Content Management Systems (CMS)

Remote blog writing under Drupal 7 - Mars Edit & me

Submitted by Sam Moore on Wed, 04/09/2014 - 21:10

MarsEdit3Icon256

For several years, I've been using and recommending the excellent Mars Edit for folks who want to write blog posts offline for later uploading.

There are several reasons for people to want to do this - for one thing you can work on several articles at once, without having to flip between browser tabs. Also the better offline editors have good media management, allowing the user to upload images from the desktop easily, and in some cases even pull from iPhoto, or from previously published stories, without breaking the flow of writing. Even the best WYSIWYG editors that work in-browser can't quite match the ease of use and basic unobtrusiveness of a good offline editor.

One user has also points out that she feels safer having a local copy of her posts available as backup, or in case she wants to pull a bunch of posts together for a story collection or a book.

In any case, offline editors are popular, and Mars Edit is one of the best (Mac only, sorry).

So when I recently updated this site to Drupal 7, I figured everything would Just Work, as they say - silly me. There are some configuration issues on the Drupal side that have kept me busy today - nothing that was Mars Edit's fault. It all comes down to setting up BlogAPI correctly.

Just by way of background: Drupal requires the addition of the BlogAPI module in order to provide a web service that allows remote posting in the manner we're looking for here. BlogAPI will accept POST methods, authenticate the user, parse the provided xml, and create or update the node for you. It will also accept images and put them in the Drupal file hierarchy, so that they can be referenced by your post. However, these images need to be encoded as text, because of the xml-based conversation that it's having with the remote client.

Drupal uses the Movable Type API, which is quite well supported generally, and Mars Edit is smart enough to know that - so that when you set up your blog account in Mars Edit for the first time, it generally gets the settings correct.

There are a few gotchas though, and as I spent a good few hours on this, I thought I'd share:

Firstly, you need to get BlogAPI installed. Install it as you would any other Drupal module, but be sure to turn on the supporting API providers - MetaWeblog and Movable Type - in the Modules list. Apparently we need both, as some key functions seem to reside in MetaWeblog.

Next, be sure to grant permissions. This may seem obvious, but I spent a frustrating hour trying to post images as the superuser, and failing. Even if your account is UID=1, you'll still need to create a role, add yourself to it, and give it perms for BlogAPI. If you don't, you'll be able to post text just fine, but BlogAPI will refuse your images, because you won't have a valid file upload limit.

If you'd like to be able to push posts up in Draft (unpublished) status, you'll need "Administer Content" perms as well - grant that to your role, again even if you're user #1.

Finally, if you're getting complaints about the SQL schema, as I was, just uninstall BlogAPI (that means uninstalling the providers first - and I do mean uninstall at /admin/modules/uninstall, not just "turn off"). Turn BlogAPI back on again, and it will re-make the database tables it needs. You will then have to reactive the providers, and set everything up again at /admin/config/services/blogapi. I think this may have something to do with the update - perhaps the BlogAPI updater doesn't quite handle the jump from D6 to D7. Anyhow reinstalling solved it for me.

A few notes about The Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights site

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 03/27/2014 - 14:14

CGSHR Homepage

The new site for
The Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights
had its "soft-launch" yesterday. The site is live and usable, but the owners still have a few things they'd like to tweak.
Little do they know, web sites are never really finished - so for all intents and purposes, this is the real thing.

Probably the most interesting part of the project from my point of view was the heavy customization of Apache Solr search results, and the whole search experience. This was mostly accomplished via templates in the site's theme. I'll share a few details in case anyone's interested.

To begin with, this is a Drupal site - specifically D7. The owners had an initial design and a sort of prototype site built by a previous developer in D7, which they handed off to me. That work was done cleanly and competently, but it was clear the client wanted to go so much further than the original builder was prepared to go. I'm not sure what transpired, though I did have a friendly chat with them, but in any case they were out of the picture by the time I got involved.

When I received the site, the first thing I did was to stage it on my Drupion server. Drupion are like family to me, and I've trusted them to help me grow my Drupal business, so it was an easy pick. When the client agreed to host with me for production, that made the decision that much more rational.

Drupion got Solr and Tika set up right away. Solr is a much more powerful search tool than the built-in Drupal search, capable of handling a very large number of indexable items. More info on that here. It runs as a separate server process, and needs about half a Gig of RAM. Tika is an add-on to Solr, which allows searching inside documents such as Word, PDF and other files that are not normally presentable on the web. The client has quite a number of academic research papers and other documents in these formats, so the ability to search inside them was essential.

Once Solr was running and had started indexing the site's content, we looked at what Facets to use for searches. Facets are basically filters - they allow you to limit searches to, say, one content type, or a particular taxonomy term.

Solr_Search

Above, you can see the some of the facets for the overall site search Here we've searched for "Gender" - a term guaranteed to return lots of results on this site.

On the left are check boxes that allow the user to narrow down the search to a particular Country, Region, etc. There's also a facet for Content type. On this site, content types mostly correspond to the type of document or media being shown - Citations, Research, Films, etc.
But you can restrict your search to one content type equally well by using the tabs along the top of the main content area - Films, Lectures, etc.
Clicking one of these will retain the same search terms, but narrow your results down to a single content type (if you want to search 2 content types, you'll have to use the checkboxes on the "All" tab).

In order to get these individual tabs implemented, I set up a separate search environment for each of the key content types. This allowed me to set facets and Bias for each (which we may want to leverage later).

Screen Shot 2014 03 27 at 2 07 15 PM

Next, I made pages for each content type. Each Page has its own title, and most of them (except "All") are limited to a particular Bundle (bundles are essentially content types, at the machine level. Check out D7's Entity system for more info). Because they all have paths that look like /search/--bundle--, they're showing up as tabs on the /search page. Neat :-)

Screen Shot 2014 03 27 at 2 09 53 PM

In my next post I'll show how Facet blocks are set up, and talk about theming the search results. Finally, I'll show some of the Views on the site, which offer more of a browsing experience, which I think complements the Search pages nicely.


Link

Google Docs to support 250 MB uploads

Submitted by Sam Moore on Wed, 01/13/2010 - 17:56

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Google Docs will soon be supporting uploads of up to 250MB, in all file types.
Google's Docs and Wave products are starting to look like a real collaboration solution, especially for loosely allied or ad-hoc teams which may not have any need for a real infrastructure of their own (I work with a shifting coalition of collaborators, in just such a scenario).
Does that mean that workflow or asset management within an organization is no longer necessary? I don't think so - I see Google as a better solution at the fringes, where organizations interact, and where the greatest communications difficulties typically are.

In other news, YouSendIt is looking a little green around the gills...

Google release

O'Reilly on the Whitehouse.gov switch to Drupal

Submitted by Sam Moore on Tue, 10/27/2009 - 13:14

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Following up on the news that whitehouse.gov has been migrated to Drupal, Tim O'Reilly comments on the O'Reilly Radar site.

Among other things, O'Reilly points out that having a high-profile target like this using OSS software validates the long-understood advantage of open source in the security arena. But there's more:

More than just security, though, the White House saw the opportunity to increase their flexibility. Drupal has a huge library of user-contributed modules that will provide functionality the White House can use to expand its social media capabilities, with everything from super-scalable live chats to multi-lingual support.
In many ways, this is the complement to the Government as Platform mantra I've been chanting in Washington. When you build a vibrant, extensible platform, others add value to the foundation you establish; when you join such a platform, you get the benefit of all those features you didn't have to develop yourself.



So is the White House actually creating a user community around their website, in the best Web 2.0 fashion? Well, not yet - right now there's no interactivity to speak of on the site, and no indication as to what the plans are.

O'Reilly post

AP news release, via Huffington Post

Drupal lead Dries Buytaert's comments

CIOs are starting to take notice of Drupal | Dries Buytaert

Submitted by Sam Moore on Tue, 08/04/2009 - 21:59

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Drupal founder Dries Buytaert has a piece on his personal blog about ways in which Drupal is overcoming the hesitation of CIOs to abandon big expensive "enterpise" content management platforms, in favor of OSS solutions like Drupal. You know - the ones they spent, oh, say, $500K on the first year...?

Here's a list of reasons for picking Drupal, from the use case:

The decision for IMO to use Drupal came after an unsuccessful attempt to build out In-Fisherman.com with another CMS. The deciding factors for selecting Drupal were:

  • Scalability - Drupal was perceived as the most scalable and extensible open source option.
  • Cost - No licensing fees.
  • Multi-site / multi-database architecture - Drupal’s flexible multi-site configuration would allow IMO to store content and user data in multiple databases for a single site. Multiple databases would keep distinct areas of the site operational in the event of database failure from server load. The user data is stored in its own database and the gear/angler/www sites are set-up to seamlessly pull user data from that separate database.
  • Hosting - The expected traffic for the site demanded a low-cost enterprise level hosting environment. Drupal and the LAMP stack were a natural fit.
  • Flexibility - IMO's previous CMS was inflexible, making it difficult to implement new and innovative features. Drupal’s modular framework, API and theme override capabilities made it the top choice.
  • Theme customization - Drupal’s separation of presentation and business logic through the theme layer allowed the In-Fisherman.com UI to undergo significant revisions during and after development.
  • Active development community - A fragile economy encouraged open source software vs. a proprietary vendor solution. IMO was looking for a community with solid leadership and momentum. In addition, the Mediacurrent offices were local to the project stakeholders and allowed for enhanced interaction.

Here's an end-user quote:

...it was important for us to implement a content management system that enables us to continually improve our sites without the constraint of vendor roadmaps and proprietary code. The transparency of Drupal’s source code and engaged developer community ensures that any deficiencies in the code are quickly discovered and remedied, new features can be developed as necessary, and we will always retain the flexibility to keep our sites on the cutting-edge.

Use case from Drupal.org

Dries' article