Fans of Drupal software connect in Denver [March 20, 2012]
The Mile High City will host about 3,000 "Drupalers" this week for a three-day geekfest.
Drupal, free and open-source software that powers websites such as Twitter, eBay and Whitehouse.gov, will be the focus of DrupalCon, which will attract people from around the world. Members of the ultra-passionate Drupal community from as far away as Australia are set to visit Denver.
"Drupal is a platform to make building websites easier," said Matt Tucker, a Drupal developer at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "There are thousands of Drupal developers from across the world that have contributed functionality for Drupal websites that you can simply drop in place and use."
After a two-year planning and development process, CU switched some of its sites to Drupal in January, including the main colorado.edu site.
"Our old website was basically a static HTML website using very outdated technology," said Joanna Bertrand, Web manager at CU.
Drupal allows the university to publish more engaging and up-to-date content, as it did shortly after the men's basketball team won the Pac-12 Conference tournament. The CU Drupal team will speak about its transition to the software at DrupalCon on Wednesday.
The conference kicks off today at the Colorado Convention Center with a keynote from Drupal founder Dries Buytaert and runs through Thursday. It is open to the public, though there is a $450 registration fee.
Buytaert started Drupal as a dorm-room project in 2000 while he was studying computer science in Belgium. He initially set out to create an online message board so his college buddies could easily stay in touch.
As Buytaert added features such as RSS feeds and public diaries (better known as blogs), Drupal evolved from a simple message board to a content management system.
In 2007, Buytaert co-founded Boston-based Acquia, a company that maintains Drupal-backed
websites for enterprises. Two years earlier, he organized the first DrupalCon, attracting 40 people.
The nonprofit Drupal Association now holds two conferences annually, one in North America and the other in Europe. This is the first time Denver has been selected as the host city.
Tucker, who helped organize the Denver event, estimated that roughly half of the attendees will be from the Rocky Mountain region. He said there are several hundred Drupalers in the Denver/Boulder area, and many simply enjoy helping newbies out.
"People who use it absolutely love it, and they want to share that knowledge with everybody else," Tucker said.