Friday, November 28, 2008

Week 13: Drupal Class

The Beginning Drupal class on November 20 went well. We had about 25 attendees, and aside from the fact that the Internet connection was a little problematic in our classroom, there were no major snafus. I'm now moving on to the second class, which is officially on the calender for Dec. 4th. There are a number of people from the first class who have already signed on for the second one. With the first class under my belt, planning the next one should be less work. I'm actually rather enjoying the process, especially the feeling that I'm helping facilitate a community around campus. The interest is out there; all that's needed is a little organization to get things off the ground, and people seem genuinely grateful for the opportunity to get training.

Last week I also made progress on the Portal Community Interface template. After messing around with Drupal all semester, I realized I'd finally gotten to the point that I feel like I know what I'm doing when I use it. I'm hardly an expert, but I don't have to spend a lot of time figuring out how to do basic things anymore, which is satisfying. I still have more work to do on the CPI template, but I think I should have a good working draft by the end of next week.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Week 12: Event Coordination

Last weekend I was at the Midwest Archives Conference symposium on digital preservation in Lawrence, KS, which means I once again have two weeks worth of blogging to catch up on. And once again, it was a busy two weeks. Before leaving town on Thursday the 6th, I was scrambling to get ready for our consultant's visit the following week. This involved finding available space on campus to hold two public presentations, one on Tuesday evening and another on Wednesday morning; sending out last minute emails to advertise the events; getting information for a press release; and having a conference call with David (the consultant from CTC).

It was a little crazy, but everything turned out fine. Unfortunately I couldn't attend the Tuesday presentation on building digital communities because I had class, but I heard it was well-attended. On Wednesday morning, we had a two-hour consulting session to talk about the Community Information Portal, which I thought went really well. Then came the second presentation, which was about Drupal modules and drew an even bigger crowd than the previous night's. All in all, I thought the visit was a success.

I couldn't rest on my laurels though, because I still had the Nov. 20 Drupal class to finish coordinating. This took up a good deal of my time last week. Almost 30 people are expected to attend, and I've been fielding emails from them. Cliff and Matt Arant will be leading the class, and we had a meeting on Thursday to plan the course. Since the first class is covering basic Drupal skills, we also decided to follow up with a second, more advanced class on site building in December. This will be taught by Daniel Walls, a student in the Engineering Department. So now I've begun planning that as well, and will simultaneously need to organize the 2-day training workshop we're planning for December or January.

Somewhere in there I also need to work on the Portal Community Interface (not to be confused with the Community Information Portal), but that's a topic for another post. Hopefully I will have some progress to report on that next time.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Week 10: A List

The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy, therefore I'm going to make things easier by briefly listing what I've been up to:
  • didn't go to DrupalCamp in Chicago (too much other work to do that weekend);
  • scheduled a pre-training Drupal basics class in the Information Arcade for Nov. 20;
  • found some potential volunteers (grad students in the Engineering dept.) to teach the class with Cliff;
  • spoke more with Chicago Technology Cooperative about having them come to Iowa City to conduct the 2-day training in early-mid December (still working on the logistics);
  • also discussed having one of the CTC people come to the WiderNet office to consult on the CIP project, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 10 or 11 but yet to be finalized;
  • posted an ad on for someone to develop the CIP site-builder interface, also sent CTC specifications for the interface and got a REALLY high price quote (I'll be talking with Cliff and them about it more next week);
  • was contacted by someone with an organization similar to CTC called Net2Community, who is working on a somewhat similar project, and scheduled a call with him for next week to discuss potential collaboration;
  • started a new people directory template in Drupal;
  • did a fresh Drupal installation so the database can be copied and used for future templates;
  • worked on installing and using some new modules.
Next week I'll be meeting with Tom Burns and Cliff to hopefully finalize the 2-day training. There is still much to be done before the end of the semester, and I'm getting a little worried about having a CIP prototype ready to show Intel in December or January. I'm at the point in the project right now where I have no idea how everything is going to get pulled together, and I feel like there's only so much I can do by myself. I'm hoping that everything will magically fall into place during the next month and a half, in the meantime I'll just keep plugging away...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Week 8: New Collaborations

Last week Cliff and I spoke with the Chicago Technology Cooperative, whom I mentioned in my previous post. They said they liked the sounds of our project and are interested in collaborating with us, so we talked about how that might happen. They indicated they would be able to come to Iowa City to conduct a Drupal training, and since they cater to nonprofits their rates are fairly reasonable, so we are pursuing that option. They may also consult with us remotely on development of the CIP portal. I'm glad we happened to stumble upon their website.

I also met with Jim Elmborg this week to discuss Drupal and getting SLIS involved in the training. He offered to help with planning, funding, and recruiting attendees from other departments, which will be a big help and gets us one step closer to getting the training off the ground.

Cliff and I have also been discussing driving to Chicago for Drupal Camp, which is a conference being held Oct. 24-25. I've emailed other staff at Widernet to see if we could get a group together and take a university van. It's a big maybe, but it would be a good way to learn about Drupal and network with the Drupal community (as well as meet the Chicago Tech people, who will be attending).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Week 7: Workshop Planning

I'm a little late posting about last week's goings-on. During the beginning of the week, I spent a lot of time in Drupal configuring views and user permissions for the sample template. I presented this to Cliff in a meeting on Thursday and got feedback about what changes could be made. Overall I felt like I had made a lot of progress with that part of the project. I also started documenting what I'm learning about Drupal and how I've used it to create the template.

Following that meeting, we had another one with Tom Burns and Mark Hale from ITS. We talked about getting a Drupal training organized and agreed on next steps for accomplishing this. Tom was going to contact Matt Westgate from Lullabot to follow up on a potential training over Thanksgiving break. He also volunteered to send out a survey on the U of I developer's website he runs, to gauge interest. Mark offered to investigate room reservations and funding possibilities.

I felt like we really got the ball rolling on making the Drupal workshop a reality, and it was satisfying that our plans were starting to take shape. The meeting also led to a couple of breakthroughs. First, we stumbled upon a website for the Chicago Technology Cooperative, which conducts Drupal trainings for non-profits. I sent them an email afterward to inquire about the possibility of consulting with them on the project. Second, the meeting gave me the idea that SLIS could be involved with the training. I emailed Jim and Padmini proposing that SLIS students might want to attend, and received enthusiastic responses, including offers of funding to support the event.

The collaborations I've been working to foster for the last month or so are starting to come together, and I think we're gaining momentum. The important thing now will be to keep people interested/excited in the training.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Week 6: Odds 'n Ends

Just a quick recap of last week: I sent out a few more emails to possible collaborators, but have gotten limited responses. That part of the project seems to have stalled. I'm still trying to set up a meeting with Tom Burns and Cliff to talk about organizing a Drupal training. I worked on project documentation, and spent more time online looking at design templates. I downloaded Elgg, the open-source social networking software, but was unsuccessful in completing the installation. I also worked on finalizing the list of fields to be included in the CIP templates.

My triumph for the week was finally figurung out how Views works in Drupal. This will let us create customized lists of content, so that each time a content provider adds a new entry to a directory, it will automatically be filtered for the list in that category. I still have some tweaking to do, but at least now I understand how it works.

This week, I'll be putting an ad up on the site so we can hopefully hire someone to create the user interface. Also will be continuing with the previously mentioned tasks, and whatever else happens to come up.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Week 5: Networking

This week I focused on trying to locate the Drupal community in Iowa, in the hopes of getting people to help us execute the project. I contacted a "virtual" company, Lullabot, that specializes in training people in Drupal; Cliff and I spoke with them and there is a possibility they may do some training for us in November. I also found an Iowa users group on the Drupal groups website and put up a post asking for help. I was invited to their monthly meeting next week in Ames, but am unable to attend. The responses I got did show interest in the project, so I'm hoping I can figure out a way to work with them.

I also contacted an instructor in the Art department about the possibility of arranging for design students to "donate" templates for the interface. I emailed my Electronic Publishing instructor from last spring to ask his advice, and I also found a person in the ITS department who is a Drupal enthusiast and is involved in the developer community on campus. Cliff and I will be meeting with him, hopefully next week (incidentally, this led me to discover that there will be a "Code Camp" in Des Moines in November, which might be a good place to learn about Drupal and meet collaborators). Finally, I emailed Bharani, the new tech support person for the digital fellows, to see if she might also be a resource on the project.

So I basically have a lot of balls up in the air right now, and it will take some time for them to lead to anything concrete, but I feel like I've made progress. The challenge will be to get people who say they're interested in the project, to actually commit to working on it -- especially if it's on a volunteer basis.

Other things on my plate: looking for sample interfaces -- mostly site builders, which is pretty much the functionality we want. I especially like Google Sites and Weebly; they both have clean, uncluttered design and user-friendly interfaces. I'm also working on making a web page for the CIP project on the Widernet website, as an informational tool for people who may be interested in working on it. Also, I'm narrowing down the possible features and functions that we will want to include in each template.