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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.

Debunking Drupal myths - Part two: Community controls

In installment one of this Debunking Drupal Myths series, I mentioned that the proprietary software companies who are starting to see Drupal on their competitive screen are worried. They're using the classic FUD technique -- trying to raise Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt about Drupal's capabilities. And so I started this series to start to debunk the FUD. Our first case dealt with Content Control.

GOSCON: Drupal rocks 50 national government sites

"GOSCON is the the premier annual government open source conference for government information technology leadership". This Thursday, Acquia will be helping with the Drupal booth at GOSCON. We are going to be joined by Ian Cairns from Development Seed, Kurt Voelker from Forum One, Douglas Morrison from World Zhulu, and Bryan Colligan VP of FinalView.com. It's great to have a diverse representation of the Drupal project after we put out a call for volunteers.

CCK & Fields UI improvements

I've spent a bit of time looking at the CCK UI for D7 and it has some real pain points. For starters, all content types have custom fields, yet upon submitting the basics (title and publishing options), we send users back to the listing of content types vs. port them into fields. I could go on, and gladly will if you call me out on it. For now, I want to focus on how I've tried to make it better. It's lofty, and probably still needs some tweaks, but I think it's a huge improvement.

To begin, I went about tackling this UI with some guiding principles in mind:

    Sneaky Drupal Pagers

    See the update at the bottom!

    Drupal’s pagers are neat, and when they were first developed, were way ahead of their time. They also have a couple problems. One of them is scalability. When you’ve got 10,000,000 somethings, calculating how many pages there are so that you can skip to the last one is time consuming.

    Views 3 + Apache Solr + Acquia Drupal = The Future of Search

    For the last six months, Scott Reynolds has been keeping a big juicy secret. As the maintainer of the Apache Solr Views module, he knows just how cool the future of Drupal Search is going to be. His module, based on an idea and code from Thomas Seidl, lets you make custom searches against the Solr index the same way you currently make views against the MySQL database.

    The S-Files: Acquia Drupal Stack installer Got packet bigger than max_allowed_packet bytes

    Tech Support Case Studies

    The S-Files are a taste of the support that you get with a subscription to Acquia Support. Our support team helps you solve technical problems relating to your Drupal sites.

    The Acquia Drupal Stack installer is a major productivity booster for getting up and running in the development of your Drupal site. Sometimes, though, Drupal modules like to cache huge data packets in the database. This results in an error in your browser that says this:

    Got packet bigger than ‘max_allowed_packet’ bytes

    This is an indication that the data being sent between Drupal and the database is large, and exceeds the default setting.

    Fortunately the fix for this is easy. In the application installation directory of the stack installer you'll find the following directory and file:

    Applications/acquia-drupal on my Mac

    Edit the my.ini file with whatever text editor you like, and add these lines to the end:

    #Max packets
    max_allowed_packet = 128M

    Now stop and start the Acquia Drupal Stack using the Acquia Drupal Control Panel, and the new setting will come into effect. This should solve your max_allowed_packet problem!

    10 usability guidelines

    Smashing magazine recently published an article titled "10 useful usability findings & guidelines." There's a lot of good information here for both core committers and themers.

    Of the findings, I found myself disagreeing with only one - "Most users do not scroll." In my testing, I've found the opposite - so long as false bottoms are not present. To avoid false bottoms, make sure content or design elements run past the bottom of your browser. See illustration below.

    Gardens Usability Testing - Rd 1 filled

    I wanted to thank everyone who signed up for Drupal Gardens usability testing. I received a lot of requests - unfortunatly I won't be able to accept all of them.

    Usability testing focuses on a subset of tasks and requires only 6-10 users to identify problems. Any number greater than 10 merely reveals the same problems over and over again. Thankfully, D7 and Drupal Gardens are both feature rich, so there will be many more tests in the very near future.

    Thanks so much,
    Jeff Noyes