Drupal Book Review
10 comments | Posted: 27 September 06 in Books, by Nathan Smith
Drupal: Creating Blogs, Forums, Portals, and Community Websites is a nice compact guide to the community oriented CMS Drupal. David Mercer has done a great job of covering everything you would want to know about this system in a concise guide. Like so many successes, Drupal started small. It all began in the college dorm room of Dries Buytaert and Hans Snijder at the University of Antwerp. They started out by offering other students shared ASDL over a wireless bridge, but that grew into something much bigger.
Their interest in wireless networking increased to the point that they started an online bulletin board, allowing people to discuss various aspects of the technology. Eventually this community of networking enthusiasts took on a life of its own, and the bulletin board became more of a gathering place, and less driven by a specific topic. The site was initially going to be called Dorp, the Dutch word for village, but due to a typo the domain Drop.org was registered. The software developed around this community site was eventually released as Drupal, which is close to the Dutch pronunciation of druppel, water droplet.
So, now that the confusingly obscure history of the name is out of the way, what can this system actually do? Quite a bit, as it turns out. It offers the ability to run a multi-author site, with those authors doubling as forum administrators. It lets you assign different user permissions based on your own criteria. For instance, you could have a community driven news site, in which freelance writers are able to submit their stories. These stories could in turn be approved by an editor with higher privileges before they appeared on the site.
Some of the more popular Drupal driven sites, other than the system itself, are Spread Firefox and Murmurs. Spread Firefox is of course dedicated to getting the word out about the Firefox browser. Murmurs is the longest running fan site for the band REM. For a more extensive list, check out DrupalSites.net. One of their currently featured sites is a Sojourn Church, which is good to see.
The nice thing about Drupal is that there is no reason to learn any proprietary templating language, since it is all driven from raw PHP. Of course, you don’t necessarily need to know PHP to use Drupal, but if you do it makes things a whole lot easier to repurpose it to your liking. This aspect, along with the ability to cache pages and database queries, made it the CMS of choice for the IBM Corporation – read their recent article here. Drupal is also a Top 5 Finalist in the Open Source CMS Awards, being put on by Packt Publishing.
Probably my one and only qualm with Drupal, aside from the sparse admin interface, is that when upgrading to a new version, it is recommended that you roll-back to the default theme / skin, lest any of the changes break your current layout. To me, this seems like ineffective separation of presentation and the system itself, and is in general one of the drawbacks of any
include() based systems. Textpattern, on the other hand, stores your templates in a database, so it is impossible to overwrite them by uploading any actual PHP files.
While that is a minor concern, but I thought I should at least address it, lest you think that any system is perfect. That being said, I think Drupal is an excellent solution for running community driven websites, and this book is of course the only one of its kind, dealing exclusively with Drupal. I would recommend it to anyone looking to build a site where user submitted content is the focus.
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