DrupalCon Rocked Chicago

DrupalCon Chicago

DrupalCon has sadly come to a close.  After three whirlwind days, I can say that the Drupal community is definitely going strong, and a few Drupal companies have some very interesting developments on the horizon.

This was the most content-heavy DrupalCon I've attended, so there were far more announcements, revelations and community pow-wows than I can possibly share with you, but I did pick up a few highlights.

The most interesting of these is Phase2 Technology's forray in to the "app store" model for Drupal enhancements.  With the aid of a slick UI, users of Phase2's OpenPublic Drupal distribution will be able to discover and add functionality enhancements to their sites with a few clicks.  While this has become the expected standard for mobile devices and now MacOS, this is very new territory for a CMS.  By including an integrated app interface Phase2 seeks to vastly improve the usability of OpenPublic, and likely other distributions, by simplifying the process of adding complex functionality with modules and their dependencies, libraries, and features while also potentially facilitating a simplified installation of third-party service integration.

The ease of use and user interface improvements an app "store" or "console" would provide could be groundbreaking, and I doubt many would argue against such a step forward for usability.  The more complicated part comes from considering a world where app servers are maintained apart from the community maintained drupal.org, and where a "store" could mean apps for a fee, both of which could come out of the apps model.  Most reception of the announcements and demonstrations from Phase2 has been quite positive, but I expect to see at least a bit of controversy erupt, as the inevitable question of monetization always has that effect.  Phase2 makes it clear that the idea of monetization is a bit premature in their eyes.  In his blog post yesterday, Irakli Nadareishvili of Phase2 wrote:

We think paid open-source (GPL) apps have both significant opportunities, as well as challenges. Before we, in the community, can even discuss those, however, we have to first prove technical viability of installable apps in Drupal [distributions]. To quote Phase2's CEO Jeff Walpole: "iPhone App Store makes no sense if you don't have iPhone/iOS to begin with". At this point, for us, apps are all about usability and user experience: ease of finding, voting, vetting, installing and maintaining complex functionality in a CMS.

I think he makes an absolutely valid point, and I look forward to playing with the cool new UI before I read too much into the "store" concept.

Also getting quite a bit of buzz at DrupalCon was the beta release of Drupal Commerce from Commerce Guys.  I missed the demo unfortunately, but I heard a lot of positive reactions and I look forward to giving it a try.  Having more and better open source e-commerce options is a very good thing, and this announcement signals the go ahead to use shiny new Drupal 7 for e-commerce sites.

On the community side of things, my friend Jen Simmons continued her push for better HTML5 support in Drupal, and gave an enlightening presentation on the current state of HTML5 within Drupal, as well some ways to alter core Drupal markup to support HTML5.  Her presentation audio and slides will be online shortly, and I encourage anyone wanting to familiarize themselves with HTML5 standards to check it out.

Many DrupalCon attendees got to watch Drupal creator Dries Buytaert create the Drupal 8 branch live during a presentation.  Looking to the future is exciting for anyone involved in an open source project, so there was much rejoicing at that moment. 

I always enjoy my time at DrupalCon, but this time was a particular joy because of the tremendous reception I received from the Drupal community as a result of our current cover story.  The outpouring of enthusiasm is a testament to how much the Drupal community adores Angie Byron, and how grateful we all are for the countless hours of work she has done to make Drupal 7 happen.  I was honored to be a part of recognizing that effort, so thank you Drupalers and Angie.  You all rock, and I will see you next time!


Katherine Druckman, a self-described Drupal fangirl, is the Director of Digital Experience at Linux Journal. She’s an HTML-flinging, PHP-hacking ​webmistress by day, and a refined connoisseur of historic architecture and fine Chinese ceramics by night. She usually can be found surrounded by the charm of aging Texas buildings from the pioneer days or appreciating ceramics of the Song and Qing dynasties.

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