Training days

Last month I described how we're working to build a next-generation news website management system, based on the Drupal platform. Much of that system has been built out and configured on a development server at work, but there's quite a bit of work remaining.

All this week I'm in daylong training sessions with 10 site developers from three Morris newspapers and Morris DigitalWorks. Many are new to Drupal, so we're covering basic site administration, configuration and operations. They're learning the power that comes with the Views, Nodequeue, Panels and Content Construction Kit modules. They're learning how the templating system gives them total control over presentational details.

When we're done, this will be an innovation platform, not just a content publishing and community platform. They'll be able to take an idea into production quickly.

For example, about a week ago a couple of us were talking about Twitter. The Florida Times-Union has a Jaxdotcom account on Twitter that's very active and rapidly gathering followers. Wouldn't it be great to include it right on the new website? We took that from an idea into a finished product in a little over an hour, using the FeedAPI RSS aggregator, a custom content type, an a custom output template for that type. To add some polish, we whipped up a custom output filter that links Twitter-style usernames like @jaxdotcom directly to their accounts.

Open tools and open platforms are great for developers, but what we really want to do is place this kind of power directly in the hands of content producers. They won't have to know a programming language, or how databases work, or even HTML to create special presentations based on database queries. Need a new XML feed? Point and click. When these folks get back to their respective newspapers, they'll become trainers and resources and spread the knowledge.