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Where's Drupal's welcome mat?

I was on Skype when my jaw dropped. This wasn't the first time that an acquaintance asked me to take some time so he could "pick my brain" about Drupal. And it wasn't the first time that I realized someone had somehow broke in to Drupal via some sort of window, and missed the welcome mat.

a welcome mat
He wasn't the first person I spoke to who had missed CCK & Views. These two modules enable a Drupal user to create unique content types and create custom queries to list selected content on-the-fly. After Drupal core, they are the two most popular modules (See Drupal.org/projects/usage).
Project usage overview
Without those two, and a few other essential modules, Drupal will just seem like an empty sock on your server. The core Drupal you download doesn't "do" much. Anyone reading this who knows Drupal might be thinking: "well, DUH". And anyone closer in the center of Drupal knows there is a rolling, ongoing discussion about this out-of-the-box problem. But to a new user—missing CCK & Views is like, well, missing the point of Drupal. Getting familiar with this Drupal double act is essential for everyone. This includes people who are new to CMSs and experienced web developers and experienced programmers who will soon learn to leverage CCK and Views in their own creations.
Why isn't it glaringly obvious when people come to Drupal? In big NEON lights! Get your custom content and custom displays right here!
Drupal needs a clear welcome mat, and we have one: If you are just starting Drupal, download Acquia's DAMP stack. It has a selection of some of the most popular Drupal modules, including CCK & Views. If you would like to try out Drupal 7, the upcoming version of Drupal, make a site on Drupal Gardens. There's your Drupal welcome mat and introduction.
Over the next week, I'll be posting some thoughts about those first few moments with Learning Drupal, and trying to unpack the notion of a "steep learning curve" and why Drupal is notoriously a tough nut to crack. And of course... I'll be handing out the nutcrackers.
Here's some link love:

Photo Welcome To Interaction by Craig M Dennis on Flickr (cc)


Posted on by susheel (not verified).


An important point, the one you're making...

Two years ago, I started working with Drupal and have grown to love the flexibility it offers. However, if I was not working on a project for which I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO UNDERSTAND DRUPAL to complete, I would never have taken the time to figure out how all the various contrib modules HAVE TO come together in order to create any kind of useful website. I'd most likely be working with Wordpress exclusively, because it works - straight-out-of-the-box.

I 'get' the thinking behind Drupal core, but seriously, there needs to be a lot of rethinking on how new users are introduced to Drupal; and on the Drupal.org website itself... not here. It'll help people avoid the 30-something hours I spent reading up before I actually 'got' how things worked.

Still, thanks for this post. I'm sure it'll bring to light some of the issues that newbies have. I'm sure many of you veterans find it 'normal', but the barrier to entry is still too high, and has got to be brought lower.

Posted on by heather.

Hello Suheel,

Thanks for the comment. I know what you mean about "getting the thinking". After laying this welcome mat, I'll be making more posts that talk about the threshold concepts of Drupal that must be grasped early.

Please stay tuned :) I'd love your feedback.

- Heather

Posted on by Boris Mann (not verified).

If one company owns the "welcome mat"… we've already lost. One of Drupal's strengths is the ecosystems of companies, community, and everyone else that works together. Everyone works together to make the base better.

Perhaps we as a community should work on a MAMP (or whatever) distribution that is hosted on Drupal.org. What do you think?

Posted on by Dries Buytaert.

Drupal has many 'welcome mats'.

Distributions are one of various ways to dip your toes into Drupal -- from Open Atrium to Open Publish to Acquia Drupal and (soon) Drupal Commons.

Drupal Gardens is a tremendous way for people to get started with Drupal -- a 100% free Drupal 7 site in minutes. What is not to like? ;)

Not to mention cPanels and Plesks -- but they don't ship with CCK and Views.

Each of those 'welcome mats' have their pros and cons and cater to different audiences. That is fine. If we want Drupal to succeed and be significant, we need many different welcome mats. Many more than we have today.

Posted on by jephilli (not verified).

I'm definitely interested in and will be following these posts. Even though i have picked up a lot I still am curious which 'huge gaps' are still present in my understanding of how to use Drupal.

Jeff Phillips
Associate Director of Web Technologies
College of Engineering, Virginia Tech

Posted on by heather.

@Jeff, I bet you've grasped the main threshold concepts in Drupal :) I'm talking about those people who are just making it in the door. You're probably up on the 2nd floor already!

@Boris, that is a good idea. Especially for Drupal 7 +. I think the community is leaning towards this. Features, drush make, package management, and of course the distributions.

I'm especially excited by the proposal that people would be able to select their own package set for download. (Trying to find the link, but lost it!)

The MAMP and DAMP installers make it easier to manage databases and connections. It's nice having the Drupal-specific settings in DAMP too.

Has the community looked into it? AFAIK the software source code the Acquia DAMP stack is in can't be distributed. Not sure what it entails myself. I know it is a job on its own for someone in engineering, so I assume it would require some heavy lifting on the part of a project maintainer.

Posted on by Bryan House.

Another good intro resource is the Getting Started with Acquia Drupal and Acquia Network webinar I've done in the past - the first 20 minutes or so are Drupal basic concepts: http://acquia.com/community/resource s/acquia-tv/getting-started-acquia-d.... Both slides & recording are available at the link.

Posted on by Socks (not verified).

Also consider that by setting the bar slightly higher as far as learning curve goes, it's forcing people to go through a high value learning process too. Those same people could be highly skilled programmers, designers, writers etc that can all add value to the project. If they're forced to learn, they may just stick around and contribute, or recommend Drupal for their next project.

Hey I noticed your "DAMP Stack" you're talking about here, and just a suggestion, but setting up a Linode Stackscript (very easy for one of your programmers by the way, just basically a bash type script that does the install commands) would help get your releases out there. Lots of people recommending Linode these days, and it would help anyone get your software up within minutes on a fast host for $20 a month, no knowledge required.

One more thing.. I noticed on your signup page there's a place where you can upload an image, and it says maximum 300k. However I picked the wrong file, couldn't back out of it once a file was selected, re-selected 4-5mb .mp3, and it uploaded it, then failed.. Possible security hole, maybe I could upload a GB file? :)

Posted on by sun (not verified).

Odd. This is what I relate with the term "drupal.org redesign". I was under the assumption our goal was to solve exactly that problem space by redesigning and restructuring drupal.org.

Daniel F. Kudwien
unleashed mind

P.S.: JavaScript error in my face upon initial visit as anonymous:
_lf_remora() is not definedhttp://acquia.com/blog/heather/drupals-welcome-mat-beginnersLin e 389

Posted on by heather.

@socks - I think I understand- you mean the "higher value" is what people place on the knowledge, because they had to struggle for it? My worry is they could instead just think Drupal is a PITA and just not use it at all. They miss out on the commonly used modules and miss the magic.

@sun - I think the redesign will definitely help so much. Especially if it leads people to see the most popular, widely used modules and that is pushed up front to new users from the start. It's just so common, (at this stage, before the design is released) I talk to people who've missed this essential double act: CCK & Views, and other goodies that are commonly used.

Thanks for the javascript error info, I'll pass that on.