Ten years and 23 Drupalcons later I thought it was about time i took a trip down memoryland and revisited my first experience with Drupal, its community and looked at what made me stay in a system that wasnt build for webdesigners like me.
In 2006 I was fresh into Drupal, a few months earlier I build my first Drupal 4.7 site - and the webdesigner shop I was a co-owened of, the legendary "Noget med ILD”(Something with FIRE) We did have our own homegrown cms (molotov), but I was looking for a system to replace it - wanted to go back to do more design, less php coding & I really didn’t like writing sql or working for hours to optimise some query, my love was still after 10 years in the industry html + css that was my design language.
I was really eager to learn more about Drupal, but more i wanted to know how the Drupal people was. I had touched a few other opensource projects,but one thing that turned me away from a lot of them was the “Nobody but us understand how to build websites” attitude. A important thing for me attending DrupalCon brussels was to figure out how the community was - if they were cool, i was pretty sure I would begin to use this Drupal thing as my main tool for building websites in the future.
Drupal & macbooks
What I first learned at the 180 ppl drupalcon was an extremely welcoming bunch of nerds & geeks. A thing that stroke me that almost everybody was on a mac. Remember i was coming from the design world and back then, it wasn’t normal to have a mac. So many designers here, great now maybe I can find a few fellow minded & we can look into fixing the markup! 20 minutes later i understood the reason for mac's was it had the terminal + a mac could play movies without you having to compile your own driver etc. Im still sure I was the only one at the event that used photoshop for other things than just cropping images.
After 2 days of DrupalCon there was a few A few things that made a profound impression on me, and i still think is the reason I stuck around for the next 10 years:
“Building a CMS that sucked less than all the others”
backthen that was one of the main slogan, the other one was “community plumbing”, yes plumbing as one of the main slogans for Drupal i dont know wtf Dries & crew was thinking, but marketing have never been a force of Drupal. anyways a cms that sucked less than the others - now that was a welcoming change of perspective. back then there was as many cms as we have js frameworks in 2016, and loads of em bragged about being “The most überbest solution for anything”. It felt from the start that the geeks that build this drupal thing, knew that hey were not gonna be perfect, but were trying to suck a bit less.
Now 10 years later this is the norm, nowhere else will you hear people yell & moan about the suckiness of X Drupal, but the first time i heard it i was a bit surprised - "wait-a-minute Didn’t all of you guys write this stuff ? … "yeah but Flexinode is the worst piece of shit we ever created - Now were doing this CCK thing, its probably gonna suck, but at least its not as terrible as having a ton of content types... “ A Drupalcon wasn’t the gathering of Drupal fanboys it was the gathering of the hardest most diehard critiques, but at the same time it was also a place to fix it in Drupal & move towards the next thing that was “totally horribly broken & sucks so much that i wanna poke my eyes out with a fork” - then make it a little bit less broken.
That attitude totally sold me over - Drupal wanted to suck less.
Were tired of Designers telling us that drupal sucks
When I first time mentioned that I was "a designer”, and i used drupal, but some things were a real pain (like adding images to a menu) I was told that I should just go fix it, cause the developers were tired of spoiled designers whining about Drupal looking ugly. Dude just download and fix it, its open source.
Now 10 years later im still trying to fix it & menus still sucks, but a little bit less (now its svg that drives me crazy) but to “just fix it” i had to learn:
- CSV (cause we first got git in 2010).
- the issueque without burning out.
- to get enough social capital so developers understood that I wasn’t (only) a whining “designer".
well basically I had to create a community to take responsibility for the frontend in Drupal - yes just download and fix it - goddammit Boris mann thank for that advice ;)
Code all day Party all night.
Drupal people really like to be social, it felt like everybody kinda knew each other from IRC & the issueque (so nobody knew anybody real name) but had never met each other IRL, for the two days during the conference the othervice introverted geeks did a thing i havnet seen before Party like there was no tomorrow.
This was also the first time I saw laptops at the bar right there between us beer-drinking-yelling-geeks. Some were so focused on both wanting to hangout andreally needed to discuss this code thingie, yes webchick i saw you & laptop!
The following day of epic hangovers in a room that felt like a sauna, and trying to understand what Earl Miles was doing with this thing called “views” that was just released on drupal.org, and it would work with CCK - It was in that haze of hangovers, views & the idea of throwing cck on top, that i decided to go with Drupal, cause it felt like my favourite toy, Lego but just for building websites.
King of Denmark
As a side effect of being a loud mouthed rock n roll beer drinking dane. I somehow ended up with the nickname “the king of denmark”, after Brussels.
Many have asked me about it so heres there story.
First night at Drupalcon we all joined at a touristic bar in the center of Brussels, where you can get Duvel & thats pretty much it, after a bunch of hours tasting the most normal belgian beers, me, an irish and an english decided as people were stumbling out, that we wasn’t done yet and needed to find a better bar, soon were following a bunch of drunk french speaking ladies and ended in a cellar bar, with a phonebook sized beer menu. The following night drupalcon had decided to meetup again at the touristic hell hole ( decided by Dries & Mike Meyers that thought it was best that we went back to a place we could find instead of “somewhere in a basement in the old part of brussels” … tsk tsk tsk no sense of adventure.)
2 hours later at the bar - canadian Boris mann asked me about the bar i talked about earlier - Suddenly the whole conference was now gathered they were all looking at me So I could show em the magic beer place… To this day I have still no idea of how i found the place again, it was pure luck (no smart phones, or google maps in 2006) but we found it. How i later that night found my hotel i still have no idea about. The next day showing up at the venue, people were utterly destroyed & somebody greeted me with “good morning King of Denmark - how are you feeling today ” …
Thats how I got the name "king of denmark” and somehow got to be responsible for “where do we go tonight”.
6 months to fix the frontend...
One thing that was very clear from the start was that Drupal was build by a bunch of nerds. It was clear to me that Drupalers thought that frontend was something that you throw on the site after it was build. This was ok with me, I came from hard learned lessons of how much work it really requires to fix cross site scripting hacks sql injection hell , and all kinds of other issues. So during the conference I put it on my shoulders to fix what i thought was wrong in the frontend, as long as i never had to touch another server again in my life!
To me it made sense Now that I have all these badass geeks to fix the backend & server stuff - then let me help em look good!
Who would ever complain about removing node id’s,divitis from hell, css selectors that was thrown around with a shovel, you know making the system clean from the ground up then add what you as a frontend/designer/themer needed to make the site look good ?
Now how hard would that be i thought completely naive it would be about 6 months...
9 years later at Drupalcon in Barcelona we finally removed phptemplate core & got twig into Drupal8 core.
Yes it sucks less than what was there before.
It’s 10 years ago when I jumped on that night train from Copenhagen to Brussels, now looking back that was probaly one of the best ideas i ever got - I can testify that I
came for the Code but i Stayed for the community.