DrupalCon 2016 – A non-technical perspective

DrupalCon Keynote

I was always planning to come to Dublin for the week of DrupalCon because there were a number of partner events organised with Acquia. I didn’t have a ticket for DrupalCon official though – I’d (wrongly) assumed it would be more technical than I’d have expertise for – so when I was gifted one I had no idea what to expect.  Attending 12 talks in 2 days, it would be impossible for me to give full details of my experience but here are some of the thoughts that I’m taking home from Dublin.

TLDR: I couldn’t recommend DrupalCon enough to anyone and everyone who works in the technology industry.

Monday – Kicking off with the Acquia Partner Summit

Arriving in Dublin late on Sunday night had left me a little bleary eyed. We rocked up at the Acquia Partner Summit Monday morning.

After a great intro from the partner team we proceeded straight into round table discussions which enabled us to share our experiences of working with Acquia and how we can further improve our respective partnerships.

One thing that struck me from the discussions was how strong our relationship now is and how lucky that makes us. It goes without saying that the day ended with a Guinness in what I’m told is the oldest pub in Ireland.

Tuesday – 1st day of DrupalCon and the Driesnote

With a huge emphasis on community at DrupalCon, we had an inkling that there may be a mention of one of our (former apprentice) developers so were delighted when Dries asked “Is Jack here?” in the lead up to an interview (see 1 hour 15 min).


If you haven’t checked out the Driesnote, I’d hugely recommend you do. It was a great talk that looked at some of the new features in Drupal 8.2 as well as focusing on the community and great things that Drupal has done for the world. As an agency who are obsessed with positive change, this struck a chord with us.

On to the day’s sessions…

‘We’ve just been on the phone to Acquia’

I’ve picked this quote out because there was somewhat of a theme throughout the conference that amongst clients there is a common confusion that Acquia ARE Drupal. They are in fact NOT Drupal, but it emphasized the reputation Acquia have in and around the community.

‘Drupal 8 is better than other proprietary platforms for content staging and configuration management’

The session looked at understanding why Drupal 8 is a great platform for multinationals. I’m sure this could spark some debate over opinion, but as a view from the multinationals themselves, it’s a sign that Drupal 8 is in a much better position to compete with traditional proprietary systems for larger enterprise projects.

‘Writing user stories should not be the thing that you are “doing”, you’re “doing” the project… they are a tool to help you do this.’

This talk focused on some of the intricacies of Agile and typical pinch points. The project lead from Pantheon had some very interesting perspectives.

Another talk I attended out of curiosity was delivered by a great Dutch agency who seem to be on a similar growth curve to Manifesto. They’ve hit twenty people and are experiencing similar pain points in structuring their agency. They’ve adopted a multi team strategy, something that’s not unfamiliar in the agency world.

Account Management for Drupal Clients

This session was on the need for constant collaboration, communication and openness; things that are paramount to us. As a larger agency, it was interesting to see how they’ve added these guidelines in to their service at a later date and something that appeared to be reaping the rewards for them.

The day ended on a boat. The official opening party saw us drinking and chatting with old friends and new. Notably we bumped into Jam (@HornCologne), who spoke fondly of the interview with Jack for Driesnote, and Darren Mothersele (@mothersele) who we’ve worked with on numerous occasions.

Wanting to get the best out of the conference’s second day (which would sadly be my last), Gabi and I headed home early for some leftover pizza and an early night.

Wednesday – Technoethics, work as play and Drupal next steps

Step up Emer Coleman (Tech Engagement at Co Op) with a thought provoking, if slightly chilling keynote on technoethics.


It’s an area I’ve previously read into so it’s great to see it brought to the fore at such a major event. Emer discussed the power that technology and more specifically search engine algorithms have over political voting decisions; 20% of voters are undecided and can be swayed by outside influences. One tiny tweak in a search algorithm could display more positive content for Donald Trump and convince the undecided. That’s a frightening thought!

Another profound quote about the prospect of bots taking our jobs “We thought robots were just taking our crap jobs but now we realise they’ll take all our jobs”. Aaaaaand mic-drop. I’ll leave that there.

Day two sessions…

“This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”

I started light with a brilliantly personal and real story told by Dania Gerhardt, the CEO founder of an agency called Amazee. It went to show that the start-up world is not without its problems. But if you persist with what you enjoy doing, you’ll succeed in the end. Her talk left us with the great quote above from Alan Watts; something I’m sure all Manifestonians can relate to.

‘The next big wave in software is open software, we can innovate collaboratively on a massive scale’

My next session is a topic of continual curiosity within Manifesto, exploring the possibility and practicalities of an agency creating an open source product. I could have written an entire blog on this talk but I’ll be succinct as possible. To give it context, 78% of enterprises now run on open source. That’s a massive increase on where we would have been 10 years ago. If we think about Drupal, it’s a product that was created alone by Dries and grown in popularity, functionality, and usability due to the community involvement.

The future of Drupal

In my final session at DrupalCon we saw statistics provided by Ben Wilding at Cameron & Wilding on the uptake of Drupal 8. Manifesto have just finished one Drupal 8 project and have two more starting soon so it came as no surprise that 2/3 all of the people in the room have worked on or are about to work on a Drupal 8 project. 100% of respondents to the survey estimated that Drupal 8 uptake would significantly increase over the next year. Who knows, perhaps in 2017 we’ll be talking about Drupal 9 and it’s potential.

Hugh and Gabi at DrupalCon

And with that, my Dublin adventure draws to a close. Regrettably I’m off home tomorrow so will miss the final half day. It’s not all doom and gloom. I’ve had an amazing time, learnt so much more than I thought I could. I’m off out tonight with Acquia and will be sure to discuss potential speaking opportunities for my second DrupalCon next year.


Leave a reply

You can use these tags:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Sign up for the Manifesto newsletter and exclusive event invites