Drupal Camp Austin 2010, Day 2: A Review

by Chadwick Wood
November 23rd, 2010

Yesterday I wrote about Day 1 of Drupal Camp Austin 2010, and today I'll finish up with my highlights from Day 2, which I actually got a lot more out of!

Ben Finklea: Building a Strong, Profitable Drupal Business

Ben Finklea's keynote for Day 2 was really inspiring, probably because it was aimed at someone in my position: a freelancer trying to expand work into a business. He focused a lot on process, saying that if there's anything you do more than once, you should have a process for it. That's always something I've embraced as a freelancer, but he really drove home the point of how important that becomes when you have employees, and have to delegate. Processes are what keep quality up (of course, balance in all things).

His talk about finding niches in the market in which to build a business was also really interesting, pointing out that there are now well-known companies built around niches just within Drupal: Lullabot does Drupal training, Acquia does Drupal support, and Ben's company Volacci does Drupal-focused SEO.

I encourage you to check out the slides from his talk, if this kind of stuff interests you.

Kate Broussard: Developing for Usability

Kate is a developer for Liberal Arts ITS at UT, and as someone who has done a good amount of Drupal developer for educational institutions, I really related to her talk. She covered various strategies for making the administration of a Drupal site easier for non-technical people, which is usually who is maintaining a site after it gets handed off (in my experience). I liked her suggestion for using a clearly different admin theme on sites, to give users a clear picture of when they are in "admin" mode, versus when they are looking at the public-facing side of things. Beyond that, I think that most of what she talked about is stuff that I'm already doing, which made me feel like I'm on the right track! She put up her slides from the talk, which are definitely worth checking out. Especially if you're a freelance Drupal developer, these strategies will help keep your clients happy.

Steve Fisher: Turning that UX Frown Upside Down

I wish I had a User Experience guy like Steve Fisher on all of my projects. His talk covered a whole lot of topics, including how to talk with clients to understand their true needs, understanding and embracing UI conventions, the importance of wireframing, and more. It was another talk where I think I'd read most of what was covered before, but it's always good to hear another person's take on it, and to be reminded of the importance of user experience. As much as I value those concerns, they still rarely get addressed as much as they should in my projects (which is why I wish I had someone who could focus on it!). His well-designed, entertaining and informative slides are online for you to read.

Nathan Smith and Todd Nienkerk: Accelerated Grid Theming with Ninesixty

As much as I understand the importance of grid-based design (and usually do it), I have yet to embrace a CSS grid framework. This talk got me to thinking that it's probably time to do so. The talk covered the history of the grid in design, and how the 960 grid system makes designing on a grid easier, especially as it's integrated as a Drupal theme. The slides from the talk are online (those are from Boston actually, but I think they're the same).

I do have to say that I'm not completely sold on 960 as the grid framework I should use, though. It looks good, but I'm also interested in Blueprint, which I have heard about for a long time, and which seems more robust to me, as it includes a typography framework that looks pretty useful as well. Maybe when I get around to trying them both, I'll let you know what I decide.

Karoly Negyesi: Transcending SQL in Drupal 7

This guy was intense! In a great way. Karoly's talk covered the (convoluted) history of SQL, talked about its problems, and went on to look at the "NoSQL" (a buzzword he doesn't really like) trend on the rise, as a modern solution to some of the problems with SQL. In short, it sounds like Drupal 8 (or 9) might have some really good support for these simpler, more efficient NoSQL backends, but there are some serious hurdles to getting there, both in terms of the maturity of the platforms that are out there (such as Cassandra, MongoDB, and CouchDB, as well as all of the implications that such a change would have on Drupal's code. For now, I don't see this stuff having an impact on my work as a developer, but it is definitely something exciting to look forward to.

So as I said yesterday, I really enjoyed the conference, and I plan to attend more in the future. Attending DrupalCon in Chicago would be great, but the price of admission is pretty steep (who wants to sponsor me?), so I'm not sure when my next conference will be. I hope to have my own presentation together by next year's Drupal Camp Austin (right now I'm thinking about location-based integration, or analytics integration), but we'll see.

As always, if you have anything to share, leave a comment!