I was looking forward to DrupalCamp 2017, having missed out on more recent ones and it being located not far from an old stomping ground of mine at City Uni. It turned out to be one one of the biggest in Europe so far with 500-600 attendees, further proving the growth of Drupal.
I could only attend on the Saturday, due to other commitments, but the day started off well a great keynote speech from Matt Glaman of Commerce guys. He talked about how Drupal changes lives and his career change from a modest wage delivering beer to being a Drupal developer, within the space of 4 years.
At the outset of his Drupal journey he didn't even think it was a career option or certainly not one that could rival his day job. Matt mentioned how the Open Source community and Google (search results!) helped turn him from a coding fan to a full time developer.
A lot of what Matt said rang true to me, being a self taught developer, many moons ago, using the same community to help me develop with Drupal and build a business. Changing career can be a daunting prospect but moving over to coding or especially Drupal is helped greatly by the community and appreciated by one and all.
A-jax of all trades
I then moved on to a session titled A-jax of all trades about the Drupal AJAX API and its use with forms and links etc. It highlighted to me the need to improve the user experience when using forms and submitting content. So often a page refresh occurs when a simple AJAX query would do the trick.
Then it was time for a coffee break where I met up with Iztok and Marko from Agile Drop to talk shop. It's always nice to meet up face to face and talk Drupal.
Entity Reference as a Component-based UI Builder
Next up was Entity Reference as a Component-based UI Builder and the age old problem of managing content within a page. Wordpress has it's Visual Composer, which is popular and quite comprehensive but this is one area that Drupal can greatly improve on.
Although Entity Reference does solve one issue of content within content, hierarchy and ease of movement of this content, the speed of the session was too quick to really get a complete hold on its strengths.
It appeared not to bring anything new to the party and the Paragraphs module now does pretty much the same thing.
There's a number of options Display Suite, Panels, Panelizer and of course Paragraphs, plus a new kid on the block Stacks. It's Stacks that I'm quite interested in and will test out to see if this gives the best user experience, as at the end of the day it's the client that 99% of the time will be managing content on the site.
More than a CMS
This session, organised by Steve Purkiss and presented by James Abrahams, discussed the native CRM system Contacts, created by the good people at Freely Give, combined with their de-coupled user module, allowing you to handle contact info separate to user accounts.
I thought James presented extremely well and discussed a client project which presented a common issue when it comes to CRM systems and how they tackled it with the use of their native Drupal solution Contacts.
Their client needed the ability to handle contact information, put contacts into groups with various permissions and then sync it with their CRM. Previously their CRM was separate to their website and so this process took many weeks and a manual process of spreadsheets and importing.
As the client had a Drupal website the solution was to use the same site to act as their CRM, bypassing the need to sync data with an external system, allowing varying permissions per users and in turn speeding up the process greatly, to within a few days!
We have integrated a number of CRM systems for clients and even though you get a large functionality base to work with you quite often don't actually use even half of what is provided. A native system can be customised and built to suit the customer's needs providing a bespoke solution.
Our next CRM solution could use Contacts so we're excited to give this module a whirl.
Component driven frontend development
This session discussed the use of Atomic web design, breaking elements down into a more templated process with style guides and pattern libraries.
This helps speed up development, allowing different parts of the team to work on the design and development at the same time but in my mind leads to similar looking designs. I liken it to when you view a Wordpress site or Bootstrap theme, whereby you can spot them almost instantly due their their similarities.
At this point I called it a day but thought overall the event was well organised and sessions were well thought out. The venue was great and the food and drink laid on was excellent, with any left overs being given to the homeless!
I didn't get to eat any of the birthday cake sadly, DrupalCamp LDN having celebrated their 5th birthday that day. Here's to next year.
I was impressed by the diversity of the attendees which really illustrated to me that our community is welcoming, makes people stick around and contribute back.
Blast from the past
I worked in Clerkenwell for 6 months before freelancing across central London around about 12 years ago so knew City Uni and the surrounding area quite well. Below are a few photos that took me back, it's changed a lot but still retains a lot of charm: