Twice a year members of the worldwide Drupal community convene at DrupalCon. This year the North American conference was up the street from College Park in Baltimore, so Phil Nguyen and I joined the 3000 participants in this intense 5-day conference. Drupal is an open source content management system that is built, maintained, used, and promoted by millions of web developers and programmers across the world. Many well-trafficked websites are Drupal sites, including Greenpeace Greenwire, Timex, and The Economist. Drupal is important to ARCLab’s work because NAL’s website is built in Drupal, as is the interface to its unified repository (the place where many of the library’s digital collections live). At NAL, I have been working with a Drupal developer over the last 18 months to create the user interface for the Animal Welfare Act History Digital Collection (AWAHDC), so I had a lot to learn from the Drupalites descending on Baltimore.
Too much, in fact. There were over 130 sessions focusing on 13 thirteen different themed “tracks,” ranging from “Being Human” to “Coding and Development.” I focused on the User Experience (UX) track, hoping to enhance my work on the AWAHDC interface. With the AWAHDC’s users in mind, I also took a day-long training session on Theming. “Themes,” in Drupalese, are the code packages that create the look and feel of Drupal websites. Some themes are pre-packaged and have quirky names like Bartik, Marinelli, and Tao. But you can also build your own theme and in the training session, we used the main programming language of Drupal, PHP, to begin our own custom “theming.” Phil attended an introduction to Drupal training session, where he learned the basics of Drupal development, including structure, content types (the building blocks of Drupal), and a little theming. As a relative outsider, the conference and the training were a little overwhelming. Luckily, I found a conference buddy (a Drupal developer a NAL) with whom to attend the UX sessions. Talking with her helped me to pick out a few tricks to bring back to my work at NAL.