Drupal, the multi-purpose, modern CMS


I am gradually become a convert to Drupal for its flexibility and power. My thanks go to Bill Fitzgerald, D’Arcy Norman, and Paul Nelson for marking the path. I find it remarkable how many different kinds of sites one may create in Drupal. I have used Drupal for the following purposes.

Photo Gallery I embedded our Gallery installation into Drupal. It was the only way I could figure to get Gallery to auto-create accounts for LDAP users. I used to run Gallery within Moodle, but no one had yet updated the Moodle Gallery module for Moodle 1.7 or 1.8.

Knowledgebase phpMyFAQ wouldn’t authenticate LDAP users. KnowledgeTree kept spitting out LDAP authentication errors. In Drupal, I defined a custom content type with knowledgebase-appropriate fields, set up a keyword taxonomy, added a rating system, and installed revisions in order to allow everyone to participate in knowledge-repository building.

Auction The e-commerce Drupal module includes an auction product type. It’s pretty spare, but it allows me to create a custom auction site for evaluation by our auction team. The e-commerce tools include the same customer management and payment processing tools that you see in the leading e-commerce solutions.

Podcast I was podcasting in Elgg until a teacher wanted to upload 150 podcast files in one shot. Drupal’s audio module has a bulk import tool that I am going to try shortly, Drupal’s extensibility and more active developer community beats Elgg in this instance. We are still using Elgg as the foundation for our alumni site, which is based around social networking functions and to which I added hooks into Raiser’s Edge data.

E-learning Platform Bill Fitzgerald’s first release of DrupalEd instantly becomes a legitimate player in the online learning/course web site space. It really does do blog, podcast, wiki, social bookmark, assignment, social networking, e-portfolio, and calendar right out of the box. Because it’s Drupal, you may take the distribution and further customize it, further adding or removing components. I will keep Moodle for its syllabi-friendly structures, huge teacher community, and ease of use, but DrupalEd adds critical, missing features.

Public-facing School Web Site I am actively investigating Drupal as the content platform for the main Catlin Gabel web site, for all the above reasons and more. A school web site needs to be nimble, able to keep pace with new standards for delivering content to users.

Adopting Drupal requires a shift in the way you think about content. A conventional CMS such as Mambo, Plone, or Moodle follows the traditional model for content organization that has grown out of the days of static HTML. Content objects live within rigid topical or sequential containers. In Drupal, content flows easily from place to place. You direct where the content goes by putting filters or views into place. Organizing Drupal content is more like guiding a river into streams or channels. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Drupal is named after the Dutch word for “drop.”

One comment

  1. Bill Fitzgerald says:

    Hello, Richard,

    Welcome to the club — The instructions for the secret handshake are on their way to you via carrier pigeon 🙂

    All kidding aside, Drupal’s flexibility and extensibility make it ideal for a variety of different contexts —

    RE DrupalEd — thanks! Over the next few months, look for added functionality coming with eportfolios. I also have an idea that would add trailfire-like functionality within Drupal; ie, the ability to create a sequential, annotated path through both internal and external content — this will also have some implications for eportfolio creation —

    RE Drupal as a public-facing web site: this is well within the bounds of what Drupal can do, and do VERY well — The thing that’s nice about building this functionality within Drupal is that you get all the traditional tools one should expect (ie, a WYSIWYG editor; flexible user roles; calendaring; robust video, audio, and image handling; etc) with all the web 2.0 bells and whistles (rss, iTunes compatible podcasts, easy support for community contributions, etc) —

    Like you said, it’s a different way of thinking about content —