There’s a pattern to conversations that plays out over and over. Someone I’ve just met asks me, “What do you do?” I say, “I work for the UW.” Then they ask, “Are you a professor?” I reply, “My title is Senior Drupal Developer.” I then give a brief explanation of Drupal or mention something about the web.
Among non-technical people, Drupal needs a bit of explanation. I’ve been doing Drupal full-time for two and a half years, and it’s been nice to see the phenomenal growth of Drupal sites since the Drupal 7 release. In late May, 3,300 of my fellow Drupalers gathered in Portland, Ore., for DrupalCon Portland 2013. DrupalCon is the big, annual Drupal conference. Actually, there are three DrupalCons this year. The first was in Sydney, then Portland, and Prague is coming up. But the annual North American gathering is the largest.
In one of the sessions I attended, the presenter asked, “Is this your first DrupalCon?” A lot of hands went up. In recent years, UW-Madison has hosted a DrupalCamp each summer. Last year, DrupalCampWI also coincided with the Midwest Drupal Developer Summit. Like everything Drupal, it’s a traveling gig, and Drupal Developer Days just ended a couple of days ago in Dublin. A new acquaintance from DrupalCon Portland wrote to me from the Dublin session. She’s mixing business and pleasure, and that’s what I did in Portland too. More about that another time. I attended the Acquia higher education meetup and heard estimates that 20% of the attendees at DrupalCon Portland were from higher ed. The university crowd finds Drupal an attractive proposition.
I gave a presentation on Drupal at the UW-Extension Technology Conference held at the Pyle Center last November. I heard lots of stories about people here planning or thinking about Drupal sites. Madison has a stronger Drupal presence than, say, Milwaukee simply because of adoption in higher ed. That’s my industry, but there are plenty of other high-profile examples of Drupal sites from WhiteHouse.gov to Emmys.com.
One of my friends in Portland is a tuberculosis specialist. She was down in Atlanta recently for a tuberculosis conference. Not having heard of Drupal, she speculated that DrupalCon would have a few hundred attendees like her tuberculosis conference. My friend is correct: Drupal is specialized, but the web is a pretty big playground. The thing I noted about DrupalCon more so than other tech conferences I’ve been to is that despite everyone being in one place for the same thing, it felt like there was a lot of diversity about what people were doing and thinking.
During the Friday code sprint at DrupalCon, I looked around and thought, “This is amazing!” There were 600 or 800 people who attended the code sprint, and the wi-fi at the Oregon Convention Center strained to keep up with the load. But it felt like a moment of unity. Hundreds of people all came together for the same thing. You talked to people around you. You overheard conversations. It felt like this big melting pot, a grand stew of different thoughts, perceptions and interests.
Here’s a group shot of the conference attendees after Dries Buytaert’s keynote. I’m in there, but you’ll have to look at the full resolution picture by Trav Williams on Flickr to find me. Hint: I’m near the center of the photograph.