The latest in a long line of DrupalCamps was held this weekend at the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It wasn't my first conference or my first BarCamp, but it was my first DrupalCamp. It was also the first event I've been at as a member of the Drupal Association, which meant it was my first event where I was supposed to actively flag for it. No one complained, so I guess I wasn't pushy enough. :-)
Although the turnout was a tenth that of the last DrupalCon, about 40 people, I have to say it was still a blast. Maybe it's just proximity, but I'd almost say it was even more fun than DrupalCon.
Perhaps it's the smaller size that allows people to be more casual and friendly than a larger, fast-paced conference. Or it could be the BarCamp-style structure; we didn't actually figure out what presentations there'd be until we got there. Whatever it is, I kept getting the feeling "this is Drupal" throughout the day.
I carpooled up to Milwaukee from Chicago along with the organizer of the Chicago Drupal Meetup Group, CDMUG (which can easily pull 20 people all on its own). We arrived just in time to figure out what presentations we were going to have. Various people volunteered topics or requested topics, and true to form I offered to do multiple. I ended up doing the opening presentation (surprise!) for the full group on the Drupal ecosystem, community, and the Drupal Association. As any teacher will tell you, giving presentations is an improv. art. Fortunately the Drupal community has enough material that one could go on for days.
What no one bothered to tell me, of course, was that not only was the presentation being recorded but it was being broadcast live on the Web, and folks in #Drupal were watching and heckling. Give me a break; it was impromptu!
After that, we broke for lunch and then split into Beginner and Advanced rooms. I spent most of my time on the Advanced side, opening with Karen Stevenson giving another update on CCK for Drupal 6. It was mostly the same presentation as she'd given for the inaugural Central Illinois Drupal Meetup Group meeting a few weeks ago, which I was able to attend, but had a much larger audience this time. She also touched on the new version of the Date module that is coming out soon, which had me drooling. Proper timezones (in PHP 5), complex repeating events, untimed events (soon)... I hate doing anything with date math because it's so ridiculously complicated. If the Date module can encapsulate the super-ugly parts, I may have to find some other client feature to whine about.
As a firm believer in recycling, I gave my "PHP 5, now what?" talk from Barcelona again, only this time without chx to copilot. It went about the same as in Barcelona, which meant people still didn't laugh at my jokes.
My favorite presentation, though, was given by a team from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. They've been working on integrating Drupal with Flash and Flex, and have done some impressive things with it. I've tended to avoid Flash on the ground that I didn't want to bother with a proprietary binary blob. However, Adobe has just in the past several weeks made big strides towards open sourcing Flash, to the point that it is now possible, supposedly, to develop, compile, deploy, and view Flash using no proprietary software. That piques my interest.
What piqued my interest even more, though, is that they're working on a SWFAddress module (as in, wrote one the day before) that they plan to contribute. SWFAddress is a Flash plugin that lets a Flash page have a bookmarkable URL. A bookmarkable, Google-friendly, deep-linking, open source, Drupal-based, Flash web site? OK, now I'm interested! They've already signed up to give a presentation at DrupalCon Boston. You want to see it! (As if you need another reason to go to DrupalCon...)
Dinner was a big stack of pizzas from the local college pizza place, courtesy of my employer, Palantir.net. Thanks guys, it was good pizza! Afterward, we just sort of hung out for a while before jumping into a few more talks. By popular demand Blake Hall, DrupalCampWI's lead organizer, gave a presentation on PHPTemplate theming in Drupal 5 and I followed up with a preview of theming in Drupal 6. Once again, as an environmentalist I simply recycled Earl Miles' slides from Barcelona, adding my own distinctive flair and some live examples. Immediately afterward, I had someone comment "I... Love... Drupal... 6... Theming." And he hadn't even seen it before that day! That was the general concensus around the room, too. It may not be theming Nirvana yet, but we definitely have a winner here. Thanks to everyone who worked on the new theme system, especially Earl.
After the conference was over, we headed over to a local... I don't know what to call it. BucketWorks is the name, and many terms fail to properly describe it. "The world's first health club for the brain"? A meat-space wiki? An open source building? A building that is itself a hippie? None of those is quite right, so I guess I'll just let its web site explain it, because I sure can't. It was cool, though. After that, since it was after midnight, we packed up and headed back to Chicago.
For the visually-inclined, my Flickrized photos and the full Flickr photoset are both available. Huge thanks to all of the organizers for making DrupalCamp happen, and to all the sponsors for feeding a room full of hungry geeks.
The community is Drupal, and that's why I enjoy conferences and camps and the like so much. Seeing people come together and share knowledge and ideas and time (and laptop power cords, for those of us who stupidly forgot ours; thanks James!) is such a wonderful experience. If you want to experience it personally, take part in your open source community. The next big meeting is DrupalCon Boston, and registration is open now! Come be Drupal.
For those coming to Boston, I'll give you the same challenge that I gave people at DrupalCampWI. Every day, set two expectations for yourself: I will learn something new today, and I will help someone else learn something new today.
We're expecting 700 people over the course of 4 days. If everyone tries to learn a little and share a little, imagine how much you'll get out of it. Imagine how much everyone around you will get out of it. That's community. That's enriching lives at a personal level. It's also good buiness, because that's how you get yourself noticed and hired.
Even if you can't make DrupalCon, try to find a DrupalCamp or even a Meetup Group in your area. Get involved with other people interested in Drupal, whether they're far above or far below your knowledge level. Learn a little. Share a little. Live a lot.
I'll see you in Boston.