DrupalCon Austin

Ron Brawer

The entertainment industry is not for the faint of heart.

Need I mention Alec Baldwin, Lady Gaga, Harvey Weinstein, the Kardashians, Christian Bale... and my very own doppelgänger, Howard Stern?

Which is to say that after a lengthy career toiling in the dungeons of music (rock-band performances at CBGBs, recordings at Electric Lady), television (Emmy Award), and, lately, film (screenplay optioned by Danny Devito), I’ve developed a very thick skin and a willingness to plunge headlong into the unknown, brushing aside or knocking down obstacles in my path, and taking on jobs and responsibilities for which I was eminently unqualified.

Which brings us to DrupalCon Austin.

But first, some back-story.

At my initial interview for the copy editor job at Drupal Watchdog, I was careful to explain that, although familiar with the open source movement and knowing what Drupal was for, I neither wrote code nor had the foggiest notion about how to build a website.

On the other hand, I could put stuff into good English.

They hired me.

Merely a few Watchdog issues later (and still Drupal-ignorant), I decided I should have my very own website and, of course, it should be built on Drupal.


That evening, on my third martini, I fired off an e-mail to Jeremy (Jeremy Andrews, Drupal Watchdog publisher) proposing I write an article about a Drupal newbie who embarks on his very own website. Jeremy was encouraging and so “Baby Steps” was born.

Naturally, the article was in the form of a screenplay. It starred a character named Ronnie Ray – a martini-drinking, somewhat clueless (but somewhat aggressive) screenwriter. After he read it, Jeremy laughingly mentioned that my article was surely the first time in history that the words “Drupal” and “post-coital” had been uttered in the same breath.

He also requested that “Baby Steps” become “Baby Steps #1”; the first of a regular Watchdog column.

(Yes, I know: Austin. Relax, we’re getting there.)

Desperately Googling material for “Baby Steps #2,” I stumbled across the Drupal Association website and the template for a “Letter to Your Boss,” explaining why it was important to send you to DrupalCon Austin.

Hey, I already knew why it was important send me to Austin: a great music scene, a plethora of hipsters, and terrific craft beers.

So, that evening, 30 minutes into Cocktail Hour, I filled in the blanks of the “Letter to Your Boss” and shot it off to Jeremy...

Within weeks I was on my way to Austin.

Okay, here we are, Austin!

My Sunday evening arrival was a downer: the airline misplaced my luggage and by the time I arrived at the hotel it was too late for a Sunday-night-only Austin institution: chicken-shit Bingo. (Patrons get a Bingo card; a chicken is led into a cage with bars across the bottom with a large Bingo card under the bars; eventually, the chicken drops a chicken-size load and... well, you get the picture.)

Monday I got to meet many of my Drupal Watchdog stalwarts: the-ever-good-natured Jeremy Andrews; coffee savant Jeff Shelten; brilliant Narayan Newton; kooky genius Morten DK; the rarely-seen-in-public “Chx”; Peta Hoyes, Tag1’s beloved Organizing Force; and my reliable wingman for the next few days, Bob Williams. (Thanks, Bob!)

But by Tuesday morning, after Dries’ opening remarks and after attending a session about Drupal something-or-other, it became painfully clear that, Drupal-wise, I had blundered too far, too fast, too deep.

On the positive side, everyone I encountered seemed of boundless good cheer and enthusiasm; there were smiles galore and everywhere you turned small knots of people with DrupalCon name-tags and Drupal t-shirts congregated, introduced themselves, and engaged in animated conversations.

Plus there were the perks: Free yummy lunches! Open-bar parties! Funky little music clubs with no cover or minimum! Jazz! Blues! Rock! Wow, I was loving Austin.

Yet meanwhile, the question kept burning into my guilty, hung-over, coffee-stoked brain: How do I justify my existence here?

Then it struck.

“Jeremy, what if I interview some of these Drupalists, ask them where they’re from, what they do, why they came here, what they expect – you know, to try and get a sense of the Drupal community.”

Jeremy readily agreed, showed me how to set my iPhone to record, and I was off to the races.

The upshot: Not only did I get a sense of the Drupal community, but after transcribing, editing, and submitting the interviews, Peta responded that I had “captured the breath, depth, weirdness, and energy of the Drupal Community... The interviews are light, humorous and insightful. I would like to find a way to use them.”

Use them? Hmmm...

What about in the next issue of Drupal Watchdog?

And so, Ronnie Ray had blundered into another column. *

And a blog post.

* Look for “Baby Steps #3: Lost in Austin” in the next issue of Drupal Watchdog, arriving late-September – in time for DupalCon Amsterdam.