A WordPress Veteran’s Take on DrupalCon LA

Mendel KurlandThis post was contributed by guest author Mendel Kurland. Kurland is GoDaddy’s evangelist who travels to WordCamps and is the interface between various open source communities and GoDaddy.

In the following post, Kurland shares his experience attending DrupalCon Los Angeles, a large conference devoted to Drupal.


As I flew from DrupalCon Los Angeles, CA to WordCamp Maine, I thought a lot about what the Drupal and WordPress communities could learn from each other. WordPress and Drupal are two community-built platforms and each community is powerful. We stand to learn a lot from each other, because all open source projects matter.

With an eye toward looking for the similarities, rather than the differences, both WordPress and Drupal are working to overcome similar obstacles including, brand recognition, threat mitigation, adoption, onboarding, contribution, the list goes on. So why did I go to DrupalCon LA? To learn and give back to another community that’s steeped in collaborative culture.

The Experience

Thousands of people attended DrupalCon in Los Angeles this year. It’s massive and the layout is similar to a large developer conference. There are sessions centered on technical, as well as business topics, and usually lively question and answer opportunities after each session. There’s a coder lounge, a contribution room, and a huge emphasis on contributing to coding sprints for the next release of Drupal, Drupal 8.

DrupalCon LA
Photo via Mendel

Leveling and Onboarding

Prior to the conference, DrupalCon had summits to help gather community members around a particular vertical or topic such as, higher education, community, business, and training sessions to help level-up skills based on experience.

The theme of organizing around common interests is strong throughout the entire conference with birds of a feather sessions and topical social gatherings with topics like, women in Drupal and first time attendees. When it comes to mobilizing around interest groups, Drupal does a brilliant job.

Comparing WordPress and Drupal

I’ve met a higher proportion of people who work on enterprise sites at DrupalCons and a higher proportion of people who work on small business sites at DrupalCamps, local conferences similar to WordCamps. There are some important lessons, however, that I took away from the Drupal community.

Lessons and Questions from DrupalCon

  • Onboarding starts with education. The Drupal community puts an emphasis on training at just about every event while only a handful of WordCamps offer a Foundation Friday or some other local onboarding event.
  • Building community means valuing the same things and aligning along common interests. BoF (Birds of a Feather) sessions are a part of Drupal and other technical community conferences. There are certainly people with specific interests related to performance, security, women in WordPress, WP-CLI, etc. Should the WordPress community offer BoF sessions at WordCamps? Or are the existing tracks that many WordCamps offer enough?
  • Networking with those who work in a similar vertical is important. Just as Drupal holds summits for particular verticals, the WordPress community is beginning to do the same with things like, BuddyCamp at WordCamp Miami, WooConf (e-commerce), Pressnomics (business), Prestige (business), LoopConf (developer). Can more be done at WordCamps?

It’s OK to Love Drupal Too

If you’re reading this article on the Tavern, you’re likely a WordPress loyalist. I love WordPress, and it’s also ok to love Drupal. They are both tools in an open source toolbox that we all share. The beauty of our opportunity as developers, designers, and creative professionals is our ability to create awesome things in a million different ways.

In going to DrupalCon, it was refreshing for me to take a second to see the web development industry from another perspective. I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments and on Twitter.

17 Comments


    1. Thanks Josh. :) The Drupal community introduced me to BoF sessions at my first DrupalCon in Austin, Texas last year. I agree it’s a pretty great idea.

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  1. Nice post Mendel. I have been thinking that the BoF Sessions would be a great idea at some of the larger WordCamps. It may be harder to pull off at the smaller level, though.

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    1. Thanks Marc. What do you think about Foundation Friday at small camps? Is it an extra burden for the organizers? How important do you think beginner events are? I’d love to know your thoughts in particular, since you are the master of the n00b talk. :)

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      1. I think Foundation Fridays are fantastic. One of the great ways to build up a local community and introduce them to WordCamps is to have a FF. It’s a great way for newbies to get a feel for the Camp ahead of time and, even more importantly, gives them a chance to get to know some folks going into the weekend. Nothing feels worse than going into a place where you don’t know anyone and Foundation Fridays are a great way to overcome that.

        As you know, I’m a big proponent of doing whatever we can to help people new to the game get their feet wet.

        As far as it being an extra burden? Well, extra work is extra work, so technically, yes, it is. But I think the benefit far outweighs the extra effort. I’d say it’s really more a matter of budget, venue and other things that can decide whether or not it’s viable for a smaller camp.

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  2. The Birds of a Feather sessions initially came out of the early O’Reilly Open Source conferences. I remember going to some of those way back in 2003 and 2004, which coincidentally is where I first met Matt Muellenwag.

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  3. Thanks Mendel – a few other comments from someone who has spent significant time in both communities.

    DrupalCon moves around – one a year in North America and one in Europe (though now also exploring South America and other places) – much like the model for WordCamp USA (what used to be WordCamp SF). I think that’s a better model than having the “premiere” event in the same place each year.

    It also seems to me DrupalCon has a much larger budget than most camps – even, I would guess, San Francisco. (I attended DrupalCon annually from 2008 to 2013, and I’ve organized WordCamp Boston, but haven’t ever looked at a budget for SF).

    DrupalCon tickets for LA this year, for example, ranged from $450 (early bird) to $650 (onsite), plus separate tickets for any of the Monday training sessions, Higher-Ed summit, or Business Summit, which ranged themselves from $199 to $450.

    Diamond sponsorships listed at $45,000, platinum at $30,000. In LA they expected 4000 attendees, in previous years they’ve had over 3000.

    There isn’t an equivalent of WordPress.tv, but many (most? all?) of the sessions from DrupalCon (and DrupalCamps) get recorded and posted online (YouTube, Internet Archive, or elsewhere), often embedded directly in the schedule after the camp.

    I’d love to see BoF sessions at WordCamps, bringing together folks focused on large scale sites, on higher education, on marketing, etc.

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    1. All great points John. I love that you share a similar respect for all communities, and what we can learn from each other as a result.

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  4. I’d love to see the WordCamp team at Automattic develop more conference management tools and offer them to WordCamp organizers. I know the theming is limited to what you can change via CSS against the Twenty-Fifteen or WordCamp-Base theme, though I think they are working on expanding these capabilities to support more themes.

    Things I’d like to see:

    – integration with Lanyrd, EventBrite, and 10times conference tools/directories
    – integration with live video streaming companies
    – push notifications for when a session has been accepted/rejected
    – an archive or WordCamps I’ve attended, submitted to, spoken at, etc. tied to my wordpress.org account
    – slide deck repository (also integrate with SlideShare, etc.)
    – a virtual swag directory (and maybe offer swag for sale online before and after the event)
    – better attendee directories (allow attendees to have robust bios, etc. — not just gravatars and links to their Twitter, sites, etc.)
    – WordCamp mobile app(s) — I think the Android version is almost ready.
    – Inline chat and messaging before, during and after the event.
    – Session feedback controls (both anonymous and not; let the presenter choose)
    – Session reviews and ratings
    – Speaker reviews and ratings

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  5. So — I’m a Drupal Guy — I would have liked to hear some of your thoughts on what the Drupal community could learn from WordPress. I agree that they are really different communities in a lot of ways. I’ve never been to a Wordcamp so I can’t really judge from that experience – but all of the things you point out from Drupalcon are the sorts of programs that I’ve just always expected from tech computer conferences, from many years back (I’ve been in the industry a LOOONG time).

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    1. Steve, I agree there’s plenty that the Drupal community can also learn from WordPress folks. I thought it was important to highlight the Drupal -> WordPress end of things given the audience of this site. Maybe I should write another post in the other direction…

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      1. Plenty… that’s an understatement. That’s a LOT to learn. Specifically how to make a good CMS that normal people want to use.

        Never had anyone request a Drupal build that’s used it. All requests nowadays are for WP sites. That should tell you all you need to know.

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  6. “it’s also ok to love Drupal”
    I can’t agree more! Thanks.

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  7. I have yet to play with the beta of Drupal 8. Any good?

    I have messed about with Concrete5 now for perhaps 20-30 hours total. Its nice. Very nice in fact. Some UI stuff imho needs some surgery. Sorta like alot of other things.
    Concrete5 on a Windows Xampp box when having sessions thrown at it (a Dual Core 8500), 16GB Ram, 7200 RPM HD, faired “fair”. I’d not expect it deal well with significant traffic on a shared host.

    When moved to my Core i3 Lenovo server (32 GB Ram), Has All Samsung 850 SSD’s in it (4 of them presently), 2 for .NET IIS, 2 under Linux/Apache/PHP/Mono a 2TB HD for backup and/or DB.

    Faired MUCH MUCH better. It on a SSD VPS or Dedicated server is a very viable option.

    On my Dell rack server (not in rack) 64GB Ram which is a dual quad core CPU with two SSD’s and 15,000 RPM TB drives. it did well. On SSD, just fine, on HD, not so much. I enabled our smart cache Apache module on this box and was blown away, almost a 950% increase in performance. I shouldnt be “that” surprised as it has ALOT of files. Its actually a pretty strong CMS system.

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