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Apr 20 2010
Apr 20

So this is cool. The Commerce guys and Microsoft teamed up and got a php pdo driver to work. The Commerce guys will be maintaining the Microsoft database integration module in contrib repo. It means that it becomes accessible to a much broader audience. People will be able to use native windows backup tools to backup their site databases. Deploy on a server platform they are familiar with.

This opens up Drupal to a whole new audience that previously would not explore using Drupal at all. It will be interesting to see what things people have not previously considered that this group will bring to the community.

May 28 2008
May 28

Contributing is about giving. People do so for many reasons but at it's core it is about giving.

For me, it is not now nor has it ever been about 'getting back'. It has not been about reputation, karma, fame. It has been about solving my needs and helping others solve theirs in a way that encouraged them to share so I too could learn in kind.

Many years ago, authorship was turned off on Drupal.org book pages to encourage this selfless and unconditional giving. At the time the revision tag was fairly useless because, without the diff module, making a comparison is a lot of work. It allowed someone to revert content if a mistake was made. All revisions are is a record of the changes in content of a given node. A way to see what changes were made by whom. It has helped us prevent vandalism and allowed us to see our own mistakes and learn from them that others caught. It is a tool, nothing more, nothing less.

Back to giving. Many years ago, in the early days of documentation, we had the author displayed on handbook pages. This actually caused a lot of problems;

  • Should they change the author name on editing? Minor edits? Major edits? What defines major?
  • It has an author, I should send them an email asking if I can edit the page.
  • I should wait
  • The author knows more then I ever will I am unworthy to edit the page.
  • I can send support requests to them (and get angry that they don't respond)
  • I am afraid

But it's important to acknowledge your contributors. There is the checkbox on the user profile page, but anyone can check that. So to solve this a page was added about contributors. Over time, tools changed and we were able to enable visibility of things that were not so useful before. Revisions only became somewhat useful after we added diff module. Revisions are not a way to display author information, just know who worked on the page last You shared your knowledge with the community and now the community gets to play with it. Revisions is a tool to track changes. What were made. It is useful, how did someone modify my contributed content? Ahhh, that is a better way to phrase it. Revisions help recovering from vandalism (which is rare but does happen). Revisions are not a way to achieve / obtain status and ownership of content. The content belongs to the community. Over time, this page has drifted a little deeper then it should perhaps in the menu tree. That should be changing in the near future, there is an outline floating around for the /about book I hope to get to soonish. But we have left out a group. It's an important group, the folks who spend time editing things, from one comma, to one word to entire pages, these people are unsung heroes without which our content would suffer. Chx created an editors page for me so we can credit these folks too.

One of the other things we had to define early on is who are we writing for? In the early days we tried to write for everyone. In the end we achieved little to nothing but frustration. Writing for everyone has just not been possible. So we defined our audience. We write for users (http://drupal.org/node/21781). Not end users, but for users, those people who build sites. it is the job of the site implementor to provide tools and documentation to their community. The more we get powerful tools into core the better, but this is a seperate thing from writing documentation on Drupal.org.

Drupal is complexity hidden. What it allows is someone like me, with little php knowledge at all, to do is phenomenal. Few can know all of Drupal or it's capabilities. What a lot of the top tier developers and site builders do is contribute back. They do very complex things and share how. As a result, when they get stuck on something, they can ask and even if it's not a complete solution, they can get back a direction that allows them to solve this need. This process also works for the new folks or the folks who build from others work. Everytime you help someone else, you learn something. It's how you pay back those who helped you.

Dries has made a statement several times, with Drupal you can eliminate the web master. It already does this but you have to pay attention. A traditional webmaster is nothing more then a secretary (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secretary). Really. Their typewriter is a web site but what they do is take content, format it and post it to a site. I found Drupal because I was tired of being that secretary. I gave several people control of their sites content. Not the site itself, but the content. That is powerful beyond belief. And this is because of Drupal 4.4. Drupal keeps getting better.

Giving is also powerful. I don't give because I earn something, I give because the return is far more then the contribution.

Feb 27 2008
Feb 27

While chatting in IRC the other night, I found that Adam Light and I will be on the same flight through Chicago on our way to Drupalcon. So, if anyone else is scheduled for United 534 leaving Chicago at 1:10pm leave a comment. Adam and I plan to share a cab to the hotel as they are reasonably close and Public transport in a city new to me on a Sunday night after being up 14-16 hours just doesn't seem to hold an appeal for me. I plan on wearing my BADCAMP07 Drupal shirt so should be easy to spot.

On the downside, it appears that ChipIn has been having issues for the past 16 hours and timing out when people try and donate :(. It does seem to be working now so if you are still interested in helping out my travel fund I'd appreciate it.

Overall this schedule does work nicely. My in-laws are coming up to keep my wife company while I am gone (I suspect they are here to visit with the grand kids).

Feb 22 2008
Feb 22

I hope to briefly cover some of the history and evolution of Drupal documentation, knowing the history is often important to understanding the present. Spend more time going over some of the present challenges of creating and maintaining documentation and debunk some persistent myths.

While the session is just over an hour, I hope to have feedback and participation, get some more people participating in one of the easiest ways to get started contributing to Drupal.

On Friday there is a code sprint, if you scroll down towards the bottom there is mention of non-developer activities and a documentation sprint so bring your laptops and get ready to participate.

I'd also like to add a thank you to those who have helped me out by contributing to my travel fund to get me there.

Feb 21 2008
Feb 21

This is the result of seeing one too many 'For Drupal to really succeed' posts. Drupal is already a success. There is certainly room to get better and grow more, but Drupal has already succeeded.

When listening to interviews with musicians who have a new 'hit' album/song I often get a sense that the interviewer has this fundamental assumption that the artist just started playing/singing last month. When you listen carefully, you find that the artist has been working at their craft for years. So it goes with Drupal and Drupal's success.

For the time I have been with the Drupal community we have had a steady progression of success. In my first few years, the community took pride in the fact that sites could be built by skilled developers with no indication that it was using Drupal (Yes, many hobbyists often implemented sites that were obviously Drupal). Calls to put 'tagging' into the code to more easily identify Drupal based sites were often met with resistance. The prevailing attitude was to focus on quality and capability rather then count implementations.

What really attracted me to the project was a combination of things. Initially it was that I could run it on IIS. What kept me, besides being able to get it working, was the community and that the project had a defined mission and principles. When I first entered the IT field, I thought things like missions statements and principles were silly. Over time, I have found they are actually tremendously important for keeping a projects focus and not wandering to far afield. They help keep everyone near the same place in regards to how a project grows and evolves.

From the history page, we know that the 1.0.0 release was in 2001. A summary from the CHANGELOG.txt shows we are now at 13 full version release from the initial 1.0.0. and each one is our best yet.

  • Drupal 6.0, 2008-02-13
  • Drupal 5.0, 2007-01-15 - First release using X.y versioning
  • Drupal 4.7.0, 2006-05-01 - Last released version using X.Y.z for major release numbers.
  • Drupal 4.6.0, 2005-04-15
  • Drupal 4.5.0, 2004-10-18
  • Drupal 4.4.0, 2004-04-01
  • Drupal 4.3.0, 2003-11-01
  • Drupal 4.2.0, 2003-08-01
  • Drupal 4.1.0, 2003-02-01
  • Drupal 4.0.0, 2002-06-15
  • Drupal 3.0.0, 2001-09-15
  • Drupal 2.0.0, 2001-03-15
  • Drupal 1.0.0, 2001-01-15 - Initial release

The development cycle is so very funny in it's predictability too;

  • The developers contributing to core already have ideas and code for the next version for things that didn't get in this release.
  • The edge implementors working with the code are already discovering areas that could use a closer look and perhaps a better solution based on work they are doing for clients.
  • Contributed module developers are updating modules or hoping that others will supply them with patches and testing so that the less involved members of our community can catch up and start using the latest version.
  • Newer folks are trying to figure out which to go with, Drupal 5 or Drupal 6.
  • Non-participants are lining up to point out and decry how unusable things are because module x/y/z isn't updated and it's unconscionable that anyone would release something without it and demanding that someone do something (and being ignored because frankly that type of complaining isn't interesting)

Scattered through the forums you will see this pretty much every release. It can be fun helping people through this process of discovery. Many can and do become awesome contributors and build lasting relationships. Others, well, we see some others every release saying the same old thing, but oddly, never in the contribute category.

Drupal has already had success. As long as people continue to contribute to the project; donate time, code, reviews, support, documentation and other things we will really continue to really succeed. We can do better, but that too is a universal saying.

Feb 15 2008
Feb 15

Now come the fun part.... whenaremymodulesgonnabeupgraded!

For an initial test, I updated my site on a test site and it went very smoothly. Picked up settings and everything. I tried image module but it turns out that while image module will evidently work on a new install, it's not quite there yet for updates.

I really rely on Drupal core and image module. I can do without the others but Tagadelic is one I've been enjoying, so I may actually take a shot at it with coder module as a guide and see how far I get before it gets update. That does depend on my family, friends and work schedule though so perhaps it's a mere pipe dream.

Theming looks to be way more fun and much easier. My site, while personal has some definite areas, maybe it's time to change the theme in those areas a bit? Hmmm.... so much to do, so much to consider, so little time.

Feb 07 2008
Feb 07

Up until this last weekend I did not have any plans to go to Drupalcon. For various reasons I didn't take seriously Kieran's mention of sponsors (partly because I've never done it before, partly because work and family have me a little overwhelmed at the moment). Well he did something about it and got my conference fee taken care of and a place for me to stay (I will be thanking these folks in a later post). I am arranging my flight now and will try that chip in thing he told me about to help mitigate my credit card on that and I should be good to go.

I have two presentations I have proposed.

  1. The first is on documentation . Where we are, how we got here, things that we've tried and what people can do to help.
  2. The other is on revisiting the current drupal.org forum structure. Over the years we've evolved a new way to collaborate with the groups site but that is not always obvious to the new comers. Also, other forums have developed some differing practices that we can leverage to mitigate culture shock and present resources to new folks.

Should be fun.

Also finally added a Drupalcon tag to my site.

Dec 29 2007
Dec 29

Volunteering for an open source project has been a learning experience.

I have experienced the kindness of strangers
I have been thanked for helping others

I have had the privilege to meet a wide variety of people scattered around this world. This shows me that people have an intense drive to communicate and build.

I have also experienced the cruelty of those protected by their keyboards. This has been the most difficult experience to face. You do something routine, send an off line message you hope to clear things up and then you and others who have spent countless unpaid hours get accused of lying, deception and other random falsehoods from someone who makes money and benefits from your and countless others contributions.

This is the most difficult part of volunteering in an online community. Realizing that those with an ax to grind, an agenda, a fear will lash out and slander you in an attempt to justify their fears and desire for some goal or desire or power. It is even more difficult when these accusations come from someone whom you have provided help and trust in the past but has not been active for the last year suddenly do this.

It is particularly difficult when people use rhetorical devices to cloak their attack. When challenged, they accuse others of falsehoods and consistently ignore questions but answer with oblique mis-directions. It is much like the tactics made famous by Karl Rove.

It makes continuing to contribute difficult, but perhaps that is the goal, to drive out, poison collaboration, distort and cause confusion. That seems to paranoid. Perhaps that is the goal. I don’t know, it’s hard dealing with people’s fears and cruelty.

I am going to try and ignore the attacks and the cruelty but am not sure I will succeed. I don't know that I have that much patience and understanding.

Nov 02 2007
Nov 02

Small non-profits are in a bind. Despite the fact that they are small, they often need skilled technical services be it for computers or the need of a website. They are often staffed by volunteers who may have limited time or technical skills yet they need access to people with those technical skills and the time to help them.

Generic history

In small groups, their first website exists because someone figures out how to get a basic website up and they go on from there. Traditionally if someone wants an update, they need 'Bob' or 'Jane', the web person to hand edit and update the sites content. In smaller groups, often the person who is responsible and first put up the site is busy so things get delayed then missed, etc.... There is a bottleneck. Real life emergencies, drifting interests, volunteer burn out, all effect the life of a site. Neglect builds up and deterioration sets in.

If a group gets lucky and a skilled professional helps them out then they can have some valued services. But what happens when it's a custom CMS? What happens when that developer moves on? Then the sites custom features no longer get updated, the next person may not be familiar with the language, back end.... The site again suffers from neglect. The group fails to get it's message out.

Back to present

Recently some friends took their groups (KHTI) site off line, they felt their content was so outdated that it was better to be off line then on.

I saw it was off line so I offered to help. They said they'd keep the offer in mind. I tossed together a quick demo site using Drupal.

It took me only a an hour to create the demo site. I added a sub domain off my existing domain in DNS, leveraged my existing Drupal code base install with the multi-site capabilities, added an entry in Apache, ran through the Drupal install wizard, turned on a few already installed modules... That took 15 minutes. The rest of the time was spent digging up old content from archive.org, a quick modification of old faithful Blue Marine and sent a link with my thoughts on what I could provide.

What Drupal allows me to offer them;

  • They own the content and content can be updated from a web browser. No need to wait on a webmaster to update, change or modify content, the responsibility can be distributed to multiple people.
  • I will send full monthly back ups to someone so that if I get hit by a bus, distracted, wander off, they should be able to get their site with their content back up in a short amount of time. After all, the content is the most important part of a site.
  • A Content Management System that doesn't have a license cost and that is maintained by hundreds, if not thousands of people with documentation instead of custom code.

A few weeks later, they took me up on my offer. I spent some time discussing what they wanted and we settled on getting started with a basic site with their information and a FAQ. We will add more features later.

Modules used

  • CCK
  • Date
  • Help
  • Menu
  • Path
  • Statistics
  • Taxonomy
  • Tracker
  • Upload
  • BUEditor
  • Diff
  • SimpleMenu (for admin view only)
  • Update Status
  • Views
  • Views UI

They had a FAQ on their old site which was several static HTML, hand edited pages. I used CCK and views to replicate and automate this somewhat. I created a new node type called FAQ;
Description: This content type is for Frequently Asked Questions.
Title field label: Question
Body field label: Answer
Work flow is Published with Create new revision checked.

I created a taxonomy of terms, made the FAQ content type required to have a term. Now the non-profits members can add to the FAQ at anytime. I created a several views for each category, aliased the pages and sent them a link to review. They were able to log in and correct somethings right then with out needing to wait. Created a role for the contributors so they can modify content but not the structure of the site.

I get to present this to the rest of the group this weekend and then get feedback on what features they would like added on next. My guess is a way for people to submit land leads that can then have a follow up publicly available to them. Maybe see if anyone is artistic and wants to suggest an updated theme too.

For a few hours work the KHTI site is back online. Due to Drupal's flexibility, I can add content now and if necessary re-arrange, un-publish, add content/features and change the theme with very little effort. But for now, at least their site is back online.

Drupal is a great content management system. It's most powerful ability is that it allows you to give people control of their content and remove that old traditional bottleneck role of the web master.

Oct 04 2007
Oct 04

Now this was interesting. A well written article on why one site is switching over to use Drupal's built in forum rather then continue to use vbulletin.

I understand that vbulletin is a popular forum purchased for use on a variety of sites. People using it and another popular open source forum software phpBB often use the 'Drupal forums aren't standard' argument to justify their position.

Neither are standard. They are like Windows. Widely used so people are accustomed to the same look and feel out the box. Not a bad thing, just not a 'Standard'. They are also dedicated to one thing, a feature rich forum rather then a feature rich, flexible CMS.

To achieve a similar setup out of the box with Drupal you have to do a bit more work, add contrib modules, theme appropriately and perhaps a bit of code. Not always the easiest thing depending on what you are trying to achieve. For those who take the effort, I think, the reward of a forum directly integrated into the sites content will out weigh the initial difficulties. You end up with a site that is and looks like yours, not yavbs/yaphpbbs (yet another vbulletin/phpBB site). It has integrated search built right in along with all the other Durpal features.

For those interested in continuing the improvements that have occurred for Drupal 6 for Drupal 7, please help out like minded others on the groups site.

note: You can tell they are using Drupal because they forgot to change out the Druplicon favicon. :)

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