Great Sessions from DrupalCon 2020

Concept art for DrupalCon Global 2020 with white lettering on a filtered image with the globe of Earth being held up by hands.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the completely virtual DrupalCon Global 2020 and I wanted to share my thoughts.These are my thoughts about the completely virtual DrupalCon Global 2020. DrupalCon is a great event. I have been to many of them in person, and I always find it valuable from a personal and professional standpoint. I was especially looking forward to Minneapolis, as my dad is from Minnesota. I have family in Minneapolis and the rest of the state. So of course I was disappointed when the pandemic forced the live event to be postponed. 

Despite that disappointment, I thought it was still really cool to experience for the first time ever that DrupalCon ran as an entirely virtual event (although there have certainly been aspects of the event that were online, like IRC and Slack chats during the code sprints).

The Virtual Conference Experience

The event was run via a tool called Hopin. Hopin was apparently used by Midcamp as well a little earlier this year. Folks who were there already had some practice with the features. The Hopin interface was pretty nice. The chat areas were broken out so there were specific chats for the stage, sessions, and booths. There was also a Networking tab where you could video chat with random attendees. You could invite other people to one on one or group chats.

There were some technical glitches with the video during some sessions. Audio and video occasionally got out of sync and required exiting and reentering the session to get stuff working. For the most part, the video tools worked really well.

I saw several people saying this was the first time they could do a DrupalCon due to the lower price. I am sure it also helped not having to pay for and take work time off for travel. It was pretty cool seeing presenters and other folks home workspaces behind them. One presenter even presented from outside, although he did lose his connection a bit during the session.

The online nature of the event added some interesting dynamics. Presenters were able to pull people into the screen to ask questions or discuss topics. Some presenters followed the chat and responded to questions. Others had someone else gather chat questions for them and answer them all at the end.

The Sessions

These were a few of my favorite sessions, in no particular order:

JavaScript is Coming to Eat You

The title of this sounds a bit doom and gloom. This was actually a very nice historical overview of web development. It was also a great take on how Drupal still has a place in a world that JavaScript eats more of every day.

Big systems, big problems: lessons learned building 40 design systems

This session was delivered by a duo from Palintir. I found it really cool because they went really deep into the process of defining components. They also discussed the importance of communication and how design systems can facilitate that. I highly recommend this one if you are looking into implementing a pattern library and/or style guide.

An overview of Drupal 8 front-end component integration methods

I’ve seen Brian Perry give versions of this session before. This is a really good talk if you want to see the technical side of theming with a pattern library. He also goes into the pros and cons of the various major approaches. He also discusses a few of the modules in the ecosystem that are necessary or helpful. UI Patterns, UI Patterns Pattern Lab (one he maintains), and several others.

Your Component Library is not a Design System

This was an informative talk by the maintainers of the Emulsify Design System. The new version of Emulsify has both a component library and a ‘style guide’. They give some useful background of the philosophy behind why.

The component library is the collection of ‘patterns’. Basically, the UI workshop that Brad Frost describes in The Workshop and the Storefront. The style guide is a branding artifact that describes the design system. A style guide gives users instructions on how those component pieces work together as a system. In Emulsify DS you build the style guide portion with Gatsby. I haven’t had a chance to use the Gatsby piece on project work. I have, however, been working with the new StorybookJS version of Emulsify quite a bit lately. StorybookJS is a great alternative to Pattern Lab. It is easy to set up and work with during development.

From squiggles to straight lines: Sketching discovery & UX work

This was another very nice look at the discovery process, and the hand-drawn slides were a very nice touch. I have always drawn. This session made me really want to put some deep thought into bringing more sketching into project planning. I also want to dust off the journals I was keeping up with pre-pandemic.

Of course, there were lots of other enjoyable sessions and panels. I hope that virtual DrupalCon is something we keep doing in the future. I think it will bring DrupalCon to a lot more people, and the people are what it is all about.

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