Responsiveness, Automation, D8, and Drupal’s Head: A MidCamp 2015 Recap

In March, my coworker Amanda and I  hopped on Amtrak from Minneapolis to the University of Illinois campus in Chicago for Drupal MidCamp, excited for the chance to catch some great sessions (especially on the front-end track!), learn what people have been working on, and share what we have been up to.

We stayed just a short bike ride or walk from MidCamp and the social events, great local restaurants, an art museum, and a brewery. What a great location for this event!

When we checked in, we loved the Alice in Wonderland-themed designs, and I learned later that this is part of the event transitioning and rebranding from MidCamp to MADCamp, so look out for that next year.

The highlight was definitely this wonderful group photo for Aaron Winborn. He was a big part of making Advomatic what it is today, and seeing all of the love and appreciation for him from the community meant a lot to everyone here.

photo for Aaron Winborn

Photo taken for Aaron Winborn


With so many great sessions, I had a hard time choosing. I ended up sticking with front-end sessions to learn about new tools and techniques that I often hear about, but don’t have the time to explore on my own. Determining which tools to use for front-end ops and automation was a common theme throughout, which was helpful, since I’m often trying to decide if it’s worth it to switch to something shiny and new or to stick with what we know.

  • Grunt All the Things!! Even Drupal!” focused on automating processes in Drupal and the benefits of doing so. Presenter Fredric Mitchell demo’d an automation tool he had worked on, Grunt Drupal Tasks, and covered automating front-end tasks like more efficient Sass workflows and connecting to Pattern Lab, which is quickly becoming a popular web design methodology.
  • Responsive images are a challenge beyond just getting them to scale on various screen sizes, so I was glad to hear James Nettik’s “Responsive Images in Drupal” session address topics like performance and empowering content authors to handle art direction. He presented great solutions using a combination of Image Styles, Breakpoint, Picture and Manual Crop modules.
  • Drupal 8 Theming,” presented by Lauri Eskola, definitely had me looking forward to theming changes in D8. Though it’ll be much different, it seems like it may be much more straight-forward. I’m especially excited to see the work going into the Twig debug function and making default markup more sensible. I know I won’t miss those extra divs!
  • Off With Drupal’s Head‘s” panel discussion included Raphael Traviss, Matt Glaman, Beth, Ashley Cyborski, and Steve Persch. Curious to see how they would define “headless Drupal,” I wasn’t surprised that there is a lot of debate around what it actually means. Panelist even disagreed on defining the “head” in “headless Drupal. Mostly I took away that Drupal is good at a lot of things, so we should take advantage of that where we can. Unless there is a very good reason for using “headless Drupal,” you probably don’t need to. I did enjoy hearing about all its possibilities, though, particularly how you could use Drupal with the RESTful Module as an API for a front-end framework like Angular or Backbone.
  • Day two began with Ryan McVeigh presenting “Intro to Front-End Ops,” a very comprehensive overview of many front-end automation, testing, and performance tools as well as his experience with many of the tools and which ones are worth exploring. I especially liked the comparison of Grunt and Gulp.
  • Our Birds of a Feather talk on style guides that afternoon brought together other front-end developers to talk about their use of style guides in Drupal. We had a great discussion, and Amanda wrote an awesome blog post, Style Guides in Drupal, that covers the highlights, so you should definitely check it out!
  • Our last session, Lisa Ridley’s “Visual/CSS Regression Testing,” included a very detailed demo of PhantomCSS and the impressive visual results of a round of testing. This could be incredibly helpful if used correctly in your workflow, knowing that there are some serious limitations that need to be planned for. It made me think about how we could use this type of testing in an effective way. 

After a couple days packed with sessions, the after party at Moxee was just what I needed. Such a fun way to wrap up MidCamp, and I hope I have the chance to make it back next year!

In the mean time, maybe I’ll see some familiar faces at DrupalCon LA in May and the Twin Cities Drupal Camp in June?