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Aug 24 2012
Aug 24

I've given dankarran.com a quick lick of paint, basically changing the orange highlights to blue ones.

This week I've been out in Germany at the DrupalCon Munich 2012 conference, finding out what's going on in the Drupal community, learning some better practices and seeing what is going to be coming in the next big version, Drupal 8 (hint: big things, nice things!). When you see all the great things being built by the community, for the community, you can't help but feel a bit guilty that you haven't even updated your personal site to the latest release. So, this update wasn't just a change of colour, but also an upgrade of Drupal - the free software that runs this site - to the latest version, Drupal 7. There may still be some rough edges, so mind where you step.

Birthday boy piñata funAt the end of the Drupal Trivia event last night (my team got a score somewhere in the middle of the crowd) the question was asked if anyone was celebrating a birthday that day. Nobody was, but with about half an hour to go before my 30th, I was next to do so, and was invited to try and break the Drupalicon Piñata. Stuffed with t-shirts, stickers, sweets and balloons, I think it was a great idea, though I did wonder if I was ever going to manage to actually break it open.

Thanks for helping me celebrate my birthday, DrupalCon! See you at DrupalCon Prague next year...

Nov 27 2009
Nov 27

After two years of working from home, I've decided it's time to make a move back into an office and look for some contract-based or perhaps permanent work in London.

I have four years of experience using, developing and helping guide the development of Drupal projects as well as a background and interest in all things geographic, from maps to open data (as you've probably seen from the topics I cover in my blog). With these skills I am looking to find some work as a Drupal developer for an organisation based in London, ideally integrating my geographic interest. Alternatively, I'm open to other opportunities that I may be suitable for.

If you have, or know of, any positions coming up from January onwards, I'd love to hear from you to discuss the details. You can find out more information about me in my CV (pdf) or on my LinkedIn profile.

Sep 11 2009
Sep 11

I've been back in London for almost two years now and haven't met that many people working with Drupal, partly due to working from home I think, but also because there don't seem to be too many events (outside of paid training events and the like) that are aimed at Drupalers in the London area.

As I was looking today to find out if there were meetups happening already that I wasn't aware of, I came across a thread on groups.drupal.org asking about regular meetups, and left a comment to say I'd be interested if there was anything happening. In a city the size of London, there are surely enough people working with Drupal to get a group of people together every now and then for a social event. I for one would love to meet more people in the area who are working with Drupal, and maybe have a pint or two in the process.

By the end of the day, there was a meetup organised: London Drupal Pub Meet- September Meetup. Brilliant!

If you're interested in coming along, sign up to the meetup.com event, and I'll see you there!

edit: the event will be held from 7pm on Monday 28 September, at the Square Pig, Holborn.

May 27 2009
May 27

It is looking like June is going to be quite an interesting month for participation, with a couple of projects being set up to focus on certain parts of Drupal for the month.

Last week, Advantage Labs announced Geo June, a month of focused development on the geo module. The geo module has a lot of potential to become the basis of the GeoCMS that Drupal should be (as long as the module stays generic enough), and Advantage Labs are keen to get more people interested and involved to help make that happen. During the month there are a number of physical events, but you're also encouraged to share your use cases and join in day to day with the IRC chat in #drupal-geo.

The Drupal User Experience Project also yesterday announced the launch of Microprojects to encourage user experience (UX) professionals to get involved in small bounded problems, working with a Drupal developer to implement their designs and suggestions for improvement. This seems like a great idea, not only because it's breaking down some quite large problems into bite-size manageable chunks, but also to get some outside experts - who may not have previously used Drupal - involved in the community.

If you're interested in either of these areas (or any of the other sprints which are happening), why not jump in and get involved. Having not spent much time on the Geo project yet, I'm looking to spend some time getting to know it in June and hopefully help to push it forwards, as well as starting the rewrite of the KML module to simplify it as a views display type instead of a bundle of custom code.

Mar 05 2009
Mar 05

OpenBand has today unveiled its new OpenBand Labs website to help improve the information around the work we've been doing over recent years as well as hopefully invite some discussion.

OpenBand Labs

We hope to make some improvements to the new site over the coming days as we continue to add some more information and blog about some of our experiences here at DrupalCon. We'll also be adding the slides and some writeups about the XMPP talk Darren gave yesterday and the distributed enterprise talk Ben gave today.

We had a great presentation yesterday with Darren Ferguson talking about the XMPP Framework, and today with Ben Lavender talking getting a chance to demonstrate our collaboration platform.

Mar 03 2009
Mar 03

I'm in Washington, DC this week with many of the rest of the OpenBand / M.C. Dean team. We're all here to visit DrupalCon DC and meet our friends and associates in the Drupal community as well as present some of the things we've been working on.

A couple of the sessions that we proposed have been accepted, so we're going to be presenting:

If you're interested in the work we've been doing to help distributed enterprises communicate better, feel free to come up and say hi. We look forward to meeting you at DrupalCon!

Feb 27 2009
Feb 27

I was working the other night to create an integration module that would tie the existing Activity Stream module for Drupal into the Brightkite location-based social network.

The idea is that users can check in at their current location using Brightkite and have their Drupal site update their location within the site based on their last known location - handy if you want a little map that shows where you are, for example, but you could do whatever you wanted with those locations, and even use them to extend a social network you might be building up in Drupal.

While I was fighting with the SimplePie feed parsing library to work out why it didn't like the feeds from Brightkite, John McKerrell suggested that some integration for his new Mapme.at service would be nice too.

So, the first two services to be supported by the new Activity Stream location services project are Brightkite and Mapme.at. I'd also like to extend this to other services like Yahoo's Fire Eagle and Google Latitude at some point, but neither of them are quite so simple to integrate with, the former because it has no public location feeds for users and requires authentication, and the latter because it doesn't share any of its data at all (boo!).

In their most basic form, the modules pull in the updates from these services and they get included in your activity stream along with your Twitter updates and the like, but also if you have Location module installed and the user locations module enabled (plus a patch for Activity Stream for now), your user will be updated with the latest coordinates from the location service you use.

Jan 22 2009
Jan 22

Ballavayre CottagesThe new website for Ballavayre Cottages went live recently to give a new online presence to this 5 star self-catering accommodation in their 200 year old cottage in Colby, Isle of Man.

The site, built on Drupal, allows the cottage owner to change content as and when they wish, and also to update their availability calendar to let visitors know when the cottages are available.

To help visitors see at a glance where the cottages are located, and to give directions from the sea terminal and airport, we included a series of custom built maps, designed (with some very helpful tips from Steve Chilton) using OpenStreetMap data.

Directions to Ballavayre Cottages

It is always great to help promote the Isle of Man as a tourist destination, even in a small way, by giving accommodation providers a chance to promote their services to a wider market.

Jan 07 2009
Jan 07

It's amazing how much spam is generated when commenting is enabled on a blog. When I first launched the Drupal version of dankarran.com, I had commenting enabled for new posts but had it set so that administrator approval was needed before any new comments went live. Coming from a MovableType blog previously, I was used to doing this as I received tons of spam on that blog and had to moderate there as well. It's not a good user experience to expect people to wait until I approve a comment though, so I was keen to let users post directly.

When the site first launched, there were very few spam comments, so leaving comments open seamed feasible, but very soon - as spammers started to pick up on the changes - they started arriving in droves, and that was just on the few comment-enabled posts that I had created since launching.

Not wanting to impede people's commenting with a captcha for every comment, I avoided Drupal's captcha module and instead opted to try out the Mollom module as an interface to the Mollom spam filtering service created by Dries Buytaert, the founder of the Drupal project.

Mollom is a free service that checks all the comments (and/or other forms) posted for known patterns of spam, blocking it where appropriate, and letting real user-created comments through unhindered. If it's not sure whether it's spam or ham (the term for real content), it then presents the user with a captcha that the user can fill in if they have been mistakenly flagged as possible spam.

So far, the service has been great, with 588 spam messages blocked in the past 16 days, the busiest days being Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with 260 spam messages between them. I'm very happy to be a Mollom user! Sorry spammers, it's nothing personal, honest.

Dec 31 2008
Dec 31

From the start of 2009 I am going to be self-employed, and while I will still be working much of my time on the projects I've been working on for the past three years at OpenBand/M.C. Dean, I would also like to start taking on some small Drupal-based projects to go side-by-side with that.

Some of the services I am planning to offer in the New Year include:

  • Drupal site creation
    If you are looking to get a site set up for your small business or organisation, and you like the power that Drupal can give to your site, then I can set a site up for you to meet your needs. I'm particularly interested in creating sites based around geographic information or related to the tourism industry, but I will happily consider any project.
  • Drupal site setup support
    If you need advice on how best to achieve your requirements with existing Drupal modules, I can help point you in the right direction and get you started with your Drupal site setup. This can either be on a remote basis, or on a face-to-face basis in the London area if needed.
  • Drupal module development
    If there isn't already a module in the Drupal community to do what you need, I can help you by building a module to meet your requirements.

If you're interested in taking advantage of these freelance Drupal services for your project, please contact me to discuss your needs.

Dec 11 2008
Dec 11

Following on from my post yesterday about our company's sponsorship and presentations, I thought it was worth a post to highlight the sessions other people in the Drupal community have proposed that relate to the building of a geospatial web with the help of Drupal - the main reason I got involved in Drupal in the first place.

"This presentation will include an overview of the emerging Geospatial web, and the technologies, standards and communities that are driving it. We'll look at how Google Maps fall short and how to go beyond its basic approach to mapping on the web. We'll cover where Drupal fits in, ways to incorporate other mapping tools and data into your projects. Specifically, what modules extend Drupal, enable it to leverage existing tools and how to use these to do new and interesting things."

Jeff has been doing all sorts of interesting work recently with Drupal and RDF for storing geodata, and Andrew is the heavily involved in GeoCommons and Mapufacture, empowering users to share their geographic information.

"You have access to tons of information, Eric Gundersen of the online strategy shop Development Seed will talk about how interactive maps, data visualizations, and other online tools can quickly show you the bigger picture around large scale international issues. Eric will demo the new Pandemic Preparedness Mapping site built for InterAction to prevent the spread of a catastrophic disease like bird flu."

Eric, and Development Seed in general, have done a lot over recent years to build cool sites that are often centred around geospatial information. The Pandemic Preparedness Mapping site uses maps care of the Nice Map module and also a modified version of the KML module that allows people to access all the data in the site through Google Earth and many other systems that can read KML.

"This session will move from GIS concepts to Drupal GIS practice. We will talk about the principles of storing, organizing, and searching geodata, the practical usage of geodata in Drupal applications, and how geographic functionalities are implemented by existing Drupal modules."

Brandon Bergren, primary maintainer of the location module, GMap module and geo module will also be one of the presenters.

"Leveraging semantic web services such as Thompson Reuter's Calais within Drupal enables you to do amazing things that will be part of the semantic revolution. This session will cover some incredibly powerful things you can do to augment content and create powerful features once you have the semantic context and metadata of the information driving a site."

Another example of the intersection between the semantic web, Drupal and geospatial information, this talk will demo the Calais Geo service for geo-tagging and mashing up content.

There will no doubt be some BOF (birds of a feather) sessions around the growing area of geographic information in Drupal as well, but it already sounds like a great mix of presentations. If you're going, remember to vote for the sessions to make sure they all get the chance to present!

Dec 10 2008
Dec 10

OpenBand, an M.C. Dean CompanyMy employer, OpenBand, is going to be a Gold sponsor of DrupalCon DC in March 2009 and a number of our team members will be attending the conference.

We have a few presentations to give, and will be keen to see many of the other sessions that are going to be given.

In the Powering collaboration in a distributed enterprise session we'll be giving an overview of the work that we do, the collaboration platform we've been building (largely on Drupal) for our customers over the past three years or so, and some of the modules that we've contributed back to the Drupal community during that time.

Miglius Alaburda will be presenting a session titled Introducing a new File Framework about a new and powerful way of handling files in Drupal.

Darren Ferguson will be talking about Drupal with XMPP Integration and all the functionality that he has built up around the XMPP framework, allowing users of a Drupal site to use instant messaging capabilities.

With all the sessions that have been proposed by attendees, this is shaping up to be a great conference!

Updated: Added Darren's XMPP talk

Oct 31 2008
Oct 31

Availability Calendars module usage Drupal 5 vs Drupal 6When the usage statistics page for Drupal contributions was released recently, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people were using the Availability Calendars module, and amazed at the difference the Drupal 6 release had on the usage figures. The graph below shows that the usage was quite steady on the Drupal 5 release, but when the version for Drupal 6 was released, it massively boosted the figures.

So, if you are the maintainer of a Drupal module or theme, and haven't yet released a Drupal 6 version, it looks like you're really missing out on potential users.

Oct 30 2008
Oct 30

According to my drupal.org user profile, it's been three years now since I joined the Drupal community, and in that time I've been involved with building a large Drupal-based collaborative platform at work, helped friends create Drupal sites and developed a number of small Drupal sites in a freelance capacity, as well as contributing a number of modules back to the community, but had not managed to get around to actually migrating my own website to Drupal. Until today, that is.

Today marks the soft launch of my new Drupal website, an initial version that has most of the content from the old site but still needs some user interface improvements and the like.

The blog is up and running, now also with RSS feeds for each of the main categories and also each of the tags. The photos are all in there, though I'm missing any gallery functionality at the moment, so they're going to be a little difficult to find for now.

Watch out for more over the coming weeks and months as I find time to make improvements, expand what's here and tie in with other services on the web like Twitter, Flickr and delicious.

Sep 12 2008
Sep 12

Druplicon meets Google EarthThe KML module for Drupal allows you to view location-enabled data from your site inside of Google Earth, and it's now available for Drupal 6 - the latest release of the Drupal content management platform.

Having realised last week that the Location module for Drupal was already working pretty well on Drupal 6 I set about to update the KML module to start working with it.

It had been a while since I'd done much with the module, and have thankfully had some help from another community member - Robin Rainton, or raintonr - who was keen to add some new features, so it was great to get stuck back into it and try out some of the new things that Robin had added since I last touched the module. Perhaps the biggest new features are the caching of KML feeds so whenever you're accessing them in Google Earth you put less of a strain on your Drupal site (especially if you are using Network Links to regularly update the feed), and the ability to choose the style of the markers instead of using the default pins that we used to have.

So, if you want to use the KML module on your Drupal 6 site, you can now do that. You'll need to download the latest version of Location module and also the latest version of KML module. There will likely still be issues with this early version, so please let me know if you come across any by posting them in the issue queue on drupal.org.

Note: The icon depicted above is a combination of elements from the Druplicon (licensed under the GPL) and the Google Earth icon (used without permission). Hopefully it's not breaching Google's trademark or copyrights or anything...

Aug 28 2008
Aug 28

Back at the start of the year when I was building a website for some self-catering cottages on the Isle of Man, I needed to replace some availability calendar functionality that I'd originally coded for the site back in 2000 or so.

As I was moving the site to Drupal, the availability calendar solution really needed to be something that was fully integrated as a Drupal module. I had checked out a couple of modules and the two that I found (Availability and OpenResort) didn't really do what I was looking for, so I went about customising the Availability module to do what I wanted.

Preview of Availability Calendars module for Drupal

Soon enough, the module had changed shape quite considerably, so it didn't feel like it would fit back into the original module. After about six months of running the module, the new Availability Calendars module got released back to the community last night.

If you run a small accommodation provider business (like a self-catering cottage, a bed and breakfast, a guesthouse, etc.) and are using Drupal to power your site, you might find this module quite useful. It will allow you to show an availability calendar for each node of a certain type (e.g. cottages, rooms, etc.), change the availability for each day, and also leave a note (such as a rental price) next to each week.

If you have any issues with the module or would like to request new features, please add a comment to the issue queue.

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