Five things that Drupal site builders need developers to know

This weekend I was pleased to present a brand new talk at DrupalCamp Asheville. I’ve been wanting to attend this camp for years since it’s the only one in North Carolina. This year my calendar was finally open and I was planning to attend in person, but of course that was not meant to be.

Many Drupal developers consider site builders to be one of the most important types of users they are building for. The project lead regularly talks about how to “Improve the site builder experience” in his state-of-Drupal keynotes. But how well do developers really understand site builders and what we do? I put together this presentation to help people understand the realities and constraints of being a site builder.

Below is a video of the talk. It’s only about 35 minutes long. This was my first time presenting it. If I do this talk again in the future I’ll include more examples to illustrate each point.

https://www.drupalasheville.com/2020/session/five-things-site-builders-need-developers-know

Tara and Ruby, mis-presentation

“But I’m Not Privileged”

Last week I had the opportunity to co-present with Tara King a talk about diversity and inclusion in the Drupal community. After each time we do this presentation we’ve learned from the audience and made improvements to make the session more helpful. This was my fourth time giving this talk (although other Drupal Diversity and Inclusion leaders have also done it) and I feel like it is getting much more effective at helping people better understand and advocate around issues of equity and justice in tech (and in the world).

For your enjoyment and edification, here is But I’m Not Privileged” – Why diversity, equity, & inclusion are everyone’s problem:


Photo credit: Dan Flicker

presentation title slide

Diverse communities are strong communities

Last week I was proud to represent Drupal Diversity and Inclusion at DrupalGovCon. Along with Dori Kelner, I co-presented a session to help people understand the challenges we face as a community and what DDI is doing about it.

You can see our slides overlayed with the audio of our talk here:

Drupal 8

Getting started with Drupal

Last week I attended the Nonprofit Technology Conference for the first time since 2011. I was very impressed with the organization and the the content of the conference, it was great to see how the community has evolved over the years.

Along with Tim Nafziger, I co-facilitated a discussion session for members of the NTEN/Nonprofit Drupal community. We had an excellent group with a wide range of people participating, from newbies to agency owners. Our two main topics were how to get started learning to use Drupal, and what the future of Drupal holds. The latter topic is hard to summarize, but suffice to say there are still a wide range of opinions about Drupal 8. Even more than 2 years after it’s release, there are still 4 times as many sites using Drupal 7 as Drupal 8.

As for learning Drupal, we had many great suggestions. One person shared this cartoon illustrating that rather than the typical “learning curve,” figuring Drupal out is more like climbing a cliff. But when you get to the top you can really kick butt.

The Drupal Learning Cliff

 

So, here are our suggestions for scaling that cliff!

DrupalCon 2016 group photo - I'm in there somewhere

This beautiful mess we’ve made – the Drupal situation

My professional life revolves around a wonderful, crazy, powerful piece of software called Drupal. Drupal is open source and is created and supported by a massive community of great people who contribute code, ideas, and leadership to make Drupal an incredible tool to solve a large and growing range of problems.

After participating in last year’s DrupalCon, I got involved in the newly-forming working group to address diversity and inclusion in the Drupal community. It’s been a great opportunity for me to both learn about how things work in the community and contribute my past experience working on both social justice issues and online communities.

Last month, a wedge was driven into our community when long-time contributor Larry Garfield was asked to step down from his leadership position, and it is shining a harsh spotlight into existing problems that need fixing. Our official structure and leadership is not adequate for the size and scope of the Drupal community, and hasn’t been for a while.

Also, there is a fraternity/culture within the developer community at large (not just Drupal) of White, straight, cisgender, American and European males. As we have seen of late, many groups are so accustomed to their privilege that any attempt at sharing fairly with others feels like oppression to them. Many people are simply unaware of this dynamic.

But some members of this club have been waiting for an opportunity to fight back, and they have taken advantage of the poor communication about what happened to make their own points about how “social justice warriors” are secretly out to steal all their cookies. There is a lot of misinformation out there and reporters have been loving the salacious kink-shaming angle without understanding any of the actual issues at play.

One interesting aspect of the recent events is that there is no single venue where people in the community can come to discuss the community itself and how it is governed. Because of that vacuum (and some other factors) our diversity and inclusion Slack channel became one of the primary places for people to share their concerns and learn more about what was going on. We have also been a target for dudes to troll, mansplain, and pick fights with those of us who think that it’s important to make sure Drupal is a safe and welcoming place for marginalized people to participate, even if that means potentially excluding those who don’t share that goal of inclusion.

There are as many opinions about the controversy as there are Drupallers. Amazingly, a lot of well-intended people have lined up behind those vehemently opposing Garfield’s exclusion, even though a lot of the heat around that is actually coming from outside the Drupal community. Much of this is due to the fact that most people are quite unaware of the privilege in which they are soaking and are not interested in understanding how it impacts the world they live in. Still I am amazed at how many are willing to be used as tools of Gamer Gate types with an axe to grind.

Personally I also came away frustrated with the leaders of the Drupal project (the software) and the Drupal Association (the community*), but for completely different reasons. They are clearly doing their best to handle this challenging situation, but their best has not been not up to the task. A large part of why this was so controversial is because they were wholly unprepared for how the community would react, and responded from a defensive position without helping people understand the situation or the decision-making process. We need much more from our leadership, and there is currently not even a structure in place by which we could make those changes.

Fortunately, I think those same leaders do generally agree at least that there is a need for change, even if they lack the vision for what it should be or how to make it happen. Our community’s evolving needs will be on the agenda at DrupalCon next week. It’s time for Drupal to grow past the start-up phase which is necessarily driven by one leader with a strong vision, and into a fully-fledged organization with our own community infrastructure. I hope that we will be able to have some productive conversations about this without getting sidetracked by arguing about misinformation and political agendas.

A lot of people have written a lot of things about this in the past month. I can’t even begin to catalog all of them, but here are a few key points:

If you are not bored to tears by all this and want to stay up to date, I recommend following @DrupalDiversity on Twitter.

 

* The DA is not actually The Community. It runs our annual conferences and hosts drupal.org, which is where the core software (and contributed themes and modules) lives and is worked on. It’s governed by a board which is mostly self-appointed but has 2 community-elected members.

Because of the lack of any other formal leadership structure for the community, a lot of expectations fall to the Drupal Association, but it doesn’t have the capacity (ie: funding) to do much of that type of leadership.

Photo Credit: DrupalCon 2016 group photo by the Drupal Association. I was there for the photo but am not visible in the picture because I am small and not in front.

Drupal is crazy

Let’s do Drupal!

Following up on the very basic intro to Drupal class I created and taught for Girl Develop It RDU in the spring, I am now offering a half-day workshop for beginners who actually want to start getting their hands dirty using Drupal. The class is this weekend and we still have a lot of spaces left, so if you or someone you know is interested in getting a better understanding of Drupal, please let them know and share this link: meetup.com/Girl-Develop-It-RDU/events/232604888/

My slides or “curriculum” (such as it is) are available here: bit.ly/gdirdu-drupal. If you would like to adapt them for other noncommercial uses, please let me know and I will share an editable copy.

GDIRDU circle logoDrupal Development_1

HASTAC Features

I’m very proud of some work I’ve been doing on the Drupal site that I manage at work.  Here’s a blog post I wrote about some of the newest features:

Today I am excited to officially launch several new features on the HASTAC web site, including Collections, Similar Content, Knowledge Base, and more. I think these additions will do a lot to help people connect with and utilize the rich and deep content of the site.

Collections (beta!)

Digital Badges collectionThe culmination of two months of very hard work, HASTAC Collections is a beta feature of our site that brings together content from across the site in a hand-curated list of posts which can be viewed in a large tiled display (at right), or in a multifunction list view (below left). Collections are not limited to highlighting hastac.org content, links to other sites are highlighted with yellow buttons. When viewing as a list, users can sort and filter the collection by type of content, topics and tags, and keywords in the title or body.

Digital badges collection listI invite you to check out our two inaugural collections, Digital Badges and MOOC HQ, and look for more soon. The staff are using and testing this feature now, and we hope to be able to expand it to more HASTAC members later this year. (It will require additional programming and may even result in a new module that we can contribute back to the Drupal community. As a result it will take considerable time.)

Visitors can browse our Collections by visiting the Topics landng page.

Similar Content

Similar Content

When looking at any content on the site you will now see a list of posts that may be about similar topics. It is generated by an algorithm based on the title, tags, and topics of the post. (See example at right.) If your post doesn’t seem to be generating revelant content, try adding more tags. These are the best way to tell the site what you are talking about and to properly connect related ideas.

Knowledge Base

The Help pages of our site have been in place since 2011, but don’t get much attention. We have now moved them into a proper knowledge page, and added a Frequently Asked Questions section. You can also use the Contact Support link there to create a ticket when you need personal assistance. This is being combined with our existing site feedback tool (see tab in lower right of your browser) which allows users to suggest and vote on improvements for the site.

Knowledge Base

Other goodies

tag cloud

I have also uncovered or enabled a few other goodies on the site that members might enjoy.

  • Get Random is a button you can find on the Recent Content page (linked to from the Recent Content column on the front page) that will let you trip back through 9 years of HASTAC community content, 20 randomly-selected posts at a time.
  • Two great ways to see what’s happening on HASTAC right now are the Tracker (a list of content sorted by latest comments and newest publication) and the Heartbeat (a stream of activity including new posts, comments, relationships, and users).
  • The site-wide Tag Cloud is exactly what it sounds like!

I hope you enjoy all these new features. If you have more ideas for improving the site (and I know you do) please fill out our Usability Survey (it only takes 5 minutes) and post your suggestions in our Feedback forum. Thanks for your engagement, it’s what makes HASTAC great.

It’s alive: the new hastac.org!

In the fall of 2010 I wrote about the intensive planning process I led at HASTAC, resulting in a request for proposals that was lauded as visionary by some, and crazy by others. I managed the development process working closely with expert Drupal developers for over 6 months, and in the summer of 2011 we launched the new site!

hastac screenshot 2011

 

For posterity, you can browse the post-launch site at https://web.archive.org/web/20110808142221/http://hastac.org/

The new HASTAC.org is taking shape

alphaThis week I have been in geek heaven. Along with the rest of the Duke-based HASTAC staff, I have been testing the alpha version of our new site, and we’re thrilled with how it’s coming along. We expect the new site to launch by early July.

We have been working to improve and then replace this web site almost since I started working at HASTAC two years ago. Late last year, we put out the call for developers to help up build a new site, and we hired a wonderful group called Message Agency who were ready to engage this formidable task.

The new site will be built on Drupal, just as this current one is, but it utilizes the community architecture of Drupal Commons, which I like to describe as a bit like an open source Ning on steroids.  I hope to be writing a lot more about the new site in the next few months, but right now I’ll tell you about two of the biggest improvements:

The site will be organized around groups which can be created by any HASTAC member as wella s official groups for HASTAC programs such as the Digital Media and Learning Competition and HASTAC Scholars. Groups allow people to self-organize to share information and collaborate on a variety of different types on content, including wiki pages.

The new HASTAC.org will also have site-wide categories so that you can search our vast archive of content by your own interests and research areas. I’m still concerned about how we will get our approximately 5,000 nodes (units of content in Drupal) into the proper categories, but we will be working with our developer to figure this out as part of the migration process.

Cross posted at http://www.hastac.org/blogs/ruby-sinreich/hastac-40-taking-shape