Drupalise me – confessions of a born-again Drupalist

In September 2013, in the early stages of the ongoing project to replace the University’s central CMS with Drupal, some of the project team attended DrupalCon in Prague. It proved to be an educational and fun introduction to the Drupal world. There were many fascinating sessions, focusing not just on Drupal but on web and Open Source topics in general, and we met tonnes of interesting people who are passionate about what they do. Drupalists are a vibrant, welcoming and supportive bunch; when they say ‘Come for the software, stay for the community.’, they’re not kidding.

On the 9th and 10th of May, the University was one of the sponsors for DrupalCamp Scotland, giving us an ideal opportunity for a more local dose of the Drupal community spirit, and some socialising afterwards! The keynotes on both days were insightful, and there were talks from other people doing interesting things with Drupal – from DevOps, to testing with Behat and Selenium, as well as working with particular Drupal modules. We met other Drupal developers from around Scotland and the UK who share our enthusiasms and frustrations, including Drupalists from the University of Dundee who are very active in the Scottish Drupal community. This time, however, we weren’t just there to observe and absorb, we were taking part and sharing our own experiences with Drupal.

On Friday the focus was the Business perspective. Stratos Filalithis from the University Website Programme team gave a great presentation on the vision for the University’s central Drupal CMS. On Saturday, things got more technical!  Myself and another developer on our Drupal team, Adrian Richardson, presented a session on how we’re combining our automated deployment toolkit with Drush and Features to support the deployment of the new Drupal CMS. For me personally it was a daunting prospect, especially given the technical credentials and Drupal kudos of the other DrupalCamp speakers! However,  the audience were friendly and interested, and asked really good questions at the end of our talk. Later, people were keen to discuss their own thoughts on the topics we covered. We got some great feedback on our approach to deployment and testing, giving us confidence that we’re going in the right direction. It was a rewarding experience and, unexpectedly, it was fun!

What has struck me about both DrupalCon and DrupalCamp is the genuine sense of community evident at Drupal events.  The obvious drive of those present to share their experiences and to be involved with the community is infectious.  I will be at the next DrupalDrinks in Edinburgh to talk more to the people I met on Saturday, and whilst I haven’t yet contributed to code on Drupal.org, I’m now keen to attend a code sprint and get on the Drupal Ladder!  There are many developers all around the University who are using Drupal to build websites and by virtue of using Drupal, we are already part of this amazing community.  On Saturday the keynote speaker, Robert Douglass, talked about how easy it is to get caught up in the trials and tribulations of our own complex Drupal projects and to lose sight of the bigger picture. Being at DrupalCamp was a reminder that by placing Drupal at the core of the University’s website we are placing ourselves firmly in the midst of a dedicated, talented, enthusiastic and supportive Open Source community.  We can contribute to that community and we can learn from them, and we can also be inspired by their ethos when it comes to our own internal Drupal community and the future of Drupal at the University.

Here is a PDF of the slides from our presentation at DrupalCamp, including notes, along with a link to Adrian’s prezi covering the technical aspects of our talk: