Friday, 16 July 2010


I'm very excited! I just looked at a Web site that lists all the "high profile" folks using Drupal for the Web sites. I'm also nervous. The excitement and the nerves are linked. This is because I told Susan a few weeks ago that I would commit to Drupal as the front-end for our archival materials. So, there is a lot to live up to and I'm also stuck with a decision I made, so it is all my fault! No pressure! :-)

Why Drupal?

Well, when I was building the second incarnation of the archive interface (the first was a prototype put together by Susan), it started out as a bunch of Web pages and a Solr-based search engine. The back-end data was created using a combination of source data and metadata gleaned from the EAD catalogue, the output of FTK and a spreadsheet that was the result of some appraisal work by the archivist, all munged together by some Java code that did the transformations, created the thumbnails, etc.

As time moved on it became apparent that additional features would be nice to build into the interface. At least one of the Project Advisory Board members suggested it would be nice to see a more Web 2.0-like features and I've long thought that having reader-generated tags and (perhaps) comments attached to the manuscripts might be a nice idea. Other features also arose, and soon I realised that I'd have to either build database-driven site to make all this happen (which I suspect would've been rather ropey) or, far more sensibly, use one that already existed.

By wonderful coincidence (though the kind of thing that often happens) I saw some emails on the Fedora lists about Islandora. Secretly harbouring a desire to visit Prince Edward Island ;-), I took a closer look and it was there that I chanced on Drupal and it seemed to fit the bill quite nicely, offering comments, tagging, types of content, and user management. Further, it is extensible, has a bewildering, if full of promise API, and will hopefully mean I can build a "publication pathway" that interfaces with the preservation store (indirectly) and can be managed by the archivists in a nice Web-friendly way.

Does the excitement and the nerves start to make more sense now?

It is still early days, but I have re-factored the Java code to output content (fixing a major memory leak in the process!) suitable for import into Drupal and have developed a module that imports that content, including the structure of the collection as Collection - Shelfmarks - Items. It aint much to look at just yet, but it is getting there.

As I have further adventures in Drupal-land I'll keep you updated!

Have a lovely weekend!


Chris Prom said...


Did you consider WordPress? I doubt if the API is as rich, and obviously, it is basically a blogging platform, but there is a nice plug in feature, and generally, the user interface is easier to use than Drupal. Obviously, you aren't going back on your decision at this point, I'm just curious if yo considered it.

pixelatedpete said...

Hey Chris!

Good to hear from you!

The short answer is "no". The longer answer you've already answered pretty much, but to be honest, we didn't consider WordPress as an option.

We could've also used Joomla too and Java-based solutions were also considered - struts for example - which may still be used to underpin some of the front-end stuff.

Drupal's API, in addition to some plug-ins that pretty much directly meet our needs, and that Drupal was already being used by other places (PEI, University of Kent for example), made the (initial) decision pretty simple.

I think you are right about WordPress' user interface being easier, but right now I'm more interested in the API and that I can mould the framework to be act as a CMS for BEAM. I *think*, but I don't know, that this may well be easier with Drupal.

I used WordPress to manage a Web site in a previous role once and while it worked, it always felt like I was shoe-horning a Website into a blog. I guess that is why it didn't feature on our list.

Mind you, I just read that version 7 breaks the old API again and the move (like Ubuntu) is towards non-technical users. Hopefully they'll not forget us developer types!


pixelatedpete said...

I just noticed this too:


Data recovery said...

Really appreciate this post. It’s hard to sort the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it!