What I learned at #DrupalSouth 2015

Posted on March 8th, 2015

Run by the awesome Donna Benjamin, I decided to volunteer for #DrupalSouth because of the community, and also because a lot of the schedule topics interested me, particularly around continuous integration and design processes. The venue, Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, was great – easy to access, and lots of accommodation within easy walking distance.

Day 1 went brilliantly. Donna had prepared everything beforehand, including all the attendee lanyards etc – which were outsourced to an external provider for packaging and alphabetising – which made registration an absolute breeze. Registration opened at 0800hrs, but many delegates didn’t register until 0845hrs – meaning a last minute rush.

The key thing I took away from registration was how heavily Drupal is used in government and in education – with several agencies and tertiary and research institutions represented. T-shirts were issued, and the sizing concerns often besetting technical conferences were avoided by having a wide range of sizes. We decided to issue t-shirts that people had ordered first up, and then doing swaps on Day 2 when we had a better idea of who had registered and who hadn’t – and this worked well.

Better Remote work by Jarkko Oksanan

The first session I room monitored in was by Jarkko Oksanan, a Finn who does a lot of Drupal work remotely. He went through a great presentation on putting together a remote working team, and remote working practices that are highly effective. I was blown away by the statistic quoted, that globally there are over 219 million people who work globally – so imagine the productivity increases if we can improve remote working even marginally!

There was a rundown of the best remote work tools to use, including;

  • Videoconferencing: talky.io, Google hangouts all got a mention
  • IM and team communicatiion: Slack got a huge mention, and IRC is still huge. Still! Hipchat is rocking for people who work with other Atlassian tools. Just to test it out, I created a Slack account and integrated it with my GitHub repo just to take it for a spin, and, quite frankly, I likey.
  • Git all the things: GitHub, private repos, git synching for backups, and integration with GitHub and Slack for team comms. If you’re not into Git, get on to it.

One aspect of this presentation that surprised me was the focus on team building and social opportunities to facilitate remote working – because it’s hard to have conflict with someone you’ve shared a few drinks with.

Drupal 8 Migration Choices – Jerry Maguire (Jam)

Jam gave us a rundown of the architectural decisions around moving to Drupal 8 – essentially, D8 is experimental, useful for small scale deployments or for prototyping, but is not ready for mission critical, complex or massively public facing scenarios. Awesome presenter, would see again A+++

Peter Henderson – 2.9 million words in two months

Peter, from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority, gave an engaging presentation on content workflow and website redesign in a heavily regulated government environment. As a centralised web team, they had to convert over 2.9 million words of content into a new CMS (Drupal) within two months. Many shortcuts were taken, and the end result was that the end users of the site didn’t really enjoy the experience – so they refactored by using analytics t0 guide UX improvements.

Because of the high degree of centralisation, they also implemented Dashboards in Drupal, so that pieces of content could be tracked across the complex legal, SME and technical review workflow – something that was all too familiar from my own work experience. The Dashboards worked well, and help to secure senior management buy in in to making content owners accountable for reviewing their content.

At the end of the session, I asked Peter whether or not a decentralised content authoring approach had been considered – and his response was also intuitive – and seen all to often in large organisations;

“they’re not capable of this yet – the maturity isn’t there”

Amelia Schmidt – Red flags in the design process

In what I judged to be one of the most insightful talks of #DrupalSouth, @meelijane took us through a number of ‘red flags’ in the design process. Aside from her compelling and engaging slide deck, some of the point she made were controversial and challenging – such as questioning whether in the digital age, it was still appropriate to get client sign off on designs, as the design itself may not perfectly resemble the finished product. For example, Photoshop layered files cannot always easily translate to HTML and CSS.

She also made a number of compelling points about tools for design – and introduced us to a number of great products such as;

Using Sushi Cats (bonus points, cats as food), she demonstrated design ratio problems for common elements such as lead text and featured images, and took us through some techniques to have better overall design patterns, such as different style crops to match defined styles.

Well worth a look through the slide deck.

Michael Godeck – Go for Continuous Delivery

Michael’s presentation centred around the practice of Continuous Delivery, which incorporates the practice of Continuous Integration, and introduced an opensource tool called ‘Go‘, which is in a similar marketspace to tools such as Jenkins and Ansible. I hadn’t used it before, and Michael provided a great overview.

Michael took us through various development metrics, such as cycle time, lead time and development time – and showed how a continuous delivery framework enabled you to spot where bottlenecks were in your process. He strongly underscored that you need to ensure that you’re building the right thing – in the same way that Agile is a project management methodology, continuous delivery tools allow agile thinking to be applied in the software development process.

This talk spurred a number of great questions, which touched on topics such as how to convince clients to pay for quality – as continuous delivery models allow for greater quality.

Lasting thoughts

DrupalSouth was a fantastic event. Well organised, with a great venue, a space conducive to relationship building and knowledge sharing, very strong wireless internet, and well-prepared Speakers who were clearly experts in their field. The surprising takeaway for me however was just how strong UX, UCD and CX practices are infiltrating traditionally technically-heavy communities – and in so doing, delivering better products and experiences.

DrupalSouth Melbourne 2015

DrupalSouth 2015 Group photo, credit: Peter Lieverdink


Ada Lovelace Day 2014 – Maia Sauren

Posted on October 12th, 2014

As I chose who to write about for this year’s Ada Lovelace Day blog post, it occurred to me that this was becoming a harder task year after year – as I have the privilege of getting to know more and more amazing women in science and technology – and this is a Good Thing.

That said, Maia stands out for a number of reasons. I first met Maia in 2013 while doing Agile training; the university I work for was adopting agile practices and I needed to skill up. The training was inspirational – we looked at our texts and then put them aside as the entire training course was run as a sprint! She taught me to think differently, to challenge assumptions, and to ensure that data was driving decision making – all prerequisites for good agile practice.

I’ve also come to be inspired by other activities Maia seeds and nurtures; the Open Knowledge Foundation‘s Health Hacks, GovHack, and many other side projects that seek to further understanding and provide value. She’s also a knitter, and that gets bonus points :-)

Maia is @sauramaia on Twitter

Installing the Wacom Intuos Pro PTH-651 under Ubuntu 13.10

Posted on February 2nd, 2014

As a present to myself for getting a high distinction while studying my IT Masters, I decided to get a reasonable graphics tablet. As a hobbyist graphic designer and photographer, it was an area I was keen to develop skills in. In determining which model to buy, Wacom was really the only choice – they are the undisputed market leader in this space. The Bamboo range wasn’t function enough for what I wanted, so opted for the mid-range Intuos Pro model, the PTH-651.

The lovely folks at BCC Computers in Geelong put one on backorder (apparently they’re really popular, they kept chasing for me, which was great) and within a couple of weeks I had the device in my hot little hands. It’s just as well that it arrived after linux.conf.au 2014, otherwise I wouldn’t have packed for conf!

The other complication was that I had a Masters’ assignment due; my wonderful work colleague T played Dad and ‘kept it safe’ for me for the week or so until the assignment was finished; then my toy got released! Thanks, T :-)

Installation under Windows

The tablet installed beautifully under both Windows 8, my home machine, and my work laptop running Win 7 Professional. In both cases I had to reboot, but the software installed easily and immediately I was able to use it.

Getting it installed under Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy Salamander

Installation under Ubuntu was a little more tricky. The good folk at BCC had warned me that I would have to use this difficult thing called the ‘command line’ when I made initial enquiries; this was where I pulled out the photo of my “other” Nexus 4 running Ubuntu Touch and demonstrated this was probably within my capability!

Nexus 4 runnung Ubuntu Touch

I was not to be deterred.

So, after unpacking and installing the Intuos under Windows, I booted into Ubuntu and set to work. Initially, there was nothing. Not even a hesistant jitter from the cursor to indicate it knew of the Intuos, and the Intuos knew of it.

After some reading on the Ubuntu forums, I happened across instructions for downloading, compiling and installing the latest version of the Wacom drivers, from the Linux Wacom project. I’d had mixed results backporting previously, like when I had to backport the Atheros ethernet drivers into my ASUS N76.

This time, fortune was on my side. The new drivers installed perfectly and after a reboot, my Intuos was recognised, and the (still somewhat limited, but vastly improved) control panel was in System Settings.

Mission: accomplished

Other thoughts

Everything about this install was intuitive, other than for changing the nibs on the stylus, which Wacom had helpfully done a video of.

Will my mouse be gone foreover? I’m not sure. Going entirely to the tablet takes a little time and practise, but just like learning a language it’s a skill I’d like to get some more fluency in. I still have a lot to learn with swipes and other gestures, but for now I’m off to a flying start.

Next Page »
© Klog: Kathy Reid’s Blog • Powered by Wordpress • Using the Swiss Cool theme.