Drupal Planet

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).

Why you should consider running for the Drupal Association board

Chances are you're reading this because you're passionate enough about Drupal to read the Drupal Planet feed with your morning coffee or afternoon doughnut. If so, you or someone you know might be just the person we need on the Drupal Association board.

Nominations for the 2013 "at large" Drupal Association directors close in just five days, on Sept. 16th. We need candidates!

Open Outreach: how to help make it happen

"We think Open Outreach on Pantheon is an incredibly powerful tool for site builders and web-savvy nonprofit staff and a great place to begin for those new to Drupal." - Andrew Ward, East Bay Development

At Chocolate Lily we've been working on Open Outreach for the past two years basically because we believe the best online tools should be accessible to all. And we're getting somewhere. This month the number of Open Outreach sites topped 350. Having Open Outreach hosted on Pantheon means groups can try Open Outreach for free. With the basics in place we're starting to dig into more activist focused pieces like a RedHen-based CRM and community mapping tools. For a two person shop (plus our son who we've hired on part time over the summer), it's not a bad start.

But we need a lot of help to take it further. To turn Open Outreach from a fine idea into a tool that's really making a difference in bringing down the barriers and tooling up movements for change, we need you.

There's a ton of ways that any Drupal site builder or shop can get involved and help turn Open Outreach into a community project and the NGO tool of choice for online advocacy and engagement. Here's a few:

Drupal Apps: the answer to plug and play Drupal site building?

The Apps approach to making Drupal site building easy is gaining support. But there's a long way to go before Apps can provide sites seamlessly integrating components from multiple providers.

Apps: the glue between custom sites and Drupal distributions

Apps promises to fill the gap between custom site building on the one hand and Drupal distributions on the other.

To its credit, Drupal is hugely flexible. With great tools like Views, configurable content types and fields, and a host of solid extensions for everything from groups functionality to commerce, Drupal can help you build pretty much anything. As Larry Garfield has argued, Drupal is a content management framework rather than a content management system.

But should you really need to build every site from scratch? With hundreds of thousands of Drupal sites already out there, chances are most of what you need has already been built many times over.

The main answer to the aim of making site functionality reusable is Drupal distributions. Want a news-focused site, a nonprofit site, an online community? Browse the list of distributions on drupal.org, select and install one, and you're well on your way.

But a distribution tends to come with some tight constraints. Design decisions. Interdependencies. Reliance on a particular theme. What if you don't need or want the whole deal? What if you want to pick and choose components that might come with various different distros--a bit of commerce functionality, some mapping, some search enhancements, a newsletter?

That's the space that Apps aims to fill. An app is a focused set of functionality that you can easily download and install--along with all of its dependencies.

In the 16 months since the Apps initiative was launched, dozens of apps have been produced and shared. Several distributions have been built on or converted to use Apps. The recently released Panopoly apps set provides a base designed to be used by various distributions as well as individual sites.

There are two ways to get apps:

  • Install an apps-based distribution. You'll be prompted to select and install apps as part of the site installation process.
  • Install the Apps module and an apps connector module. Some available connector modules are LevelTen apps and Debut apps. Log into your site and select Apps from your admin menu. You're connected to one or more apps servers and given a selection of

If you're a Drupal developer and want to produce and share apps, your process will include:

  • Build an app. For hints, see the Phase2 documentation.
  • Either submit your app to an existing app server or create your own app server using the App server module. The App manifest module can help with generating the code to use on the app server.

So far so good. But how well do the available apps play together?