Case Study - NickJr. Colour CMS & API - Feedback sought!
It's been an embarrassing amount of time since I last blogged or did anything to my site so I've started to create some content, but before I submit it as a case study on Drupal's site I'd love to have some feedback, it's been years since I wrote case studies so a little rusty. Is it of interest? Does it help? Does it answer the right questions? Are there any questions you'd like me to answer?
Viacom’s Nick Jr. is a digital television channel aimed younger children, home to popular shows including Dora the Explorer, Angelina Ballerina, and PAW Patrol. 'Colour' is a section of the Nick Jr. website where, daily, tens of thousands of users interact with predefined line-art drawings using paint brushes and stickers. They can then, if they wish to, send pictures they create to their friends via email. The mostly Flash-based front-end currently connects to a legacy back-end system which is being replaced with Drupal.
Completed Drupal site or project URL
Why Drupal was chosen
Drupal's core and contributed modules along with customisable web administration interface provided all the functionality required out-of-the-box and is already used widely throughout the organisation.
Describe the project (goals, requirements and outcome)
The goal of this project was to provide a bespoke back-end CMS based on Drupal to replace the legacy system, along with introducing new functionality enabling Send to Gallery and Pic of the Week features. The CMS needed to as simple as possible for content managers to use, and the whole system had to be able to cope with the tens of thousands of users using the API on a daily basis.
The site was to be delivered as a Drupal install profile so it can be adapted and re-used – an initial step towards creating internal Nickelodeon-specific distributions of Drupal, further lowering costs and time-to-market for future projects with similar requirements. Purkiss built a similar system a few months prior for Universal Artists uView Augmented Reality App and have extensive experience integrating Drupal with 3rd party services so were ideally placed to deliver this type of Drupal project.
First we set up the install profile with Shiny, the administration theme which comes with Drupal Commerce Kickstart, to be the main theme to the site. Shiny is a great theme for this kind of system where there's really only one main display the content managers interact with – it's easy on the eye with good typography and spacing.
We then re-created what functionality was required from the legacy system using Drupal Services – the calls for saving images, retrieving images for a show, etc. There was a major difference here as the legacy system stored all the data in flat XML files with no user data linked. Drupal is a relational database system so we have user accounts, content types and taxonomies – this proved to be an exercise in both education of the client as to the benefits of hooking into the Drupal API, along with re-architecting of the current content model and workflow.
We used a Features-based approach to development with each of these features, along with the install profile, having their own private Git code repository in the cloud in order for issue tracking and maintenance to be easier.
The features we delivered were as follows:
- NickJr Colour Image – stores the user’s image along with a Canvas ID which refers to the line art used, a taxonomy field to link to the associated show, and two flags – one to show if the user has sent the image in to Nickelodeon for consideration to be included in the showcase, and one to denote whether it is in the associated show’s showcase.
- User Profile Fields – extra profile fields to store the user’s name and age.
- Redirect after login – redirects to the front page view after logging in.
- Pic of the Week – Views Bulk Operations Component – one rule to set and one to unset an image as Pic of Week
- Showcase – one to set and one to unset an image as to be in a Show's Showcase
- NickJr. Colour API – the Services settings for the custom API endpoints.
- Shows Taxonomy – with Pic of the Week field
- Always harmonize views filters – Allows views to use both contextual and exposed filters for views
- Front Page – Displays all images, defaults to only show images Sent to Nick
- Showcase – Displays images in showcase, all if no show_id sent through
- User Profile – Displays users images on their profile page
Project timescale and budget was for an incredibly tight 10 days which we delivered in, however were subsequently hired for a further 7 days to re-factor the API and provide a few final additions to the administration interface.
Out-of-the-box, Drupal Services module provide a standard set of API calls so you can do things like create a user, a node, etc. so all the functionality required was there however required a number of calls to the API to achieve the desired workflow. It was decided to spend extra time creating custom API endpoints which would hide this functionality, reduce the number of API calls required, and make it easier for future users of the API.
The downside to this approach is the technical debt introduced when diverting away from the *.drupal.org infrastructure of support, i.e. core and contributed modules. In this instance the code was simply wrapping existing API calls and the client has access to technical resources so the decision was to take on the technical debt in order to produce a more tailored outcome.
We used the extra time to create a RESTful API which abstracted away from Drupal Services out-of-the-box API endpoints along with coding an auto account creation system to link up user data from the front-end without users having to enter their email address, a requirement of Drupal’s user account creation. We documented the API using Drupal’s inbuilt help module and passed the system over to the client, helping them through building the system from the Drush make file.
The resulting system is a clean, simple-to-use CMS with RESTful API handling thousands of users on a daily basis. Content managers have a separate role with very restricted access so can only do what they need to do on the system.
We really enjoyed delivering this project, however alert anyone thinking of building similar to allow extra time, especially if it is their first Drupal experience - no matter how good specifications are, issues usually arise in one form or another. Also often once people do start using Drupal and see the possibilities available, requirements change and it is good to allow for those to be taken into account.
Purkiss helps organisations onboard Drupal through consultancy, development, training and support. For more information about Purkiss services please visit http://purkiss.com
Why these modules/theme/distribution were chosen
- boolean_formatter – makes the user interface a little nicer by providing icons for boolean fields such as ticks and crosses
- CORS – required for connecting to the front-end
- EVA - we used an Entity Views Attachment to display users pictures on their profiles
- features - features allows you to export configuration settings to code
- filter_harmonizer - Views Filter Harmonizer fixes an issue when using multiple filters on views
- mimemail - used to send images via email
- rules - as described above, used for redirecting user on login and for custom views bulk operations
- services - used for the RESTful API
- shiny - an administration theme we are using for the entire site
- smtp - for sending email
- strongarm - for storing variables in features
- views_bulk_operations - to enable easy workflow, such as adding an image to a showcase
- views - so we can display the data we want easily
As the API is specific to the client and used mostly existing functionality we had no code to contribute. The only custom code was for automatic account creation and there are existing modules which provide similar functionality which we used the code from but is too specific to this install to re-use externally.
This is however the second time we’ve been asked for this sort of system, and with the growth of mobile apps we are currently working out whether it would be possible to create a distribution which will help get most of the way there - at least have relevant modules and perhaps an example scenario based on the simple image requirements for this project.
drop.coop podcast episode 1 - Drupal Drop In Sprint London Saturday 26th January 2013
Audio & Video tracks also available on Archive.org
drop.coop podcast episode 1 - Drupal Drop In Sprint London
- Robert Castelo
- Stefan van Hooft
- Pedro Cambra
- Steve Parks
- DrupalCamp London in March - a marriage made in…
- drop.coop - Europe vs. U.S. ways of doing business
Drupal Association Election 2013: Why I am withdrawing my candidacy, and who I'll be voting for
It is that time of year again when the Drupal community (1/4 of a million people last time were eligible as they had logged into their drupal.org account at least once in the year previous, although only 655 voted, roughly 0.25%) have the opportunity to choose who sits on the Board of Directors of the Drupal Association, a U.S.-based educational non-profit organization that tasks itself with fostering and supporting the Drupal software project, the community and its growth.
Well, I say that time of year again, but actually the first of these community elections, where Donna Benjamin and I were voted in, happened less than a year ago back in February. The election has been brought forward in order to align the yearly goal-setting which was made before we were elected, so we had no say over the 2012 goals, and however strange it feels as we haven't had our full year to show what we have done before the community is asked to vote again, I believe we can use this to our advantage.
For a period of a few months, the Drupal Association will potentially have four community-elected Directors, which is one of the reasons I've decided to withdraw my candidacy for re-election. If I am re-elected, we will only have three, going back to two in February 2013 when Donna's and my terms finish. Why is this so important? Read on...
At the moment there are twelve seats on the Board. Two are empty, and one is nearly or is free as it is currently held by someone who had made it clear they couldn't make the meetings - I've certainly never met nor heard from them. That leaves us with seven - Dries Buytaert, Danese Cooper, Angela Byron (webchick), Tiffany Farriss, Jeff Walpole, Vesa Palmu, and Cary Gordon. These elections are for Donna and my positions, which only last a year, and you are eligible to vote if you have an account on drupal.org, logged in during the past 12 months, and created your account before 31 August 2012 when the election was announced. The remaining three positions are to be chosen using a nominating committee.
As for the make-up of the Board, Dries and webchick are both Acquia; Danese is Open Source Strategist for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and on Board of Open Source Initiative; Tiffany runs Palantir.net along with husband George DeMet; Jeff runs Phase2 Technology; Vesa runs the recently formed Wunderkraut (previously four companies); and Cary Gordon, who runs the Cherry Hill Company - "a Los Angeles based boutique system integration and development shop serving libraries, education, non-profits and NGOs", has history in running many, large, music concerts, and used to be Events Director for the Association.
Donna runs a small Drupal business in Australia, and I have been freelancing building web sites for the past eleven years. The last seven of those I have been focusing on Drupal, and the last few of those years I have been trying to build a business as building web sites myself doesn't fill me with enjoyment - it is something which paid the rent after I was made redundant back in the dotcom days where I was consulting on, and winning, web site projects which had six figure budgets.
Then there is also an Advisory Board, although my only contact with them personally was during DrupalCon Denver where we had a strategy session together late in the evening after the open Board meeting - our Board meeting ran late during DrupalCon Munich so at 9.20pm it was decided to can the planned strategy session.
Learning Drupal the Hard Way
In order for this story to make sense, I have to delve into some history. I'd love not to have to, and believe it or not I've tried to make it as brief as possible.
What makes me get up in the morning and work late into the night is creating value by connecting people with people, people with technology, and technology with technology - after all, my core process is "fostering connections". I discover who and/or what needs to be connected for mutual benefit, I connect, I check the connection is working, then I go elsewhere and rinse and repeat.
In 2005 after a few years of helping people on the business network Ecademy find out more about free software, for free, I came up with a concept of how I could make money out of my talents as a connector, and in turn others could make a living out of whatever their talents were, simply by raising the intangible free software into the tangible world via a scalable variation on coworking spaces, which were beginning to crop up at the time. I coined the rather long title of Organic Open Source Cafe Coworking Concept and was so sure that everyone else would "get" the idea they would be throwing money at me to build them all over the world!
I had a mentor through Ecademy at the time, and one particular day when I was stressed because no-one was throwing pots of money in my direction, he recommended I needed a break. He was doing a talk in Toronto that weekend, so I thought where better to chill out than above the clouds, and promptly booked my tickets. Ecademy itself is a Drupal site, however I wasn't using Drupal myself (I had settled on XOOPS after working my way through the *nukes) and had the same view of Drupal as many still do - I thought it was just too damned hard to even bother taking a look.
I loved the "go for it" attitude in Toronto and decided to return home, pack up, and come back to Canada for a while, see if anyone there would throw me pots of money. The first few months were fantastic and I met many luminaries of Free Culture, including Lawrence Lessig (creator of Creative Commons), Eben Moglen (founder of the Software Freedom Law Centre), and John Terpstra (co-founder of the Samba project). We spoke at length about my concept and got some great responses and feedback. I then met a girl who I didn't realise hadn't been on "meds" for three years, in fact I didn't even know what "meds" were.
Without getting into the ins-and-outs, let's just say it didn't get much better from hereon in, apart from one thing which happened which was one of the XOOPS websites I made for a client, the now defunct LinuxVAR.co.uk, was relaunched in Drupal, which really pissed me off, so I finally cracked open Drupal and was hooked straight away - I couldn't understand why they weren't shouting about how good it was!
At the time I couldn't be seen to be interacting with anyone else, so I learned Drupal just by downloading modules and reading the code. I was quite adept to this as when I first learned how to code at the age of nine I spent most of my time in my bedroom on the computer playing around with code. I couldn't control my parents arguing, but I could control this amazing virtual world I had in front of my eyes. Having spent my childhood buying floppy disks of Public Domain software pre-Internet, I didn't know there was this whole "community" side to it, but I did realise soon that it could do everything the software I had previously been selling for £70k+ per licence, and all for Free.
Thanks to a good friend, I finally managed to "escape" the bad relationship and return back to the UK. I ended up going bankrupt a few months later, but shortly before that I tried my first piece of community interaction, I posted a little module I'd written for displaying your LinkedIn profile in a box. Five and half years on, still no response. OK, so it was probably posted in the wrong place, but how was I supposed to know?
After bankruptcy I picked myself up again and managed to build a good business because I knew Drupal. A year later I managed to pick up a great project for Mazda, and I used that money to move myself down to Brighton where I soon set up a local Drupal user group, and last weekend we had our second successful DrupalCamp, with everyone from career-changers to schools, charities, and multinational corporates turning up and joining in. The rest is history.
Although I've been in the Drupal world for many years, I still feel like an outsider sometimes, and I know many others feel the same - we have the Drupal "echo chamber". I remember once picking up webchick on a point during DrupalCon Denver when she said "100% of the community want this function on drupal.org" - I pointed out to webchick that it was actually "everyone you asked", as I'd asked everyone in the Drupal party the previous night and none of them even knew there was anything going on with drupal.org. Many people don't even know drupal.org is there or what it does.
Even when I'm lucky enough to be sitting in the back of a car with UID1 himself (although I learned recently that he was actually UID2 originally as it was his mate who installed Drupal first before he asked to swap UIDs!). Those who submitted code seemed to be the ones who were looked after the most, but I know from my previous experience of many years working in software houses that it takes more than coders and designers to make a successful project, it takes project managers, sales people, marketers, etc. to provide an all-round offering. If you leave geeks to do marketing they will do their best, but a better option is to get them connected to people who are experts in their field.
The Simple Solution
Drupal wasn't, and isn't built by money, it is built by people with passion. And some with money, no doubt, but the extremely long tail of the Drupal community is what makes it work and keep on growing. At the moment that works with code, but it doesn't successfully reach out to many non-code focused people. Marketing people, sales, project managers, etc. all mostly work outside the issue queues and in companies - they still work in a proprietary way, and that doesn't scale. The trouble is, if it's not on drupal.org, it's not on the same system which successfully created the software and the coding community.
The result of this is we've made a wonderful modular piece of software, we just haven't built the modular business model on top of it yet.
This is what we are beginning to fix with DrupalBAM - Branding and Marketing Committee. This is not a committee to create any chains of command, it is simply to put a system in place so those who want to join in and contribute to the project can. As webchick said during the Governance BoF in Munich:
"Things like committees and charters, they're scary words, even though it's not that scary, it's just putting people where an individual used to be in a lot of cases, or putting five people where a hundred people used to be"
We are essentially open sourcing Drupal's branding and marketing processes. This means working on big ideas, but also attending to the details at the same time, like helping get through the marketing-related issue queues. Because we are now "on the system", we can do things in parallel, and anyone is free to join in and help. It is going to take time for people to get onto the system and used to what little flexibility we have on the current system, but already it is working and we are seeing results.
As more people use the system, more issues will be resolved, more different ideas will be shared, the easier Drupal and *.drupal.org will become to use, and we will have a more rounded and fair community, with more people having an input, and more people helping out.
At the moment people are shouting "just do it" but not telling people what they want them to do, and even when they do they seem to make it as hard as possible to do. The amount of times I've looked at issue queues and run away, yet within five minutes of talking to someone it all became clear - that isn't scalable quickly though, unless we all start making short video tutorials, but better to make it easier in the first place to join in. As Jared Spool said in his DrupalCon keynote, you either have to raise the level of knowledge of your users or lower the complexity of your software.
Much work had been done on marketing before, but in many different places and having many of the same conversations - I know because I spent a ton of money going around as many Drupal events as I could in order to learn as much as I could about the business side of things as I have had little help from "official" bodies who are supposed to provide support and help for those who want to build a business, but the Drupal CXO people were all sharing ideas, and I was listening intently.
Why we need more representation on the Board
When I could finally afford to go to my first DrupalCon it was only a couple of years ago in Copenhagen. I had just been to an event here in Brighton entitled "Connecting Innovation" where Ken Thompson did a workshop and a talk on "Virtual Enterprise Networks". I read the book and the model Ken had created and used with clients including NASA seemed to match pretty much how the Drupal community looked to me - lots of companies, freelancers, and people across the world all coming together to create something bigger than the constituent parts.
I was really excited as I'd spoken to many people who had trouble finding work even though I kept hearing of this "Drupal Talent Gap", and the only way to get work seemed to be either be great at business, or work for a company. For many, Drupal is about Freedom, and the thought of doing a 9-5 is pretty abhorrent to many I spoke to. Drupal is also different in that the person you want to help you could be the opposite side of the world, it's such a big project it's impossible to know everything about it.
As I mentioned in my previous nomination back in February, I saw someone I knew was on the Drupal Association Board and asked if there was anyone I could speak to about this method which meant we could all collaborate on the business side only to get a response of "They're all very busy working for very large corporations", which of course threw me a bit. It didn't give me a great impression of the Drupal Association, and instead of pursuing that, I spent the next eighteen months working out the starting point for this so I could do it myself.
Eventually I worked out the first and most important part was to create a live skills heatmap so we could see who's available where and when, and what skills they have. That can be companies and individuals, and would enable us to work more like the film industry does when they come together to produce a film. It also mimics the natural world much more, for example starlings where no one single one knows the whole journey but together they do.
I began this year pursuing this and it was my intention to go round the events so I could talk to potential members and clients. It didn't turn out quite like that because at the second event, CXO Process event in Amsterdam, I bumped into Vesa Palmu and upon asking him about the elections which were going on he said there had only been a couple of people nominate themselves. After my previous experience with the DA not wanting to talk to me I thought "Well, they would have to if I was on the Board, right?" and as it was deadline that night I decided to nominate myself. Amsterdam can be trouble sometimes!
The next day a Drupal friend had made me a graphic "Vote Steve!" image and within a week I was voted in. I got a fair amount of backlash for the "Vote Steve!" thing, but I'd personally never heard of an election without a campaign, and at the time it seemed like a bit of fun. I'd helped many people out over the years with Drupal, and well-known in the community, and as it was a community position I felt "well, if I didn't have a community of supporters, I wouldn't really be a good representation of the community, would I?". Sure, we want people from under-represented countries, but as mentioned above, we have three further seats on the Board available which could help there, plus we could always consider opening up more seats.
It was a strange start to my Directorship, but within a month or two we had already managed to take the work we'd been doing on marketing and with the help of the Board we created the committee and charter. Ben Finklea was chosen to head it up as he had 'made it happen' in Denver at the marketing BoF, and whilst others had done much groundwork before, it was Ben who took the lead over the final hurdle and got everything and everyone in place to make it happen.
Admittedly I went into the Board with guns-a-blazing, however I realise many issues arise due to lack of, or no communication, and have grown to highly respect each and every person on the board. They have all made remarkable contributions to the Drupal project, and we have a wonderful opportunity to broaden the reach of the Board and we should be focusing on that.
Looking to the Future
DrupalBAM is just one solution, we need to focus on improving our own communication tools. We seem to have to use a different web conferencing each week - when this is such an integral part of how we collaborate it is essential that we invest in our own, free and open source, scalable systems. I've started a discussion on improving web conferencing tools if it's something you're interested in.
Biggest of all IMHO is helping move the Commons 3 project along and get it onto gdo so "normal" people can collaborate easier. There's some prototypes here and I believe Acquia are helping, but we shouldn't always look at other people to help, we need to work out ways to fund these sorts of initiatives ourselves and share the load.
The Drupal Association needs to focus on improving the tools we use, and working on stuff which a business couldn't necessarily make money out of but is of great use to the community. There is one candidate who is on the infrastructure team, and although I thought at first that wouldn't be a good fit, I'm actually thinking it might be the perfect fit - providing we don't just focus on the devs but the community as a whole - I'm sure that's their plan anyway.
Looking Even Further into the Future
The trouble with everything being on *.drupal.org is that then provides one central point of failure, one point of control. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, so it's something we will need to look at and try to solve. Exploring possibilities of the federated web is where we should be looking to next, but hey, let's get past this period of growth first before we worry too much about that.
Finally - Why?
Because if we don't massively and quickly improve our communication both internal and external, we may end up thinking the Drupal Association is something like this:
We have something special here with Drupal. My most memorable moment is at an OpenAtrium BoF in Chicago when most people were from universities and government institutions, but there was one guy sitting next to me who was built like a brick s******e - I asked him what he did and he said he helped prisoners on their 12 step programme when they come out of prison - he'd just downloaded OpenAtrium and was using it, thought he'd pay his few hundred dollars and come along to DrupalCon to find out what else he could do with it.
Drupal changes lives for the better, let's not lose that by voting in people based on whether we like them or not - read through their nominations and think about how they can help us grow and help us navigate safely across the chasm from innovators to early adopters and get in ship-shape ready for Drupal 8, which in real terms is not that far away when you consider how much catching up we have to do in certain areas. A manual process needs to be backed up with systems in order to scale.
When I decided to nominate myself for re-election it was because I didn't know who was going to put themselves up for nomination, now I am happy that there are many there who have far much more experience, passion, and energy than me to do what is needed in order to move successfully forward through the launch of Drupal 8.
These last few months have been an incredible journey, but it has cost me much in terms of cash and health. My 71 year old mother who has been through many illnesses was in hospital yesterday as cancer has spread to her other breast. She's out now and recovering, but again it is a reminder to me that life is short and I need to focus on getting my own life in shape and be happy again, and perhaps one day find or make a bucket of money so I can build a network of community spaces as I mentioned above ( offers of help welcome ;).
I will still be a Director until Feb 2013 unless I get chucked off ;) I hope you choose our new Board members wisely - I'm sure you all will, especially if you managed to get this far ;)
BTW, Vote Matthew Saunders, he has by far the most appropriate experience along with the passion to see it through and will serve us well. As for the others, well, I already mentioned the infrastructure side. Other than that, look at who's ideas are scalable, we have less than a year until the potential release of Drupal 8.
Stephen B. Purkiss
Council web team join in Digital Festival fun as Brighton hosts its second Drupal Open Source Camp this weekend
Members of Brighton and Hove City Council's web team will be joining over 70 'Drupalers' this weekend for sessions and workshops presented by other members of the Drupal community. The council are currently migrating their website over to Drupal, an Open Source platform for building websites and applications which runs over 2% of the web, everything from Data.gov.uk to The White House website.
Steve Purkiss, local Drupal Trainer and Consultant, is organising the weekend's free line-up of activities along with other members of the local group. Steve founded the Brighton Area Drupal Association and was recently elected Director of the US-based nonprofit Drupal Association in their first ever community elections. Steve helped oversee the council's migration to Drupal and remarked:
"It is great to see the council and many other local enterprises adopt Drupal as their open platform of choice for building web sites and applications. Creating immersive web experiences and making the most of the latest technology requires continual innovation and by working to a common goal on a common, free, and open source project, we affect the bottom line and innovate faster.
Drupal's culture of helping others as well as ourselves fosters great communities, and creates more jobs and opportunities for local people and suppliers. Its motto 'Come for the code, stay for the community', really shines through on a weekend like this, we welcome anyone to come along and see it in action for themselves!"
Drupal is one of the largest Open Source communities and many 'DrupalCamps' are held around the world every week, providing space for not only sessions and learning, but also act as 'pop-up' co-working spaces where those involved with the project get together and work on improving the software, as well as working on non-code areas such as organising and tidying up case studies for the http://drupal.org web site.
With Open Studios on Friday 14th September; fifteen sessions over two tracks covering business, beginner, and more advanced topics on Saturday 15th; and an un-conference style day on Sunday 16th where attendees host their own sessions on topics of interest, there are plenty of opportunities to discover more about Drupal and see just what it is that makes this open source project such a resounding success.
For further information and free tickets to the weekend's events visit http://BADCampUK.net
BADCampUK organising, Drupal Marketing Research and DrupalCon Videos #WIDT
(first published earlier today on What I Drupaled Today)
Today (probably yesterday by the time I hit send!) has been a long day of organising our Brighton Area Drupal Association BAD Ass Drupal Weekender which is happening a week Friday, plus crunching videos from DrupalCon BoFs and continuing discussions on the Marketing of Drupal, more on that topic later!
I decided to call it BADCampUK because I wanted to echo the community element of what I saw happening over the other side of the pond in the legendary BADCamp. I've learned a lot since we put on our first proper camp back in April of this year where we had 80 people turn up, mostly that we have a very long way to go before we could really claim to be anything on the scale of the original, in terms of both size and sponsorship for people to attend. Luckily Brighton is an hour away from London where we have much good Drupal talent so it wasn't too expensive for many to come, but we realise there are many others who would like to attend where we could be of much more help.
We had many from much further away too, and the whole weekend was inspiring - so much so we decided it would be best to hold our second BADCampUK during September when the Brighton Digital Festival is on. There's over 100 events, currently the Reasons to be Creative conference is underway and people are traveling from all over the world to attend to see the very latest in technology and design. The month of celebration kicked off with a digitally explosive digital fireworks display by creative coder extraordinaire Seb Lee-Delisle.
With the next Drupal Association Global Training Day on 14th September I managed to book our local coworking space The Skiff which is a non-profit and where we hold some of our meetings. It's a really cool space, but I can see we could easily need far more space next year. One discussion is to hold them at the local Universities so we can grow interest amongst students, we'll be investigating that option for our next one.
We are still a small but growing fast group of Drupalistas here in Brightoncisco on the sunny(!) South Coast of the UK (a city with over 2,500 'new media' businesses & freelancers according to WiredSussex) with our pebble beach, promenade and piers and pints. Unfortunately we recently lost a couple of good members to other parts of the country and world, however we are also starting to see quite a few new members beginning to join in the fun, some whom have worked with Drupal for many years but not participated much in the community aspect. This, I am sure is also down to the post-local DrupalCon effect - wish I'd been transported to one the first minute the word "Drupal" entered my head! It's great to see the group grow, and after our meeting Monday night we now have a plan for almost the next year in place, which is great because I'm great at getting things going... ;)
Which brings me swiftly to the next topic of the day, and that is really all about topics of discussion over on the Marketing of Drupal group on groups.drupal.org. Some of the people are used to how Free/Libre Open Source Software works, some aren't as much. I, for one, have not typed as much on gdo in the last seven years as I have typed in the last week and a bit since Munich.
With the benefit of hindsight, some of it I think has been admittedly not well-thought out, and for those I apologise if any offence has been taken. I do though think it is good to get these things out because more communication on what's happening outside the star dot drupal.org sphere is a Good Thing. It will take a while for me, and others I am inviting to join in our conversations, to understand the full extent of what has been built over the last twelve-or-so years here and I ask you not for your patience, but to help guide us so we can grow and become of great value to the community as a whole by bringing more perspectives, skills, expertise, resources, and maybe cakes into the commons.
We have been answering the following questions about Drupal in the marketplace, and we invite you all to have your input. I know many out there will probably wonder when I'll shut up, but I also know many are also gaining value out of opening up these discussions and re-asking them now:
- What is it that Drupal does so well?
- Who are our "mindset" competitors that we need to overcome?
- Who are Drupal's competitors and what do they do particularly well?
- Who is Drupal's target group? What are their demographics? Psychographics?
Last but not least I converted and uploaded a couple of the videos I took at DrupalCon Munich:
- One for those interested in the forthcoming [London DrupalCamp](http://archive.org/details/DrupalconMunich-Bof-Drupalcamp-London-GetInvo...)
- One for those who organise, or want to organise local groups/camps/sprints/etc. - [Community Leaders Unite!](http://archive.org/details/DrupalconMunich-Bof-CommunityLeadersUnite)
What did you Drupal today? You don't have to say, but it would be rather jolly if you did! Post yours here:
DrupalBAM Branding and Marketing - Setting the 'ends' before working out the 'means'
(first published earlier today on What I Drupaled Today)
After tidying up the DrupalBAM ('Drupal Branding And Marketing') group homepage and structure last night I saw the conversation had started to flow so today, after getting my own personal chores and meetings out of the way, I caught up on the conversation.
I wasn't sure what I was going to see, sometimes in the community these sorts of discussions can easily go off-topic, run on forever and never get anything done, or not pick up at all. Luckily none of those had happened and a good discussion is getting going. This said, I saw the discussion was talking about the means and not the ends. "More developers", "grow grow grow", etc. are all ways of doing something, but you need to work out what that something is first, and to me, growing more developers is not an ends but a means resulting from the way we've done things so far. I've met many great developers who simply cannot find work because they're not in a particular supply chain and/or they don't/can't do 9-5 in an office in London. A better way is to work out at a higher level what the 'ends' are - for example "to be able to find a great drupal developer with ease", and to find means to support that, preferably from existing community efforts which we can support, grow, and bring closer to the community.
If we solely focus our means on growth and more developers then I believe we are only solving an ends which comes from companies who want to grow the amount of staff they have, and that's not what Drupal is about - we do that and we end up potentially putting a lot more strain on those who do lots to support the community and who don't get paid for doing it.
Have a read of my post "Ends not means please!" on the DrupalBAM group and please post and have your say, whatever your role in the community is do please make sure your voice is heard and tell them what you think about it all.
Open Sourcing Drupal's Branding & Marketing Processes
(first pushlished earlier today on What I Drupaled Today)
The aim of the Branding & Marketing group is to bring together the efforts of people from around the world who have been to various marketing BoFs, meetings, etc. and want to be as involved in the work they do with regards for Drupal as the people who write code by using the system that's been built up over the last twelfty years.
Drupal is a strong brand which is looked after by the community, and not just about what a few people who can make a certain meeting at a certain time in a certain place think it is. It is my understanding that the Drupal Association is there to support the community as a whole, and not just down to those who know how the system works. Please do comment and let me know what you think.
The Drupal brand and values are detailed here, from work Mark Boulton & others did:
Drupal's values of openness are key to the success of the project, and the Drupal Association is tasked with looking after that brand for the current trademark owner, Dries.
Over at the Marketing Drupal group (http://groups.drupal.org/marketing-drupal) we are beginning to open source the Drupal marketing process. We have been through all the necessary official measures in order to ensure the longevity of our work and we are very thankful to those who have put in so much work just so we could get even this far.
It is my personal belief that we have all we need now to start to address some of the imbalances we see in this community currently - Drupal is and never has been just about what one person thinks, it's about one person (you, me, I, them, etc.) listening to the rest of the community and encouraging those who are doing Good Things in order to foster and grow the community as a whole.
I'm working out how to customise a group homepage (tvn pointed me to http://drupal.org/node/1187094) so we can begin to make things easier for many more people who are already in our community and contributing to become part of the system here and welcome them with open arms.
Please do come and join us whatever your skills and make it happen for both sides of our community and let's move forward:
I know this sounds preachy, but we have little time to bikeshed - reminds me of the Atari Jaguar, the first 64-bit games machine that not many people have heard of - great tech but didn't get the deals. Let's not do that, right? Right!
Come and support, have your say in the openness of Drupal's Marketing and let's get rid of the cliff-hanging forever, Drupal r0cks! :D
On Drupal, Standardisation, and the creation of Time Zones
Drupal Association Opens its doors to the community At Large - and I'm running for election!
The Drupal Association is, for the first time in history, opening up two spaces on the Board for "At Large" members. Voting is open now only for a few days until Feb 7. I decided to nominate myself after hearing further about the elections during the Drupal CxO event in Amsterdam last weekend, so instead of writing up all the interesting stuff that's been going on recently at the CxO event and Drupal ScienceCamp the week before where I gave my first session and videod many others, I find myself caught up in election fever and spending the weekend answering questions which were posed during two conference calls we had on Thursday - one at 1am and one at 5pm. It was great being part of these discussions with a group of passionate people from around the world, an inspiring moment in my life I shall remember for a long time!
I'm reposting my answers here as the wiki page is a bit messy, plus I want to reach out to my own community at large as they may not even know elections are on, it seems shouting about this sort of stuff in the Drupal community is not the norm, a shame as we have so much wonderful stuff to shout about!
The Drupal Association, for those who don't know, is "an educational non-profit organization that tasks itself with fostering and supporting the Drupal software project, the community and its growth". It has no control over the software itself, and states its 2012 goals as:
- Improve the collaboration tools on drupal.org and make it rock for developers
- Organize "Drupal in a day" global trainings to solve talent issue
- Drupal as a career choice through University Programs
- Directory of all trainings to solve talent issue
- Regional events targeted at developers organized by DA staff
- Make d.o awesome for site builders (vs. developers) - module reviews, docs, etc.
I am already involved in a number of these efforts and through the events I've been to I see there are many people who want to help out and contribute but simply do not have a mechanism or the knowledge to do so. Rather than go into a big speech now, here's the answers I gave - if you like my ideas please vote before Feb 7! My core process is "fostering connections" - a skill I believe is perfect for the DA.
Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss), United Kingdom
Hi, I'm Steve Purkiss and I'm here representing the "normal guy". I've been running the Drupal group in the UK's digital media hub of Brighton for the three years that I've lived here but it was only in 2010 when I went to my first DrupalCon in Copenhagen that I *got* Drupal - it's all about the community and not just software. Since then I've been helping people understand what Drupal is, including organising a 'Drupal Discovery Day' during Brighton's Digital Festival last year where we trained over 30 people in the morning and had over 40 attendees at our conference in the afternoon. I've now been to three DrupalCons, two Drupal CxO days, devdays, and did my first session at a DrupalCamp a couple of weeks back in Cambridge entitled 'From Flip Charts to Features and beyond' building on the work I've been doing with organisations including Brighton & Hove City Council in order to help them quickly and easily understand how to build projects in an agile way using Drupal and its plethora of modules. I also video many of the sessions and upload them to archive.org - I believe we should do much more videoing of events!
My first experience of the Drupal Association was in DrupalCon Copenhagen when I asked if they'd ever heard of a 'Virtual Enterprise Network' and explained it was a structure for enabling organisations including businesses, universities, and government instititions, to work together in order to deliver larger projects - similar to how the film industry works when coming together to produce a film. I asked if there was anyone in the Association who I could talk to about it because I believe strongly we have built a wonderful modular piece of software however we are yet to build a modular business model on top. The answer I received was a point-blank "No, they're all incredibly busy working for very large corporations." This is why I decided to nominated myself and hence why I feel I stand for the "normal guy" wanting to bring back some balance to the board.
Questions and answers
Harley (hyperglide) Regarding emerging markets in asia. Do any of the candidates have an idea on how to handle outreach to those markets to solve the talent shortage?
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) The Association is in an ideal position to help pool and funnel resources to those on the ground in order to help them grow their communities wherever they are in the world. Being a focal point for the community, the Association can help the community to speak from one voice and spread knowledge sharing, education and community values wherever it is needed, and not only to those who can afford it.
(tsvenson) Q to each candidate: What do you see as the biggest obstacles for new Drupal users, especially non coders with small or no budgets, often leading to them quickly going elsewhere? And what will you do to change that?
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) In Brighton I was going to run a week of Drupal training at £149 per day but was told I couldn't call it "affordable" training as it made other offerings sound expensive. If we only focus on the commercial side of things we have a big problem - and vice versa. I would rather see a focus on creating more sustainable forms of business than focusing on just one sector. To not view Wordpress as a threat here is IMHO a mistake.
I entered professional programming through a government-funded course and I am keen to ensure those opportunities are ongoing for people so I am talking to local colleges, universities and business networks about training students, graduates, unemployed, and career changers in Drupal. I am finding it hard by myself and my local network, if in the Association I would reach out to those around the world who can help on a more focused, local basis and assist in the construction of more support networks IRL.
(webchick) For those who want to promote international diversity, explain how a position on the DA helps you do that more effectively.
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) Finding out what resources are needed and how they need to be tailored for particular cultures. At the recent Drupal CxO days in Amsterdam the hosts Microsoft explained a little into the process of how they do this and have offered us some time to help us - I would ensure we follow up on this very generous offer. As was mentioned, we are great technicians but not so great marketers - so why not take some tips from the best and help spread the Drupal community wider?
(Crell) Currently Drupal's face in the world is a mix of face-less Drupal.org and Acquia. Acquia is the face of Drupal, rightly or wrongly, in many eyes, moreso with the new Office of the CTO. Drupal of course is far far more than Acquia. What if anything do you feel the DA can or should do to counter-balance that, or is that even an appropriate role for the DA?
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) The two At Large positions are a step in the right direction as we don't necessarily know who's out there in our community now as opposed to years ago when it was relatively small and why most members are from the more established companies. By bringing in outside perspectives with complementary knowledge and networks we enrich the community and move towards a more balanced, sustainable solution for democratised governance.
(tsvenson) Q to all: We just had a live usability test that showed we have still very much to do. How do you propose we can put more efforts into making Drupal, including contib projects, more user friendly and intuitive?
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) There are some things as a community we do not do well at the moment, one of those is eat our own dogfood. I hear of many other tools people use running their Drupal business but we should work together to invest time, and funds, in fostering existing efforts such as the open app initiative. We should also develop new methods of people being able to contribute easier to the community - one such concept I've had is http://dropfund.org (hey, I bought the domain name so it's all built and ready, right?!) where people could post their project ideas much like a kickstarter for Drupal. Everything from marketing material through to module development sponsorship could be posted and funded easier than trawling through drupal.org and gdo just stumbling across stuff and trying to figure out what's going on and how to help.
(Slurpee) How many candidates have been to Drupal events outside of their own continent? And can you speak more than 1 language fluently?
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) Since DrupalCon Copenhagen I have been to DrupalCon Chicago and London, Developer Days Brussels, CxO Days Brussels and last weekend's CxO event in Amsterdam, and the weekend before that I gave my first session at Drupal ScienceCamp Cambridge. I'm better with software languages than spoken, having spent from age 9 to now 39 learning how to talk in various software languages, from BASIC, through Pascal, ADA, Java, PHP, and now Drupal.
(Crell) Several of you listed things yo want to do or accomplish. The DA, however, has shifted from a staff board to a policy board, so board members are not directly doing anything, but managing, strategizing, coordinating, etc. Those of you who want to "do", isn't the board the wrong place for what you're describing?
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) I want to work towards a more level playing field for everyone in the community - at the moment it seems as if the more well-funded operations build their own tools, workflow, and methods of dealing with inefficiencies in tools we have such as drupal.org whereas I believe it's the role of the DA to encourage contribution of these tools back to the community, and pool as many of these resources as possible so they are of benefit to all and not just competitive advantage for a few. Managing, strategizing, and coordinating are the ways in which I will achieve this!
(rfay) In 30 seconds or less, what are the roles of the DA and what are not the roles?
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) The DA plays an important role supporting the development and growth of the Drupal community and should take a more active role in enabling those who want to contribute to be able to do so. It is not the DA's role to be involved in the decision-making process when it comes to the software itself, however it should be there to support ongoing efforts by being able to connect funders and those wanting funding, whether for hardware or software development. In terms of funding development then I believe the community and not the DA should be the decision-makers as to what gets funded - the DA should just help with the organisation of these initiatives.
(Crell) Q: Several candidates said they want to better represent or be a voice for "small shops" and independents. In what way does the DA currently not adequately serve small shops, and what would a better service for small players mean in practice? Be as specific as possible.
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) It is more that relationships are currently built and maintained around a relatively few number of shops - ones who are either ingrained in the community, or who have the funds to "buy" their way into the community. Mostly I believe this is due to the fact we are not utilising our own software to the best effect to help connect, also because we are still thinking in terms of old-IT top-down big consultancy approach in some ways - perhaps because the biggest businesses involved currently still work that way.
We have built wonderful modular software and we are currently seeming to try and mash that into an old, out-of-date business model. Many large IT failures will still happen if the business models don't change - it's just they'll fail with Open Source Software resulting in harming its reputation. There are other ways, one of which is Virtual Enterprise Networks ('VEN')* where one body represents its members in a commercial environment, enabling sharing of costs such as marketing, and enabling larger projects to be delivered than could be done by any one member organisation alone.
Many smaller shops and independents are technically very capable but not so good at marketing - will a skills shortage and the fact that specific expertise is not geographically specific we should embrace new ways of working together on larger projects than just giving them to to the larger companies. As I discovered at the recent Drupal CxO event in Amsterdam *every* Drupal company there had issues with being too small - whether they were 2, 20, or 50 people. With a VEN a structure would be there for easier collaboration between these companies and individuals.
I believe the DA is in an ideal position to help to work towards the creation of a Drupal VEN, and spearhead not only a modular piece of software but a complementary business model to boot. I see some worrying similarities between what is happening in the Drupal world and what happened in the dotcom days when the company I was working at received $7m investment and immediately went out and hired lots of ex-IBM people. We have a small window of opportunity here to do something different and innovative - we should take full advantage of before balance is lost and we end up repeating old business mistakes simply because we are only listening to those who have too much interest in a particular model, or who simple do not know any other way is possible. A VEN is just one potential structure which should be investigated further in order to see which would be most complementary to the Drupal community in order to utilise the network more efficiently.
(tsvenson) When do you think the first Asian DrupalCon should be held? Also, should that mean 3 cons/year or should they alternate with 2/year?
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) I would need to investigate the current situation and any research done so far before suggesting any answer to this. At the moment, I feel if the community is big enough to support it then sure, if not then we should see how we can build or connect the community more so that it is in a position to put on a Con.
(jredding) In 30 seconds or less, what would you say is the most important skillset, expertise, or experience that a board member should bring to the Association.
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) Experience, passion, ideas, ears, mouth when needed, sympathy, empathy, commitment, independence, and a willingness to question and challenge the status quo.
(carsonblack) What are some (or one) way that DA can help the small user groups throughout the world better serve their local markets?
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) At the recent Drupal CxO event in Amsterdam I spoke to a number of companies who want to join forces in order to help create more marketing materials for Drupal. We should help these companies to contribute as the result will be more material available for everyone to use, including local user groups. We should also make it easier to start and maintain local groups by providing more up-to-date resources of information gathered from existing groups, and continue to provide funding where possible. I won one of the first Community Cultivation Grants with which I created a short video "What is Drupal?" (http://bad-ass.org.uk/what-is-drupal) which helped a little but we need more ongoing support too so we can develop the great work people are doing out there "in the field". Guilds are great, however we should ensure these do not go the way of the guilds of old, which ended up being cartels. There was a similar issue in the Open Source Consortium of which I was a founding member but left soon after as I felt it would go this way. It was set up by Mark Taylor from Sirius IT who has spoken at Drupal CxO events, he confirmed to me it did end up being a cartel so he too left. Not saying Drupal Guilds will, we just have to be aware they potentially could.
(Crell) The DA is officially banned from "directing the development of Drupal". What does that mean to you? Are there ways the DA could "support" development without "directing" development? What would you want to do in that regard? Again, be specific as possible.
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) To me this means the DA should be supporting the development of Drupal whatever that development is. For example, if the community decided to rewrite the entire of Drupal using .NET technologies, although it would be a completely ridiculous concept, the DA should support the community's decision. The DA is ideally positioned to be a connector of resources to support the development of Drupal, by working with the community to ascertain what resources are needed the DA can help ensure access to those resources are provided, whether in terms of hardware, funding, or whatever is necessary for the community to continue to grow and flourish.
(tsvenson) Should the DA take a more proactive role about the d.o infrastructure and its improvement needs. Especially in regards to for example content management tools for doumentation and giving better cred/visibility to all those that puts in amazing work that is not project/code related? If so how and what is needed?
A: Steve Purkiss (stevepurkiss) Yes, I believe it is the responsiblity of the DA to support the infrastructure used by the community. I think there is a lot that can be done here in terms of working more closely with companies using Drupal to help them contribute more back to the community in order to help sustain and grow. At the moment it seems as if there's a high barrier in terms of both expertise and time to be able to change much, with a little more communication and connection of existing efforts I believe we can provide much better tools for the community to use, which will in turn show off more of what Drupal can do to the wider world and hopefully make it a little easier to understand for all.
Candidate summary statements
My first job was selling computers to small businesses, and whilst I have also worked with many large corporations, it is the small business person I have most affinity with. As we move into an age of more interdependance as many are laid off from work I believe we need to bring back some balance on the board and provide more assistance to those who have the passion and expertise but not necessarily the cash and connect them with those who have the cash but not necessarily the expertise (or indeed passion!). We need to foster the growth of more tools using our own software to help collaboration and start to build a world based on the ways we work together now, not 10, 20 or 30 years ago. By coming onto the board from this side, I bring fresh new ideas and energy, and a network which provides further reach than the board currently possesses in order to help the Association achieve and exceed the initiatives set out for 2012. I am already involved in many of the areas such as talking to universities and organising free training events, I could do this more effectively and to a greater degree if I were to be on the DA board, thus having easier access to more resources and connections.
One last thing - don't forget to vote by Feb7! Voting is open to all who have a Drupal account longer than about three weeks old and who have logged at least once in the previous year - that's around 270,000 people of which at time of writing only 280 have voted.
Make sure your voice is heard and vote today!
Drupal videos I watched last weekend
One of the great things I've learned about the Drupal community is, well, the community. They have these 'camps' all over the world, and more and more of them are videoing their sessions and putting them up all over the place on t'internet. It used to all be on archive.org where I watched all the lovely drupalcon sessions, but now they're on loads of places, including the latest DrupalCamp Austin ones on Vimeo. Here's some of the ones I watched this last weekend. It's how I get my fix of the drop, and makes me think about all the lovely places I have the opportunity _and_ excuse to go visit in 2012 like Denver in March and Barcelona in the summer for dev days ;) Yes, that's how exciting my life gets ;)
I think some of these are from the previous year - all so good I just got carried away!
I actually used the method the presenter describes in a client session today I held at our lovely local coworking space theskiff. I've been working on a similar methodology but this guy hits the nail on the head when it comes to processes. Blue-sky projects I think waver a little on it from my experience today, but perhaps that may just be first time nerves!
Drupal's great at SEO and it's thanks to Volacci I know how to make the best use of it through their community contributions. I discovered you can even get a module which will show you how good your blog post is for SEO within Drupal itself. Maybe old news to you, sounds cool to me!
Download the LevelTen appstore. Trust me. Just do it. I'm not joking, it's the future. I sat there for at least half an hour just thinking about the possibliities for the future growth of Drupal, but then Eastenders came on the telly. No, seriously, it is the future and it's revived my interest in all things D!
It's not easy trying to grow a Drupal company in this day and age. Or indeed employ a Drupal person. Or get a Drupal site to work, etc. This video is just a gentle reminder we're all people and thus we need to share the monkey nuts far and wide. And chocolate. And beer. And pizza...
Great video from long-time Drupaler which makes you think twice about the code you write. Some of the examples given I think were a little harsh, I guess more of an inside joke maybe as I know how much everyone there gives in terms of time and effort, and sometimes things just slip by. But I'm the same, I'm a stickler for documenting code!
Really glad I watched this one - great to see there's been sprints and everything as it's a gallant effort trying to get all the various media and file methods working together in one nice place in Drupal and looks like it's finally getting in shape - go try it out!
Love this one - just what I'm going through right now and nice to hear from those who've been there, done that and got the Drupal T-shirt.
Angie Byron has to be our fave Drupal peep in terms of sheer patience having to deal with the mountainloads of stuff she has had to deal with over the last few years co-maintaining Drupal and doing a whole host of other stuff. From her early beginnings at the Google Summer of Code, Angie explains her journey so far and how you too can get involved no matter what you do or do not know so far!
A must for Drupal biz owners!