Drupal

My Ubercart presentation from DrupalCamp Atlanta - 9/19/09

Back in September, I presented a session at DrupalCamp Atlanta on Ubercart, the premier e-commerce module package for Drupal.  Since then, a few people have asked me for the slides. I thought I should post them in a public place so that anyone can get them, so here they are!

Thanks to all of you who attended or watched the video. I am truly flattered.

Thoughts from my first DrupalCon - DrupalCon DC 2009

The 2009 North American DrupalCon, a conference for Drupal enthusiasts like me, took place last week, March 4-7, in Washington, DC.  With 1,400 attendees, I am told that it was the biggest DrupalCon ever! It was my first DrupalCon, and I came away from it with a very full brain.  In this article, I'll cover some of the high points that I left with.

 

Missed DrupalCon?  No problem!  See the videos.

That's right, the vast majority of DrupalCon DC sessions were recorded, and the videos are available for free.  It's a good thing, because there were several parallel tracks, and many times I had to miss sessions I wanted to see because they conflicted with other sessions I also wanted to see.  I also erred toward the less-formal "birds of a feather" (BoF) sessions, knowing that most of those would not be recorded, whereas the major sessions would be, and I could watch the videos later.

"Drupal usability" may soon cease to be an oxymoron.

Anyone who has tried to build a site with Drupal knows how big the learning curve is. James Walker took plenty of potshots with his talk on Why I Hate Drupal, another session discussed the results of the recent Baltimore Usability Study, and a usability suggestion box was prominently placed in the main hall of the conference.  The good news is that the community is doing something about the usability issues, and Drupal 7, when it comes out (probably sometime in 2010), will address many of the usability concerns that have been raised.

The semantic web is all the rage.

Before DrupalCon, I knew next to nothing about the semantic web and what it really means. But at DrupalCon, I found out not only what the semantic web means academically, but what its implications are, thanks to Boris Mann's presentation.  The idea behind the semantic web is that extra tags help add extra meaning to your content, distinguishing (for example) Apple the fruit from Apple the company: something that is easy for a human to distinguish, but not for a computer. The W3C standard behind this is RDF, and there is talk that Drupal 7 may have RDF support out of the box.  Also, the semantic web is part of a larger movement known as Open Data.  In Dries Buytaert's keynote, Dries described how at first the Internet was about linking machines, and is currently about linking pages, but is now starting to become about linking data. With the semantic web, it will be possible for machines to understand the data kept on other machines, and can integrate that data in new mash-ups and applications.  I am only beginning to apprciate what this really means.

Multimedia on Drupal

Drupal has a diverse set of modules to handle multimedia, which is both a blessing and a curse.  I may be late to the game, but at DrupalCon I learned about a set of modules called Media Mover, which consolidates a lot of multimedia handling, making it easy to upload a video, audio, or image file, transcode it to a web-friendly format if necessary, attach it to a node, save it to Amazon S3, and more. 

E-Commerce using Ubercart

I had heard of Ubercart, a set of Drupal modules for e-commerce, but until DrupalCon, I never realized how much energy there was around that project.  The Ubercart sessions were packed, and of course, there was the Uberdinner, where 70 of us went to an Ethiopian restaurant to enjoy each other's company and talk about all things Ubercart.

It's the community, stupid!

DrupalCon was my first open source conference. Other, more commercial conferences from my past career, such as SuperComm (telecommunications industry) or Comdex (am I showing my age?), are nothing like the experience of DrupalCon.  Each and every person at DrupalCon is part of a community, which gave DrupalCon a very different feel from other conferences I've been to.  There was a genuine desire among the people at DrupalCon to meet each other and strengthen the community.  The parties and dinners were open to all attendees, and were a ton of fun (though I felt like an old fart, going to bed at midnight while others stayed out partying until the wee hours).  Many times I was not with anyone I knew from Atlanta, but not really by myself, because there were always people to meet and talk to.  I've made several new friends at DrupalCon.

So are you geeked up to go to the next DrupalCon?

I have barely scratched the surface of DrupalCon in this post, and I'll be spending the next several weeks watching the videos of sessions I missed, and re-watching the videos of sessions I enjoyed.  But I'm already excited about the next DrupalCon six months from now.

If everything I mentioned wasn't enough, the next DrupalCon will be in Paris, in September, 2009.  With that kind of destination, what more incentive do you need?

And we're back!

Will return soonAfter months of neglect, I am finally writing a new post!  As I dove head-first into the world of web consulting, I got too busy to keep this site up-to-date.  But now I'm back--still busy, just better organized.

Much has happened since April, the most notable being my founding Noverna Interactive, putting an official business name, and all the shine and polish that comes with it, onto my consulting services.

When I left my old job in February, I only had a vague idea of what I was going to do next.  Inspired by a blog post that told me, whenever you are about to make a leap of faith, close your eyes and floor it, and comforted by a bit of savings I had built up for this purpose, I cut the employment cord.

I broke a major rule: I did not have a business plan (and still don't, really).  At first I thought I'd develop a social-networking-fitness-diet-exercise site and make money with memberships and advertising, but knowing that the path to revenue would be a long one, I started offering consulting and development services to bring in extra cash.  Little did I know how quickly I'd find clients, and how busy it would make me.  The consulting business is now my primary activity, and the fitness site remains on the back burner.

Since my last post, I have built sites for a gift shop, a barber shop, a race report site for triathletes, and a travel matching service.  Three out of four of these sites use Drupal, the content management system that keeps impressing me the more I learn about it and use it.  The fourth will soon be converted to a Drupal site as well.  And I have some big projects on the horizon, including a large academic journal site using Drupal.

With all the Drupal work I am doing, and with all that I am learning about module development and theming, I intend to start posting tips and hints on this site.  Stay tuned!

Photo credit: mattlogelin, license: cc-by-nc 2.0

Why Drupal?

Drupal logo

Drupal gets considerable praise for being versatile, flexible, and open. At the same time, it is often criticized for being difficult to configure, with a large learning curve even for seasoned developers. So given the criticism, why do I use it? And why do I recommend it to clients? This article provides an overview of Drupal, and in doing so, explains why I stake my business on it.

What is Drupal?

Drupal is a content management system (CMS)--that is, a system for entering, organizing, and displaying the text and pictures kept on a web site.  The official Drupal site has a good overview of what Drupal can do.  I use Drupal as the underlying CMS for this site, and many other sites use it too.

Why do I use Drupal?

There are so many CMSs to choose from: why do I choose Drupal?

Free and Open Source

Drupal is free: free in that it costs nothing, and free in that you may use it, modify it, and extend it for your own purposes.  Since the source code is open accessible, it is possible to know exactly how it works.

Wide Adoption, Wide Praise

Drupal is one of the most popular CMSs in existence today.   Though statistics are hard to come by, this article on blogsweek.com shows the most visited CMS websites, and Drupal was 3rd on the list, behind Wordpress and Joomla.  Wordpress is specialized for the blogging world (and it is what I recommend for blog-centric sites).  Joomla and Drupal are both more flexible than Wordpress for creating special-purpose websites with a content management framework behind them.  There are several other up and coming contenders, such as Plone and Xoops, but if you are like me, it's difficult to look at more than 2 or 3 alternatives and make a reasonable comparison.

When I started looking at CMSs a year ago, I knew from the blogs I read, the podcasts I listened to, and the sites I visited, that Drupal and Joomla were both very popular.  So I decided to focus on those two (knowing already that Wordpress was probably the best choice if the site's main purpose was to be a blog).  This article (though dated now) was a big factor in my choice to use Drupal instead of Joomla.  Both CMSs have evolved considerably since the article was written, so you will need to make your own evaluation: which suits your purpose better?

Flexible for Many Different Purposes

The key factor in my choice of Drupal is its flexibile, modular architecture.  The Drupal community has contributed over 1000 modules to handle functions such as e-commerce, multimedia, event calendars, bulletin boards, wikis, blogs, and more.  And it is very easy to write your own module for your own needs.  The book Pro Drupal Development (VanDyk and Westgate) provides an excellent tutorial on how to do that, and more.

Active Community

Drupal has a large community of designers, developers, and users, many of whom can be found on the Drupal Forum, as well as on IRC channels #drupal, #drupal-support, and others on irc.freenode.net.  There are also local user groups, such as the Drupal group in Atlanta, which meets monthly.  With such a large community, help can be found instantly.

Extensive Documentation

Drupal is well-documented.  The Drupal documentation page is a good place to start, and the vast Drupal community has created tutorials on their own blogs and sites (just search for "drupal tutorials" and you'll get an idea).  There is also Lullabot, who offers consulting and training, and who publish news and information about Drupal through their blog and podcast.

Is Drupal the Only Choice?

Of course not.  But given all of the above, it is a worthy choice.  I have chosen Drupal and have been very happy.  I am convinced that I can do anything I want to with Drupal as the engine behind it. 

© 2008 Paul McKibben. Covered by a cc-by-3.0 license.

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