Next Stop: Portland

It‘s 10:30 the night before leaving for DrupalCon. I am, as usual, both excited and concerned that I’m going to forget to bring something important.

I’ve got my list of things to remember and definitely not forget: business cards, disc golf gear, laptop, iPad, power cables, notebook, pen, headphones, book for the plane … passport. I’m thinking maybe I’ll even pack some clothes, too. Although, I could probably manage with one shirt and just fill out the rest of my wardrobe at vendor tables at the conference.

Anyway, we’ve got a full schedule lined up for the week. Trevor and I will be disc golfing on Monday, and we’ve invited everybody to join us. Most of our team is getting together Monday evening to see the new Star Trek movie before we hit the conference sessions on Tuesday. Tuesday night, of course, is the much anticipated Lullabot party/Orbit concert that I’m far too excited about. After the final day of sessions on Thursday a bunch of us will take to the arcades for the Pinball Pub Crawl. After a day of code sprints on Friday, I believe there will be fireworks as part of the Rose Festival. Sounds like a pretty good way to cap off a busy week.

Okay, time to pack a few more things and get some sleep before an early departure in the morning. Next stop: Portland.

Re-posted from Josh’s personal blog at

Git Best Practices: Workflow Guidelines | Lullabot

We’ve been using Git here for a while, but it’s always good to get a best-practice refresher, and some workflow tips and tricks. Lullabot’s Andrew Berry has some good stuff on that front today:

Git is a flexible and powerful version control system. While Git offers significant functionality over legacy centralized tools like CVS and Subversion, it also presents so many options for workflow that it can be difficult to determine what is the best method to commit code to a project. The following are the guidelines I like to use for most software projects contained within a Git repository.

via Git Best Practices: Workflow Guidelines | Lullabot.

Improving search on

As you may have seen on the notice board, we have recently experienced some difficulties with the search system on, and have made some changes to both overcome these changes and improve the quality of search results on the U of L web site.

Previously, we had built a custom search tool that was powered by Yahoo. We have received numerous complaints regarding the relevance and quality of search results in the past few years, so we were aware that improvements to the system were necessary. Last week our connection to the Yahoo service quit working entirely, so we took the opportunity to migrate our search system to a Google-powered search embedded into our main Drupal web site.

So far we are finding the results to be much more comprehensive and relevant, and we believe that users of will be pleased with the improvement. We have made an attempt to point all search forms to the new search engine, but it is possible that one or two may have been missed. If you encounter a search form that leads to a “not found” error page, please report it to so that we can get it fixed.

Happy searching!

The Boss exercise suite | NodeOne

Cool idea from the guys who brought us “Drupal: The Card Game”. Couple this with some good training materials like Lullabot’s and you’ve got a good set of tools for brining new team members up to speed quickly with Drupal.

The Boss suite contais exercises or (relatively) simple tasks, useful if you are just learning Drupal or want to know how to do content management rather than site building.

via The Boss exercise suite | NodeOne.

BBEdit Clippings for Drupal 7 |

I’ve been a TextMate guy for a while now, but the dearth of updates have had me at least somewhat contemplating giving BBEdit a try. For those Drupal devs using BBEdit, this looks promising:

My BBEdit Clippings for Drupal 7 includes:

  • All hooks
  • All drupal_* functions
  • All devel module print/debug functions
  • Common functions like t, l, url, check_*
  • Control structures like for, if and switch
  • Snippets for doxygen and function
  • Some theme functions for quick insert into template.php.

via BBEdit Clippings for Drupal 7 |

14 Must Do Items for your Drupal Post-Launch Checklist | Urban Insight Blog

It’s pretty easy to overlook some of these. Make an actual checklist and don’t forget!

To ensure a launch process goes smoothly I like to create three checklists. A pre-launch checklist covers everything you need to do a few days before launch to ensure everything is prepared. A launch checklist outlines the actual process the launch team will go through during the launch window itself. And a post-launch checklist details a variety of tasks you can’t really do until the site is live, and you do a few days after launch.

14 Must Do Items for your Drupal Post-Launch Checklist | Urban Insight Blog.

DrupalCon Chicago, Part 3: Cats, Birds, and Hunting Down Coders

“Theme is the force that binds it all together.” – Morten Heide

One notable shift at this year’s DrupalCon, or at least the impression that I got from the people I spoke to, is that there are an increasing number of designers and usability people getting involved, making Drupal accessible to more than just the hardcore coders.

The Drupal Learning Curve

On Thursday I was able to focus purely on the design and theming tracks, which left me yearning for all the delicious things Drupal 7 offers.

The main points in every session I went to that day focused on:

  • Consistency
  • Clean coding
  • Optimizing your site and its files

Morten’s session, “How to Make Awesomesauce,” was definitely one of the most entertaining. He spoke about cleaning up the CSS files in your Drupal theme, and warned the coders that they need to start developing their modules in a consistent way that is easier for themers to use and modify, or else we were going to hunt them down.

He also used my favorite Japanese cat, Maru, as an analogy for trying to fit content and requirements into places that don’t always accommodate it:

To top it all off, he Rick Rolled us in his code.

I later went to a session called “Faster Front End Performance” and though it was far too beginner for me (explaining when you should use jpgs vs pngs), it was nice to have reinforcement that we are already doing a great job at optimizing our websites here at the U of L.

They also provided an awesome online tool called Smush It that allows you to compress images for the web without using Photoshop.

At the Closing Session, they showed the final usage stats on how many people had been using the wireless internet. Early on it had slowed to a crawl, and that might be because the approximately 3000 attendees were using over 4600 devices!

On our day heading out, I went to the Navy Pier one more time to marvel at the number of seagulls that live there:

DrupalCon Chicago, Part 2: Paparazzi, Internet marketing, and Geek to Chic

The first official day of DrupalCon started with a few opening keynotes, including one by Drupal creator Dries Buytaert.

   Dries; Trevor and Wesley

This was my first DrupalCon, so I was excited when Jacob Singh asked me to help out for one small portion of his presentation of the Media module. I wandered through the classroom before he began, taking paparazzi photos of the audience for Jacob to later use in his demo of uploading a gallery. Not only was it a great way to meet people (I met someone who used to go to school and be close friends with one of my art professors here at the university), but I got a shout-out during the session.

(You can watch the video at; my shout-out is at 6:36.)

Trevor already wrote a bit about the module and like him, I’m really excited for when we can start using it.

Some of the first few sessions I attended covered:

  • Usability
  • Designing for mobile
  • Customizing maps
  • Cross-browser compatibility
  • Internet marketing
  • Designing for content managers

The Internet marketing session was really enlightening. I learned that PageRank has been abused too much, so Google is now placing much less authority on it (a few years ago it was a huge booster in your search result ranking).

The thing that struck me most was that they said to think of social media as leasing space in other people’s real estate. Another key point is that “interrupt” advertising is ineffective and no longer trusted by people; if they want to find something, they prefer to come to you on their own, making it important to organically establish a strong brand.

Myth: Social Media is a Waste of Time

That evening Trevor and I attended Lullabot’s party at the Underground, which featured a Geek to Chic fashion show, open dance floor where all of us nerds could strut our stuff, and a performance by Jeff Robbin’s band Orbit.

The fashion show was hilarious, featuring the best in nerd clothing and a cameo by ‘webchick’ rocking high heels.


We met up with Anne and Gord from NorthStudio in Victoria, who should be visiting Lethbridge soon to offer some Drupal training.

I also checked out the DPCI karaoke party with Jacob, and was surprised by how many web developers can also belt out a tune! It was a great night for meeting other Drupal developers and building camaraderie within the community.

DrupalCon Chicago, Part 1: Upgrading Drupal 6 to 7

I will be taking a retrospective look at DrupalCon Chicago over this next week; there was just too much going on while I was there to comprehend blogging about it at the time!

On our first day, while Wes and Trevor went to the Drupal 7 modules session, I attended “Upgrading Drupal 6 to 7,” a hands-on class where we upgraded a variety of websites to the newest version of Drupal. The session was taught by Acquia members Jacob Singh, Joshua Brauer, and Erik Webb, as well as additional help from Heather James, and they were fantastic to learn from.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic  

Though there are no immediate plans to do this upgrade at the U of L, I thought it would be a great way to learn the changes in Drupal 7 and prepare myself for when we do take the plunge.

I was amazed at how easily everything upgraded, especially that:

  • Views migrated seamlessly with no additional steps required
  • Using Migrate Fields, you can import all of your old fields
  • Any previously generated Automatic URLs move across flawlessly, only requiring you to manually update any syntax incompatibilities after you upgrade
  • Most conversion problems can be solved and updated simply by resubmitting forms

Foreseeable issues:

  • Complex sites may need to be built from scratch and then use content migrate
  • Themes do not have an upgrade path and also need to be rebuilt
  • Slidehow does not yet have a stable release for Drupal 7 (and a few new modules we are eager to try out aren’t ready)

Although it will involve a lot of work and planning, I’m excited for when we can start making the upgrade.