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March 28, 2016

MidCamp Recap, the Future of Drupal’s Frontend, and the Importance of Events

Thought by David Hernandez, Manager of Learning and Contributions
Chicago skyline

I’m often asked why we bother with Drupal camps, conferences, meetups, etc. Being the prime sponsor of every DrupalCamp New Jersey, a repeated DrupalCon Diamond sponsor, hosting monthly coworking events in our New Jersey office, and the countless free community trainings we provide, FFW has a solid history of supporting in-person events. But, what is the point?

After all, we live in the world of tomorrow, where the internet connects us all. Our code is online, email has replaced letters, I use my laptop to make phone calls, online forums have long-term discussions, chat programs have real-time discussions. We’ve surely evolved beyond needing physical space, and wasting time and money on transportation.

Well, a funny thing happened this year at MidCamp (which FFW sponsored.) In this person’s opinion, a bunch of people started feeling a lot less bad about Drupal’s future.

Backstory

For the past couple years I’ve been heavily involved in Drupal 8’s theme system. Though I feel most of my contributions are small compared to the work done by some others, I try to stay involved and as informed as possible. It is hugely important to know where things are, and where they are going.

I can testify to the amount of energy and enthusiasm that existed in Drupal’s frontend community after Drupal 8’s release. Many of the problems that plagued Drupal themers were solved, and people were looking forward to this new world of sensible theming. Things were looking bright, for once. Until…

Decoupling?

In December, not long after Drupal 8’s release, Dries Buytaert published a blog post about decoupling Drupal’s frontend and selecting a JavaScript framework to do it with. This was met with excitement by some, including absolutely no one actually involved in Drupal’s theme system. Saying this whole discussion was deflating invokes imagery of a gradually shrinking balloon. Instead, you need to imagine a pin involved.

I won’t get into the pros and cons of decoupling, various frameworks, and what I or other people think about it. Lots of that discussion is happening all over the Drupal internet. Instead, I'll to stick to my point about events.

At DrupalCampNJ I met Preston So, an Acquia employee who has been on a literal world tour discussing decoupling Drupal. A number of other frontend contributors were there and we had a good discussion about what this all means and the different problems we need to tackle. You can find a recording of that discussion online.

I mentioned that many of us will all be at MidCamp, including a number of theme system, and base theme, maintainers, (myself included.) Sounds like a perfect opportunity to meet. Indeed, it was.

MidCamp

Preston presented a session on decoupling, and organized a BoF to dicsuss matters further. Towards the end of the camp there were many one-on-one and large roundtable discussions about the problems we all see in Drupal’s theme system, and how we might re-imagine it.

Much of the trepidation began to subside, and we started coming up with ideas and plans to move things forward. By Saturday, user personas were being hashed out, roadmaps were in the works, and call it Pollyanna, but I felt a lot more enthusiasm leaving Chicago than arriving.

Peoples is Peoples

As Pete once said, peoples is peoples, and so is Drupal. Regardless of how you feel about the Drupal community, other open-source communities, or even corporations, every product contains the fingerprints of the people that make it.

While technology is amazing, and capable of so many things, we still haven’t replaced the value of face-to-face interaction. I’m not sure we ever will. Online we are confusing, dismissive, quick to judgement, and impatient. In person, we are remarkably capable of finding common ground. We slow down. We empathize. We listen. We are reminded once again that we’re dealing with real people.

We are reminded while having lunch. We are reminded while sipping coffee and chatting in the hallway. We are reminded while discussing ideas over dinner with friends. We are reminded in those moments not crammed into little one hour time slots, where we can relax and breathe. And that’s why these events matter. That’s the point.

For more on the future of Drupal's frontend

If you are curious about the future of Drupal’s frontend, and even want to help, you can do so online and in person. There is a new Slack channel for everything frontend Drupal, a Google doc that summaries some of these discussions (Thanks to Chris Weber and Marc Drummond,) and we’re looking to hold a couple of events during DrupalCon New Orleans. Keep a look out for that.

https://slackinvite.me/to/drupaltwig
https://docs.google.com/document/d/168jnDzO2wT99trsN2x5Ero6Zgvfm7qxc5djtNknXLqA/edit?usp=sharing
https://events.drupal.org/neworleans2016

Also, take a look at Marc Drummond's post-MidCamp writeup for more on the technical details surrounding the future of Drupal's frontend.
http://www.marcdrummond.com/posts/2016/03/25/drupal-front-end-future
 

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Inspired. Great read. I'll been experiencing in person the best contribution so far. And that too when you involve couple of more people and gave them a reason to stay for a community.

Aliya Khan (not verified)Tue, 03/29/2016 - 07:54