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Drupal Commons is growing

At the start of DrupalCon San Francisco, we let folks know that we were working on a new Drupal Distribution called Drupal Commons. As a reminder, Drupal Commons is integrating groups, discussion forums, blogs, wikis, documents, and events into a single packaged solution. It is designed to meet the business needs of enterprises who are looking at solutions like Jive. At the time, I made a screencast to give people a quick look at what it's capabilities are.

Since the time since that initial screencast, we've had a gratifying level of interest in Drupal Commons, and so I thought an update would be useful to share. The interest has been gratifying in two respects: First, that a lot of enterprises immediately see the potential for benefit in their organizations, and second, that these enterprises are providing terrific feedback to us on what they need Commons to do for them. I love being customer-driven, and so we've been working really fast hard to respond to customer desires, and growing Drupal Commons' capabilities to provide what they've been asking for.

The process has been so rewarding I can hardly express my enthusiasm. It has highlighted the beauty of Drupal: speed of development due to the breadth of things available from the community. The Drupal mantra "There's a module for that" has held true in spades. And to our joy, most of the modules we've looked at incorporating are solid, stable, and provide most of what we need. Which means our development speed has been blisteringly fast. And our customer excitement with the results is, well, ... huge. That said, as is also normal for Drupal, there is usually a need to tailor the UX of some of these modules to make a smoother experience for users. (I consider the Commons Theme and the UX still a work-in-progress; but we're working with some of our partners to make big strides here in the next few weeks.)

One of the things we've paid attention to since that original screencast is a question we hear from customers, who ask "How do we grow our community?" We've noticed that, among our customers, many are anticipating having a designated Community Manager whose job it will be to help find ways to build community. This totally rings true for us; not only is Dries a spectacular community leader, and we here at Acquia have subconsciuosly internalized a bunch of the things he says he does to nurture the Drupal community. Leveraging this experience, we've been adding in some tools for community managers into Drupal Commons - like a home page where the community manager can promote featured groups, content, and events as a way to give visibility to things that will grow the community.

So at this point, we've stabilized the key features of providing a solid community groups capability, with support for group documents, discussions, wikis, RSS feeds, and events. In our most recent work, we've also made it a bit more fun, by adding avatars to the Recent Content stream on the dashboard, adding reputation points to user profiles, enabling users to have a more rich profile, showing more complete user listings, adding some drop-down menus for efficiency, etc. We've taken lots of inspiration in these areas from successful community sites like Symantec Connect, Novell Communities, and other successful Drupal community sites.

Given all the changes, I've re-recorded the screencast for Drupal Commons to include all these new changes. Whether you watched the old one or not, go watch this one, and then tell us whether this interests you, and how you'd like to use Drupal Commons for your own needs.

Watch for more progress here as we proceed towards our summer release. To learn more about how social business software will help your business, check out our white paper on Building Enterprise Social Communities using Drupal.


Posted on by wmostrey (not verified).

I'm curious how the Drupal Commons name works with the Drupal trademark. So just like Acquia Drupal wouldn't the product name be Acquia Drupal Commons?

Quoting III.3: The name of your company or organization should be used in combination with the Drupal trademark so that there can be no confusion about the true source (company, organization, association or author) of your product or service.

Posted on by IceCreamYou (not verified).

Good point.

Posted on by Dries Buytaert.

Per the examples in the trademark policy, it doesn't mean it should be called 'Acquia Drupal Commons'. If there is confusion about the source of the product, we should make that clear though.

Similarly, it isn't 'Lullabot Drupal Podcast' or 'Lullabot Drupal Voice' but just the 'Drupal Podcast' and 'Drupal Voices' by Lullabot.

Posted on by sirkitree (not verified).

Actually it is the 'Lullabot Podcast' as jjeff says at the beginning of every episode. "It's... the Lullabot Podcast!" [wah wa wah waaaaa] [queue music] ;)

Drupal Voices is certainly just "Drupal Voices" - but I think that is because they really are the "Voices of Drupal", being interviews of people in the community, and only really associated with Lullabot because Kent is the one who does the interviews and all the work to produce them and release them on the Lullabot site.

Posted on by IceCreamYou (not verified).

Oh good, I think I'll make a distro called "Social Drupal" then and support it commercially.

Posted on by Moshe Weitzman.

Thanks for the demo.

A quick review of the movie leads me to think that you have added user relationships and activity to a stock open atrium install. Thats a nice enhancement for sure. Would be helpful if you would elaborate on how this distro differs from Open Atrium both on a product level and a technical level. If it doesn't differ much, lets try to avoid forking into 2 distros.


Posted on by Ryan (not verified).

Interested to hear the response from Acquia, for sure, but on the other hand, I'm not sure forking is what's happening... or if it is that it would be a bad thing.

I've never known what to make of Open Atrium, and that's probably because I've never needed an intranet. However, companies that do need one should be able to find Open Atrium - that's what the project bills itself as.

I've also never needed a corporate community site, but watching Jay's video, I know that that's what they're developing with Drupal Commons. It's a clear message that companies who do need a corporate community site should be able to find.

I suppose Drupal Commons could be a white labeled Open Atrium with extra Features enabled and an entirely different theme, but I don't know what that gains Acquia or its customers. Acquia seems to have a clear market in mind and should benefit from developing a targeted distribution that they can control and build.

I think we'll need more distributions than less, and the more targeted the better.

Posted on by Dries Buytaert.

We continue to examine whether we should build Drupal Commons on Open Atrium or not. It is one of the reasons we haven't released the code yet.

We are working with DevSeed on a couple of Open Atrium projects, and we continue to recommend Open Atrium.

Either way, I think Ryan is spot on. The community often has multiple initiatives that do similar things. More can be better than less.

Posted on by Steven_NC (not verified).

Great idea. I am sure many large organizations will find the distribution fills their need. But even more significant will be smaller niche users that will never be "enterprise" sized, but still need the functionality in a pre-packaged distribution. This is the type of initiative that will grow Drupal.

Posted on by whoiskevin (not verified).

I think that distributions will serve to expand Drupal's use to the smaller organizations. Big organizations never "need" a distribution but for them it is a demo type of thing that can speed adoption. For the small organizations it is simply having the features ready to go that works for them because they don't have the time or money to invest in consulting for configuration etc.
Drupal Gardens for instance simplifies the creation of a base site. But compared to a distribution like commons or Open Atrium it doesn't solve the real needs for an intranet or customer support portal.
I've done a lot of Jive installations and the key to that environment is having the features like documents and comments and groups ready to go out of the box.

Posted on by gili (not verified).

I think that you need to have a good reason to fork into different distributions.
Presently, I do not know of any such good reason why to fork efforts.
As long as the community leaders cooperate and listen to the needs of the community, any such forking just weaken the original initiative and usually provides an alternative with no significant value.
Drupal would not have been such a great framework if is had been forked like other CMSs. Go ahead and build on top of Open Atrium. Enrich and contribute to Open Atrium as Open Atrium enriches and contribute Drupal.
Fork when you see no reasonable alternative.
Please, keep the efforts together and don't listen to your ego…