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Thoughts on Drupal Camp London 2016

This past weekend Agile Collective sponsored me to attend Drupal Camp London. As someone who has worked exclusively on Wordpress websites for the past year with Made with Joy, I was keen to improve my skills and learn about Drupal. With the weekend including a beginners training course as well as some sessions on more advanced topics at the weekend this seemed an ideal place to start learning.

Day 1 – Beginners Training Course

On the Friday I traveled down to London to do a site building beginners course which was taught by Paul Rowell. This looked at using the site building tools in the Drupal 7 admin area to produce a simple website which included events as well as some news items. The things that I learnt included Installing Drupal, creating content and custom content types, creating vocabularies such as tags and categories, creating menus, blocks, and views as well as doing permissions and installing contributed modules and themes. It was a great introduction to creating a simple site using Drupal and I left with the confidence to create my own simple website using the CMS.

Day 2 – First Day of Sessions

The day started with an early morning start as I traveled down to London this time with the team from Agile Collective for the first day of sessions.

The day started off with a keynote from Clifton Cunningham from TES Global (formerly Times Education Supplement) looking at how he has changed their website(s), of which Drupal was an important but not exclusive part. The versatility of Drupal means that it can coordinate with many other systems, both front- and back-end.

Next up was 'Decoupled Drupal and IoT'. This looked at what headless or decoupled Drupal is and how this could be implemented into Drupal 8. Finally how they had used a decoupled system to run a simplified e-commerce terminal on a Rasberry Pi board. The result is a place to pick up packages similar to what you get in the UK. This was all a bit above my Drupal level, but again the extensibility of Drupal impressed me. The same was true with ‘Markup the Drupal 8 way’, which looked how the Drupal 8 theme system works with Twig.

After lunch my third session of the day was ‘Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance’ by Ashley Johnson, who looked at why planning is important and how it helps manage a project including identifying the scope of the project and identifying and minimising risks. One of the interesting things discussed was if you were given 8 hours to do a homepage design you wouldn’t do it in 1 block of 8 hours. You would break it down into 3 or 4 sessions allowing for client feedback after each session. This also means that a task you might think would take 1 day could take up to 6 days if you allow for the time it takes for the client to get back to you. Ashley was an engaging speaker and his talk could apply to any technology.

The next session that I went to was The History of Drupal’ this looked at how Drupal has evolved from a message board platform known as Drop 1.0 to an enterprise level CMS that it is today. It also looked at how some of the features that are in Drupal have been around since version 2 such as multi language support as well as nodes and modules. One of the interesting things about this talk is that the fact that there were only a few months between the early versions and there has been about 5 years between 7 and 8.

My final session of the day was Micheal Schmid’s talk titled ‘CTO/Business Owner of a company: What I would of done differently 5 years later.' This looked at how the company that he has worked at (Amazee Labs) has grown from 6 people working at 1 office in Zurich to 35 people which is now in 3 locations (Zurich, Austin in Texas and Cape Town) in a short space of time. Some of the topics discussed included the hiring and firing of staff, how your career might advance, how to delegate tasks to other people including why you should be better at this. It was a reminder of the 'airport test' and that you should hire for character and not for skills.There was also a few thoughts we should all remember, such as sleep as least 6 hours a day and drink more water! This was one of my favourite sessions as it was done by a good speaker and the talk being quite humorous at times.

Finally the day ended with a social night which included going to a local pub with the team as well as a few of us going for a meal afterwards.

Day 3 – Final Day

First up on the Sunday was a keynote from Alexis Cheshire from the Scout Association looking at how the various websites that the Scout Association has. These previously used lots of different systems but have now been standardised into using Drupal as it can support the various local Scout groups around the UK.

My first session of the day was Phillip Norton’s talk on ‘Becoming a Master Builder’ This gave some tips on building Themes, creating modules, some coding tips such as not changing the core files, using version control in projects and trying to replicate a production environment in a development environment. How content types should be the same as template types so if you use the same fields they shouldn’t need different content types. Also discussed was some contributed modules which may help with development. Finally the sites which have problems with them were discussed.

Lastly, 'Successful Agile Project management’ looked at successful project management using the agile methodology. This gave a good overview of agile development and well as how to use this in winning your clients and well as getting them used to development where they are involved throughout the project. It seemed appropriate to me that Agile Collective had brought me here!


Overall I really enjoyed going to the event and would recommend the event to anyone. There are a good variety of talks and if you are a beginner or not very technical there are some good sessions about project management and discussion of projects as well as the more technical sessions.

I look forward to going to more events like this in the future.

Meet our Guest Author
  • Matthew

    Matthew Fletcher was an Agile Collective collaborator.
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