Thursday, 10 March 2016
DrupalCon Asia - Impressions from India
DrupalCon Asia was an impressive and very successful event, bringing together more than 1000 Drupalistas from India, Asia and the entire world. This conference was special in many ways. The spirits of the various Indian Drupal communities definitely had a huge impact on how outside visitors, like myself, perceived the whole conference. It was great to see so many people from all over India and beyond gather for 4 days of sessions, sprinting, BoFs and more. Coming from a small European country and being a first-time visitor, the scale of India was just overwhelming. And so was the size of its community. One of my goals for this trip was to get a better understanding of the local community. I'll publish a second blog post, to highlight the diversity of the community that has been represented at DrupalCon Asia, in the weeks ahead. For now, I’ll share my experiences of DrupalCon Asia. Before DrupalCon India kicked off, Parth Gohil showed us around Mumbai. The capital city of the Indian state Maharashtra has more than 18 million habitants. Being stuck in traffic for hours, when travelling north/south during rush hours, is nothing unusual.
Of course we went to see impressive architecture, including the famous Gateway of India.
The city felt much more organized than I had expected. Here we're walking on the promenade of Mahim Bay. The bay features an enormous bridge of 5.6 kilometers: the Bandra-Worli Sea Link connects the upper and lower ends of the bay.
Mumbai had a lot to offer and in our efforts to see interesting architecture, we passed by Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The busy train station is an entry point to connect with Indian Railways - one of the largest railway networks consisting of over 100 000 km' of track. The Mumbai local trains carry more than 7.5 million commuters per day!
I was glad to meet enzo - Eduardo Garcia, amongst many others. We first met at DrupalCamp Centroamerica 2009 in Nicaragua, when he just started travelling Around the Drupal World in 120 Days. Quite impressive: Enzo is currently visiting 13 countries in Asia, Australia and North America.
DrupalCon Asia was held at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay - IITB in Powai, a modern neighbourhood featuring a big lake and tall buildings. The IITB has a long history of using Drupal themselves, led by pioneers like P Sunthar. Thanks to their cooperation, DrupalCon Asia could provide affordable ticket prices to the diverse audience from all over India and beyond.
The theme of colourful India not only dominated the beautifully designed website, but also made it physically to the venue. The Indian folk art of Rangoli, visualised the conference logo using sand art at the venue.
The prenote was a really special one. "We've outsourced the Prenote" - Indian community representatives decided to outsource this task to a United States company. Obviously, this leads to a great amount of funny paraphrases on the topic of outsourcing and the stereotypes we may have about the U.S. or India.
The whole opening session culminated in a Bollywood dance act, with half of the attendees gathering on stage to celebrate DrupalCon Asia in India. As reported on twitter, this was the most people ever dancing at a DrupalCon prenote.
Next, the Indian community representatives gathered with Dries, inviting him to wear a turban of course! After that, they lit a candle together. This local tradition is referred to as "Deep prajwalan" - no Wikipedia article exists on that, but according to my fellow Indian attendees, this it means: "Lead me from darkness to light".
There were a lot of opportunities to grow for everyone involved in the conference. The sponsors’ area was really crowded and active. Many local Drupal agencies ranging from a few to several hundred employees, are hiring at the moment.
One of the most attended sessions was Hooks, Events, Plugins, and Services: Pick the right tool for the job by Kim Pepper. He was amongst various other attendees from Australia and I was glad to hear more from the folks who worked on supporting the digital transformation of the Australian Government web platform aGov.
DrupalCon and any kind of Drupal event are all about connecting people. This conference really felt special because it was big (more than 1000 attendees) and 80 per cent of the attendees were attending their first DrupalCon.
As part of her keynote on day 2, Danese Cooper, Board Member of the Drupal Association gave an in-depth historical analysis of the Indian free & open source movements.
Again, the local community surprised the audience with a flash mob and Bollywood dancing.
The sponsor area also featured a community stand, where representatives of the different Indian Drupal communities were available for discussions. They also gave out stickers and flyers.
Of course, there's no DrupalCon without parties & after-event activities. The locals took us to some great places with awesome views over the city. I was especially excited about doing some Bollywood moves together :)
As mentioned, the venue was close to the very calm Powai Lake.
Sprints were a huge success for DrupalCon Asia. More than 350 people attended and collaborated on improving Drupal 8 and contributed modules.
One of the biggest, and my favourite moment of any DrupalCon, is when new contributors get up on stage and get their first patches committed to Drupal core. This time, Angie "webchick" Byron was joined by the three Indian contributors, sidharthap, vaidehi bapat and nileema.jadhav, who collaborated on an improvement for Drupal core. Their commits got attributed and were pushed to Drupal 8.1.x and 8.0.x respectively.
DrupalCon India had a lot to offer; many people, many cultures, many great success stories and many to follow. Besides all the happy faces, I'll definitely also miss the outstanding variety of foods!
Finally, let me leave you with a map: these are the attendees of DrupalCon Asia 2016, which have had their country/city information publicly shared on the event site. It was a great experience, meeting with such fresh, mature and fast-growing communities. Thank you to everyone involved and I hope to see you at one of the upcoming Drupal conferences. Find one next to you on Drupical or start your own! Stay tuned for my follow up post, featuring more details on the communities represented at DrupalCon Asia. (Main image was taken with Michael Cannon's camera)