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Jun 12 2012
Jun 12

Posted Jun 12, 2012 // 0 comments

Right now, the Drupal Apps module is open source software development at its very best -- collaborative, smart people, solving their problems by building a great tool set together to solve real problems. And we couldn't be more excited by what people are doing.

When we created the Apps module for OpenPublic in early 2011, we were trying to solve a very specific problem: we wanted to make it easier for distribution users and site builders to add functionality to their OpenPublic sites, without bloating the distribution with functionality that only some users would want. 

LevelTen has taken this strategy with their distribution, Open Enterprise, with great success. Knowing that their distribution's users have varying needs around things like blogs, FAQs, events, or image handling, they built these features in Open Enterprise as Apps, making installing, enabling, or disabling this functionality simple. But then they took it a step further, and contributed a great solution to Apps,  allowing users to choose their apps upon distribution installation. Big win for Apps, big win for distributions. 

So now, we're seeing an exciting evolution of the Apps and Appserver modules -- more and more, distribution owners are creating simple, clean "base distributions," and then utilizing Apps to "specialize" the distribution upon installation -- and we think it's pretty freakin smart. Pantheon's "Panopoly" is a Panels-powered base distribution. You can install the Panopoly apps (shown here), or, if you're a university, you can install Chapter Three's Open Academy set of apps on top of Panopoly and have a "University web site in a box." 

And across the pond, Node One is employing the same concept -- and the Apps module -- with Nodestream. As the product's notes explain, "NodeStream Core is the base platform and NodeStream products are great add on features that can be turned on or off to target your project for things like intranets, newspapers, or enterprise websites." 

What began as a simple solution to one distribution's challenges has grown to become a solution set for many of the challenges facing distribution owners and maintainers, and we're excited to see that. Finally, we can stop arguing about apps, because whether they’re accused of being “modules for dummies" or an evil vehicle for code-selling and community-destroying, it’s not productive. Instead, companies are seeing the module for what it is -- a way to make distributions lighter, more modular, and easier to use to solve more problems for site builders. Many thanks to those who have committed patches and contributed code to this project – we’re really excited to see where it goes next.

As a product director with us, Karen Borchert keeps Phase2 growing each day; she focuses on the business strategy for our products, including OpenPublish and OpenPublic.

Thanks to her deep background in product strategy, Karen can ...

Jan 26 2012
Jan 26

Posted Jan 26, 2012 // 0 comments

We had our first Austin Apps sprint last week and got quite a bit done. We had 12 people from Phase2 Technology, LevelTen, Four Kitchens, Mediacurrent and Pantheon all had people at the sprint. Thanks to Four Kitchens for helping us provide a space for the Sprint.

Commited

  • Providing for apps installation from Pantheon Servers
  • OpenPublic Media APP : finished with demo content

Now have Patches

  • apps_connect sub module: Patched but needs work (This was added as a goal during the sprint)
  • Update Tab: Patch for discovery of apps that need updating, but still need update mech

Work done but no Patch

Overall, we did well with 9 of 11 issues to have some kind of path submitted on d.o (two items have non-complete patches submitted).  I want to say a special thank you to Randall Knutson of Level Ten, as three of the committed items where his. 

Not only was it productive, but the App Sprint was lots of fun. It was great to sit in a room and talk out some of the issues that we are all having using Apps in the real world. We are starting to see a community idea of what an app is and how it can be helpful to drupal shops, drupal user and the community as a whole.

As with all successful sprints we have a new release out - apps 7.x-1.0-beta5!

I think my Daughter said it best "Congratulations Apps Team! You Rock! Yeah!"

When Erik Summerfield joined our software development team, we knew that his natural talents in math and economics would be an asset to our team and clients alike. Plus, his experiences in various programming languages including .NET/C#, perl, ...

Jan 25 2012
Jan 25

Posted Jan 25, 2012 // 0 comments

Having spent an amazing few days in Austin for the Apps Sprint, we came away with some even better news than expected. After a few joint development sessions with the great folks at Pantheon, we are thrilled to announce that OpenPublic, OpenPublish and Open Atrium are now available on the Pantheon platform via a one-click install from your Pantheon dashboard. One click installs of our distributions is nothing new.  Users have been able to one click for a while on Acquia's Dev Cloud platform and some Aegir based hosting providers, but the distro integration with Pantheon goes a step further than other integrations and provides an open framework for other distro providers to get on board too.

Distribution support on Pantheon was integrated via a materialized distro repo (called a drops repo). These are publicly available at our GitHub account. What this allows us (as distribution owners) to do is roll new releases of our distro and publish them in our drops repo.  Those updates are then automatically available for installation at Pantheon. If you have already installed one of these distros, the update will trigger a notification in your Pantheon dashboard and prompt you to pull the changes into your repo from upstream.

Additionally, if you've taken a great platform like OpenPublish and customized it considerably, you don't have to accept future OpenPublish upgrades. The flexible repo based integration we developed will allow you to drop off of the distro upgrade path while still allowing you to pull core updates directly from the Pantheon drops for Drupal 6 and Drupal 7. This allows ultimate flexibility while keeping you, the site owner, in control and at the center of the process. That's not all of the good news though, the Pantheon distribution integration also supports Apps.

Apps are the "new kid on the block" for providing an easier user experience for extending your Drupal site with additional features. By enabling On Server Development in your Pantheon site, you will now have a more flexible set of server permissions that allow for automatic installation of Apps directly into your development Drupal site via the Apps Console. Once you have installed, configured and verified your new App, you can tell Pantheon to commit the changes to your site repo, which allows you to automatically migrate that new functionality across your staging and production environments. Working with Apps could not be easier.

Our joint development session this past week was incredibly productive and, most importantly, benefits the entire Drupal ecosystem in providing an open framework for easily publishing and managing a Drupal distribution on the Pantheon platform. We're really excited to provide this new channel for users to enjoy our distros and get a chance to see the power of distros and Apps in action.

Frank Febbraro is the CTO at Phase2. He is obsessed with software and integrating new techniques and practices with proven methods of execution. A combination of comprehension and real world experience enables Frank to attack challenges with a ...

Jan 19 2012
Jan 19

Posted Jan 19, 2012 // 0 comments

Cliché alert: I love it when a plan comes together. 

But seriously, I do. At a couple of recent Drupal camps in Austin and New Orleans, we heard from multiple organizations using the Apps and Appserver modules for their Drupal distributions. With similar questions and needs around these new modules, we had a couple of lively "birds of a feather" sessions at the camps.

Very often, "lively" BOFs end then and there at the camps, but this one continued into the issue queues and ongoing conversations. Ultimately, it resulted in organizing a multi-organization sprint on the Apps and Appserver modules this Friday, January 20th in Austin, TX. Phase2 and our fellow Austinites at 4Kitchens will be co-hosting the sprint space, and the day's looking at a pretty full agenda.

Developers from Level Ten, Four Kitchens, Pantheon, Media Current, Volacci, and Phase2, as well as some individuals from the community, will be working to address issues marked for the sprint in the Apps and Appserver modules on drupal.org. It's not an app-production sprint -- you won't see a whole bunch of new "apps" coming out of it. Rather, you'll see the underlying structure and module of the Apps and Appserver modules improve, making it easier to build apps and use them in your distributions.

If you're interested in joining us remotely (or you're in Austin and want to bring your Apps knowledge to the table!), drop us a line and we'll add you in. And if you can't make it but want to see what we worked on, check back here next week and we'll give you the low-down. 

As a product director with us, Karen Borchert keeps Phase2 growing each day; she focuses on the business strategy for our products, including OpenPublish and OpenPublic.

Thanks to her deep background in product strategy, Karen can ...

Dec 22 2011
Dec 22

Posted Dec 22, 2011 // 3 comments

We're excited to announce the Alpha 3 release of OpenPublish, which builds upon many of the concepts we introduced in the initial Alpha release for Drupal 7.

What's in it?

Here's a breakdown of the latest improvements and additions for site builders.

Frame: A Responsive Default Theme

As my colleague Shawn recently pointed out when announcing OpenPublic Beta 4, content producers are increasingly embracing responsive design techniques to deliver their content to devices of all shapes and sizes. For many publishers, this is a much more palatable alternative to building one-off sites or themes. We recognize how important it is for site builders to have a clean, flexible foundation to build upon, which is why we've been working with Jake Strawn to incorporate his Omega base theme into our distributions -- first for OpenPublic, and now for OpenPublish. Frame, our new default theme for OpenPublish, is a very light "wireframe style" theme that serves to expose the functionality we've built into OpenPublish in a streamlined fashion. More importantly, it provides an excellent example of how to build your own Omega sub-theme as it was created by Jake himself.

We hope that the working example Frame will help lower barriers for others in the community to create and contribute their own sub-themes for OpenPublish!

App Support

One of our biggest goals moving forward with OpenPublish is to avoid baking too many assumptions and business rules into the core architecture. Keeping OpenPublish lean allows site builders to more efficiently tailor their individual implementations to align with their stakeholder needs. At the same time, we are continuing to cultivate a set of tools and best practices to help publishers of all shapes and sizes remain viable in a digital age. Now that OpenPublish has app support, we now have a distribution model that facilitates efficient packaging, delivery, and turnkey activation of add-ons for OpenPublish! Our first OpenPublish app, Disqus, illustrates an excellent use case for apps. If a particular publisher decides that they want to use Disqus commenting on their OpenPublish site, it's easier than ever to download the app, provide your Disqus credentials, decide which types of content allow commenting and off you go. If you'd like to learn more about how you can contribute apps for OpenPublish, contact us.

Section Fronts

A ubiquitous need for publishers is the ability to quickly stand up landing pages for site sections/topics that incorporate an ad-hoc blend of automated and curated content lists. We've demonstrated this concept using the Section Front content type in OpenPublish. You'll notice that the Section Front content type includes the ability to "configure layout", which allows you to manipulate page layouts by assigning blocks to regions using an drag and drop UI. The "view box" capability facilitates much of the ad-hoc content list building I alluded to earlier - check out our Documentation for more on this concept.

Views Starter Pack

We've bundled in several example views that you can leverage when building a Section Front, allowing editors to define and curate lists of galleries associated with a particular section, etc. These will continue to evolve and improve as we move towards Beta.

Documentation

We have a solid start on documentation for OpenPublish, including an Installation Guide and a Developer Guide. This documentation is written in a wiki format which allows for more efficient incorporation of contributions and feedback from folks in the community.

Where Do I Get It?

 

Community Contributions

We would like to thank Jake Strawn for helping us incorporate Omega into OpenPublish and would like to thank Jean Yves Gastaud and Amit Verma for their help with testing.

What's Next?

As the structure of OpenPublish solidifies and we move closer to a Beta release, we'll be placing a bigger and bigger focus on expanding capabilities and improving the user experience for publishers. Some of these initiatives include:

  • continuing to release apps we build for OpenPublish (we're making great progress on Calais for example),
  • additional improvements to Frame,
  • a Demo Theme replete with sample content to help make it shine,
  • incorporation of apps contributed to OpenPublish by the Drupal community at-large,
  • usability improvements to the layout editor for Section Fronts, and
  • additional documentation for end users.

We're excited about the progress that's been made to this point, and would like to thank those of you from the community who have been testing and giving us feedback along the way. As we move into 2012, we look forward to more feedback and contributions from everyone using OpenPublish!

Dave has a seemingly innate ability to solve problems, anticipate potential pitfalls, and translate business objectives into functional requirements -- which is why he excels as a Solutions Architect at Phase2.

Dave has an essential ...

Nov 04 2010
Nov 04

Killer platforms need killer apps. A great platform by itself isn't that interesting or useful. It takes killer apps to attract customers and define the platform.

Since the computer industry hit its stride we've seen a number of examples of killer platforms and killer app duos. 1000s of financial workers bought the Apple II platform on the the strength of VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3. Once Facebook opened up their platform, 1000s of applications and services were written, most worthless, but social gaming company Zyanga has made 100s of millions of dollars from games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. Apple's App Store has introduced millions to the "app lifestyle" through its various iOS devices.

In the world of the Drupal platform, many people think Drupal distros are becoming the "killer apps" of Drupal. They (and I) believe that these distros / applications will help Drupal attract new customers in new markets. Popular distros, such as Open Atrium and OpenPublish, are starting to show that this model can work as they and other distros are receiving attention far outside the normal channels and communities which discuss Drupal.

For the past year or so, I've been working on building a Drupal distro called Eduglu, which is a social learning product designed to support groups of learners. Similar to Drupal, my company's product Eduglu is a platform. As part of developing the platform I've built a number of apps for it such as a forum/mailinglist, polls, etc.

But while these are nice apps and I'm really pleased about how the platform is coming together, I feel that Eduglu is still missing its set of killer apps.

Many people look at Eduglu now and think "meh", "what does it do", they ask, "that existing education / community platforms don't already do?"

And... I can't really answer that question. Not yet anyways. Eduglu is still missing its killer app that for 1000s of organizations will become the reason that they must adapt Eduglu as their learning platform. Something like email that for millions of companies and households was the "reason" they signed up for Internet.

So recently, I've made a prediction to myself, that Eduglu will become a success only if a large number of apps are built on top of the platform.

But luckily, I don't have to rely entirely on people building apps specifically for Eduglu. In Dries Buytaert's (founder of Drupal) first post on Drupal distributions four years ago, he said that for Drupal distributions to succeed, they must collaborate not compete. That Drupal distros can't fork Drupal core or otherwise introduce incompatibilities between themselves.

And happily, that is what has happened. Through the efforts of many in the Drupal community, particularly Development Seed, it is possible to take an application written for one Drupal distro and reuse it across multiple other distros. And one very interesting effort, Debut, is working to build a common set of applications specifically designed to serve as base applications for a variety of Drupal distrubutions.

So this has left me, Eduglu, and other Drupal distros in a nice spot. Many people are working together to build reusable apps and Drupal, particularly with the upcoming Drupal 7 release, has developed into a very nice framework for building web applications.

So I have two items now on my roadmap for Eduglu.

  1. Refine and evangelize the platform and
  2. Develop killer apps.

And while predicting in advance what is or isn't a "killer app" is difficult, I have a few ideas up my sleeve. First on the list is a realtime notetaking app built with Drupal and Etherpad. Students will be able to take notes together, attach audio recordings of the lecture and other media files, and save all of this to the class website where it'll it can be referred to in the future.

And if you already know what you're killer app for learning is and just need someone to build it then by all means, please contact us! We'd be happy to help :)

Jul 21 2009
Jul 21

I'm a bit late in linking to a podcast interview that I had the pleasure of being on recently.

DrupalEasy, an organization focused on training and consulting around making Drupal easier to use, runs a podcast interviewing various folks in the Drupal community. My interview was about my work on Drupal, my business in general, Cocoa desktop and iPhone work, my Drupalcon presentation, my career history (in brief), and a lot more.

I had a great time being interviewed by Ryan and I hope you'll take a listen!

http://codesorcery.net/trackback/235

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