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DrupalCon North America 2021 wrapped up in April. Now that the dust has settled, we invited our Drupal experts to share their experience attending DrupalCon and any insights they learned about the future of Drupal. Drupal is an open-source content management system (CMS) that is growing and evolving all the time as it is fed by individual contributors that continuously build new features and modules for community use. Still, the Drupal community is expecting large-scale changes with the coming update that will make the program more accessible to non-developers. Read more about our experts' experience and find out what is in store for your favorite CMS.  

Featured in the interview

  • Lead Developer Brad Mash
  • Junior Developer Lauren Bennett
  • Senior Developer Rich Gerdes 
  • Senior Developer Daniel Love 

They each have their own unique experiences and personal insights on this year's virtual event. Below are a few of their thoughts, but you can watch the full video to capture the lively discussion about DrupalCon North America 2021 and the future of Drupal. 

1. How did you prepare for DrupalCon North America as an attendee? 

Lauren: My preparation was mostly going through the schedule and figuring out what I wanted to see. Unfortunately, a lot of the classes I wanted to attend were at the same time, so I had to prioritize my calendar and map out the sessions I would attend at each time.  

Richard: DrupalCon had the schedule posted on their website a few weeks out, so I also went through and added certain sessions to my calendar. It was cool to get a personalized list of what you wanted to attend.  

2. Was it difficult to figure out what you needed to do and where you needed to go? 

Richard: No, it only took 30 mins or so each day.  

Brad: No, it was very simple, I just logged in and UI for finding the sessions was intuitive. 

3. How did you choose what sessions to do to? 

Daniel: It was largely based on what I thought would be beneficial for expanding my skillset, and expanding the skill set of other team members at Unleashed that couldn’t make it to the conference.  

4. How did you navigate into the conference? 

Daniel: Each session had a dedicated area of the platform during the time it was live such as the “main stage” or “Conference Hall A”, as an attendee you had to move to navigate to that area to catch the conference.   
I found it advantageous to put the sessions into Outlook as a reminder.  

Lauren: I found a “subscribe to your schedule” button after the conference that would have set up calendar invites automatically that would remind attendees that their chosen sessions were starting.  

5. What was your favorite session? 

Brad: One of my favorites and most useful was a session on integrating Gatsby into Drupal which involves migrating data. It was very informative.  

6. What was the main difference between a virtual Drupal Con and a traditional conference? 

Richard:  I like the virtual format because you can review the sessions a lot faster. During the conference, a lot of complex material is presented in a short time frame, so it is nice to be able to quickly make a note saying “go back later” and then get the video to do so later that same evening. The downside is less random hallway conversation. 

Lauren: I enjoyed their efforts to recreate the hallway conversation by setting up six hallway chat rooms that allowed attendees to pop in and start a conversation with any other attendees in the hallway at the same time.  

Daniel: I enjoyed the creativity that sprang from the virtual-style event. One of the vendors hosted a videogame-style scavenger hunt that I joined just to get to know some of the other attendees. Instead of a chatroom, you had a virtual character that you could use to walk up to another character and then start a conversation.  It was a good time and a great way to bridge the communication gap.  

7. Were you able to make any meaningful connections with other attendees? 

Brad: I asked some questions and made my presence known through chat but in comparison to past Drupal Con events that I have attended I found it difficult to make those more personal connections.  

Lauren: I went to the Women in Drupal after-hours event and feel like I was able to gain more solid connections. It was nice to hear the unique ways to support women in Drupal and what comes with that. I was able to add a few people to my LinkedIn and can reach out whenever I have a question or need advice either on a Drupal project or in my career.  

8. What was the largest community impact of Drupal Con going virtual? 

Lauren: I believe this DrupalCon was much more accessible because attendees did not need to pay for a plane ticket or hotel to attend. Because of the accessibility, the conference had an incredibly diverse audience. It was rare for me to be in a space filled by only US-based developers.  

Richard: I have attended a DrupalCon prior to this and noticed a lot of international diversity, as well but this event had diversity of skill sets, job titles, and nationalities that I don’t think you would be able to get at an in-person event due to the time and cost constraints. 

Daniel: I noticed a larger European presence at this DrupalCon. Typically, Drupal will have events in Europe and this one for the states, but the virtual format allowed individuals to choose where they wanted to attend.           

9. What was the largest takeaway from attending DrupalCon North America? 

Richard: I enjoy hearing about where Drupal is going and how to be more active in the community and support its growth. There was a specific topic about how to get industry professionals to get more involved and that was specifically interesting as our agency works across and builds customized solutions for so many clients. It would be nice to have more community involvement.  

Daniel: I also enjoyed the sessions surrounding how Drupal is evolving and what we can expect next.

10. Where is Drupal going? 

Daniel: Lower maintenance and automated updates this and a handful of design items that will make it much easier for people without a technical background to use Drupal and even contribute to the community. They are also launching a new Project Browser initiative that is tightly reliant on automated and simplified updates and will help with making Drupal accessible to all who use it.  

Richard: They are focusing on a page-building aspect that will allow individuals to add to and customize their website in a much easier and more approachable way.  

11. If someone is on the fence about attending a virtual Drupal event, what would you tell them? 

Brad: Ensure that you take the time to map out what sessions you want to attend before the conference starts. If you wait to do this, you may miss the sessions that would have been most valuable.  

Lauren: Don’t worry about writing everything down. Just pay attention to what is happening. The speaker will most likely send out the slides after the presentation.  

Daniel: Make small notes just to let yourself know where you wanted to go back and review more material. There is a lot of information that comes at you fast.