud to be part of the discussion.

Wrapping Up

Stanford is the birthplace of so much innovation. The very first host to host connection ever between machines was between UCLA and Stanford. The first autonomous vehicles were proposed here. Stanford gave us the Augmentation Research Center which gave us the Mother of All Demos.
While it might not be the first Stanford DrupalCamp, it was an awesome one. I can’t wait for next year’s event!

Quick final note about this post:
As of today I am using a new content deployment process leveraging CLI and my Dev and Test environments on Pantheon. If you are interested in how I am doing this, for this post the command I ran was:

curl | sed -n ‘1!p’ | terminus wp — post create –post_author=1 –post_title=’Stanford DrupalCamp: The first time I have ever seen it rain in Palo Alto and a shorter camp than usual’ –post_name=’StanfordDrupalCamp2018′ –count=1 –post_status=publish –

Still early version, hope to have this automated from a push to github auto rebuilds the content and in future hope to build some testing for content and then make all this work with Gutenberg. Currently I am relying on markdown editor, which is a tad out of date, but early testing is promising for Gutenberg, not ready for showing my work there yet.

Stanford DrupalCamp: Down on the farm

A very bright weekend greeted us at Stanford DrupalCamp.  After a really rainy winter with crazy weather that seemed to follow me to SANDCamp and Drupal Northern Lights, it was really awesome to have clear skies and the warm spring weather of Palo Alto.  I was very excited to be able to attend a camp close to home and to be joined by a couple colleagues who I do not normally get to travel with.

Unlike most camps and conferences I attend, most of the attendees at the camp worked for the same employer.  Stanford.  It seemed that many of the folks attending were there to learn about what other parts of their university were doing. And that makes sense given the size of the university and how many departments utilize Drupal in some way.   It gave this camp a very special feeling of purpose to have so many colleagues who rarely work directly together come under one banner for a weekend.

It also focused the discussion on internally promoting Drupal as the right solution for many of their needs.  This is an interesting problem set and one I have thought about a lot since I first attended WPCampus last year.  It was remarkable how the different departments and organizations sounded like the web development agencies I have worked with. Similar in goals and processes but with some additional problem variables on top.  While the challenges are great, I think the folks working in these institutions are doing great work and helping keep information moving fast and free.  I left with high hopes for the future of Drupal and its use in higher education.

The Food and the Fun:

A lack of planning on my part Friday left me without lunch as my team was setting up for the camp.  Very fortunately, the campus food court system was in full swing and I was able to buy some wonderful vegetarian stew to tide me over.  The conference coffee was pretty OK and they had a great tea selection.

5:00pm Friday found us outside The Treehouse for some fun, nachos, fries, wine and beer paid for by the awesome sponsors of the camp.  Many good times were had. Having talks the next day to prepare for and some other plans, all too soon we had to take off our homes.

Saturday started out with an amazingly awesome Lyft ride.

The sessions were great and the weather was unbelievably nice out.  It felt like summer had come to the peninsula.  We had standard fare camp lunch with sandwiches, apples, chips and cookies with our coffees and teas.  What make it awesome was sitting outside in the warm air on the quiet campus.

Saturday evening had us return one again to the quite nice Treehouse courtyard for some more food and fun.  All too soon we parted ways but not before some great times.

The Sessions:


It was a real treat to hear Dr Ronald Vogl talk about how and why LegalTech is or is not disrupting the legal industry.  I will admit, at first I was rather apprehensive about this talk.  While an interesting abstract, I was not sure how this would lead into our camp.  After all, the keynote is often what sets the tone for the general conversations at these get together. My hesitations were unfounded though, as I listened to his presentation.  On top of being a brilliant speaker, Dr. Vogl held our attention by laying out the realities of how technology is impacting one of the oldest professions on earth.

I had not really thought about it in the terms of automation of processes, but this is what technology based solutions like LegalZoom and RocketLawyer are essentially doing. ¬†Making the dreary monotony of paralegal work the stuff robots can do easily. ¬†The questions though become; how far up can we automate? ¬†What does this mean for the current aging lawyers practicing who are seeing the market ‘disrupted’ vs the student or new attorney ¬†who have had these as realities in the market since they began. Clearly someone who understand the technical side and the people side, our presenter was able to leave us thinking that technology is only going to keep evolving and thought must be given to how we choose to encourage how it evolves.

I am only going to talk about 3 other sessions for this post, but everything I saw or participated in was great.  Including talks by 2 of my colleagues, Greg and Peter.

How To Make a Snowflake with a Cookie Cutter: Innovative Site Building on Stanford Sites¬†was a session on how the Office of International Affairs went from a hosted solution that had many barriers to make any changes to an internally managed Drupal installation that they could edit at will. ¬†It was not an easy road but one that empowered their department to do more faster using an agile method. ¬†The quote that really stuck with me though was “All good CMS implementations serve a content strategy”. ¬†I think you can even remove the work good here, since at the end of the day we are just manipulating strings of content, that all CMS have a content strategy, intentionally managed or not.

The impact and power of this talk was magnified by the audience being made up of other Stanford staff who were learning how their colleagues in the OIA  took control of their own destiny, the risks that can bring and the big picture view of how this impacted their mission.  Really inspiring stuff.

Case Study: Big Data Visualizations with Carto & Highcharts was a talk from Jordon Koplowicz I really thought would be on how mapping data functions and flows.  It for sure covered aspects of that but it really was a fascinating story of how a company went from one technology for mapping to another and the challenges that brought.  While conceptually it was just taking data from one JSON file to another and crunching some numbers, that number crunching proved to be a serious challenge.  His slides highlight that there are some things that PHP and NginX do well and some things that do not.

More important than the technical specs was the journey he went through as a new developer on this project. ¬†He also addressed the very real issue that sometimes a new technology gets forced onto a project for one reason or another. This lead to a line that got an audible chuckle from the crowd: “I hate this for 2 reasons.” ¬†First that it was yet another layer of technical complexity and second it meant another developer was to be added into the mix who was an expert on the new tech. ¬†He discussed how he dealt with those complexities and his enthusiasm about the problem itself was downright inspiring. He set a¬†great example for every developer.

Website Musts: How to Define Everything That Your Website Needs to Do

This talk started with the question “How do we know when a project is done?”. Much like my talk about Discovery, the intent of Anne Stefanyk’s¬†session was to give project managers and other client facing folks the tools to better manage expectations. ¬†One of my big take aways is that the key to any successful engagement is clear scope and transparency of process.

Anne’s process relies on the the User Story¬†and how they leverage these to great effect at Kanopi Studios¬†and for projects like BADCamp. ¬†The power of the user story is that they can tell you what the end looks like before you start. ¬†She highlighted that while these user stories can be generated rapidly they should also come with early user testing and data gathering to drive their application.


My Sessions:

I gave two talks at this camp and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity.

My first talk was a new one I had prepared especially for this camp. ¬†Discovery, discovery, discovery, discovery! The most import part of successful projects. ¬†Originally I had proposed to have this be “the most import part of a sale.” ¬†My background is in sales and I understand that topic pretty well. ¬†After a conversation with the camp organizers who suggested generalizing this up to be more project focused rather than just sales, I did a good deal of research, modified the talk and learned a few things along the way. ¬†I am very happy with the way this turned into a group discussion and sharing by the end of the session. ¬†Truly great when we can learn from each other.

My other talk of the day was We Are All Making This Up: Improv Lessons For Developers.  This makes the 4th time I have delivered this session and I am really honing it in.  I am very much looking forward to giving this again at MidCamp 2017!  Being the last slot on the last day my attendance was about a third of the Discovery talk right after lunch, but the enthusiasm of the smaller crowd and the interactiveness of the example exercises made this the perfect sized audience.

Stanford is unlike almost any other camp I have been to.  It was the best weather of any camp I had attended in 2017 so far.  The people cold not have been nicer and the good times were had by all!