Drupal 6: Ultimate Community Site Guide (2nd Edition) was published earlier this year by Sun Flare Ltd.. Dorien was kind enough to participate in an interview with DrupalEasy's Mike Anello.
Dorien Herremans runs Sun Flare Ltd, an organisation that specializes in Drupal development and consulting. She is a MSc Commercial Engineer in Management Information Services from the University of Antwerp, Belgium.
1. Dorien, please tell us a little bit about your book.
The Drupal 6: Ultimate Community Site Guide could be compared to a very long tutorial on how to set up a community site with Drupal 6. Or better yet, sequences of small tutorials, that are integrated. Some of the features that are implemented are profiles, photo galleries, video galleries, forum, walls, private messaging, etc. Throughout the entire book, the reader is guided by the example site drupalfun.com. The implementation of every feature is described in detail, along with example screenshots. In essence, this book takes you by the hand in setting up a full featured community website.
2. How did you get started with Drupal?
Around 7 years ago, I had written my own little cms system to manage the customers and billing of a osteopathic cabinet. While I learned a lot writing the login system, client management functions etc for that first cms, it just made a lot of sense to re-use a well engineered and properly thought over cms-framework. So back around New Years Day 2007, when I needed to create a dynamic community website, I started examining existing cms systems. It took me a month to make a well informed choice between the popular systems around at that time. Drupal 5 had just come out and got my attention. I have been using Drupal ever since and I am so glad that I picked Drupal at that moment. I had no idea that a script could be that flexible and powerful at the same time.
3. The book is written as an how-to guide to build a site like DrupalFun.com - which came first? The web site or the book? What motivated you to write the book?
Another website actually. I had made a dating website in Drupal 5 and it had cost me a lot of time. I had spent hours reading on forums, trying to figure out how different modules fit into each other and I had taken a lot of notes about that. So I started writing a little tutorial. I do that from time to time. Not only to share my experiences with the community, but this is also a great reminder for myself... paper notes tend to get lost, while my tutorials will stay online. Anyway, this particular tutorial became awfully long and I soon realised that it would turn into a full fledged book. So I decided to start on a book, and for that I created the Drupal 6 site Drupalfun. In order for me to remember every little step, I thought that the best way to do this, was to write the book hand in hand with a case study website. It turned out great. Plus, Drupalfun is a fun community for people who have read the book and want to help each other out.
4. In the book you cover many modules including CCK, Views, Panels, and various profile-, media-, community-, and revenue-related modules - what modules do you feel are the most difficult to explain to new Drupal users?
Panels is most definitely one of the more confusing modules to explain. I think it is about the most talked about module on the Drupalfun forum. There have been some huge user interface changes with Panels. The second edition is totally adapted to conform with these changes, but still Panels remains the more challenging module to explain...
5. You seemed to go out of your way in the book to avoid having users creating any custom themes or modules - sometimes by entering PHP code in module configuration screens via the PHP input filter. Obviously, this is a tradeoff between security and complexity - at what point would you recommend users start creating custom themes and modules?
When you are secure enough with the Drupal API, you can fairly easily create your own modules and themes. When do you know that you are secure enought with the API? Well, when you understand it. If you understand what hooks are or what it means when you read $node->id, that's a sign in the right direction. In any case, I would really recommend that you thoroughly read the Drupal online handbook before you venture on your own modules.
6. The Insert View module that you mention in the book appears to have a security vulnerability - can you suggest an alternative method for inserting a view into a Simplenews newsletter?
You are correct. A security vulnerability has been reported a while ago. A solution would be to use the Viewfield module, which basically attaches the view as a CCK field to the simplenews content type.
7. You include an entire chapter on "Making an Income From Your Site" - one of the things I learned from this chapter is AdSense Revenue Sharing. Can you describe this and how to best implement it in Drupal 6 using the Adsense module?
AdSense Revenue Sharing basically means that you share a portion of your AdSense income with the users on your site. So for instance, if a user writes an article on your site, you can choose to display his or her AdSense ads next to the article, but only say 50% of the time. That means that 50% of the revenue that comes from that particular article will be automatically paid by Google to your site's user. In Drupal 6, the AdSense Renvenue Sharing system can by implemented almost out-of-the-box, by means of the AdSense module.
8. The book is written with examples in both Drupal 5 and 6 - do you have plans to upgrade the book (and site) to Drupal 7?
I am currently working on a book for Drupal 7. It will be a very similar approach, but totally updated to match Drupal 7. Since only a beta version of D7 is available at this time and some important community modules are still under heavy development, the final version of the book will available within a few months.
9. How can people get a hold of you for more information?
Dorien has generously agreed to give away two copies of her book to reader of DrupalEasy. If you'd like to register for a chance to win a copy, just leave a comment below - be sure to leave some identifying information so we can contact you if you're selected (like your twitter or drupal.org username).
Very interesting interview. I didn't know about this book, I already registered in DrupalFun to exchange knowledge with other developers trying to build a community site. We already have a community site running with Drupal Commons but definitely we'll have a look at the way DrupalFun was built as it seems to have some components we have not deployed.
My drupal.org username for the draw is isellakuria.
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Very timely! We have been looking at a new project that will ideally involve good use of community tools, profile customization, etc. It sounds like this book would be a great place to start researching a fit between Use Cases, Stories, and what is readily possible without module development.
Hello, and thank you for posting the interview. Please add me to the running for one of those complimentary copies up her book. Thank you!
Great contribution Dorien! I like that you target a less technical audience and try to keep the coding to a minimum. (And thanks for taking the time to do the interview, Mike.)
One thing I'm slightly confused about is the selling of the accompanying DrupalFun distro... I was under the impression that GPL didn't allow for this, and that Drupal was necessarily a service economy. Can anyone point me in the right direction on this? Or is it that you can sell it, but that others are technically free to post it up as well? My impression was that this was the case, and for that reason, most people released the distro for free, then charged people to do set-up (which is an easy sell since they are the authority as the creator.) I just don't see many people selling distros, so I'm a little confused.
Thanks for any clarity you can provide!