Book Interview: Drupal 6 Site Blueprints

I recently had the opportunity to spend a few minutes on the phone with Timi Ogunjobi of websesame (@websesame twitter), author of Drupal 6 Site Blueprints from Packt Publishing. Originally, we planned to share the interview as a DrupalEasy Podcast, but a poor connection scuttled those plans (things like that happen when the interviewee is calling in from Africa.

Luckily, I had a backup plan (always have a backup): this article! What follows is some Q&A with Timi compiled from the pre-interview and selected quotes from the actual interview.

Mike: Who is Timi Ogunjobi?

Timi: I am a technical writer and web developer. I am the owner of a company called websesame which I started in London about 5 years ago. I have been writing for more than twenty years and I have seriously been doing web design and development for about seven years. I have an engineering and project management background and I have written for several high profile companies including Macromedia.

I also do a lot of creative writing such as short fiction and one of my stories "brain surgery on the highway", which was published by Queens University in Canada in 2002, actually ended up as course material for business and advertising students. I also publish a magazine known as Redbridge Review.

Mike: What is your Drupal background?

Timi: My first contact with Drupal was when researching for an article comparing open source Content Management Systems. I found the framework initially intriguing as it did have a growing community of followers but seemed notoriously difficult to use. My first Drupal book Adventures in Drupal consequently was born out of the need to address my initial personal frustration with the framework. Since then it had again unfolded that Drupal appeared limitlessly configurable and I have as a web developer conducted most of my work in Drupal. I have been active in the main and UK communities giving advice often for free and assisted several non-profits to install and configure their Drupal sites without charge. The examples in the book are actually simplified versions of live sites which I have previously built in Drupal

Mike: So was Drupal 6 Site Blueprints born out of your previous Drupal book?

Timi: The idea for Drupal 6 Site Blueprints was to vary the contents of my first book by showing step-by-step how sites of several categories could be created.

Mike: Who is the intended audience for the book?

Timi: Drupal 6 Site Blueprints is meant for the user with a basic idea of how to create and modify a Drupal site. Typically they've got Drupal installed or someone has done it for them and they now how to create new nodes and to edit, they know how to upload and switch themes. But they want more than a blog or notice board site and just are not sure how to proceed further because there are hundreds of modules out there and they are not quite sure which will work for their ideas. They don’t want get dirty with code either and would rather not pay anyone else to do this for them. They would rather advance gently into Drupal by themselves.

Mike: Looking back at the book, are there any topics you wish you had added to the book?

Timi: From readers' feedback so far, I gather that some think that the book should have included chapters for Drupal site administration, for theming and for module development. A few wanted the project sites on CD along with the book. However when you set out to please everybody you eventually end up pleasing nobody. I think the book is just right the way it is and does not include more than it should.

There are probably other books out there which are mainly about Drupal site administration, there are probably other books out there which are principally about Drupal theme development, there are probably other books out there which are mainly about Drupal module development. They will do a better job than a general Drupal book. And if they don't yet exist someone should hurry up and write them! When you attempt to put all these specialised topics together in one book, you will probably end up with bloatware which will sit on the bookshelf for years until it is out of date and quite ready to be put out with the rubbish. I chose instead to write a book that will give you result within minutes.

Some people didn't quite understand why the book does not explain Drupal concepts in details and I ask them to think of the book as they would a high school science projects book. It teaches you to do some interesting experiments first ... and it's fun! Then you have the urge to go get some more information on how to do it better and to get more excitement.

Mike: There's very little about CCK and Views in the book. Was this intentional? Did you feel it was to advanced for the audience of the book?

Timi: Views was used in some of the example sites. It is a fascinating module and it probably deserves a whole chapter to describe what can be done with it and how to configure views. This is unfortunately out of scope. As you will see however the projects in which Views was used sufficiently demonstrates how it works.

CCK on the other hand is typically used to customise and extend nodes for example by creating new fields and relating nodes and fields. From the beginning it was decided that the site blueprints would be simple enough to prevent users from abandoning the project midway because there is too much to learn at once. And CCK might actually not be quite easy to explain away in passing. CCK has been used on a couple of projects mainly because other principal modules depended on it.

CCK does merit a whole chapter in the book - so does poormanscron, webform, organic groups, ubercart, panels, Gmap etc., but this is also out of scope.

Mike: In learning about you, I found that you seemed to have a hard time initially learning Drupal. Knowing what you know now, how would you recommend newbies attack Drupal's learning curve?

Timi: The hard time that I had learning Drupal isn't really any greater than the experience anyone else should have when learning how to use a new software. My handicap at that time was that I had already used a few other Content Management Systems before arriving at Drupal and all of them with a different set of conventions. Again I was initially learning Drupal not with the intention of using it but so that I could write my magazine article. Only I got hooked and decided to stay for the fun.

How should newbies attack Drupal's learning curve? Practice! Practice! And with a book like Drupal 6 Site Blueprints it is easier to practice. You can of course buy a lot of books which aim to teach you how to use Drupal, hang out in the forums and ask a lot of question; however nobody can teach you how to become a champion golf or tennis player. You must practice and practice. Same thing with Drupal. The book Drupal 6 Site Blueprints gives you 12 hands-on practical assignments to get you on your way. And when you have completed all the projects in the book you should feel more confident to go all out to conquer that great Drupal mountain.

Mike: One of the things that I found very interesting about the book was the fact that even though Timi limited the use of CCK and Views, the result of each chapter was a reasonably complete project. As a good portion of our audience is made up of seasoned Drupal developers, I think that sometimes we automatically assume that we need to use CCK and Views on all Drupal projects (or maybe that's just me!) Timi does a great job of building some reasonably complex sites without falling into that trap. The book does a nice job of showcasing some of the power of Drupal without getting too complex.

Packt Publishing has generously given us a couple of copies of Timi's book to giveaway. To enter to win, simply leave a comment below (be sure to either become a registered user of or include your username so we can get in touch with you if you're the winner) or send us a note using our contact page.

Also - be sure to follow @drupaleasy twitter for almost-daily QuickTips and advanced notice of our Drupal training opportunities.


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Author comment

Hello. Thanks for doing that interview. "Drupal 6 Site Blueprints" sounds like an excellent resource to read for one of my upcoming projects. If I could receive a copy of that book, that would be most appreciated. Thanks!


Submitted by mjross on Thu, 10/22/2009 - 08:58

I would like to have a copy of this book. Thanks for the podcast and for all of the information it provides the community.

Submitted by Guest (not verified) on Thu, 10/22/2009 - 10:46

me wants da book, please!

and thanks for the great interview!

Submitted by felipevaz (not verified) on Fri, 10/23/2009 - 09:18

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