Drupal Planet

Customizing the Open Outreach distribution: A case study

As part of a long-term collaborative partnership with the University of Victoria's Geography Department, Chocolate Lily has been working on producing a customized version of Open Outreach suitable for community mapping. In a nutshell, we have been able to take the work we produced on a customized site build in 2013 and bundle those features into a new distribution called StoriedMaps.

Drupal 8 configuration management: what about small sites and distributions?

In a recent blog post, Drupal 8 co-maintainer Alex Pott highlighted a seismic shift in Drupal that's mostly slipped under the radar. In Drupal 8, he wrote, "sites own their configuration, not modules".

To see why this change is so far-reaching, it's useful to back up a bit and look at where exportable configuration comes from and what's changed.

Open Outreach welcomes new partner Praxis Labs

A managed hosting service will be the first fruit of a new partnership between Chocolate Lily Web Projects and the Montreal-based cooperative Praxis Labs aimed at strengthening and expanding the nonprofit-focused Open Outreach Drupal distribution.

Collaboration between Chocolate Lily and Praxis comes out of a community engagement process that began last fall.

What can Joomla learn from Drupal about distributions?

Browsing joomla.org, I recently noticed the following in the Joomla roadmap:

The Joomla! CMS [content management system] seeks to create a variety of distributions of the CMS to address a variety of common niche markets.

Good idea!

As a Drupal developer with a longtime focus on distributions ("distros"), I'd like to support this Joomla initiative. As a first step, as followup to posting in the Joomla development forum, I thought I'd try to write up some observations on Drupal, Joomla, and distros.

I've written this with an intended audience of Joomla developers. But if you're a Drupal contributor, please wade in as well!

A multiplicity of Open Outreach sites

As the developers and maintainers of the Open Outreach distribution for nonprofits, we’re curious to see who is using the distribution to further their website building efforts. The results are a surprising mix of causes we support, as well as those we're less excited about. That's all part of the mix of open source development. So here’s a bit of an overview of what we’ve recently discovered about who’s using Open Outreach.

"Drupal distros sound great, but...."

Despite the great Drupal distributions available, most Drupal site builders have yet to start using them regularly for building client sites.

There seems to be a bunch of perceptions out there about the limitations and difficulties of using distros, some of which may have been true at one time but are increasingly less so. So, following up on my "There's a distribution for that" post yesterday, here's a top ten list of reasons given for not using a Drupal distribution, with some reasons you might want to think again.

"There's a distribution for that"

If you're a group having a Drupal website built for you, one of the first questions you should ask is, "What distribution will you base the site on?"

And conversely if you're a Drupal site builder with a new site to build, you should start by asking, "What distribution will I base this one on?"

True, not every site will lend itself to being based on a distribution ("distro" for short). A few sites will be so large, or idiosyncratic, or both, that basing them off a distro doesn't make sense. And some will have focuses that don't yet have a solid distro option. But for the rest - and that means most sites built today - a distro is likely to be a great fit.

Why use a distro? The more pertinent question might be, why wouldn't you?

For both users and developers, well designed distros offer a ton of advantages over a one-off site:

  • They're built by experts who know the toolsets inside out.
  • They're designed with a broad set of users in mind and have already solved many usability and design issues.
  • They have been tested on dozens or hundreds of sites so many of the issues you might face have already been caught and fixed.
  • They're flexible and allow you to start off with just what you need now.
  • They come with built-in solutions for future needs that a site admin can just turn on and use when the time comes. And as new solutions are developed and shared by other users, you'll be right in line to add them in.
  • They come with detailed and specific documentation both for users and developers.
  • You can access community support from others using the same solution as you are.
  • Rather than being stuck with a one-off product that only the individual site builder or company is familiar with, you as an organization get something that multiple developers and shops can work with and understand.
  • You're on an update path and can look forward to getting future updates that have already been tested, with update issues addressed for you.

If these benefits sound familiar, they should. They're all the key reasons why you'd choose Drupal and open source in the first place.

Introducing the new Open Outreach CRM based on RedHen

The latest release of the Open Outreach distribution for nonprofits comes with built-in CRM (contact relationship management) support, based on the new RedHen CRM.

CRM is fancy shorthand for contact management (or "client", or "constituent", or "customer", depending on who you're relating to).