6 Highlights from DrupalCon North America, 2021

After a full week of DrupalCon North America 2021, we wanted to showcase some of the intriguing sessions and highlights of this year’s conference for those who couldn’t make it. Check out the following rundown of what we sat in on, what we presented, and what piqued our interest at DrupalCon North America 2021. 

Image courtesy of DrupalCon.

This year’s conference remained a fully digital experience (we’re hopeful we’ll finally see one another face-to-face soon!), due to global pandemic still affecting the way we all work and interact with one another. 

And please keep in mind, this is by no means an exhaustive list of all sessions; it only reflects a small portion of all the talented presenters and interesting topics encountered throughout the conference. 

How to use GitLab to Enable Diverse and Cross-functional Teams

“We need a broader set of skills and diversity in open source. Let’s think beyond what’s currently counted as a non-code contribution and where that contribution may come from.”

- Nuritzi Sanchez, Sr. Open Source Program Manager at GitLab

Image courtesy of Pankaj Patel via Unsplash

Presented by Nuritzi Sanchez, Senior Open Source Program Manager at GitLab, this session was instrumental for anyone looking to foster collaboration. It showed how to optimize teamwork cross-functionally across an entire organization with GitLab — moving beyond the usual approach of focusing exclusively on engineering teams. 

Nuritzi provided a number of real-world examples of how one can do this with GitLab, starting with creating the right environment for greater diversity and broader skill sets in the open source community, before thinking about non-engineers on a regular basis. 

She stressed using tools like GitLab’s Markdown editor, as well as harnessing a handbook-first approach, to help improve asynchronous communication and broaden the scope of who can work for you and when. She mentioned GitLab's Design Management helps facilitate collaboration between developers and design, and its Project Management is great for things like Epics, Issues, Issue Health, and Expanding Sections. 

So You Inherited a Mess: First Steps in Adopting a Legacy Project

“Instead of a legacy project being just a junker, our goal here is to end up with a classic. Maybe it’s older, but it’s still useful and we can embrace that design to reach our [website] goals.”

- John Richards II, Developer Advocate at Pantheon

Image courtesy of Jason Leung via Unsplash.

Presented by John Richards II, a Developer Advocate here at Pantheon and originally put together by Tara King, another Pantheor that unfortunately couldn’t attend DrupalCon this year, this session covered how to gracefully inherit a legacy project where version control is murky at best, core is super out of date, and documentation hasn’t been touched in over a year. 

The session started with John first defining what a legacy project is, before diving into the six main signs of trouble most developers have when inheriting a legacy project with a ton of issues that haven’t been addressed, updated, or solved. 

Six signs of trouble while inheriting a legacy project.

John then turned to the WebOps framework, which is something we believe deeply  here at Pantheon, as it allows you to identify what your website’s purpose and drive your team to common goals. The first step is looking at the intended Impact of your website, before evaluating the Credibility and Productivity aspects that keep your site running smoothly and maximize its efficiency.

WebOps framework, consisting of Credibility, Productivity, and Impact.

Ultimately, the main takeaway from this session was this: You can’t turn an older, outdated project (the clunker) into one that’s successful and drives success with your website (the classic car) — without first using the WebOps framework to address and identify all the glaring issues you inherited from this legacy project. 

Fireside Chat – JavaScript Ate the Web: Key Lessons for the Drupal Community

“JavaScript has always been there, but it was used for little things before and it didn’t do that much, then it began to explode into this massive ecosystem … now you have things like Photoshop moving to the web, Google Docs, and web applications … more and more things are all being done with JavaScript.”

- Ben Morss, Developer Advocate at Google

Image courtesy of Markus Spiske via Unsplash

This Fireside Chat was a fun, informative conversation between Pantheon’s very own Steve Persch, Director of Technical Marketing, and Fatima Sarah Khalid, Developer Programs Engineer, along with subject matter experts Ben Morss, Developer Advocate at Google, and Sally Young, Sr. Technical Architect at Lullabot. 

As you’re probably aware, JavaScript front-ends are rapidly becoming the standard for teams using Drupal. This free-flowing conversation focused on JavaScript’s prominence these days, along with both the promising opportunities and pitfalls this increased reliance brings. 

It was both a lively and interesting conversation to sit in on and one that helped to answer the following question: If a project is adopting JavaScript today, what are the most important considerations they should bear in mind?

Creating Systemic Change: Digital Rights for All

Digital Rights are human rights. There is a more traditional notion of digital rights, as mainly relating to privacy, data protection, freedom of expression online, but we really take the approach that digital rights are all human rights, including those of economic, social, and cultural rights.”

-Nani Jansen, Founding Director of the Digital Freedom Fund

Image courtesy of Philipp Katzenberger via Unsplash

Nani Jansen, the Founding Director of the Digital Freedom Fund, teamed up with Preston So, Senior Director of Product Strategy at Oracle, in a Fireside Chat that redefined what we thought of as digital rights and elucidated who was disproportionately impacted by past legacies of colonialism and oppression in the digital era. 

Not only did this discussion really shine a light on the systemic barriers of oppression common in the digital era, but it also shattered myths surrounding meritocracy in the open source community. We’d recommend anyone interested in these pressing issues all too common in the digital era to look into the Digital Freedom Fund’s core mission and strategic litigation strategy

Editor UX Matters: Gutenberg Can Help

“If we can help our content authors and editors have a better experience, they’re going to be happier, they’re going to be more effective, and the website is going to be more effective.”

- Drew Gorton, Director of Developer Relations at Pantheon

Some quick stats on the Gutenberg block editor's usage and popularity, since 2018. Source: gutenstats.blog

This insightful session featured a detailed walkthrough of using the Gutenberg editor to build killer content on your website, inside of Drupal’s CMS framework. 

One spot where Drupal has been historically weak has been in content authoring and editing — when it comes to a rich, intuitive experience where writers and editors can really make a website’s content shine. And if you really think about it, why treat content as second class, especially when so much time and energy goes into the architecture, integrations, deployment pipelines, and UX of many Drupal projects?

It doesn’t have to be this way, according to Drew Gorton, Director of Developer Relations here at Pantheon, and Thor Andre Gretland, Senior Drupal Strategy Advisor at the innovative digital agency Frontkom. In this session, Drew and Thor walked through a demo of using Gutenberg in Drupal, showing just how intuitive it is to create rich content that’s sure to make your website pop and website visitors delight. 

How Green Can a Website Be?

“A typical page load of an average website produces approximately 3 grams of carbon dioxide emissions. Looking at 10,000 page views per month, this would result in 360 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per year, which is equivalent to the amount of carbon that can be sequestered by half an acre of U.S. forest.”

- Sienna Svob, Developer at Blue State

When talking about Climate Change, one area that’s often overlooked is the internet’s massive energy consumption. Not only that, but this energy consumption driven by the web is going to skyrocket in the coming decades as the world becomes a more interconnected, data-driven place, even as the infrastructure running it becomes more efficient. 

This eye-opening session by Doug Cone, Technical Engagement Manager here at Pantheon, and Sienna Svob, Developer at Blue State, went into great detail about how much energy the web uses, along with all the earth-warming CO2 emissions it produces. More importantly, this session then hit on the key areas that developers, designers, and cloud services can address — if they’re interested in curbing energy consumption to mitigate climate change.  

Things like hosting and infrastructure, web design considerations, and developing clean, efficient code were all hit on, giving the audience tangible steps to minimize bloat and make their websites more energy efficient to combat climate change. 

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