Posts tagged drupal
Posts tagged drupal
As you can probably gather from the title, part of my remit as Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Fellow is to investigate and help implement open solutions. Solutions that will not only benefit Al Jazeera English but also other enlightened news organisations. Luckily AJE is already somewhere down the path to openness having released much of their content under a Creative Commons license. This license allows others to use this content without having to worry about royalties - this is of particular interest to me, planning as I am to build tools that will allow anybody to create new content by mashing up existing stuff.
A related approach currently being taken by AJE is to use the open source Drupal Content Management System to power the blogs section of their website. They’ve also had the vision to employ one of the key contributors to the Drupal codebase and community Dick Olsson. Significant customisation of the new CMS will be required in order to meet the requirements of a newsroom and so bringing in someone already active within the Drupal community makes good sense. I spoke to Olsson and his colleague Alaa Batayneh about how they saw this all panning out. We discussed architecture, testing and crucially the release cycle. It seems they already have an agile methodology in place and seeming like two very capable developers I imagine they will be able to push custom code pretty quickly. This is of course essential - as needs of the newsrooms evolve, so must the supporting framework. There will be no quicker evolution than at the very start but no system of this kind is ever finished. This will be real reactive user driven development.
The real beauty of using a popular open source library like Drupal (now on its 7th major iteration) is not only the fact that you start from a solid base but importantly that any modifications you make can be released back out into the ‘wild’ for others to test, enhance and benefit from. The modular approach is key - it means you don’t need to modify the base of the framework and so in theory your modules can be applied to new versions of the base as it is released. Further, by plugging together modules to make solutions that work in a certain environments — in this case news — you can create distributions that address those specific areas of industry. So although the modules are not necessarily news-centric, the distribution they make up is and it is this that AJE and Olsson are keen to release.
Assuming then that Drupal is properly modular and can be easily and comprehensively customised, I would expect an open strategy to yield very real benefits. This is an opportunity to take advantage of an eager and vibrant community of Drupal volunteers working on the continual improvement of the core of the product while initial customisation takes place in-house. Actually I am thinking of creating a couple of modules myself just for the fun of it. When something is both cool and open it draws curious developers to it like bees to honey.
Sometimes for large and established organisations to adopt new ways forward it just needs someone to lead the way, so here’s hoping Al Jazeera will do with systems what they did with content - that way we all win.