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Feb 28 2012
Feb 28

At the end of 2011, we were excited to hear that the Drupal Association was planning a series of global training days, when high-quality Drupal workshops would be scheduled all around the world and all on the same day. We believe 100% in this initiative and talked with Jacob Redding, the Executive Director at the Drupal Association, about how to bring it to Los Angeles. We quickly settled on some common goals, including how to work together to promote Drupal to as many newcomers as possible.

Everything was moving forward until we learned that one of the key pieces of the Drupal Association’s strategy is that Exaltation of Larks and other Drupal companies with well-developed training programs were being asked to produce these trainings at low- or no-cost to attendees. This one had us at a loss — literally! — and had us wondering how to sustain the growth of our training program without sapping resources from our consulting and development divisions, not to mention the attendance at our upcoming paid trainings.

One of the things we enjoy the most is a good challenge, and we immediately started coming up with ideas to make it work with our training program’s existing costs and our dedication to quality. In the end, we succeeded on all counts with two parts planning and one part luck.

We were lucky because we have a great training venue at Droplabs, a Drupal-friendly coworking space in Los Angeles that a few of the Larks and other entrepreneurs founded last year and that many of the Larks work out of. One of the events that Droplabs hosts is Drupal Coworking Friday, a free coworking day on the last Friday of every month — which coincided this time with the Drupal Association’s global training day.

With the potential for cross-promotion with Droplabs and the local Downtown Los Angeles Drupal user group, we went ahead and scheduled our Introduction to Drupal workshop. This was a lunch and learn-style workshop and providing lunch was the only hard cost that we had associated with the event.

We usually go through a large marketing and production process for our trainings, but this time we didn’t buy ads or book a large venue. Instead, we liberally borrowed parts of some of our favorite presentations and workshops that we’ve done many, many times: an introduction to databases and queries, sections from our Drupal Fundamentals course, and questions and answers about web hosting and the Drupal community.

What We Covered

  • When and why to use Drupal
  • Considerations when starting a Drupal project and how to organize a project
  • The basics of Drupal, from content management to membership (“user”) management
  • An introduction to databases and queries
  • How to organize a site using Drupal content types, Taxonomy and Views
  • How to turn ideas for features and functionality into achievable tasks using user stories and use cases
  • Which tasks are crucial for a successful Drupal website and how to organize them
  • How to choose the right Drupal version and modules for a project
  • The basics of web hosting and getting Drupal running on a local computer
  • How to connect with the Drupal community, its meetups, conferences and job fairs and online discussion forums and chat rooms

What We Learned

The best learning experiences are where everyone learns something, including the instructors. Here’s what we learned by doing this format compared to our usual one- and multiple-day trainings:

  • Unlike our other courses, which have clear prerequisites and a “ladder” structure, this workshop is going to be different every time depending on the number of attendees and their range of technical expertise. We can’t assume anything about what students do or don’t know.
  • This isn’t a “deep dive” workshop and it’s important that the entire class shares the same overview and moves forward together. We tried to avoid getting sucked into Drupal’s details, like technical recipes for specific functionality such as galleries, content workflows for newspapers, etc.
  • This is a 3-hour workshop. We’d originally planned this workshop to be 2 hours and that wasn’t enough time to touch on some more advanced topics that some of the attendees asked about toward the end of the workshop. Our group was yearning for information and all but 2 attendees stayed for nearly 3 full hours.
  • Everyone likes to have fun when they’re learning, and learning Drupal is no exception. You never know when the “aha” moment will be. When it presents itself, grab it and run!

Although the workshop “sold out” and all the seats were technically reserved, there were a few no-shows. We always expect this to happen with low- and no-cost events, but we didn’t expect those available seats to be immediately filled by walk-ins and people who were attending Drupal Coworking Friday but hadn’t heard about the workshop.

Our experience was so positive that we immediately added it to our list of available courses. Not only are we planning to offer this workshop again, we’re going to do it every month! We’ve already scheduled the next one for March 30, 2012, which happens to be another Drupal Coworking Friday.

Jan 01 2012
Jan 01

2011 was a big year for us at Exaltation of Larks. In addition to our regular consulting and development work, we kicked off our public training program in January of 2010 and have offered public classes on everything from Drupal fundamentals to back-end development and everything in between.

In 2011, we trained organizations in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Irvine and San Diego and our training clients are companies including LegalZoom, Disney Interactive, Thomson Reuters, The Annenberg Foundation and Warner Brothers; universities including UCLA, UCI and UCSB; and many Los Angeles-area creative and advertising agencies.

Training Scholarship Program

Our trainings aren’t just for big organizations, however. We want to help train as many people as possible, including unemployed job seekers and people in need, and help them become the developers, themers and architects of tomorrow. To this end, we started our training scholarship program in September.

In 2011, we gave away seats at our trainings worth more than $10,000 to our scholarship students and to local area Los Angeles Drupal user groups to raffle off at their meetups. This has been a tremendously rewarding experience for us and we look forward to doing more of the same in 2012.

Upcoming Trainings

Our first training of the new year is on Drupal Scalability and Performance and it’s at SANDcamp, the San Diego Drupal Camp, on January 26, 2012! If you’re interested in making Drupal go really fast, this training is for you. We’ll provide the servers you’ll get to optimize for performance and all you need to bring is your laptop.

We’re also working with the Drupal Association to bring their worldwide “Drupal in a day” training initiative to Los Angeles in February in an effort to introduce people to the Drupal project and solve the Drupal talent issue that many companies are facing. Follow @LarksLA on Twitter or Like Exaltation of Larks on Facebook to hear more about this initiative.

Request training in your area

In closing, are you interested in our trainings but aren’t able to make it to one of our public classes? Sometimes it’s easier and more cost-effective for us to come to you. We’ll even work with you and your team to tailor our curriculum to better fit your organization. Contact us to request training in your area and we’ll follow up with you:

Thanks, and we’re looking forward to seeing you in 2012!

Oct 03 2011
Oct 03

To celebrate today’s release of Services 3.0 for Drupal 6 & 7, we sat down for an interview with Blake Senftner, a Services expert who is providing our Developing RESTful Services and Web APIs training in Los Angeles on November 3, 4 & 5.

We’re also offering 10% off this training: just use coupon code SERVICES10 at checkout. The discount code expires on October 15th.

Christefano: What was it that got you interested in Services?

Blake: Well, to be honest it’s because of Services and Drupal’s other APIs that I’m using Drupal at all. I come from a 3D animation background — I did both feature films and console video games — and I needed the ability to create Web APIs for a distributed computing environment for my own startup.

C: When was that?

B: I started working with Services 6.x and the XMLRPC Server, getting the first version of my distributed environment operating with that. It worked fine and I wasn’t looking forward to the move to RESTful until a buddy at Disney Interactive sat me down and explained REST to me.

With XMLRPC, you create remotely callable functions and the logic feels very “atomic” in that you’re doing one function at a time, with no “system” or architectural framework. Within a RESTful structure, though, you’re creating and working with “resources” — which are very much like objects in an object oriented sense. Where XMLRPC is working in data, REST works on “things” that have a complete CRUD lifecycle — create, review, update, and delete operations. Just that simple CRUD framework provides a structure that makes working in REST conceptually easier.

C: Give an example of how using REST makes things easier.

B: Okay, an example would be with my XMLRPC service, I had a function that could create a 3D model. That was all it did. The same thing in REST by default supports creating, editing, deleting and updating. Just because that comes with REST and is part of the concept of REST, you automatically think in lifecycle frames of references. With an XMLRPC, all you think of is “I just want this one item.” There’s no architecture in that. There’s no lifecycle in that.

Oh, I also had a client that saw my earlier XMLRPC API and wanted something exponentially more sophisticated. Envisioning that in XMLRPC was causing me to consider a CRUD framework for XMLRPC, but luckily my buddy at Disney had that talk with me. That’s why I switched to REST.

C: When did you start working with Services 3.x?

B: I was digging through the sources, examples and issue queue as soon as a usable 3.x version was available. That was probably around September or October of last year. There may have been working versions earlier than that, but that’s when I started. The maintainers of the Services project are amazing and overworked and I hope the training we’re doing helps alleviate their workload.

C: How long did it take you to get your first “hello world” working?

B: Oh, geez. [Blake checks his email.] It looks like it was just shy of 4 weeks before I had satisfactory handshaking and then another 6 weeks before I had a full CRUD resource working with Relationships, Actions, Targeted Actions, and Authentication. Of course, I was also developing my client’s project at the same time, but the Services work was a continual focus because we had so much riding on it working.

That’s a big reason behind my offering this training. I speak with Drupal developers all the time at my Droplabs co-working space, and very few of them have the time or clients with the vision to commit the time to learn Services. Services is the key behind offering “software as a service”, as well as backends for mobile apps and console games.

C: We’re really excited to be doing this training. What do developers need to know in advance, and what do they need to bring to the training when they sign up?

B: You probably need to know at minimum how to create a basic Drupal module. To make anything interesting, you probably want to know enough to create a Forms API-driven interaction. It could be creating a custom content type or anything that exposes forms from your module. If you know that, you have everything you need to jump into Services with gusto.

Bring a laptop with a local development installation or a way to remotely access a Drupal installation where you’re a server admin and can install and deploy modules. It can be Drupal 6 or Drupal 7. Your choice.

C: Thanks for answering all my questions!

B: Sure, I hope it’s helpful. I look forward to developing with you!

Exaltation of Larks is providing this 3-day training (2 days of classroom-style training with an optional third day of hands-on mentorship on student projects) on November 3, 4 & 5, 2011. If you have any questions, visit us at http://www.larks.la/training or contact us at trainings [at] larks [dot] la and we’ll be happy to talk with you. You can also call us at 888-LARKS-LA (855-527-5752) with any questions.

Sep 22 2011
Sep 22

Tomorrow is the last day of Summer but the Drupal training scene is as hot as ever. We’ve scheduled a number of trainings in Los Angeles this Fall that we’re excited to tell you about, and we’re happy to publicly announce our training assistance program.

First, though, we’re sending out discount codes on Twitter and Facebook. Follow @LarksLA on Twitter, like Exaltation of Larks on Facebook or sign up to our training newsletter at http://www.larks.la/training to get a 15% early bird discount* toward all our trainings!

Los Angeles Drupal trainings in October and November, 2011

Here are the trainings we’ve lined up. If you have any questions, visit us at http://www.larks.la/training or contact us at trainings [at] larks [dot] la and we’ll be happy to talk with you. You can also call us at 888-LARKS-LA (888-527-5752) with any questions.

Beginner trainings:

Intermediate training:

Advanced trainings:

All our trainings are $400 a day (1-day trainings are $400, 2-day trainings are $800, etc.). We’re excited about these trainings and hope you are, too. Here are some more details and descriptions.

Training details and descriptions

   Drupal Fundamentals
   October 31, 2011

Drupal Fundamentals is our introductory training that touches on nearly every aspect of the core Drupal framework and covers many must-have modules. By the end of the day, you’ll have created a Drupal site that looks and functions much like any you’ll see on the web today.

This training is for Drupal 7. For more information, visit http://ex.tl/sbd7

   Drupal Scalability and Performance
   October 31, 2011

In this advanced Drupal Scalability and Performance training, we’ll show you the best practices for running fast sites for a large volume of users. Starting with a blank Linux virtual server, we’ll work together through the setup, configuration and tuning of Drupal using Varnish, Pressflow, Apache, MySQL, Memcache and Apache Solr.

This training is for both Drupal 6 and Drupal 7. For more information, visit http://ex.tl/dsp1

   Drupal Architecture (Custom Content, Fields and Lists)
   November 1 & 2, 2011

Drupal Architecture (Custom Content, Fields and Lists) is our intermediate training where we explore modules and configurations you can combine to build more customized systems using Drupal. You’ll create many examples of more advanced configurations and content displays using the popular Content Construction Kit (CCK) and Views modules.

This training is for Drupal 6. For more information, visit http://ex.tl/ccfl1

   Developing RESTful Web Services and APIs
   November 3, 4 & 5, 2011

Offered for the first time in Southern California, Developing RESTful Web Services and APIs is an advanced 2-day training (with an optional third day of additional hands-on support) for those developers seeking accelerated understanding of exploiting Services 3.0 to its fullest. This is THE training you need if you’re using Drupal to create a backend for iPad, iPhone or Android applications.

This training covers both Drupal 6 and Drupal 7. For more information, visit

Training assistance program

In closing, we’d like to tell you about our training assistance program. For each class, we’re setting aside a limited number of seats for students, unemployed job seekers and people in need.

For more details about the program, contact us at trainings [at] larks [dot] la and we’ll be happy to talk with you. You can also call us at 888-LARKS-LA (888-527-5752) with any questions.

* Our early bird discount is not valid toward the Red Cross First Aid, CPR & AED training and 2-year certification that we’re organizing. It’s already being offered at nearly 33% off, so sign up today. You won’t regret it and you might even save someone’s life. ^

Aug 05 2011
Aug 05

Drupal Camp Los Angeles 2011 - August 6-7th This weekend, August 6-7th, we’re at University of California, Irvine (UCI) for DrupalCamp LA. This is our 4th DrupalCamp LA and this year we’re sponsoring, providing a pre-camp Site Building with Drupal training, at last count, presenting (and co-presenting) 12 sessions.

Exaltation of Larks’ executive team, including Lee Vodra, Cary Gordon and myself, Christefano, will be there with members of our team and close to 250 other attendees who are attending more than 50 presentations, activities and Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions.

Here’s what we’re up to this weekend:

Pre-camp Training

Today’s pre-camp training is Site Building with Drupal 7 and we filled the classroom to its capacity. This training marks the first occasion that Chapter Three’s curriculum for Drupal 7 has been used in Southern California and the response was tremendously positive.

We’re already preparing to offer this training again in Los Angeles immediately following DrupalCamp LA. We’ll continue offering Drupal 6 trainings for the foreseeable future, too, but this class showed us that the community is hungry for more Drupal 7 training.

Sessions and BoFs

Oliver Seldman is leading our pre-camp training and is presenting, as well:

Steve Rifkin is presenting a number of sessions, participating on several panels, and is coordinating conference volunteers each day:

Lee Vodra and I will be leading a Drupal Coworking BoF and we’re looking forward to sharing the experiences we’ve had since founding Droplabs (the Drupal event and coworking space that Lee proposed during the opening announcements at DrupalCamp LA 2010) with 5 others in the LA Drupal community.

I have a few sessions and BoFs, as well, and I’m leading the Sunday code sprint:


This is our 4th DrupalCamp LA and our 3rd time sponsoring. We’re very involved in local communities and sponsoring DrupalCamp LA this year was even easier than before. Since last year’s camp, the LA Drupal user group formed an unincorporated association and has its own bank account, managed by the LA Drupal Association.

Putting together a DrupalCamp is a lot of work and DrupalCamp LA 2011 is no different. I’m grateful to all the organizers, but especially to John Romine, this year’s lead organizer, sponsor liason and venue coordinator. John’s contributions have been invaluable, to say the least, and DrupalCamp LA 2011 wouldn’t be possible without him.

I have no doubt this will be another great camp. Drop by our sponsor booth and say hello!

Jun 01 2011
Jun 01

We’re offering Los Angeles Drupal and Drupal Association members a discount code that’s good toward our June trainings in Los Angeles. Use coupon code TRAINME and get 10% off!

These two trainings, Drupal in a Day and Drupal Module Development, are being offered by the Drupal experts at Exaltation of Larks and Chapter Three and will be taking place at Droplabs, a new Drupal event and coworking space in Downtown Los Angeles. Droplabs was created this year for and by members of the LA Drupal community.

Here’s what we have coming up in June in Los Angeles:

   Drupal in a Day
   June 20th, 2011

This introductory workshop will touch upon almost every aspect of the core Drupal framework:

  • Discover how to add, edit, and moderate content.
  • Learn how to create user accounts and understand Drupal’s permissions system.
  • See how to set-up menus, and position blocks on a page.
  • Create human-readable URLs, and categorize your content using Drupal’s taxonomy system.

Drupal in a Day is on June 20th, 2011, and is $400. At the end of this one-day class you’ll have a completed Drupal site, which looks and functions a lot like many sites you’ll see on the web today!

   Drupal Module Development
   June 21-23rd, 2011

This three-day workshop teaches you how to create a comprehensive Drupal module. We’ll use and explain each of the top ten Drupal hooks, the menu system and the Form API. You’ll learn how to conform to Drupal coding standards. You’ll write secure code by using Drupal’s built-in functions to sanitize data for display.

You’ll learn the correct way to save and retrieve data, including how to add your own custom database tables. We’ll also practice using theme system from your module. Depending on interest, we’ll show you how to expose your custom data to Views, demonstrate how to create SimpleTests for your module, or teach you the proper way to upgrade your custom database schema.

What you will learn:

  • Drupal coding best practices
  • Understanding hooks
  • Using the Form API
  • Saving custom data
  • Providing themable output from your module
  • Techniques for keeping your site secure

Drupal Module Development is on June 21-23rd, 2011, and is $1200. Enroll today, and if you’re a member of Los Angeles Drupal or the Drupal Association you can use coupon code TRAINME to get 10% off!

We’re excited about these trainings and hope to see you there. If you have any questions, contact us at trainings [at] larks [dot] la or visit us at http://www.larks.la/training

Mar 23 2011
Mar 23

DrupalCon is a Mecca for thousands of companies and individuals that call the Drupal community home and, naturally, several of the Larks attended DrupalCon Chicago earlier this month.

We’re very involved in our local and global professional communities and we participated at DrupalCon Chicago on several levels, from volunteering to organizing to presenting.

Sessions and BoFs (birds of a feather sessions)

Rain Breaw, who heads up our Drupal training program, presented to a filled auditorium on Views Demystified, a Drupal 7 update to her immensely popular session from DrupalCamp LA and DrupalCon San Francisco. Rain was also a DrupalCon volunteer and you may have seen her at conference registration.

Also at the conference was our Director of Business Development, Cary Gordon. Cary is a Board Member of the Drupal Association, the organization dedicated to Drupal’s funding, promotion and infrastructure, and he has been working to help build the Association’s professional events team. You may have seen Cary at the Library BoFs (I and II), the Domain Access BoF and several of the Core Conversations sessions.

As for myself, I co-presented on Building Successful Local Communities: Insights and Best Practices. I also participated in the DrupalCamp Organizing Round Table, where I shared how the Los Angeles Drupal community, already one of the largest Drupal user groups in the world, is dealing with the growing pains of nearly doubling in size in less than a year.

Drupal Fit: Drupal’s fitness movement and support group

For fun, I participated with dozens of others in the Drupal Fit BoF that ran throughout the entire conference. Drupal and fitness might sound like an unusual combination, but as Dries Buytaert, Drupal’s creator and project lead, once told me, “We want the Drupal community to be fit so that we make better open source software.”

During the conference, I recorded several new Drupal Fit interviews that will shine the spotlight on members of the community who are focused on getting and staying fit.

Looking to the future

DrupalCon is one of our favorite events and DrupalCon Chicago was no different. This time, DrupalCon felt like another turning point for the Drupal community. As Rudyard Kipling once said, “I have struck a city — a real city — and they call it Chicago,” and DrupalCon Chicago has without a doubt left a similar impression on everyone who attended and exhibited.

See you at the next DrupalCon at DrupalCon London!

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web