DrupalCon New Orleans: Our Takeaways from the Big Easy

NOLA felt like a level up from LA. Though the official numbers were basically the same (~3,100 attendees) the energy seemed higher. More smiles, more excitement, and once you found your way to the part of the convention center that was devoted to the conference, the buzz felt much more real than my experience last year.

My first moment on site was walking through the tail end of an optometry convention that was in one of the other halls—where posters about various Lasik treatments and “powerful, effective ocular steroids” abound—and into our section of the facility. There was a DJ spinning James Brown, a giant inflatable Druplicon, and already a large number of developers spread out across the floor, working on laptops or discussing projects. It was a nice reminder of what I love about this community, a beautiful blend of fun-loving and productive.

Drupal 8: The Promise Is Coming True

Some of the increased electricity in the atmosphere is doubtless a benefit of having Drupal 8 in the wild, and a meaningful 8.1 update shipped on time. That said, it was also clear from conversations that many developers are just starting to ramp on their first “serious” D8 projects.

It’s starting to feel real though, especially given the number of talks about solving real-world problems in implementing sites with Drupal 8. Not a single developer I spoke to about it failed to have something positive to say, or expressed a longing to return to Drupal 7 work. There are definitely rough edges and best practices still to work on, but people seem genuinely optimistic and enthusiastic for what is now possible.

I also think the general anxiety that Drupal 8 would be “too hard” is proving to be false. Clearly DrupalCon is a biased population to sample, but it’s also a population that has a lot of familiar faces from years past; it’s not like regular attendees were suddenly replaced with former J2EE architects or anything. The jury is still out on whether hobbyist level PHP hackers will take to D8 as a platform, but I think the core of the development community—people who do contrib modules, roll small core patches, build sites professionally, or all of the above—are largely on board.

It will be interesting to see how adoption picks up over the rest of the year. I’ll have more in the future about what we are seeing with adoption of Drupal 8 across the platform—the numbers so far are encouraging. Also, stay tuned for news as we solidify more best practices and support for advanced use cases like Config Management and BigPipe.

Pantheon’s Con By The Numbers

DrupalCon is our single biggest event of the year. As my colleague Matt already ran down, we had a whopping 13 total sessions presented, and the conference team has done a stellar job in getting all the videos processed, online, and freely available for anyone who wasn’t able to make it to the session in real time. It’s particularly awesome that we had the opportunity to co-present with so many agency partners and successful customers.

Beyond the sessions, our booth theater featured a brand new demo for this conference, built with Drupal 8 and showcasing the potential for integration via our new Quicksilver Platform Hooks. We gave over 100 demos, and had packed crowds from the opening night reception to literally the last go round, when they were shutting off the lights. That’s a first.

We also printed over 1,500 t-shirts on the conference floor to give away; always a crowd pleaser:

On top of that, we had just short of 1,000 people show for an amazing Wednesday night party, and the light-up Pantheon swag we distributed has been put to excellent use:

What’s Next?

Now that everyone is home and recovered, the process of digesting the conference is underway. In addition to all the sessions, there were multiple BoF’s and hundreds of hallway conversations. It’s a lot to process, but it’s always worth it.

For me and my role at Pantheon, DrupalCon is a unique opportunity to get product feedback, input on our plans, and to get a sense of what people need in addition to what they want. There’s an old, possibly apocryphal cliche about how if Henry Ford had only cared about what people wanted he’d have bred faster horses; but I don’t think you have to actually choose between listening to users and having your own inspiration.

From the beginning, we’ve followed the discipline of customer development in designing and executing Pantheon’s products. Having a solid foundation in the world of your users is important to make the right tactical decisions, but it also feeds larger, further-reaching insights. DrupalCon is a once a year opportunity to get a megadose of our customers all at once.

In the coming weeks and months we’ll have more to share as a result. Better product features will get built, and documentation will improve. Support will become more efficient. Our ways of explaining our value will grow more compelling. We’ll do a better job of negotiating contracts with large clients, and meeting all their concerns before deciding they can trust our platform.

For those looking to get a closer pulse on what we’re up to, and give us more active feedback, the Power Users group is a good thing to check out.

We look forward to continuing the conversations online, and at local camps and meetups over the rest of 2016, and we’ll see you all in Baltimore!

Topics Drupal

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