Friday, October 22, 2010

DrupalCamp Toronto 2010

Today's columnists are Julian Egelstaff and Herb van den Dool from Freeform Solutions. They write:

If you have less than ten people in your company, and you send four of them to a conference, you probably consider it a large expense. Yeah, we do too. But we believe we gained much more from DrupalCamp Toronto 2010 than we put into it. We gained a deeper understanding of the open source ecosystem we're working within; new contacts with colleagues; and even met people who want to help improve our project management system for free! It's all an integral part of our pro bono practice.

Recently, we wrote in OSBR about how, at Freeform Solutions, we spend 20% of our time doing work that is not directly paid for by clients. Contributing to the open source communities that we, and our clients, rely on, is the focus of this pro bono work. Following this philosophy, we took a very active role in DrupalCamp Toronto 2010. It turned out to be a good example of the hows and whys of our approach to supporting open source.

First, as one of the organizers of the event, we helped get the website up and running. Arvin Singla spent several evenings and weekends putting in overtime with other DrupalCamp volunteers to make it a reality. Besides this contribution, we were also an event sponsor.

As participants both days, we talked with lots of folks who we have otherwise only seen as usernames, including Dries Buytaert, "user #1 of Drupal." There were people floating around our sponsor table for most of both days, reading about Freeform or talking with us about a potential project, a partnership or a technical issue.

We saw presentations that covered the full spectrum of using Drupal, from Everett Zufelt's talk on Accessibility in Drupal, to Joe Murray's presentation on CiviCRM's integration, to theming with Panels by Emma Jane Hogbin. Aidan Foster's presentation on "How to plan and project manage a small to medium sized Drupal website" was particularly interesting, since we've recently worked with Aidan's consulting firm Foster Interactive on a project.

Jeff Eaton of Lullabot did a presentation on the Drupal "ecosystem" and how the result resembles a platypus: it may look weird at times but it works!. This struck a chord with us. Drupal may have some nifty open source code, but what keeps the code alive is the healthiness of the ecosystem of modules and developers. That is the true measure of the strength of Drupal. We see this everyday as we work closely with clients - and other contractors - who rely on us to connect them with knowledge and people in this ecosystem. We don't control it all, but we've got a map!

Jeff's presentation really showed why focusing effort on supporting the community is critical to the health of Drupal-the-project. The strength of the Drupal community lies in the zillions of interactions between all the people in the community, and how they evolve over time. It's just the same as how the strength of Drupal code lies in the interactions between all the modules and the Drupal core.

Besides participating in both days, we presented on two different topics: our agile project management tool, nicknamed "Fragile," and combining the Formulize data management system with Drupal. In order to manage everything we do through an agile process, we've taken a bold step of leveraging Drupal and pushing it to the edge to create Fragile. Something between an experiment and a necessity, Fragile has shown us where the edges are, but most importantly, provides a great starting point for engaging with others in the community grappling with similar needs. We were thrilled with the positive responses, and look forward to collaborating on making the tool even better.

Formulize 4 got its first public showing at DrupalCamp, including the Drupal module that makes it a snap to publish Formulize applications inside Drupal. It was a real pleasure to see how well received the version 4 improvements were, as well as the general interest in Formulize from Drupal users.

All of this represents opportunities for Freeform that we couldn't have got any other way. We improved our profile in the community, we got the word out about what we're doing, and we helped produce an event that put us in direct contact with the leaders in the community. It was good for us, it was good for the other participants, and it was good for Drupal too. A win-win-win. This is how open source works, and why we're proud to be part of it.

See photos of the event:

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