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The S-Files: Getting the most out of Comment Notify

Tech Support Case Studies

If Facebook has shown us anything, it's that website users like to get timely notifications via email if there is something new to be seen on the site. Acquia Drupal includes the comment notify module that can help achieve this goal for your site. It sends email messages to content authors and commentators whenever new comments are added to content. There are ample subscription options to suit everyone, and an unsubscribe mechanism so that nobody has to endure unwanted items in their inbox.

Design4Drupal Stanford: User Experience Improvements in Drupal 7 presentation

Yesterday we held the second Design4Drupal event at the Stanford Law School. This was an all day event focused on Design and Drupal. I gave a talk which was a combination of two other presentations. I used:

The S-Files: When node_load won't load, and the anonymous user has vanished

Tech Support Case Studies Use these two SQL commands to repair your Drupal 6 site to restore the anonymous user database record:
INSERT INTO users (name, mail) VALUES ('', '');
UPDATE users SET uid=0 WHERE name='';
The symptoms you'll see that tip you off that this is needed:
  1. node_load() is not loading nodes that you can prove are in the node table.
  2. node_delete() is not deleting nodes that you can prove are in the node table.
  3. The query SELECT * FROM users WHERE uid=0; returns zero rows.

Bipartisan Drupal: Scott Brown elected to the Senate using Drupal

Last night Scott Brown, the republican candidate for Senate in Massachusetts, was elected in a special election to fill Ted Kennedy's seat in the Senate.

Drupal has strong roots in the progressive left, through the Howard Dean campaign, and CivicSpace. This certainly isn't in the first republican Drupal site, but it was a high profile site for an important election that could change the direction of the country.

Try Drupal 7 Alpha on your laptop or desktop

If you aren't a professional Drupal developer, or Drupal system admin you might be challenged to get an early preview of Drupal 7. Content professionals, designers, project managers, Drupal business people may be challenged get a working web infrastructure set-up just to check out Drupal 7.

Here is an easy way to get Drupal 7 running on your laptop or desktop. There is also professional documentation for the Acquia stack installer.

Open Government, a citizen's excitement

How refreshing it is when the US Government does something so right that my chest swells with pride and my heart fills with hope! How exciting it is that Drupal and Acquia can play a role in bringing openness to government. I'm referring to the Open Government Directive (OGD), an instruction from the President of the United States to all federal agencies to drastically change the way that government talks to and shares information with the public.

The OGD is predicated on three principles: transparancy, participation, and collaboration. Here I quote from the President's website:

Transparency promotes accountability by providing the public with information about what the Government is doing. Participation allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise so that their government can make policies with the benefit of information that is widely dispersed in society. Collaboration improves the effectiveness of Government by encouraging partnerships and cooperation within the Federal Government, across levels of government, and between the Government and private institutions.

Wake-Up call for media marketers

Last week, I was able to contribute an advice column to Media Posts’ Online Media Daily. In it I talk about what media companies, and specifically media marketers, need to do to take their websites to the next level. At the end of the day it comes down to knowing your audience and building a site that keeps your audience engaged and ultimately serve as your brand’s ambassador. Here are the tips I shared. Comment here to share other best practices and insight.

Features used by 80% of social sites

You might have seen our plans for Drupal Gardens which will be a way to build a Drupal site very quickly. While you'll be able to build any kind of site you need on Drupal Gardens, we're spending a lot of time to make sure that we make it easy for people to build very social sites to promote campaigns, events, products, and businesses. And by social, we mean a site that encourages people to participate and that leverages other social networks.

We'll include a set of social features that most all sites need when we launch:

  • Blogs

Video demo of new Drupal Gardens theme builder features

Some of you may have seen the first Gardens video posted a couple of months ago that shows a pre-alpha version of Drupal Gardens. This new demo video shows you some of the new features we've added to give you more control over the design of your site theme. We want you to be able to design a site with a home page that looks different from interior pages. It's fine for a blog site to have the same layout on all pages, but other kinds of sites need a home page that looks different.

Drupal and the Open Government Initiative Directive: Webinar on Thursday

On Tuesday, the Federal CTO, Aneesh Chopra and CIO Vivek Kundra announced the open government initiative directive. The directive has 4 steps: Publish Government Information Online, Improve the quality of government information, create and institutionalize a culture of open government, and create an enabling policy framework for open government.

CTO Chopra and CIO Kundra Launch Open Government Plan

Today at Acquia we are kicking off a webinar series to address the Open Government Directive. Our first Acquia Webinar today is: The Open Government Directive and Open Source Social Publishing. We will be joined by the NY State Senate CIO, Andrew Hoppin about his movement to implement transparency, participation, efficiency, and collaboration at the state level. If you would like to learn more please register for the webinar and participate in our Q&A session. This will be an ongoing webinar series for all the agencies looking to comply with the various steps of the directive.

Open government is a bold initiative for the US federal government. It is built on an effective model of openness and collaboration best implemented by open source communities like the Drupal community. The Drupal community has a long history of stepping forward to help new users succeed when their organizations need to get websites up quickly. In that spirit, we'll review what hundreds of US government agencies and departments need to get done in 45, 60, and 120 days as part of this directive and how using Drupal can help them succeed in implementing this directive.

1. Publish Government Information Online
Each agency has three major deliverables in the next 60 days. First, they must release 3 new data sets. Drupal supports open data formats and integrates well with existing systems to release data. It's also got strong integration with visualization tools like flash and flex via the services module. To see an example of a Drupal site which exposes data sets, see the Federal IT Dashboard. The most interesting part of this step is the requirements for feedback. Drupal excels at social publishing which allow users to engage with a website using social techniques. While the directive doesn't specify exactly how the agencies or departments should solicit feedback, it does imply that further directives are pending. Agency and Department leaders would do well to select a platform which supports a wide variety of social publishing including: blogging, wikis, commenting, forums, social networks, mash-ups, aggregation, profiles, micro-blogging, and voting. In the Drupal community we've learned that website users want to interact socially in many different ways and it's important to have a flexible platform to meet these evolving needs.

2.Improve the quality of government information
In the next 45 days, hundreds of US Federal agencies and departments will appoint a senior official to be accountable for federal spending information. These newly appointed senior officials will be responding to new requirements from the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget regarding controls over information quality and methods for quarterly reporting. These senior officials would do well to select a powerful and flexible platform that allow for feedback and quality control over their data. Drupal modules like the migrate and backup module suite can be useful for iterating over data until it can be exposed through a Drupal site.

3. Create and institutionalize a culture of open government
Each agency will be releasing an open government plan on both their new webpage or website, agency.gov/open as well have that plan appear on the whitehouse.gov/open dashboard. The plan requires the dissemination of a large amount of data, opportunities for feedback on the plan, requirements that the data be exposed in an open format, as well as integration of press conferences on the Internet. A good example of online press conferences can be done with Drupal is http://whitehouse.gov/live. These agency or department leads should look at the innovations gallery to see an example of how US AID solicited input from citizens, social entrepreneurs, and people in developing countries. The Development 2.0 Challenge is a Drupal site.

4. Create an enabling policy framework for open government
This step calls for agencies and departments to keep up to speed with the latest social publishing techniques to realize the potential for open government. Members of the Drupal community have learned that it's very hard to keep up with the absolute latest trends as a small or even large organization. We've learned that if you pick the right platform for innovation, and a community that has a track record for innovative execution it can be as easy as downloading and installing the latest feature to keep up with new social publishing features.

We know that the path to open government will be a long journey with many challenges beyond just picking a website technology. But the Drupal community offers more than just free and open source software, it also offers industry specific solutions, and examples of successful implementations with complex integrations that are specific to the open government directive. To learn more about how Drupal is being used to accomplish the open government initiative directive plan see:

  1. Drupal transparency site: USA IT Spending
  2. Drupal Participation site: Whitehouse Open for Questions
  3. Drupal Collaboration site: Global Development Commons

You can also register to attend our first Webinar on the open government directive and open source social publishing today. Register now. Look for more webinars from Acquia addressing the open government directive at acquia.com.