—   12 March 2019   —   Code & Drupal

DrupalCamp London 2019 - Keynote crowd

Now in its seventh year, DrupalCamp London is one of the largest and most popular community events in the Drupal calendar, attracting attendees from across the world and a high calibre of keynote and session speakers.

Continuous Professional Development, knowledge sharing and learning is something we value highly at Access, and something we are prioritising and investing in more than ever. This year I’m proud to say we supported 10 of our team to attend DrupalCamp London with travel, event tickets, accommodation, and food and drink expenses covered.

Clocking up over 110 hours towards our company’s IPA CPD record, here are just a few highlights of what we got out of the event...

I attended the DrupalCamp London CxO day, which is primarily aimed at business leaders who provide or make use of Drupal services. It’s the ‘business day’ before the more delivery focussed weekend event – with the majority of attendees and sessions revolving around development, UX and Project Management of open source software.

The variety of topics and speakers at the CXO day was really interesting, with a great mix of business strategy, culture, technical, and knowledge sharing and discussion. All were entertaining, informative and thought-provoking so well done to DrupalCamp London organisers, Alex Burrows and Alex Elkins, for the CxO speaker selection.

The two talks that resonated the most for me personally, revolved around business challenges and approaches to overcome them, and the topic of diversity and the benefits it brings to the culture and performance of a business.

Michel Van Velde
Photo credit: @pdjohnson

Presenting ‘Radically Candid, the modern psychology that leads to effective leadership’, Michel Van Velde, CEO and Founder of One Shoe agency, spoke very openly about the difficult challenges One Shoe faced in 2017, and what he did to lead them out of that and on to a very successful year in 2018. Recognising he was part of the problem led him to take personal coaching to change his approach to leadership due to the effect that was having on the rest of the company.

Radical Candor

The Drama Triangle, Radical Candor and Transactional Analysis might not be familiar terms, but are likely scenarios that most people can relate to and are worthy of further reading – I will be.

Despite the difficult ‘post-lunch snooze slot’, Melissa Van Der Hecht really got everyone engaged with a challenging and perfectly delivered talk “Why we need to be more open about diversity in tech”.

 Photo credit: @pdjohnson

The main take out for me was rather than solely looking at diversity as gender, sexuality, race or religion, to look at it much more broadly as ‘what makes us different is what makes us special’ – and that includes different social and educational backgrounds, nationalities, interests and personality types.

Melissa highlighted that there is a strong correlation between diversity and commercial success – companies with more diverse teams reporting 19% higher revenue due to innovation.

Source – Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2018/01/how-and-where-diversity-drives-financial-performance

Melissa’s slides used a comic book superheroes theme, leading up to illustrate her main point – that a team of superheroes are just that, because they are greater than the sum of their parts, supporting each other with complementary abilities to (inevitably) win despite all that the super villains throw at them. So despite individual brilliance, your team will be more complete, effective and successful if it isn’t made up of identical superheroes!

Identical Superheroes

DrupalCamp London 2019 CXO day was well organised, inspiring, and educational, leading nicely into the weekend event.

Here are some highlights and key learnings from DrupalCamp London 2019 weekend event...

Liv Morris, Project Manager

Liv Morris, first DrupalCamp Lanyard: DrupalCamp 2019

This year’s camp in London was my first ever Drupal Camp. It was a great opportunity to go to developer-focussed talks and learn about new technologies, while also re-affirming the methodologies we use in practice such as Scrum and Agile for Drupal projects.

It was also great to meet loads of other Drupal-ers, and share experiences and knowledge, as well as meeting and catching up with our colleagues and partners at Acquia.

Lois Keogh, Senior Project Manager

From a project manager perspective, Drupal Camp is great way to keep on top of new tech trends and new tools for developers. It’s important to understand the needs of developers to ensure they are equipped to do the best job and encourage to work with the latest tech.

My focus during the Camp was Pattern Library due to numerous clients using it or being pitched to implement it. It’s interesting to understand how other people and companies are implementing these and related tools. DrupalCamp is also an excellent opportunity to discuss issues and share ideas with peers outside of our agency.

Phil Norton, Technical Lead

The highlight for me was seeing a live talk by Rowan Merewood. His talks are always informative and funny and this was no exception. Rowan showed some metrics generated by Google Chrome Lighthouse and how Drupal stacked up to the rest of the internet.

Rather than stay in my comfort zone I will sometimes go to talks I wouldn't normally go to. As a consequence, I went to a couple of front-end performance talks that built upon information that Rowan talked about. A new concept for me was "time to interactive" which is the time taken for a site to start registering user interaction on the site. This is different to "first contentful paint" which is more about when the user can first start reading the text on the site.

As well as the structured talks, DrupalCamps generate plenty of opportunity for discussions in and around the venue. (Even a 45-minute conversation in the pub as to why "Paragraphs" is just the wrong name for that module).

It was also good to meet a couple of Drupal Security team members and to have the opportunity to thank them in person for their efforts.

Another highlight was meeting Heather Burns and hearing about the great work she and Jamie Abrahams are doing in coordinating a unified approach to privacy first across different CMS systems. It was great to hear about an initiative that worked across different platforms, not just Drupal, and the good work they are doing in recognising the importance of user privacy.

Phil Norton talk - Getting in to Drupal 8 Configuration Management: DrupalCamp 2019

Finally, doing my own talk on Drupal 8 Configuration, “Getting Into Drupal 8 Configuration” was really rewarding. It generated a good discussion at the end of the talk and I’ve had lots of positive feedback from attendees too.

Ryan Hayes, Developer

I’m always keen to attend talks based on theming and seeing how other developers work, so seeing Digitony’s session on reusable front end components was very interesting. He went into detail on how you can create a component once, and then use data attributes to customise the component separately without having to use more JS.

I also appreciated the session on the ES6 JavaScript features by Kunal.kursija, he gave a rundown on each new feature from ES5 to ES6. A lot of the features mentioned I haven’t used before so it was good to have a speaker talk through it with their own examples.

Mike Herchel's talk on fixing front end issues gave me plenty to think about too: he gave pointers on how to optimise the load order of a website, how to measure the metrics of a webpage and how browsers actually work to render a page.

And of course, it’s always great to meet and catch up with other developers in the industry.

Ivor Harding, Developer

Sunday mornings keynote presenter was Preston So, Director of Research and Innovation at Acquia, and soon to be joining Gatsby.

Preston highlighted that these are changing times, that the Drupal landscape is changing, and that Decoupled Drupal is becoming more and more popular. Historically, Drupal has been used as a CMS platform which renders its content through its theme layer. Although the Drupal theme layer is still a valid presentation layer for content it is no longer the primary layer for delivery of content – it is simply one option of many.

Through Drupal's Rest API, the ability to query Drupal from alternative platforms has created greater opportunities, with many options now available for delivering content held in Drupal; Angular, Gatsby, Augmented Reality Overlay, Drupal Website, Voice Assistant, Chatbot, and Push Notifications.

Preston suggests that Drupal should be repositioned in the market to reflect this change.

Additionally, due to this change in the versatility of delivery of content Preston states that we need to decontextualise our content so that it will be equally as meaningful on a voice device as it will be rendered to a screen. This is something we will need to continue to work on, educating clients on the best way to approach their content creation to ensure it is manageable and scalable across an ever-expanding choice of delivery channels.

Irina Macovei, Drupal Support & Maintenance Lead

This was my fifth consecutive year at DrupalCamp London and, as before, it delivered lots of great session talks and informal discussions during the breaks.

The highlight of the talks for me was ‘Low Hanging Fruit: Identifying and Fixing Front-end Performance Issues’. Mike Herchel talked about what metrics we should use, how browsers render pages and how we should be identifying, profiling, and optimizing for third-party scripts.

It was quite noticeable that a significant number of the talks were about Decoupling Drupal and the use of other front-end technologies like React – there was definitely a more frontend focused trend than other camps that I’ve been to.

Sang Lostrie, Developer

It was great to attend DrupalCamp London as previously I've only ever been to the one in Ghent (Belgium). It was interesting to meet other Drupal developers outside of the office environment and from around the world, to share thoughts and ideas on several topics.

I attended both sessions from opdavies (Oliver Davies) on TDD Test Driven Development / Test Driven Drupal and playing with the Drupal API, on a more technical aspect.

Also, I most definitely enjoyed mcdruid’s (Drew Webber) session, from our close partner Acquia, giving us some interesting insights in his talk “Passwords, Security and Drupal; past, present and future.

Finishing the weekend was Sally Young’s closing keynote,  It was nice to see a demo on the ReactJS integrated admin UI and how Drupal is continuing to embrace and utilise different technologies.

Paul Gregory, Solution Architect

I caught various talks that taught me a lot more about performance metrics for websites, particularly using the powerful tools within Google Chrome – shoutout to Rowan Merewood of Google and Mike Herchel of Lullabot for their sessions. Some of these techniques were employed as soon as I returned to the office to improve ongoing tickets in our current project sprint.

Another big topic of the weekend was with trends in page builders and modernising the editor experience. Ruben Teijeiro of 1xinternet presented an interesting summary of various plugins and services that are aiming to bring a richer user interface to Drupal to rival the popular SAAS website builders we see advertised so much.

I enjoyed spending some real facetime with our Acquia partners who are normally distributed around the country and further afield.

Jake Ryan, Developer

One of the stand-out talks that I attended was from Elliot Ward’s and Dominic Fallows – “No Monkey Business Static Progressive Web Apps”. Eli (@eli_t), is quite familiar to the Access team as he runs NWDUG with Phil & Irina, and has worked with our team on a number of client projects. The topic of their talk was how to use decoupled Drupal, GatsbyJS, ReactJS and AWS to deliver rich content.

Referencing a client project they covered the numerous challenges that they were presented within a very complex solution – I think the various methods and approaches they went through are likely to become more prevalent in the web industry going forward, so something I am sure to use in my future work.

Seeing an actual real-world implementation of a decoupled CMS, combined with various other data sources, being output as static content is impressive. I believe this may be the future of web development, as it provides the benefits of serving static content (extremely fast, secure, cheap) combined with the benefits provided by a CMS (managed content, accessible to non-technical users).

Rakesh James, Developer and friend of Access

I was volunteering at DrupalCamp London 2019 on session rooms.

Of all the many Drupal events I have attended, this is the very first time I was sitting on a non-technical session and it impressed me a lot! The talk was called ”Radically Candid, the modern psychology that leads to effective leadership” by Michel van Velde (a version of which was also presented on the CXO day). Michel was explaining how, as a leader in a team, it is possible to tackle difficult conversations with a healthy and happy conversation, as adults with mutual respect.  Using a leadership coach since 2017, he has learned to utilise techniques around The Drama Triangle and Transaction Analysis in his style of management – which in turn has helped him to create success and address many difficult situations within his organization.

I also volunteered in another session, called “Let’s write secure Drupal code!” by Tatár Balázs János.  It was a great talk and explained about the security checklist you need to be aware of when you write code, how to protect for cross-site scripting, user bypass vulnerabilities and SQL injection.  He also discussed the many security improvements in Drupal 8.

And relax…

Access agency team meal and social: DrupalCamp 2019

Access agency team meal and social: DrupalCamp 2019

Access agency team meal and social: DrupalCamp 2019

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