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Drupal now the "Cool Thing to Do"?

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 11/4/09 (10:02am)

It's nice to see Drupal mentioned in the context of "cool thing to do" but I don't think Cindi Trainor in her piece on Sacred Cows in Library IT gets exactly what you can do with it:

Experimenting with low-cost or no-cost tools like Twitter will only cost staff time, but implementing expensive (think federated search) or complex-but-free technologies (think Drupal) because it's the cool thing to do can be a very costly lesson for a library to learn, in terms of budget, staff time, morale and user satisfaction.

First, there's no impediment to 'experimenting' with Drupal any more than there is to experimenting with Twitter. The first implementation I ever dealt with was on my own laptop. I didn't even need a network connection!

Also, as far as complexity goes, what are we comparing it to? I mean, you can't run a website on Twitter so that's not an option.

It just so happens that an institution's website is a fairly complex organism. It's going to involve a considerable investment no matter how you choose to go about it.

The fact that Drupal can potentially make it less costly in terms of budget, staff time, etc. -- while being far more effective as a tool -- that's what makes it "cool" and why people choose it. Not the other way around.

P.S. It's kind of ironic that the above quote fell under the Sacred Cow, "Cutting-edge is better; bleeding-edge is best" -- considering that the piece grew out of a discussion on the oh-so-bleeding-edge "Google Wave".


by Cindi Trainor on Thu, 11/5/09 (8:31am)

Good comments, Leo. I think I *do* get what Drupal can do (read this for more); I don't think I was clear in what I meant by experimenting.

Creating an experimental service for users with Twitter is easier and requires fewer resources than creating a service with Drupal. (Obvious..) Experimenting with Drupal behind the scenes (with no impact on users) is simple, as you point out, but creating a resource or service to put in front of users requires an understanding of the operating system and services upon which Drupal is built, a better-than-working knowledge of CSS and PHP, and hardware for testing as well as production systems. It's important for library staff and administration to understand the commitment required to do Drupal right. The software itself may not cost anything, but there are costs involved.

Hope this helps.

by Leo Klein on Thu, 11/5/09 (9:49am)

Thanks for the comment.

Someone putting together a website for their institution is going to need a better-than-working knowledge of something (fill in the blank) if they want to make sure they're doing a good job. Drupal in this respect is hardly unique.

But where I'm really having trouble is imagining someone choosing Drupal and going through the elaborate commitment which we all agree is required to put together a website -- just because they thought Drupal was "cool".

I'm having trouble imagining that.