Thoughts on Information Finding

Reflections and reblogs

Tag Archives: drupal

How I Sped up Drupal Page Loads for Anonymous Users

One of the issues I had with the South Bay Bible Fellowship Drupal installation was that when I initially installed the software, the page loads were unbearably slow. At this point in time we are on a shared server that is not optimized for Drupal. The page loads were so slow that it was clear that many visitors would give up and move on.

In addition to administrative users, we use the authenticated user feature to prevent spammers from posting comments to Pastor’s blog. Other than that, our users generally are viewing as anonymous users. After much research, I decided to implement caching, and added the module fastpath_fscache. According to the Drupal site: “This approach is generally faster since the web server doesn’t need to initialize a database connection and crunch through a bunch of PHP files for an anonymous user hit.” It also indicates that this is a development module. However, I had experimented with a number of other modules and, due to the version of PHP our server provides (4.4.0), I had to give this one a try. I have been using it for a month and have had no issues. However, I recommend that if a developer can use a more stable caching module, such as Boost, she should.

At the same time, I wanted new content to be immediately available to new anonymous users, and not have to wait for a cache expiration. So I found instructions on using rules and PHP to refresh changed pages in cache. I set up a rule “Content is going to be saved” and using PHP instructions had Drupal run cron when that trigger occurs. Whenever new content is saved, cron is run, and a new page is generated immediately in the cache. If there are no changes, the cache doesn’t need to be refreshed.

The result has been that page loads for anonymous users are as quick as the original HTML web pages had loaded. The cache is recreated when required and not at only after a specific cache expiration period.

My Blogging Voice

I found the Synthetic Librarian Blog recently and he got me thinking – what is MY blogging “voice?”

I started this blog as part of a class assignment. Over the ensuing months, this blog has evolved, as has my personal voice. My concentration in the MLS program is information technology – an obvious choice given my background in software development and an undergrad degree in computer science. I am especially interested in ways to improve information gathering and structure, such as semantic web programming and the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative. I have enjoyed working with the open source content management system Drupal and pondering its Web 2.0 potential for libraries. I see the open source software movement (Deek, 1), with its peer review process, as the perfect companion to the library’s  philosophy of free information exchange.

In short, I am interested in the evolution of librarianship from library 1.0 to library 2.0 to library 3.0.

I have been surprised to see that I have had replies from people outside of this class, and it has encouraged me greatly.  I have never been one to journal my thoughts, but this process has helped me academically. I plan to continue to blog.

To be continued…

Deek, F. P., and McHugh, J. A. M. Open source: technology and policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008

Posting to a Drupal Blog using Word 2007

One thing I have found with Drupal is that, since it is open source and many different people have contributed to the source code for the core and the modules, is that the documentation is often lacking. I discovered a blog today that contained a lot of helpful tutorials – John VanDyk’s SysArchitects blog. One post in particular I found useful:

Using Word 2007 Blog functionality to post to Drupal via the MetaWeblog API.

This particular posting will make it very easy for the Pastor to post updates to the site, since he does have Word 2007 installed. We don’t want difficulty with dealing with the software to discourage interactivity.

This would be very useful to any library that chose to utilize Drupal. This is not limited to blogs – you can allow an authorized person to post any type of content using Word 2007. I personally feel very comfortable posting using raw HTML – however, not every librarian feels that way and might prefer to work in a platform that he or she is already comfortable. Microsoft Word fits the bill.

Note: the Blog API in the optional core must be enabled.

Troubleshooting problems: Microsoft Website

Susan’s Post to the SBBF Drupal blog using Word 2007

Drupal Site at South Bay Bible Fellowship Going Live Today

The South Bay Bible Fellowship site based on Drupal has been moved from a development directory to the root today.

The server I am working with has PHP Version 4.4.0, which has been a bit of a hindrance in adding various Drupal modules.

The modules I have installed, in addition to core and core optional, are:

  • CCK
  • Chaos tool suite
  • feed api
  • AddThis
  • contact Forms
  • DHTML Menu
  • Fastpath Filesystem Cache
  • Integrated metatags
  • Token
  • Rules
  • Views

I found while developing the software that connecting to the database with every page load was very slow, hence the need for the file system cache. This module has made the site very quick for site visitors. It is still a bit slow when I log in to perform administrative tasks, but not unbearably slow. Since this site will not heavily utilize logged in users (they would only have to log in if they chose to comment on Pastor’s blog), this is an acceptable trade off.

One issue that remains (and will probably have to remain until after my last final this semester) is making the site mobile-friendly. I have a mobile theme installed, but due to the caching module I can’t simply switch between themes on the fly. I will need to set up a mobile site separately. I am looking at the virtual site module. Again, the PHP version has been a hindrance since there are modules that are designed to detect OS and browser – however they require a higher version of PHP.

Take a look – I am pleased with the results :)

Drupal is HOT in the Library World

“Drupal is hot in the library world”

That is what I read on the Drupal website .  There are sessions at library conferences on Drupal, including the ALA Annual Conference and Computers in Libraries. In this time of budget constraints, free open source software is very attractive to the library community. According to Andrew Austin, a librarian who is also a contributor to the Drupal community, three of the reasons that libraries are moving towards Drupal are:

  • Support and Financial Concerns
  • Unified Web Services
  • The Web 2.0 Experience

Drupal is particularly designed to create substantial social networking websites, including the functionality to add blogs, social bookmarking, tagging, groups, and event calendars. Drupal is not a fixed system – but a framework through which you can build your own system. The Drupal.org website has user contributed modules to assist the designer in creating just about any functionality that she wants – or she can write her own. And a designer doesn’t have to learn a new system with every project – Drupal can be used as a base for all of a library’s web development. Drupal has been used for interactive Web 2.0 enabled OPACs, pathfinder wikis, readers advisory blogs, and even shared electronic purchasing systems.

I found there to be a steep learning curve with Drupal – but once one is familiar with the system the possibilities are endless.

Austin, A. (2008, August 24). Drupal in libraries. Retrieved from http://drupal.org/Drupal-in-Library-Technology-Reports

Austin, A, & Harris, C. (2008, May/June). Drupal in libraries: welcome to a new paradigm. Library Technology Reports, 44(4), 5-7.

My Progress with Drupal

I volunteer for my local church as webmaster. For several months I have been working with a Drupal installation, which is on the verge of being rolled out.

As I had posted back in October, I had set up a very simple podcasting script, which I have edited further to meet my own needs. I then set up a Feedburner account to assist in publishing the podcast. I set up a blog for the pastor to post his thoughts, and website visitors will be able to leave comments to encourage dialog. I included an AddThis button so that people will be able to share posts using other social networking sites.

I also envision having a “Youth” section where the youth leaders can blog, and perhaps including a forum where the kids can chat.

Drupal is an extremely flexible content management system, and I am very excited for this opportunity to explore its capabilities.

More on Open Source Software

Another open source solution that I have been working with recently is Drupal. Drupal is a content management system (CMS). Drupal is the framework for the Fish4Info portal – created for the Genesee Valley BOCES for the school libraries.

Adding appropriate Drupal modules, one can create what appears to be a custom designed website, without all the time and money spend it would require to start from scratch. The collective intelligence is harnessed in that with so many people pouring over lines of code, potential bugs are found or corrected much quicker than they would be otherwise.

The installation was extremely easy. The install file steps through everything that is needed. However, this is an example of software that is far from intuitive to learn to modify. Adding modules is easy – upload the new module into the module directory. Few modules are documented, however, and it takes quite a long time to figure out what, exactly, needs to be done to create custom pages. Once the steep learning curve is traversed, however, Drupal is an extremely versatile piece of software and any website (either traditional or including aspects of social networking) can be based on its core.

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