Training and Development for Drupal


One off lessons and demi-trainings, usually via blog.

Imagecache + Imagefield Screencast

FAIL (the browser should render some flash content, not this).

If you like this screencast, you can show it by pitching in to a special fundraising effort. (And here's why.)

This screencast demonstrates the recipe for Imagecache and Imagefield (for CCK) to build a system for posting images on your Drupal website. This is a robust and flexible system for handling images and has a bright future with more helper modules born every day.

This micro-lesson depends on prior understanding of the CCK module and the Views module. This example uses Drupal 5 since the Image* modules for Drupal 6 are not available (yet).

Making the vocabulary of Drupal friendlier

I've been thinking why concepts within Drupal are named with such mystifying words. I led an all day Drupal training for the researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts and I saw some students having trouble "getting it" because of our choice of vocabulary in naming it.

My favorite example is "user". This is possibly the most dehumanizing word we can give to a real person. User. The word strips them of their real world-ness even when they're using our social networking sites to build intricate pages that describe how cool, funny, educated, and charismatic they really are in real life.

It's neat how vocabulary evolves slower than practice. User. I know this is a term from an age of technology used to describe accounts held by entities in a world where its important to know who owns files on an operating system. Users in the computer environment could have been any number of things including real people, other computers, other servers, software operations and more.

But the overwhelming majority of users on the web are real people! Maybe its time to talk about vocab that is more representative and personifying. Wouldn't it be neat if we could make the change from "users" to "people"?

We call one module "upload" but it really handles file transfers in both directions. A "content construction kit" suggests it can make content but its actually for making blank fields, so why not call it the "field" module. What the heck does "node" mean, anyway?

I understand the vocab but there are tons of soon to be Drupal people out there who don't. Once you teach a few hours of class in front of WHOI people who spend their days performing autopsies on dead whales its easy to notice how difficult our Drupal vocabulary is. It certainly would make these ideas easier to teach, if only because the names of the ideas make more sense to a broader base of people. I realize changing a naming convention is not something that you do overnight, but we did change "avatar" to "picture" and the world is a better place for it.

Panel-ifying the Boston Drupal group

I've been active on the Boston group on and found it pretty helpful until lately when such a massive geographical area posts so much content that the articles tick by too quickly. I've also been frustrated with the way the traditional river-o-news sorting tends to put dated events in whacked out orders. So i volunteered to workk with the new Groups and Panels integration to make a cooler Boston group page.

It's pretty neat. I haven't worked with Panels in a pretty long time but its awesome how I can carve up a page into some neat new layouts. I definitely appreciate the way it can let me do information design without having to do CSS or HTML. I can sorta just drag elements around on the edit layout, tweak a few settings on each element, and through trial and error get a great looking layout.

I've had clients, and you've had them too, who fancy themselves as web designers and have years of experience making web pages with MS Word. Panels is perfect for that guy.

So, I've had a lot of fun carving up the Boston group into some neat layouts, dumped in blocks for events and jobs and discussions, added some in-group taxonomy, disabled the standard groups block region, and have a test page that's looking pretty hot. It will be a few days yet until I feel right about switching it on since I asked for feedback first. Soon, though, soon...

Open Source Barbecue Project

I've finally announced an idea I've been holding in my head for a long time. That is to get our local Boston Drupal user group together for some out-of-doors time. I mean, Boston's meetup crowd is used to cold and dark winter weather so it would be a crying shame to spend summer meetup evenings indoors in more darkened conference rooms with humming projectors.

So there is a barbecue for Drupal folk on May 31 in my backyard. It's "open source style" which means I've got the grill and space and everyone else will bring their own "projects" for cooking. The language is hokey but bake a look at the announcement:

My hope is that this will be well attended and folks will enjoy a little socializing and networking in a very casual atmosphere. I also hope that there will be some good contributions to the food pool.

Oh crap, its the fuzz

Recently I did a training for a Chicago-area police department who were using Drupal as a method to improve record keeping and workflow in their dispatch department. Naturally I recognize that I was the trainer, but this experience exposed me to a couple of interesting ways that municipalities are tapping into Drupal. So, why do the fuzz want to develop Drupal-based websites?

  • Officers used to call dispatch by radio to get phone numbers, license plate numbers, parking notices, addresses for house watches, APBs, offender information and so on. The dispatch officer would look it up and then radio back. A Drupal police intranet means that the officers can search for themselves, get info faster, and leave dispatch free to handle more important police operations.
  • Police officers can file paperwork right from the dashboards of their patrol cars, put into moderation for a captain to review, and have it finished even before the officer returns to the facility - and its instantly available to all the other cars and officers at the same time.
  • The police Drupal site can talk to other municipal Drupal websites - departments that are heavily laden with bureaucracy can circumvent a lot of archaic steps once the whole city agrees on the same platform for sharing information, and in this case the police are the ones setting the standard. In fact, they have cloned their Drupal implementation and handed it over to other city deparments ready to roll

The several uniformed police officers in the Drupal training were benefiting from the municipality's positive attitude for adopting technology and already had some IT professionals with the skills to roll out a basic Drupal site. This training put many of the players (admins and users, my favorite people) on the same page in terms of basic knowledge and even vocabulary. One officer said, "Look at me, I'm finally calling everything [in Drupal] by the right name."

I think they should take their work to their next police conference and shop it around, they are likely the only police force using Drupal as a dispatcher.

Feed API + Emfield Screencast

FAIL (the browser should render some flash content, not this).

If you like this screencast, you can show it by pitching in to a special fundraising effort. (And here's why.)

Here is a quick recipe that uses Drupal's Feed API, Feed Element Mapper, CCK and the Embedded Media Field to create independent embedded video nodes on your Drupal site by RSS. This is our first screencast and first contribution to the Drupal Dojo, hopefully you will find this interesting and try it out yourself. As usual, feedback is greatly appreciated.

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