Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Convergence: Drupal Camp

One of my roles at CompuMentor is to make connections between and among the different worlds we are inhabiting: nonprofit sector and subsectors (like arts); online communities; social web ("Web2.0") tools and developers; community wireless projects; etc. This convergence is one reason why I'm having to broaden the focus of this blog, because just so much is going on that is overlapping with other things right now.

For example, CivicSpace, the organization that is behind the open-source CMS (Drupal) I've championed previously is now - guess what? - fiscally sponsored by CompuMentor (full disclosure: the team I'm part of here strongly supported this decision.) CivicSpace, along with Civic Actions, put together a training weekend for Drupal developers; CompuMentor put up the space, and myself and colleague sat in on the sessions.

You can read a more detailed overview here. In addition to the great overview at the Drupal site, here are a couple of things I noted:
  • At least 1/3 of the developers present worked at nonprofit organziations themselves. That's fantastic - a strong showing in the vanguard of Drupal developers.
  • There is a specific challenge to Drupal beyond installing and configuring the system. I've mentioned it previously, and this session bore me out: Drupal is (fairly) easy to install and use, but making it "your own" is not something that can be done by a novice. This weekend session was designed specifically around "theming" - designing the look and feel of Drupal websites.
  • Jeff Robbins, the trainer and head 'bot at Lullabot, made an important point that touches on my last comment: Drupal is a very strong open-source community, and a lot of development - even stuff that's paid for - is given back to the Drupal community at large. The one area where this does not happen as much is with site "theming." A lot of work goes into theming, and as Jeff pointed out, a "themed" website is your organization's brand. Just as your organization (likely) does not want a generic looking page with some personalized colors, your organization also doesn't want to share the website "brand" you spent several grand developing. Even in this open-source world, there are small pockets of proprietorship....
[If you wanted to push it, you could share a similar but-not-quite theme, with different colors, fonts?.... But who would go through the trouble?]


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