drupal

CivicSpace netroots campaign website barnraising at the YearlyKos convention

At the Yearly Kos convention on June 8th the CivicSpace community will be teaching a workshop on building netroots campaign websites. Experts will be avaliable all day to teach participants at every skill level. The day will culminate in a barn raising of a real world netroots campaign website thought up by the DailyKos community and built by workshop participants and facilitators.

This thread:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/6/6/13713/38510

is being used used as a campaign idea incubator with the best concept being built three days from now at the YearlyKos convention. If any of you are DailyKos members we could use your help recommending the thread so that it gets exposure within the DailyKos community, also please submit your ideas if you have them. If any of you want to help out please send me an email and let me know:

  1. If you will be attending YearlyKos
  2. If you want to help facilitate the workshop
  3. What specifically (if anything) you would like to pitch in on.

Hope to I'll see some of you in Las Vegas shortly.

O'Reilly OnLamp interview

Spencer Critchley recently interviewed me about CivicSpace, Drupal, and DeanSpace for the O'Reilly OnLamp blog.

Screencast: Drupal Mashup Machine

Watch this screencast to learn how to use Drupal to create Google Maps mashups of virtually any arbitrary data or content with no coding in minutes. For the example shown in this screencast I took a csv file of crime data provided by the San Francisco government and turned it into a usable google maps mashup in about 10 minutes.


14 minutes / 60megs

To play along at home you will need to install the following:

Please feel free to leave any comments, questions, or feedback.

Gmaps + Views: A happy hack

On Saturday night Drummy, Tony, and I went to Super Happy Dev House IX. I was a bit drunk. I bet Neil and Tony that I the "business guy" would beat them the "hackers" at hacking. My goal for the night was to integrate the gmaps module with views to allow users to create maps of any view.

I won handily:
http://zacker.org/mapdev/?q=crimemap

The how-to is posted on this handbook page.

Lullabot Interview

Jeff Robbins of Lullabot posted a podcast interview of me here. I babble on for an hour or so about the Dean Campaign, DeanSpace, and CivicSpace.

Drupal Camp SF Report Back

A few weeks ago we held our first ever "Drupal Camp" in San Francisco at Compumentor's office. I blogged about this previously when we were hashing out the idea. Today I posted a pretty lengthy report back about it on Drupal.org:

http://drupal.org/node/58182

Ruby on Rails

Yes, conceivably within a few years Ruby on Rails could emerge as a dominant web application development environment. But I am betting strongly against it. Why all the hype then? True innovation, great presentation, lots of screencasts & brilliant marketing. But in the end, RoR is fighting an uphill battle. E.G. LISP has a much greater market share than Ruby (.721% vs .2%).

Programming language market share numbers are taken from this study. It covers the languages in general and is not specific to web application development. If anyone has any better analysis please let me know.

*Update*: There is a great blogpost from a Ruby on Rails devotee here that comes away with much the same conclusion but instead of just numbers he provides a well reasoned argument.

Magic Groups - A ScreenCast

Consider this:

  • My job is to focused around developing web applications that help communities collaborate yet the majority of the day to day collaborative work I am personally involved in is faciliated by standard mailman mailing lists, not community focused web applications. Mailing lists are functionaly no different than they were more than twenty years ago when they were invented.
  • Without a doubt the most pervasive and powerful organizing tool the Dean campaign grassroots groups used beyond Meetup to self organize was Yahoo groups. Yahoo's business is centered around "user produced content" and community. YahooGroups (formerly eGroups) with 50M registered users is their #1 community tool. Yet the toolset has barely changed in the 6+ years since eGroups was bought and made a part of Yahoo.
  • In my experience as a community organizer (DeanSpace, PeopleFinder) I have found that there are only two indespensable tools: wiki's and mailinglists. With both in place 85%+ of your web app needs are covered and groups are more than capable of self-organizing effectively.

So given all this, why does CivicSpace still not ship with working YahooGroups-like mailinglists and wiki support? Good freaking questions. Thankfully, I believe we are finally getting close to an adequate answer....

My first screecast (37 megs 10 min):

This sandbox runs on Drupal 4.7 beta 5. Modules I am using on this site:

  • Og - to create and manage the groups. Thank you Moshe!
  • og2list - to send out mail to group members
  • og_forum - to sync a forum w/ each group
  • og_mandatory_group (4.7 port included below) - to auto-join site registrants with the main group
  • og_intro (in zip below) - to send notices to the main group when users join and new groups are formed
  • Tabs - to draw the fancy ajax tabbed pages on the og nodes. Thanks nedjo!
  • Node Relativity - to handle 'sub groups'
  • Freelinking - to handle wiki-link -> node edit forms and [[wiki link]] fiters
  • Masquerade - to let me test the site as a non-admin user
  • Mailhandler - to post mail to my site off of og email lists (reads a catchall for the domain)
  • Mail Stuffer (in zip below) - my hacky helper module that associates mail sent in to mailinglists
  • Wikipage (in zip below)- to create wiki node types and manage permissions
  • Bookmark - to let users save pages in their bookmarks block

I would highly recommend waiting until og2list is fully baked and until I have a chance to clean up my code before you use this. But if you must I have included all my new modules, slightly hacked modules (ported og2list to 4.7 and added tags support to mailhandler) and my theme .tpl files. This stuff will all make it into cvs some time next week if all goes well.

CivicSpace is almost here

I've poured almost three of my life in to CivicSpace waving my hands and willing it into existance. We have a lot to show for it: 30 major software releases, two thousands CivicSpace powered websites, a vibrant and quickly growing user community, and a network of 25+ vendors occupying a solid slice of the marketplace of advocacy / non-profit web technology services. But what we haven't had so far is a solid user facing product - something I can show my mom...

Ten minutes ago I sent a note to our mailinglists announcing that we will shortly begin alpha testing a hosted CivicSpace service and are looking for testers. Three minutes later four people signed up.

The CivicSpace hosted service is almost here and I couldn't be more excited.

Web services are no silver bullet

John Stahl recently gave me some heat for my assertion that Elgg should be built on top of Drupal.

I think that the next few years are going to bring tremendous challenges for applications that do not easily communicate with other applications that are “outside their platform” i.e are written using a different language/framework, run on a different server, etc....The days of monolithic application stacks that try to do everything are fading fast. A new “network-centric” software ecosystem is starting to bloom.

This is wishful thinking. I've spent much of the past few years puzzling over this exact question. While I am personally very much a proponent of web standards and web services I am pessimistic as to how much immediate impact they will have in the evolving marketplace of non-profit/ngo & advocay web technology services.

Backstory

I didn't always think this way. If you told me a year and a half ago that I would be hawking CivicSpace/Drupal as the über-platform that could meet virtually every need of any size organization I would have told you you were nuts....

After the Dean campaign ended and we started work on CivicSpace our assumptions were:

  • Drupal wouldn't be able to "scale" to meet the needs of large organizations
  • We would not be able to develop the platform quick enough to meet all the core needs of organizations any time soon
  • We would integrate third party service providers to fill the functionality gap organizations required

Then some interesting and unexpected things happened:

  • It turned out Drupal could scale
  • CiviCRM showed up and filled the functionality gap
  • Lots of vendors established quickly growing businesses servicing the technology. The top half dozen firms now employ ~ 50 people between them and each are looking to hire.

This reshaped my thinking on the future of the web-technology marketplace quite a bit. We have an immediate opportunity to commodify the core web-technology organizations need to a single integrated and scalable open-source application stack and this is a very good thing for the marketplace. Over the next few years I believe the advantages afforded by this stack of technology (CS/Drupal/CiviCRM) will far outweigh the benifits realized by the integration of applications accross web-services in terms of costs saved and passed on to technology owners and innovations in technology and services.

Integration accross web-services and web-standards is relatively costly

  • Web applications that are not built from the ground up to be integrated will never play nicely with one another. Let me repeat: if an open-source application is not built to be integrated with your web-application it probably isn't worth the effort to try to integrate it. This renders 95%+ of open-source web applications useless for those looking to leverage the work of other communities.
  • If an application has a strong API it is still tricky to integrate. Even integrating with CiviCRM, an application that was built from the ground up to interface with CMS's and shares the same web-app environment as Drupal, it costs us 2-10X more to integrate with it than it does to integrate with a standard Drupal module.
  • The most cutting edge private sector web-service and web-standards are not that advanced. We still don't have workable single sign-on solution, the cutting edge of semantic information interchange across the web is to embed it in XHTML, the hottest API's from SalesForce and Flickr haven't made much of a dent in the marketplace, and please don't get me started on the semantic web.

The market currently prefers a single integrated stack

  • The majority of the market for web-technology services is owned by companies like Kintera, GetActive, and Convio that serve as one-stop shops for virtualy all an organizations web-technology needs. They have trained technology owners to make purchasing decisions under the assumption that they can cut a check to a single entity that will provide and support a complete "solution". I.E. there is not much point to shopping around for "best of breed" services to integrate, "just give us your business and all your technology problems will go away". This creates an uphill battle in the marketplace for vendors selling what will be seen as "piecemail" solutions created by amassing various web-technology providers products across web-services.
  • There are huge unanswered usability concerns created by integrating together two different applications. This is espcially felt in functionality that is presented to an organization's contituents. Technology owners demand a seamless user-experience across their user facing application space (CMS, event tools, community tools, etc). In the future as more and more functionality moves out of the back-office and onto the web these concerns will only increase.
  • Open-Source vendors eat costs when integrating third party services, mantaining integration, and licensing software, so they have economic incentives to service a complete pre-integrated stack of technology instead of servicing a suite of other providers products integrated over web-services.

The future of the application stack and the role I think webservices will play

I hope and expect that in the next year the CS/CiviCRM/Drupal stack will evolve to a point where it can compete head on with the likes of Kintera, GetActive, and Convio. When this happens open-source vendors will grow into full blown ASP's that will be able to sell services that undercut the current market of proprietary service providers and will be able to grow downmarket to smaller organizations and horizontally to for-profits with overlapping technology needs. With so many organizations and vendors based on the same codebase it will create a very efficient marketplace that supports application development and services. It will also open up the marketplace to anyone wishing to specialize their services towards a vertical, sell data services, or offer 'best of breed' applications. Since the majority of the vendors business will be based entirely around customization and hosting / support and not licensing fees to support product development and sales, they will be much more likely to partner with 3rd party providers or create specialized services themselves. Over time as web-standards evolve the third party services and specialization will grow increasingly important in the marketplace. And then we can all live happily ever after....

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