What’s the biggest Drupal event in the world like? It’s a hot, sweaty mashup of some of very best companies, minds, and personalities found in the open source community. That’s DrupalCon, and this year, it was held in London. Well, not actually in London, but in a Croydon- a gritty suburb on the outskirts of London.
You may have heard of Croydon- it was ground zero for the recent spree of riots that erupted… Though the riots had been quelled for over a week, we saw some lingering damage.
The conference was slam-packed with 1,750 attendees, sponsors, and speakers. Seriously, it was asses to elbows, as the facility was ill equipped to handle that many people. Also, their air-conditioning was inadequate. As a result, “geek reek” was an unfortunately prevalent aroma.
Dries Buytaert, the inventor of Drupal, gave his semi-annual “State of Drupal” speech that got the conference kicked off. While most of it was what you might expect it to be, I was particularly pleased with his commitment to reduce the number of bugs in Drupal 8’s release. Since Drupal 7 had so many issues, bug fixing has become a primary focus of the next release.
There were tons of informative sessions at DrupalCon London, but the weak air-conditioning made it difficult to concentrate sometimes. A business track highlighted real world examples of corporate websites running Drupal. I also got to see a live demo of Aegir- a distributed provisioning system for Drupal. After a few hiccups, their live demo concluded with a solid install.
Drupal groupies are a really passionate bunch! Here’s a shot of me posing with someone in Drupalicon cosplay.
The organizers of DrupalCon London had some interesting ideas for entertainment. First, we were all invited to attend the opening night of “Batman Live” in London’s O2 Center. The O2 center is crazy. Try to imagine the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit if it were surrounded by a town of restaurants and covered by a giant tent. I’m not a theatre critic, but “Batman Live” sucked. A more appropriate title might be, “Batman Meets the Circus.” Someone was actually brave (or should I say rude) enough to actually shout, “BOOOO!” when Batman fought Catwoman.
Directly following the play was the after party, and after the after party was the hotel lobby….by way of double-decker bus. By hotel lobby, I mean that I went directly back to the hotel- Jetlag had a powerful grip on my sense of well being. The after party itself was pretty fun, but the club was too dark and too loud to really do any networking.
At the after party, I actually caught up with Dries. I intentionally wore my WordPress shirt because I was astonished by how many times the speakers at DrupalCon compared their platform to WordPress. Typical WordPress events hardly mention other platforms, and I was a little astonished by how competitive the Drupal community was.
English folks were generally quite polite, except for this gentleman who went out of his way to explain that American beef was inferior to English beef. He was clearly no stranger to alcohol, and he continued his diatribe despite me pointing out that it was England who thrust mad cow disease onto the world stage. Regardless, I’m not sure why he “had beef” with us. Maybe he’d had a few too many pints of artificial courage?
Before leaving for London, I listened to all sorts of advice warning me that English food was gross. I found this to be completely untrue. Their food was as good as their beer! Instead of warning me about the food, I wish people would have warned me about how expensive London is.
Even their dessert was amazing. Can you believe this is how they do peach ice-cream?
After the conference, we headed into London proper for some sightseeing and to hold a customer meet-up. We treated our local London customers to some food and drink at The Book Club- a really hip bar in a trendy party of town.
Here we are posing in front of London’s famous Tower Bridge which is often confused with the London Bridge. The old London bridge was actually moved to Arizone about 50 years ago, and the new London Bridge is just ugly. Aside from a crappy venue and an even crappier hotel, DrupalCon London was a terrific event. However, to be perfectly fair, it should have been called DrupalCon Croydon.