by Jeff Robbins on June 20, 2007 // Short URL

How Drupal Will Save The World

For almost a year now, I have been gestating an idea about Drupal fitting into a larger world view. As part of the development community, our focus is making Drupal as flexible as possible in order to meet our own needs and those of our clients. In this process, we put into place most of the pieces that position Drupal as a solid, free, easy-to-use website-building application for the rest of the world. This is the first draft of my thoughts, which will grow and evolve as people within and outside the Drupal community contribute their feedback. Thanks in advance for your comments and input.

How Drupal Will Save the World

A few weeks ago, I attended the NetSquared conference in San Jose, CA. The conference's mission is "to spur responsible adoption of social web tools by social benefit organizations". This basically means: Web 2.0 for Good. The conference brings together web experts with non-profit organizations, philanthropists, and investors in order to come up with ideas to make the world a better place. I was amazed at the number of groups who were either already using Drupal or setting up their system to use Drupal. Others were doing technology research and asking questions to which the logical answer appeared to be "Drupal".

What is Drupal?

If you are unfamiliar with Drupal, just imagine it as a giant bin of free Lego-style building blocks for creating any type of web site. Drupal is an incredibly powerful platform. Its modular system and underlying application framework can allow rapid deployment of incredibly feature-rich sites. All you need to do is imagine what you want to build and start putting together the pieces.

Drupal's extensive user permission system has made it known as a community site building platform, and its underlying API allows plug-ins to alter data, create pages and content, and change the way a site works. In addition to basic blog-like text-based content management, this flexible system has spawned modules to manage image, audio, video, add date/time-based information to any content and display it on a calendar and/or in an iCal feed, tag any content with geo-location data and then plot it on a map or allow searching by geography. There are modules to add ecommerce functionality, manage user buddy lists and allow private messaging between users as well as set up public and private groups within a website where users can set up their own special interest groups with their own mailing lists, calendars, etc... and more and more (over 700 right now) of these building blocks are being contributed by an international community of programmers every day.

Giving a Voice to the Voiceless

My favorite story from the NetSquared conference comes from Kim Lowery of Kabissa who talks about a village in Nigeria that had agreed to let an oil company access their land and resources in exchange for clean water and school buildings. After a few years of letting the oil company get what they wanted, it became apparent to the people of this village that the oil company was not going to fulfill its end of the bargain. Ten years ago, these villagers would have had no recourse. But these days, they have their own website and the leverage that goes with it. They scanned the original contract and posted it on their site and followed up with a few emails to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the like. And before long they had a campaign going to bring people's attention to the oil company's failure to deliver on its promises. A few months later, the oil company began showing up to the village, taking more interest in their needs, and began delivering on some of their promises.

The web can be a powerful force for social change. It can give a voice to those who might not otherwise be heard. It can also bring together those with similar needs empowering both with the simple knowledge that they are not alone.

The participants at NetSquared recognize this. And many of them have turned to Drupal as the platform on which to begin this empowerment. They have been impressed with how flexible the application is and how they can add large chunks of functionality quickly by using the many free modules. However there was hesitation to use Drupal because of word-on-the-street which went a bit like this: "Drupal is what you want. It will solve all of the problems that you're having. But it's really hard to set up. And don't do it wrong or your site won't work at all!"

Frustrations

These groups expressed many of the same frustrations:

  • Drupal is confusing and difficult to set up.
  • The learning curve is steep.
  • They are unable to find good documentation, developers, and general help in creating and understanding their Drupal web sites.
  • It is especially frustrating to them because they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. They see beautiful Drupal sites offering features similar to those that they are hoping to implement, but they often can't figure out the route to successfully reach that end.

These are not technical people. And they want to build sites for even less non-technical people. They want to bring Drupal to third grade teachers in Indiana, church-basement activist groups, street orphans in South Africa, or Vietnamese farmers. These people may have very little experience on the web. The idea of "filtered HTML" is likely beyond their concern. And administrative idioms such as "node", "taxonomy", "vocabularies", "terms", even "menu items" and "blocks" are usually only understood after some conscious effort. Drupal professionals and enthusiasts quickly forget how foreign these "Drupalisms" might have appeared when they first lay eyes on them.

There is a saying that most Open Source software like Drupal is built by developers for developers. When the software is free and the developers are generally unpaid, there isn't necessarily a good reason to go the extra mile to make it user-friendly-- particularly when it comes to user interface. This is slowly changing, but Drupal's configuration and learning curve can still feel quite overwhelming for a non-technical site administrator. We need to get Drupal into the hands of many more ordinary users so that we can break out of this developer-centric view. And in order to do that, we need to get a lot more user-friendly.

A skilled Drupal developer can piece together something like a community events management system with discussion boards and event-related photo galleries and mailing lists in a day or so. However to the Drupal novice, this project could easily take a several months spent getting up to speed on Drupal's core concepts, experimenting with various modules, trying to figure out what is reasonable to ask of Drupal, and deciding how to wire things together. The process of reducing complexity to ever more elegant simplicity can be done. We even know how to do it. But it will take time, money and vision to make it happen.

Possibilities

Anyone who has used Apple's iMovie or perhaps Apple's Automator can understand how even very complex operations and configurations can be simplified into a friendly user interface that the average user can begin to grasp. It's also important not to ignore the "play with it" fun aspect of these drag-and-drop interfaces. They invite experimentation which quickly leads to an understanding of the system.

Drupal could become the server-side counterpart to Firefox. It could be to web servers as Ubuntu is to the desktop -- as beautiful as it is flexible. It could be inviting to end users rather than off-putting; fun rather than frustrating. It could spark the imagination and inspire even novice web administrators with its many possibilities.

We have a very solid foundation on which to build this vision, however I believe that we've reached a bit of a stuck place. Drupal has lots of back-end developers. Drupal needs front-end users. We need a way to "prime the pump" and introduce front-end people to the project. We need to show them what Drupal can do. We need to expand beyond our current base of techies.

As a village becomes a city, it needs to address needs like paving the roads and removing the garbage. Small problems become large as the community grows. The road workers and garbage collectors need to be paid. Work such as maintaining the drupal.org documentation, forums, the CVS repository, or tuning the drupal.org servers used to be small tasks. They are now large tasks. The Drupal Association was created to address some of these needs. It funds support activity around Drupal's code such as purchasing and maintaining the hardware to run drupal.org, and organizing Drupal conferences. However most of these changes need to happen within the code, reaching the limits of what the association is responsible for. Drupal is outgrowing volunteerism. I believe that if Drupal is to grow to its full potential, it is time to start paying people do do these essential tasks.

What If...

What if we had unlimited funds to grow Drupal into its full potential as an indispensable web tool that is simple to use and lets people get control of maniacally complex data. Let's think big! The groups that I talked to at NetSquared had many common problems with Drupal that they are trying to solve in individual ways. What if we take an umbrella approach to fix all of these problems and more? What if we could assemble an expert team of Drupal developers and provide them with all the guidance and resources they need? What if we could make it our goal to make Drupal the best website building application the world has ever seen? Where would we start? What would we do?

Here are some ideas:

  • Drupal's user interface and configuration system need to be overhauled with the guidance of usability and user interface experts. In Drupal-fashion, any new interface conventions need to be flexible and available to all modules. An interface style guide should be written to provide guidance and recommendations to developers as they create new modules.
  • Drupal should have a core library of beautiful and self-explanatory icons and design elements available to developers to help facilitate clear non-text interface elements. Icons use less screen real-estate, are quick for the eye to find, and do not require translation.
  • Drupal.org should be an inspirational Drupal site with lots of marketing-style information. It should offer easy-to-find resources for both new and experienced Drupal users. It should provide clean, solid, documentation as an easy barrier of entry.
  • api.drupal.org should be maintained, easier to use, and benefit from Drupal's strengths as a community-building platform. PHP.net makes its developers feel like they have all the development information they need right at their fingertips. There are comments and guidance on almost all of its functions. There is no reason that our site couldn't offer many of these same features. It might even be possible to extend the site to encompass some, if not all of Drupal's contributed modules.
  • We should talk with "ordinary" web users and ask them what features they want and expect of an easy-to-use content management system. These people often don't get much of a voice in the uber-technical Drupal community and their requests for items like a solid, easily configurable, highly integrated WYSIWYG editor go unanswered. We need to hear and understand the needs of these users and address them one by one.
  • Drupal needs more extensive and sexy themes to allow site builders to quickly get what they are looking for.
  • Drupal should have maintained, funded distributions (pre-configured packages of Drupal with add-on modules and themes) to act as a quick-start launch pad for various common website types.
  • Drupal should have maintained, funded translations of both core and popular contribution modules.
  • Drupal needs marketing experts to promote it and bring it to the people. Simply "being good" isn't good enough. People need to hear about it.
  • More effort needs to be spent exploring parallel non-HTML delivery of content. Drupal already excels in this area, but it should be clear and easy to set up SMS or WAP interfaces for Drupal as well as text-to-speech and telephone-based audio content management interfaces so that those without web-access can still benefit from Drupal's strengths in managing content.

These problems will not be solved efficiently during evenings and weekends. This needs to be a concerted effort with funding behind it. Although perhaps the community could get there on its own, the potential benefit is so staggeringly huge that I believe that there are groups out there who would be willing to volunteer funds in order to realize this vision.

Wrapping Up

I can foresee a time when a small village in Nigeria will be able to open their $100 laptop, connect to the $100 server they have set up in their town hall, click "make a website" and effortlessly put the pieces together to communicate with the world and with each other. Or a third grade teacher in Indiana, working right in front of her students, will be able to plug Drupal modules into the school website that allow her class to exchange messages with a third grade class in India. We have most of the modules already. Our techies are developing more daily. What we are missing is the "effortlessly" part.

With a concerted push, we could solve these problems once and for all and provide free, easy to understand, user-friendly software to empower anyone, anywhere on the planet, to create the website that they need, to provide the communication that they need, to make their lives better.

This is how Drupal will save the world.

Jeff Robbins

Co-Founder & CEO

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Comments

ben_

Complexity and Abstraction

Thanks for this great article. And I agree totally. But.
Remeber two things:

1. You cant reduce complexity. Complex things stay complex. It's like Water, you can't compress it.

2. The Ideas and Thinking of Persons usualy contains an abstraction layer, which they don't know about, especially in content management. CMSs can never be self explaining. You first have to explain the people their own Ideas of what a website is and how it works.

But I'm sure that if theres one System that may do this better than eny other System, if there is only one CMS to make the Web a place for Users and not for Programmers, only one to save the world and then, it's Drupal.

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Christo90210

Complexity and Abstraction

Great article.

"You cant reduce complexity"
I tend to disagree, complexity can be reduced by good interface design and the ability to customise a tool set to fit a desired purpose.

"CMSs can never be self explaining"
But the tasks etc they are able to perform can. So If a person has an understanding of what they want to achieve, and how a tool set can get them there then aren't you off on the right foot?

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Bevan

Good points

I think you both are making good points, here. Complexity can't be reduced. It can be removed, by sacrificing features or possible variations or use cases. However complexity can by made to seem simpler with a good interface.

Wizards are an attempt at this, and often succeed. However the more complex-capable minds among us (programmers & problem-solvers for example) tend to find that such complexity-abstractors get in the way of understanding the problem. Which they often do -- and that is precisely why 'normal' users like wizards!

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Barry

Wrong term?

"Can't Reduce Complexity"
You might be arguing semantics rather than concepts, here. There's "complex" and there's "complicated." What needs to be reduced to enable a higher level of understanding and ease of use for non-technical folks (and everyone) is the level of complication, not necessarily the level of complexity-- although unnecessary complexity (redundant features, ill-designed functions, etc.) should be dealt with as they're encountered. The focus, however, should be on making complex things that are necessarily complex less complicated for non-technical folks to understand and use.

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Kevin

It could be like an onion.

Complex versus complicated.
Simple versus simplistic.

These are great distinctions. And the onion model is a good example. It's whole at every stage, even as you go deeper.

Another great potential model is Pattern Language, a great book on design (of places) by Chris Alexander that I understand has had some considerable influence on programming. It proposes patterns, whole of themselves, that also relate to other patterns. The book is organized somewhat hierarchically from big places (region or city) to small "stair seat". It is quite powerful in the way it both provides recipes for modules and makes connections between them.

Note: I'm one of those newer folks. Some familiarity with the general principles. I built a rudimentary site fairly fast, but if I didn't like figuring stuff out I would have quit. and I find I have to re-learn many parts of the system if I have to step away for a few weeks.

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Red

Water Can be Compressed

Any kind of matter can be compressed. It takes more energy to compress water, then a gas. The deeper you go into the ocean the larger the pressure. The water on top is compressing its self on the bottom.

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Steve

Complxity

the artform is to shift complxity from the user to the server

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Rick White

You can certainly freeze

You can certainly freeze water in blocks, however, to make it much easier to manage and utilize. Same thing with code (ie 4th Generation Programming Languages.) You can use CMSs like WordPress and Drupal to move code around. You don't necessarily need to know what this chunk of code is, but if you recognize it as a functional chunk of code, and know its inputs, outputs and functions, you "manage" the complexity.

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javanaut

Re: install profiles

Hahaha

This harkens back to the idea of "site recipes" discussed ages ago. I don't think this scenario was discussed, but I'm sure on a global level, it would be used with some frequency.

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Suzanne

Where do I sign up?

Over the past few months as I've experimented with Drupal 5.1, I have started to see a future for myself as a Drupal developer. I'm trying to learn as much as possible right now so I can setup sites for people that can't do it themselves, but I would love to work for the Drupal project itself, too. I need to make about $2400.00 a month, so if I could get a good mix of a couple of consulting gigs and log some time doing Drupal testing and getting paid for it, I could survive and seriously contribute to Drupal as a usability consultant or marketer, instead of spending only nights and weekends poking around. I share the goal of saving the world, and I also regard Drupal as a valuable tool for doing so.

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Bill Fitzgerald

Great write up

Hello, Jeff,

Some quick thoughts on this as I sit in an airport on a layover --

First, this is a great write-up, and the type of thing that

1. Install profiles; and
2. Documentation; and
3. A continuation of the usability work started over the last few releases, leading to
4. A clean wireframe theme incorporating the design elements uncovered in 3, and highlighting the config options established through the install profiles.

Install profiles require a general use case; the documentation for the install profile would need to explain how to customize some basic features (ie, blocks, menus); the usability work would quantify the weak spots, and the general theme would address as many usability issues as possible --

Man, this is a great idea.

Cheers,

Bill

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Aaron Gustafson

Amen

Well put Jeff.

Having worked with you a few times on Drupal project, I have to say I do have the Drupal bug and I am amazed at what you can do with the program, but, in my own experience, I have found it extremely overwhelming to implement. And I have been a hard-core PHP guy for nearly a decade.

I agree that documentation is a biggie. I know there are tons of useful modules out there, but I don't immediately get a sense of what I can do with them or how I can wire them together to build new stuff.

My other major gripe is over the generated markup. I know you are working on this, but it still seems like there's a ton of cruft in there.

As I am currently working with a non-profit (possibly on a Drupal implementation) and my conscience makes me want to continue doing more work with non-profits and community organizations, I am hopeful that your words are heeded and Drupal moves in a more user-friendly direction. Drupal is a powerful tool, we just need to get it into more people's hands.

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yaph

Very good points Jeff but I

Very good points Jeff but I disagree in some aspects. I am a developer so my point of view is not the one of a person or a group of persons who "only" use Drupal. I think:

  • Drupal is one of the best documented open source web frameworks. There are very good resources for users and developers.
  • The learning curve is steep, especially in the beginning, but Drupal is easier to use than many other CMS, I think of TYPO3 which is very popular in Germany, but a usability horror in my mind or ezPublish that offers lots of functionality you won't find as a "normal" user.
  • What is the benefit of having an icon set? An icon set may be a good idea, but icons can be misleading. Simple and clear text descriptions must still be in place.
  • A few years ago I started using Mambo/Joomla. I immediately liked it because it is easy and intuitive to use. I started developing extensions for it and came across limitations that made me move to Drupal.

Of course it is important that people or communities without money can afford to use a free open source system. One thing I ask myself is whether Drupal's complexity is the price we have to pay for it's great flexibility.

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Joyce

More information about Drupal add-ons?

I ran across this conversation in a search. (Good article, btw.) I've used CMS (Soholaunch, SiteXpress, and elements of phpWebSite), but not Drupal. I'm preparing, as a self-taught web site developer and community activist (a proponent of "saving the world"), to redesign a web site so that multiple users can edit it. We don't know what features we might want in the future - blog, membership database, etc. I see that Drupal has a lot of features - some that Joomla apparently doesn't have, but, according to my research, Drupal is XHTML compliant and Joomla is not. Also, Drupal is partially WAI (accessibility) compliant and Joomla is not at all. I would like to use a CMS that is flexible and also compliant with these standards. Any comments on that?

Also, since Drupal has so many of its features through the use of add-ons, I'm wondering how stable it is with several add-ons. Any problems?

This forum might not contact me via email (I don't see a checkbox for that), but I hope someone can help me with further information about these things if you don't mind. Thanks!

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Shai Gluskin

Amen complexity/flexibility point. Drupal needs more developers

I agree that there Drupal's incredible flexibility makes it more complex and harder for a non-techie to be a Drupal site administrator.

Ironically, I think the first step in making Drupal more accessible to average folk is creating a bigger core of available Drupal developers. It isn't the Executive Director of the Office Manager of a small non-profit who should be expected to wrangle Drupal to do what it needs to do. Rather, it should be fairly easy for that non-profit to find a reasonably priced Drupal developer who is available and knows what he/she is doing.

I see one of the tasks of the Drupal Association is to facilitate the training of Drupal developers. Maybe the Association could provide scholarships to Lullabot trainings?

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Paul

I agree

I've been developing on Drupal for about 2 years now and it's been wonderfully flexible. It is by far the best open source CMS out there. I've built social networks, digg like sites, and it's all been with basic Drupal knowledge. I agree that if Drupal was easy to set up and the learning curve was simple then everyone would use it. However that is part of Drupal's charm, that it is a heavy developer community.

Criticalsole rolls on Drupal

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Anonymous

With respect,

but I think you are riding high on conference euphoria.

Drupal is already easy enough to setup and control. You can make Drupal as easy as you want, but street orphans in South Africa will never use it to setup a site.

Many of those people you want to reach dont have access to the internet in the first place, or even clean water for that matter.

In a more general sense, no matter how easy drupal is to setup, you need to get a hosting provider, pay for it and deal with some of the hosting complexities.

And then probably the most important point of all. Setting up a website is just the start. Articulating your viewpoint, generating the right message, in what is an infinite sea of website on the net, is much more important. Websites are work, and getting them up and running is just the first 1% of effort.

I run a successful site for 2 years now, using drupal, and its all about the content, not the cms. I can switch to another cms, but it wont make my site 5% more or less successful.

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Dave Chakrabarti

I disagree!

I disagree entirely. Why can't street orphans in Africa use drupal to build a website?

If:

1. Some organization hosted and provisioned Drupal automatically, for free, and
2. There was a ton of end-user documentation, translated and updated, ready for them to use, and
3. They had a local CTC or other tech center with free access to the internet, free use of computer equipment, etc.

Assuming our friends in the movement to bridge the digital divide are working on #3, #1 and #2 become the priorities:

1. Grassroots.org is figuring out how to host Drupal for free for any nonprofit, everywhere in the world. If we aggregate Drupal expertise and resources for the public good, we can leverage economies of scale to provide Drupal and other tools to very large numbers of organizations for free. This removes the need for web server setup, configuration, and initial tinkering to get Drupal plus some of the more universally useful modules running correctly.

2. As a result of #1, we're very interested in developing (or helping to develop) #2, since end-user docs at the "how do I add a page to my website" level are crucial to getting nontech nonprofits into Drupalland.

And yes, you are correct about it being content...or rather, information architecture, that can make or break a site. But that's a part of internet literacy; either we'll write the training docs, someone will set up a Moodle course, or CTCs in Africa will teach it in-person. Most likely, all of the above. It's knowledge, therefore it can be shared.

It was a pleasure meeting you (Jeff) and Matt at NetSquared; I'll plan to follow your writing more closely in the future :)

Reply

dman

Tons of docs = none gets read

There was a ton of end-user documentation,

See, I'm seeing this in itself would be a major drawback!
I'm struggling with a client who simply glazes over after three pages of explanation.
More documentation makes the system look more complicated and intimidating.

... however, as a developer I am happy to see more.

Perhaps the basic docs should be divided into

End-User - "Things you can do using the UI"
vs
Webmaster - "Things you have to open a text editor or php tags to do"

(and 'developer' comes somewhere after that)

Reply

John Jones

I'm always amazed

I'm always amazed at the way you , and Matt, and the rest of the Lullabots all think and work not only for your clients but for the Drupal community as a whole. It's downright inspiring.

I'm especially interested in the problem of end user training. For an open source project -- heck, for just about any project -- drupal actually has good documentation and support for the developer and site administrator. Add to that the books that are out there, and sites like the lullabot site (I'm afraid I'd still be limping along with a 4.7 site without Webchick's excellent guide to upgrading to 5.0) -- and you get a wealth of support for those of us trying to make drupal behave the way we want it to.

What we don't really have is good documentation for end users on the site. It's just not as developed, but it's easy to see why that might be.
1. It would be sub-optimal to give end users documentation that includes screenshots and examples that are generic (that don't look and feel like their own site).
2. With hundreds of modules to choose from, appropriate end user documentation is something that needs to be tailored to the site in question very carefully.

Even if we could get a short training video for some of the more static modules, how do you prepare end user documentation for working with content types that have been created with CCK?

I love the idea of trying to make the UI more intuitive. But I think to make Drupal the sort of total package that it can be, it's going to need to include some sort of support for creating end user documentation. I'm not sure what that looks like yet -- something like your lego analogy of modules can work for this, too, maybe, although the very complex modules like CCK may require much more work than that. But that end user training/help system should be something that is integrated into the site, expanded as modules are installed, and much more robust than the existing help files. That help content needs to be made (maybe through a tab menu item) available right when the user needs it, not in some external file or document.

There will always be users who don't need help to use the site. And there will always be sites that manage to be intuitively set up so that they don't require much help. But until all drupal sites get there, this could be a big help. But I fear it's a huge project.

-j

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oldskewl

The old criticism of "why

The old criticism of "why can't drupal be more like wordpress" still holds.

Theming for drupal has always been a major pain in the but, and for a site to not look like drupal you have to either hack it painfully or be a drupal god. Not exactly out of the box customizability.

The whole assumption of multiple users ala forum/community also runs rampant through the design. I'm sorry but the vast majority of websites are still very top-down and I don't want login pages cluttering my screens.

IMHO, the evangelizing of drupal is not a Good Thing for the community because it makes drupal appear more like a religion than a technology. I am glad that you are asking for feedback tho.

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Tones

Yes, but how?

Jeff, big props and respect for posting this. You've set out really important and well thought-through goals here.

I've been a Drupal developer professionally for four years now with assorted political/nonprofit organizations and am constantly wrestling with the kinds of user-interface and larger-philosophy questions you're pointing to.

The big question in my mind is about organizational structure. The opensource community is too decentralized and underfunded to make the kind of improvements you're outlining. Philanthropy-fueled attempts to do this haven't worked. And I know from experience (as I'm sure you do) that creating this kind of change from inside a client-focused consultancy is impractical.

So these are great goals-- but does anyone have good ideas for how to get us there?

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Chris

Some suggestions

I think Drupal is great, but definitely agree that it has a long way to go in the user-friendliness department. To me, a very good system to model after for usability is Mambo/Joomla. I know you have got to be aware of these two apps, as they are the main competition to Drupal. Drupal excels in its flexibility with content, but Mambo and Joomla definitely excel in how easy they are to figure out. A first timer can put together a site running on one of their systems, and customize it very quickly and easily. I consider myself an advanced developer, and have built several sites on both Mambo and Joomla. I am currently developing a very data heavy web site and Drupal definitely fits the bill, but unfortunately I am having a hard time getting the data to interact in the way that I want it to, and my posts on the drupal forums asking for help have gone unanswered. It's starting to look like I am going to have to write my own custom module, unfortunately. As far as I can tell, drupal does not support two way data relationships, aka many-to-many. That would seal the deal for me, but at this point if I'm going to write my own module, I'm sitting on the fence, and slowly tilting towards Mambo or Joomla. They're easy to skin, more intuitive, and I'm familiar with them.

Another thing I would like to point out, and please understand that I am not being mean, this is purely constructive criticism, is drupal's built in forums absolutely suck. I think they should be modeled more after successful forum software, such as vbulletin, phpbb, invisionboard, etc... If one wants to build a community driven web 2.0 site, good forums are a must. Most of the other CMS's force you to use bridge modules and use a 3rd party forum... You've built in your own dedicated forum software, which is a great thing...just keep it up and add some polish to it!

Good luck on this saving the world thing, but try saving Drupal first. ;)

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Marc Ingram

forums

The drupal forums can be made to work like many forum packages it is just a case of installing the necessary modules required to support your desired feature set. e.g ourfernie which is a community portal allows for quoting of posts, private messaging, similies, signatures and thread subscription.

Yes it took some effort to sort out the forums and get them working how we desired but most of that was from a theming prespective. All the information you need to build feature rich forums is provided here http://groups.drupal.org/node/2418.

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Shai Gluskin

It looks like significant

It looks like significant improvements to the core forum module is happening with Drupal version 6. Drupal 6 should have its official release in about five months. I wouldn't wait to start a site. Drupal 5 is excellent, but know that the Drupal leadership does seem to have its ears open and the sucky built-in forum functionality should be improving soon.

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sidster

100 Interns

If you could commit 100 interns, distributed across 101 organizations, how would we best direct them and leverage them? If 50 of the companies sponsoring the interns were interested in CCK (etc.), how might they be directed in some way that encourages sharing of code, graphics, documentation, etc? I know a lot of code is being generated for individual purposes and not contributed back to Drupal. Makes me thing of how Google's SOC has created a fascinating phenomena ... can we create replicate it in a more distributed fashion ... maybe something like NPR-style matching grants or something like that? I dunno. Just trying to think through options for how best to marshal new resources we might be be available to the community at large ... and definitely different than asking management for more time from high salaries for a project so that you can contribute back to the community ... an entry point nonetheless. Hope that makes sense.

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ivan

This is it.

Thanks for the excellent post, Jeff (and the drink at NetSquared).

This comment I'm replying to is the most brilliant idea I've read. Now that the nonprofit I've worked for has rolled out several Drupal sites, both simple and complex, I think everyone in the organization understands its power. We (and I) are lucky in that we were able to dedicate nearly half my job to learning and developing Drupal. Our web budget is next to nothing because of all of the open-source we're plugging in to.

So in your list of items, Jeff, I think we'd be willing to contribute funding and/or intern time for most of them (at least up to and including the "sexy themes"). If we could coordinate this in a Google SOC sort of way (and for those who don't know, there are already some Drupal projects in the SOC) I think it would be very likely I could go to our senior staff and board and ask for a commitment of funds -- that we would otherwise be spending on bloated proprietary systems -- and interns who would commit to projects that benefit the nonprofit community at large, with an emphasis on contributing everything possible.

I think with the folks you met at NetSquared, both nonprofits like us and Drupal-developers-for-nonprofits like Rob Cottingham, you could round up some folks who really would put some time and money into this.

Sign me up!

--ivan

P.S. I fully agree with a commenter below: The three invaluable resources for Drupal development are Matt and John VanDyk's book, Drupal Dojo and Lullabot.

Reply

Todd Reinholtz

A Middle School Teachers Perspective

I totally agree with the learning curve related to to Drupal. I have been in a love/hate relationship with it for a few years on and off. I play with it every summer hoping to make the switch from wordpress for my class website and personal use, but I just cannot get the details nailed down and the site working as I want it.

I need a site that not only I understand, but the 6th graders are able to interact and adopt as well. Wordpress is not nearly as scalable, but I can easily just do another install each year and archive the previous years posts.

I am a tech geek. I love the web and empowering the kids. The results I have seen so far are miraculous. However, I cannot endorse drupal for an average user wanting to create a place for their voice to be heard. It is just too too big to understand. That is a travesty. We are setting the bar and expectations about what these kids can do too low. I have kids that want to implement their videos, artwork, blogs, etc in wordpress but I need x plugin with y widget etc. so we all get frustrated and move on. I know drupal can do it already - but I don't even know where to start in doing so.

I have turned to the message boards and have felt defeated. I can, and do, search the message boards. I search the web and even have a book on drupal. However, my time does not meet my passion for all things techie, unfortunately.

I would love to be part of writing tutorials, creating screen casts, etc but I need to get my head around things first. This is where I hope the leadership of the drupal project can step in and bring some tools and info to the motivated geek, such as myself, so they can be empowered to help others via a lessened learning curve.

Respectfully,

Todd

Reply

nice3z

Advanced setup

Reading through the comments, I can hear the same problem I'm facing when using Drupal for the past 2+ years. It is easy to use Drupal for basic setup - blog, small community, small gallery, etc.

However, there appear to be a huge gap you need to cross when you try to do more advanced setup and design. That's when you find there is lack of documentation on how modules (contrib mostly) could play nice together. Modules which are not updated or still playing catch up with Drupal. After a few months you find the need to test out if the existing setup you had done before will still work. And it is likely there is new way for doing the same task.

Perhaps Drupal should slow down. It is like you have a nice lego set , but apart from the core, the rest of the pieces are chipped in a way or two, you can't build a world out of those.

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Hank

Drupal is worth the effort

When we decided to create a Science 2.0 community last fall we looked at everyone and everything. We went with Drupal, ease of use issues notwithstanding, because we knew we would go from 0 to thousands of articles in a short amount of time and from 0 to 250,000 readers quickly as well and we wanted something that would be easily navigable and remain fast. There's really nothing like it and I remain impressed at how fast everything is even though we passed those milestones after three months.

That said, you don't need a Drupal person you just need a good PHP person. The guy who did most of the customization on our site had never used Drupal. Drupal can do almost anything if the PHP person is good. You won't be able to get that into the hands of the regular user.

Modules will make it great for Blogger type people who want your Lego approach but some of the great sites, like ours or Science Buzz or New York Observer, forgot the Legos and figured out who they wanted to be then made the tool into that.

Drupal can be all things to all people, all people just need to have realistic expectations on what they will get without some grunt work.

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Matt Arnold

I frequently need what you're describing.

Thank you! As a member of the boards of directors of many nonprofits who have faced this situation, and as someone who has done web administration (including Drupal), I admire your priorities. Since the message is the point, the most important things are the ability to write content and solid visual design principles-- but those skills are entirely different from the technical ability to perform web administration. We don't want to have to know what FTP is, to say nothing of SSH. It is for that reason and that reason alone we look for server software so writers can edit the content in a text box in a browser. All too often, the problem in organizations is that they have to bow before a techie high priest to get anything done. You're talking about lowering or eliminating that barrier.

The key to that is to keep hammering home the idea of "distributions", as pre-packaged/pre-tailored distributions for specialized purposes, like Linux does. Content Management Systems are vastly over-engineered for what most organizations want! So what if you can be an ecommerce store, a blog, a brochure, an online magazine, a social networking community, or a knowledge management application all in one? You'd label most admin controls differently for all those websites. So you end up with the most watered-down generalized description for each link that the admin can click, because you don't know which purpose he or she is going to use that feature for.

How many websites are all of those things all in one? Certainly not the users whose needs you've described here!

What if they don't want to hunt through an admin screen that's cluttered with controls for a messageboard, wiki, chatroom, private message, shoutbox, ecommerce, calendar, blog, project manager, customer relationship database, and file storage, when they only want to make a navigation tree for their online brochure of a few static pages? They should probably just use Google Page Creator.

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Mattmarathi

A journalist's perspective

I am an ex-journalist, and now owns a few content websites. Some regular news and features sites, some digg-like, some social-network like.

I am aware of Drupal since the time I started managing websites - have been incharge of several top newspaper websites in my country.

I have lost count of the times when we looked at Drupal, and impossible for us - without a techie background - to come to grips with. And we finally went with other stuff - easier to use but limited in scope just because we could understand them better. For example, we get wordpress, we get movable type, we get expression engine, joomla, pligg, phpizabi, phpfox... But Drupal can do all these things better, we know it, and we still went with other options. As journalists and publishers essentially, and despite a basic familiarity with regular CMSes, the building blocks approach which essentially is the strength of Drupal is what stumped us.

I am no user interface expert either, but people like me need to look at a CMS and 'get it' - the basic idea and a route to reach our destination - pretty quick. We can spend time getting there, but we need to know we can. Right now we just feel stupid looking at it :)

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Jonathan Lin

That's exactly how we felt

As the most technical inclined editor in a small magazine, that's exactly the problem I encountered. While I may understand some of Drupal's underpinning concepts, it was hard to persuade the other editors that Drupal might be better than wordpress in certain respects.

The editorial staff went with wordpress in the end, because everyone knew what it was.

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Wise Bread

Drupal needs more designers (in fact, I need one right now)

We run our community blog (www.wisebread.com) on Drupal and we love it!

Our biggest complaint is that there aren't enough Drupal-savvy designers to go around. While there are several good firms (Lullabot, Cre8 Designs, Rain City, Ping Vision etc), they are all pretty booked up due to the high demand for Drupal designers.

In fact, we got a very polite (and helpful) rejection from Lullabot's own Liza Kindred because their firm was too busy.

After much hacking, we are now ready to take on any designer regardless of their experience with Drupal. Now all we require from our designer is a knowledge of how to make websites look wonderful with CSS. We're still happy with Drupal, but I wish things were a bit different.

P.S. If you are a designer looking for work, please forward your portfolio to (design[at]wisebread[.]com), we are still looking!

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Rob Cottingham

As much as I enjoyed our

As much as I enjoyed our corridor conversation at NetSquared, Jeff, it didn't quite prepare me for the insight and vision in this post. And you're right - functionality without usability can usually achieve only a stunted fraction of its potential.

Yes, Drupal's flexibility and power necessitate complexity... but that doesn't have to mean dropping every new user into the deep end. For instance, Views didn't diminish Drupal one whit just because it made it dramatically easier to generate custom presentations of data that no longer relied on the ability to write (or at least edit) PHP snippets and MySQL queries.

Good, user-centered design offers layers of interaction that allow a newcomer to develop a degree of comfort with basic features before demanding that they embrace new, more arcane (or powerful) ones. Drupal has improved greatly on this front (major, major props to everyone who worked on those changes in version 5, by the way), but there's still a long way to go.

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butcher

The drupal.org community is part of the problem

I'm the lead UI designer for a software company that uses drupal. As indicated in your post, the drupal community at large does not seem too friendly or inviting to designers. Here were the difficulties I experienced:

1) the first thing a designer will do is search the documentation for instructions on how to create a drupal theme. I did this, and quickly came to the conclusion that the current documentation sucks. There are multiple ways to theme, some are not relevant to v5, and none are explained well with enough example code, gotchas, and tips to help the first-time themer. Especially when it came to plugins.

2) after being dissappointed by the docs, I asked myself "did I just miss it? Surely there are some better tutorials somewhere". So I searched the forums. No luck on finding links to better docs there, but I did find plenty of people who complained about the lack of good theming docs.

3) this was the worst part. In response to the 'bad docs' complaints on the forums, the most common replies were combative, defensive, and frankly, stupid challenges to the people who wanted better theming docs. The replies basically said, "This is open source. If you don't like the docs, make some better ones yourself!" And that is the stupidest advice I can imagine. They (yes, multiple people on multiple threads) said essentially, "Don't know how to do something? Don't complain, write a tutorial!" They didn't see the irony in what they were suggesting. Worse, they were rude about it.

I ended up figuring out how to do it anyway, with the assistance of an experienced drupal developer. But it was in spite of, not because of, drupal.org and the unfriendly people who reply to forum posts.

the site: http://www.dreamfactory.org.

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sepeck

and?

And now that you have learned that, would it be possible for you to contribute that knowledge back in the form of some handbook pages to help the next person avoid your learning curve? That could be your contribution to the community.

This is not defensive or combative, this is working with contributed content and people's time. We only can work with what people contribute. That's really it.

If someone says they don't like something in a rude manner, then yes, they will get the 'write it yourself when you learn' speech. Not defensive, not rude, just realistic and a facet of Open Source (people you are not paying for their time). My 50-60 hour non-Drupal work week, wife, 4 year old and 5 month children only leave so much time for writing docs. And frankly, they are more important. Others have similar time constraints. So if I run into a lack of free time, Drupal time goes first.

There are other challenges as well, but I shall avoid them for now as I am working on something that should help provide a more sustainable base long term.

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Shai Gluskin

Generally folks at

Generally folks at Drupal.org I find are great. The problem is that the most knowledgeable people are more and more too busy to deal with drupal.org. Drupal.org's ongoing infrastructure problems is a huge problem that is really dragging down the community.

Well-meaning knowledgeable Drupalers are not going to answer many questions on the drupal.org forum when there are 30-second plus page refresh times. Uggh. Given that it's been almost six months that drupal.org has been sucky, it's amazing to me how well the community is doing and how much information is there to be had.

I've been meaning to go to the irc channel more which apparently can be more responsive than the forum.

The dreamfactory web site looks very cool. I'm going to look at it some more.

Reply

Bill

yeah

YOU SURE SHOWED HIM!

Reply

Scott

Joomla was more confusing.

I think it really depends on the current knowledge one has. I personally find Joomla very confusing and even though I assist with several Joomla sites, I still can't figure out how to do certain simple things without asking or looking it up. Joomla also have a steep learning curve, something Joomla people seem to forget as well. That being said, I have met people who took to Joomla like water, and find Drupal very confusing. I suppose it depends on what a person's background is and what concepts they already know.

Reply

zota

A little while back, I

A little while back, I decided Drupal was a great idea, and spent a while trying to get it to work. But the documentation mostly focused on why taxonomy was such a vital concept, forum comments were often unhelpful and condescending, and many modules were buggy and incompatible. After a few months, I could more or less customize a theme, couldn't quite get all my modules working at the same time, and I almost -- but only almost -- understood the difference between taxonomy and vocabulary.

And then there was Wordpress. In the time I spent researching Drupal, I was able to implement an array of highly customized sites. As a tool, it keeps getting more flexible and powerful, while getting even easier to deal with. While Drupal... well, Drupal still seems like a nice idea.

Reply

venkat-rk

As someone in the nonprofit

As someone in the nonprofit sector toying since the last month or so with the idea of abandoning all drupal related work (after nearly 3 years of being a drupal.org user), I can't agree with you more. Just minutes ago, I was writing up a list of all the drupal web projects I have done or committed to and wondering if it was worth continuing.

Of course, this is my personal dilemma and it is undoubtedly related to my level of skills in CSS, PHP etc, but I would think that's exactly the point you've so eloquently expressed- npo consultants can clearly see the enormous power of drupal for non-profits, but can't translate the power of that vision into reality for all the reasons you have described.

I don't know what call I will finally take- I am literally torn between the charm of drupal-civicrm possibilties versus the hard road one has to travel for making that charm serviceable for nonprofits in the real world.

Reply

Shai Gluskin

Are you trying to do it

Are you trying to do it without a budget? Have you tried to find a Drupal developer and none was available or are you trying to roll your own?

Don't try to sell Drupal to your board as "free". Drupal is not free. But most times it is really worth the money.

But Drupal developers are in short supply and I think that is the crux of the problem. There are plenty enough smart people out there who could create sites that clients want and be able to train their clients to use the sites.

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Gerard McGarry

There seems to be a fair mix

There seems to be a fair mix of people who feel that Drupal is both easy and hard to use. The truth of the matter - from a newbie point of view - is that Drupal is a daunting beast of a CMS.

Yes, it's flexible as hell and the contributed modules are fantastically thought out and far reaching, but the fact remains that Drupal has a huge learning curve for non-techs and even a few of us who are good with this kind of thing.

Personally, it looks like there are a load of devs who take offense at these suggestions. That's because they know Drupal backwards. They're comfortable with it. They've forgotten how difficult working with Drupal can be.

Don't get me wrong, it's nice to see people being passionate about the platform, but let's be realistic here and open to fair and honest criticism. It'll only make Drupal better in the long run.

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NicolasH

The Drupal Dev Pro book - a great start

I have to say that most comments in regards to bad documentation ring true, but the general reasoning why that is so makes equal sense - it's very hard to write coherent documentation and the benefit in the OS world is very low. It's amazing to find a well-written and explained piece of documentation to a particular problem, and then read all the comments that sort of say "I've been in a torture chamber for a week and a half, and YOU are the one who saved me!!!"

With any piece of software there's a learning curve and I always liked the way a well-written book handles that. You go step-by-step, discover things, try stuff out and memorize it for later, when you build your actual thing.

The forums and, unfortunately, most of the tutorials, are more for the "I need this fixed NOW"-scenarios. Some of the fixes can be really bad, but get the developer over the hill...to bite back later.

That's why I absolutely loved the Drupal book by John K. VanDyk and Matt Westgate...it's the single most useful resource for all things Drupal from a development perspective. A few more of those, and many frustrations will turn into fun. But writing a coherent and well-structered book won't happen in OS world anytime soon, it's just not made for it.

Having said that, the second most useful resource is the Drupal Dojo...I can't think of a better tutorial/documentation project run by people scattered around the globe, utilizing whatever tech might work...

Anyway, my vote goes to those 2 things to make Drupal a better world-saving device.

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Vinayak

Google has donated

Google has donated extensively to Joomla. Why not focus the effort on Joomla and make it the CMS of choice. The advantages are:

- It is already quite good; better than Drupal in many aspects
- It already has the support of one of the biggest web companies ever

Reply

Stuart Mackenzie

my strange drupal train post...

I'm not sure about saving the world Jeff, but drupal could at least come close to making the web more accessible to individuals and groups around the world and that in itself is pretty cool.

I first came into contact with drupal with a 4.6 install and fell away because frankly I was confused and couldn't achieve what I wanted. I then returned around 4.7 and now am immersed in 5 (I'm a self confessed drupal dunce!). The good news is drupal has improved like 10 fold from 4.6 to 5.0 in terms of getting things done and being easier to understand for someone like me (who usually needs things made very simple).

What I find exciting is whether people agree with your sentiments above or not, drupal continually improves (because of its community and leadership) and gets closer to these ideals. It already has and continues to do so. I was searching around drupal.org the other day and found a group that was already looking at changes to d.org pages to make them more user-friendly and focussed, there are already groups and pactches in the works for drupal 6 to make the UI better. Confusing drupalisms like 'taxonomy' , 'node' and 'block' that as you rightly suggested need to be tackled are and will be addressed I'm sure.

Some of the comments above have made me come up with a rather strange (probably flawed) and long winded metaphor -

The Drupal Train is already moving folks! If you want to get on and enjoy the ride then great- take a shovel and start throwing coal on the fire. There is lots of sizes and varietys of shovel but all of them add in one way or another to the fire and make the train move faster and smoother!! If you don't want to get on the Train now and want to meet us at a station further down the route (or not at all) then thats fine also!! Passengers are also more than welcome but please don't sit in the buffet car complaining the ride is rough as lets face it you didn't pay for a ticket.

I agree that UI and usability should be current priorites aswell as making drupal.org itself more accessible and appropriate for the various levels of users that are about. So that those of us with a small shovel can find the next size up without to much hassle.

I think videocasts and such for more basic stuff and showing how-to's for certain site recipes and install profiles would be great and an excellent way to learn, the only problem with these is the time taking to maintain them giving how fast development changes.

I'm not saying that developers should spend lots of time making things easier for us dunces, dvelopers should do what they do best and develop. I think drupal as a community should work harder to embrace people with other talents to achieve its goals. It is currently easy for someone who want to commit a patch to do so....maybe its not so easy for someone who wants to get a tutorial video they've made up and easily findable on drupal.org, or for someone who maybe has usuability expertise but no coding skills to be heard and contribute.

Wow I really ramble don't I?.....Anyway I'm gonna grab some more coffee and think about the size of my shovel ;)

Reply

Aymerick

Ask to mozilla

"Drupal could become the server-side counterpart to Firefox"

Hey Jeff, that's a good idea. I suggest you to get in touch with Mozilla.

They have money, they want to help OSS, and if you have the good arguments they may be interested.

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MarcC

Drupal is still WAY to difficult to use for the average user

The same applies to Mambo, Joomla and all other so-called "enterprise ready" CMSs. Those who mentioned that Mambo is easy to figure out must live on another planet, its content editing features are totally confusing and spread all over the admin interface. And don't get me going on templates...

If you require simplicity that your grandmother would appreciate, with enough power to get a site up within a few minutes, some needs have to be scaled back. Smaller open source CMSs such as Website Baker (http://websitebaker.org) or CMS Made Simple (http://www.cmsmadesimple.org/) are much better choices. Very easy to install, nice and clean content structuring interface, and ready-to-use templates. Add-on modules are admittedly not as powerful, but for setting up a basic site, those two are unbeatable at the moment.

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Scott

There's more than one solid foundation needed.

When I read the line, "We have a very solid foundation on which to build this vision ..." I thought, there's the answer. We need a cheritable foundation to fund development.

I know there's been talk about a Drupal foundation, but until we have real action like we've seen with TYPO3 and Sakai, we'll all continue scratching our own itch rather than developing collectively. The 100 intern idea mentioned in another comment is brilliant, and indeed, I have an intern working on implementing Drupal for our campus. But I don't have the technical skill or budget to mentor him as a developer. It would be much better for Drupal as a whole if we had those 100 interns working collaboratively with developers who can teach them. That's the sort of collective action a foundation can afford.

So, Jeff, the ideas here are great. Before we can work on them, we need mechanism for funding the development as a group. Those of us using Drupal for corporate, academic, or other organizational sites know how much money Drupal development saves us and could probably give some of that back. But first, we need a foundation.

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DaleKonle

WYSIWYG would really go a long way toward universal acceptance.

Ordinary people look at websites and appreciate the different elements that go into making up a nice page. Those same people could build great websites if they could point to a place on the page and say put that element over there and give Jenny the access rights to edit it.
The ultimate universal language is the picture. (WYSIWYG). In the perfect world gui you would start out with a blank sheet. On that sheet you could indicate an area then right click to select what you want to put there and the attributes of that object. Modern word processors have show the success of this approach. I know this is a huge task but I think the target is clear and would be exciting because of the universal acceptance it would bring.

DaleK

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NicolasH

Really...no...

If that would be the case, we'd have millions of beautiful, well thought-out sites of small business' that have got their hands on a WYSIWYG editor...and those internal company newsletters...they'd make you appreciate the beauty of subtle design...

Reply

robert

Dear "Anonymous", last I

Dear "Anonymous",

last I checked this wasn't a "Drupal is the better" or "Drupal is the best" or "Joomla! sucks" website. Lullabot works hard to promote open source of all stripes and colors, and we, as individuals, often work together with the Joomla! team on various common interests. Please keep the sports-fan mentality to yourself.

-Robert

Reply

Anonymous

The true Third World: Corporate IT

Loved the spirit of the article, but I think jumping from SFBA/Non-profit land to the wilds of Nigeria is a step too far, especially without a more robust and international community.

When I go in the forums, what I see are a lot of middle school teachers, or community/church group folk, people who aren't programmers looking for help and kinda sorta but not really getting enough of it to get "all the way there" with drupal, today.

I also see a lot of corporate/business IT guys, smart techie geewhiz folks, but again not programmers... People who want to lego-stack or possibly even pay/support development on critical pieces of code for their intranets, customer sites, bug trackers, whatever. These guys seem to get stomped on and laughed out of the room for not being coders, or having the time to (a) find someone sympathetic to their needs and (b) clearly write detailed bug reports for weeks or months until their issue is resolved, only to have a newer version of drupal come out, much closer to their goal, but without any of the "little modules" that get a site from 80->100% feature complete.

So, rather than thinking pie in the sky about amazing marketing plans, or impoverished natives, perhaps circle the wagons a bit and draw in/support/elevate the rest of the non-coder drupal community. Right now, today, if you can hack modules or core or themes, your job is writing documentation.

There need to be more options, and more interactive strategic conversations with the active (visiting drupal.org) userbase, before going out to conquer the rest of the world... And not because limiting scope will help move things along, but because it's THOSE PEOPLE who aren't coders who truly will be a good marketing campaign in and of themselves (think about the teacher/computer lab manager, who would be only too happy to brag/advise his fellows at other schools, if only he could get rsvps working in events under 5.1...) And, whether they work at a non-profit or not, many of these "backoffice" people DO give back to the community somehow, eventually.

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cityman

Drupal is what it is...

Good article, thanks. It's important to recognise exactly what Drupal is and what it isn't. When I compare it to something like OpenACS it looks like a shiny toy, fine for kids who want to play, but nothing adults would take seriously. But sometimes we just need something to play with, and Drupal is excellent for that purpose. Low-skill users like the ease of use, high-end developers will be frustrated by the limitations. But in the spectrum of web development frameworks, it's better than many. Know your audience (low-end techies and power-user non-techies) and stay with them, and you'll prosper.

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donz

Pathetic documentation

Here is a fairy tale I plan to use to frame my perspective and give context to Drupal discussions.

The tale is an allegory about how I came upon this strange beast we call Drupal. (In the tale, the Dragon’s name is Drupal.)

{Begin fairy tale}

I was surfing the magic digital ocean called Webworld one day when I spotted an egg about the size of a football bobbing in the waves. It looked to me like it might be an ostrich egg, but what do I know.

I picked it up and was carrying it home when I met a wizard along the way. She asked me where I got the magic dragon egg.

“What do you mean, magic dragon egg?”, I asked,

The wizard answered, “That’s the egg that is destined to hatch into the magic dragon that will revolutionize Webworld. It is prophesized that the magic egg will be found by an old man of the Drupalie tribe in a forest of relatively unsatisfactory software.

The wizard went on: “As the story goes, the old man will take the egg home and incubate it until it hatches. When it hatches, the old man will think he has hatched some kind of weird lizard.

Later, other wizards came. The first told the old man that his new lizard was really a reincarnation of the spirit of a wise, ancient dragon and that it would grow up to dominate the digital domain. Before departing, the wizard suggested that the old man treat the dragon kindly and with tenderness, for such treatment will be reciprocated by the dragon as she matures.

A few months later, a second wizard came. The second wizard told the old man something of the history of the maturing dragon. It seems that the dragon had angered the gods of the digital domain by having been overly creative and too powerfully effective during her previous existence. Thus, the gods had condemned her to exist silently among humans and watch their pathetic incompetence for all eternity as her punishment.

A few years later, a third wizard came with a tablet under his arm. Upon arriving, he found the old man playing with the dragon and some children in a primitive garden called Open Source. The first thing the wizard said was: “It is time. The Gods of the digital domain have partially pardoned the reincarnated dragon.”

The wizard presented the old man with the tablet from under his arm, and explained, “Written here are the keys to understanding the way of the dragon. Study the tablet and you will understand how to control the dragon.“

The third wizard's name was lullabot.
{end fairy tale}

The message here is that Drupal is a strange, new beast that has wondered out of the digital jungle to confront us here in Webworld. Just as the lion can be viewed as the king of the jungle, so Drupal should be viewed as the king of Webworld.

In summary, Drupal is a giant step forward and up. It is so conceptually advanced that currently there is no vocabulary to adequately describe what it does and what it can do.

I am studying the tablet provided by the wizard (youre book). As I learn, I plan to pass on the keys to controlling our new dragon.

But at present, I'm a newbie who can't even get a Drupal munu system working.

(Yes, I did order your book (today 6/21/07)

ns. You are right about the need to build the user base. But it will never happen with the curent documentation. I know how to build such docs, but must shut up until I see your book (and it's inadequacies).

(Feel free to use the fairy tale, if you wish.)

donz

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Anonymous

drupal

I am not a total beginner in IT. I have my own mail/web/samba server running at home, I did some programming in Pascal, I a familiar with Joomla, EZPublish, Gallery and all that stuff. And then I tried Drupal... and gave up after two days. Couldn't even figure out how to call a module (like a webmail thing) from a menu.

So yes, I think you Drupal people have a problem. And if you can do what Apple does every day, you have a splendid system.

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Dmitry-Sh

Not only Drupal

"Drupal needs marketing experts to promote it" - not only Drupal. There are a lot of good CMSs. With any of them a developer could set up "community events management system ... in an day or so". The problem is that CMSs were written for developers. This is the common problem, I remember nearly the same article for CMS called PHPNuke. I can only suggest to developers make their software more user-friendly. I'm glad to see your article especially, it covers more the existent software disadvantages than others.

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Ravi

Drupal...

I have found drupal to be an excellent content management system and is a great way to empower communities which work for a cause. But one thing which I feel drupal could improve on is the selection of modules bundled with it by default.

For example when you are targetting non-techie individuals and communities, it helps to bundle a WYSIWYG editor. At present you have to download tinymce or another editor separately and many people will not know or have the expertise to do that.

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Mikael Starck

One CMS to rule them all

Hi all, I truly enjoyed reading all your comments, ideas, ramble and thoughts, all in all great stuff!

I have been involved in CMS development for about 10 years, its safe to say that I have installed and tested 90% of the OpenSource ones available at www.cmsmatrix.org and 40% of the commercial ones. Just to mention a few, I love www.ezPublish.no for its Scandinavian way of framework organization and marketing/support, I love www.phpwcms.de for its quick deployment and easy content types, www.EPISever.se for its simplicity and modularity, SharePoint (www.microsoft) for its desktop and workflow integration, BEA www.bea.com for its Zoological framework....Beehive, Struts and Ants.

What I want to point out is that each CMS project is different, each new project has a uniqe budget, unique feature requests, unique level of user group and knowledge, unique design scope, unique content load, unique storage, unique - unique - unique, so in my humble opinion it would be crazy to suggest and if not to impose "impossible" to create a CMS that would handle it all... (One CMS to rule them all rings any bells?) And finally a note on your Front End UI issues, -no one mentions the advancements in AJAX and ATLAS which simplifies and amazes the end users which makes them drool and ask for more. Some fantastic community sites owe their success to AJAX such as facebook, (www.facebook.com) etc.

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archard

Ads

Why doesn't drupal.org use ads to monetize? It seems to me they could make quite a bit of money and still keep the software free if they just stick an Adsense ad or two on the site.

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Tom

Does anyone feel that the

Does anyone feel that the technology may very well be hurting us in the long run by taking our jobs? If anyone with a $100 laptop and half a brain can easily build these sites, I will not have a job in this industry. I like the tools because they make my life easier and I can either a) pass on the savings and do cheaper sites or b) make some money (which I would prefer). But if it is too simple, who will pay me to build sites? I like the barrier to entry and I like it being difficult to learn. I want it to stay somewhat difficult - I almost wish it were harder... I don't know.

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angie

Seems short-sighted...

...and coming from a proprietary software mindset.

In open source, a shorter learning curve means more contributors to the project, which means more great functionality coming in to help us build even better and more complex sites that do cool and awesome things. 2 years ago, building a moderately complex Drupal site meant spending hours and hours writing custom node types and SQL queries to retrieve listings of content. Now, CCK and Views handles all that for you. Has making the process of creating content types and listings easier cut into your bottom line, or has it greatly increased the scope of websites you're able to tackle? I know which one it's been for us.

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Tom

CCK/Views as well as other

CCK/Views as well as other modules have increased the scope a lot! But there is kind of a sweet spot right now. People hardly know what a cms is and the tools take a while to learn and are daunting to say the least. BUT, if ANYONE can build complicated sites in minutes, I will be in trouble. It is a hypothetical and unrealistic so I shouldn't freak out. Progress probably always scares some people. I love what is happening and in all likelihood the systems will get more "challenging" as they get more powerful and capable. I chose the word "challenging" rather than "complicated" because parts may become simpler (CCK, Views), and at the same time, more challenging (what modules should I use to accomplish this?). It's the process of growing and trading in ones old traditions and embracing the new methods. I don't know if a shorter learning curve == more developers. There is one reason I came to Drupal. At a time when none of the other CMS's cared about tableless layout, Drupal was the only one that would allow tableless themes using valid xhtml and css. I did not care about the learning curve. I think Drupal will attract quality people as long as the focus is on the "power". There are pretty "easy" to use systems out there that spit out garbage...

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Emil Acosta

I like the idea for the modules

I agree that PHP.net make you feel that you have everything and the concept of having the technical description of the function and right after the use of the functions and in top of that the contributed users code, make the PHP manual awesome.

I think that the modules in the Drupal.org site should be like this. When you are learning Drupal you waste a ton of time trying to get the right module for your site and sometimes you have more than one choice. How do you pick the one then? This is an issue that has to be address soon to bring more developer and users to the Drupal community. The current situation is quite intimidating for the first time you want to make your site do what you want.

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Arne Babenhause...

Simplicity for beginners, complexity for experts - get in quick

I experienced the same with modules, and I think I know at least two ways to make Drupal more accessible to newcomers.

A bit of background: I just setup my third Drupal page and I find new modules even now. The page where of three slightly different but very similar types:
* A newssite, needed mostly taxonomy.
* A personal site, needed book and taxonomy, as well as themes.
* A site for a free roleplaying system. Mostly needed book.

But even though the pages where quite different, I find myself reusing most modules.

And it took me hours to hunt them down.

To make the modules more accessible to newcomers, they should be more organized.
One way to organize them would be, to give them another sotring done by type of page I want to use them for (usecase). A blog, for example, needs different modules, than a newssite. But there will be much overlap.

Then users could simply check "I want a blog. Which modules do I need?"

Still they'd have far too many to choose from and the choice needs to be simplified for first-time users. To do that, users should be able to sort modules by popularity
Ways to sort by popularity:
* Download-count: The number of times they were downloaded during the last month or six months.
* Vote: Allow users to vote for modules and show the votes.

The second way to make Drupal more accessible would be to create rich compilations. That means: Don't just offer a "general drupal, search your modules by hand" download, but also some specialized precompiled versions, best with adapted config already included.
Some ideas for downloads:
* Drupal Community Bookwriting
* Drupal Community Newssite
* Drupal Personal Webpresence
* Drupal Blog
* Drupal Webshop
* Drupal Wiki
* Drupal Forum
* Drupal Rich Community Site (Forums, Community Book, Blogs, Webshop, Wiki - the full package)

These should then be the downloads a visitor first sees, to make the Drupal site a site for users.

Examples:
* Drupal Community Bookwriting: http://1d6.eu - mine, german. If you like it, I'll gladly send you the details of the setup. http://1d6.eu/contact .
* Drupal Community Newssite, if not perfect: http://gute-neuigkeiten.de - my first drupal installation.
* Drupal Personal Webpresence: http://draketo.de - my second Drupal installation, misses Photo-Albums (since I don't yet need them) and similar to be a full fledged personal webpresence.

- All parts of the design on these sites are licensed under free licenses (one of them being the GPL). -

These two ideas still give experts the full power of Drupal, but enable newcomers to get a site running quickly.

If you like the idea, please feel free to contact me: http://1d6.eu/contact

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Tom

Follow up to above. I like

Follow up to above. I like it difficult. Keep it hard to understand and challenging. Like a good mystery. I want it powerful as heck, but a little overwhelming. Forget about making things easier. Easy is over rated. The things that bring the greatest satisfaction in life are often the most challenging. Just keep stacking on the capabilities. Good, clean, lightweight coding and extensible design principles with standards compliance and cutting edge css support make Drupal my first choice. I cringe when people talk about making things easy. NO. NO. NO. Don't do IT!
Later.

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Jay McDonald

thinking clearly

I’m confused. I am a web designer who writes his own xhtml/css, and has managed to knock together a few xml/actionscript-driven apps. So... I'm not a code-crunching hardcore developer, but I'm no technical noob either. My focus is creating design for clients that clearly communicates. - and that's what I see as the heart of this discussion - an issue of clarity. Clarity in setup and adminsitration, as well as end user usage - (the application model/usability) clarity in documentation - clarity in marketing and telling the Drupal story to those who are prospective users.

I have used CMSs since around 2000, and have personally installed and configured WordPress, Mambo/Joomla, Umbraco and Drupal. Joomla was pretty nice, but I liked what Drupal seemed to offer - greater granularity in the handling of the information it holds and how it's used. However, I'm having a hard time getting my head around it. I have a site set up (was pretty easy on a shared hosting acct), and have played around with the various admin controls... but still feel like I'm somewhat at a loss.

In my world, I tell a client's story - the introduction for their audience to what it is they do - by beginning with an encapsulation that makes it clear what they do and how it's unique. Then, I move into an overview that begins to break things down and lay out the paradigm... giving people a clear lay of the land before I ever start getting into the minutiae. Now - unless I'm missing something (and I may be) this is where I hit the wall with Drupal. The docs on the site need some serious IA works to sort them out - they feel like a big jumble of details. I want someone to tell me what sort of house I'm going to be looking at and explain the basic layout and notable features before they get into geeking about the doorknobs and faucet-handles.

On Drupal.org, I found some high level overview that has some fluffly marketing-eque speak.. but it's more of a list of rah-rah bullet points than anything else. Fine as a starter, but it would be really nice to have something between that and the level with all the detail. Something like : "Unlike many other popular OS CMS solutions, Drupal is not built around the concept of managing a catalog of 'pages' but rather breaks the typical 'pages' down into small nuggets of constituent pieces of data (called nodes) that can be flexibly remixed into various formats and uses to assemble new page types and tools by re-using the same linked data multiple times, in various ways - changing relationships to fit the context - much like an expert Lego set." Now- that may not even be accurate (since I have to guess based on the scraps of understanding I've been able to put together) - but you get the idea. An overview guide that breaks all of this down and equips people with a mental framework to understand and contextualize all of the detail – before getting to that detail.

And then - in the detail... well, start from a sensible spot, unfurling the narrative in a way that reinforces the paradigm while explaining all the little details. This is how a good teacher works - not just relating facts, but telling a story that makes a cohesive whole - so you are able to quickly grok the concept and then systematically put all the flesh on the bones of your understanding.

At this point, I just want to see if I can use Drupal to make some simple, but flexible informational sites for my clients with totally custom designs... and then have the option to roll out community elements on an as-needed basis. I THINK Drupal will do this... but I just can't seem to get there from here. I'm not excited about investing a ton of time, only to discover weeks later that I had a fundamental misunderstanding of how this thing works.

Make the complex simple - increase clarity. Heck - if I could figure this stuff out myself, I might even be willing to write a nice guide that does these things. That was my main role in the creation of Fjax - I shaped the message and formulated how we would explain things- even writing the copy and doing the diagrams myself. This probably serves as a good example of what I’m talking about:
The overview - http://www.webmonkey.com/06/25/index4a.html
The walkthrough - http://fjax.enginpost.com/?x=lnkRapidDev.xml

Soooo… can anyone point me in the right direction to find something that approaches these things? Does anything exist that’s even close?

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Michael Caudy

"thinking clearly" about Drupal

Hi Jay,

I saw your post - "thinking clearly" - in the comments to Jeff Robbins "How Drupal Will Save the World" article. I am a scientist just starting to use Drupal as a CMS and web interface for very large and complex genomics and genetics databases. I just took the Drupal Theming workshop last weekend in NYC that was taught by Jeff and several others from Lullabot. This workshop was excellent, and I recommend it, if you can attend one.

I have read the WebMonkey review of your FJAX application, and visited your FJAX demo site, which is very interesting and impressive. I am somewhat surprised - given your high level of knowledge of web programming - that you are having a hard time "wrapping your head around" Drupal. Although it is very complex, and some of the terminology ("nodes" for example) is quite confusing, and should be cleaned up, the overall design of this CMS app seems pretty clear, at least to me. Perhaps you didn't find the best resources. I have found that much of the available documentation and tutorials (referenced below) is very clear and helpful.

I think that I can correctly assure you regarding your main question:

"I just want to see if I can use Drupal to make some simple, but flexible informational sites for my clients with totally custom designs... and then have the option to roll out community elements on an as-needed basis."

that the answer will be YES. However, this will take some time and effort on your part.

You might want to read the IBM DeveloperWork review comparing Drupal with Rails, and other CMSs for community development:

http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/ibm/osource/index.html

This analysis by IBM helped to convince me that Drupal has the features I need, and will be able to scale effectively for my genomics work. There also are additional Drupal overviews and tutorials at the IBM Devworks site, which are very helpful in understanding the terminology and concepts:

http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/ibm/library/i-osource5/

Are you aware of Matt Westgate and John VanDyk's "Pro Drupal Development" book? It would seem to be very well-suited for you. I find it to be extremely clear and useful, and it has gotten excellent reviews at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Pro-Drupal-Development-John-VanDyk/dp/1590597559/r...

Also, if like me, you are new to PHP (I have more experience with Perl and Ruby), it turns out that the "Programming PHP" book by Rasmus Lehrdorf et al is extremely good at giving a clear conceptual overview of "the way of PHP", as well as providing a definitive reference by the creator of the language. Also, the Drupal API docs - api.drupal.org - are very good, and usually include short, working code examples that you can learn by reading, as well as copy to use in your own projects.

From my own experience, the fact that Drupal 5.1 installed extremely easily and "just worked" right out of the box (at least on PPC and Intel Macs running OS 10.4) was a godsend, compared to the endless problems I (and others) have had simply installing Catalyst (Perl) based web apps, or even some Ruby on Rails CMS apps. Although Catalyst and Rails are powerful web frameworks, I have been watching both the Catalyst and Rails spaces for some time for a good CMS, and I have not found anything that can compare with Drupal in terms of functionality.

All of the Drupal modules that I have installed - Views, CCK, Devel - have installed without a hitch and worked straight out of the box. Knowing how to use them is another matter, but there are many good tutorials available online. If you can, I would also recommend hiring an experienced Drupal developer for one or two training / coding sessions. This worked very well for me, and I have a very useful Drupal "starter app" in hand that I am already using for my genetics and genomics database CMS work. Even with my limited knowledge of PHP and Drupal, I will be able to modify and extend this initial module to cover most of my immediate needs for database analysis.

I am planning to write up some hopefully useful "overviews" of Drupal, based on my own experience coming to Drupal from other web frameworks. I will make these available once they are written. If you are willing - as you mentioned - to help with creating such docs, I would be very interested in getting your comments and input, given your own strong background and experience with writing the FJAX documentation, which is excellent. In the meantime, the above suggestions, especially the IBM links and the Pro Drupal book, should get you started right away with "thinking clearly" about Drupal.

Best regards,

Mike Caudy

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dahamsta

Plugin and theme organisation

I thought the title was a bit much before I read the piece, but I see what you did there. ;)

You've highlighted several things that prevent me using Drupal, such as the language used (taxonomies, etc), general complexity, etc. Fix these and you have me. However one thing wasn't mentioned that I think is incredibly important, not least because WordPress suffers from the exact same problem: the organisation of the plugs - and themes, although that's less important - is absolutely woeful. At the very least they should be categories properly, at best they should be sortable, organisable, searchable.

Please keep up the good work. My next project will run on Drupal, as an experiment. I hope I won't regret it! :)

adam

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Sean Tierney

Drupal may save the world but JumpBox will save Drupal

good article. I completely agree with your suggestions for improving Drupal in a scenario where there's no resource constraints. We're in the process now of migrating our public web site from wordpress over to Drupal. Having worked with WP, Joomla, Drupal and a few other custom-built ones, I can see how Drupal is more powerful yet more intimidating.

We need to get Drupal into the hands of many more ordinary users so that we can break out of this developer-centric view.

We've solved the installation part with the Drupal JumpBox-> http://www.jumpbox.com/drupal-content-management-system-jumpbox/

And we're working to add video tutorials for all the OSS JumpBoxes in our library. I just did the 20min Joomla video this week-> http://video.jumpbox.com/?app=joomla

With 30sec installation, ability to revert to snapshots using Parallels or VMware fusion and JumpStart videos for absorbing the essence of an app on first usage, we're making progress to bring Drupal and other Open Source server applications to the mainstream, non-technical user population.

Sean

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Simplicity

Its real simple you have a

Its real simple you have a installer that gives people all the main options
1-insert your logo gif
2-intranet(low security more taylors database options) or internet(more levels of security)
3-simple set of possible layouts(blocks)
4-make the interface as easy as possible at FIRST like PLONE
5-it installs SQL/PHP/etc all on the client pc (giving option to upload to host provider)
6- MOST IMPORTANT THING ->> opens the browser to there RUNNING DRUPAL SITE

10% of effort done will get the 100% usage

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Gaele

Feedback

A few remarks on your original post:

  • Excellent! I really like your way of thinking. Why not sit together with a bunch of people at DrupalCon Barcelona, and turn this into action(s)?
  • Icons do need an ALT tag, so they do need translations. Still a good idea, though.
  • drupal.org needs an overhaul. At the moment it's one big heap of stuff. E.g. clicking the handbooks tab will give you a page with 70+ links. Overwhelming. A lot of stuff for beginners is already there, it just needs to be made more easily accessible (e.g. one branch of the site tree just aimed at beginners.
  • I have a background in hosting. Don't just make it easy to set up a Drupal site. Make it easy to maintain as well. Make it easy to stay secure. The new update functionality in D6 will help, of course. But what about new versions of Drupal? It would be nice to have a few Drupal distributions that could be upgraded automatically (think Ubuntu).

Gaele

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Vegas Guy

Not a developer

I'm converting my site to Drupal. Thankfully, I have the help of someone who knows what they are doing. Just reading through the module list can be intimidating, but I absolutely love the platform. From a non-tech person's point of view, perhaps the next step would be to build an easy installer / configuration program. One package that a person uploads to their webhost. Then they log into it, have a check list type system of the modules they want to install. (I'm sure a ton of work to setup that way) Just my two cents.

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thePanz

Icons?

Hi, you're totally right, Drupal need to clean it's interfaces for every-day user and non-technical site administrators.

My 2cents are in my module, called Iconizer, that (also) try to put icons nearby modules's functionality in the Administrator section... icons are a good point to start from, but they need to be self explanatory and keep simplicity. I hope that someday someone with more icons design skills will help in my direction...

Thank you for your article, really interesting!
Bye

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Ken Lyle

Modest Proposal

I am a recent convert to Drupal. I have been suffering mightily in the last week, through what I believe is called the steepest part of the learning curve. To put things in context, I found my Chemical Engineering undergrad work to be easy. I find Drupal challenging. That is why I am lingering in Joomland, even though my brain knows that Drupal is the future.

I just posted what I think are some simple, ready to use queries for moving Joomla content to Drupal: http://drupal.org/node/196344 - I think it's the germ of a good idea, and a that a reasonably talented person with Access could be done porting data in under an hour. I plan to make some enhancements, like inserting the actual created date, etc. Maybe someone else can help me clean it up?

Anyhow, given that a lot of organizations, especially, "causes" are, in terms of web technology, in 1997, Joomla seems like a good step...categories, publish/unpublish, CSS, Read More, etc....

I am suggesting that, for now, it's reasonable to use Joomla as training wheels for Drupal...how's that for reconciling the two communities :)

K

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Rob Anderson

Total Agreement

Jeff,

I am enormously optimistic that Drupal can have a very significant role in creating a better world based on the power of communities.

I think we'll see Social Enterprises coming into the space that will help ramp up the funding so that development like the Google Summer of Code happens at a much faster rate and that the Beekeeper model
http://wiki.pentaho.org/display/BEEKEEPER/3.+The+Beekeeper+Model
starts to increase the rate of change.

Surely we should be able to get Drupal to be the ultimate community platform and surpass the work that Facebook are doing, but do so in a way that is about community building. Wouldn't it be neat if Small Business and Non Profit Organizations had access to end to end applications at zero -minimal cost to efficiently run their organizations.

Jeff I'd be keen to phone in and have a chat to discuss where I see some of the opportunities and the pitfalls are for Drupal with its strength and weakness being its complexity. We have been doing some initial work on creating a platform to connect people within over 20,000 local and special interest communities. http://www.cagora.com We also have a project on the drawing board for using the basis of what we've done at Cagora to create a platform to assist economic aid deployment in Africa and other developing nations and a separate but similar system for connecting microphilanthropists to causes that interest them. Engaged Giving seems to be on the rise and I'm sure Drupal can play a big role in being the facilitator.

I am in Melbourne Australia, so will probably be later in the afternoon before I can phone in.

Rob

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Sneezy Melon

Appreciation Comment!

I completely agree with all that you say. I arrived here through google and I must say your work is commendable. How can I get your feeds other than the email ones??

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Faberlica

Drupal's extensive user

Drupal's extensive user permission system has made it known as a community site building platform, and its underlying API allows plug-ins to alter data, create pages and content, and change the way a site works. In addition to basic blog-like text-based content management, this flexible system has spawned modules to manage image, audio, video, add date/time-based information to any content and display it on a calendar and/or in an iCal feed, tag any content with geo-location data and then plot it on a map or allow searching by geography.

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dang

complexity

Can't even count how many modules I've tried to setup and followed instructions to letter only to not have anything work or find out so much was assumed I knew to do ...

There is an enormous gap to bridge here.

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Daniela

For italian Drupal's lovers... :-)

I appreciate your article and I would like to translate it in Italian for my website: http://www.immaginaria.net.
I've just translated an article about accessibility and AI (http://www.immaginaria.net/risorsa.php/id/38).
Of course I need your permission. May I?
Yes, I know, Immaginaria doesn't use (yet) Drupal, it's an old site (born on 2001-01-01), and the porting is almost impossible, but some day I'll try...
So, may I publish my translation of this article? Tnx in advace! :-)

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Connie

User-orientated

well, even I as a skilled webdeveloper sit in the Drupal Hamster Wheel:

I just get no orientation how to do elementary things and I feel lost in a swamp of allknowing-termchewing-blabla-forum-contributors....

we can ignore all comments and just start over to read the article: nothing has changed since last summer, there just is no conciousness of all these problems

they sell a car but they deliver a motor plus a wild mixture of manuals and maybe-spareparts...

it is just frustrating!

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Anonymous

"Developers" Vs. Normal Nerds

I too have recently started using Drupal to try to get a site rebuild going. I have heard endlessly that Drupal is the Elvis of CMS's. It seems to me that Drupal is difficult for a reason; Developers pride themselves in being the elite nerds in a sea of normal nerds. I consider myself an extremely tech oriented person. I have been a graphic artist for 10 years or so and am the kind of person people turn to for any kind of tech help, whether it be computer or whatever. I find it completely so frustrating how confusing Drupal is more than anything. There is a total lack of documentation that is useful. There is lots of documentation, but it is way too scattered and written for people that already know Drupal. I think "Developers" want to keep Drupal confusing for their own benefit. It is like when you discover a really kick butt band that nobody knows about, then when the band starts becoming popular, you start to hate them.

Stop trying to keep Drupal cool and make it actually understandable.

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Drupalpoint

I don`t agree with this point

Hi,
Nice post.. but i don`t agree with the point that there are no good developers for drupal.

Now, there are many dedicated drupal development companies coming up.

You can contact us for any quote if you need for a project.

Best Regards,
Jimmy J.
Drupalpoint LLC

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dave

newbe stuff

I have read most all this and I see all the different views and hear the voices of frustration too. After 6 weeks now attempting drupal, i think i made some small progress in putting one site together.

I may be a newbe, but most certainly I am a technical person and have used many cms things without the total uncertainty that comes with sorting thought the drupal mess. The new users know what I am saying.....
Drupal is most probably the best thing going, if you can figure out what pieces to use for a given result.

I have 10 times more questions now than a week after I started, because everyone seems to have a different way of not quite making it work. For example "Taxonomy". I read it was the way to go, so i did a bunch of vocabs and terms, but the stuff won't sort by taxonomy term weight. now they tell me.... I am not a programmer, if i was, why would i mess with all this, i would just program my own stuff.

What is needed is a Drupal COOK BOOK....go in and choose what you want to make and it would give you a list of the modules needed and a quick overview of the set up.

someday, when i get this one web site figured out(another month or 2), it will have a cook book and instructions to go with it so others will not have to go through what i have.
Drupal is a great organization that lacks organization.

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richard101 (exMonk)

I like the Title :-)

Like the title :-) here's more on that ... "Drupal is to HTML what the Printing-Press was to Monks-with-Quills" :-)

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BC

Hmmm...

The documentation will make more sense once you learn English!

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ahoodnick

Drupal For Seniors

I have read all the comments from designers to teachers and so forth. I am becoming a senior in a few years time. I built a website for my wife using some out of the box software. It was not that challenging. I read about Joomla, did not like it, too confusing. I like the interface of Drupal, however I found it to technical. This week I tried to install Drupal 6.6. Had problems. Had problems with the htaccess file. Stilling having problems.

I am trying to figure out if it is an installation problem or hosting problem I will have to wait and see.

The Drupal site is too confusing with lots of technical data for seniors. Seniors like to bill websites too. Many years ago, a professor at University of Toronto teaching a communications course wanted to know why we communicate using technical language. Building a website is technical, but the rule of thumb is the KISS principle. So keep this in mind when writing technical data.

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Arjan

Drupal for NGO's

I just wanted to drop a line about using Drupal for non-profit. I just put a Drupal site online for a non-profit organization: NGO Chakana.

I suppose it's no accident I ended up with Drupal and not some other CMS. I'd never heard of Drupal before I started looking what open source CMS to use (I'd only vaguely heard of Joomla). I'm not a real techie either, although I do have an interest in learning this sort of stuff.

It's true it wasn't easy, I spent months making the site, but I do feel the time was worth it. I also feel that If a specific request comes in for a new feature, I'll be able to pull it of using already available Drupal modules.

Drupal is the CMS to use!

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Anonymous

Excellent and Inspirational post/article.

this is really a great article.

Here i 100% agree with Jeff about providing easy to use interface.
see the example for Linux Vs Windows.
Most of the common people are interested in using windows, though Linux is powerful and free. Why is it?
i can give many examples like this.

We can see the admin interface of Silverstripe, it is good.
the same way, Drupal can follow it.

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nativetung

This is a really great site,

This is a really great site, I'm glad I found it! We love Drupal here at NativeTung.

As you are probably already aware, the majority of internet users today reside outside of North America and nearly 70% of internet users do not speak English! If you have a content website and are looking for more users, maybe it's time you considered extending your site to target new global markets using Drupal.

We invite you to join our highly anticipated private beta program and experience the world's most advanced and innovative automated language translation solution on the market today.

Visit us at http://beta.nativetung.com to sign up for a next generation experience in website translation!

We'd love to get your feedback!

Thank you

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Anonymous

Drupal theming sucks

If you look at the majority of drupal's module creators personal websites. They are fairly basic. ie. the default garland theme.

It just means it takes a long time to theme drupal, that the majority cannot be bother with it.

Frankly, drupal theming is really turning me off drupal.

With joomla, you just drop a template.php file and a css and all the blocks and regions ie. the whole website actually changes.

With Drupal, you need to manually override each module to theme. That's why Drupal professional themes are so expensive compared to joomla.

It's also a reason why there aren't many drupal themers. Because the THEMES ARE NOT SCALABLE. ie. create once and drop into any site with any number of modules.

Joomla themes provide a drop in solution. DONE!

Sure drupal provides fine grained access, but at a huge initial cost of setup.

Reading the drupal forum, there are more questions than answers.

Even acquia don't answer questions as frequently as the public joomla forum or any of the joomla component forums.

If you are developing by yourself, having a responsive community provides greater motivation.

Hope Drupal can improve on this.

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Anonymous

Drupal is it's own worse enemy

I've left Drupal is favor of WP and Joomla, only because of the availability of templates for those two. Even the experienced designers I've worked with hate Drupal and wont bother with it. Joomla may have started out as a bit of a mess, but their community really got behind it and turned it into something special. Any time I've suggested ways to improve Drupal I've met with snarky attitudes by suspender-wearing curmudgeons decrying the purity of Drupal's code would suffer.

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rjalan

Drupal forum for non-techies?

Amongst computer users I rate myself as intermediate at least. For my sins I look after (as editor) two CMS sites, one using Joomla! and one using Drupal. The Joomla! documentation is really easy for a non-IT specialist like me to understand, and in any case the IT guy who set up the site is always on hand to help and advise me.

The Drupal site at www.swquakers.org.uk has been running for two years and the professional web designer who set it up is no longer available, and I have no IT help at present - bad luck! I have a problem with "page not found" which now occurs randomly after two years in which nothing went wrong. So I googled for advice and found on the web:

"1. I ran update.php again. This fixed my navigation. But clean urls were not working.
2. I found that .htaccess was corrupted. I transfered it again. bingo! it worked.
3. Finally I enabled clean URLS from my admin panel."

So I know what to do, except that I don't since I don't understand the jargon. How do I run 'update.php'? How do I transfer '.htaccess' again? I am terrified of making a mistake and destroying the site. So I've been looking for a forum for non-techies or a forum for editors or something similar, and found nothing that would give me a step-by-step 'explanation for idiots'. This is what makes Drupal so horrible for non experts. I agree totally with the article: at least it's good to know that someone understands. Alan

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