By james, 1 January, 2024
Advent Calendar with all doors closed

This December was the second incarnation of the Drupal Advent Calendar project.

This started on a whim in 2022, and while fun, I knew I didn’t want to write it all myself the second year.

So at DrupalCon Lille, I started asking people to get involved in this year’s calendar, initially focusing on people I know. The response was generally positive, with most people eager to take part.

My aim was to have a different person talk about an aspect of Drupal behind each door, and that was more or less how it worked out.

When I thought of asking people to take part, my aim was to cover 24 topics without putting too much workload on any one person, and I think that was a success. But what I didn’t expect was that by involving so many people, the whole project became something greater, a celebration of the people who make the Drupal project what it is. There was a wide range of topics, from a diverse group of people, and that turned out to be the most important thing.

I thought it would be fun to put all the people into the calendar doors:

The calendar with the people behind the doors

So a big thank you to all the people who stepped up to write something. Here’s a list of all the entries:

Special thanks are also due to Urvashi Vora (urvashi_vora), Alex Druhet (alex.druhet), and Dan Shelton (Dandolorion), who helped design logos for projects that didn’t already have one. I think the whole calender looks great when the doors open:

The advent calendar with all doors open

Special thanks are also due to my partner Fionna, who did a fantastic job proofreading all the entries. She really appreciated the people who had someone else proofread before sending their piece in.

Advent Calendar Module

Something I’d have loved to have done last year was an interactive calendar with doors you can click to open, and have it remember which ones you’ve visited. That just wasn’t possible due to the last minute nature of the project.

But it was something I definitely wanted to do for this year.

It would certainly have been possible to produce something just for the site, but I felt that it wouldn’t take a lot of extra effort to make it a contributed module that other sites could avail of.

So the Advent Calendar module was born.

Essentially, this consists of a View Style that lets you lay out a view as a style, and a calendar door Single Directory Component.

Special thanks to Mike Herchel who gave some helpful advice on the SDC, and to my friend Louise Dade, who helped me with some CSS trickery.

Because of the need to plug values from the view into the SDC, it can be a little tricky to configure, so I thought it needed a way someone can just get an Advent Calendar on their site quickly. That is the purpose of the “Advent Calendar Quickstart” sub-module. It sets up the needed content type, view, taxonomy term, and 24 (unpublished) nodes that you can edit with your calendar entries.

You’ll probably want to add a scheduling module such as Scheduler or Scheduled Publish to make the doors open each day, but the module doesn’t mind which you use.

As SDC components are a relatively new feature of Drupal, I’ll be keeping an eye on how they develop, and hopefully future improvements will make them easier to integrate into views.

Things I’ve Learned

What have I learned this year?

  • Getting 24 people to write an entry is a lot easier than writing them all myself
  • Getting 24 people to actually get their piece written on time is a bit like herding cats!
  • Start recruiting people earlier
  • Be stricter about deadlines
  • Don’t find yourself unsure of tomorrow’s post today!

But most of all, I felt that running the Advent Calendar as a community project changed the whole dynamic of the project, and it became much more about the people behind the calendar. There were some really interesting and engaging technical pieces, but for me, the most engaging were the ones telling a story.

Future Plans

I would definitely like there to be a 2024 Drupal Advent Calendar.

I like having a different person write each day’s entry, so I intend to continue that. However, I would like a bit more emphasis on the story aspect from the outset.

I might try to have a more formal sign-up process, and get an outline of each entry well in advance, and agree deadlines, and have a backup entry or two waiting in the wings (I did have a backup entry this year, and there were a couple of days I was starting to get it ready when the next day’s post was running late, but in the end I didn’t end up using it, so it will be a regular blog post in January).

While it’s been fun having the calendar on my own blog, for it to really grow, I’m wondering if it should be somewhere in the namespace, so I’ll be exploring if there would be interest from the Drupal Association, and if it would be practical.

If you have any ideas for the 2024 calendar, you can leave a comment here, or drop me a note on Slack or Mastodon.

And Finally

Thanks to everyone who contributed in any way to this year’s calendar, and to everyone who read it.

See you in 2024!

Happy new year!


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