Thanks to NWDUG for Drupal Camp North West!

Drupal Camp North West: logoI was at Drupal Camp North West this weekend, and it was brilliant. Thanks to Stephanie Hosny, Philip Norton, Paul Woodhead and everyone at Manchester Digital for all their hard work. The venue was great, and the food was amazing - most Drupalcons can't compete with the food they had, never mind other camps - and the organization was so seamless that I barely noticed it most of the time!

It was the first Drupal Camp where I decided to go to a business development day beforehand, spurred on by my imminent move to freelancing. But that was great too: I've recommended before that developers need to at least see the business perspective, even if they decide to go their own way, and there were some fascinating talks from that side of the fence. But also great to have Mark Taylor along, a man so much excited by open source that when you listen to him you can't imagine any other way: as he said in his talk, historically speaking, open technologies always win; or maybe it's just that the histories that are read are the histories that are open.

That afternoon, having chatted to as many people I could in a business context, I put my coder head on instead and wandered round the corner to the dev sprint hosted by Tech Hub Manchester. Dev sprints rarely shake the world, but they do tend to improve it for the better. This particular sprint give an attic full of Drupalers the chance to just plough through some much-needed work on the core issue queues. In only half a day, even I was able to move seven issues on, including testing and re-rolling the code for an Overlay alternative, which was an important pre-requisite to the removal of Overlay from D8 core.

On Saturday, I was initially able to kick back and listen to a lot of interesting talks, starting with two keynotes: an overview of Symfony from Sensio Labs themselves; followed by Lewis Nyman's explanation that good UX is everyone's responsibility, and had to be integral to the build process of any website or tool (or CMS.) This was followed by refreshingly frank talks: from Katherine Cory on how it's our responsibility to engage with clients, however difficult they might be; and from Steve Cowie on the pitfalls of rigidly conforming to Agile when flexibility of approach is more important, told through the medium of a comedy sketch involving agile builders....

In the afternoon I had my own talk to contend with, on using Drush Make to maintain and deploy your websites. I've no real idea how well it went - the room was pretty full, but I don't know how many people were that interested in it: the post lunch slump had kicked in, and I'm aware that outside of MCing, my presentation style is a bit dry and hurried. But everyone clapped very politely at the end, so I went off happy! All the more so because Chris Cohen had very ably warmed up the crowd beforehand with his compelling case for using IDEs in development: I'm not 100% convinced the gains are worth the loss of moving away from Vim; but I'm closer to conviction now than I was before.

We rounded off the day with a live broadcast from Drupal Camp Vienna by Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire - a distributed pan-Camp talk that actually (mostly) worked! - followed a talk about Omega 4 from Matt Smith. Historically I'm not a huge fan of the "do everything" class of themes, but some of the things he was talking about made me wonder. As with Chris' talk, it was very useful to have my preconceptions challenged: the landscape is always changing, and sometimes we need to change our tack to match.

I couldn't attend on Sunday, unfortunately: a 93rd birthday party a few miles north of Manchester meant I had to be with family. But I'd have loved to have seen pretty much every talk on the day, including: performance talks from Greg Harvey and Matt Galley; Jenkins from Philip Norton; a rant from Mark Jones; and the antidote to Chris Cohen's IDE allure from Chris Maiden, all about Vim. But thankfully Stefan van Hooft recorded a lot of the talks, and the organizers themselves should release their own recordings soon: so I've no excuse not to seriously consider cycling to Drupalcon Amsterdam....

As with other Drupal events, it was the other people that really made it worth while. There's no crowd like the Drupal crowd, and my move to freelance meant that I also had to swallow my nervousness and talk to a lot of new people. But that was great too: part of me is obviously looking forwards to commercial engagements with some of those I spoke to; but aside from that, it would be great to think I've established a few more links in the wider community of Drupal developers. Drupal has a strong supportive community that as far as I can tell no other open-source technology really has.

So thanks once again to all the DCNW13 organizers; but thanks as well to all the attendees, for making me and everyone else feel so welcome.