Categories
Book Reviews

Lynn Beighley’s Drupal for Dummies, a Book Review

Lynn Beighley’s Drupal for Dummies

Lynn Beighley’s Drupal for Dummies is a beginners’ reference for learning the basics of Drupal. Frankly, after getting through the installation, it all seemed rather simple, which I suppose is a testament to Ms. Beighley’s skills as a writer and an educator. I don’t mind reviewing a book with the word “Dummies” in the title.

Drupal logo
Drupal logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The book is written in the standard Dummies modular format, whereby you can skip around if you wish and not lose too much by not taking everything in order. A good thing, as the chapter on setting a strategy inexplicably comes after the one on installation. To my mind, that is placing the cart before the horse. Don’t we want a strategy before we go to the trouble of purchasing a domain and starting to put content out there? After all, a poorly conceived site could financially harm a company.

The book is also a little confusing when it comes to differentiating pages and stories. Stories seem to be aggregations of pages, or they might be more frequently updated than pages, but that’s tough to tell at first read.

The book discusses forums a bit but does not go far into community management as a whole. There doesn’t seem to be anything in here about, for example, restricting user access or even out and out denying a user access to any given site. While banning users is not the only function of a Community Manager, it’s still an important one, and it can be one that needs to be performed rather quickly. It’s outside of scope to talk about community management theory, strategy or values, but a quick how-to when it comes to banning users would be a fine (and small!) addition to this book. However, using a Captcha to eliminate auto-joining bots, and Mollom to detect spam, are covered.

 

The main features of Drupal come out when Ms. Beighley talks about themes and basic site modules, such as blogs, image galleries and storefronts. The reader begins to see why Drupal might be a good choice for creating a website. There’s little to no coverage of the Open Source culture that created Drupal, but that’s probably beside the point.

The main purpose of the book is to get an Administrator started with setting up and using Drupal, but there’s very little on modification, shy of basic changes such as swapping out themes. One never gets into the guts of the application and the hood is never lifted. There are links pointing to websites where a user can learn more about the application, but they seem to be tacked onto the end of the book. Even a pointer to a more advanced Dummies book on Drupal (even if there’s an attempt to bundle two books in order to increase the profit to the enormous Dummies empire) would be of some help.

It just feels like, when you get to the end of the book: now what?

Rating

2/5

Categories
Career changing

May 12, 2010 Mass Innovation Night (#MIN14)

On May 12, 2010, I attended the 14th Mass. Innovation Night.

As always, the night was hosted by Bobbie Carlton and Dan Englander, with Joe Perry of IBM graciously offering the IBM Innovation space in Waltham for the event.

The following companies had booths:

  • buckts – They make a Firefox add-on to aggregate together shopping, Google search, Facebook updates and the like.
  • Mystery Meet – Boston Foodies discover new restaurants by enjoying a special prix fixe menu at a new Boston restaurant on the second Tuesday of every month.
  • Pearl’s Premium Grass Seed – low maintenance grass seed that grows slowly and seldom needs cutting or watering.
  • Reinforced Care – reducing hospital readmissions by focusing on patient aftercare.
  • Software Horizons – ‘Design Once, Deploy Anywhere’ HMI Technology and
  • WOW Mobile – unlimited US calling, texting, Internet and email
  • .

The following experts offered their services:

Bobbie confessed that Mass. Innovation Nights is one small step to world domination. In Innovation Nights, that is. Hence there is now an effort underway to expand a little. The first expansion is set for Portland, Maine. Stacie Andrews presented about MEInno (Maine Innovation) and MeetImpact. MEInno will have their first event on Friday, August 13th, 2010. Stacie also runs Meet Impact, a calendar for New England events. She took names and websites and/or blogs and promised to create an interactive calendar whereby everyone could share upcoming events.

The following companies had a chance to present:

The presentations were all interesting although I have to give props to Boomerang for including smiling Buddha in their slideshow. For me, the single most useful items seem to be Webinar Listings (I love webinars and they are great for filling scheduling holes but I can’t always find them, so it’s a joy to see them all listed together) and Meet Impact (to eliminate as many scheduling holes as possible).

Oh, and contrary to perhaps popular Tweet, I did not clonk Josh in the head with a mug.

Thanks again to Bobbie, Dan and Joe — looking forward to the next one, which is going to be Thursday, June 3rd, 2010.

Categories
Career changing

May 7, 2010 Community Roundtable

On May 7th, I attended the Community Roundtable’s Live Lunch at Jasper White’s Summer Shack in Cambridge.

In attendance were, among others, Rachel Happe and Jim Storer, Tracy Lee Carroll, Leanne Chase, Barbara Gavin, Paul Geffen, Joe Lima, Cindy Meltzer, Jabu Mguni, Vanessa Rhinesmith, Ellen Rossano, Masoud Shadravan, Mike Schneider, Christine Sierra and Jim Spencer.

Plus … Vanessa’s sweet little 2-month old daughter, Lucy.

And then there was a surprise addition: Jeff Cutler. And I think another … I may have lost track of the participants. Meghan Biro and Kelley Kassa were unfortunately unable to attend.

Barbara very graciously offered two books for review. Joe took one; I didn’t see where the other one ended up.

The real discussion was about work-life balance. As Community Managers, we aren’t necessarily tied to a nine to five-style job. And employers need to understand that we want some balance to our days. The job may be mainly computer work but it is no less tiring.

The discussion also turned to hula hoops (Jim and Rachel brought one, but no one used it although the lobsters in the tank seemed to be likely candidates) and Summer plans (the setting at the Summer Shack does seem to encourage that). Plus the fact that the cultural exchange between Massachusetts and New Hampshire seems to involve Bay Staters going North for cheap booze and Granite Staters coming South for Whole Foods runs. Okay, well maybe not that.

The gist of it all is that, as Community Managers, we are the careful, consideration folks online. Sometimes it’s good to set that aside for a while and just live a little.

Looking forward to the next one, in two weeks.

Categories
Career changing

April 29, 2010 Acquia Webinar

On April 29, I listened in on a webinar being held by Acquia. The subject: Acquia JumpStart Program: Plant The Seeds for Drupal Success. The panelists were Bryan House (who was also hosting), Joanne Dawson and Robert Douglass.

All participants were sent a “Getting Started with Drupal Checklist”. Acquia’s mission is to help organizations of all sizes be successful with Drupal – this includes hosting, development, support and training, among other features. Stated simply, Drupal is an open-source forums (community) software solution (although it can be used for a lot more than that).

Acquia comes into a business and performs the Drupal installation themselves. Since Drupal installation can be rather difficult, this is a significant way to slash ramp-up time. The on-site Acquia personnel perform training, including, on the first day, an introduction, user management, content creation, taxonomy (organizing and categorizing the site), blocks (small boxes/widgets of content that can appear on the sides of a page) and the menu.

One pleasant addition is Acquia’s own forums, which are used to enhance their tech support. They have regular technical support, naturally, but it’s refreshing to see the company using its own product and feeling free enough to allow its users to help one another.

Acquia Drupal currently uses the most recent version of Drupal 6.

Categories
Career changing

May 3, 2010 EditMe Webinar

On May 3rd, I listened in on a webinar given by EditMe. The topic was: Content Creation in the Middle of the Sales Funnel.

The guest speaker was John C. Stone III.

The reason for the webinar was, while prospects come through the top of the sales funnel as always (inquiries), where people download papers, comment on blogs, sign up for webinars, etc., they can take a good seven to nine exposures to the product before they move through the funnel. Essentially, there needs to be a nurturing of these leads in order to eventually convert them into prospects and later sales. The top of the funnel is clogged. How does a company begin to move people down the chute?

Building authentic content offers a lot of value. This helps the top of the funnel with SEO and to bring prospects in. But it also helps with the middle, in order to continue to bring them toward the culmination, which is a sale.

Good content should be sharable, entertaining, stylized, etc.

The first thing to do is, define the revenue architecture. It’s a blueprint for how to attract, nurture, sell and expand profitable relationships with chosen customers.

Look at the Lead to Close process. This is where the greatest level of transformation has occurred in the past few years. What’s the web presence? What’s the content? Is it customized (and is too much time being spent on this?)? Is there an inbound lead capture? An outbound process? Integrating campaigns can help, as can enhancing the web site presence. Social media engagement can increase awareness and build “street cred”.

What’s the Go to Market Strategy? Is the messaging persuasive? Are the programs innovative? How can the company leverage a sustainable content process? It helps to have easily editable, sharable, single source content.

How are the Customer Relationships? Is there good client retention? How is account management handled?

Social collaboration is the key. Sales personnel need to share their information and be able to tap into what is essentially a bank of relevant data about their prospects. The best way to do this is by using easy to use collaborative software — otherwise, it won’t be used by the sales force. This is items like Wikis, blogs, etc. Essentially the idea is to allow for rapid collaborative use. Where EditMe can come in is in creating a uniform sales portal and promoting efficiency as sales representatives will have better and more up to date information at their fingertips. It should be a living document, collaborated on by as many experts in a company as possible. This can lead to more conversions.

The upshot of it all — working together is what it’s all about.

Categories
Personal

Second 5K of 2010

This one was accomplished yesterday. Man oh man am I tired.

It’s not helping that there’s a major water restriction going on in Boston right now, and today it’s supposed to hit (this is not a typo): 88 F.

Fortunately, showering is considered safe. But I can’t help wondering whether any of my many planned social media networking events are going to be cancelled or moved.

Stay tuned.

Categories
Events

April 29, 2010 Social Media Club Event: Measuring Social Success (Big and Small)

On April 29th, I attended the Boston Social Media Club’s event: Measuring Social Success (Big and Small).

The discussion panel consisted of the Queen of Measurement, Katie Payne, Jamie Pappas of EMC, Christopher Penn of Blue Sky Factory, Holly Allison of Vico Software, Brian Carlson of CIO.com and Mike Proulx (pronounced: Pru) of Hill, Holliday. Hosts for the evening were Howie Sholkin and Todd Van Hoosear of Fresh Ground.

The panel discussion essentially consisted of Ms. Payne asking questions and the panel responding in turn. Some takeaways:

  • Ms. Pappas noted that the number of fans and followers isn’t too meaningful a measurement. She’s looking for sales leads and sees that EMC has the largest share of the voice and positive influence in their particular niche. She uses Radiant 6 for measurement.
  • Mr. Penn is looking for earned income. Essentially, rather than whether his company is an industry leader, but an answer to a simple question: can they stay in business tomorrow?. He’s looking for qualified leads but his only real metric is number of sales. He uses Google Analytics and Salesforce.com.
  • Ms. Allison was there to represent the small B2B player, with less than $10 million in revenue. Her visitors are:
    • 60% from social media, of which
    • 27% are qualified leads, of which
    • 15% are opportunities, of which
    • 8% become customers

    Her granular analysis comes from HubSpot and Salesforce.com.

  • Mr. Carlson is looking more for increases in traffic to his site, and better content. His users bring in research, story ideas and story building, and he can also vet sources through them. He uses Omniture.
  • Mr. Proulx is measuring how social media and earned media relate to the mix with paid media. He’s using Media Solutions for his measurements.

The discussion was lively and engaging. My only (small) quibble is – why does there have to be pizza at all of these events? I realize it’s a quick and cheap way to feed a lot of people, but when you’re watching your weight like I am, it makes for some awkwardness, as I ended up studiously avoiding the food which meant avoiding a lot of the networking as well. There were, to be fair, oranges, but they’re out of season already. And, who’s gonna peel an orange at one of these things? I realize I may be a killjoy — and I am well aware that the event was a free one — but surely there are better choices that could have been made.

All in all — if you can get past the pizza — an excellent evening.

Categories
Career changing

April 23, 2010 Community Roundtable

Today I attended the Community Roundtable’s CR Live Lunch at Flatbread Company in Bedford, Massachusetts. The Community Roundtable is “a peer network for community managers and social media practioners.”.

The lunch is a chance to get together and talk about not just community management but also social media in general, technology and any other subject that is of interest. Today’s discussions, in part, centered around Twitter and its earlier days, e. g. discovering retweeting, etc. Rachel Happe, our hostess, has been on Twitter for quite a while and remembers the community there as being considerably smaller and easier to make connections. She felt she was able to see people she knew either socially or professionally (or both) and then quickly see how (if) they were interconnected in other ways. Some of that has been lost as Twitter has grown exponentially.

The subject of automatic direct messages thanking one for following came up. Everyone agreed that these are essentially impersonal and of little value. However, direct messages should still be read as people do sometimes still take the time to handcraft them.

Since the group was slanted more than usual in the direction of people with more technical backgrounds (versus those of us who were or are more strictly community managers), the discussion turned more technical.

Another topic was company social media strategies. So many companies realize they have to “get on Twitter” but are unclear as to what, exactly, they may be getting themselves into. Once the pipeline is opened, and customer commenting (and complaining!) becomes more open and easier, that pipeline really cannot be shut off. The bell cannot be unrung. Hence companies may not understand that they are essentially getting into a marriage versus a few dates with the hot new technology.

There was also a discussion about meta tagging on the ‘Web. How are things categorized? One question was about music (more specifically, classical music). There is already some offline categorization. So how can that be adequately and accurately transferred to the Internet?

Finally, and this is one of the areas where the Community Roundtable truly excels, the participants talked a little bit about how isolating the role sometimes can be. For a social and community-oriented type of role, a lot of us spend a great deal of time at our desks. Even within a larger company not specifically dedicated to online communities, the role of the Community Manager can sometimes be a solitary one. Being together, exchanging information or tips, or just commiserating, does a lot to dispel any feelings of isolation.

Categories
Events

Tech Boston

On the third Tuesday of every month, Boston 501 Tech Club holds a meeting. This is a group of nonprofit tech folk.

According to their site, “TechFoundation is a Cambridge-based, nonprofit organization that delivers technology, expertise and capital to help nonprofit organizations serve humanity. TechFoundation envisions a world where nonprofit organizations can access the same resources to serve humanity that businesses use to create wealth.

It’s good to see people using their technical prowess for good. I attended both the Ethos Roundtable and the Tuesday meeting/networking event yesterday.

The Ethos Roundtable, for the two times I’ve attended it, has been a place to see tech related to nonprofits. These seem to be demos of software that’s close to being ready for prime time but perhaps isn’t 100%, absolutely, there yet. Yesterday’s demo was of NPO Connect.

The concept behind NPO Connect is fairly straightforward — there are people in the nonprofit sector who wish to be mentors, and there are people who are also in the nonprofit sector who wish to be mentored (the site and its creators refer to these persons as “mentees”, a usage that, for me, is akin to nails on a chalkboard. The word is protegés). The site is intended to bring those people together. It is still in the pilot stage.

The real value to NPO Connect is in bringing mentors and protegés together, as LinkedIn, oddly enough, does not include mentorships (in either direction) as a contact setting choice. This is NPO Connect’s virtue, but it does not cover everything it should.

A glaring (to my mind, anyway) omission was in verification of expert status. A potential mentor can say that s/he is an expert at, say, working with a Board of Directors, but where is the confirmation of said expertise? This isn’t even necessarily people out and out fibbing. It can be exaggerration (e. g. people feel they’re better at doing something than they truly are), or mistake or not understanding what may be entailed. After all, a tiny day care center and Harvard University are both, essentially, nonprofits. But the director of the one-person shop day care center and the President of Harvard probably have different experiences in working with Boards. This is not to discount the day care center director’s experiences and, in fact, that person’s experiences may even turn out to be superior to those of the Harvard President.

But there’s no way to tell.

Suggestions abounded. Add a recommendations section. Add something about the fact that nonprofits don’t always work together. Add a reputation score. Make the expertise areas (one of them was, simply, Information Technology) more specific so that people can better gauge whether they really are proficient. Allow the importing of a resume from LinkedIn. Make names link to Google searches (not really feasible for people with common names — how many Mike Browns do you know?).

All of these are decent suggestions. As a Data Analyst type, I see a few issues with the database itself. The software permits of some sorting and filtering but not on every category. Hence you can sort by name but not filter by nonprofits where people have worked. What if I only wish to work with people in the hospice field? There doesn’t seem to be a way to get that granular.

One of the issues is the relation of the data itself. The database has, unfortunately, more than one many-to-many relationships. A person can work (or have worked) at more than one nonprofit and of course a nonprofit can have more than one current or past employees. A person can have more than one expertises and an expertise has several persons attached to it. A person can be both a mentor and a protegé (no, I will never write “mentee” unless I have to – ugh!).

Hence the software has promise but it needs some work.

As for the event that followed, this is a pleasant group. I particularly enjoyed interacting with Brian Thompson, Tara Greco and Brian Sadie. While the world’s problems might not have all been solved, enough laughter was exchanged so as to make it a great event and I look forward to the next one, on May 18th.

Categories
Career changing

EditMe Webinar

Today I attended (well, I listened to it in my home computer room) the EditMe Webinar. EditMe is a company that puts out WYSIWYG collaborative site software. E. g. you can make a Wiki or a forums site with their software.

I am not a customer but I am interested in pretty much anything to do with Social Media and, in particular, Community Management, as I’ve been managing Able2know for over 7 1/2 years now. It’s funny as I have more Community Management experience than many vaunted experts.

The main takeaways were as follows:

  • The Community is about them, not you
  • Make a big deal about participation. Thank everyone!
  • Use an Editorial Calendar, e. g. keep a schedule of when you’re going to release content, and keep it regular

I particularly loved that last one.

Communities and Social Media aren’t necessarily tough but they can be extraordinarily time-consuming. Everything you can do to help yourself in that area is a good thing.