Notes from Mack Hardy's Drupal Talk
This month the Vancouver PHP Association and Vancouver League of Drupallers had a combined meeting. Mack Hardy of the Post Carbon Institution spoke on how the Post Carbon Institute was using Drupal to meet their organization's goals.
Mack has promised to post his slides, and hopefully there will also be a video of this presentation available. My summary forgoes the more involved details. Please check the slides for those.
Mack started with an overview of the Post Carbon Institute:
Post Carbon Institute is a think, action and education tank offering research, project tools, education and information to implement proactive strategies to adapt to an energy constrained world. The development of Post Carbon Institute came out of concern for the environmental, social, political and economic ramifications of global over-reliance on cheap energy.
Our main response to these concerns is the strategy of Relocalization, which aims to rebuild societies based on the local production of food and energy, and the Relocalization of currency, governance and culture. The main goals of Relocalization are to increase community energy security, strengthen local economies, and dramatically improve environmental conditions and social equity.
To this end, the Post Carbon Institute runs a family of websites. Each website targets a specific facet of the organization's goals. These sites include:
- Postcarbon.org: the main website
- Relocalize.net: community connections site
- GlobalPublicMedia.com: expert knowledge, education
- energyfarms.net: a site to highlight their energy farm initiative
Drupal is used on many of these sites as a framework for "tools" that bring the community together. These include:
- Collaborative tools: email list forums, shared docs
- SSO - users can get involved in different areas, same login
- group home pages - a virtual office for small groups, point of contact
- geographic reference - proximity search, directory services
- CiviCRM - organization track communications with stakeholders
- taking donations with CiviDonate
- mass mail – phplist/CiviMail
The Post Carbon Institute found that work was required to make a number of the tools work the way they required, and they've made an investment in Drupal development. The Open Source model is ideal for them, since they can contribute their changes back to the Drupal project and lower their continuing maintenance efforts.
Mack gave an overview of three major areas they've worked on in Drupal:
- Organic Groups
- Organic Groups Forum/Mail
Their LDAP work is fairly technical, under-the-hood stuff. Check out the slides and video.
Their Organic Group work is targeted at giving local groups the ability to create a website they "own", but still allow management inside of the parent Drupal site. To this end they've worked at giving the users control over theming elements like the site banner, custom images and a palate of selectable themes. Based on user feedback they've needed to give the site owners the ability to create their own menu tree. There wasn't a module in Drupal that give them the functionality the way they needed, so they authored a new module named og_menus. They plan to contribute this back to the community. It gives the organic group admin control over a menu specific to his or her organic group.
Another big piece of work is with Organic Group List Manager, OG2list. Although arguments have been made that email is where information goes to die, email is still a key communication method for this user base. Never-the-less, information locked up in emails is not available for people outside the discussion to reference and isn't searchable; they wanted email indexable and public. The solution they choose is the OG2list module:
The organic groups list manager (OG2List) module allows groups of users to have a mailing list managed as part of their organic group, a collection of users with common interests and shared content. Mail on the mailing list is archived in a forum and groups members can respond by email or they can respond in forums directly.
They added mime handling for inbound attachments, multi-site support, and private/public group support. This implementation requires access to the system's message transfer agent (MTA) configuration, in their case postfix, and Perl scripting, including the installation of a number of CPAN libraries. Mack said he wouldn't recommend it on a shared host.
Mack then demonstrated a number of other collaborate efforts they've undertaken. For shared calendaring/mail/contacts they are moving towards Zimbra Collaboration Suite, an exchange alternative. He also demonstrated their use of the Drupal Case Tracker module.
Questions covered the social side of their project as well as the highly technical. My notes didn't keep up to the dialog.