DrupalCon 2016 NOLA

Alex Miner and Len Brashear in frontof the inflatable Drupal logo

Alex Miner (left) and Len Brashear (right) represent Northwestern IT AMPS at DrupalCon

The AMPS team headed off to New Orleans this week to attend DrupalCon 2016, the largest annual conference worldwide for the Drupal community. Alex and I came representing Northwestern IT, but we weren’t alone. Richard Goodrow, developer for the School of Communication, and John Serafin, developer for NUBIC in the Feinberg School of Medicine, had also joined us to divide and conquer the vast array of sessions down in the Big Easy.

AMPS very recently completed the final phase of our Drupal 6 retirement process, so Alex and I decided to focus our time at the conference on exploring the up and coming Drupal 8 landscape, and assessing its readiness for production sites. With that in mind, we broke down the schedule, and split up to tackle as many sessions as we could on D8 module development, theming, configuration management, and Symphony components.

I’ve put together a roundup of highlights from some of the best presentations we attended, and the lessons we learned below:

Day 1

Dries Keynote

Founder, and Lead Developer of Drupal, Dries Buyaert kicked-off Drupalcon 2016 addressing the current status of Drupal via the traditional Driesnote.  Noting the increased adoption rate of Drupal 8 vs Drupal 7, Dries unveiled several new additions to Drupal 8.1 core including UI Migrations, BigPipe, composer support, and new caching options.  Dries proposed several new initiatives for advancing Drupal as a platform. Utilizing data from the 2016 State of Drupal Survey, these new initiatives help identify areas of improvement for Drupal content creators, site builders, themers, and developers moving forward. Dries commented on the need for advancing customer experience, including cross channel site opportunities and spoken experiences.  The keynote concluded with a demonstration of the new Drupal 8 Alexa Module.  In this Dries exhibits a grocery store order, via spoken experience, utilizing Alexa interacting with a Drupal 8 grocery store site.

D8 Theming – Am I doing this Right?

Presenter Morten Birch Heide-Jørgensen, web designer at geek Röyale & Tag1 consulting, is one of many strong characters in the Drupal community.  His D8 theming session was quite the show, introducing conference-goers to his method for theming in Drupal 8.  The presentation demonstrated how to add classes(via node id) utilizing twig templates, example folder structure using SMACSS, and an overview of d8 template naming conventions.  Morten finished up the session with a rant on his despise for a bloated Drupal core, stressing the near mistakes of the past(960grid), in response to Dries’ call for a preprocessor in core in the keynote.

Amazing user experience with Ember

With the help of D8, ember, and ember liquid-fire; this session, led by developer Edward Faulkner, was indeed “amazing”. Edward walked through a new Drupal 8, ember supported, version of drupal.org complete with simplified editing interface and pop-out 3D image/link transition effects. The session functioned as a highlight reel of what is now possible with Ember and the theming system in Drupal 8.

Day 2

AMPing up Drupal

Matthew Tift, Karen Stevenson, and Marc Drummond of Lullabot used this session to introduce Google AMP to the Drupal Community. They showcased a trio of tools (module, library, and theme) for adding Google AMP to both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8. The module requires some configuration and the session just provided a basic example configuration. The Google Amp implementation for Drupal can be demoed at https://amp.lullabot.com/news/how-to-get-google-amp?amp&warnfix

Day 3


There was a lot of buzz around the conference, and BigPipe was a big part of that excitement.  Wim Leers, Senior Software Engineer at Acquia, and Fabian Franz, Senior Performance Engineer at Tag1 Consulting, showcased Drupal’s newest caching technology BigPipe. The session provided an overview of the BigPipe module, which introduces BigPipe caching techniques to Drupal 8.  The BigPipe technique, originally created by Facebook, aims to improve the perceived speed of a page load by abandoning the traditional “Single Flush” strategy of page rendering. BigPipe is now included in Drupal 8.1 core as an experimental module.  The module requires zero configuration and an example setup is available at http://bigpipe.demo.wimleers.com. The session provided an overview of other Drupal 8 smart caching techniques including cache tags and auto-placeholdering.  Additionally, Wim and Fabian highlighted other modules, including Refreshless, which implements rails like turbolinks for Drupal.

In Summary

DrupalCon New Orleans was an incredibly experience. The community really utilized the conference to showcase the potential promised by the changes introduced in Drupal 8.  I’m excited about developing in Drupal 8, and I cannot wait to utilize the technologies and techniques featured in the sessions at DrupalCon New Orleans.