DrupalCamp Chicago 2012

Just got back from DrupalCamp Chicago, this was my first time going and it was awesome!

I got an email early this week telling me about DrupalCamp, I hadn’t heard about it but I was immediately interested. Especially considering the $20 admission price 🙂 That was well worth it for what I learned. Plus there was free coffee & donuts in the morning, provided by Beaver’s Coffee & Donuts (yum yum thanks guys!) and lunch was included! Plus lots of candy!

The Keynote speaker was Jeffrey A. McGuire from Acquia. He talked a lot about how important open source is, and how Drupal has been embraced by so many varied sites. NASA uses Drupal, that makes me far too happy. It was an interesting keynote, and great to see how important Drupal is in the web and software community.

The first session I went to was Project Management Tools & Organization, given by Andy Kucharski & Jay Uhlinger of Promet Source. They talked about some of the various project management tools out there, like Bugzilla or Basecamp, and how many of them are good at one thing (like Bugzilla is great for bug tracking) but not good for other things. Then they spent the rest of the talk going over Redmine, which covers a lot of different aspects of project management. There’s Gantt charts and bug tracking and Wikis and more! I am definitely planning to explore that some more. It might be really useful for my Relay team, and I think it might be a good thing to check out for Anime Central, since we have people spread all over the place with content to contribute and update. Great session, good information!

For the second session I moved into the Nerd room (yes there was a Nerd track!), for Drupal Entities. This was given by Joel Finkel of Systems by Design of Illinois Ltd. This was a good talk but it was a little over my head since I haven’t gotten that deep into PHP yet. I understand the basics but I haven’t done much hard core coding directly in PHP. I understood the gist of it, but not the fine details. Still, well done, and something very useful to web designers!

Then it was lunch time!! Pizza, salad, some pasta, bread, chips, lots of yummy stuff. They gave away raffle prizes at lunch – a bunch of books, a class, and a registration for a conference in May. I didn’t win anything but that’s okay (the conference would have been hard since it’s the week of Acen!)

After lunch I stopped briefly in the BoF room (which it took me forever to realize that was “Birds of Feather”, doh!) for the mini-job fair the Nerdery was hosting. I chatted with the Nerdery, they seemed pretty awesome. Acquia was also hiring, though it seemed like their Chicago-based positions were not quite what I’d be qualified for.

Then I tip-toed into the second half of the Views talk. I wasn’t sure about going to that one since I already know quite a bit about Views (go look at the “Meet the Team” page on Ghostbusters: Chicago Division‘s website – that’s the result of countless hours of tweaking a View). But I missed the real preliminaries and came in just in time for some of the slightly more advanced stuff that I’m still learning. I came away with a couple new ideas of how to play with Views.

Then was probably my favorite session of the day, “45 modules in 45 minutes”, with Michael Hofmockel of Acquia. He did a quick run down of a bunch of different modules that are really great ones to have. I was pleased to see a number of my favorite modules mentioned – like the fabulous pairing of Token and pathauto, which makes for pretty URLs that make sense instead of ones that end “/node/25” and make no sense to humans or Google. He also talked about a number of other modules I hadn’t explored yet but plan to now, like xmlsitemap which should solve a task I was worried about, submitting a sitemap for Google. My Midphase account includes free SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tools, and it keeps bugging me about submitting a site map. There’s also a module to add META tags to pages, which is something I’ve been trying to figure out how to do. I’m so used to having a set of META tags to add to every page in my website, from back in my HTML3.0 days, that it was kind of driving me nuts not having those. I’ve always been a nitpicky perfectionist when it comes to my websites (y’all have NO idea how much time I used to spend checking my site load times and tweaking my graphics for hours until my load times were sub-30 seconds – in DIAL UP DAYS), so I’m happy that there is still a way to add META tags to help Google find me. I won’t talk about all the modules here but definitely check out his slides, they’re on his session page.

Finally, after a short break, it was the last session of the day. For this one I went to “Options for Mobilizing Your Site With Drupal,” given by Andy Kucharski. This one was interesting, for sure, but it was more about why the site should be mobile and not as much on the actual how. I want to develop a mobile site, especially for the Ghostbusters site, but I’m not quite sure how to do browser detection nowadays (I knew how to do that back in the stone age of HTML3.0 – but that was detecting Netscape versus IE! And it didn’t do anything but say “Hi Navigator user!”). I got some ideas of different ways to achieve a mobile site but I’m still confused as to the exact how.

And with that…the camp was over. 🙁 The day just flew by so fast! I definitely enjoyed this event, and I’m already decided I want to go again next year. Maybe I can talk a few friends into coming with me! 🙂 There’s so much to learn about Drupal, but this allowed me to learn from different people who have different experiences and perspectives. I definitely recommend this event to anyone who loves building websites with Drupal.

Now, to get back on track with my NaNoWriMo, which I totally neglected all day when I had my laptop out & was in between sessions. Oopsie!

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