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Drupal 6 Social Networking 122

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
dag writes "Drupal 6 Social Networking is an interesting book about how to build social networks and why Drupal is a good choice as a platform for building communities. Even if you don't have any Drupal experience yet, this book explains what is needed when you start from scratch and looks at the different facets of a social network." Keep reading for the rest of Dag's review.
Drupal 6 Social Networking
author Michael Peacock
pages 312
publisher Packt Publishing
rating 8/10
reviewer Dag Wieers
ISBN 978-1-847196-10-1
summary Building community websites using Drupal as a content management framework
The book starts off with a short introduction about social networks and a list of compelling reasons why one wants to set up her own social network rather than using an existing social network like Facebook or MySpace. It all comes down to what your particular goals are. The first chapter looks into why Drupal is a good fit for building a community website. Its modular design, use of known technologies and ease of installation, as well as the ample availability of modules help in that respect, and also clearly marks where the book is going next. The other half of the first chapter explains in great detail what is needed during the installation of Drupal to have a working setup. If you are already experienced with setting up Drupal you can skim through this chapter to verify that you did not miss anything with earlier installations.

The second chapter prepares the reader for using Drupal specifically targeted for building a community website. To do this the author comes up with his own example (Dino Space) which is used throughout the book. And while the subject may be far-fetched and very different from what you plan to do, it serves its purpose well. Throughout this chapter the author explains many Drupal related concepts and terminology like Nodes, Content Types or Blocks and how to use these to your advantage when designing your site.

So while the first and second chapters explains and prepares the reader, chapter three helps with important decisions regarding user contributed content and all aspects related to it. User Roles, Comments, Polls, Forums and Blogs. One thing that surprised me was how it is possible to write blog entries from Microsoft Word using a standardized API. And while it is not applicable to me (as a Linux user) I can see some benefit for others within the targeted community. Another topic from the book that I had little experience with is collaborating on a Book within your community. I was always amazed by the annotated PHP manual in the past and this possibility reflects that effort a great deal. The chapter also includes attention to how to automatically generate feeds or include feeds from others, something that helps growing the community.

The next chapter goes into how users can maintain their profiles, how profiles can be extended and themed and how profiles can be shared between websites. It also looks into specific modules to help you eg. integrate OpenID or avatars from other websites. Chapter five explains how users can interact and how the User Relationships and User Activity modules allow users to promote their own content and actions on their site. Much like how Facebook becomes a time log of individual actions of our friends. It also looks at Guestbooks, Contact forms and Groups covering more than I was looking for myself.

One thing I recently had to look into myself was how to communicate with your users. Some users register and then loose touch so there is a clear need to regularly update them about what is happening and what new content is available and that's where chapter six explains how to set up Newsletters or connect your social network to online services like Google Groups.

Drupal is mostly respected for its modular design and Drupal's author often states "If it cannot be done from a module, then that's a design bug which needs to be fixed". That said, almost everything is possible from a module, which offers great flexibility to anyone deploying Drupal to customize it to its own needs. Chapter seven explains in some detail how to write your own Drupal modules from accessing the database, interacting with other services as well as making it installable and customizable. The example shows how to interact with Google Maps from a Drupal module. But also points to similar modules for connecting to Facebook.

Another important aspect of any website is its design, chapter eight shows how to install and configure additional themes, but also explains how to modify existing templates and tweak CSS files. It does not go into great detail though, but it sufficiently points out where to look and how to experiment.

The last two chapters are a bit dim, chapter nine explains how to secure your Drupal site from automated spam and lists a few maintenance tasks every admin should know about. Much like chapter nine, chapter ten does not go into a lot of detail about how to promote your website. It mostly lists important aspects and in some cases provides links to experienced websites.

All in all I was surprised by the many items this book covers, especially the chapters about writing modules and modifying themes is something most buyers will not expect in a Drupal book regarding Social Networking. And while I believe there are better books about those topics, in general this book is a good introduction to Drupal and a guide for those who are also interested in the more advanced parts of Drupal.

I was particularly interested in this book as I set up my own family website based on Drupal and I wanted to know what technologies I missed, and what additional modules I could use to make our own family website better. In that regard this book confirmed for a large part that what I did with Drupal was how it was supposed to be, but I did learn some new tricks and new modules I never investigated before. This knowledge undoubtedly will be useful for some future Drupal-based projects as well.

You can purchase Drupal 6 Social Networking from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Drupal 6 Social Networking

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  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @03:24PM (#30147432)

    It'll be coming to a corporate network near you real soon.

    I just want a workflow system that I don't have to write code.

     

  • Elgg (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PerfectionLost (1004287) <ben AT perfectresolution DOT com> on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @03:41PM (#30147652)
    I've been a fan of this open source social network for a bit. http://www.elgg.org/ [elgg.org]
  • Drupal is for coders (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @04:08PM (#30147942) Homepage
    If you speak PHP, then Drupal is for you. Hack it to your heart's content. If you are a mere human looking for a turnkey FOSS CMS, Drupal kind of sucks. The main problem is the modules. Sure, Drupal is modular, but unless you can take apart code, you're going to be out of luck when your calendar module affects your classified ads module for some bizarre and unexplainable reason. Or, when you have to perform a critical security update that breaks (in various unpredictable and subtle ways) the functionality of various modules. Stock Drupal is rather pointless unless you've got a couple dozen modules installed. Let's see, what else...oh yeah the forum sucks donkey balls. My users repeatedly complained about it, and when I said something about it on drupal.org, I was told that I my users' comments were not welcome, the developer appeared shocked that anyone might have a had different experience than he did, and my comment was deleted. I managed to cobble together a working site...barely. I've solved so many different problems that I'm afraid to add more functionality for fear I'll break something (again). But if you can code in PHP, then Drupal is great to invest a lot of time in fixing its problems. You'll end up with a spiffy looking website that does everything you want it to - you wouldn't even know it was Drupal except for the distinctive URLs. On non-coder websites like mine, a glance tells you it's Drupal, even if you change the theme. Yeah sure, I'm supposed to hire a developer to work on it for me. If I had money coming out of my ears, I wouldn't have chosen a FOSS CMS. I'm mostly satisfied with my site, but if I had known ahead of time how much effort and hair-pulling it was going to be, I would have chosen something else or just bitten the bullet and paid $$$$ for closed-source software.
  • by operator_error (1363139) <spztoid@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @06:43PM (#30149910)

    Folks, have you heard of Deanspace? As in Howard Dean's web-enabled CRM that was widely reported as a successful fund-raising tool, that propelled Dean ahead toward's a democratic presidential victory, until John Kerry pulled ahead?

    The folks that came together and collaborated on Deanspace open-sourced it. It was based on Drupal, and their powerful CRM back-end was spun-off and is now a very successful project called www.civicrm.org. These days, it makes sense to integrate both with transparently, which is well-documented. This is one single nice recipe, for example.

    Think of it like Drupal as a client-facing front-end. Clients (the public?) can register with the site, lose their password and reset it, change newsletter subscriptions, that sort of thing. CiviCRM is the all-knowing powerful back-end. AFAIK CiviCRM is _well_ financed by political parties of all sorts, and they do a great job, I think. You can add Ubercart as an e-commerce transaction engine as well, which ties in nicely with your CRM engine.

    Imagine folks, you COULD make your own facebook or myspace or youtube or flickr easily using Drupal, and even manage transactions. There's nothing stopping you, as a professional, if this is what you want to do. Drupal has a huge and enthusiastic community of developers. Drupal sites can easily become the 'front-end' developers use to create facebook applications.

    It is worth checking out the live demo on their site, if for no other reason than to see exactly what it is capable of, and what political parties want to keep track of, (stock out of the box). Like: who is related to who. And, 'what is this person's most important issue?' with choices like gun rights, pro-life/choice, etc.

  • Re:Cool Book! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @01:00AM (#30153118) Homepage Journal

    it's the first time I've felt the simplicity and friendliness on an Internet forum that good old BBSes had back in the 80s.

    You might also enjoy Citadel [citadel.org], which started life as a BBS package and is now popular as a groupware platform. People are still using it to run online communities, too.

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