• shot underneath the Chicago El subway system, with metal girders
    photo by Wilbur Ince

    Midcamp Recap

    March 28, 2019 by Dan Moriarty

The 2019 edition of MidCamp is over, but our team left Chicago with a lot of great advice, fresh perspectives, new connections and good vibes. In what is now the 6th year of its existence, this annual spring conference heralds the coming of spring and the national DrupalCon in April.

About the Camp

midcamp conference badge over a midcamp beanie hat
photo by Wilbur Ince

Midcamp is the Chicago-based version of a regional Drupal conference.

While several members of Electric Citizen attended Midcamp for years, along with a number of our Minneapolis colleagues, this was my first time attending, and it was a blast.

Held at the Lincoln Park branch of DePaul University, Midcamp is four days of Drupal-related content. Similar to Twin Cities Drupal Camp (coming this June!), the conference begins with a day of training, followed by sessions, a keynote, code sprint and great parties.

Camp Content

crowd of midcamp conference attendees listening to keynote talk
photo by Wilbur Ince

Thursday began with a keynote from Fatima Sarah Khalid, sharing her personal experiences as a Muslim in a post-9/11 world, and offering insight on how we all might improve our understanding of diversity and inclusion.

As a member of the Drupal Diversity & Inclusion working group, it was warm and insightful personal story that had implications on how we interact with each other and what privileges some of us might take for granted.

From there, things divided up into several tracks of sessions, starting Thursday and continuing to end-of-day Friday. Content from all of these sessions is available online, simply by visiting each session page, or the Midcamp YouTube channel.

The evenings were filled with some great socializing at neighborhood bars, one fantastic game night on campus, and of course, several nights of Drupal Karaoke!

Session Highlights

While no was able to take it every session (obviously), I thought we'd mention a few highlights from each team members' experience.

Citizen Dan

five speakers at conference talk, all sitting and interacting
photo by Wilbur Ince
  • A Modern Designer's Workflow -- this session covered new workflows and tools for web designers, primary focusing on Sketch. Personally I started using Sketch last year, after many years of relying on Adobe Illustrator–much later than others but better late than never. It also introduced me to Zeplin, which is looking like a valuable addition to our toolbox-- a tool where I can share Sketch mockups with our developers for previewing and theming.
  • Visual Regression Testing with BackstopJS -- a long-term goal of mine is to continually improve our suite of testing tools. While we've made a lot of strides lately with utilizing CircleCI and similar services, adding a visual regression tool such as BackStopJS could be next. This would be another preventive method to catch small changes that can occur in a website after updating software.
  • Amazing Emails from Drupal 8 -- this eye-opening session introduced our team to a host of new options for formatting Drupal-generated emails, beyond the plain text version we've all known and loved for the past 10+ years, as well as other features like tracking what emails have been sent.
  • Event Organizer Panel -- Of course I have to plug this session, where I had the honor of participating in a panel discussion around the topic of regional Drupal conference organizing. Along with myself (representing Twin Cities DrupalCamp), there were organizers for MidCamp, Florida Drupal Camp, BAD Camp, and DrupalCamp Asheville. We'll all be meeting around this topic again at DrupalCon Seattle.

Citizen Oz

  • Empathy for Internal Users – many of the concepts that the presenters I have heard before but the principles are good to hear again. As I drift further into the depths of code, toward the backend, I get further away from the real users and content admins of a website. Being reminded of who I’m building this for and why pulls me back from the behind my screen and breaths new meaning into what I’m working toward. While listening to their processes I am allowed to reflect on my current position and goals, and realize that I still have improvements in my own processes to achieve.
  • Anonymous Personalization Without Leaving Drupal – Smart Content is a contrib module that is featured here. Because so many sites use the same suite of modules, it’s always neat to see a module in action that I’ve not heard of. Reading the description and trying to work with it is fine, but watching someone who has experience with it is great. I would highly recommend watching his presentation to see what this module could do for you and your anonymous users.
  • Data Visualization in Drupal – two years ago I saw a presentation of the Charts module and there was still much work to be done. This demo of the Charts Module has shown me how far it has grown. Should I need to give site admins the ability to plot data I know where I can turn. With the video of the session I will be up and running in no time.
  • Effective Cross-Functional Communication – I sit behind my computer most days and plug away at my tickets. That’s the way I like it, I’m comfortable in that routine. But I work on a team in a small company. I need to be reminded of how to pull myself away from the computer and actively contribute, and communication plays a big role in that. I’m selfish and self centered, I recognize that. This presentation talking about communication allowed me to reflect on the language I use and choose which column I want to be in–Do I want to be (or am I) the cause of miscommunication or do I communicate properly? I think I communicate properly but with the language they point out, I have some changes to make in the words and phrases I select. By choosing the better communication options, maybe I will become slightly less self-centered while being efficient in my communication.

Citizen Wilbur

  • Keynote Session: Actions Speak Louder than Code - I can't stress enough how great this session was!  Fatima Sarah Khalid gave the keynote, which was a very personal exploration of her growing up and facing the xenophobia of America since 9/11.  It's well worth watching!  She did a great job of using an online polling tool to support her presentation.  This was her first keynote, and she knocked it out of the park!
  • Level Up Your Drupal 8 Configuration Management - Scott Weston gave a really good review of Configuration Management in Drupal 8.  He packed in all the details in a 30 minute session.  Well organized and a very thorough session.  
  • SimplyTest.me - A community case study  Adam Bergstein (Nerdstein) gave a great session on the history and future of SimplyTest.me.  What seemed to be an imperiled side-project, has turned into a well-run and fully funded project with a bright future.  There's lots going on and they are actively working to improve and modernize the project.  A modern Drupal success story!
  • Make Drupal 7 Development Fun and Modern - As the mechanic at Electric Citizen who takes care of our Drupal 7 sites, this was one of the best sessions of camp.  Part of this session covered using Composer to manage Drupal 7 modules, libraries, and patches.  A huge advantage of this approach is the ability to manage patches with the composer process.  As Drupal 7 wilts on the vine, patches for unmaintained/unupdated D7 modules will proliferate like Spring wildflowers.  So managing patches will be critical to our maintenance efforts.  
  • Amazing Emails from Drupal 8 -- Citizen Dan already claimed this one of his best of sessions, but I will second his recommendation!  This is a groundbreaking advancement of the Drupal Project, and will become part of everyone's Drupal 8 toolkit.  
Dan Moriarty

About the Author:

Dan has worked as a UX designer, developer and online strategist since 2000, working on a wide variety of web design and development projects. More »