19 April 2010

Of Conferences

As conferences and training go, I am used to two models: the academic (DHSI, Women's Conference, etc.) and the union (CUPE, CLC, etc.)-- both styles are hyper-organized and tend to run like well-oiled machines.

Drupal registration ran the same way (especially as I registered early, on Sunday) so I had no foreshadowing of what was to come. However, Hubby attended a pre-conference training day that was delayed by nearly 90 minutes as attendees tried to download and install the required software that was not suggested prior to arriving. I think the main difference is that Drupal is all about "the community" and empowering the people to lead their own -- which they really do best in the "Birds of a Feather"(or "BOF") meetings where people gather to discuss common challenges, applications or other aspects of Drupal.

But let's get back to the disorganization... this morning, the opening session was booked for one room -- one room that did not hold all 3,000 attendees. So they simulcast it in two other rooms but that was still not enough for all those who wanted to see it. After that, the next session ran very well but, not surprisingly, it was run by an academic -- all the other sessions I've attended have been run by techies and designers, many of whom seem to be either completely overwhelmed by the crowds or completely ignorant of any variation among the attendees. There has been much discussion over the fact that this Drupalcon is double the size of the last one which itself was double that of the previous one. Part of this growth is that they have moved beyond the open source fanatics and on to a wider variety of web-designers and developers. Drupal now powers roughly one percent of the web.

Oh, and moving 3000 people around 8 classrooms means a lot of full classrooms -- and by classrooms, I really mean rooms filled with chairs, a handful of electrical outlets and a whole lot of people trying to balance laptops and type without enough elbow room. The only time I opened my laptop was during the keynote when we sat at the lunch tables. There were traffic jams during each class change and lots of grumbling. Watching the #drupalcon discussion on Twitter (from my iPod Touch), I could see that wifi varied greatly from classroom to classroom.

Worst moment though was the last session we attended today, called "From Photoshop to Drupal Theme" that ran from 5:30-6:30. I had really been looking forward to it -- as had Hubby -- so we stayed. Unfortunately, 40 minutes in, when the presenters got to the point where we expected them to fire up Photoshop and show us the details, they said, "So that concludes our presentation, any questions?" There was a collective WTF murmur from the audience and several people asked them to walk us through it but the presenters refused telling us that they felt we all had the design skills -- DUDE!! If we had those skills would we have stayed late for your presentation??? I think not. Grr.

That said, I'm still learning lots -- plenty about accessibility testing, security settings, and planning for re-theming a site -- that I can apply to the CUPE 951 site and my other sites, so I'm not worried; I'm definitely still getting my money's worth. Hubby though? He should probably be on the podium instead of in the audience, and that's definitely something to chew on.

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