This month’s Net Tuesday meetup will be taking place tonight at Workspace in Gastown. The theme is “How Drupal can help you save the world” and the event will feature talks from Boris Mann (BootupLabs), Scott Nelson and Karianne Blank (FearlessCity.ca), and Phillip Djwa (Agentic). More information is also available on the Facebook event.
My live blog will start at around 5:30pm so please stay tuned to this post to find out more about how these technologies and community builders can assist non profits and create social change.
Update: 18:00 – Boris is the first speaker and notes that while talking to some folks before the event started there are many different versions of what people think the speakers will be addressing tonight. “What is a Drupal?” Well, in Boris’ words, it’s an open source CMS framework – founded in Belgium. The word itself is a mistyping of the Dutch word “village”.
To start, Drupal is a community. Next, open source – what is it? Share, make changes, the code is open to all. This works well in the realm of non profits, and Boris will explain why. “It’s a big toolkit, it can do a lot of things and the open source mission can be tightly coupled to the means of non profits but ultimately it’s a tool kit.”
Boris takes a poll of the crowd to see who is currently running a site with Drupal, then of those who are thinking about using Drupal. For those who do not have a lot of money it is a good solution – it’s about people working together to make features, make things work, create custom tools, and although open source is associated with free you should still be willing to pay for what you want to achieve. Get the right people for the right outcome – pool your resources – and you’ll achieve the best product.
Another reason Drupal is good for the world is that it is multi-lingual and global. Quick plug for the next Drupalcon, taking place in Hungary (August 27-30, 2008).
“You can use Drupal for a lot of different things and you can use it very quickly,” Boris gives an example of a site that was put together over the span of two weeks for teachers in California to interact with their students.
“If you’re going from zero,” Boris states, choose the basics first. You want a blog? Head to WordPress.com and set one up for free (although Boris suggests paying the $10 for domain mapping. Do you want to use video? Sign up for a YouTube account (although I recommend Viddler). Want to send out email newsletters? Use the free features at Feedburner to push your feed and allow people to sign up to it by email.
Looking at the back end of Drupal, Boris claims that dashboard is the reason Drupal can save the world. Want to use Drupal as a wiki? You can do that from here (Boris is setting up a wiki with Drupal in front of our eyes).
Boris also praises Expression Engine, “if you’re going to pay someone to do something that’s not open source – go with EE.” Quick plug for the EE Roadshow happening in Vancouver (on Commercial Drive) September 26th.
On a closing note, Drupal Vancouver group is meeting soon and there’s also a Drupal event coming up in Victoria.
Quick shout out to ChipIn, the super quick and easy way to get a fundraising widget on your website or blog.
Question: If somebody’s created a module that you like, how do you add that to your Drupal site? nswer from Boris: “Download it, copy it to the right spot, there are ways to automate it… but you want a developer – a technical person on your team – that would do that for you.” Boris stresses the importance of having a developer.
Question: Does it scale? Answer: Boris uses an ABC TV show as an example. The development team for that show’s website moved over to Drupal and at one point were handling 300 comments per second – it can work on a big scale. Boris also recommends Joyent for hosting (they currently host Facebook and other heavy-traffic sites).
Update: 18:35 – Now on to the case studies… Scott Nelson and Karianne Blank are here from FearlessCity. They work on “arts and views from the Downtown Eastside” – working locally in our city where folks need the most help.
On the screen behind Scott and Karianne are the following bullet points: “Consult with potential users, evaluate your needs (community vs blogging), decide the size of team needed, build in-house capacity.” Scott reiterates the importance of community, especially online – he also says it’s important that everyone is doing what meets their needs, explore alternatives like WordPress, Joomla, etc. then decide what suits you best. “Ecosystem, not monoculture.”
Karianne now sings the praises of Drupal’s ease-of-use when it comes to look and feel, managing users, customization, and organization. She also says that themes are great – you don’t have to stick with the default blue and white. You can explore and meet those inner designer needs you may have. Finally, the community aspect is what drew FearlessCity to Drupal since it’s all about interaction with their readers and their community on and offline.
Update: 19:00 - Phillip Djwa from Agentic is up now. Drupal and an online presence works hand in hand with these important points when it comes to non profits: It can help expand and build and audience, engage them , organize (volunteers and events) and create a movement. Phillip speaks about a project where they used Drupal for Darfur and the campaign tools they were able to use for the Genocide Intervention Network.
The initiative behind the site (built with Drupal) is to engage and involve students in this effort to raise awareness and take a stand against genocide. The campaign stretches from coast to coast with various levels of outreach, using Drupal allows all 1200 chapters of STAND to mobilize, and organize. Phillip demos a Google Map mashup they have on the site displaying chapter locations, events and tags.
Update: 17:25 - Our parking meter is now about to run out so we have to jet immediately once Phillip is done speaking. Thanks to all of the speakers tonight – it was great to see how people apply this technology to truly making a difference in the world. It seemed like the crowd was developer friendly but there were also some non profits looking for inspiration and perhaps even motivation to get projects like these going.