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DrupalCon - Thursday

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By Brian - Posted on 06 September 2010

The third and final day of sessions at DrupalCon.

Be a Happier Drupal Developer with Rules

This was my second session on Rules.  The first had been about the upcoming Rules 2 in Drupal 7, and seemed to assume a familiarity with Rules 1 (which I did not possess), as such I obtained limited value from it.

Rules is basically a framework for setting up conditional events without needing to use programming code, which could then trigger "Actions".  The session focused on practical examples of how to use Rules.

I attempted to take video of the presentation, but my secondary battery decided that a full night's charge was only good enough for 15 minutes of video recording (my primary battery easily lasted 3 hours+) so my coverage was somewhat broken.\

Acquia: Accelerating Drupal Adoption

This was a presentation given by Dries Buytaert about his company, Acquia.  Acquia is basically trying to be what companies like Red Hat are to Linux; providing a distribution and commercial support services.

Dries talked about two of Acquia's offerings; Drupal Commons and Drupal Gardens.  Drupal Commons is a Drupal distribution geared towards community sites.  Drupal Gardens is basically a hosting service, makign it easy to get a Drupal site up and running in no time at all.  It serves a similar purpose to in that sense.

We use Acquia' stack for, but are not using Acquia's services at all.  One thing I asked Dries during the Q&A period was whether Acquia supported Drupal installations that were not running the Acquia stack.  Dries was emphatic in stating that yes, Acquia supports ALL of Drupal, not just those running on Acquia platforms.

Keynote: Jeremy Keith on the Design of HTML5

This was a really wonderful speech about the principles behind the design of HTML5. Some of these principles include: Eliminate Uneccesary Complexity, Support Existing Content, Solve Real Problems, and "Pave the Cowpaths" (standardize on what people are already doing).

I have to admit that I've been sort've lukewarm towards HTML5 until now; I'd always assumed it would be forever and a day before IE implemented enough of it to actually be usable in the real world.  Jeremy Keith's keynote really changed my mind on that.  He really impressed me with how incredibly well thought-out the backwards compatibility of HTML5 is.

HTML5 codifies a huge number of things that have always worked in browsers, but simple have been defined as invalid until now.  For example, in HTML5 you can just use <!doctyle html> instead of the ridiculous string we have to use now, and this already works; it correctly trigger standards mode in IE.  You can just use <script> instead of <script type="text/javascript">.  You can use <link rel="stylesheet"> instead of <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/javascript">.  These types of things don't need to wait for IE to play catch-up, they already work just fine in all browsers.  You can also use things like <input type="number">, which will degrade just fine to normal text fields (which you would've used anyway) in older browsers.

Jeremy talked about the whole HTML5 vs Flash nonsense, which is really mostly about video, and implores us to simply use both!  He shows how you can simply embed Flash video inside the new <video> tag as the fallback content, browsers that don't understand <video> will show the Flash, browsers that do understand it will ignore the fallback content.  You can also flip this around, if you want HTML5 video to be the fallback to Flash video.  HTML5 video patents are a mess right now, but thankfully you can provide multiple encodings in the <video> tag to get around this (hopefully temporary) problem.

One slide I loved near the end of the presentation concerned how to resolve conflicts between different groups, with regards to the design of HTML5.  The slide read as follows: Priority of Consitituencies - In case of conflict, consider users over authors over implementers over specifiers over theoretical purity.  I really like that.

After the presentation, I was able to speak with Jeremy Keith for a few minutes (after mortendk got his book signed).  I told him I'd always been a defender of the bold tag (something he discussed in his speech), because I've always thought that boldness does have meaning beyond the purely presentational.  You can act boldly.  You can speak boldy.  So why is <strong> OK, but <bold> is not?

Coincidentally enough, I ran into Jeremy again a few minutes later in the hot dog line at lunch.  I told him he'd really sold me on how usable HTML5 was immediately, thanks to how carefully and deliberately it was designed to work with existing browsers.

Jeremy's presentation can be viewed in full at DrupalRadar.  Highly recommended for pretty much everyone; I think the general topic of Design Principles is widely applicable, far beyond just the web world.

Git Fundamentals

I've been using Subversion (SVN) for a number of years now, and while I certainly think it's an improvement over older version control systems such as CVS, there are areas where it falls down flat, such as extensive branching and merging.

Well the creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds, was sick of all the existing version control systems out there, and decided to write his own.  Thus Git was born.

One of the major differences between Git and systems like CVS and SVN, is that Git is decentralized.  This means you can do work on your own local repository, without needing a central server for every commit.

It also handles branching and merging absolutely effortlessly.  In fact, they mentioned that Git gets tons of bug reports from people who are convinced it didn't actually do anything, because it happened so fast!

I took video of this presentation.

Views 3

Continuing on my Drupal 7 education, I attended this session about the next version of Views.  Views is one of the most important 3rd party modules for Drupal, providing a super flexible way of displaying lists of content.  It is at the heart of pretty much every non-trivial Drupal site.  They were actually trying to bring Views into Drupal 7 core, but apparently this couldn't happen at the last second, so it will remain a contrib module for now.

Views 3 expands the flexibility of Views even more, allowing pluggable data backends (we were shown an example pulling data directly from Twitter), and also pluggable header and footer implementations instead of the simple textarea that has been available until now.

Views 3 also fixes one of the biggest limitations of older versions, which was the inability to do OR logic on filters.  It also improves the "Exposed" feature of Views, allowing entire forms to be exposed, and also Sorting options.

Writing Better CSS for Drupal

Another of the design/theming presentations I wanted to attend.  This session focused on specific techniques for writing CSS for Drupal.  The presenter talked about how it was better to remove existing styles than override everything, how to write a proper reset.css for Drupal, how to organize CSS into separate files, and a variety of other topics.

I took video of this event, however the speaker was very difficult to hear, due to what seemed like excessive bass levels.

Closing Session

At the end of the final day of sessions, they gathered everyone together one last time in the main auditorium for the closing session.  This consisted of thanking everyone involved (especially mortendk and Isabelle, the organizers of DrupalCon CPH), a look ahead to DrupalCon Chicago in March 2011, and finished with "The Drupal Song" by The Kitten Killers, a hilarious song of near earth-shattering geekiness levels.

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