DrupalSouth and DrupalGov 2018

Reflecting back on DrupalSouth/DrupalGov for this year, it was a pretty great event.

The location was easy to navigate, the facilities were great, the people and presentations were engaging and I came away with some great ideas and some faith in the future of our favourite CMS.

Here is a quick review of some of the talks I found interesting.

Getting the most from GovCMS8 and the UI-Kit Starter Theme

Murray Woodman and Toby Bellwood

I wasn’t up to speed on what the DTA was doing with the Design System, and despite our own Stephen Ollman working with the current UI-Kit on the upcoming AOFM site, I wasn’t aware of the power of the UI-Kit Starter Theme until this presentation.

It was great to see a starter theme so well thought out, comprehensive and including things like predefined paragraph types to help Content Authors really have control over how their content is displayed.

I had done something similar with the MDBA and Energy Rating websites, allowing Content Authors to use the Paragraphs module to insert various styled elements. However, the team at Morpht have turned it up to 11 by allowing the authors to control background colours and additional flexibility with the column width and layout using Flexbox classes, but all wrapped up into a simple to use and understand UI elements for the content authors.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the Drupal 8 UI-Kit for my next GovCMS build.

Drupal 8 Architectural Paradigms

Jay Friendly

This was a great presentation for the back end programmer types and helped me understand how Drupal 8 is structured. Drupal 7 is all about Arrays… everything is an Array of Arrays of Arrays… with a few objects thrown in to mess you up.

But Drupal 8’s switch to a more Object Orientated framework meant a change in that approach.

Jay covered his development of the ColorAPI module, which allows the storage of colour values in a more structured and deliberate way.

Rather than creating a TextField with a character limit of 6, Jay used the Typed Data API and created new types of data to be stored, specifically the rgb color and the hexadecimal_color.

Using these new Data Types, colours can be stored and retrieved more consistently than if they were stored in simple text strings.

It was a great peek into the Typed Data API system, and I can see myself using this approach in the future.

A tall glass of Kool-Aid

Jesse Boyd

This was a great insight into the development of the DTA.gov.au website, and the use of the Design Standards in a real-world application. 

It was a clear and frank presentation about the trials and tribulations that making a website in an echo chamber that usually exists in a Government Department can result in.

I’m a bit biased as I’ve worked with Jesse before, but it was refreshing to hear some negatives and harsh truths about our world.

Partial Decoupling Drupal with React Components

Tony Comben

With our primary client base being Government, and their tendency to be five to ten years behind the technology curve, it’s going to be years before we get a Department that is receptive to making a fully headless Drupal website with a React (or whatever is the golden child at the time) front end.

Instead, what I think is way more likely is that we might be able to convince them to dip their toe in with smaller components dotted around their site, and that is where partially decoupling Drupal comes in.

Tony said there are many things that Drupal can do in the front end that are difficult or complicated to create in a Javascript front end, like duplicating the functionality of a Views exposed filter.

By partially decoupling smaller components you can get the best of both worlds.

This is something I really hope we can push in the future.  I’ve already got a few ideas bouncing around.

The black dog can code too

Laura Munro

Intrigued by the title, and suspicious it could be a talk about working at Dog House Studios, a few of us OPCers went to this talk by the amazing Laura Munro from New Zealand, and who I only now realise I should have asked if she was related in anyway to Burt Munro… everyone in New Zealand knows each other right?  It’s a small place….

The talk about the personal journey of Laura, and how she has dealt with depression, anxiety and imposter syndrome in her time in the tech industry (Which, with her accent was pronounced ‘tik industry’, which was amazing.).

And also how she ended up at the company X Equals, with their mission statement to ‘staunchly defending each others well-being’ and their 20-35 hour work week, it really hit home, especially with my previous blog posts about mental health, how a change to our standard 9-5 work life could return real benefits, and even Karl Hepworth’s response to another blog, where he mentions Imposter Syndrome.

It’s good to see these topics getting more air time.

The OPC I.T. Keynote by Sally Young

Despite a funny interlude when her Linux laptop decided to remain zoomed in and 400 techies started Googling “How to unzoom Linux” and shouting out keyboard shortcuts, it was great to see the progress that Sally and the Drupal Javascript team have been making in modernising the Admin Interface into React JS and building out the API system to expose even more of Drupal.

I can’t wait to install and play around with the updated Admin Theme, which has already replaced the Database Log and User Permissions Matrix with React Components.

Replacing those classically slow and cumbersome pages with a modern dynamic and quick front end, will make the user experience for Administrators just that little bit better.


So over all, it was a great event and really got me enthusiastic about the future of Drupal, and the future of GovCMS.

Date posted:
12 December 2018
Authored by :
Toby Wild