Friday, April 23, 2010

White House Web Team Releases Drupal Modules

The White House technology team released four Drupal modules to the free software community (as described in an article from Ars Technica).

Drupal is a free, open source Content Management System (CMS).

The main purpose of a CMS is to allow people who are collaborating on a website to post content without writing the code (HTML, Javascript, among others) necessary for the site to be displayed in a browser.

Content Management systems are in part based on the reality that writers are not web designers, and visual artists are not programmers.  The systems automate and modularise the work so a writer can focus on their craft without worrying about the details of how it gets displayed, and it also allows for a great deal more automation of common website behaviors.

So in the case of say, an online newspaper, the web designers set up the CMS framework, so that the journalists, editors, and photographers can focus on generating the content without also having to become programmers or web designers.  Once the content is generated, the journalists and photographers just upload their work, the editors exercise control over what gets posts, and the content management system takes care of the details of managing and displaying that content.

In the case of Drupal, programmers write modules to handle  a certain task.  One example would a blog module.  Another would be a module to accept and handle comments to a blog.  Another might be allowing an article to be downloaded as a PDF file.  These modules are made available to the development community, and can be freely downloaded and used by website designers.

The White House website uses Drupal to manage its content.  The WH  technology team developed a few specialized modules and released them so that other designers can use them.  In my view this is a great service to the Drupal community and the community of Drupal end users, and they should be commended.

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