The largest Drupal gathering in North America, DrupalCon 2017, recently wrapped up. We sent a top-shelf delegation to Baltimore that included Glenn Hilton, Brent Wilker, Bjorn Thomson, Yuriy Gerasimov, Sarah Wall, and Bryan Heredia. After the group returned I had the opportunity to sit down with Glenn Hilton and talk about his experience this year at DrupalCon.

You’ve been a long-time attendee of DrupalCon and after this year’s event you told the ImageX team just how encouraged you were by it. Can you tell me a bit more about how the overall experience has boosted your optimism?

There was a bit of a sky is falling mentality in the second half of 2016 where many people were wondering why Drupal 8 was so slow out of the gate. Half of the community was hovering over the Drupal usage stats, as D8 was nowhere close to where D7 was on adoption after six months, or even a year. The D8 early adopters jumped in there (bless their souls), but as with any new release there were plenty of challenges, especially to try to get all the core modules upgraded to D8. But Acquia, the Drupal Association and many community members made significant investments to help get modules updated and Drupal 8 ready and up to speed. And that has really changed the overall optimism in the community as it feels like after a slow start, the D8 momentum is starting to roll.

What, about this event got you the most excited for the future of Drupal?

Drupal seems to be moving towards more complex and challenging opportunities. I had a chance to meet with Megan Sanicki, the Executive Director of the Drupal Association and she said, ‘Drupal is like a 12-inch pizza. Some are worried we aren’t going to grow to a 16-inch and get a bigger piece of the CMS pie. We may or we may not, but I definitely think we’re going to be moving from a thin crust to a deep dish.” Tom Erickson, the CEO of Acquia led his address at the Acquia Partner day to say that he’s quite positive about the Future of Drupal and that he’s actually feeling very bullish. He said “We coined the term ‘ambitious’ websites.” Meaning with Drupal, we’re good for ambitious, complex websites not simple blogs or brochure sites. And these types of projects are the most rewarding for agencies creating digital experiences.

There was a lot of attention and buzz at DrupalCon around the topic of personalization and our own Bjorn Thomson presented a session on this topic, so when thinking about the future of Drupal what do you think about personalization and how that fits in?

It’s such a new realm and it’s really exciting. I loved the presentation I saw at the Acquia partner day that demo’d Lighting, Lift and Site Factory. It was pretty impressive what they can do now to personalize the targeted messaging on a Drupal site. But interestingly enough there’s still a lot more that will need to be refined. As is the case with any new groundbreaking initiative or technology there are naturally some details to work out.
Although it can be challenging to balance the needs of different user types and their contexts, it’s a such a fantastic opportunity. Whatever the case, it’s great to see that personalization is at the forefront of our initiatives with Drupal as we seek to move from an era of static sites to highly personalized digital data delivery systems which represent immense opportunity for all of us.

DrupalCon took place over several days and there was a great deal to take in and synthesize, but was there something that really sticks with you now a week after the event?

For me it was really re-assuring to see how the community are starting to feel the momentum picking up for Drupal again. It was encouraging to hear at the Acquia Partner Day that their business grew significantly in 2016 and how they were really seeing advancements in the mid market (organizations from $100 million to $1 billion). I found the same sentiment as I interacted with CEOs of other firms and hope that everyone who attended could feel their confidence bolster as they realize that the lull has past and the flood gates are starting to open.

DrupalCon Baltimore 2017 concluded just over a couple of weeks ago, but the energy in the ImageX office is positively buzzed. We're working on several very exciting, and ambitious Drupal 8 projects and we're looking forward to sharing what we learn.