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Get Pantheon Blog: DrupalCon Austin: Coming into our own

Wed, 11/06/2014 - 20:26

Was it just me or was this a really up-beat DrupalCon? In contrast to last year in Portland the energy was noticeably higher, more positive and optimistic, and I don't think it was just because of the nice weather.

Drupal 8 is still in a building stage — alpha release — but it feels like core is rolling. That's the most common theme I heard from everyone I asked, and it makes sense that a good feeling in core would ripple out through everything else.

The decision to embrace Symfony2 as a framework was a bold move, one that caused considerable angst over the past year; that's now passed. Folks who haven't been thrilled with some of the compromises involved are largely at peace with the situation, focused on moving forward. Others who were more ardent in their rejection have stepped away, or at least a ways back.

As a result, it feels like everyone is on the same page. From the business summit on Monday to the code sprints on Friday, there's a feeling of consistency. That kind of alignment is a sign of a mature project.

Of course there's always got to be some Drupal Drama. I got a taste of that in The Great Multisite Debate. Recapping that is a whole other blog post, coming soon I promise. But who can feel all that upset with folks like this guy walking the floor:

Overall the conference was extremely smooth. Well run. Well attended. A good time was had by all! But DrupalCon is about more than great presentations and great parties.

"We're Impact Junkies"

The thing that I find most compelling about the Drupal community, even the companies around the project, is how many people are focused on outcomes. In the language of Jobs, we're here to put a little dent in the universe.

There's some natural tension between that desire and the increasingly diverse and sophisticated commercial ecosystem, especially considering Drupal's roots in the non-profit/social-good space. Some people were uncomfortable with Dries's keynote example of "using google glass to buy a neat jacket you just saw," but the vision behind that example is one I share.

As I say in my Drupal's Destiny presentation, I think Drupal has a special role to play in the evolution of the internet and how it affects humanity. I believe this precisely because of the kind of multi-directional "digital hub" capability that Dries was explaining.

Andrew Hoppin, who's working on an Open SaaS solution based on Drupal to radically open up access to public data said it best: we're impact junkies. Changing the way we shop might not be the most radical way to imagine our impact on the world, but it's practical and specific. That's important when you're trying to convey an ambitious, long term vision. I'm on board.

You grows up and you grows up and you grows up

Drupal is far from done developing, but it feels like the project is emerging from an awkward teenage phase. There have been structural changes and growing pains, some false starts, but now a stronger sense of self.

The web is going to continue to evolve as more and more people come online, and more and more devices that are integrated into daily life are connected. Drupal's magic isn't just that it's an industrial strength CMS — though clearly that's a strength — but in the way it fits into the future of a dynamic and integrated web.

Headless Drupal. It's a thing. Get on board now.

It's not just the tech though: more and more members of the community are rising to take a strategic or leadership role in their work, especially professional work with clients. People who've been doing Drupal for a while tend to know a lot about the web, about what works and what doesn't, not just in terms of what modules work well together, but in terms of business outcomes. It's good to see folks owning that expertise, and bringing it to bear to help people.

At previous conferences I've felt the reality of Drupal maturing mostly in individual terms: people getting older, starting families, getting a few grey hairs, going to bed earlier, etc. In Austin I think I felt something more, a sprawling, complex, quirky, many-headed open source software project starting to come into its own.

There's still a long road to travel, but from my perspective the way ahead is clearer than ever. It's a good feeling.

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