Junket Report!

Molly Byrnes, Account Director
#Phase2 | Posted

From Loja, Ecuador to Portland, Oregon, with a wintry stop in Minneapolis, MN, I’ve been on an internet conference spring junket and I’ve got some trends to report, tips to share and knowledge to drop.

For all you tl;dr people -- this is a long one -- but here are the trends as I see them:

  • Open Data is Opening Up
  • Content is Cool
  • Hosting Matters
  • Community is Key

Open Data is Opening Up

El Web Semantico was a key theme at the Drupal Summit Latino.

On the top of an eternal spring equatorial mountain overlooking an ancient river valley, which is now the city of Loja, a group of Drupalistas from across Latin America gathered for a conference that included many local students as well as folks from across the Latin American world.  Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja (UTPL) was the host, and this technical university had hands down the best AV team and experience I’ve seen at a conference to date.

[caption id="attachment_3976" align="alignleft" width="300"]Beautiful picture of trees at the UTPL, Campus in Loja, Ecuador The campus in Loja[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3975" align="alignright" width="300"]Great campus in Loja Ecuador Beautiful Campus[/caption]

 

 

 

 

Ecuador is a country that got bandwidth, wifi and internet after the United States, and therefore, currently has less technical debt and CMS implementations. As people are now discussing moving to CMS's from flat file structures, open data and connectivity is at the forefront of these decisions. UTPL has a dedicated working group and faculty focusing in the Semantic Web.

The conference featured several talks including a keynote from Stéphane Corlesquet, who works on the rdfa module and semantic space in the Drupal community. Nelson Piedra, a faculty member from UTPL also spoke about a open data pilot he was working on with Ecuadorian data. For the spanish speakers, check out this video of Nelson talking about semantic web.

I also had the opportunity to sit on an "Web Semantico" panel discussion and we spoke a lot about open data adoption and focus. One of the takeaways was to just start. Getting data tagged is not hard and there are ways to do it using Drupal to get the process started.

With the Civic and Publishing industries leading the charge and more and more data being pushed out, it seems like in the next phase of the internet, we should see some really interesting mashups and ways in which data is being combined and used.

Some of the push in NYC itself has been really interested and I am keenly interested to see how this evolves and extends in Latin America and other countries where web infrastructure, bandwidth and innovation is really starting to take off in a big way.

To read more about the summit, I recommend Stéphane's blog post on his experience in Loja, the official wrap up translated in English and the event facebook page. I will also be posting more details on my experience in Ecuador including tips for working remotely internationally in the next few weeks.

Content is Cool

It always was, but the different types of content  available online is definitely content that people enjoy consuming. With video, photo, and interactives all being mashed together on devices / platforms -- Web Content is hot right now.

Think for example back in the 90s. If you watched a TV show and wanted to connect about it online, your option was probably an MS DOS green screen reading some interesting usenet forum with a summary of the show. Now you can watch the show on HULU, share it with your friends, generate GIFs and memes of a character skill, and generally engage with your content online and in unique ways.

As complex content moves online, Content Strategy, Content Management, Content Delivery and Content Operations all become increasingly more important. The C in CMS is finally getting interesting and moving to the forefront of the hierarchy of importance in designing, building and managing ‘ether based’ experiences.

Content Strategy at the Nonprofit Technical Conference (NTC2013):

Great talk by Kira Marchenese from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on content strategy for engagement  A cool takeaway was that her team is using Trello for managing post flow. When a content team and developer team use the same tools to manage tasks, this is a good thing, there are too many tools that do not accomodate and facilitate this level of communication. In fact, this tool is making the rounds with other non-profits as well. DoSomething.org Director of Engineering Desmond Morris writes about his process to screen interns.

Karen McGrane’s Keynote at DrupalCon Portland:

I urge everyone reading this to pop this link in a new tab, to watch and or read the transcript of her keynote. The best way for future proofing content is thinking about meta data, reusable chunks... not blobs of the current print pushed to a web model. Lots of great stuff here and a really interesting call to action to Drupal users to catalyse the change and bring modern IA and UX best practices into CMS development so that content gets the best management system:

You guys are A Chunk Army. It is time to go to war against the blobs.

I thought Karen's call to action to TEAM CHUNK, as a Goonies Fan, and being in Portland, was pretty great.

Hosting Matters

When the web was mostly static, hosting wasn’t as complicated. In the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot more about web servers and the wizardry that goes on behind and under the application.

Here is what it looked like courtesy of Google searching for 90s static website server images.

[caption id="attachment_4084" align="alignnone" width="283"]Static server Static Server 90s style courtesy of Visual Builder via Google[/caption]

With dynamic content management systems, database calls, social software, user authentication and all sorts of web application level complexities, the details of hosting and web performance have gotten more complicated.  For more details on this and to learn directly from the big brain himself - check out Steven’s blog post here.

For many web professionals, hosting and servers - is often the last frontier. It’s managed by a system administrator or by a hosting company, but a trend that I am seeing more and more is people gaining more knowledge about the importance of good hosting and devops tools to ensure success for the platform.

At DrupalCon Portland, there were a large variety of hosting vendors ranging from the managed Drupal Stack of Acquia and Pantheon, Open Shift from Red Hat, and highly responsive managed hosting from BlackMesh and Rackspace. Hosting has always been a crucial part of the internet but specialization and hosting packages tailored to applications, software management and different levels of manage hosting is becoming more and more popular.

Community is Key

A key theme at all the events that I went to was understanding the community.

I’ve been attending Drupal Camps, Cons and Meetups for years, so when I go to these events it’s like meeting old friends and talking with people I’ve known for years. Through different Drupal versions and professional journeys, it has been really great to be connected with the group of NYC drupalers and now international Drupal folks, and to see these new communities emerge.

Some highlights of community moments for me:

Showing up alone in a foreign country and being treated with such kindness and hospitality by the Latino Drupal Summit, and not to mention being greeted by enthusiastic group of speakers from all over Latin America who had already produced and filmed their own response to Harlem Shake was really special. Thanks to the local team of organizers for making me feel so at home and welcome: Darwin BetancourtRommel GutierrezMarlon Maldonado as well as Drupal Latino organizers Fernando Paredes Garcia and Nancy Contreras .

In Portland, I attended a fundraiser and happy hour in honor of Aaron Winborn during DrupalCon. It was really great to see so many folks come out to ThinkShout’s event hosted in honor of such an important contributor to the Drupal Project. If you have ever uploaded or added any media or rich content to a Drupal Site, you have come into contact with some of the key contributions of Aaron Winborn who has maintained and worked with Media Drupal over the years. Diagnosed with ALS, Aaron and his family have a special trust to support him and many Drupalers have contributed. This is beyond a code base and open source, this is a community who cares about each other and takes care of each other even when tough times fall. To learn more about Aaron’s work and to support his trust please visit the website.

Upcoming Events

There are a great group of Drupal Camps this summer. I'm planning to attend NYCCAMP and help to coordinate the Non-Profit Summit.  I will also be attending CapitalCamp. While I won't make it back to MN this summer, several other Phase2 folks will be out at Drupal Camp Twin Cities. See you all on the summer Drupal camp circuit! For all the advanced planners out there... DrupalPicchu is in the planning stages for early 2014!

Molly Byrnes

Account Director