Tag Archives: Chicago

DrupalCon Chicago, Part 3: Cats, Birds, and Hunting Down Coders

“Theme is the force that binds it all together.” – Morten Heide

One notable shift at this year’s DrupalCon, or at least the impression that I got from the people I spoke to, is that there are an increasing number of designers and usability people getting involved, making Drupal accessible to more than just the hardcore coders.

The Drupal Learning Curve

On Thursday I was able to focus purely on the design and theming tracks, which left me yearning for all the delicious things Drupal 7 offers.

The main points in every session I went to that day focused on:

  • Consistency
  • Clean coding
  • Optimizing your site and its files

Morten’s session, “How to Make Awesomesauce,” was definitely one of the most entertaining. He spoke about cleaning up the CSS files in your Drupal theme, and warned the coders that they need to start developing their modules in a consistent way that is easier for themers to use and modify, or else we were going to hunt them down.

He also used my favorite Japanese cat, Maru, as an analogy for trying to fit content and requirements into places that don’t always accommodate it:

To top it all off, he Rick Rolled us in his code.

I later went to a session called “Faster Front End Performance” and though it was far too beginner for me (explaining when you should use jpgs vs pngs), it was nice to have reinforcement that we are already doing a great job at optimizing our websites here at the U of L.

They also provided an awesome online tool called Smush It that allows you to compress images for the web without using Photoshop.

At the Closing Session, they showed the final usage stats on how many people had been using the wireless internet. Early on it had slowed to a crawl, and that might be because the approximately 3000 attendees were using over 4600 devices!

On our day heading out, I went to the Navy Pier one more time to marvel at the number of seagulls that live there:

DrupalCon Chicago, Part 2: Paparazzi, Internet marketing, and Geek to Chic

The first official day of DrupalCon started with a few opening keynotes, including one by Drupal creator Dries Buytaert.

   Dries; Trevor and Wesley

This was my first DrupalCon, so I was excited when Jacob Singh asked me to help out for one small portion of his presentation of the Media module. I wandered through the classroom before he began, taking paparazzi photos of the audience for Jacob to later use in his demo of uploading a gallery. Not only was it a great way to meet people (I met someone who used to go to school and be close friends with one of my art professors here at the university), but I got a shout-out during the session.

(You can watch the video at archive.org; my shout-out is at 6:36.)

Trevor already wrote a bit about the module and like him, I’m really excited for when we can start using it.

Some of the first few sessions I attended covered:

  • Usability
  • Designing for mobile
  • Customizing maps
  • Cross-browser compatibility
  • Internet marketing
  • Designing for content managers

The Internet marketing session was really enlightening. I learned that PageRank has been abused too much, so Google is now placing much less authority on it (a few years ago it was a huge booster in your search result ranking).

The thing that struck me most was that they said to think of social media as leasing space in other people’s real estate. Another key point is that “interrupt” advertising is ineffective and no longer trusted by people; if they want to find something, they prefer to come to you on their own, making it important to organically establish a strong brand.

Myth: Social Media is a Waste of Time

That evening Trevor and I attended Lullabot’s party at the Underground, which featured a Geek to Chic fashion show, open dance floor where all of us nerds could strut our stuff, and a performance by Jeff Robbin’s band Orbit.

The fashion show was hilarious, featuring the best in nerd clothing and a cameo by ‘webchick’ rocking high heels.


We met up with Anne and Gord from NorthStudio in Victoria, who should be visiting Lethbridge soon to offer some Drupal training.

I also checked out the DPCI karaoke party with Jacob, and was surprised by how many web developers can also belt out a tune! It was a great night for meeting other Drupal developers and building camaraderie within the community.

DrupalCon Chicago, Part 1: Upgrading Drupal 6 to 7

I will be taking a retrospective look at DrupalCon Chicago over this next week; there was just too much going on while I was there to comprehend blogging about it at the time!

On our first day, while Wes and Trevor went to the Drupal 7 modules session, I attended “Upgrading Drupal 6 to 7,” a hands-on class where we upgraded a variety of websites to the newest version of Drupal. The session was taught by Acquia members Jacob Singh, Joshua Brauer, and Erik Webb, as well as additional help from Heather James, and they were fantastic to learn from.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic  

Though there are no immediate plans to do this upgrade at the U of L, I thought it would be a great way to learn the changes in Drupal 7 and prepare myself for when we do take the plunge.

I was amazed at how easily everything upgraded, especially that:

  • Views migrated seamlessly with no additional steps required
  • Using Migrate Fields, you can import all of your old fields
  • Any previously generated Automatic URLs move across flawlessly, only requiring you to manually update any syntax incompatibilities after you upgrade
  • Most conversion problems can be solved and updated simply by resubmitting forms

Foreseeable issues:

  • Complex sites may need to be built from scratch and then use content migrate
  • Themes do not have an upgrade path and also need to be rebuilt
  • Slidehow does not yet have a stable release for Drupal 7 (and a few new modules we are eager to try out aren’t ready)

Although it will involve a lot of work and planning, I’m excited for when we can start making the upgrade.

Drupal, Deep Dish Pizza, and Da Bulls

Chicago is quite the place, and a perfect venue for DrupalCon 2011. Although it’s a bit chilly, it feels like summer after leaving the -20 degree Southern Alberta weather.

For a few hundred of us keeners, DrupalCon began today with a full day of Drupal training. I attended a session taught by Eaton from Lullabot, focusing on creating modules for Drupal 7. Overall, it was a useful session filled with hooks, forms, and API goodness. There are actually some really cool changes that have been implemented for Drupal 7 and I’m excited to get some time and try them out. Now, we just need to start developing our University sites using D7!

To this point, the conference seems extremely well organized, and everything seems to be running very smoothly. I’ve already collected a ton of great swag including the coveted Drupal pajama pants, a Drupal T-shirt, and the first ever issue of Watchdog Magazine (Drupal’s own mag – sweet!). Funny thing… as we were looking through the DC2011 program, we came across a great Microsoft ad. I’ve got to give ’em credit for owning up to their disastrous mistake. If only I was a drinker, I’d be more than happy to take them up on their offer.

Tomorrow is shaping up to be another great day. I’ve had my my eye on a few sessions and if all goes according to plan, I’ll be checking out these sessions:

  1. Forensic Theming: Key Techniques to Building Effective Drupal Themes
  2. Rockin’ HTML5 with Drupal
  3. Crafting App Interfaces with jQuery
  4. Designing for Mobile

On a personal note, I took some time this evening and ventured to the United Center to watch my first ever NBA game. The Bulls vs. the Hornets. It was an awesome atmosphere and luckily, the Bulls won so everyone around me was in a good mood. When I got back to my hotel room, Wesley had left a note on my door telling me he had some left over pizza from supper. Wow! Chicago has some great “za”. Talk about Dense! The one slice I had was probably 2 inches deep and must have weighed a pound. Pizza Hut just won’t be the same when I get home.