Drupal, a free and open source web content management system, represents a very attrative option for managing content online. Here follows a list of reasons why I find it attractive in a federal government context:
- Drupal is free and open source software (FOSS). Treasury Board Secretariat guidelines prescribe Departments and Agencies to at least consider FOSS alternatives, especially when they are viable.
- Drupal is a stable, mature and robust WCMS, as confirmed from neutral sources in the book "Open Source for the Enterprise: Managing Risks - Reaping Rewards", see the book review.
- Drupal only requires PHP and MySQL on the server to run. PHP and MySQL are often authorized on governmental intranets and internet servers. This means that you can avoid a lengthy procurement process, it can be up and running in a few days - literally. I have myself deployed a Drupal site in a few hours - and I'm not a programmer.
- Drupal can power sites that are "Common Look & Feel" (CLF). All that is needed is to develop a drupal CLF Theme. This is something we are working on and we can share that Theme with you.
- Drupal can power sites that are fully multilingual, hence, bilingual - for interface and content. I was in Toronto last week and saw a demo of a live, fully developed trilingual drupal site (English, French and Spanish).
- Drupal can support multi-sites. That means that with one installation of drupal, you can maintain a lot (I do not know the limit) of totally different sites, even with different domain names. Very useful when it comes to upgrades and patches - only one installation to deal with and all sites are automatically updated.
- Drupal is fully Web 2.0 enabled, that is, aligned with major trends and technologies worldwide, and incorporates (if and only if these features are "turned on") blogs, free tagging (folksonomies), wikis, automatic syndication, forums, commenting, aggregation, etc...
- Drupal also supports traditional methods of organizing information, such as "categories" that can be assigned to content according to a centrally defined taxonomy. This can be done concurrently with free tagging, in which users decide which tags to add to contributed content.
- Drupal supports custom content types. For example, if you were to build a registry of applications in use in any given Department or Agency, "application" could be defined as a content type and you could further define what kind of information you want to track for each application. Because this is done within drupal, you would automatically benefit from all the other drupal features - the ability to (if you turn these features on) comment on applications, view them differently (sort - filter), etc.
- Drupal supports custom roles and permissions. You can define, for example, an "Administrator" role, "Project Lead" role, and as any roles as you need to differentiate between what some users can and cannot do. This is all done via a web interface.
- Drupal has a modular architecture. You only add / select / enable the modules you want / need.
If you are in the federal government, working in Ottawa and interested in Drupal, make sure that you signup with the Drupal Ottawa User Group.
published originally on 27 May 2006