Sprinting for the first time

For many years, I've been using Drupal as many people do - by clicking, publishing information and creating websites through the addition of modules and themes. I know how to code in PHP, but with my involvement in the local Drupal community, organizing three DrupalCamps in Gothenburg (2012, 2013 and 2014) and having family and friends, there hasn't been much time to dig down into Drupal and help out with issues and writing code.

When DrupalCon Amsterdam came closer I chose to take a couple of vacation days, and stay for the sprints after the camp. To take part in the First-time Sprinter Workshop on Friday and learn how to code in Drupal.

First-time Sprinter Workshop

We were a big bunch of people, gathered in a room at the Amsterdam RAI, to learn how to code, or at least how to help out. We would have three hours of introduction, which I had high hopes for. Apart from us, there were about 20 mentors helping out. The first thing we had to do was to install all necessary programs, like GIT, Acquia Dev Desktop, Limechat etcetera. Since I work with GIT, have been on IRC for many years, nothing of this was new. Installing the Dev Desktop was troublesome though, and much time went to figure out what was wrong. During this time I couldn't pay attention to what was said about drupal.org and the issue queue, so suddenly I had no idea of what to do with my (slightly) new coding environment. I just didn't know what to do. I asked one of the mentors, and he said to go find an issue in the Drupal Core and work on that. Work on it how? What should I do with it? This was why I wanted to stay for the sprinting, to learn what to do, perhaps even how to do it. Frustration was creeping up on me...

YesCT to the rescue!

So I sat down in front of the issue queue and tried to find something to do. I didn't know what to look for, and I ended up helping out on IRC and helping a guy sitting next to me, who knew less about GIT than me. Felt good to help someone, and to actually feel useful. Then suddenly Cathy Theys, YesCT on Twitter, comes in and asks some of the guys in the room if the mentors had explained what to do when the coding environment installation is done. Since they hadn't been that thorough, Cathy took some time to do so, and that was so welcome. Suddenly I actually had some clue of what to do. A little better clue anyway. With Cathy's words in mind, I also asked a mentor called Andy if he could help me finding something to focus on. He took care of me, placing me next to two other guys who are new to Drupal coding as well, and together we explored the issues queues, trying to find appropriate tasks to do.

"Is that a wall heading my way?"

I realised quickly that even an issue tagged with 'novice' was often to hard for me, since I'm new to Object Oriented Programming, but after a while I started reviewing a patch here, a patch there and summarizing an issue here and an issue there. A fellow podcast member, Kristoffer Wiklund, said that even though everyone here wants as many as possible working on, patching and reviewing Drupal 8, there are still thousands of themes and modules out there, both getting re-written for Drupal 8, but also having issues for Drupal 7. Therefore, I also took time to look at some of the modules and themes that I use, to see if I could help out there. And I could! You can't imagine the feeling when I'm suddenly taking baby-steps towards helping out more and more. My Dashboard on drupal.org was, within the hours, filling up with comments of what I've summarized, what I've added and reactions to my comments. That, my fellow Drupalistas, is something you can't put a price tag on.

Ending on a high note

The day started quite bad, but ended much better, in two ways. Apart from the wounderful mentoring of Andy, we were also approached by some other mentors handing out a handful of cards, with different tasks on them. It was Sprint task cards, and when summarizing what I've been doing with Drupal for the last 4 years and what I've done during DrupalCon Amsterdam, I suddenly was eligible for 4 out of 6 cards. Sure, the mentors were a bit nice on some tasks, but it felt really good on getting 4 stickers with "Explorer", "Mentor", Issue mover" and "Community contributor". The last one was extra nice, since I work quite hard on arranging the DrupalCamps in Sweden.

"One more thing..." 

But that was only one thing that made the day extra special. What about the other? At 5 o'clock, Cathy entered the room and announced it was time to see when webchick, Angie Byron, commits patches to Durpal 8 core live - on stage. Well, there wasn't a stage, but at least in front of everybody. I was sitting at the desk in the front, so I had a very good seat. They did the commits, and denied some, and everything was nice and so. Webchick has a really good sense of humour which made everything extra nice. In the end she thanked the people who had made the patches she committed this afternoon but then  - and I could applause this for a very long time - she also said that it's all of us who are important, from the tiniest little bug reporter to those who do screenshots and write summaries. That showed me that I really can make a difference and that I shouldn't pack it up and go home, just because I can't write code that fixes all the major bugs in Drupal 8. And now for the good part - when Angie asks everyone that had helped out with patches to stand up I thought I shouldn't stand, but my mentor Andy encouraged me to stand up. Sure, I had helped, but I didn't think it mattered that much. But he did. And I thank him for that. That extra encouragement made me want to go home and continue looking through the issue queues at Drupal.org, helping out, fixing it. So we can get Drupal 8 out the door. Together.

(I ended up visiting an art exhibition of LEGO statues called 'Art of the brick' that evening, but that's a different story.)

  • Posted on: 4 October 2014
  • By: Adam Evertsson