drupal events

In preparation for our DrupalCon Denver training, we're rounding up some of the free Drupal videos tutorials on Build a Module.com so potential attendees can get a feel for the style of training. We will be leveraging the Mentored Training model I posted about several months ago, and piloted successfully at BADCamp. In this model, the traditional 'lecture' is pre-recorded in order to free up the instructors to help students with specific issues and provide that critical face-to-face time for the entire duration of the training. It's really quite awesome.

If you're considering doing any training at DrupalCon but haven't quite hopped on the boat yet - due to cost or time commitment - let me point out a couple of the less obvious benefits. While the information you learn will be useful, what you'll find even more valuable is the time you get to spend directly with skilled Drupal instructors who can help you over your specific hurdles. A second subtle benefit is the connections you'll make both with the instructors and your fellow students, connections that I guarantee will pay back dividends throughout DrupalCon and way beyond.

If you're curious about our particular training (we have 9+ amazing trainers lined up), check out this writeup which includes a short video outlining how the training works and some of the benefits. If you'd just like to peruse some of our free videos on using Git and getting every essential Drupal 7 configuration component or piece of content into code, check out the videos below:

Free videos on Git and getting everything into code

How to use a scalable Git branching model called Gitflow - 6:41

In this free (but information packed) video, we take our develop-master branch workflow and expand it to include several branch tracks in a system commonly called "Gitflow". This system, while it looks kind of crazy as a chart, takes the guesswork out of branch organization and lays down a set of sustainable rules for a project of any complexity.

How to create, deploy and clean up a release branch - 8:37

With a release branch, you capture a (hopefully) stable state of your code base and push it to a production site. In this video we walk you through each step of the way, from creating and working within the release, pushing it to production, and cleaning up after the push.

Overview of database components you can add to version control - 5:50

Getting our code into version control is a great start, but that's just half the battle with Drupal, since so much information is captured in the database. In this video, we begin the process of exploring the best way to get database components into our Git repository.

How to download and install the Features module - 1:50

The new videos this week walk you through the first steps of using the Features module, but before you do that, you'll need to actually install it. It's pretty straightforward, but we wanted to walk you through the process to make sure we get all the steps covered.

How to organize features and implications of getting everything into code - 4:09

Once you wrap your mind around the power of a feature module and the basics of updating and manipulating it, the next question you're likely to have is 'where do I put which component?' In this video, we talk you through how to organize components in a sustainable, reasonable way.

How to create and modify a Selenium macro that builds a node - 7:08

To demonstrate using Selenium IDE, we begin by recording a macro that generates a new node. You can record virtually any change with Selenium, but this would be one common use of the tool. We'll follow it up with one more test to demonstrate some additional techniques.

The challenges of overriding shared feature modules and some solutions - 4:53

One of the biggest hurdles to adopting Features as a configuration management solution is that overriding configuration options captured in a feature module isn't always straightforward. In this video we begin the review of best practices when overriding these features.

I'm chairing the "Providing Professional Drupal Services" track for Drupalcon San Francisco in April and am looking for interesting sessions and speakers to help seed the Drupalcon sessions list. We already have some great folks on board. Sessions will be opened up for public submissions soon and the earlier your session gets added, the longer people have to vote on them.

So, if you're interested, ping me with your session idea. If you're looking for ideas, I've put together of potential subject matter for my track here, as well as a Drupalcon Talk Idea Generator to get your juices flowing.

Disclaimer and clarification: I posted this with the goal of connecting with people who are thinking about or have already prepared sessions for the track I'm chairing. I'm not in charge of fielding all Drupalcon session proposals and I won't be the one that decides which sessions ultimately get chosen, but I should be able to help folks with the submission process.


On October 24 and 25 I'm going to be in Seattle for the Pacific Northwest Drupal Summit. From my understanding, this un-conference is aimed specifically at intermediate and advanced Drupal users, so most of the topics are hitting the folks a little higher up the Drupal learning curve. There will be a whopping 4 rooms of sessions, which means that we'll have a lot of choices, and there will be a lot of people hanging out in the halls looking at the schedule, trying to figure out where to go. Perfect for me, because I love hanging out in the halls.

The Summit's web site was donated by This By Them, the same folks that did the uber-nice DrupalCamp LA site. You can see some similarities. I'm happy to see this re-purposing of a DrupalCamp web site (A full distribution and case study for the site can be found here). First of all, it saves the organizers time, and secondly it gives us attendees a familiar framework when registering, planning and voting on sessions. When we finally get a DrupalCamp Idaho off the ground, using this distribution will be a slam dunk.

There's some good topics being covered, such as deployment, Drupal 7 theming, Open Layers and SEO. I've also submitted a few sessions on AJAX development, Drupal security, themeing, and making friends. I've also been asked to do a BOF (Birds of a Feather) on the Navigate module. You can check out what sessions I've voted for by going to my profile page and clicking "My picked sessions."

I've you're planning on attending and want to say hi, drop me a line. Look forward to seeing you there!

One thing I appreciate about Drupal is that it attracts fantastic people. Every time I attend a Drupal event, I know I can grab some random person to chat with (which I often do) and end up in an interesting conversation, and the DrupalCamp in Victoria BC was no disappointment. The event was held in the offices of NorthStudio, a web dev / marketing firm and training facility. I judge a venue selection successful when the rooms are just barely big enough to fit the audience with standing room only, and the two rooms chosen for the presentations were perfect in this respect. Because the the rooms were their training facilities, everyone seated had a shiny Mac computer (running Windows) they could use to follow along with.

While I tend to gravitate towards lobby-talk during presentations, I caught most of several presentations that were quite interesting, and heard good things about the others. Here are some highlights.

DrupalCamp Highlights

Open Layers with Patrick Hayes. Open layers is a Drupal module that allows users to generate layered maps, with virtually any base layer (Google maps, Yahoo maps, NASA, etc). You can draw geometrical shapes and save them as nodes, as well as traditional points. After chatting with Patrick and Charles (his business partner over at GeoMemes), I heard my first ever argument for using PostgreSQL over MySQL. In summary, MySQL's support of geographical calculations and indexing flat out doesn't compare. Good to know. The demo was compelling and well presented, and makes me really excited to have a reason to use Open Layers.

Information Architecture, Design and Theming. Tom James and Alex Ventpap from Image-X gave a dual presentation on tips for designing, including wireframing, using Photoshop effectively and handing the finished design off to the Themer. I now have a few new Photoshop tricks up my sleeve, like make repeating backgrounds vector graphics (they're smaller in file size and expand more cleanly), clear your cache every once in a while to free up RAM, and a bit I need to follow up on about how you can minimize the file size of your PSD with a couple minor settings. After Alex's coverage of design, Tom took over and gave some good tips about theming, including using Aegir for deployment, minimizing theme customization by starting with a custom theme and using version control.

Next, Vanessa Turke, another member of the Image-X team, presented on information architecture (IA). She managed to cover a ton of stuff in a really tight time slot. A couple bits I took from it is 1) If your client doesn't buy into IA, and you can only spend a little time on it, then find out what the primary goal of the site is. I know from experience that you can't get far without that bit of info, but it's good to hear an IA expert say so. Also, Vanessa stepped aside to let a really fun, enlightening video about the typical web user play through. The video was a set of street interviews where the interviewer asked 'What is a browser?'. The bottom line was that you shouldn't overestimate your audience. They tend to not know what the **** they're doing, so you have to help.

Dan Howard with a bag of Developer tricks: This presentation was particularly cool because I'd just recorded a series of Drupal training videos for new developers at Build a Module.com. Dan covered a lot of similar topics, and it a spookily similar way. It's strange how even though each developer is different, we all develop a common set of tools and strategies (and mistakes).

Drupal Development Evolved!

Finally, I had a great time presenting a session called "Drupal Development Evoloved!" The core of the talk was meant to give new and intermediate developers a grasp of the tools that they might use someday soon to improve their workflow. Afterwards, some of the attendees suggested that the scale could be used to help people explain where they are in their personal development. The scale is based loosely on the number of sites one has built, but I discovered that some people find it more effective to use one of the strategies in the middle even though they've worked on many more sites. Here's the scale:

  • 1st site: Download Drupal, install, download modules, install modules, etc.
  • 2nd site: Copy the first site and gut it, use it again
  • 3rd site: Create a base install and use this as a base (prevents embarrassing leftovers from copying and gutting)
  • 4th site: Create multiple base installs for different kinds of sites (blogs, e-commerce sites, social networks)
  • 5th site: Integrate team development
  • 6th site: Share and collaborate using install profiles, Features, distributions and the like

The presentation featured many references to WebEnabled, a pretty groovy service I did a writeup on a while back and have more recently been doing some User Experience (UX) work for. At several of the stages outlined in the presentation, WebEnabled offers handy shortcuts and powerful deployment options. For example, instead of setting up a database, downloading and installing Drupal, you can just spin up a new instance of Drupal 5, 6, 7 or Acquia Drupal with a click. It sets up a shell account automatically for the application, so you can use an IDE like Coda or Komodo to work with the files remotely. Think Drupal Gardens for developers. It's pretty neat, if you haven't seen it yet, check it out.

I unfortunately wasn't able to record the session live, but below are the slides, and a dry run I did to get some peer reviews before the camp:


Overall, I was happy to make the 13 hour trip from Idaho to Victoria BC. I met a lot of great people, derived several insights form interesting conversations, and had some rather excellent sushi. Next year, I'm going to plan on sticking around a little longer to explore what I've been told is some of the most beautiful coastline in Canada. And I'm going to bring some extra garden burgers.

Last weekend I attended DrupalCamp Colorado, and thought I should jot down a few of my personal highlights.

The Hostel

I reserved a dorm bed at a local hostel. Maybe the creepiest place I've ever been. When you register, on the counter is a ventriloquist doll, folded in half with it's legs behind his head. Next to the doll is a communal bowl of chips. Like, potato chips. BBQ flavored. Now, I appreciate the sharing attitude, but would have been far more comfortable plunging my hand into a bowl of individually wrapped candies. After a series of strange events which I hesitate to recount (just in case involved parties are tracking my posts) but which kind of pushed me over the edge of creepiness, a fellow attendee offered to let me stay at his place, and I gratefully accepted. After I presented at one session, someone who actually stayed at the hostel let me know that out of a couple of months of traveling through Europe and Asia, the Denver hostel was the dirtiest he'd seen, and I'd done good by not staying there. The result is a good story with lots of embellishments if you're (un?)fortunate enough to hear the whole tale in person.

The Sessions

I ended up attending a lot of sessions, which I haven't done at previous camps / Drupalcons. I got some good stuff out of the security session with Greg Knaddison, Ezra Gildesgame and Ben Jeavons. Also, got some D6 theming goodness, presented by Stephanie Pakrul and Jay Wolf from Top Notch Themes. The stuff going on with the Skinr module really got me excited, and hearing how TNT improved their conversion rates so drastically using just a few intuitive techniques and very little time was excellent. Ended up sitting in on a few sessions that were a little under my point on the learning curve, but I enjoyed those as well because I was watching for presentation styles, since I gave my first session ever on Sunday.

Good wifi access, fun backchannel discussion, excellent lunch with TNT people and my friend Josh Brauer. There was enough time between sessions to get some socializing done (my favorite part of Drupal events) and meet some Denver folks.

The People

I got a really good vibe from everyone at the Camp. In contrast to Drupalcon (I'm still pretty green when it comes to Drupal events), I enjoyed the atmosphere of a smaller event. Ended up talking to the same people several times, and felt less lost in the crowd. I met a lot of people I'd love to chat with again, and got to put a lot of faces to names I'd only seen in IRC. I came home seriously considering the idea of taking an extended vacation (6 months or a couple years) in the area, just to be around such an active, fun bunch of Drupal folks. The experience anchored my resolution to attend a decent-sized event at least once every couple of months, to keep connected with the really neat people that make up the Drupal community.

Giving a Presentation

I was thankful to have the opportunity to present a session, and that the audience was probably too sedated by the unlimited pizza lunch to judge me too harshly. It went well, at least from my perspective. I kept on time, didn't freak out, and managed to make a few people laugh. The goal of the session was to jumpstart folks who haven't really taken part in community discourse yet, and go over the basics of getting involved. So hopefully, a couple more folks are a little closer to making that leap, or better yet actually took it. I learned that 45 minutes is pitifully short to cover a subject in-depth, and that it would have been nice to have more time for answering questions and getting feedback about what was missing from the presentation so I can make it better next time.

Conclusionary Stuff

I'm looking forward to presenting again, got a little more excited about doing a DrupalCamp in Idaho, am considering taking my wife back to Denver to evaluate an extended vacation there, learned that if you teach something you end up believing it simply through extended exposure, was surprised at my stamina after waking up at 3am, hope to pay some hospitality forward in turn, and am looking forward to hooking up with a lot of the great folks at the camp again. Oh, and if I get back to Denver I'm totally hitting up Chedds. A grilled cheese bistro? Beautiful.

Below are my slides from my presentation at DrupalCamp Colorado (had an awesome time, blog post of praise to come later). I think the presentation went well, but would appreciate any feedback from the folks that came. Was the info pertinent? Confusing? Was the presentation too basic or contrived?

Next time, I will remember to post the slides before the session so I can get feedback right away. Also, thanks to the fellow in the back for recommending Slideshare!

I've spent a good bit of time the last couple of weeks getting my thoughts straight for a session I may present at DrupalCamp Colorado called "Plugging into the Drupal community - Essential tools". The process of formulating my thoughts regarding my experiences with the Drupal community and what the project is all about has been a really good one. As a friend pointed out the other day, I'm more of verbal guy, so I've been thinking / practicing out loud and jotting down good thoughts when they come out. I remember David Byrne once saying that he writes music in a similar way.

The idea of the session is to help atendees wrap their mind around the social channels used by the Drupal community so they can get plugged in quick. Not just the technological aspects, but also the cultural implications of how the community uses them. I've been involved with the community on some level for a couple years now, and in hindsight I think my climb up the Drupal learning curve would have been greatly accelerated if I had gotten plugged in to the community earlier. Drupal is really a social solution to a technical problem, not the other way around, and realizing that can have a positive impact on the speed of learning and the ability to make a meaningful contribution.

Based on the voting so far, the session is lagging behind a bunch of other great-looking sessions - probably the material I'm covering seems too basic for the typical DrupalCamp crew. But I think I like the idea of putting a session out there, regardless of if it gets presented, just for the nudge to get some ideas in order. If I end up not presenting, that's just one more session I can either attend or skip out on to rub real elbows with some virtual friends.

Just got my tickets for Drupalcamp Colorado, and reserved a spot at the Melbourne hostel (my first hostel ever). I got so excited I put together a google map, complete with hostel, camp location, burrito place with good reviews and a couple grocery stores.

For those of you who might be considering going, but aren't sure about absorbing the costs, here's what it's going to run me:

$280 for plane ticket
$20 for registration
$22 for 1 night in hostel
$20 for shuttle to airport (will be catching a ride with fellow Drupaler from airport to event on Saturday)
$15 burrito budget (lunches served at the event, will bring breakfast with me)
$357 TOTAL

That's almost a third the cost of just attending a 2-day Lullabot workshop (not including airfare). For me, if I do something like this about 4 times a year, that's about $90 / month, the amount I'm saving by using a Virgin mobile phone and iPod touch instead of an iPhone. So, basically free! ;)

Look forward to seeing you there!

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