Wait, is This BADCamp 2011?
This Drupalcon felt a bit more like a camp than conference. It was more modest in scale than the Drupalcons I’ve attended in North America, and a high percentage of attendees were developers rather than businesspersons exploring Drupal as a solution to their online needs.
I attribute this to the transition that Drupal is currently undergoing. With Drupal 7 at full maturity, the broad momentum has been shifting ever so slowly towards the development of Drupal 8. But things are now picking up, and developers were in town to obtain insights and train on the platform, which is radically different than previous major versions.
The Dries Speaks
One of the most insightful talks at Drupalcon came from Dries Buytaert. He outlined the status of Drupal, addressed current pain points in the platform, and talked about other solutions in the web application space.
In summary, Dries indicated that Drupal 8 is finally ready for small site construction and for larger sites, provided they are not in production. (A week after his talk Drupal 8 RC1 has been released). A goal for Drupal 8 was to obtain a larger portion of the small sites that competitors such as Wordpress take, and to do that the site builder and themer experience out-of-the box had to be vastly improved. That said, Drupal 8 is still having its cake and eating it too. Developers will still enjoy the depth that Drupal provides, which will continue to cement the CMS’s status as a platform for major web applications.
Dries acknowledged the pain that shops feel with the Osborne Effect, which states that the announcement of a new release slows adoption of the current version. As such, the momentum of Drupal has slowed for some Drupal agencies. However, he expects Drupal 8 to increase interest in Drupal, and for activity to start rising, much like what happened for Drupal 7 was released.
The developers I talked to had different thoughts on the status of Drupal 8. Opinions ranged from “it’s ready to start building websites” to “it’s going to take a few months.” One major concern about the new platform’s readiness is the lack of contrib module support. While many key modules are now in Drupal 8 core, much of the functionality that gives Drupal its breadth is not yet ported over.
One thing is clear: the developers acquainted with object-oriented frameworks and industry-standard development are excited by Drupal 8. The shift to Symfony and moving configuration into files should offer a much easier development process for heavy hitters and novices alike. But even though Drupal 8 is “ready,” getting to an overall happy place might take some time.
The Drupal Brand’s Staying Power
Although the underlying framework of Drupal has changed, its brand concept of being an extensible and powerful open-source framework for developers should persist. The major obstacle now is its initial learning curve, and there is much for the broader community (if they’re still onboard) to learn given the significant shift, which looks to be for the better -- at least in the long term.
At Kalamuna, our senior developers are preparing for Drupal 8’s rise. This will enable the rest of our team to transition more smoothly when the opportunities are more regular. The balancing act here is that we continue to support websites in Drupal 6 and 7, and build Drupal 7 websites, which will be viable and maintained for years to come.
So what does this mean for you? If you have a complex site and are looking to upgrade to Drupal 8 from a previous version, you may want to wait for the Drupal community to become more acquainted with the new framework, otherwise the upfront costs of development may be tough to stomach. However, if you have a simple site, now is not a bad time to start engaging agencies about Drupal 8.
Leaving a Free Catalonia
I was able to fly into Barcelona on the weekend prior to the conference and explore the area with friends. The city reminded me of San Francisco, an open, young, international port city, but with hundreds of years of history behind it. The community-oriented city was in its element due to the annual Merce Festival taking place, and it was a perfect time to have a conference. So thanks to the Drupal Association for the thoughtful planning!