I had the good fortune to attend Drupalcon in Portland, Oregon this year. This series of blog posts will recap what I learned while attending the Business  + Strategy category of sessions.

IMG_20130521_175819I’ve been a Microsoft .NET developer since 1997, but I manage a diverse team of programmers that work in technologies that I don’t always understand. We recently started taking on a few projects in Drupal, and though we have run into some hurdles while we learn it, we see lots of benefits to working with Drupal.

So, I went to Drupalcon with two of my co-workers, Randy and Josh (pictured with the Mindscape flag). While they had been working in Drupal-land for a while, I was new to the entire technology stack (Apache, MySql, PHP). I didn’t know how much I would get out of the conference, but I was determined to give it a try if only to eat some Voodoo Donuts. (Yes, that’s bacon on the donut, and yes, it was delicious.) IMG_20130611_131934

It turns out I didn’t have anything to worry about. There was a Business + Strategy track that made the week very enlightening, and though I didn’t learn a lot of practical Drupal information, like how to implement the Field API that had Randy and Josh all a-twitter, I confirmed much of what Mindscape has been thinking about. I want to recap each of the sessions I attended, and then follow with some larger thoughts about the industry in general. Watch for that in a few weeks.

Internal Open Source: Changing internal culture for the better

The first session I attended was about Internal Open Source. Coming from a technology stack (Microsoft products, .NET, IIS) that doesn’t historically do a great job of promoting the sharing of code, I was skeptical that I’d get anything out of it. But, it sounded more interesting than going to Automated Testing with Jasmine and PhantomJS.

The session was presented by NBC Universal. They are the parent company for NBC brands like Bravo and ScyFy. The first presenter discussed the problem with having a number of different brands, all with their own IT departments, and all running their own technologies.

They all had to solve the same problems, namely publishing and distributing content, but had no way to share their technology, their problems, or their processes.

The situation was solved by moving to an Open Source framework. The parent company adopted Drupal, built out their own base website for distribution to their brands called The Platform, and then trained the IT teams from each brand on how to use the shared code base.

Once they adopted it, developers from each brand were able to share their code and changes back to the internal code base. In essence, what was ten, two person development companies was now a shared, twenty person development team across the different brands.

Though I initially thought that portion of the presentation didn’t have much to do with me, it later had a profound affect on how I thought about technology at Mindscape.

Additional Useful tidbits

One of their project managers talked next, and discussed a number of interesting things.

  • With their internal work, they don’t always have a clear line to know when a project is complete. So, they now define a Success Target. When that target is reached, they know the project is complete. There may be other items that need to be done, but those are considered out of scope and will be done in a different phase.
  • Deploy and Deliver often. It’s the only way to know if you are on track to building something useful.
  • Do the most valuable items first, not the easiest. Easy items can be built under deadline pressure more safely than innovative features.
  • The Pixel Perfect Comp is dead. Responsive design killed it. The days of moving something over 1 pixel during HTML development has passed us by. There are too many devices, layouts, and browsers to make it work the same for everyone. This might be worth a blog post on its own!
  • Don’t do paper requirements. It’s more powerful to show a stakeholder what it is going to do with an HTML wireframe.

It was a great start to a long week of learning. Stay tuned for more insights from Drupalcon 2013!