Three Major Themes of Drupalcon Dublin
Where Drupal and Dublin meet.
The satisfying fhump pap… fhump pap as a foam ball smashes headlong into a cardboard paddle as you return your opponent's volley. The pain and glory of cardboard ping-pong was personally my favorite aspect of Drupalcon Dublin. However, I imagine this wasn’t the main reason why people came to the event. Ireland's rightfully world-renowned beer and infamous weather are great draws for tourists, but those at the conference were there for Europe’s largest gathering of Drupal related technologies, partners, and people to see the latest innovations and the predicted future of Drupal.
DrupalCon Dublin 2016: Scale a Drupalshop from 1M€ to 12M€ of revenue
The various modules, development, and growth of Drupal 8 continue to impress and intrigue me. Listening to some of the speakers and meeting with those involved in ancillary tech based around Drupal is always an enlightening experience. Presentations were targeted towards various audiences, and anyone involved in Drupal could find something worth listening to - from marketing and sales, down to granular tech issues for hardcore devs. While the presentation on Jenkins 2 pipeline as a continuous integration platform for Drupal was well over my head, those on market-share, relationship building, and company growth strategy (especially Topolov’s presentation on growing your company from $1 million to $12 million in revenue) were more relevant to my own personal Drupal needs.
Several companies were present whose focus is exclusively on specific Drupal support related issues: Security, localization, hosting, analytics. For these companies it seems like a great marketing and sales opportunity having your target audience under one roof for an entire week.
Possibly the largest presence at the conference were the digital agency and software solutions providers. This is indicative of Drupal’s growing viability at the enterprise level. While Drupal centric digital agencies are not the norm, nearly every “Swiss-army” agency has it in their repertoire as Drupal becomes a more beneficial choice for clients. The flexibility and modular nature of Drupal means that it can be integrated into existing systems for optimization or used to build a bespoke application from scratch. One unifying factor amongst the agencies seems to be a shift from being purely technical, to a more UX/UI centric design agency that also offers Drupal solutions and consulting.
While tech is a natural draw of the Drupal event, one of the more engaging aspects is the social element. Nearly everyone from all walks of nerd-life are represented at the event, and most are warm and open. While some may be a bit standoffish or shy, no one there was opposed to starting up a conversation. While it seemed there were more than a fair share of people just hunting for free t-shirts and tote bags, a majority of attendees seemed to have genuine curiosity while roaming the event.
While on the topic of tote bags and shirts, it’s worth mentioning the creativity that goes into the event’s swag that gets handed out. Brilliant knick-knacks included hard bitter liquorice, inflatable globes, headphones, lip balm, hand sanitizer, even a prophylactic wrapped in marketing material passed out by a digital security company. Of all the standard fair goodies we at Adyax offered, there was really only one that stood out – a pen that looked like a sugar packet. “Would you like a pen that looks like a sugar packet” is such an unexpected introduction that most people can’t help but be curious. So if you’re looking for a conversation starter or something strangely enticing to say to a recent tinder match, feel free to use it and let me know if you have as much success as I did. Without too much self-aggrandizement, the best booth draw of the event was the cardboard ping-pong table we set up. So while others utilized the tactics of cute girls, exotic candy, and video games to drive traffic, we wisely opted for condiment shaped stationary and cardboard ping-pong tournaments.
Between the tech talks, presentations, and harvesting as many free t-shirts from the event as possible, there were opportunities to network. The open community based event fosters an environment that makes it easy to connect with new people. The cafeteria style lunches and open seating offered a great place to strike up conversations with new people, be it the tech director from Germany who dazzled you with his expertise or just a group of guys who look like they would be fun to grab a beer with. The friendly and approachable nature of everyone at the show was really conducive to networking at all levels. To further help the introverts build a social bridge, there were events every evening after the conference. There was a party hosted on a boat docked nearby, a ladies’ night (no boys allowed) and a “gathering of CTOs” - where I imagine a gaggle of Drupal’s tech heavyweights meet to bathe in Guinness. Additionally, there was the ritualistic Drupalcon trivia night, during which my lack of Drupalcon history and lore was laid bare before all. So from the helplessly shy to the ruthlessly outgoing, there was something to do for everyone.
The Future of Drupal
The tech and community are more obvious and universal appeals of the conference, but one of the more recurring themes of the event was the future of Drupal. The digital market is already saturated with other platforms, languages and frameworks that are vying for market share in the digital world, each with their own unique offerings. So, what gives Drupal the edge? Looking at the competitors, each has their own appeal and benefits but will there continue to be a healthy place in the market for Drupal in the long-term?
The stiffest competition for Drupal amongst other CMSs are Adobe, Sitecore, and WordPress. While Adobe offers insight and feedback for marketers and those who use it as a CMS platform, it seems to offer much less depth and flexibility. Angie Byon offered a breakdown of the competition. Of the competitors, Sitecore was less talked about when compared to the other platforms, and due to the fact it is not an open source platform and licensing is expensive, it falls out of reach for some companies. Wordpress was mentioned as perhaps the most common platform competitor to Drupal, and has a much wider appeal and a rapidly growing community. However, while WordPress has a massive base and is perhaps more user friendly to website administrators, it lacks a lot of the potential of Drupal. The variety of complex enterprise level applications and heavy hitting business solutions that you can create with Drupal are simply not practical to attempt on WordPress.
DrupalCon Dublin 2016: How our competitors are kicking Drupal's ass (and what we can do about it)
So while Drupal has a competitive edge over its CMS competitors by way of being affordable, flexible, and able to power enterprise solutions, what can people do to help increase its popularity? The presenters at the conference talked about increasing the level of community interaction, sharing case studies, and more visibly broadcasting the high end powerful capabilities of Drupal. On a related note, Cameron Wilding gave a presentation about how we need to further entrench ourselves in Drupal’s strongest industries: Professional services , technology, education, media, NGOs and B2C commerce.
All in all, despite some people claiming the sky is falling and Drupal is lagging behind in development and popularity, there is evidence that the platform is still going strong and will continue to take a leading position in the market.
Although this was my first Drupalcon, many within my company are grizzled veterans of the Drupal scene, and it was interesting to see the interactions of people at the event from all points along the “Drupal experience” spectrum. It was great to witness the apparent camaraderie, the excitement around development and community involvement, and everyone’s cautious optimism. If this was also your first Drupalcon, what were your impressions? Those of you who have been before, how does Drupalcon Dublin 2016 stack up to previous Drupalcons? I would love to hear everyone's thoughts and feedback on the event and on the three themes I discussed. Also, in keeping with the community theme, if you see a jolly looking guy loitering around a cardboard ping pong table next year, come say hey - you might get a free pen shaped like a sugar packet.