min read
November 7, 2023
November 7, 2023

My First DrupalCon Experience at Lille

My First DrupalCon Experience at Lille
Table of contents

A few months back, QED42 gave some of us the opportunity to attend the DrupalCon in Lille, France. A DrupalCon is a big deal and a highly-anticipated event in the Drupal community. At Lille, we got to meet other developers, learn about the latest in Drupal, and hear from experts in the field.

The day before the event, on October 16, we got to Lille. We checked in and headed straight to see the venue, the impressive Lille Grand Palais.

Grand Palais at Lille

One of my colleagues was presenting at the convention about data privacy and our work with UNICEF. He wanted to attend a speaker training event hosted by Drupal Belgium, and I decided to go along. It turned out to be quite different from what I expected. Instead of experienced speakers sharing their session experiences, there was a voice coach who gave an excellent talk on using your voice effectively to engage the audience.

After that, I joined the volunteer briefing. They showed us around the place and talked about our duties, like manning the registration desk, overseeing sessions, and helping with contributions. We then regrouped to put up the QED42 booth and took a walk through the exhibition area.

QED42 booth at DrupalCon Lille

Later, I saw Michaela putting up signs in the ladies restroom, indicating it was open to women and trans individuals. It's a simple thing, but the first time I'd seen it in real life, and it made me happy to see the community being inclusive. I wrapped up my day with dinner alongside my community sister Surabhi and her friends. We explored the charming Lille city center, all lit up and beautiful.

Lille, all lit up and beautiful

Day 1

On the first day at the registration desk, I noticed these wristbands that let you choose your social level. It reminded me of a question someone asked during a session I presented at Drupal Developer Days (DDD) 2023 Vienna about making events more introvert-friendly. I didn't have an answer then, but these bands at DrupalCon seemed like a great solution. Later at DrupalCon, I also saw the social battery indicator badge from Calibirate. It was nice to see products like these that show your willingness to be social without making things awkward.

Social indicator badge at DrupalCon Lille

This year's Dries note was truly special, with captivating illustrations, storytelling, and the rich history of Drupal that captured everyone's attention. It was also great to learn about the achievements and contributions of this year's winners of the FFW Women in Drupal Awards, which recognizes women who make valuable contributions to the community.

Next up was the Drupal Coffee Exchange BoF. At first, I thought it was just a place for people to grab coffee and chat about Drupal. Then I heard about Talking Drupal's episode on the coffee exchange, where you exchange coffee beans – you bring a bag and take a bag. I found the idea intriguing, a way for coffee enthusiasts to connect over their shared passion. So, I brought a bag of coffee beans to see what it was all about.

Coffee exchange at DrupalCon Lille

We began with a bit of BoF history, and Amy June shared the tale of the "brick of shame." We went around the table, talking about the coffee we brought and why we enjoyed it, and then we picked one we liked. I met Fabian Bircher, who chose my coffee beans, and later, we crossed paths again in the contribution sprint to work on some issues.

After volunteering at Kerstin Polte's session at DrupalCon Europe 2021 (online), I got to know her. We connected on social media, and we've been supporting each other's content since. Meeting her in person for the first time was fantastic; it's always special to see someone you've only interacted with online!

Day 1 concluded with the opening reception, and later I had dinner with friends, including the Duke of Drupalville; Gabor. We talked about Drupal, the community, and our challenges in finding vegetarian/vegan food outside.

Day 2

Day 2 was packed with sessions, BoFs, and various activities. I attended a BoF hosted by Niklas Franke, a familiar face from the DDD. He talked about his experience with Drupal contribution sprints and how to engage non-technical folks. We also discussed Drupal's challenges, like marketing and documentation. Lynne Capozzi from Acquia was also there and hinted at a possible marketing initiative with a strong non-technical focus.

I had a go at building some Lego pieces at the System Seed booth and met Joachim. While working on the Legos, we discussed the challenges of assembling a team of active contributors. He even showed me an issue on his laptop that needed UX assistance and shared it with me right there.

Lego building

I hung out at our booth, chatting with folks about what QED42 is all about and hearing about their work. People liked our Hindi Drupal tee. One person was so impressed that he asked me to write his name in "Hindi" for him.

At the volunteer dinner that wrapped up the second day, we got to know each other better. It was a great opportunity to share our experiences and discuss ways to improve Drupal contributions. The dinner not only helped with networking and building connections within the Drupal community but also made us feel more united.

Drupal Con Lille Volunteers - Photo by Bram Driesen

Our last stop was the 1XInternet party, where we had a blast dancing and celebrating the event. It was a joyful evening, full of laughter, as we volunteers unwound and relaxed after days of hard work. The party was a great opportunity to socialize and create lasting memories and friendships within the Drupal community.

Day 3

On the third day, we had the final sessions, BoFs, and exhibitions. It was also the last day to collect points on the events app. I liked the idea of gamifying the con; it encouraged people to meet and try new things, even if it was just for points. I made sure to visit all the booths in the exhibition area, had conversations with many folks about our work and other topics, and even walked away with two bags full of goodies!

I went to the mentored contribution booth to see what it was all about. AmyJune and Leslie Glynn suggested I sign up for mentoring at the contribution sprint. They said, "Even if you know very little, you can still help someone out," and I agreed.

I volunteered as a session monitor for a few sessions, one of which was by Wim Leers on config validation. I found it interesting and had a chat with him about contribution opportunities. The day concluded with the closing ceremony. The organizers expressed gratitude to everyone who made the con happen and shared plans for future events.

Day 4

Day 4 was a contribution sprint day! I've been to contribution sprints before, but this was my first time at a DrupalCon contribution sprint. It was surreal to see everyone, usually in issue queues and Drupal Slack, gathered in one room. You could work on something and walk up to the project maintainer or initiative lead for help.

All the mentors at Contribution Sprint, Drupal Con Lille. Photo by Bram Driesen

For instance, I was looking for a good novice issue and found one related to SDC. I started working on it, but Joachim pointed out it might not be ready, calling it a "bike shed problem." He went to find someone working on SDC, and we discovered a core team member in the same room!

I mentored at the sprint, which made it even more special. I helped a few first-time contributors understand how Drupal issues work and even tackled one issue together. We used Drupalpod for testing, which was new to me, but we figured it out together. As AmyJune said, "It's okay if you don't know something; it's about figuring things out together.”

The general contribution area had many tables dedicated to various initiatives and projects. I spoke with several of them, including Lauri for the Page Builder initiative, Wim Leers, and Fabian Bircher for the Distribution and Recipes initiative. I even took on an issue from there and worked on it with the assistance of Elliot Ward.

When I presented at Dev Days, someone asked about my future goals, like becoming a core maintainer or other ambitions. I hadn't thought about being a core maintainer, but I'm interested in getting more people, especially young graduates, involved in Drupal. That's why I got excited about the New Blood initiative.

I spoke with Carlos Ospina, who proposed this initiative to incentivize organizations to hire and train newcomers. We discussed the challenges of hosting internships and finding a job as a new developer, and I was thrilled to see this initiative addressing these issues. Check out the IXP Fellowship

Official group photo at DrupalCon Lille

The last day was tough, filled with goodbyes to the friends I've made in the community. I hoped to see them again soon. After the contribution sprint, I headed back to my hotel, feeling a bit emotional and already missing the energy of the people.

Then, Surabhi called, and we had a meal together. It was a wonderful way to see everyone one last time before saying our final goodbyes, with promises to stay in touch. In the small world of Drupal, we'll definitely meet again!

Until the next Drupal meetup!

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