PNW Drupal Summit Highlights

The 2011 PNW Drupal Summit is over and I thought I might mention some highlights. My wife and two month old son came along to spend the weekend seeing the sights in Portland, so given that this was the first road trip with our first child, the complete absence of catastrophe was certainly the highest of the highlights. As for the conference itself there were many others, of which I will mention a few.

The Sessions

Two sessions that really stood out were presented by some folks from ImageX Media up in BC. Vanessa Turke presented Developing Information Architecture with Non-Technical Stakeholders and Glenn Hilton presented How to Recruit and Retain Top Talent. Both presentations were extremely well organized, informative, and, importantly, relevant to the projects I am working on for my clients right now. It's great hearing from really sharp folks who are doing things right and are willing to share what they have learned.

Mark Sonnabaum's presentation on XHProf has added another tool to my kit. A powerful and (relatively) simple way to debug performance issues - I should have been using this a long time ago.

Another super relevant session was Stein Setvik's discussion of the Search API in Drupal 7. I have a Drupal 6 to 7 migration project coming in the near future which involves the Apache Solr integration module. That module exists and is being actively developed for Drupal 7, but the relationship of that to Search API (there is none) wasn't previously clear to me, nor was I clear on the best choice between those two solutions. I feel fairly confident now that the Search API is the best way to go for this project at this time, and likely for any project at sometime in the future as it matures.

The Media module session by Dave Reid was another great disambiguation session. Media has been evolving pretty rapidly. It's been hard to keep up from one release to the next with what the current crop of dependencies are (file entity, styles), what the recommended field types should be (media field / file field), etc. Dave walked through the history of the module in Dickensian fashion, detailing the past, present, and projected future, giving me a lot more confidence that I am and will be deploying the best configurations of Media for clients going forward.

Josh Koenig's Drupal Scalability and Performance talk was notable for several reasons. His speaking is animated and colorful, he know's his shit (and that is how he might say it - see the previous item about his speaking being colorful), and the Pantheon sales pitch that inevitably found its way into the talk is really compelling. As a developer, server administration is something I do because I have to, because my applications won't run if they don't have a server to run on, and more commonly, they may run poorly if I leave server administration to my clients or to whoever they might hire to do it for them. The promise of something like Pantheon is that I won't have to worry about that. I could spin up a server in minutes that has been configured by someone even better at that than I am, which means I can spend more time on development. Of course Pantheon is still in a closed beta and pricing isn't yet clear, but assuming that is reasonable it may become my go to Drupal server platform.

The Schwag

And I should probably mention one final highlight: the bottle openers. These were given to attendees at registration along with a t-shirt and badge. It took me a bit to figure out what they were. They are constructed of a bicycle chain attached to a piece of a gear. In the picture it looks like a bottle opener, but that is due to my careful arrangement of the chain. When the chain lies loose these appear to more closely resemble improvised prison weapons, which seemed a poorly considered choice for Drupal summit schwag. But a bike part bottle opener certainly makes sense with bicycling and beer being notable elements of Pacific Northwest culture. So thank you Drupal Summit organizers!