Jul 03 2012
Jul 03

Posted Jul 3, 2012 // 2 comments

After wrapping up my first DrupalCon this past March in Denver, I thought I would pass along some insight of my experience as well as tips and tricks for those who may be gearing up for DrupalCon Munich. At such a large conference, with so many hardcore Drupal fans everywhere, one is bound to get a little overwhelmed, maybe even feel the urge to crouch in the fetal position, but that would be a mistake! Take a deep breath and plan ahead:

  • Keynotes will give you a nice look into how people are thinking of the overall future success of Drupal.
  • There are a lot of smart people everywhere you turn. Talk to them, get to know them. There is certainly a conversation about a topic of interest everywhere you turn.
  • There are typically multiple sessions that you want to go to at the same time (so many options), plan in advance.
  • There is a nice range of topics for beginners to advanced individuals. Sessions are typically more 'glanced over' topics where as BoFs may be more in depth for those looking to explore further.
  • During the DrupalCon, keep hydrated, just a good general rule of thumb.
  • Make sure your laptop is charged up.  Wall sockets run out quickly.
  • There will be a good mix of social events, activities and parties to let your inner-geek relax a bit, take advantage of these.
  • Great sponsor events *cough* phase2 free bar *cough*

With so much going on at DrupalCon, I definitely felt overwhelmed by the event.  With such a broad range of topics going on all the time, on more than one occasion you do have to sacrifice one session to check out another.  Thankfully the sessions do get posted online, so downloading them at a later date is certainly an option. 

The other option I didn’t get to explore was the BoFs (birds of a feather) sessions.  These openly scheduled topical sessions are submitted by the attendees themselves and happen at various times during the day.  I'm looking forward to exploring this option more at the next DrupalCon to really get deep into conversations regarding topics of my interest. The overall feeling of BoFs would most likely fall in the lines of ‘compsci-301’ rather than ‘intro to computers’; definitely something to look forward to next time. Certainly plan ahead and check out the schedule of posted BoFs to see what you may want to attend

All in all, my experience with DrupalCon Denver was overwhelmingly positive. People are in love with the technology being presented and there are a lot of brilliant minds to learn from and talk to.  There are so many great sessions, BoFs, events and activities going on that you could have a different agenda each time you go and still just scratch the surface.  Remember, if you start to feel overwhelmed in Munich, keep calm and Drupal on.

Josh Cooper’s user interface development skills play a vital role in bringing great design ideas into fully functioning websites.  His specializations in HTML, CSS, Javascript plus his focus on Drupal as a platform, make Josh an ...

Apr 17 2012
Apr 17

The second Drupal Commerce session I attended was presented by another member of the Commerce Guys team, Pedro Cambra.  Pedro co-maintains several major Commerce contrib modules such as commerce feeds, commerce, Commerce Reorder and Commerce Extra Panes.

Many of these modules, while not technically required for the operation of a online store, make the online experience much better.  For example Commerce Reorder allows users to create a new order using the contents of an existing order.  For B2B online commerce, this is a killer feature, since many businesses order the same set of products over and over again.  Commerce VBO Views brings Views Bulk Operations into commerce, making mass deletion of products, profiles, and orders possible, this makes unclogging the order queue as easy as cleaning out old nodes from the content section.

Importing content from another system is a particularly thorny challenge.  Luckily there exists a pair of solutions for this issue.  Whether you're a Migrate or a Feeds user, Drupal Commerce has a module that imports data into Commerce automatically. One commerce contrib module that I have a particular fondness for is the Commerce Feeds module.  This leverages the feeds module, which takes a feed in an XML, RSS or CSV format and turns the data into products.  The feeds are exportable via features and new products can be added automatically as they're created.  This obviates the need to manually import products into Drupal Commerce.  Commerce Migrate takes a similar approach, but utilizes the Migrate module to create the product entities.

Another neat Commerce contrib module is the Commerce Physical module, which utilizes the Physical Fields module to give products physical characteristics such as dimensions and weight.  These can be used in shipping calculations to return the exact shipping cost calculated by courier APIs.  

Payment methods are probably the most important aspect of eCommerce.  Drupal Commerce has this particular part in spades.  The payment method modules run the gamut from PayPal to Purchase Order, and everything in between.

There also exists Commerce Contrib wishlists that adds a 'Add to Wishlist' button to products, coupons that offer discounts, addressbook that simplifies the checkout process, multi-currency support for international commerce, and so much more.

The Commerce sessions were just a few of the amazing and wildly varied panoply of concepts, companies and community that is DrupalCon.

It was quite the experience, especially with the backdrop of the sunshine and the warm weather.  I loved being able to introduce myself to people I've only met in IRC previously, and reconnecting with old Drupal buddies.

As said previously, this was my first DrupalCon and I was very happy to have gone. I now having a greater idea of the depth of the passion and the breadth of the community.  It's pretty amazing to pass groups of people between sessions speaking so many languages and yet, they're all talking about the open web, and Drupal's role in that ecosystem.  I've always been a big fan of Drupal, but going to DrupalCon has definitely added to that appreciation.

Apr 12 2012
Apr 12

Going to DrupalCon Denver was a welcome break from the cold and gloom of a northwest spring. The Rocky Mountain sunshine provided a backdrop for the largest DrupalCon on record.

This DrupalCon was especially notable since it was my first opportunity to attend in person. I've made it a point in the past to watch the keynotes, especially Dries, as close to real time as possible. As well as jealously following the Twitter feeds of those in attendance to glean any breaking news from the forefront of the Drupal community. As expected, there were too many good sessions to choose just one to attend.

One particular track that caught my attention was the eCommerce track. For sometime I've felt that Drupal's greatest untapped potential was in this sphere and it was a welcome change to see eCommerce receive the kind of attention given to other Drupal application classes. To complete my excitement for this particular track, I noted Ryan Szrama's Drupal Commerce session on Wednesday Morning. As a project lead for the very popular Drupal commerce project and long time Drupal eCommerce guru, sitting in on this session was my chance to get a sneak peak at arguably the fastest growing sector of Drupal.

All about Commerce

For a 30 second introduction to Drupal Commerce, it's important to know the past. Drupal Commerce grew out of UberCart, a highly successful set of eCommerce modules for Drupal 6, it provided a simplified eCommerce solution.

Shortly thereafter, Ryan Szrama started a new project, that expanded the horizons of eCommerce in Drupal. New to Drupal 7 was the concept of entities. Objects that behaved like nodes, but could be displayed and manipulated more flexibly.

Furthermore, entities could have fields placed upon them, and thus the Commerce concepts of using entities as components in a commerce website was born. With entities, products could be freely displayed privately, abstracting the stock keeping and managerial facets of commerce away from the display side. In addition, products could be uniquely identified by a Stock Keeping Unit or SKU, in Drupal much in the same way products are tracked by SKU in warehouses.

Since entities could be referenced in a node, creating a display page became as simple as creating a product display node and referencing the products that belonged to that particular display. Whereas UberCart was designed as a starter store in a box, more of a plug and play solution. Drupal Commerce provided a more fully customizable framework, that allows businesses to modify the framework to fit their particular business model. Drupal Commerce was designed to leverage the full potential of Drupal 7 for power and flexibility. 

As a framework, Commerce core is as lean as possible, so much so that the Commerce shipping module doesn't even ship with Commerce core. The rationale is that not all stores have physical products that need to be shipped. As a side note, there exists a Commerce shipping module, maintained by the same crew that work on Commerce core, that is easily download-able for shipping physical products. Since commerce is so flexible, there exists a myriad of neat and, possibly, ready to use solutions for nontechnical users. Contributed modules such as a wish-list, reorder functionality and stock keeping extend the power of commerce and make it easier for those new to Drupal and Commerce to utilize these resources, with the end result of increasing the adoption of the Drupal Commerce framework.

What's next in Commerce

While Drupal Commerce is receiving a lot of attention for the flexibility of the framework. The learning curve can be a little steep, especially for those new to Drupal.

One of the main initiatives to be undertaken by Commerce Guys to help increase adoption is to increase the overall amount of documentation, with a focus on how to do basic tasks like calculate a tax rate or how to create a discount for certain customers. There exists a fair amount of documentation both in the form of step by step guides and in screen-casts or video format.

Another sticking point in using Drupal Commerce is the lack of a clear, easy to use UI. One of the powerful things about Drupal Commerce is that it's built on existing Drupal tools and infrastructure. One such example is the pervasive use of the Views and Rules contrib modules that make it easy to create and customize data displays of products, shopping carts and lists of line items. The catch with using some of the more complex sets of contrib modules is that in order for store administrators to make simple changes, they must first learn the basics of things like Views.

One perfect example of this would be where a store administrator, someone who normally uses the middle part of the site to administer transactions, needs to adjust the percentage of a discount. This discount might be offered to individuals who purchase more than a set cost of items. Editing the discount amount requires no less than diving three levels into the commerce product pricing rules interface and then an additional two levels via the Rules interface directly. While this might be a trivial task for a lifelong Drupalista, for someone more at home in a WYSIWYG editor, this could be scary and confusing.

The aim is to make simple tasks that site managers do regularly more straightforward. That having a familiarity with Drupal not be a requirement for administering a Drupal Commerce site. In short, to drive adoption of the Drupal CMS via Commerce installs by introducing people to Drupal as a course of building a Commerce site.

To help accelerate the adoption of Commerce another initiative is to release a new version of Commerce Kickstart. Commerce Kickstart is an introductory install profile containing a basic store, with a trio of example products, an example payment method and not much else. In my experience I've used it more as a testing suite or a playground to get a feel for what Commerce is and what it can offer me in terms of tools and examples to build a commerce setup for a client. This focus on developers was helpful to me, but probably isn't for someone looking to setup a small eCommerce site with little to no custom code.   This will no long er be the case for Commerce Kickstart 2.0, who's focus will be squarely on site builders.

In that vein, Commerce Kickstart 2.0 will be redesigned from the ground up. Commerce core, by design, lacks anything not considered absolutely essential for eCommerce. This includes things like shipping, since not all stores sell physical products. However, Commerce Kickstart 2.0 will have the shipping module built in.

One other sticking point is appearance. Again as Drupalistas, we're used to seeing an unthemed site, something in perhaps in Bartik or maybe even -gasp- Garland. That said, the rest of the world may not share this understanding view of Drupal's theme layer. As such, Commerce Kickstart 2.0 will have its own Omega based sub theme that would function as an introductory theme for people just looking to get an eCommerce site up and running as quickly as possible.

To make this even more exciting, Commerce Guys has of pledged to release Commerce Kickstart 2.0 by DrupalCon Munich this August, quite the ambitious time line.

Needless to say I'm very excited in the direction Drupal Commerce is taking, I'd love to see Drupal take off in the eCommerce, much in the same way it has taken off in government and the NGO space. 

Mike Nielson - nielsonm

Apr 11 2012
Apr 11

Ah, Drupalcon. Three days of panels and BOFs, one Advomatic code sprint, and some very late nights with the Advoteam. Now I'm thrust back into the land of overflowing diaper pails and spaghetti bits everywhere that is work-from-home motherhood. But I promised myself I'd put my DrupalCon notes into a fancy blog post in the hope that others will find them useful (and so I can find them later). Two weeks later, here goes.

This year's DrupalCon was particularly fruitful for us theme developers. In years past, there hasn't been much new and shiny for us beyond CSS3 goodies we couldn't touch because of legacy browsers. But technology is changing, as it is wont to do. We're seeing a revolution in how we plan, design, theme and QA our sites, thanks mostly to responsive design (and SASS/Compass, but I'll save that for a later blog post.)

If you need any convincing that the mobile revolution is mandating a change in the way we design and build sites, check out Luke Wroblewski's super engaging keynote. LukeW coined the term (and wrote the book) "Mobile First" to redirect planning sites for handheld devices first -- then for computers -- because of the clear trend in how people are accessing sites. A collateral benefit is that by designing mobile first you are forced to prioritize your site's content -- maybe the main thing people need when they go to your organization's website is how they can help the cause, not a letter from the Board. There were a few "future is now" moments in there too, for better or worse. Do check out his Future Friendly manifesto.

At Advomatic, responsive sites are rapidly becoming the norm, and we're figuring out best practices as we go. So these DrupalCon sessions were a top priority:

There was a bit of buzz around the idea of doing "design in browser" versus in a design program like Fireworks or Photoshop, which inevitably mean a fixed width conceptualization of a site (even if the designer creates versions for a variety of browser widths.) SASS and Compass would give you a leg up to design something quickly directly from your browser, and I hope to address that in future blog posts. However, I tend to camp with those that say that starting from the browser will inevitably stunt a designer's creativity:

The browser was intended as a delivery mechanism with HTML and CSS a means of describing content rather than defining it (a subtle distinction I know, but an important one). As such the browser lacks even the most rudimentary tools, such as the ability to draw lines or irregular objects through direct manipulation. Instead this process is heavily abstracted through code. As the best design tools are the ones that put the smallest barrier between the creator and their creation (the pencil is a good example of this) designing in the browser adds an unnecessary level of craft to the process. - Andy Budd, Clearleft

I'm not sure whether Photoshop and Fireworks will soon have built-in flexibility, or if browsers will have built-in design tools, but currently neither is a perfect tool for responsive design.

Another interesting approach to the the problem of graphic design for responsive environments is Style Tiles, which was mentioned in at least four of the sessions I saw. It's a method for designing for a client without creating full comps, somewhere between a "mood board" and a comp. I like that it allows for some flexibility, and look forward to an opportunity to try it out. Another suggestion was designing a few comps for different breakpoints in Photoshop/Fireworks and a style guide -- and then move to designing in the browser.

One Drupal module that would help with in-browser design (and makes testing for different displays easier) is the Style Guide module, which generates a page where you can test all common HTML elements for a site, so you don't miss anything.

There is still a lot of debate on how to handle images in responsive design. While the img {max-width: 100%;} goes a long way, it still means you are potentially downloading a unnecessarily large image on your phone. And unlike CSS background images, img tags have a single, immutable source. The Adaptive Image module for Drupal is suggested, as is Borealis Responsive Images, for creating smaller images on the fly depending on the browser size. It's a complex issue, and you can dive deeper here and here. For video FitVids was suggested (and FitText for flexible font sizes.)

What about content? While there is this mantra of "mobile first" -- designing the site around the smallest of devices first, keeping content super streamlined -- there's another thread that content available to larger screens shouldn't necessarily be hidden on smaller screens. Mobile users may in fact be looking for a more rich experience, not just the bare bones. So think twice before plunking in a display:none on an entire region. However, I imagine that will probably be a site-by-site decision.

Responsive Design Testing

So testing for all these various devices inevitably will be tedious. I collected a little list of some tools to help.

  • Responsive Design Testing Tool - See how your site will look in four different device widths together on a single page.
  • Adobe Shadow - plug in devices to a desktop, pull up your site on one, and view it in all devices (no need to surf to it on all devices.)
  • The Browser Stack, a cross browser testing tool, just added mobile support

And, finally, here's a collection of fun responsive examples to check out for inspiration.

There you have it. Hopefully something in my extended brain dump will be of use to you!

Watch all Drupalcon sessions here, and fill me in on anything I missed below.

Apr 03 2012
Apr 03

Posted Apr 3, 2012 // 3 comments

The parties are over, the tshirts have migrated into our closets, and the swag has been artfully distributed through our homes and offices. Now that we've all settled back in to real life, it's time to get caught up on what we missed. Session videos are up, and I've pulled together the links to our team and client sessions.

But first, DrupalCon Denver in photos:

Ah...the memories.

Now, back to business. We had oodles of content from the pre-merger Phase2 and Treehouse Agency teams, and a couple of excellent case studies from our clients. The list below covers topics from case studies to design, to migrations and more. Bookmark this page and spend a few lunches going down the list for an array of Drupal insights...you won't regret it!!

  • Robert and JAM's Intro to Drupal(Con) - This engaging DrupalCon opener takes an unexpected turn around 24:00 as Steven Merrill and Joe Bachana join in onstage for chanting from The Book of Drupal.
  • The Drupal Marketplace: How "What we Sell" and "How we Sell It" Affects the Community, our Clients, & Drupal - Panelists from four firms known in part for their "Drupal products" will weigh in on the issue of products, services, and the community in Drupal. Karen Borchert moderates (with Matt Westgate, Moshe Weitzman, and Ryan Szrama).
  • The Story of Energy.gov: The Ins and Outs of Turning Energy-Dot-Blah into Energy-Dot-Awesome - This summer’s launch incorporated eleven departmental program offices websites into the centralized Energy.gov platform. Work to move additional program websites and features to the platform is already underway. This presentation tells the story of what we did, how we did it and why. Presented by Cammie Croft (US Department of Energy).
  • We the People & Whitehouse.gov: Citizen Engagement Powered by Drupal - In October of 2009, WhiteHouse.gov was relaunched, powered by Drupal and open-source technology. In doing so, it leveraged over 100 contributed modules by over 800 public contributors. Presented by Tom Cochran (The White House).
  • Building Drupal Apps for Distributions - Frank Febbraro and James Walker walk you through the process of determining what functionality can be great ideas for an App, why Apps and Distributions are such a great fit, and even build one live. This session is great for developers who are curious about Apps or want to build Apps for Drupal distributions.
  • How Drupal is Transforming Government: 7 Case Studies - Jeff Walpole looks at seven examples of how Drupal is transforming government today in the areas of usability, visualization, platform development, accessibility, collaboration, engagement, and code re-use.
  • I'm Leaving You: The Risks of Dumping Your Old CMS for Drupal and How to Manage Them - There is a great deal of complexity in the reasons for migrating, but the decision is often not understood well amongst the various stakeholders. Nicole Lind discusses what to expect after the decision is made and techniques for managing the change given the various reasons you may have for doing so.
  • Drupal Distribution Case Studies: Leveraging Open Source Solutions - We know that Drupal and open source software are disruptive technologies, but the connection between awesome community contributions and market success against proprietary software is not always clear.  Ezra Gildesgame moderates this panel with Karen Borchert, Jeff Walople, Tom McCracken, Mike Shaver, and Marc O'Brien as they dissect this challenge and address its issues.
  • Zagat.com Case Study - In February, 2011, Zagat.com relaunched on Drupal, retiring an aging ASP.NET with a new site packed full of social features. Steven Merrill and Brian McMurray provide insights into the architecture decisions behind Zagat.com which enables the site to be incredibly fast, and you’ll learn how creative data visualization tools enable richer and deeper content interaction.
  • View Modes: The Many Faces of Your Content - View Modes give the themer the ability to show the same content in many different contexts and with the right display for each situation. Through smart use of View Modes, a themer can avoid having the huge stack of node templates and Views displays that we’re used to. In this session, Tim Cosgrove walks you through what a View Mode is and how to create custom View Modes both in code and with contributed modules.
  • Managing Highly Successful Drupal Migrations- From development, to data migration, to training, to transition management, Drupal migrations are fraught with challenges. Frank Febbraro and Mike Morris team up to walk you through best practices and lessons learned in leading successful Drupal migrations. (Illustrated by Laura Schoppa.)
  • A Responive Project Process - David Ruse goes beyond the ems, percentages and media queries by sharing how responsive design has affected how we approach and practice analysis, content, wireframes, design, testing and site delivery from a more holistic point of view.

Phew! See anything that sparks your interest?  Check out your top picks, and don't forget to browse through the entire schedule of content from DrupalCon Denver.  Have you watched any of our session videos? Were you there? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

As a part of the Phase2 team, Amy Cham applies her skills as talented writer and marketer that leverages her understanding of Drupal to do (and write) amazing things in the community. A voracious reader, she is always on the lookout for new ...

Mar 28 2012
Mar 28

This past week at DrupalCon Denver, I attended a wonderful BoF on project management. The session started as a conversation about the complexities of Drupal project management. As we collected a bulleted list, one item in particular from our list stuck with me:

In Drupal development, fixed budget projects exist in an instantaneous sense, but in reality evolve constantly.

One can never account for every unknown on any given project, even when given an infinite amount of time. This idea captures the typical project process exceptionally well as Drupal (and its community) rapidly changes and improves, but we often stumble on the "two steps forward, one step back" phenomenon as a part of this. How can we account for these external risks and explain this phenomenon to our collaborators in the project process? Without firm understanding of this concept, the frustration is likely to mount for all parties.The illusion of moving forward by several paces only to jump back detracts (sometimes entirely) from the fact that progress has been made. This often leaves development teams discouraged and clients, stakeholders and collaborators neglected. As project managers, we're posed with bridging the gap. But how?

Because sometimes modules become abandoned, patches never get merged, and other dominant features crop up, it's best not to guarantee the use of any one particular module, installation profile, distribution or any other kind of feature, but rather an encompassing functionality. For example, instead of specifying the use of the ShareThis module, specify the functionality for users to share pages with members of their social networks. Not only does this get at the meat of the problem we're trying to solve, it explains it in language that our stakeholders will understand, and it won't lock the development team into a dead-end in terms of solutions architecture.

At this point, I can hear site builders and business developers alike saying to themselves, "You expect us to account for building this feature from scratch when there's already something out there that does what I want? That will multiply the size our estimate!" The answer is: not necessarily. Obviously, the Views module is not going to be abandoned any time soon (and if it somehow is, there better well be an jaw-droppingly awesome successor). It really depends on the strength and the state of the feature the developers wish to incorporate, and how cutting edge the stakeholder wants to be. The most cutting edge stakeholder will likely be understanding of the two-steps-one-step phenomenon, so it's a moot point. Those who aren't looking for the shiniest tool in the toolshed should be happy to settle with something that is tried and true. As for those who fall in between, consulting on a feature-by-feature basis will likely get you what you need to accomplish the project: "We could go wtih module X which is currently the standard, or we can try module Y which seems to be up and coming for such and such reasons, but may have risks involved as it's still in its early stages."

A graph of Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle model. Drawn in OmniGraffle and then trimmed in Apple Preview. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DiffusionOfInnovation.pngAnother great resource to determine where a particular feature is, and where it is going is by consulting the good old technology product cycle diagram (More about the product life cycle on Wikipedia). The development team should be able to place where the feature falls in the product cycle. If they can't, then it's probably not a safe bet. Anywhere at the tail end of a growth phase or in the maturity phase is ideal. This diagram will speak to many clients, stakeholders and collaborators in a way that they will understand. If they see that the module they're interested in is in a decline or an early growth phase, they should be able to understand the consequences with little explanation.

A cry I hear coming from the coding side of my psyche is: "Modules and other functionality can't be swapped out so simply-- they aren't interchangeable. What if the module we intended to use is one I'm familiar with, but the one we end up going with is completely foreign to me?" This begins to get into internal risk mitigation and recognizing the skill set of your team. Skipping over the complexities of that (enormous) topic, before selecting a module and getting gung-ho about it, give your developers time during the design phase to familiarize themselves with the options, and gain confidence in their ability to manipulate them to suit the needs of the project. If they're not confident in this before the design is solidified, they may as well be building the feature themselves. How this affects budget, especially with regard to an increase, will need to be discussed with the client, and the budget balanced accordingly.

In the end, by avoiding specifics and focusing on goals (while still emphasizing the feasibility of the target) in the sales process gives the design and development team the freedom to accomplish the goals in the best way possible in the moment. If uncertainties arise out of product life cycle changes, the path forward should be determined by the stakeholders, so long as they understand the consequences and the available options fit within budget (which could encompass an entire blog post on its own).

All in all, my mind is still churning the ideas exchanged during the brief 15 minutes in this one hour BoF in the three day conference and I can't wait to contribute again to the DrupalCon experience (next time, at home base!) in Portland in 2013. Looking forward to seeing you all next May!

Image: A graph of Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle model. Drawn in OmniGraffle and then trimmed in Apple Preview. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DiffusionOfInnovation.png

Mar 11 2012
Mar 11

Examiner.com is a very proud sponsor of Drupalcon Denver. Part of the sponsorship includes ads on the Drupalcon site. The team at Examiner.com decided to have some fun with them. Five members of the team were chosen to be "subjects" of each ad. Marc Ingram is the fourth in a series of five stories chronicling different community member's alternate time-lines.

Prologue

"There's no place like home. There's no place like home", Marc muttered as he tapped his ruby slippers together and fiercely rubbed his Druplicon stress ball. The damned community had gotten him into this mess - but, frankly, it had also gotten him out of worse messes in the past. Toto jumped out of the basket and ran down the street directly at a man in a blue suit. "Oh Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!" Ingram quipped. This was because the man wasn't in a seersucker suit, a tuxedo, tailored, or even a cheap suit of the rack. This man, was more ball-like and alien than man-like. Who on earth was this and why would he put up with wearing the "ball"?

Toto sank his teeth into the man's svelt and hosed leg. The man screamed. Ingram looked down at his frock and cursed, "I blame the whole event on the 10 pints of beer I had...." The truth was, the beer had nothing to do with this situation. Fortunately, the situation had helped him focus on the "REAL Marc" - not the one in the pretty dress. He closed his eyes and slipped back into his happy place. That badass kick-boxing place. A place where his code reviews ROCKED and where he had pwned Drupal. A place where that damnable Toto had never come into his life.

Part I - The Workhouse

Little Marc had nimble fingers. They were fast and strong. He could make shoes faster than any of the other children. How he had come to work in sweatshop he'd never be able to fathom. He had vague memories of being snatched from the toy aisle in an Aberdeen Walmart. He'd never forgive himself for coveting that Mr. Potato Head with buck teeth and a plastic pitchfork. Marc grabbed the next shoe and ran the foot pedal on the sewing machine as fast as humanly possible. His captors were stingy and hadn't even provided electric machines. He had 18 hour shifts and was paid only in thin gruel and cruelty.

The little Ingram did not have happy memories of the workhouse. This was all about to change.

Little Ingram felt a draft from the floor. He looked over towards the workhouse wall and saw where boards had come loose from the wall. A beam of light cast across the floor. Marc ran towards the loose boards and squeezed between them. He tumbled through the hole, into the street, and down to the muddy gutter.

He felt a hand on this shoulder and then on the scruff of his neck. He was lifted up by the neck and dragged down the street. He could smell tobacco on the hand dragging him along. This "Fagan" had seen him slip out of the workhouse and took the advantage. Another little pickpocket to train. Ingram was about to learn how to "hack" society.

Part II - Depravity

Marc was taken to what seemed like a broken down and forgotten boarding house. Dozens of boys slept in cots any which way in the decrepit and damaged building. Quickly he learned that if he was able to bring home wallets, watches, scarves, and jewelry he ate rather well. The food was much better than at the workhouse - he almost always had fresh bread, a little veg, and every few days a little meat of some kind. His master cared enough about the boys to ensure they were warm and well fed - but he clearly thought of them as little more than useful tools.

Marc learned how to manipulate people in order to take from them what didn't belong to him. Sometimes he would simply stealthily steal but at other times he was very clever in his social engineering of situations - convincing people to just give him what he asked for. But Marc knew what he was doing was wrong. He knew he shouldn't be taking things that didn't belong to him. Still, he was so hungry and felt so dependent on his master. He justified his depravity because this place was so much nicer than the workhouse. The boys became his family. The boys became his community.

Part III - The Pony

His master had come to the conclusion that with the enormous success of the enterprise he needed a way to inventory and sell his ill gotten goods. He had heard of this crazy thing called the Internet and wondered how he might leverage it as fancy way to fence. The master had had enough of opening his coat and saying, "Want to buy a watch for cheap?"

Marc had proven to be the brightest of the boys - so the master licensed a series of "how to do Drupal" videos online and set Marc down to learn the nuts and bolts. Marc was really good with this CMS stuff and quickly went through many tutorials. Marc discovered freenode and IRC and began regularly logging into the chat system. As his reputation grew, he quietly started taking on projects unrelated to the "Fence" project. PayPal became his friend and he started secretly accumulating a nest egg - his life raft to escape his master.

Marc continued to work under the radar. Sometimes for money, other times for eggs - which he shared with the other fellows, and even once for a Shetland Pony that met an unfortunate and very very sad end. The pony was purchased from Marc for a fair sum by a lady for her daughter. However, this particular part of the story is so sad that I, dear reader, am weeping bitterly just thinking about it. The pony's end doesn't bear any relevance to Marc, the red shoes, his pretty frock, 10 beers, or Drupal - so I'll need to leave that for another time.

Marc had earned enough money to bolt. He escaped his captors - now a young man - and boarded a plane to British Columbia, Canada with just a laptop and a messenger bag full of granola bars. The community, through his time in IRC giving him advice, had truly saved his life. He was on his way to freedom! He knew who he was and what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to live in a tiny town called Fernie and he wanted to build Web sites.

Part IV - The Red Shoes, The Frock, Beers, and a Bet

Marc arrived safe and sound in Canada. Customs and Immigration let him march right through. However, as he left the arrivals Terminal - he realised that he had no clue where Fernie, BC actually was. These sour Canadians didn't seem to want to give the lad from Aberdeen the time of day. So, he headed off to the Edgewater Casino in Vancouver. You see, he had a plan. One way or another, he would find out where his coveted Fernie was located.

Marc sat down at the BlackJack table with his chips. He looked around the table - and in the distance, saw the Casino's mascot. It was a strange ball like creature with alien features. It look curiously like the Druplicon... Things were taking a strange turn. A young lady in pigtails, a blue frock, and a basket with a dog came around the corner beside the Blue Ball man. The man screamed "Boo", for no apparent reason, at the little dog in the basket completely sending the puppy into a conniption.

Marc began to play BlackJack. He intended to win enough money to hire a stretch limo to drive him all the way to the little town. He ordered his first beer. That was a mistake, because as he played he drank beer after beer after beer. As he consumed each beer, he lost more money. As he lost more money, he consumed more beer. Finally after 9 and half pints, the young lady walked over and whispered in his ear.

"I hear you want a little Fernie." She made it sound just a little bit dirty.

"YES", Marc gasped. "YES!"

"Lets play one hand. If you win, I'll make sure you get to Fernie. If I win - well, I get to have a little fun at your expense."

Marc readily agreed. One hand later - Marc had a Queen and a Jack. The young lady had a King and an Ace.

Epilogue

"There's no place like home. There's no place like home", Marc muttered as he tapped his ruby slippers together. Toto jumped out of the basket and ran down the street directly at a man in a blue suit. "Oh Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!" Ingram quipped. This was because the man wasn't in a seersucker suit, a tuxedo, tailored, or even a cheap suit of the rack. This man, was more ball-like and alien than man-like. Toto sank his teeth into the man's svelt and hosed leg. The man screamed. He deserved it from the night before. Ingram looked down at his frock and cursed, "I blame the whole event on the 10 pints of beer I had...."

Mar 07 2012
Mar 07

Examiner.com is a very proud sponsor of Drupalcon Denver. Part of the sponsorship includes ads on the Drupalcon site. The team at Examiner.com decided to have some fun with them. Five members of the team were chosen to be "subjects" of each ad. Kevin Bridges is the third in a series of five stories.

Kévin DuPont was the gatekeeper and blacksmith in the Town of Master's Branch. Not only did he create the things that held the town together - nails, hammers, picks, and saws, but he also watched carefully to ensure the evil and dark mole creatures could not, would not ever enter the town.

He was named DuPont because his father had build the one and only bridge that crossed the mystical lake to the island. The island became a walled city - safe for all those inside, built stone by stone by the band of protectors. The bridge served as the one and only entrance to the magical town and was known as the Terminus.

The water surrounding the walls was filled with magic that repelled all those that didn't know the special key - the sorcerer's name and the sorcerer's secret words. This Halt Terminus Access spell was designed to only allow those who knew the special words a way in. Those who were granted access would experience such wonders! The city was full of flowers, fine tapestries (made from the fur of chipmunks, river otters, and voles), and libraries full of books. All of these wonders were discoverable by the Indices of Mongo the Great.

Mongo was one of the greatest magicians the creator had ever brought forth. His speed was beyond compare. He had an older brother - a brother who had been relegated to the basest of functions in the town. He would wake the town up if the town ever slept. He was responsible for each of the doors in the town. He kept the town census. My Sevinus Quirrel was often known simply by his initials - he quietly kept things running in the background.

Kévin DuPont was aware that there were chinks in the armour. That the town was protected, but there were times when the good citizens of the Master's Branch could turn into dark and evil mole creatures. And if they were not carefully removed, could become a cancer in the town. A blind spot that could render the bridge irrelevant.

Cyberswat shook his head and took the 3D Immersion goggles off his head. That little town embedded in the memory core of the great tower of Iff seemed just a little too real. The seed of ideas seemed just a little too close to home. The great tower of Iff had been started when a speck of intelligence had invaded the Internet and lodged itself inside a CMS conceived of and by a student in Antwerp. Somehow a man with otter fur under his fingernails had managed to become a myth in this community after fleeing his home country. Iff had made his dwelling place, Slender had found a home in the city with the great golden triangle. Cyberswat had created a figment of fiction the paralleled the work he did in the real world to make it more tangible.

On slipped the goggles - Kévin DuPont stepped out into the Council Room. The Council Room was the central nervous system, the brainstem of the town. A worker ran into the room and muttered to Kévin. "One of the citizens left several weeks ago and has transformed. He has retained knowledge of the Sorcerer's special key. This mole has entered the city. We are breached."


DuPont summoned the Creech to the Council Room. "Sever the bond, remove the roles, ban the mole." The Creech was a being of power who brought order to the city. He was one of several who could direct who had access to each of the circles within the Town of Master's Branch. The Creech used the great census to identify the mole. The census provided a map to a great wall of drawers. Each drawer represented each individual who had ever been part of the the Town. The Creech slowly opened a wooden drawer which revealed stones on parchment showing what circles the mole could reach. Slowly he removed each of the stones and placed them in his pocket.

Outside, the mole disappeared. DuPont nodded - he was satisfied.

Without the goggles, Cyberswat quietly continued to harden the defenses working with the inner circle to protect the domain. Each and every chink that was filled further protected the citizens. His job was never done.

Feb 22 2012
Feb 22

Perhaps you’ve heard about Jekyll, the simple static site generator that powers Github Pages and a number of other sites including our friends at Development Seed. Jekyll is great because you can write a whole collection of items in Markdown and then easily turn it into a website.

Heykll and Jekyll

A few weeks ago, Steven Merrill and I had the idea to create a presentation in Impress.js using Markdown files for each slide. We enjoyed that Impress.js rivals many of the features of Prezi, but was ultimately just HTML+CSS+JS, which meant that versioning and tweaking the talk could be much simpler than Flash-based Prezi. For my lunch break that day, I dove in. The result is Hekyll, a Jekyll-based presentation generator for Impress.js. Learn more about the process of making Hekyll here.

Drupalcon Denver 2012 is rapidly approaching and Steven and I have been busy getting our slides ready for our Zagat.com Case Study presentation. We’ve been using Hekyll to collaborate and I have to say it’s been absolutely delightful. Our talk is in a hosted Git repository, so we can both be working on separate parts of the presentation simultaneously and, because all of the styling is done in CSS, we can focus on the content first and then make it look great.

Speaking of making it look great, Hekyll has the concept of ‘themes’ built in, which makes it super easy for you to create your own look and feel, or try out a few different ones. Right now, Hekyll only has a fairly basic theme based off the Impress.js demo, but we hope to add a few more simple general designs in the future.

Drupalcon Denver theme for Hekyll

Drupalcon Title Slide, powered by Hekyll

If you’re planning to speak at Drupalcon Denver and you’re interested in Hekyll, I’ve made a Hekyll theme based on the Drupalcon presentation templates, which is available (with installation instructions) on Github here: https://github.com/bmcmurray/drupalcon-denver-2012-hekyll.

I’d love to hear if you decide to use Hekyll for your presentation, and if you’d like to get involved, Steven and I are fairly actively working on feature improvements on Github.

Jan 24 2012
Jan 24
*/


Disclaimer: None of the following quotes reflects any specific individual, company, agency, or person.

From Corporate Land:

Why on earth would you need or want to go to this Drupalcon thing? It sounds an awful lot like your just going on a trip on the company's dime! Can't you just learn this stuff from a book?

If you want to go, you need to pay for it yourself and take vacation time.

From Agency Land:

We can't really afford to send all of you, how about we give you a fixed stipend to offset the cost. But we do really NEED all of you to go. Who knows who might be there who is looking for a job that you might be able to recruit. So, you all need to go.

From Independent Contractor Land:

Dear Husband/Wife - Drupalcon just seems like an excuse for you to spend our travel money. Why should you get to go to [insert city here]? And twice a year? We simply can't afford for you to do this!

So, what is the return on investment by going to Drupalcon? How will your experience change over several Drupalcons? What are the best reasons you can give your employer and/or significant other why you should go?

Drupal Means Business

This conference inside a conference (sort of a turducken of Drupal) can give your business a great foundation in what Drupal is and how it can service your bottom line. This caters to business professionals. You will have a great opportunity to network with other professionals who are navigating development of Web applications. Drupal Means Business is a day full of sessions on March 22nd. It starts at 10:30 and ends at 4:00 pm. You get lunch. You can attend the closing session.

Core Conversations

What happens when you get a gaggle of of devoted and determined Drupalistas together? Core Conversations. These talks are designed to help direct the next steps of this amazing open source project. These conversations segue nicely in the code and documentation sprints on Friday. It all helps move the project forward and leverages the project's greatest asset - the people.

Birds of a Feather

Ever been to a Barcamp? The BOFs are like a Barcamp within the Drupalcon. Folks sign up to lead breakouts to talk about a wide range of topics. The BOFs provide a great opportunity to learn, share, and network. BOFs can be on almost any topic from a truffle exchange to development tools to theming techniques to project management.

The Tracks

The tracks collectively offer something to everybody. Whether you need to learn more about eCommerce, or you've built a site but are not a coder and want to learn more, you will find something of value. If you are a coder and want to learn development from the best or if you are a designer and want to learn best practices in UX - you'll find something that resonates. If you want to explore the community and learn how to contribute or if you run a business and are looking for strategies that will help your small or large business - we have that too. If you are moving into the mobile space or come from NGOs, nonprofits, or educational institutions - you're going to fill the niche too.

  • Commerce
  • Site Building
  • Coding and Development
  • Design and User Experience
  • Drupal Community
  • Business and Strategy
  • Mobile
  • Nonprofit, Government and Education

You Need Training?

DrupalCon Denver will offer paid pre-conference training courses and workshops on Monday, March 19, 2012 to DrupalCon attendees and non-attendees interested in gaining additional hands-on knowledge on a variety of topics related to Web and Drupal development, including Drupal site-building, module development, user experience design, and more. These courses will be presented by professional trainers at the Colorado Convention Center, from 9am - 6pm.

Our Community Builds Really Big Sites

We will have presenters from sites like Examiner.com and from top Drupalshops like the Lullabots. Companies like Sony and Warner Brothers use Drupal. Government sites like the Whitehouse and members of Congress. Drupal is EVERYWHERE.

So What is the Return?

  1. Training
  2. Networking
  3. Sessions
  4. Strategy
  5. Contributing
  6. and it goes on and on

When you are asked what the value is, it simple as this - participating in these conventions can accelerate you business, your career, you acumen as a developer/themer/project manager. You will get the chance to rub shoulders with folks that build, conceive, plan, and strategize sites from top businesses across the world. All this - and it is only $400. - $350 if you register before February 21st.

A Final Word

So this all sounds pretty great right? I'm one of the Customer Service Manager/Volunteer Wranglers for the conference. I, with a bunch of other folks have put in quite a few volunteer hours to get this ready for you. So, what do you think? Can you spare four hours for the cause? We NEED onsite Volunteers. Its the community who help keep the cost of the conference low. If you feel like you can help out before, during, or after the conference we would gratefully accept time.

This Drupalcon is going to be the best yet. I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones. If you see me, take a moment to say hello. I'd love to chat.

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Nov 11 2011
Nov 11

With each week that DrupalCon Denver is coming nearer, the excitement in the community grows. At Trellon, we're not immune to that excitement, and we're proud to be a Platinum sponsor of Drupalcon Denver. We're looking forward to seeing members of the Drupal community there, both old friends and new. We're excited about the opportunity that Drupalcons give us not only to learn more about the direction of Drupal, but to help shape it. We're eager to learn what new and exciting things people around the world have been doing with Drupal. We want to hear about the great things you've built with Drupal, and we'd be happy to talk about what we've been up to lately, too.

We're also excited about sharing things that we've learned with you. As a result, we've put together proposals for a wide range of sessions.

Until midnight on Monday, November 14, you can head over to the Drupalcon site and vote for any of these that you'd like to attend.

We are already now looking forward to DrupalCon Denver to meet all of you great guys in person. Until Denver!

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web