This year the North America DrupalCon will be held in Baltimore, Maryland during the week of April 24th through April 28th. The North American conventions have averaged around 3,000 attendees in recent years and so are definitely a premier event in the field. The tickets for full access aren’t free, and though perhaps not as pricey as some other tech industry conferences, still worthy of consideration as to the value of the event itself versus the cost of travel, lodging, and attending.
One reason some people may decide that attending in person isn’t worth the cost, is that all of the sessions and keynotes at the DrupalCon are recorded and made available for free over the Internet. While an entrepreneurial convention organizer might balk at this gesture, since it might ultimately reduce the maximum potential tickets sold to the events, this altruistic gesture of sharing of information is a core tenet of the Drupal community and ensures the people all over the world can learn and benefit from the experiences of the DrupalCons.
However, as great as that video access is, it cannot replicate the intrinsic value of face-to-face meetings and the connections one can make at an event like a DrupalCon. Whether your goal is to seek help on a module with the actual creator of it, to seek out a vendor to service your project, or to find new clients that your company can work for, a DrupalCon provides a wealth of networking possibilities.
One tip that may be helpful for new attendees - if you are interested in engaging with people of similar interests or goals you should check out the “BoFs” or “birds of a feather” ad hoc meetings. These get loosely organized shortly before DrupalCon and you’ll find notice boards on site the week of the event with rooms and listings. They’re basically round table like discussion groups centered around specific topics, and can be a great way to meet and talk to new people working on the same kinds of problems that you are.
DrupalCons can also be a great excuse to do some sightseeing or just have a vacation disguised as work. Baltimore itself is an old city, as far as cities in the USA go at least, and has many different attractions to visit. Of course, like just about any large city it can have its rough spots, so it is important to be mindful and smart about your tourist activities.
For the serious DrupalCon attendee, being there in person can be a privileged opportunity to learn about the next great things in store for the Drupal project and perhaps engage with some of the core development team in person. Perhaps more so now than in the past, since the Drupal development roadmap and deployment schedule has changed to incorporate more significant and fundamental updates throughout the year, each new DrupalCon promises to have some interesting items of information in store for its attendees.
Whereas in the past, during Drupal 8’s long development path (years) it wasn’t always guaranteed that there would be a big reveal at the latest DrupalCon, especially when the codebase reached a state of code freeze (no new features). Now, the community is sure to get some demonstrations of features that will be added within the next few months, and surely reveals of what is slated to be worked on for the next minor version release later in the year.
Either way you choose, whether to attend in person or watch sessions and keynotes over the Internet, this year’s DrupalCon promises to be a great event. If you do happen to attend in person though, please come by the Monarch Digital booth and say hello!