Iceland Ascending: My Weekend at Drupal Camp Northern Lights

The weekend of February 24th I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at Drupal Camp Northern Lights, the inaugural Drupal camp in Iceland. The overall experience of the camp was exciting, informative, friendly and diverse. And with a tagline of “The Coolest Drupal Camp Ever” it lived up to it, both literally and figuratively. Let’s go through a timeline of events to show you how and why.

Friday February 24th, 2017

I arrived in Iceland at around 6:40am. By this time, the weather reports in Iceland were becoming a bit severe, with road closures expected by noon. The camp organizers had originally planned for a sightseeing tour for the day, but because of the road closures we had to scrap that one. The organizers set up a walking tour of the city, which then also had to be canceled due to the increasing wind gusts. I made my way to a cozy coffee shop, to engage in Drupal Chat (via the camp slack channel), coffee, bagels and eventually a beer or two. A few of the camp attendees made their way to the Harpa to hang out for coffee.
Credit: Christoph Breidert‏ (@breidert)

On Friday evening the camp was invited to Reykjavik City Hall by the city’s mayor. A majority of Reykjavik’s government websites are built on Drupal and they have a great appreciation for it. This opening reception provided a welcoming space for everyone to get acquainted with each other and swap stories about the weather. The opening reception at City Hall was followed by an opening party in another part of the city. The camp organizers used this opportunity to lead the group on a small city walking tour between the two venues.

Saturday February 25th, 2017

Saturday morning started with a brisk walk through the snow – a sign of things to come –  en route to the camp venue, Reykjavik University.

In the opening remarks, the camp organizers (@baddy & @Drupalviking) had an exciting announcement for the attendees: after lunch, the whole camp would be going on a sightseeing tour of Iceland! (The bus tour that had been canceled due to weather the day before). The organizers had been able to reschedule the bus tour from Friday, secure a third session room and move a majority of the Saturday sessions to Sunday. #Winning.

Credit: Dwayne McDaniel (@McDwayne)

After an opening keynote by Jóhanna Bergmann and a block of sessions, we were shuttled to the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (known as RUV). At RUV, we were treated to a lunch of traditional Icelandic fare: salted cod, brown bread, potatoes and a dessert of rice pudding. We then listened to a talk by the RUV team on how they use Drupal to deliver content and media to everyone in Iceland. Fun fact: they have well over a million nodes (pieces of content) and are the second biggest provider of media in Iceland next to Netflix. We used this location to have everyone posed for a camp photo.

Credit: Drupal Iceland

It was then time for an adventure! We split into two bus groups and headed into the wilds of Iceland.

Credit: Baddy Breidert (@baddysonja)

The day tour tooks us around the “Golden Circle,” which is one of the most popular tours in Iceland. We visited Thingvellir National Park, where we walked between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates, viewed the wonder of the Gullfoss (Golden Falls) waterfall and then a visit to the Strokkur geyser, which shoots a column of water up to 30 meters (98 ft.).

Credit: Drupal Iceland

Following an afternoon of seeing some of the natural sights, we were driven to the Friđheimer  tomato farm for dinner. The very cool thing about Friđheimer is their greenhouse where they grow all of their tomatoes in a sustainable and green way. While enjoying a meal of homemade tomato soup – and tomato icecream! – we learned from the owner of Friđheimer how the farm uses Drupal to help manage their website, as well as, monitor their greenhouse conditions.

Sunday February 26th, 2017

Fun fact: in January of 1937 the city of Reykjavik received 22 inches of snow in one night. An amount of snow that had not been topped until the evening of Saturday February 25th, 2017.  Everyone awoke with the city covered in an unexpected amount of deep (beautiful) snow and slowly trudged their way to campus to begin a day of session.

Credit: Hilmar Hallbjörnsson (@drupalviking)

After the late start to the day, our Sunday was full of Drupal-related sessions, conversations and knowledge sharing. I was lucky enough to present two sessions, my first was about Inclusive Design and my second was about the Flexibility of Drupal 8.

Credit: Jim Birch (@thejimbirch)

As the camp came to a close, everyone gathered together to share some final thoughts. Facing an uncanny amount of weather and logistics issues, the camp organizers started on “plan A” and ended the camp well past “plan Z.” As the organizer Baddy said “That’s okay because the Icelandic alphabet has three additional letters.” The whole team did an amazing job keeping all attendees informed and the camp running smoothly. Overall there were 25 sessions and 95 attendees from 23 different countries (75% traveled from abroad) and 20% of attendees were women.

In my opinion, Drupal Camp Northern Lights was one of the best Drupal camps I’ve ever attended and I look forward to the next one. To learn more about Drupal Camp Northern Lights visit them here.

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