Next week, thousands of Drupal developers, themers, and users will gather in Portland, Oregon for the bi-annual DrupalCon. This will be my 4th North American DrupalCon, and each year has been a completely unique experience. If you are lucky enough to attend DrupalCon this year, you should determine what "stage" of DrupalCon you fit into, to learn what to expect and what you might get out of it.
Stage 1: Questioning
"What is Drupal?", "How do you even pronounce Drupal?" (it's droo-puhl btw), "What is a node?"
The first time you attend DrupalCon, you are lost, confused, and full of questions. Welcome to the Drupal learning "cliff." There is much to learn and everybody seems so smart. You'll feel a bit like an outsider since many people in the Drupal community already know each other.
Your goal during this stage is to absorb as much as you can and start meeting the people behind Drupal. Go to the sessions and immerse yourself in the culture.
If you are new to Drupal, start the conference at my Open Atrium 2.0 Day Stage Session (Tuesday, 9am, Rm B112) and learn how to use Drupal to build an entire collaborative web site in just minutes.
Stage 2: Denial
"I will go to all of the sessions, all of the BoFs, all of the parties, and visit all of the vendors!", "I will sleep *after* DrupalCon."
Now you've been working with Drupal for a year. You know some of the lingo and you are excited to immerse yourself even deeper into the Drupal community. You learned so much in your first year, just imagine what you can learn the second time! Unfortunately, many people at this stage end up curled up in a fetal position by the last day.
Your goal during this stage is to pace yourself. You really don't need to "see it all." Try a mix of sessions (some new, some as a refresher), and mix it up with attending a couple "Birds of a Feather" (BoF) sessions. BoF sessions are smaller informal discussions around a particular topic. They are scheduled during the conference, so look for the BoF Board near registration to see the schedule. Meet the people who are building and using your favorite Drupal modules.
Come to my Open Atrium 2.0 BoF to learn what's new in OA2 and how you can get involved. If you use the Features modules (if you don't, you should!) come to my Features BoF to see the new user interface in the 2.0 version. (The times and locations will be posted on the BoF board during the conference)
Stage 3: Anger and/or Depression
"What do you mean it will all change in Drupal 8?", "Why hasn't my favorite module been updated?", "Why haven't these bugs been fixed yet?"
You're comfortable with Drupal just in time for all of the talk about the *next* big version. During Dries' keynote you get pumped up and excited about all of the new features. Then you learn that your favorite modules won't be ready yet. You wonder how everybody can tolerate a product that doesn't provide a seamless upgrade path. You get angry because you have become passionate about Drupal!
Your goal during this phase is to start getting involved. You'll learn that the key to Drupal success is the community. There isn't a single person or company in charge of Drupal. If you want something fixed in a module, or you want to upgrade a module, hunt down the module maintainer(s) and learn how to help. It's the combined effort of everybody in the Drupal community that makes it great.
If you want to help with the Features module, or with Open Atrium 2, you can find me down in the Phase2 booth (#233). Come to my Open Atrium 2 Demos each day at 4pm, and stay for free beer at 5pm. If you want to learn how to write your own Open Atrium plugins, come to the all-day Hackathon at the DoubleTree hotel on Friday, May 24th. I'll be working one-on-one with people to teach how OA2 works and how you can extend it with your own plugins.
Stage 4: Acceptance
"All is well...It's just the Drupal way."
By now you've come to accept how Drupal works. You've gotten more involved in the community and have come to terms with the life-cycle of Drupal versions. Many names and faces are familiar, and you are more interested in networking with friends than going to sessions.
Your goal during this phase is to start teaching others about Drupal. Submit your own sessions! Start your own BoF sessions! Start speaking at local Drupal "camps" and build up to DrupalCon. We are always looking for new speakers who are passionate and entertaining.
Stage 5: ???
Come find me at DrupalCon and ask me what Stage 5 is like. I'm sure it will be something different and surprising! Most of all, bring your energy and excitement and have fun! See you in Portland!