Three things I learned at DrupalCamp NJ

Tonight, I’m heading to the Central NJ Drupal Meetup where the organizers have posed the question of “Three things I learned at DrupalCamp NJ” to be answered in a series of five minute lightning talks.  OK, I’m game to participate, here are three things that I have been thinking about…

1) Ray Saltini of Blink Reaction attempted to compress a day long seminar into a hour session, Drupal for Project Managers: What you need to know to be awesome (and beat the curve).  Ray gave a history of the rise of Content Management Systems from early database driven sites and how Drupal differs in the order of Content, Functionality and Appearance than other CMS tools.  The key factor is that Content is the starting layer for Drupal, rather than Functionality.  Also, Display, Layout and Appearance are separate layers, whereas other CMS tools mix will these together (WordPress in my experience).  Ray made the key point that the emphasis of Drupal is that content is data.  Also, thinking in terms of content/data will guide: 1) your site architecture, 2) your fields, content types, taxonomies, etc. and 3) lead you to using Views to assemble queries for presentation.

Ray’s presentation helped me better explain and contrast Drupal when talking to a prospect last week.  It seems somewhat obvious now, but the idea that Drupal is primarily content/data driven is really important concept to be able to explain to folks.

2) I loved the subliminal Libertarian messages (takes one to know one) in Paul M. Jones’ keynote presentation on How to Train Your Manager.  Paul spoke about how dysfunctional organizations lead to unreasonable expectations, long hours and general hell for programmers.  In response, developers need to stick up for themselves, learn to say no or otherwise explain consequences for taking on extra work.  In other words, developers need not get in a co-dependent relationship their managers.  They need to take the risk of being labeled “not a team player” or worse, getting fired.

The audience seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of sticking up for yourself in your work and I think his advice (including not being in debt and having savings) was generally great.

For me, I need to make sure that the sales/manager part of myself is in tune with the designer/developer portion of myself (and my colleagues) doing the work.  I think there is also a lot to be said for sticking up for your ideas, your employees and your business as a whole when dealing with a difficult client.  It need not be confrontational, but better to communicate problems you are having than let bad feelings simmer.

3) Finally, I had the opportunity to give a lift to camp to Doug Vann, an out of town visitor, who told me about the recently released fork of Drupal known as Backdrop CMS.  Backdrop was forked from a development version of Drupal 8 before much of the code was rewritten.  Apparently, some contributors of key modules were unhappy with the effort required to rewrite their code for Drupal 8, as well as the overall enterprise level approach that Drupal 8 is taking.

Backdrop will instead be focused on small to medium sized organizations and I think seen as more a continuation of Drupal 7 than the giant leap of Drupal 8.  I don’t know enough about either Drupal 8 or Backdrop to pass judgement on the suitability of either project, but I think it is good to have a Drupal flavored alternative going forward.

So there you have it!  Three things I learned from DrupalCamp NJ.  Overall, I think the camp was awesome, I got to meet some cool people and came away with more enthusiasm about Drupal and what we can accomplish in Web development in general.

What did you learn at DrupalCamp NJ?