The Perfect DrupalCon

May 4, 2016

Last year, around this time, I was in LA eating at the second best ramen spot in little Tokyo.

My boss, Dave, and I walked into the best ramen place in little Tokyo. It was crowded and a lady took my arm and said “It’s worth it.” I looked at her as if to say, “Lady, I know and you are hurting my arm.” Maybe I said that out loud, I don’t know, it’s a blur. We didn’t have time for the thirty minute wait — we had a plane to catch. We grabbed our bags and ran down the street to the second best spot in little Tokyo, it was incredible. Which makes me wonder — how good is that first place? I may never know.

Don’t be me. Don’t just eat the excellent second best ramen LA has to offer. Take your DrupalCon preparation seriously. I didn’t, and it got me delicious second rate ramen. I, like many of you, sometimes procrastinate. Sometimes I think, I’ll just “wing it”. I think planning all my meals, talks, and social events is optional. It’s not just not optional, it’s not enough. You need to over prepare.


"DrupalCon is more than just a bunch of nerds talking at you. It’s also a bunch of nerds getting together to talk to each other."


Let’s use my vast — well, relatively vast — experience in DrupalConing to help you. This way you won’t end up at the second best anything of NOLA.

First thing to do is to make your schedule on the DrupalCon site. Don’t fret too much. You’ll change your mind about half the talks you plan to attend. Don’t overthink it right now. Setting your schedule is a base line, it will make you read through all the possibilities. Pro tip, plan to attend the Driesnote, it is essential you are there (more on this later.)

DrupalCon is more than just a bunch of nerds talking at you. It’s also a bunch of nerds getting together to talk to each other. Make sure to plan which social events you want to attend. If you aren’t going to these and chatting with speakers and fellow Drupalists — Drupalers? Drupalians? I feel like I should know this — then you are probably a shy developer, which is cool. There are drinks and food if that helps.

Drupal is not much different than the rest of the tech industry, and is predominantly white dudes. So it’s great to see an event with the specific goal of making women feel welcome. If you are a woman, or identify as a woman, you might like to check out Women in Drupal.

If social events sound like torture, then maybe a sprint is more your jam. That’s right! you left your office and flew to the Big Easy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put on some headphones, put your head down and code, QA, file bug reports, or document crap. Be the change.

Sprints and events are the reason to be at DrupalCon. You can watch videos of the talks, but you won’t get to interact with these smart, talented people through a video. Make sure to go up to speakers you enjoyed and say, “Hey, person, you said things I heard, and it was good.” Something along those lines, keep it a little awkward. Make them earn that free ticket they got for giving a talk.

Once you’ve taken care of mentally preparing for all the official DrupalCon activities all that's left is to Treat yo’ self. Release your inner Tom Haverford and give the world double freedom rockets. You are about to be in New Orleans. Hopefully you aren’t boring like me. I’ll probably just be working on blog posts about DrupalCon during my free time. Just kidding, I’ve enlisted my good friend Caity to make the most of my leisure time. I won’t be eating the second best anything while I am there. So enlist your good friend Caity, and if you don’t have a good friend Caity then, Yelp? Better yet, make a friend and use them for information about the city.

Don’t forget to sleep, maybe get a 10 minute meditation session in there during the day too. Meditation has been proven to be reduce stress and make us more open to learning. Considering the amount and range of information you will consume it can’t possibly hurt.


"Pantheon has the best shirts, this may be controversial, but they do."


You’ve planned your schedule, social events, sprints, and your free time. Now it’s Tuesday at DrupalCon. Which brings us to something I said I’d get back to, the Driesnote. This is a great time to be lulled to sleep or be guided in mindful meditation by that soothing Belgian accent.

After your short rest or meditation break — the first ten minutes of the talk — take your time rejoining the room and opening your eyes. Then pay attention to everything Dries says. And then when he starts telling us how Drupal 8 is literally going to change the world, take out your program. Start going over all the sessions and reassessing which talks you want to attend. Update your schedule accordingly. You think that’s all you’ll have time for here, but you are wrong. Drupal is literally going to change everything — It takes a lot of time to go over everything. Text your friends and set up plans for dinner, double check yelp reviews, read local magazine recommendations. Contemplate whether you want to be in the group photo this year. Decide, “eh maybe? Probably better to get to the bathroom or go do some work.”

You may have noticed I skipped a whole day of DrupalCon. That is because I have no idea what happens on DrupalCon Monday. Never been. I imagine it’s magical.

As you meet people at DrupalCon make sure to ask them about speakers, and what talks they plan to go to. This is especially important if you have never been before. This will help you avoid a boring/bad/underwhelming talk. I’d love to say every talk at DrupalCon is amazing, but there have been bad ones. There is also a chance that you’ll step into a talk that doesn’t go as deeply into the subject as you wanted it to. If you get some extra information from people on the floor you may be able to avoid these. Within the first minutes of a talk you will be able to tell if this is a speaker you want to listen to. If you find that you've made a terrible mistake, run to another talk.

Wednesday and Thursday have their own keynotes, don't give in to the temptation to skip these. On Friday there are sprints and a first time sprinter workshop. If you’ve never been to a sprint before this is the perfect place to start. Friday is a pretty light day overall, so hang out with any new friends you’ve made and enjoy New Orleans.

There is another thing we absolutely have to cover — the exhibit hall. I want to share the three most important things about navigating the exhibit hall. First, Pantheon has the best shirts, this may be controversial, but they do. I am wearing one right now. Second, there’s gonna be someone giving out free beer, and the line will be ridiculous. Remember we are in New Orleans, there are bars outside. Lastly, don’t just think about yourself, that ugly shirt you don’t want might look great on someone back home. It’s free, take the free stuff.


"This is the most comprehensive and complete guide ever. I have missed nothing here."


Let’s review all the ways we can avoid totally screwing up your DrupalCon:

  1. Make your schedule ahead of time.
  2. Plan on going to social events or sprints.
  3. Know where you want to eat, have back ups. This applies to breakfast and dinner (Lunch is provided).
  4. Have a friend in the host city. Alternatively, make a friend you will shamelessly use to show you around the city.
  5. Meditate to increase your learning potential, or get a solid amount of sleep so you are not totally useless.
  6. Use the Driesnote strategically.
  7. Group picture is optional, maybe go to the bathroom? (Just kidding, don’t be that person, go to the group picture, otherwise it’s just a picture of a sad blue tear drop.)
  8. Get (and keep) a pantheon shirt, (don’t?) skip a talk to get a free beer without waiting in line, and get ugly shirts for your team back home.

If all else fails, find the guy in the red beanie and NJI Media shirt and follow him around from a distance seeing what he does. On second thought, maybe just come up and say hey instead of being weird about it.

That’s it, that’s all you need to know. This is the most comprehensive and complete guide ever. I have missed nothing here. This is the end all be all of guides to DrupalCon. But, in the off chance I missed anything, let us know on twitter @NJIMedia or let me know directly @poettersbetter. As always we love hearing from you.


I have to thank SiteGround since I won a free ticket to DrupalCon from them, so thanks for that and for keeping my personal site online. Also, big thanks to NJI Media for sending Ian and myself to DrupalCon, we’ll bring back stickers and ugly shirts. If you would like to go with us to DrupalCon next year maybe look at our assorted selection of careers, some of my other favourite perks include Perrier and tiny cheese wheels.

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