Google Slides Made Mandatory at DrupalCon

DrupalCon North America is the anual conference about the Open Source CMS, and it is amazing. However this year there is something we need to help fix. It seems that in an effort to streamline the event’s organization the use of Google Slides is required to participate in the ignite talks.

My goal with this post is to encourage people to participate in this discussion so we can see other points of view. When the call for papers for lighting talks opened I was surprised to read:

Decks must be submitted as a Google Slides link in May.

Screenshot of the C4P page

I did not like the idea of my favorite Open Source project forcing the use of unethical software only in the name of convenience. I have to admit that I also went down a mental rabbit hole of what could be the reasons for such exotic choice coming from an Open Source association. As Brené Brown reminds us:

In the absence of data, you’ll make up a story

So I decided to dig up a bit more what could have led to this decision that was against my values and Drupal’s values. I hijacked the #contribute channel in Slack to ask around if anyone knew who I could talk to.

Rachel Lawson provided clarification of possible reasons for this. Note that all quotes here are from conversations that took place in public channels.


Morning! I think that the Lightning Talk format is fairly new to DrupalCon and that they are looking for a very quick turnover between speakers - so having all the slides loaded up on a single presenter computer makes sense.

The constraints appear to be:

  1. having all the slides in a single system, so one talk can seamlessly progress into the next
  2. finding a system the greatest number of people are familiar with
  3. remembering that the technical capabilities of our audience does not always include doing things from the command line - that rules out things like reveal.js

However, I do appreciate (and applaud) the concept of using an open format, at least. I’m no fan of Google Slides - I do all my presentations from Keynote, even my DA ones. I will do some enquiries as to what is possible.


I’m a bit of a fan of, @Gábor Hojtsy (he/him). Indeed, I tend to export mine from Keynote and import there simply as a place to share them -

Bethany Lister also provided a helpful clarification:


We decided to create a special process for lightning talks to help lessen administrative burden. Speakers are going to make changes up until the last minute—it’s just how it is. I need to get all the slides queued up so we don’t have to worry about swapping out computers. (Lightning talks will be presented from a single, conference computer.) Having slides submitted as a Google Doc means that people can make their edits and that I have a persistent link to the correct file and I don’t have to worry about re-uploading updated versions.

We don’t have the same requirements for the 45 minute sessions since speakers will present from their own machines.


The DA uses Google Apps internally. I wanted to make a decision about a tool that I am comfortable using and am confident will work on whatever conference laptop we end up using on site.

In light of that fact I started brainstorming about possible solutions.


We could also create a project in and have an issue per presentation (with a fixed URL). Presenters may upload as many PDF iterations as they need in there. The most recent one is clicked and shown during presentation time. This is:

  • 100% open source
  • Uses our own tooling
  • Accounts for data privacy
  • Checks all the administrative checkboxes
  • Only requires an account on (which is reasonable given you are at DrupalCon)

Note that even I only mentioned the PDF format, however I believe that people could opt-in to Google Slides in the issue as well. In any case, I think there are solutions to this.

e0ipso any next steps I can help with? I’d love to help sort this out.

Bethany Lister told me she is certainly happy to discuss more when the time comes. So if you want to join the discussion to propose ideas, or to express agreement with the goals of this conversation, drop a line in this issue. The Drupal Association is already working on this.


I called Google pactices “unethical” in the text above. Criticism of Google includes concern for:


Please read on Google Slides no Longer Mandatory to learn how this concluded.

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