DrupalCon 2016 New Orleans Retrospective

DrupalCon logoThis year’s DrupalCon 2016 in New Orleans was one of the best ‘Cons to date.

Set in the city of mouth-watering food and drinks, stunning architecture and never-ending festivities, DrupalCon 2016 was an extravaganza of good times: from the many thought-provoking sessions and keynotes we attended, to connecting with friends both old and new at the booth, Civic Lounge Happy Hour and other events, to giving back to the community via code sprinting and event sponsorship.

Here are some conference themes and sessions that resonated with us, as well as a recap of some of the CivicActions event highlights.

Conference Themes and Sessions

Drupal 8

Unsurprisingly, the largest theme at DrupalCon this year was the adoption of Drupal 8 — getting started with D8, theming and site building, configuration management, automated testing, security and more.

Despite its relatively recent release, D8 adoption rate is climbing and modules are being ported over on a regular basis. Community participation and programs such as Acquia’s D8 Module Acceleration Program are working hard and providing resources to ensure that the next project you build will be in Drupal 8, not 7.

D8-related sessions to watch are Aha! Understanding and Using Render Arrays in Drupal 8, How Drupal8 Makes Your Website More Easily Accessible, and Altering, Extending, and Enhancing Drupal 8.

Automated Testing

This year saw an uptick in sessions and conversations surrounding automated testing, particularly Javascript testing, visual regression, and behavior driven testing using tools such as Behat.

Standout sessions include Behat: Behavior-Driven Development, Functional Tests & Selenium (in Drupal!) and Automated javascript testing: where we are and what we actually want.

Component Driven Development

A number of sessions and BoFs demonstrated an exciting maturation in Drupal’s approach to component-driven development.

Ranging from a case study of Theme-driven development with a living style guide, to a BoF called The Zen Theme and the art of Component Libraries with Twig and Drupal 8, we saw some great examples for how to use components and living style guides for agile web project. For Drupal 8, there seems to be an emerging consensus for how to handle components in D8’s twig template files, with a Model/View/Presenter pattern in the theme for managing the relationship between Drupal’s content model and the front end.

We’re excited to start trying out new tools to find better ways to help build bridges between design, development and content creators.


CivicActions at DrupalCon

By far, the best part of DrupalCon is getting the opportunity to meet and share with other Drupalers from around the world. At the Civic Lounge, hosted by CivicActions with partners NuCivic and DrupalSquad, we shared our vision for open, agile, and transparent solutions for transforming government with individuals from a variety of state, local, and federal government agencies as well as from non-profit and higher ed backgrounds. This year saw the first ever Government Summit, where we made new friends and learned a lot about the challenges facing government employees in IT.


Our team members were involved in leading several BoFs, or “Birds of a Feather” sessions that bring together like-minded individuals in an unstructured format to talk about a particular topic.

Tuesday afternoon, CivicActions’ Owen Barton co-presented “Security and Compliance Challenges and Strategies” with CHIEF’s Kat Kuhl, Jason Ford and Shea Nangle from BlackMesh. The BOF focused on overcoming challenges with Drupal strategies and modules related to requirements such as FISMA protocols and FedRAMP certification. Participants were largely concerned with collecting and securing HIPAA data in a Drupal site.  Here are notes from “Security and Compliance Challenges and Strategies”.  

On Wednesday, Eric Napier led a discussion on BDD Testing in Drupal that compared different behavior-driven testing tools such as Behat, PHPSpec, and Codeception, noting their respective advantages, challenges, Drupal support, and ease of use. Eric notes that while Behat is currently the tool of choice for most of the attendees, many expressed interest in alternate tools such as Codeception, particularly one that would better facilitate a BDD workflow.

Lightning Talks

Associate Director of Engineering Adam Bergstein facilitated several lightning talks at the Civic Lounge booth, including Accessible Continuous Integration – Security and Compliance Edition and Hacking Agile Contracts.

Adam Bergstein presents Hacking Contracts

CivicLounge Happy Hour

The Civic Lounge Happy Hour on Wednesday night brought together individuals from higher ed, local, state and federal government, and other industries for a night of networking, food and music DJ’d by DrupalSquad VP of Business Development, Leif Utne.

Civic Lounge happy hour

Leif Utne DJs

We were excited to see such a great turnout!

Fun at Civic Lounge Happy Hour

We had such a wonderful week, jam-packed full of exciting events, sessions, parties and, of course, food and music.

Can’t wait to see you next year in Baltimore!


2017-03-31T06:19:54+00:00 Categories: Drupal, Drupal 8, Events|Tags: , |

About the Author:

Heather joined CivicActions in 2015 as an Engineer, bringing over five years of experience in delivering sustainable, scalable, user-focused and content-driven web solutions for both government and higher education clients. Heather combines her front-end development chops with an extensive background in site planning and building to create user interfaces that are simple, elegant and easy to maintain.

Prior to joining CivicActions, Heather served as a front-end developer, technical architect and project lead at Chief on major website projects such as a bulk publication ordering system using Drupal Commerce and Internationalization for the Federal Trade Commission. Her career in Drupal began at the University of Maryland, where she designed and developed multiple Drupal sites for the A. James Clark School of Engineering, including the University of Maryland’s Division of Research, and pioneered the University of Maryland Drupal Users Group.
Heather loves to shares her passion for creating clean, semantic, and easy-to-maintain markup, and has given multiple talks at venues such as BADCamp and Capital Camp on using Sass, and CSS methodology SMACSS, to write leaner, more efficient code.

When she’s not bending your ear about best practices in web design and development, Heather is most likely to be found reading, planning her next travel adventure, or teaching German to her collie pup, Winston.


What do you do at CivicActions?

I’m an engineer focused primarily on front-end development, content strategy, and user experience. Lately, I’ve been involved in leading CivicActions Labs, serving as practice lead for front-end development and participating on our marketing team.

What tools do you use most often?

  • Slack
  • Google Drive
  • Trello
  • Terminal
  • Git
  • JIRA

What do you love most about CivicActions?

What makes CivicActions unique to other workplaces is the emphasis on work/life balance, and growth both personally and professionally.

See my Promoting Personal and Professional Balance: Workplace Culture at CivicActions blog post for more details.

What do you love about what you do?

I love working Agile! Instead of being handed a mockup to code out at the last minute before the deadline, all team members, including clients, constantly work together to deliver the product in increments.

The transparency, open communication, and rapid delivery make development fun again.