As someone who helped work on DrupalCon Prague, it is very exciting to see the entire event finally start. I can't cover the entire conference, but I can give you a flavor of the con from what I experience. 

The "Big Lie". Remember that videos will be posted online for all the scheduled sessions. There are no videos for BoF's (Birds of a Feather). Another Drupalista explained that they go to the BoF's because they are not recorded. He can watch the videos of the sessions later. After I quietly looked him in the eye, he admitted that this is the "big lie". Sure, you can go back to see the videos of sessions you missed, but will you do it? Life sometimes just gets in the way. So, I will tend to go to scheduled sessions, allowing you to determine if you want to watch the video. That's a deal, right?

The JAM Show. If you were brave (or stupid) enough to be in Congress Hall at 8 am, you got treated to the ever-entertaining "JAM Show". I just can't imagine how much time these folks work on this 45 minutes of talent and humor.

The DriesNote. This year's keynote had many familiar aspects. Besides the 5 major initiatives - Configuration Management, Mobile, Blocks++, Multilingual, Views and Web Services. We heard a short video from each of the initiative leaders requesting help. 

Dries highlighted several specific features that many of us may not know about:

  • Accessibility improvements, with a nice example of a screen reader
  • Schema.org integration, noting that a simple use of schema.org is to improve SEO
  • Theming improvements with TWIG, more on this later
  • Semantic HTML5 fields, with an example of a date field using the native date handling on an IOS device
  • Redesigned administrative interface, with an attractive multimedia video

When Dries maps several user types with a common theme addressed by Drupal 8. The common theme is that people consider Drupal 7 to be difficult. The user categories: Small site owner, Front end developer, Marketing manager, and Engineering director. From my perspective, Dries made an interesting point: The CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) is often the person who selects the CMS.

When will Drupal 8 be released? When it is ready, of course. The word is that module developers can start working on converting their modules in "early 2014 RC 1". You can guess when D8 will actually be released.

Thankfully, the Drupal Association (led by Joe Saylor) will be impementing a true D8 release marketing plan. Again, one of the objectives of the marketing plan is to overcome the (previously correct) perception that Drupal is hard to use.

Finally, Dries featured a number of Drupal contributors, encouraging the average person in the audience that they, too, can contribute to Drupal.

Personally, I was looking forward to the Q & A session (moderated by my friend, Jos):

  • What about migrating from D7 to D8? As a short answer, it will be hard.
  • And now, the elephant in the room: "What can we learn from Backdrop?" For those of you who haven't heard, Backdrop is a fork of Drupal. Dries' answer was extensive and positive. Forks are fundamental to open source projects. Forking can start out to be emotional, but time brings out everyone's rationality. Everyone is still figuring out what is going on. He feels that we can all learn from one another. Dries emphasized that he believes in the features in Drupal 8 and he hopes to bring Backdrop back into the existing Drupal community.

There were several more very interesting questions that you can hear if you watch the Driesnote video.

Migrations. I guess that we have done enough migrations that I found that the points covered by the speakers were things we already discovered and manage. Most interesting to me, Florian recounted the challenges in migrating a large CSV that could not be opened by any utlitity. They demonstrated a trick to prevent the Migrate module from initially counting all the records in the CSV and running out of memory. 

The rest of the story here is that they found that the data in the X terrabyte CSV was fairly dirty, They ended up getting another, cleaner and smaller CSV which didn't cause them problems. If you ask "How can such a big dataset be clean?", the answer is that it's probably not.

Drupal Fixed Budget Projects: The Art of Estimates. Using statistics from over 300 projects ranging from 3,000 to 15,000 hours, Maxime shared some rules of thumb and classification methods to estimate projects. With the number of people in the room, estimating remains a bugaboo in the community at large.

One of the most interesting parts of this session was the speaker being challenged by a questioner who said that the speaker's company should adopt a true agile methodology. He said that they do fixed price contracts using agile, but they don't commit to the scope of the project. If a client can effectively prioritize the functionality of their system and live without certain features, that's fine. However, folks I was sitting with concurred with me that most RFP's are not written with requirements that can be ignored.

Internet access. Yow. Internet access went down! What happened? It seems that DrupalCon's WiFi was up, but all internet was cut off to the convention center. Some folks said that it felt like going camping.

Webform 4.0: Surveys in Drupal Improved. I really wanted to see this session. However, I needed to take care of business back in the states. This is one video I'll watch. I promise!

Building Really Fast Websites with HTML5. I arrived late and couldn't get in the door of this session. I'm told that the European DrupalCons are much more developer-focused, hence the popularity of this session. When looking at the group photo, my wife translated "developer-focused' to male-dominated. All technology conferences have a way to go in this regard.

TWIG and the New Theme Layer in Drupal 8. Some point to the integration of TWIG as one of the reasons for Backdrop. Some point at the "not invented here" attitude for holding us back. Opinions aside, TWIG provides some tremendous power and opportunities, but it will require a learning curve of all of us. The panel made a strong case for helping with the project.

Still hungry for more? Read about Wednesday.