Last week I drove down to Chicago with Bec and Luke so that they could have fun in Chicago for a day while I attended MidCamp 2015. The theme this year was Alice and Wonderland so it had a nickname this year: MadCamp. I'm not what you would call a Drupal user but my friends from Palantir.net were involved in throwing MidCamp it so I figured this would be a great chance to meet some of them in person while also learning a bit more about Drupal.
Right off I was impressed with the design of the schedule-book-as-a-badge. They offered several Alice-themed designs and I chose the Cheshire Cat. They had ample room for stickers and names. I doctored mine up with a Sculpin and a That Podcast sticker along with my Twitter handle, @beausimensen.
The best part of the design was that the front and back covers were printed upside down compared to the schedule/map content inside. I love it when events have thought through these little details.
I wandered into the main room as Tiffany Farriss was starting to answer questions after her keynote. I wasn't sure where to start but as I found myself stopping to see if I could make out what questions were being asked I heard someone call my name from behind me. Turned out I had managed to wander directly in front of the Palantir booth. I was being greeted by a smiling Shawn Smith and Colleen Carroll.
Working with the same company that Shawn works at has been a happy coincidence. Our paths have almost crossed a handful of times and he knew my wife, Rebekah, from the Chicago art scene back when she lived in Chicago. I believe this was the first time we actually got to interact in person, though, so that was very cool.
As for Colleen, I've been talking to her off and on over the last year and a half while trying to line up projects for which I could help Palantir. It was a lot of fun to be able to put a real live person to a chat handle and occasional video chat presence.
A great thing about working with Palantir has been that they work very well as a distributed team. Over half of the people in the team I work with are in the same office but I rarely feel out of place. Even the people working in the office join the video chat meetings from their desks so I rarely feel left out.
A handful of other people I've met at Palantir wandered up to the table while I was there so it was a good place for me to be. I got to meet Bill Sprowl, Chad Goodrum, Bec White, and Ashley Cyborski. If there is anyone else from Palantir that I forgot to mention, my bad. I didn't have notes for the whole day.
I saw Andrea Soper running around doing event organizing stuff. She claimed to have only really been "glue" for the conference but I haven't seen glue run around that much before. She was the person who talked up MidCamp in order to get me to go so I wanted to make sure and say hello and thank her for inviting me. Thanks Andrea!
I found my way to where Larry Garfield was chatting. He was one of two people there that I had ever met in person so I wanted to make sure and say hi.
Larry was up at the front by Tiffany. She was still talking with people after her keynote. I was eventually able to introduce myself to her as well! I was bummed that I missed the keynote but super happy we finally had a chance to meet in person! I also got to meet George DeMet as he was preparing for his talk later in the day. He looked to be fully embracing the Alice in Wonderland theme with his slides.
I didn't get to any sessions in the morning as I was mainly wanting to try and meet as many people as I could. I sent out a tweet letting people know that if they wanted Sculpin stickers that they could come to the "Twig" table. It worked because not long after Jesus Manuel Olivas came to greet me and snag a Sculpin sticker!
Jesus has been camping in #dflydev on Freenode for a while and I remember he had asked me about Embedded Composer on IRC. He mentioned two projects, both Drupal related. First, he has a Spanish language Drupal podcast called drupodcast. He mentioned that the most recent episode featured spress, another PHP static site generator. Second, he has been working on Drupal Console. This is the project that he had originally contacted me about regarding Embedded Composer.
I saw other people mentioning Drupal Console throughout MidCamp. It sounds like he might have a hit on his hands! I also met someone else at lunch who had been working on Embedded Composer and trying to see if they could get it into Drush. I don't recall his name and his badge had a cryptic combination of three letters followed by two numbers. D'oh!
Speaking of lunch, Andrea made an effort to send people to my table which was awesome. I don't think they all knew what they were getting into. "Have you met Beau yet?!?" "Uh, no..." "Sit here and meet him!" It was amusing and the people she flagged down to sit by me were pretty nice and were kind enough to try to talk to me a bit. They were good sports!
Amongst those I met at lunch were Luke Wertz, "oz" Heller, Steve Persch, and the aforementioned Drush developer. Steve is someone I knew worked at Palantir and he was actually one of my earliest Sculpin contributors. That was great to put a name with a face. And I've been in touch with Luke for a while but I didn't make the Palantir connection right away. Small world, I guess?
After lunch I made my way to my first talk. It was presented by Fredric Mitchell. I first met Fredric at the very first Madison PHP. He gave a great talk on his experience doing a dev competition from beginning to end. We've kept in touch a bit since then and I was excited to see his talk on Grunt.
So why Grunt? Automation! Fredric gave a super-charged introduction into what Grunt is, why you'd want to use it, and how you can use it as a Drupal user.
I went into the talk knowing a little bit about Grunt and with no real Drupal knowledge whatsoever. I can't say that I learned a lot of Grunt from the talk but it did reinforce things I picked up with my limited experience with it. The Drupal stuff was mostly unusable by me but it was interesting to see how far people have gone to help streamline the development and deployment processes for Drupal installs.
The more interesting things that I picked up were some of the other ideas and concepts that he mentioned outside of Grunt.
He mentioned Style Tiles by Samantha Warren. I remembered seeing this before and wanting to look more into it. Dave and I were talking about responsive web design recently on That Podcast and I was totally thinking about the Style Tiles concept but couldn't quite remember what it was called or how to describe it very well.
The other thing that he mentioned was Pattern Lab. I'd love to learn more about this and see if I can use this for an upcoming project! Has anyone used this? What do you think about it?
Sadly I didn't get a chance to talk to Fredric before I had to take off for the day. I'm hoping to meet him again sometime soon, though!
On PhpSpec and Not-the-Drupal-Way: follow the black kitten through the Looking Glass by Michelle Krejci
The next talk I attended was delivered by Michelle Krejci. Wow! It sure looks like doing BDD with Drupal is far from easy. But it is possible!
I loved Michelle's presentation. She had a ton of energy and it was obvious that she was passionate about testing and wanted to make sure that everyone else understands that unit testing is important, too. And yes, she also wanted everyone else to know that unit testing with Drupal is possible as well.
Being a non-Drupal developer, I enjoyed what she had to say for two reasons. First, it let me know that the tension I've felt trying to work with Drupal in the past has been felt by seasoned Drupal users as well. Second, it gave me hope that working with Drupal systems can be different if one puts the work into trying to make it different!
In more practical terms, I got a better introduction to how PhpSpec works and how it relates to Behat. Silly, maybe, but I do sometimes get confused between how the various testing tools differ. I've been sticking pretty close to PHPUnit for all of my testing. For that, I feel that Michelle's advice hit close to home:
Don't stop evolving as developers. Pay attention to tools that can help you grow as developers.
—Michelle Krejci, MidCamp 2015
Off with Drupal's Head! with Steve Persch, Matt Glaman, Raphael Traviss, Ashley Cyborski, and Beth B
Steve Persch moderated a spirited conversation on the concept of headless Drupal. It was clear that each of the people on the panel had strong opinions on this topic. Here are a few fun quotes I heard:
If you want to cut of Drupal's head, where is Drupal's neck?
—Steve Persch, MidCamp 2015
Drupal is great at modeling data. I want to tap into that and do awesome things with it.
— Matt Glaman, MidCamp 2015
I'm not thinking about Drupal at all. I'm writing clean and semantic HTML and CSS.
—Ashley Cyborski, MidCamp 2015
Unfortunately it was hard to hear everyone because the panel discussion had to move to another location and the other location was pretty noisy. I was bummed because I was looking forward to all of these different aspects of "headless Drupal."
The Open Social was a game night. It was family friendly so I invited Bec and Luke to come over for a bit to see everything going on. They got to meet a few of the Palantir people and Luke got an awesome wind-up blue robot from Acquia.
There had been a cool table setup with a few nice sets of colored pencils and some Alice-themed outlines for people to color. I had thought Luke would have been all over this but for some reason he wasn't feeling it. It might have been that there was too much else to see? He said they looked cool but he didn't want to actually do any coloring himself.
We didn't end up staying long because it had already been a long day for Luke. We wanted to get back to the hotel to relax and we had a mile walk ahead of us. This, of course, translated to a mile walk on daddy's shoulders, and I was feeling like I was getting pretty tired by then already myself.
I have been to many conferences lately but this was the first time that I've attended an event without being a speaker in a while. It was great! I was sad that I wasn't able to attend Saturday as well but Friday was well worth it!
I'm not a Drupal user but I've been paying a little more attention to it since I learned that Drupal 8 is going to be built on Symfony components. I think that it remains to be seen whether this will actually lead to being more friendly to people who do not know Drupal inside-out but it seems like there is a better chance of that in Drupal 8.
"Because it is smaller than a con."
I've been to many regional and national PHP conferences that were only as large or smaller than this camp. Drupal must run on a completely different scale than other parts of the PHP community.
I think part of that is because Drupal users are a little more diverse. Many more people all the way from pure visual design down to module development. I get the sense that the fact that Drupal is written at PHP at all is not really important to a sizable chunk of the people who attend a Drupal event.
I very much look forward to what MidCamp 2016 looks like! I hope that I'll be able to attend again and start seeing where Drupal heads over the next year!