I am extremely interested in building user driven sites that allow for scaling up communication and collaboration between individuals that share common goals. There are a number of approaches to this type of problem. Of course, as always – one can pick a platform, language, etc. and start building from scratch. Another option is to choose a framework and build from there. But what intrigues me most, and I am seeing a lot of people take this approach, is to find an existing solution that is extensible and using that as the platform. This means the jump to a working site is immediate. Many of these environments are being built on top of content management software.
Of course one drawback, not the only one but a big one, is that one loses flexibility. The underlying application will determine a lot about what is possible and what functionality is available. On the good side, most of the more popular systems allow for some kind of plug-in or module system to extend basic functionality. One of the more popular new CMS systems that operates this way. There is already an extensive library of modules available. But as sure as water flows down hill, people are going to want something that doesn’t already exist. Or they are going to want it in just a little different format or fashion. This is where free and open source software excels because one can build their own module or modify an existing module if the license allows it and many do.
I’m very excited about Drupal and all this capability so I immediately got ahold of Matt Butcher’s “Learning Drupal 6 Module Development” as soon as it was available. I am quickly becoming a fan of Packt Publishing for a number of reasons. First is that they are incredibly quick at getting books on the latest and greatest to print. On top of that, they are doing a fantastic job of finding people who are right in the middle of the mix to do the writing. And finally, Packt gives back to the community. When a reader buys a Packt book that covers some open source technology, Packt donates part of the procedes to that project. In this instance, buying “Learning Drupal 6 Module Development” is not only a method for learning more about Drupal, it’s a way of contributing hard, cold cash to Drupal.
Matt Butcher is a consultant that does a lot of work with Drupal and so sitting down with Learning Drupal is a lot like getting Matt to sit down beside you and start working through module development. The book is pretty thourough and fills in a number of unfortunate gaps in existing documentation. I think it is safe to say that one needs to bring a knowledge of PHP, MySQL and such to the table – but Matt will provide everything needed as far as Drupal is concerened. (The homepage for his consulting company is a great Drupal resource in its own right.)
This isn’t a large book, especially by tech book standards, and so not everything is covered to great depth. But the approach is very hands on and focuses on getting things done and working. The fundamentals of how Drupal itself works and its own core modules are explained and any Drupal will be better off for the information. I like to think of this as a tremendous jump start for the aspiring Drupal module developer that will save a lot of time spent wading through the basics of getting started. This allows one to focus much more on the fun challenges and developing that potential great idea.
The second chapter is freely available to download in pdf format. This chapter is representative of the rest of the book and should give the reader an excellent opportunity to judge if the book is for them, if you don’t want to just take my word for it.
I’m continually more and more impressed with Drupal. For anyone who isn’t satisfied to sit on the side lines and watch it motor along, “Learning Drupal 6 Module Development” is the ticket to getting on board and having a part in driving the train.
Another review of this book made the front page of slashdot a bit back – and is the way of Mr. Ross – it offers up some excellent detail. A review over at Drupalib also offers up some nice insight and recomendations.
Title: Learning Drupal 6 Module Development
Author: Matt Butcher
Publisher: Packt Publishing
Tagline: A practical tutorial for creating your first Drupal 6 modules with PHP.