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Hedgehog on the walk

Hedgehog on the walk
I was in Italy last week to attend the International Summer School on Advanced Computer Architecture and Compilation for Embedded Systems when I bumped into this Italian hedgehog on my way to breakfast. (HiPEAC, the organization behind the summer school is using Drupal for their website.)

The pain before the pay-off

Invariably, breaking programming interfaces creates a lot of pain, and the habitual willingness to change Drupal's programming interfaces is routinely identified as one of the main issues with Drupal.

For example, rewriting Drupal's form handling from Drupal 4.6 to Drupal 4.7 broke hundreds of contributed modules. And when it turned out that updating those modules was a much bigger effort than anticipated, hell broke loose. It led to quality problems, made release dates slip significantly and hordes of frustrated users were unleashed.

Today, two months after the Drupal 4.7.0 release, Drupal developers around the world are slowly recovering from the pain. We're not quite there yet but more and more people assert that the pay-off is huge and that they are thoroughly enjoying themselves with the new possibilities.

So let's capture that thought for future reference. Sweeping changes are required to make major advances in technology, and often times there is a lot of pain before the pay-off.

IBM focuses on Drupal

IBM developerWorks has started a new series entitled Using open source software to design, develop, and deploy a collaborative website.

In the series, IBM's Internet Technology Group team describes a fictitious organization that requires a website that includes document storage, discussion groups, specialized workgroups, conference scheduling, etc. Because no turnkey solution is available they are faced with the task to extend and customize one of the available Open Source content management systems. After reviewing numerous Open Source packages such as Typo3, Mambo, Ruby on Rails, Movable Type and Wordpress, IBM decided to use Drupal to illustrate the creation of this website:

Drupal is a relative youngster compared to other content management systems. However, we got the impression the framework was well written, robust, very extensible, and seemed to have a thriving development community that was generating a lot of adoption and support ...

We did have to invest some time to learn the Drupal way, and the framework just seemed to make sense. We also felt that Drupal provided the right combination of framework and flexibility to break out of the framework when needed to get the job done. With all things considered, we decided to use Drupal.

What makes this series invaluable is that the articles are written around the basic premise that customization is a necessity. It reinforces that, if we want to create the best content management system in the world, we should focus on making Drupal (i) easier to use, (ii) easier to develop for, and (iii) easier to theme.

Forrester reports on Drupal

Forrester Research published two reports on Drupal. A 6-page report on Drupal itself, and a 15-page report that compares blogging platforms (including Drupal). I don't have access to the reports but here is the executive summary that was published on their website:

Drupal provides an open source solution for integrating blogging into an overall community or content site. That integration allows authors to take traditional blog publishing tools and extend them into discussion boards, wikis, and traditional Web pages. Drupal's biggest disadvantage is that its interfaces are difficult to configure and use, although there is a large user community supporting the platform. Companies should use Drupal if they have open source experience and want blogs to be an integrated part of a publishing and community platform.

Last February, Charlene Li, a principal analyst at Forrester, invited me to participate in the screener and information gathering process but I was too busy at that time. It was around the time that the Open Source CMS Summit in Vancouver took place. Fortunately, Bryght was able to answer their questionnaires.

More information is available at Charlene Li's weblog where she wrote about Forrester’s blogging platforms evaluation. The figure below is taken from Charlene's blog:

Forrester blogging platform

Source: <a href="">Charlene Li's weblog</a>. &copy; Forrester Research.

Drupal sucks less

All content management systems suck, Drupal just happens to suck less. -- Boris Mann at DrupalCON Amsterdam, August 2005.

Almost a year later, I still think that Boris nailed it. We have a long way to go if we want to make it easy for (non-technical) people to create and maintain advanced websites.

Drupal meet-up at Zeitgeist


Liza Kindred (Lullabot) kissing the skull that marks the entrance of Zeitgeist, a biker bar that hosted the San Francisco Drupal meet-up. Not the most classy place for such meet-ups but I had a great time talking to the 40-50 Drupal people that showed up. Thanks for all the fun (and the Drupal feedback)!

Drupal meeting at Teh Space

Drupal meeting at teh space

Good food, beer and Powerbooks at the nightly Drupal meeting at Teh Space, a collaborative workspace in San Francisco. Attendees were Earl Miles, Jeff Robbins (Lullabot), Neil Drumm (Advomatic), Boris Mann (Bryght), Kieran Lal (CivicSpace) and myself. We talked about the install system, the Drupal administration pages and thinkered about Drupal's future.


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