Drupalcon: Day Two
Ahh, day two of Drupalcon has come and gone. Sorry this post wasn't up sooner... the wireless in our apartment decided to stop working altogether today, so I had to type this up in the evening and post it from the venue. C'est la vie. Briefly, I will let you know that I ended up skipping the morning sessions to explore La Sagrada Familia with my wife. A little bit of this post will be about that with some photos below, but I did make it back to Drupalcon this afernoon for a few sessions (install profiles, Ubercart.org, and a BoF session on training new Drupallers) and some fun meet-ups with other Drupallers I only know by their usernames and avatars.
So... Sagrada Familia. It is unbelievable. I really can't describe it, and pictures can only do so much. If you're ever in Barcelona, it is a must see attraction. It's pictured below... basically it's a huge construction process going on since the late 1800's to build a temple worshipping the Holy Family (hence the name). While I don't agree with the worship of St. Joseph theologically, the building, artwork, and wonder of the cathedral was not lost on me. It's simply stunning! The two finished entrances are covered with large sculptures depicting the life and sufferings of Jesus described in the gospels. They're simply incredible, though I preferred the side Gaudi did (the neo-Gothic side, not the modern angular fictures). Anyways, it's 8 EUR well spent to tour around, especially if you're still in town.
Christina (or Mrs. Ubercart as Boris calls/introduces her) is still not feeling 100%, so we came back after the tour so she could rest and I could wend my way to the venue. I got there just in time for lunch to wrap up, so I stood by the food tables and stuffed my face for a few minutes. There I ran into Matt Westgate (Lullabot [loves you.]/original e-commerce dev) and Gerhard (Killes) who I met yesterday but didn't recognize by his real name.
I left the table as soon as my hunger was sated and caught the second half of Boris Mann's install profile session. There's been plenty of work done to make install profiles easier to write and better integrated with the installation process. As of Drupal 6, you will be able to inject configuration forms and such into the install process to better customize an install. Furthermore, as more profiles get developed, there are more reusable bits of code out there for devs to choose from. crud.inc is one example (handles database functions), and the profiles already produced (like the Bryght profile available from their svn repository) are full of copy/pastable examples. Boris' main plea? Right install profiles. He said he'd love to see some Ubercart profiles setting up various types of Ubercart sites for different uses... and I agree. Will have to have a chat with Shawn when I get back to Louisville.
After Boris I presented the Ubercart.org session, which was really a basic community site setup/experience session. I was happy to point out some things we did wrong (particularly developing a live site on a beta version and not having a good backup plan) along with a few things we did right that have really helped build our community and consequently the project. I was able to get some good feedback on URL SEO, and I'll just throw out to folks that you really need to nail down how you'll use pathauto to construct your URLs up front. Nik Le Page pressed home the fact that it's not something you want to come in on the tail end and try to nail down. Another Drupaller filled us in on some tips regarding keywords in the URLs, and other modules were pointed out like the nodewords module (add meta tags to nodes) and global redirect module (to push all node/### requests to the appropriate pathauto path). It was a good time, although I felt like a lot of the folks were at least on my level in these areas... hopefully some people were exposed to new things, and I did try to warn folks up front that the Ubercart demo and development sessions would be Friday and Saturday. If I can't get a net connection it's going to kill the sessions, though... so let's hope that's not an issue!
A couple Ubercart devs, Chris and Aymerick, sat in on the session, and I met up with a guy named Jordi who had evaluated Ubercart a while back. His recommendation for the catalog was to abandon the use of taxonomy and use a CCK node type for categories and node references to give them relationships. This way data fields could be added to the actual categories themselves, and a fairly basic query/View could be setup to handle the loading or display of the nodes. I see some benefit to this, but I'm not entirely sure what a module would do to facilitate such an action. I believe the category module has tried something similar in the past, but I don't think it's lasted. I could see a use for a module to programmatically create and relate the nodes for you, and this may indeed have a broad application... but I'd need to be sold a little more on the use cases and type of code needed in a module before I did some work on it. Jordin's use case would be a large CRM, using the category nodes to describe customer relationships... but giving you a better UI and ability to describe categories than a taxonomy would.
We split up and I made it into a BoF (Birds of a Feather) session regarding Drupal training and mentoring. This is something I enjoy doing and would be happy to support... although it doesn't seem the idea of a longer Drupal College was very popular among the companies represented (Achieve Internet, CivicSpace, and computers Plus). A more intense, short training session seemed to be their idea of a good investment. It was great to sit in on this and hear a little about the workings of these companies and pick up the small nuggets they dropped here and there about the development process. Sharing a bit of their thoughts:
- Make it a rule to not let any single project be more than 25% of your revenue. (Granted, these are larger companies with large clients.)
- Take on small/under budget projects you feel like supporting and let them be the training of your new developers.
- For distributed development companies, take advantage of co-working and code sprints when possible to show clients your devotion to the project... CivicSpace will send folks to the client's site at the start of a project to really nail down the details.
- Project management is key. Talent isn't enough.
- Achieve will take the wireframes and specs and start with the really clear design issues (give 'em a blog) up front. This shows the client that work is getting done and gives them time to iron out the other requirements and redefine them as necessary. This is part of their rapid development process. Suggestion: bill by the hour, not the project.
- Computers Plus uses a handy feedback block for their clients. Clients can browse the site in development and leave feedback for the developers from any page in the site using the block. Incredible idea, and really helpful if you're just not sure you're doing something the right way. Who really knows what a client might be thinking?
That was the end of the day, so I ran off to find the other roomies and head back to the apartment. I eventually got back with Christina and we joined the others at an Irish Pub around the block where Boris, Liz, Ernest (souvent22), Nik, Balasz, Shakur, and a host of the NowPublic crew were hanging out. It was fun again to rub shoulders with these guys. This is where Christina received her new nickname... feel free to call her Mrs. Ubercart when you see her at the Drupalshow on Saturday. Apparently, I've talked with Ernest in the past about QuickBooks integration and never realized it. I think we just all need to get together in person more often... Anyways, there's hope for a bit of collaboration as Ubercart starts to flesh out its features regarding QuickBooks importing/exporting. Ernest is looking to produce a sort of one-click shop for small shops running off of QuickBooks, and it's looking like Ubercart with QuickBooks support and a smart install profile could do the trick. We'll see what happens... And he says (and he wasn't the first) that if Ubercart nailed down a recurring payments API he'd be able to start using it on projects. Well, guess what might just have to go into the payment module when I get back around to it? I'd love to flesh out these features in Ubercart, and I'll probably take chx up on his advice to look into an API compatible with e-commerce modules if at all possible. I'm not sure that it will be, but for chx I'd give it one heck of a try.
Until tomorrow... well, today I suppose. Ciao.