Welcome to the June 2007 issue of the Drupal Newsletter! We've restructured how the newsletter is written, and moved everything to a much-more-public wiki at Drupal Groups, we hope you'll come over and contribute to the next issues :o). Elsewhere, the Drupal code freeze for version 6 has been delayed by 4 weeks, now at July 1st; developers everywhere have just started complaining about not having enough time, now they have to finish those patches!

Enough talk, the next issue of the Drupal Newsletter starts.......right now.

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Upcoming Drupal Events

June 29, Drupal Camp Seattle 2007. Seattle, Washington, USA.

August 25-26, FrOSCon. Sankt Augustin, Germany. The first ever Drupal event in Germany will take place over two days with two rooms for Drupal, as part of a larger open source and free software conference. See http://froscon.de/?L=1 for details. http://cfp.froscon.org/ if you want to propose a talk. More details on http://groups.drupal.org/froscon-germany-2007

September 19-22, DrupalCon Barcelona 2007. Barcelona, Spain. This new Drupal Conference is in the early stages of organization, see http://barcelona2007.drupalcon.org for more information.

Administrative Tips

Update Status Module - The Update Status module will help you manage all your sites. It keeps track of all the modules that you have installed to see if you have any updates. You can easily see the status of your site and if any of the modules on your site have security, bugfix, or feature updates available. Each time that you request data, you additionally report which contributed modules you have installed on your site. This information is useful to the module developers so they can determine which modules are popular and perhaps deserve more attention or possible inclusion into Drupal core.

Shift+click your way to happiness when you see a list of items in the Drupal administrative interface, try shift+clicking or control+clicking. With Drupal 5 the administrative interface gained this ability to do multi-selection of checkboxes. This is a great feature for promoting, deleting, or publishing comments and nodes in a big group. It greatly reduces the amount of time you spend clicking on each checkbox.

User Group Meta Group

If you are the leader or help coordinate a local Drupal User Group, please consider joining the User Group Meta Group which provides tips and assistance for geographic user groups. The first major tip is how to get one free copy of the Pro Drupal Development Book.

Drupal Sightings

Moms Rising

Moms Rising is an exceptionally well-built Drupal site for a petition to help new mothers. From the site:

The United States is one of only four countries (out of 168) to not have any national form of paid leave for new moms. This petition supports a bill, titled The Balancing Act, which includes paid leave for all new parents.

Communities for Clean Ports

Communities for Clean Ports is a community of activists proposing stronger legislation and tougher laws on ports.

Sunlight Foundation

The Sunlight Foundation uses Drupal to power it's blogs and community tools. From the website:

The Sunlight Foundation was founded in January 2006 with the goal of using the revolutionary power of the Internet and new information technology to enable citizens to learn more about what Congress and their elected representatives are doing...

Forbes Office Pranks

How Not to Render Your Site Obsolete in Six Months

One of the challenges facing every Drupal site administrator is managing change. If your site only runs Drupal core, you probably have a fairly easy upgrade ahead of you next time a new version of Drupal is released. If your site incorporates more than a handful of contributed modules, however, your upgrade becomes more complicated and you may find yourself waiting for modules to be upgraded, or, worse, you may discover a module your site depends on has been abandoned.

If you're a developer-type and can get down into a module's PHP and generate a patch or two, you can push a module's upgrade along and help contributed module maintainers and others who use that module.

But we're not all developers, and it's not always easy for some to apply patches. And for these people there are a few things they can do to help future-proof their sites when considering contributed modules.

  1. Listen to the Lullabot "Deprecated!" podcast. It provides invaluable information on current trends in Drupal and on the changing landscape of contributed module relevance.
  2. Click the "Developers" link at the bottom of a module's Project page. The Developers page tells you who has contributed to the module, how many times they've contributed, when they last contributed, and more. Look for names you know and recent activity.
  3. While you're on a module's project page, check out the issues and support requests.
  4. Search Drupal.org for what people are saying about the module.
  5. Stay up-to-date with Drupal. Subscribe to feeds that are relevant to your site. Look for them on drupal.org and groups.drupal.org. Planet Drupal is a great aggregation of many Drupal contributor's blogs. And for a ready-made collection of Drupal feeds you can catch the Drupal Universe on Netvibes.com, setup by Matthew Farina.

Despite these tips, you may still find yourself stuck with a difficult upgrade or a delay while you wait on a contributed module. The handbooks on Drupal.org can help. But why not take this time to educate yourself on PHP, MySQL and Drupal? Empower yourself, and you can take the energy you'd spend on worrying about your upgrade and do something about it while helping others and Drupal, too.

Interview with Jeff Eaton

Jeff describes himself on his blog as "...a twenty-something software developer from the Chicago area...[with] too too many irons in the fire" and has been a member of Drupal.org for almost two-and-a-half years.

How did you come to use Drupal? How long ago?

My first taste of Drupal was in 2004, just before the release of Drupal 4.6. A friend and I were developing an online game, and we needed a web site that would let us feed new content in without too much work. I wanted something that was Wiki-like in its flexibility, but had better support for structured content and portal-style features.

I tried rolling my own a couple of times in ASP and eventually in C#. At the time, I was using an inexpensive webhost with Fantastico installed, and I made my way through a few of the one-click CMS installations. Xoops, Mambo, TikiWiki... Eventually I hit Drupal and it felt like a good fit. The node system really stood out to me: it captured 80% of the functionality of the complex systems I'd tried to hack together in C#, in just 20% of the code.

Is your work on Drupal a hobby or job or both?

Both! I got sucked into working on Drupal (and contributing patches for Drupal core) pretty early on, and and was in love with the flexibility. Eventually I started doing small projects on the side, including a few for Lullabot. My friends and family were joking that I was trying to convince random strangers to use Drupal at that point -- between ideas I had, and exciting ideas other people had, I was in pretty deep. That's about the time I joined Lullabot full-time, and it's been a great experience.

Why do you contribute your time?

I'm a geek who loves code, but really I enjoy polished finished products. Drupal allows me to do cool stuff that would otherwise take me years of grunt-work coding. As I build on it, it's exciting to see other people using the same tools. And when I have an opportunity to make Drupal itself better -- through core patches, or helping other people understand it better -- the whole network effect grows stronger.

How long was it after you first encountered Drupal before you became a contributor and what was your first contribution to the community?

Well, my very first contribution was a horrible patch to Inline module that would have crippled any site with more than a dozen visitors. ;) (Thankfully it was rejected...) That came a couple of months after I installed Drupal for the first time, and started poking around at the modules. Not too long after that, I wrote comic.module -- it was a badly hacked cross between book.module and image.module, with a couple of security holes thrown in as a bonus. As time went on and I started studying other peoples' code, I had more 'aha!' moments and started grasping why Drupal did some of the things it did.

I started getting involved in a productive way almost a year into using Drupal, when I tried to add content ratings to one of my web sites. There were a couple of nice voting modules, but neither of them did exactly what I wanted and there was no way to take the UI from one and graft it onto the features of the other. I ended up brainstorming, contacting the authors of both modules, and asking them what it would take to make a shared back-end that both modules could use. Eventually that grew into VotingAPI, and while it has rough edges, I'm proud of how well it's stood up over time.

The big tipping point for my involvement in the core Drupal project was when I started poking around in comment.module, and posted a patch for it that let people add fields to its forms. I was hanging around in #drupal trying to get people to review it when the now-infamous Form API patch landed, and suddenly it was All Hands On Deck, Who Wants To Help Fix Things? I said, 'I'll help!' and the rest is history.

What do you consider your biggest accomplishments in the Drupal world and why?

I'm really proud of the contrib modules I've built -- stuff like VotingAPI and Custom Breadcrumbs have all grown out of needs I had and have ended up helping others. I think my biggest accomplishments have been low-visibility stuff, though. Helping refactor the internals of the Form API in Drupal 5 to make things simpler and more understandable is incredibly gratifying. I know that everyone who uses Drupal will benefit from it.

What Drupal projects/issues/ideas are you are working on now?

Rob Roy Barreca (RobRoy) and I have been working on a number of improvements to the way that nodes are rendered in Drupal, trying to make the code more consistent, and more flexible when dealing with new ways of outputting content like Flash, XML, ATOM feeds, etc. It's a tricky problem, though. Dries and Steven Wittens (UnConeD) have been giving us some really valuable feedback and it'll be good to see the effort evolve.

I've also got a lot of ideas rolling around for Install Profiles. I think Drupal could really rock for people building their own webcomics -- it has the tools necessary for a really successful community site, it lets you integrate all sorts of different content, and the theming system makes it possible to make the entire site -- including the forums, the online store, etc. -- work with your style.

Like a lot of things, though, it takes knowledge of how to work with a few tricky modules. Whenever I can I try to help polish features or help with modules that make a system like that easier to set up. There are tons of sharp and creative people working in the community -- more and more I find that I can help by building and polishing useful APIs that other module developers can build on without reinventing the wheel.

Do you have any open source experience outside of Drupal?

I briefly used the DotNetNuke system, a portal system written for Microsoft's ASP.Net platform. I used it for some of sites I now run with Drupal, and the community was a lot different. Inside the Drupal world, there's often heated discussion about how friendly the development community is to newcomers and less experienced users. I think we run into that question because there's such a large and diverse group of people who participate. All of those people are not just installing and using Drupal, but developing for it, building modules, writing patches, hacking and testing and working together. To me, at least, it's really a great example of how Open Source can work.

If Drupal didn't exist what other projects might you be involved in?

I'd probably be working on similar CMS systems written in C# -- the language I used at my day-job before stumbling into Drupal. I was in the early stages of writing my own around that time, and a project called Rainbow caught my attention as well. There are so many great ideas floating around, it really takes a vibrant and active community to make an ambitious project thrive beyond the first beta release or so.

If you had to pick a totally different career from the one you have now what would it be?

Before I got sucked into software development, I was a freelance writer... But now? I might take the plunge and go for sociology. I love figuring out how things work, and Sociology sounds like that kind of learning applied to entire societies. How cool!. Either that, or poodle ranching.

If you could be any superhero who would you be?

I would totally be Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, from the 1963 comic "Doom Patrol." He could change himself into any animal, mineral, or vegetable: I'm horribly indecisive when answering questions like this, so shape-shifting sounds like the ideal solution.

That's all folks

We hope you've enjoyed this month's issue. You can subscribe or alter your subscription settings at the Drupal.org newsletter page. Your supervising editor this month was Robin Monks, blame him if somethings wrong. The content of the Drupal Newsletter is written entirely by the newsletter community, please stop by and contribute! Last but not least this issue has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 license. See you next time!


JohnForsythe’s picture

The Forbes office prank site isn't bad. The video player interface is a bit weird, I'm not sure how useful the image-based scroll bar is, but overall the videos played fine.

John Forsythe
Need reliable Drupal hosting?

AutoInsurance Guy’s picture

Thanks for the newsletter everyone involved, but wow we sure need one to keep track of the everchanging drupal scene! I must get onto trying the Update Status module too...

jsimonis’s picture

I love the update status module. It sure has made life easier, plus I like how the developers get to see how popular a module is.

Jenni S.
Portland, OR metro area
Contact Me

seanr’s picture

Doesn't seem to do squat for people like me who deploy from CVS. What are you talking about regarding popularity, though? I don't see any info about that on the module's project page.

Sean Robertson

jsimonis’s picture

Under the "sites registry" and "distributed authentication" settings page, you can tell it whether or not you want it to call back to Drupal. It send back information such as what modules are being used.

Drupal can then see which modules are being used a lot.

I plan on going through all the sites I maintain and changing the settings so it will send this information back to Drupal.

Jenni S.
Portland, OR metro area
Contact Me

derekwebb1’s picture

I cant believe that Drupal 6 is due out soon (Although I can't wait to play around with it)! It seems like Drupal 5 came out last Thursday. I suppose that must be a ton of work for developers (both core and contrib). You guys are real machines. Keep up the good work!

Best regards, Derek Webb
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