May 21 2015
May 21

The Drupalcon song - with actions!

I am never missing the #DrupalCon #prenote again. So brilliant.

— Kelley Curry (@BrightBold) May 12, 2015


DrupalCon always leaves me full of energy, and Amsterdam 2014 was no exception. The three of us – Adam Juran, me, and my wife Bryn – sat together on the short train ride back home to Cologne. Some chit chat and reminiscing quickly led to anticipation of the next DrupalCon, in LA. We were excited about the possibilities of this world-class host city. The home of Hollywood, Venice Beach, and Disneyland sounded like a great destination, but after three years of co-writing the DrupalCon “opening ceremony” with Jam and Robert, we were more excited about the possibilities for the Prenote. We knew we had to up the ante, make something new and different from previous years, and LA seemed like a gold mine of possibilities.

Every DrupalCon, before the keynote from Dries, this small group has staged a “pre-note.” The goal of the prenote is to break the ice, to remind everyone present that Drupal is a friendly, fun, and above all, inclusive community. It’s often themed after the host city: in Munich, Jam and Robert taught everyone how to pour a good Bavarian beer, and brought in a yodeling instructor for a singalong (yodel-along?) at the end. In Portland we held a “weirdest talent” competition, featuring prominent community members juggling and beat boxing. Every year it gets more fun, more engaging, and more entertaining for the audience.

Learning how to pour beer at the Drupalcon Munich prenote, 2012

Learning how to pour beer at the Drupalcon Munich prenote, 2012

On that train ride home, we threw around a lot of possibilities. Maybe the prenote could be set on a muscle beach, with Dries as the aspiring “98 pound weakling.” Or the whole thing could be a joke on a hollywood party. We briefly considered a reality-TV style “Real coders of Drupalcon” theme, but nobody wanted to sink that low. That’s when the idea struck: we could do it as a Disney musical!

Part of Your World

The Prenote was Jam and Robert’s baby, though. We knew that we would have to have some absolutely knock-down material to convince them of our concept. With beer in hand, the three of us started work on Part of your world from the Little Mermaid, as the client who is excited for the worst website idea ever.

“I’ve got sliders and icons a-plenty,
I’ve got OG with breadcrumbs galore.
You want five-level dropdowns?
I’ve got twenty!
But who cares? No big deal.
I want more!”

We quickly moved on to the song for the coder who would save the day, You ain’t never had a friend like me from Aladdin. We got halfway through this fun number before we realized that the song titles alone could do a lot of the convincing. Another beer, and we had a list of potential songs. There was so much material just in the song titles, we knew that the music would take center stage.

Some of our favorite titles from this first list were ultimately cut. Maybe someday we’ll flesh them into full songs for a Drupal party, but in the meantime you can let your imagination run wild. Hakuna Matata from The Lion King was to become We’ll Build it in Drupal! The Frozen parody, Do You Wanna Build a Website was a big hit, and so was Aladdin’s A Whole New Theme.

We showed our idea to Jam and Robert the first chance we got. They took one look at our list of songs and said the three words we wanted to hear: “run with it.”

You Ain’t Never had a Friend Like Me

Forum One's Adam Juran and Campbell Vertesi as

Forum One’s Adam Juran and Campbell Vertesi as “Themer” and “Coder” at the Drupalcon Austin prenote, 2014

We divided up responsibility for  the remainder of the songs and started to experiment with the script. What kind of story could we wrap around these crazy songs? How much time did we really have, and could we do all this music? We were all absorbed in our normal work, but every chance we got, the group of us would get together to throw ideas around. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much as while we wrote some of these songs.

Writing parody lyrics is entertaining on your own, but as a duo it’s a laugh riot.  More than once we checked the Drupal song lyrics project for inspiration. We riffed on ideas and tried different rhyme schemes until things seemed to just “fit.”

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho

In the last few weeks leading up to DrupalCon, Adam and I met two and three times a week for long sessions, brainstorming new lyrics. We powered through writing the script around the whole thing, and started to address the logistical problems of backtracks, props, and costumes as well.

via Mendel at Drupalcon LA. Ronai Brumett as the perfect hipster Ariel

via Mendel at Drupalcon LA. Ronai Brumett as the perfect hipster Ariel

Finally we set about casting the different songs. Adam and I had always wanted to sing the Agony duet from Into the Woods, so that one was easy. We had a tentative list of who we wanted in the other songs, but we had no idea who would be willing. All of a sudden the whole endeavor looked tenuous again. Why did we think Dries would be OK to make a joke about Drupal 8 crashing all the time? Would Jeremy Thorson (maintainer of the test infrastructure on Drupal.org) even be interested to get up on stage and sing about testing? We realized that we’d never heard these people sing karaoke, much less in front of thousands of people!

One by one we reached out to the performers and got their approval. Some of them were more enthusiastic than others. Dries replied with “OK, I trust you guys,” while Larry Garfield and Jeremy Thorson insisted on rewriting some of their lyrics and even adding verses! The day before the show, Larry was disappointed that we couldn’t find giant foam lobster claws for his version of Under the Sea from the Little Mermaid. Aaron Porter bought a genie costume and offered to douse himself in blue facepaint for his role, and Ronai Brumett spent a weekend building the perfect “hipster Ariel” costume.

When You Wish Upon a Star

On DrupalCon – Monday the day before the show – the cast assembled for the first time for their only rehearsal together. I arrived a few minutes late, direct from a costume shop on Hollywood Boulevard. Jam had built karaoke tracks on his laptop, and Robert had put together a prompter for the script, so the group huddled around the two laptops and tried to work through the whole show.

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Via Mendel at Drupalcon LA. The prenote cast rehearses. From left to right, Larry Garfield, Aaron Porter, Adam Juran, Jeffrey McGuire, Campbell Vertesi.

The rehearsal showed us what a hit we had created. The performers had embraced the motto: “if you can’t sing it, perform it” and they started to feed off each other’s energy. We all laughed at Ronai’s dramatic rendition of Part of My Site, and the Agony Duet raised the energy even further. It turned out that Dries had never heard When You Wish Upon a Star from Pinocchio before, but he was willing to learn as long as he could have someone to sing along with him!

via Mendel at Drupalcon LA. Aaron Porter codes with his butt - on Dries Buytaert's laptop!

via Mendel at Drupalcon LA. Aaron Porter codes with his butt – on Dries Buytaert’s laptop!

The rehearsal really started to hit it’s stride when Aaron delivered You Ain’t Never had a Dev Like Me. Aaron had never sung in public before, and we could tell he was nervous. Then the backtrack started playing with its blaring horns, and he came alive. It’s a difficult piece, with lots of fast moving text and a rhythm that can be hard to catch. Aaron launched into it with gusto. He had us in stitches when he shouted “can your friends do this!” and grabbed Dries’ laptop to start typing with his butt. When he nailed the high note at the end with a huge grin on his face, it was a deciding moment for the group.

From that moment on we were on a ride, and we knew it. Simpletest (to the tune of Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast) turned out to be a laugh riot, and Jeremy led us naturally into a kick line for the grand finale. We cheered Larry’s choreography skills during the dance break of RTBC, and Ben Finklea was a natural (as ever) at leading us all in Commit, to the tune of Heigh Ho from Snow White.

Forum One UX lead Kristina Bjoran, had protested the most of everyone about having to sing, but the moment she started with our version of Let it Go from Frozen, we were caught up in the feeling of it. I don’t think anyone expected the goosebumps that happened when we sang that chorus together, but we all appreciated what it meant.

Let it Go

The morning of the show saw the whole cast up bright and early. Though we joked about doing a round of shots before going on stage, no one seemed nervous. In fact we spent most of the setup time laughing at one another. Larry discovered that he has great legs for red tights. Aaron got blue face paint everywhere. We cheered at Jam and Robert’s Mickey and Minnie costumes, and laughed at Ronai’s perfect Hipster Ariel.

Some of us had last minute changes to make: Jeremy spent his time crafting oversized cuffs for his costume. I had forgotten the belt to my ninja outfit, so we made one out of duct tape. Kristina discovered that her Elsa costume limited her movement too much for the choreography she had planned. Dries was the only one who seemed nervous to me – this guy who has spoken in public countless times was afraid of a little Disney! We sang through the song together one last time, and it was time to go on.

via Mendel at Drupalcon LA. Jeremy Thorson leads the

via Mendel at Drupalcon LA. Jeremy Thorson leads the “Simpletest” song. Behind him, from left: Campbell Vertesi, Ronai Brumett, Adam Juran, Aaron Porter, Dries Buytaert

Everyone knows the rest – or at least, you can see it on youtube. What you probably don’t know is how hard we all laughed as we watched the show backstage. Even knowing every word, the energy from the audience was infectious. In the end, there’s nothing quite like standing in front of three thousand people and shouting together: “we come for code, but we stay for community!”

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Oct 17 2014
Oct 17

image01DrupalCon Amsterdam 2014…what a week! Drupal 8 Beta released, core contributions made, and successful sessions presented!

Drupal 8 Beta — has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?! But what exactly does that mean? According to the drupal.org release announcement, “Betas are good testing targets for developers and site builders who are comfortable reporting (and where possible, fixing) their own bugs, and who are prepared to rebuild their test sites from scratch if necessary. Beta releases are not recommended for non-technical users, nor for production websites.” Or more simply put, we’re over the hump, but we’re not there yet. But you can help!

Contrib to Core

One of the biggest focal points of this DrupalCon was contributing to Drupal 8 core in the largest code sprints of the year. Specially trained mentors helped new contributors set up their development environments, find tasks, and work on issues. This model is actually repeated at Drupal events all over the world, all year long. So even if you missed the Con, code sprints are happening all the time and the community truly welcomes all coders, novice or expert.

Forum One is proud that our own Kalpana Goel was featured as a mentor at DrupalCon Amsterdam.Forum One is proud that our own Kalpana Goel was featured as a mentor at DrupalCon Amsterdam. She is very passionate about helping new people contribute.

It was my third time mentoring at DrupalCon and like every time, it not only gave me an opportunity to share my knowledge, but also learn from others. Tobias Stockler took time to explain to me the Drupal 8 plugin system and walk me through an example. And fgm explained Traits to me and worked on a related issue.

-Kalpana Goel

Campbell Vertesi, Technical Architect

Forum One Steps Up

While the sprints raged on, other Forum One team members led training sessions for people currently developing with Drupal. I, Campbell, presented Panels, Display Suite, and Context – oh my! to a capacity crowd (200+), and together, we presented Coder vs. Themer: Ultimate Grudge Smackdown Fight to the Death to over three hundred coders and themers. Now that Drupal 8 Beta is released we’re already looking forward to creating a Drupal 8 version of Coder vs. Themer for both Los Angeles and Barcelona!

This year’s European DrupalCon was a huge success, and a lot of fun! As a group, our Forum One team got to take a leading role in teaching, mentoring, and sharing with the rest of the Drupal community. It’s easy to pay lip service to open source values, but we really love the opportunity to show how important this community is to us. We recently estimated that we contribute almost a hundred patches to Drupal contrib projects in a good month. We’re pretty proud of that participation, but it’s only at the conventions that we get to engage with other Drupalists face to face. DrupalCon isn’t just for the code, or the sessions. It’s for seeing and having fun with our friends and colleagues, too.

At Amsterdam, we got to participate in code sprints, lead sessions and BOFs (birds of a feather sessions), and join the community in lots of fun extracurricular activities. We’re already making plans for DrupalCon LA in the spring. We’ll see you there!

DrupalCon LA DrupalCon Barcelona

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Oct 02 2014
Oct 02

Drupal Kung Fu

Campbell and I presented our session, Coder vs. Themer, Thursday morning and it was a huge success! The gist of the session was this: Campbell and I are both martial artists in addition to Drupalists, and we drew comparisons between our respective martial arts (Ninjitsu and Kung fu) and our respective Drupal roles (coder and themer). Then we both attempted, in real time, to build a Drupal site from a markup. I (the themer) was only allowed to use the theme layer, while Campbell (the coder) could only use the code/module layer. The 302 attendees for our session were more than just spectators – they were active participants, cheering us on when we found clever solutions and booing when we took hacky shortcuts!

So who won?! Watch the video (slides with audio) and decide for yourself!

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Birds of a featherLater that afternoon we also led a BOF (Birds of a Feather) expanding on our earlier session. We dubbed this follow-up Coder vs. Themer: Fight Club. In it the attendees are divided into small development teams, each containing at least one coder and one themer. We then challenged them to collaborate and build out mockups. We had the luxury of having Augustin Delaporte and Robert Douglass of Commerce Guys there to provide development servers on their platform.sh hosting platform. All the teams did well and, more importantly, everyone had a lot of fun.

2015 DrupalCon EuropeDrupalcon Amsterdam’s closing session always has the big reveal of next year’s European Drupalcon venue, and we were all very excited when it was announced that the 2015 Drupalcon Europe would take place in beautiful Barcelona, Spain on September 21-25. Campbell and I cannot wait and are already planning several new, fun, energetic, and engaging sessions!

Read our other updates for DrupalCon:
DrupalCon Amsterdam, Day 1: Signs, Signs Everywhere Signs
DrupalCon Amsterdam, Day 2: From Memories to the Future
DrupalCon Amsterdam, Day 3: Drupal 8 Beta Released

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