Cool Drupal Developments

Posted by: | March 21, 2012 | Leave a Comment

I am a devoted Drupal fan and I try to follow developments for Drupal as much as I can. There is actually too much development happening to try it all out and to stay on top of it all, but I still want to share a couple of items I think could be relevant for UBC. I will mention a couple of developments in

  • Voice over IP Services
  • Distributions
  • Ease of use
  • Video
  • Content Aggregation

Voice over IP Services

I participated in a webinar recently to check out the Voice over IP (VoIP) features that a team at MIT has developed for Drupal. It looked really promising and easy to implement. I can think of a couple of projects this could be useful for, e.g.

  • Audio campus tours
  • Phone surveys
  • Instant response systems
  • Orientation events that could utilize locations of groups (e.g. game like challenges)

It is not free yet to use VoIP providers, but I believe UBC is making adjustments to their phone systems. Maybe we could get a functionality as part of the UBC network to allow integration of websites with these additional services. At least, that is my secret hope…


More and more distributions get developed specifically for higher education needs. Check out some of these:

  • Open Scholar: website deployment solution for academic environments
  • Open Academy: courses, profiles, news, events for higher education, build on Drupal 7 + Panopoly + Apps = powerful, includes responsive design for mobile web
  • ELMS: a learning management system built on Drupal
  • Drupal Commons: a solution to build social communities, e.g. for students
  • Open Atrium: a team collaboration setup that gets used as Intranet solution
  • Drupal Student CRM project on GitHub

It clearly shows the power and flexibility that Drupal brings to the table and why it gets more and more adopted at higher education institutions as the system of choice.

Ease of Use

Drupal has often been criticized to be too complex and hard to install, configure etc. Tools such as WordPress were considerably easier to use for many non-technical people. However, with tools such as Aegir, Drush, Panopoly and Apps, it seems that we will soon be able to build complex solutions for common use cases that can be delivered by a central unit and are still relatively easy to adjust, configure and maintain by units that will utilize these applications. We will obviously need the manpower to build and package these solutions up, but then we could get economies of scale to develop once and deploy multiple times.


The other really cool developments happen in the video space, ie. uploading, transcoding, streaming and sharing of video etc. There are a couple of modules such as the Video module or the Embedded Media Field to publish rich content from external providers. I have already used the emfield module a lot in combination with feeds and created a case study for a video aggregation service with it. If you want a fully blown video management tool, there is a nice Drupal distribution for that as well called Octopus video.

Content Aggregation

Aggregation is a very relevant topic for UBC, especially if it can be hooked into some automatic smart tagging and classification of content. Contrary to other entities/companies/individuals who might have to create shallow content, scrape content or similar to be able to become relevant for search engines, at UBC we have such an abundance of content that it can be hard to organize and process it all. Content curation is the buzz word for this. We can either curate manually or get it supported technically. It will probably end up being a good mix of both, ie. a person curating but with technical smart support such as suggestions about related content that could be relevant. This is not an area I have expertise in, but I am reading about tools such as Open Calais. If you have used such tools at UBC, please let me know… Combined with the aggregation and content collection capabilities of Drupal, we could apply these features to any type of content from video to research news to images or library collections.


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