Boston Drupal meetup
A few days ago, I e-mailed my friend Moshe Weitzman (one of the people that I met at DrupalCon Sunnyvale, back in March), to let him know that I'd be coming to his home town of Boston soon. Well, as it turned out, the Boston Drupal Users' Group (Boston DUG) organised their monthly meetup for tonight! Moshe, of course, was nice enough to invite me along for the evening. So after finishing my jetlag duty today, I headed over to the Berkman Center at Harvard University, to meet and greet the Drupallers of the city of Boston, and to see what's going on Drupal-wise in this part of the world. Oh yeah — and also to catch up on the goss from (unfortunately it was too-far and too-bad-timing for me to attend) DrupalCon Barcelona, which took place about a month ago.
The meeting began at 6:30pm: and in true hopeless-geek style, it commenced with all of us standing on the porch of the Berkman Center, locked out and unable to open the door. Even when Moshe arrived (and he organised the meeting), he didn't have a key or anything. Anyway, eventually we managed to get the attention of someone inside, who was kind enough to open up and to let us pour inside.
I made myself very popular at this meetup, by going round the corner at 6:15pm to buy some snacks, and by coming into the venue armed with none other than... (drumroll please) ... Doritos™ and salsa! Mmmm... there's no better way for a group of Drupal-savvy engineers to discuss the API-related issues of the day, than over the crunch and gobble of cheese-sprinkled corn chips, dipped in spicy and chunky meat-and-tomato sauce.
Tonight's meetup had a very impressive turnout: all up, there must have been over twenty people in attendance! Considering that this is only a local area meetup, and that (even I'll admit this) Drupal is a pretty specialised niche thing, that's bloody extraordinary. When I went to Australia's first Drupal meetup, in Melbourne last year, we managed to get seven people (although I think the Melbourne meetups get more people these days). And when I attempted to organise an inaugural Sydney meetup, a mere three people showed up :(. So clearly, the Boston community is quite established and quite strong — a great example for all other local DUGs around the world.
Apart from Moshe, the only other person there that I knew (also from the Sunnyvale conference) was Barry Jaspan, of D6 Schema API fame. Both Moshe and Barry attended DrupalCon Barcelona, and of course, both of them had only good things to say about the experience. Barry even turned up in his souvenir t-shirt, which boldly proclaimed: "DrupalCon Barcelona — the best DrupalCon EVER"; and I must admit, that t-shirt made me more than a bit jealous :P.
The whole meetup consisted of a series of "lightning talks". A lightning talk is a 5-minute presentation, that anyone and everyone in attendance can give. It can be as prepared or as unprepared, as formal or as informal, and as geeky or as layman-accessible as you like. The only rules are that it has to be quick, and that it has to be reasonably relevant to the subject-matter (which in this case was... Drupal!).
We had a number of interesting talks, from a good broad spectrum of people. Moshe's talk was the most memorable: he introduced us to one of his favourite developer's aids, the "Drush module" (stands for "DRUpal SHell"). This is a handy little script that can quickly perform common command-line tasks for you, such as downloading and installing a module, clearing your site's cache, and running little SQL queries on-the-fly. Looks like it could be quite a time-saver: perhaps I'll start using it, when I return to doing proper Drupal development work one day.
I also gave a little shpiel — which I pulled out of my arse on-the-spot — about a cool little improvement in error reporting, that has made it into core for Drupal 6. I wrote a little blog post based on the speech, which I called "Useful SQL error reporting in Drupal 6". Check it out in the GreenAsh thoughts archive. Most of the other talks were a bit less technical in nature: we had quite a few end-users and site administrators with us; and they spent a bit of time sharing some of their Drupal-related experiences with the crowd.
After the official meetup, most of us went across the road, and continued our geeky discussions over a delicious Chinese banquet. Moshe ordered the prawns, not me — I swear! :P Great food — and although the restaurant was kinda closing down for the night, they were nice enough to let the whole gang of us pour inside and grab some tucker, "as long as we ordered right away" (which we did). I was also lucky enough to get a lift back to Newton Center (which is where my cousins live, and also where Tara and Ashki live), which allowed me to quickly and conveniently make it back home.