DrupalCon Pittsburgh Recap Blog Graphic

This Marketer’s First DrupalCon: The Pittsburgh Highlights

June 15, 2023 6 minute read
Drupal’s get-together in the Steel City did not disappoint
DrupalCon Pittsburgh Recap Blog Graphic

DrupalCon Pittsburgh 2023 is officially in the books and, as a marketer, my mind and heart are full. As soon as I got there and found myself among 1,500+ of the friendliest folks I’ve had the pleasure of learning with and befriending, it felt like home. 

There’s hardly enough space to encapsulate the entire event, which is why the Drupal Association has published recordings of every single session available on its YouTube channel

But here I offer you the SparkNotes version through my eyes and the eyes of a few colleagues. For three days in Pittsburgh, here’s what went down. 

DriesNote and keynote addresses

Day 1: The State of Drupal aka DriesNote address took a different, more philosophical turn than previous DriesNotes. Addressing the trajectory of Drupal, Dries spoke about the innovation S-curve and how, in technological advancement, there are sprints of innovation, lulls, then a jump to the next innovation. Instead of locking into this cycle, he encouraged Drupalists to continue to foster and encourage ongoing innovation and grassroots ideas, allowing 1,000 flowers to bloom wherever and whenever they’re cultivated.  

Following that idea, he introduced seven Pitch-burgh finalist videos vying for $75,000 in funding for a Drupal innovation. After watching the pitches, the crowd voted to disperse the funding and some crowd-based generosity sprung forth unexpectedly to fund even more — more than $100,000 was actually funded! Talk about a community heeding the call to help those 1,000 flowers bloom.

Day 2: Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism with Dr. Safiya Noble was an incredible look into a soft spot in the technology industry. The digital transformation of our lives has largely been coded by a white, male-dominated industry. Her keynote addressed uncovered algorithmic biases that lurk beneath the surface of technology and more overtly in our companies. She went on to make the point that, in order to use technology to serve the whole of society, our organizations need to have voices from every part of society — creating a community of inclusion. You can grab her book here.

Day 3: Drupal Initiative Leads Keynote carried an encouraging vibe of “Go contribute! Do it now!” meant to invigorate veteran contributors and spur new contributors. Ted Bowman, Cristina Chumillas, Tim Lehnen, Amber Matz, Leslie Glynn, and Mateu Aguilo Bosch spoke about cleaning up the Drupal core issue queue, reducing Composer pain points, improving speed and administrator usability, cutting costs, bug smashing, and making Drupal easier for non-devs (love that). Watch the full keynote address here.

Exhibition hall and recruitment fair

Between breakout sessions, keynotes, and lightning talks, the exhibit hall was home for every DrupalCon sponsor. In a hall thrice the size of a football field, vendors had ample room to show off a little — and there was no shortage of eye-popping displays. Honestly, the number of swag giveaways gave pub crawls a run for their money. My Drupal community t-shirt collection is extensive. 

The hall itself had areas for arcade games, Super Smash Brothers, bean bag lounging, sections of tables for lightning talks, getting work done, or just taking a much needed coffee break. In short, there was something for everyone. On the exhibit floor itself, Acquia’s booth stood a gleaming bastion in the center of it all!

Our partners were out there in force. One that stood out was Bounteous’s Drupalscope activation that used Drupal, Acquia Personalization, and ChatGPT to build prompts and, in the end, tailor eerily accurate horoscopes. 

On the third day, the recruitment fair had no shortage of jobseekers in the Drupal community. It was a pleasant juxtaposition to the fanfare of the exhibit hall and was packed with more intimate conversations, networking, and information exchanges. 

All in all, the energy was astonishing. Seeing the Drupal Community putting their heads together to ensure a bright future for Drupal was inspiring to see; community is in our code! 

And, of course, the Acquia x Converse shoes continue to be a hit. We gave several pairs away to lightning talk attendees and plastered pictures all over social media. Here’s one:

Breakout sessions and lightning talks

There were hundreds of breakout sessions, lightning talks, group Drupal contribution sessions, roundtable discussions, and so much more throughout the week. Attending everything would’ve been impossible, but we did our best. Here’s a collection of thoughts from our own attendees. 

Highlights across Acquia 

  • Drupal 7 EOL is being pushed until January 2025. A 14-month extension from which there will be no further extensions. It’s time to migrate! Hear about it from the Drupal Security Panel
  • Acquia partner SearchStax launched a program called SearchStax for Good that allows nonprofits to use the company's Solr service free for six months then at an ongoing 40% discount.
  • Velir’s Kevin Quillen (another Acquia partner) got to show off his OpenAI integration that uses ChatGPT to help content creators produce content faster via the power of AI directly in the Drupal UI.
  • Acquia’s own Lauri Eskola took on an additional role as product manager of Drupal Core, which is a huge deal, considering that he’s the first new person in this role in about a decade. He seems keen on bringing a product-oriented mind to Drupal core, which is different and needed. 
  • Acquia’s Tami Pearlstein spoke about how technological evolution has led to positive digital experiences looking different every day and how Drupal seeks to make it all smoother. She followed with examples from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Pac-12 Networks using our technology to reimagine their own digital experiences.
  • Acquia’s community photo booth activation included a community photo mosaic that, in the end, created a single image of Dries. Hundreds of people wanting to be a Dries piece of the puzzle got their pictures taken and AI-ified into the fictional heroes or stories of their choice. Each participant received a post-event email with their own individual AI picture along with the full Dries portrait.

Capping it off with a party

Acquia threw a Barcade Bash that took over Shorty's Pin and Pints, a bar and gaming hall that had any game you could possibly want to play. Personally, I stuck with cornhole and duckpin bowling, but there were so many games to be played! Together with a crew of more than 400 people, we gathered to eat, drink, and game at the Barcade Bash, which was the cherry on top of an incredible week. 

For the developer's point of view on DrupalCon Pittsburgh, check out Mike Madison's take on our Dev Portal.