There are a variety of conferences out there for the discerning web denizen, designer, and programmer. In the Drupal (news, site) community the biggest is Drupalcon, where Drupal developers, project members, and fans gather to work, celebrate, plot, plan, and look in many ways to the future.
This week in New Orleans is a bit different. Lullabot's "Do it with Drupal" promises three packed days of pragmatic discussions around site building, theming, and other nuts and bolts issues.
In his opening keynote, Lullabot co-founder and CEO Jeff Robbins set the tone for the rest of the event. With humor, he said that Drupal works well on the buddy system, where everyone learns from each other. "I want a site, not a lifestyle," was used to express the desire to just get down to business and get things done.
When it comes to why Drupal is popular, the discussion in many ways revolved around why open source was popular. Robbins was right to point out that many companies are not specifically software companies (think of Etsy, Digg and Sony, they may heavily use software but they aren't primarily software companies). Building and supporting their own proprietary technologies only means that they have to start from scratch and build up their own years of trial and error and experience. Instead, using open source lets them build on the shoulders of giants, some of whom have already figured out the safest way to handle, say, credit card information.
Fortunately it sounds like Robbins isn't going to make us drink any Kool-Aid, though. He also discussed the fact that sometimes the promise of Drupal (and really any software) doesn't live up to the reality. There's so many modules that you can end up stuck on the Island of Misfit Toys, trying to fit them all nicely together. There are various groups that firmly believe there is only one way to build particular things (using a set group of modules), and it can get to the point where you do have to make it a lifestyle just to keep up.
As you struggle with modules and tricky aspects of site design and layout, like trying to make a button live on the left, Drupal can go from feeling like the greatest thing ever to a false god. Part of the trouble is its flexibility, which can make it more complex to program. The recent ability of Drupal.org to host distributions (pre-rolled Drupal installations focused on a specific niche) should really help with this. Also, hosted options such as Drupal Gardens from Aquia and Lullabott's Buzzr aim to make Drupal easier for the end user.
The conference is taking an interesting approach with questions. Attendees can submit them through Twitter, IRC or index cards, and a moderator will ask the questions throughout the presentations.
To follow along with the goings on:
* Follow http://twitter.com/diwd
* Search for the Twitter tags #diwd and/or #diwd09