234: Come on down to Drupal South 2016!

Vladimir Roudakov and I sat down at DrupalCon New Orleans to talk about an event close to my heart: the 2016 edition of Drupal South. This year, it'll be held in Australia's Gold Coast. Knowing the Australasian Drupal community, this will be a very high quality event in terms of what you'll be able to get out of it. And knowing the location, right by the world famous "Surfers' Paradise" beach, if you're into sun, fun and Drupal, you'll be in for a treat!

Below is a little information about the event and Vlad, plus video, audio, and a text transcription of our conversation.

Drupal South 2016

Meet Vlad

Interview video - 14 min.

jam: So Vladimir and I are in glamorous downtown New Orleans at DrupalCon 2016 in North America. How’s your Con been so far, Vlad?

Vlad: It was pretty overwhelming. It’s my second Con in the US and third Con altogether and it’s been amazing. Everyone should try it. Everyone should try at least one DrupalCon in their life.

jam: As you can hear from his accent, Vlad is from Australia.

Vlad: Gidday!

jam: You work for Technocrat, right?

Vlad: That’s correct. Yes, I work for a company based in Sydney called Technocrat.

Vlad meets Drupal

jam: How long have you been doing Drupal?

Vlad: I’ve been doing Drupal since 2009. I actually kind of gave up on enterprise back in the day and went to a small company that was run from a basement. The owner came to me with a pile of paper like that and said, “Do you know Drupal?” I said, “I worked with Joomla! before” and he said, “Well, here are all the passwords of my clients. Can you fix the sites?” It was a few Drupal 5 sites and majority of them were Drupal 6 sites. So that’s how I met Drupal. In the basement of the Queensland – well, it’s actually called “Queensland” there – the house. So it’s like in a basement of the house back in Australia.

jam: So your introduction to Drupal was a hundred rescue projects.

Vlad: About 50, yes - not a hundred.

jam: So what did you think about Drupal after opening those up?

Vlad: Well, I don’t think I had time to think about it. I was actually trying to learn it for quite a bit. So just doing it all myself. Yes, it took quite a while and again, was overwhelming but the interest and bit--and still today ... So it was – I guess almost seven years to-date. I keep learning every day, which is – I guess – the most exciting part.

jam: Have you been paying attention to Drupal 8? Have you been excited about that?

Vlad: Yes, I actually just certified as Drupal 8 Acquia certified developer and we just released two projects as a part of Technocrat with at least two Drupal 8 projects into the wild.

jam: Wow! So what are you most excited about, technically in Drupal 8? How is it going to make your job better?

Vlad: Well, it’s already doing it. The fact that it packages a lot of stull than before – we used to use as the modules. So making it more stable is one thing. The second – and I guess the most exciting bit that it kind of comes with hidden gems like a backbone frontend library and Symfony. It’s invisible for a naked eye – for a person who starts doing Drupal 8 or just get introduced for Drupal, but for us as the developers, that brings enormous amount of stuff hidden that we actually can leverage and use. So that’s very, very exciting.

jam: What would you say your favorite thing about Drupal is in all these years?

Vlad: That’s a tough one. There are too many things but I guess community. Yes. So basically, whenever I go to: DrupalCon in the US--I haven’t been to any Drupal events in Europe yet--but in Australia as well. It becomes like a second family.

jam: Yes. I feel really privileged to be able to have close friends that I can see two-three-four-five times a year all over the world in different places and you sort of pick up the conversation that you were having before. It keeps going it – really, it does sort of feel like a family but the good kind of family, I guess.

Drupal South 2016

jam: So you might know that I grew up in New Zealand and you’re on the Drupal South organizing team this year for 2016. When and where is Drupal South going to be this year?

When and Where?

Vlad: So this year, Drupal South is actually coming to the Gold Coast, which is on the east side of Australia. Coming from very cold and rainy Melbourne last year, it actually would be nice to see the sun. So we decided to do it right on the beach on Gold Coast. Originally, Drupal South used to be called Drupal Downunder because Australian and New Zealand events were two different events. So at the moment, they are packed together as Drupal South.

jam: So last week of October – for those of us in the northern hemisphere, if we want one more dose of warm weather, we should come to the Gold Coast. What can people expect from a Drupal South? Is it 80 people in a university basement or what is it like?

Vlad: We keep going back to basements. Now, it’s a – we’re actually going up this year. So I’ll talk about that a bit later but what’s actually happening is a few people came to me during this conference to say, “So what is Drupal South? Is it actually another Drupal camp?” and I’ll say, “No, no, we actually have three Drupal camps in Australia every year and this is an actual conference.” So this is pretty much what – if any of you came to DrupalCon 2013 in Sydney, that’s going to be exactly what it was there. So we are looking at approximately 300-350 people sharing the knowledge. There are some similarities with DrupalCon and the fact that DrupalCon is a big inspiration for me but also it’s going to be a bit different. So there’s going to be a few differences. Talking about the location, the Gold Coast itself, it’s a fun, family destination. We actually are located – I think half a block from the beach. We specifically moved it to October. First of all, not to smash too close together to events like DrupalCon but also because it’s going to be much, much warmer. The Gold Coast is a perfect destination because there are amusement parks, there are entertainment districts. It’s a strip of high rises that people were building since the ‘60s and ‘70s and it’s pretty much like a completely separate city. Actually, a few cities packed together. So it’s very nice. So if you are looking at some family vacations as well as learning or teaching some Drupal, you should definitely come.

International Visitors

jam: Alright! Last week of October, 2016. I have been to the last two Drupal Souths and I was really, really happy. One of the things that I like at different Drupal events is the different mix of people but there were an awful lot of international guests in Melbourne. For example, a lot of people from India, a lot of people from China who I might not see in other places. So you’re expecting about 300 or 400 people. What kind of focus and what kind of activities are there going to be?

Vlad: Well, it’s basically – we are targeting mostly Drupal crowds as usual but this year, it’s a bit different. First of all, I think DrupalCon in Asia changed the perspective in Asia on DrupalCon and a few events like camps happening all over Asia like Manila, Shanghai also, I think to promote Drupal quite a bit. I talked to a few people here and we do expect international guests from India or from China and I think there are a few sponsors that are coming up from there so Australia definitely becoming an international destination in terms of Drupal.

Student Day

Apart from your standard Drupal event where you have a number of sessions, maybe training, a few parties, we’re actually planning a few surprises and one of them – it’s a student day. So actually, at the moment we’re looking at a pre-conference day where we’re trying to get as many students as we can and either go to a local university, which we are trying to work out now. And actually teach Drupal to students or maybe organize a mini conference for them and promote the actual conference. We’re also trying to do that in advance before the conference. So just work with local universities and promote Drupal a bit more.

Conference Sharing

Another thing is conference sharing. Something interest – I realized while traveling to different conferences in Australia, not many people are aware of conferences that are actually happening apart from stuff they’ve been doing for ages. For example, last year I went to WordCamp, WordPress mini conference that was in Brisbane and realized we don’t really have much overlap. There are excellent events happening for Python conference, excellent events put together by Linux Australia – a Linux conference. So what I’m trying to organize is to actually have a table or something to promote other conferences in Australia and New Zealand region to people. So I actually have more people going to PHP conferences next year because it would make sense for people doing Drupal to do that. So that’s another thing.

More hands-on

The last thing we were planning to do is more hands-on session. So usually at DrupalCon, you come and listen to the person for a number of minutes. So say a half-an-hour session or a 45-minute session. So what we are looking at the moment – I’m not sure it’s going to happen – or how it’s going to happen and what format it’s going to be, but we are planning to have a hands-on session where the actual session itself is a mini training course and people can come in and learn about Views not just by watching the presentation but actually will try to present or to actually put together the mini-course so people can actually come and go away with something they built.

jam: Oh! So I can have a concrete achievement from having attended a session like that. That sounds great! That sounds like a really, really, really good idea.

Call for Papers, Call for Sponsors

jam: When is the call for papers? Who should be coming to present? What else do you need?

Vlad: Head to the website to find out more information about sponsorships and sessions as well. So we accept sessions from everyone. If you are using Drupal as a company, if you are planning to use Drupal, if you have any experience in Drupal or so that you want to share, we’re going to have a – not that many actual session tracks but we’ll try to definitely have a distinct line between development, project management, and business. So that’s something that I also have a strong opinion about because a lot of project managers and businesses came to me and said, “Look, we are non-technical people and we also want to share.” On the same note, a lot of advanced developers came in and complained about not having enough advanced session.

jam: Nobody is ever happy ;-)

Vlad: Yes, that’s true but I’m actually trying to cater for that. Although the conference is not very big, we’re really, really trying to do that. So head to the website. There is a sponsor section there. There is a call for paper section there. Submit your session. I’m sure we’re going to have a good conference. One more thing to add is I was talking about heading up before. So one of the things is we are having the conference at Q1 building. It’s the Q1 Resort building. I think it’s an 80-something floor building. So it’s one of the tallest in the Gold Coast. It used to be tallest but someone already built much, much higher. So we’re actually going to split the conference between level two and level 78 and we’re going to have an access to an observation deck. So that’s one of the reasons to actually come in and see the Gold Coast from the level 77 and 78.

jam: What’s that website?

Vlad: The website is goldcoast2016.drupal.org.au.

jam: Alright. I will link to that in the show notes. I just want to say that I’ve been to a PHP conference in a hotel where the sessions were divided between the ground floor and the sixth floor and being in Germany, their elevators are small and slow. Make sure you’ll give us enough time to get between sessions in the elevator. Taking into account how many elevators there are because it jammed up the process at this thing that I’ve been to before.

Vlad: Well, I think we’re not going to split the actual sessions. We’ll either going to do some sponsors talks up in the sky or maybe have a coding lounge or something like that.

jam: That would be cool!

Outta here!

jam: This is Vlad. He’s on the team for Drupal South 2016, which is happening in October and it sounds like it’s going to be a great venue. It sounds like it’ll be a great opportunity to combine it with some vacation time – very, very, very nice. I have been to a couple of these in the past and I really, really enjoyed them and I’ve been to another Drupal conference in Australia and I’ve gotten a lot out of them. So this is a great community. If you want to come and meet some new interesting Drupalists, I would say it’s very, very likely to be a good conference.

Alright Vlad, great talking to you! Have a great rest of DrupalCon. If you could see behind us, the lunch queue is starting to move and yes, it’s time to go get some food. Take care, man. Good to see you.

Vlad: Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot, jam.