How to follow with such incredible momentum

Drupal Camp Wisconsin came to an end today.  I’ve been here 4 days and have probably spoken during official meetings, unofficial meetings, and presenting at DrupalCamp for around 32 hours.  It’s been a very long, very fun, and very critical 4 day stint here in Madison.  I’ve been able to talk to so many people about so many good ideas as well as share with them the solutions that we’re crafting both in terms of module usage and our infrastructure stuff.  Here’s some of the critical take-aways:

  • Madison has A LOT of the same CMS culture, problems, enthusiasm, and need for leadership and direction that we have
  • Madison has a great network of people, all willing to work together and share ideas
  • Everyone was very interested in all of my projects, especially the infrastructure management tools / information architecture that I’m building
  • Madison’s going to be getting copies of my IA to play with, hopefully we can standardize on it or on parts of it to help foster collaboration futther
  • We discussed and agreed on the idea I proposed of a track of Drupalcamps, specifically geared towards major universities
  • The seeds of the Drupal in High Education Consortium were planted and look to have Penn State and Madison as it’s first two member organizations

This has lead a few of us to use terms like “momentum” when describing what this relationship has at this point in time.  We both were able to relate to one another’s problems and agree that we (and probably other universities) can benefit greatly from collaboration in this area.  This is my action plan at the moment as to what to do with all this “momentum” that’s been drummed up:

  • Attend the Drupalcamp in Pittsburgh and get in touch with the universities forming it to meet with them and have a similar show-and-tell like we just had with Madison
  • Form the Drupal user’s group in the Centre County / Penn State area and begin meeting like they did out here
  • Begin planning for a Drupal in Higher Education consortium and come up with some ideas for what our action plan is (most likely a base level flavor of D6 standardization in tool set)
  • Get in touch with MSU, ASU, VT, PIT, CMU, and anyone else I can find contacts that I have and look into similar meetings
  • Begin planning for a DrupalCampPSU event

The idea of the consortium isn’t to say “YOU ALL WILL USE THIS STUFF IN DRUPAL” and standardize EVERYTHING we use; but, because of the problems faced by major universities (lots of students, lots of colleges, lots of decentralization, lots of funding cuts, lots of need for “free” solutions, lots of Drupal interest).  For all these reasons I propose that we standardize on a set of modules that enable the infrastructure component that we are currently using.  A few modules / ideas right now that I think would be good to standardize on based on our discussions this week as well as my own feelings on where to take things:

  • Views / CCK – really, who doesn’t use them anyway but also some types / views could be built out through collaboration to meet common needs
  • Infrastructure management – what the course manager will become, allows us to grow and expand quickly as well as possibly share resources (fast!)
  • Some base Roles that we can all agree on based on our contexts being similar (staff, faculty, student, admin, instructor, etc)
  • Aggregator and some other feed related modules (possibly feed api) so that we can syndicate and share our content in common ways
  • WYZIWIG API – Not that it HAS to be used but all of us have to make Drupal more usable from a staff perspective.  Editor type doesn’t matter, frame work for it does
  • CiviCRM or at least some implementation of handling staff bios / student profiles.  A lot of sites need to store data to this end and it would be good to agree loosly there

Again, the goal of these discussions is to come up with a framework of best practices for all of us to follow and not a strict specification.  This would get too close to forced adoption systems and closed source projects that have driven us to Drupal in the first place. I need to stress this as much as possible because I don’t want this to fail and I don’t want it to surcome to the same issues and be hated as so many closed source implementations are in higher education / large corporations.

Those that follow the best practices as closely as possible will benefit each other the most as we can share information and resources a lot easier but there’s nothing saying you NEED to follow it to the letter.  For example, you want to use Organic Groups and we don’t standardize on that in our package / best practices? Go for it!  As long as the IA driving it is the same then the individual sites don’t matter.  So, in closing, the attack plan would be:

  • Standardize on a common Information Architecture based on the idea of one site that can control all the others and loosely knits them together
  • Come up with a group of recommended modules and identify their best usage
  • Standardize on a few other things like roles and module sets


  1. Pingback: How to follow with such incredible momentum « Drupal Education for … | Neorack Script
  2. Pingback: Keeping the momentum locally and nationally « John Thomson: Thinking out loud
  3. Kyle Mathews · June 19, 2009

    Great post Bryan. I love the idea of setting up a drupal higher ed consortium. We’ve talked informally at BYU about doing something similar across BYU (with 30,000 students, we’re the size of quite a few small colleges) — uniting the different departments using Drupal to work on a commons solution. It’d be great to get involved in a larger cross-university group.

    I posted over at our local Drupal group site — hopefully there’ll be some people interested in getting involved here:

    • btopro · June 19, 2009

      Thanks Kyle! So far I have had interest from Madison, Virginia Tech, Arizona State, SUNY Empire, and you guys in terms of the consortium. Here’s who we’re also looking to talk to about it in more in the near future — RIT, MIT, PIT, CMU, RMU, MSU.

      Pass it on, there is a definite need here and even if we only standardize on a few things we’ll have a common infrastructure to be able to help each other out and a base line to relate to each other’s infrastructures on.

  4. Pingback: Drupal For Universities Consortium — Interested? Come to the table! « Drupal Education for Educators

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