With my third DC (you can only abbreviate it like that if you’ve been to at least three DC’s by the way) under my belt, I feel like I’m officially, finally, part of the Drupal community. Three years ago I felt like a complete newbie at DrupalCon LA, and last year at DrupalCon New Orleans I felt a bit better, but was still a little on the outside looking in. Arriving in Baltimore, I saw familiar faces and was ready to jump right into the mix. It’s a good feeling.

For the past three years, DrupalCon has kicked off at the Higher Education Summit. Unlike previous years where most of the conversation centred around maximizing minimal resources and what to expect from Drupal 8, this year everyone was talking about their actual experiences with Drupal 8. It’s clear that the EDU sector is at least dabbling in D8 with some early adopters leading the charge. It’s refreshing to hear the experiences mirror that of the projects we’ve worked on. Challenges? Sure. Upside? Tons.

ImageX also presented a case study at the EDU Summit with our friends at Trinity University. The discussion was around “How do we get applications with different data sources to talk to each other? Even more challenging, how do we get people with different priorities and schedules to talk to each other about making these data integrations a possibility?” Our friends at Trinity U are among the most forward-thinking people we’ve ever worked with in the EDU sector, and this presentation reminds of me of that. Well done team!

For the remainder of the conference, I only had the opportunity to attend sessions led by ImageX. Bjorn Thomson, UX & Business Architect guru or "Viking Jesus" as he's referred to around the office (he stands 6'7" tall and sports an impressive beard 365 days a year), delivered "This time, it's personalized: Preparing your site for effective personalization" to a standing-room only crowd. A majority of the audience were from higher education institutions and web personalization is a hot topic in that sector, although it is still in its infancy in terms of being implemented. I highly recommend you watch the video of the presentation to learn more or contact Bjorn directly to chat about personalization strategies for your website.

Outside the few sessions I was able to attend, my time was spent in the trenches: having conversations with people at the ImageX booth, meeting our partners and clients and drinking copious amounts of coffee (don't judge, it's not easy being a West Coaster trying to deal with a 3 hour time difference). Throughout the hundreds of conversations I had, this DC shares many similarities to past ones; however, like everything related to the web and Drupal specifically, it’s evolving. Like the last couple of DC’s, most of the people you speak to come from agencies or Drupal-based partners such as Acquia and Pantheon. The attendees from organizations who use Drupal are largely development based, which makes sense given the learning component of the conference. There is significant chatter among the agency crowd, sharing wins/losses, best practises, etc. The community vibe is alive and well, maybe even more so than for the last couple of years. I get the sense Drupal 8 is the rallying variable within the community and we’re all working together to make it a success.

So, that's my DC experience for 2017. If you haven't experienced this conference, I highly recommend it, if for no other reason than it’s a good excuse to visit Nashville for DC 2018 (unless you don't like live music and amazing BBQs).