Why Drupal Was Chosen to Build a Platform for Global Problem Solving
by Diána Lakatos
Saïd Business School’s GOTO website is the online platform of the Global Opportunities and Threats: Oxford (GOTO) community, an action-oriented problem-solving community tackling the issues the world is facing today. Pronovix became a finalist in Acquia's inaugural Partner Site of the Year Award Program for its work on the SBS GOTO site in the External Community Site category.
The Global Opportunities and Threats: Oxford (GOTO) community connects students, alumni and the faculty from across the University of Oxford and their research via this online platform to discuss, debate, and drive new business ideas that address global issues. They connect and study the issue via this online platform and then have tutorials with faculty from across Oxford. The results of these tutorials is then shared on the platform for the rest of the community to comment, debate and critique.
Acquia, One Ltd. and Pronovix teamed up to build the platform: proof of concept solutions were written by Acquia engineers, One Ltd. created the design and Pronovix built the back and front-end of the site.
After careful examination of the expectations, Drupal was chosen as the CMS for the platform for the following reasons:
- A Drupal site integrates well with the school’s infrastructure: their intranet and other sites are also built on Drupal, their hosting solution is prepared for hosting Drupal sites, and training costs can be greatly reduced because of shared site management and editorial UX.
- We had to integrate the website with the school’s Shibboleth authentication. Since Single Sign-On was also a requirement, we looked at the Shibboleth authentication Drupal module, and it made the integration effortless.
- The Services module proved to be an easy to use tool for sharing data between the sites, which is an obvious requirement for integrated systems.
- The Drupal ajax framework and Views were heavily used for site navigation, while the flexibility of the Flags module made it possible to provide crucial part of the actions and interactions that users needed to be able to do with content (such as bookmarking, marking as read, flagging as inappropriate).
Building a community
The Saïd Business School is a young and modern institution embedded in the University of Oxford, and the look and feel of the site needed to reflect that. The theme wraps the functionality in an advanced, responsive front-end based on One Ltd’s design.
For community building, we implemented social network like features. Community members are notified about new messages, whenever new comments are posted to their content and similar events so that it is easy to keep track of what’s happening in the community — the Messages module handles this part of the functionality.
We used the basic functionality of the Privatemsg module and extended it heavily to implement private messaging between users and groups. We developed a custom solution for group recipients.
As the content will continuously grow on the site, good search was crucial. We developed an advanced search system utilizing the Search API module, which could be easily extended with additional data alterations, to more accurately produce the required search index. Search experience was enhanced further through a special tag cloud widget that works in tandem with other search elements.
To spice things up, we introduced basic gamification elements: users’ activity (new content, comments/votes by others on own content) on the site is visualized as an energy gauge. The measurement is relative to a user’s peers.
Saïd Business School launched its innovative community site in January 2013. As it’s a scalable platform it can later be easily expanded to include other audiences, or repurposed for other school activities.