Blog-based project groups and Drupal

This week, Paul Benson posted an interesting diary at OpenLeft about supporting project groups on progressive blogs.  The basic idea is fairly simple: quite often, progressive blog readers want to get together to collaborate on a project.  Projects can range in nature and scope widely, and they can have a fixed goal (like producing a catching YouTube video) or an ongoing set of goals (like promoting progressive legislation).  But they all seem to share on common characteristic: they are poorly served by the recommended diary section of most progressive blogs.  Paul lists only two examples of projects that were successfully organized via diaries - YearlyKos and the Gannon investigation.  There are probably a few more we could add to the pile, especially if we reached into the archives of local and statewide blogs, but I think the point stands.  Blogs are a great way to share news and opinions and to incite activism; they are not a great way to organize activism.

Paul sketches out a quick-and-dirty example of what a progressive project organizing platform might look like, and I think it's a reasonable first start.  There are certainly other online project management tools available, ranging from dotProject to 37 Signals's Basecamp.  I would also add that Paul's critique only underscores a point I've been making here in recent weeks: that the progressive blogosphere could be exceptionally well-served by an open-source platform, especially one like Drupal.

There are a couple of Drupal modules which are particularly well-suited to the sort of project management Paul is referring to: Organic Groups and Project.  The former allows any Drupal site to be subdivided into a number of workspaces for interest groups.  The form of a workspace can itself be flexible - it can be a wiki, a blog, a document-sharing space, or a combination of all of these.  The Project module is used to keep track of projects, subdivide them into tasks, and monitor the progress on each task, using a lightweight project-management paradigm.  Project was written to support bug tracking for Drupal modules and themes, but it can also be adapted for other purposes. While I have not yet had the chance to incorporate them into the Drupal-based blogging platform I wrote about last week, it's clear that the ability to add these modules easily to any Drupal site is a major advantage to using Drupal to power a progressive blog.

There is also, I think, a larger point to be made about the use of open source software to power the progressive movement.  There are many similarities between the progressive movement and most open source software project.  They are both decentralized, made up of many independent actors with similar goals.  It's no accident that they are both likely to run up against the same kind of collaborative challenges, which is, I think, yet another reason that the progressive movement should build upon the progress made by Drupal.

Tags: Blogosphere, content management systems, Drupal, progressive technology, project management (all tags)



What About TPM and Social Security ?

By almost any standard that was a blog-organized project (dispersed journalism that pressured congress critters to say no to Bush's privatization) that grew out of the the online community and into the political discourse.

And, it is not too much of a stretch to say the same thing about TPM's work on the U.S. Attorney terminations.

Maybe "blog-journalism" or "blogournalism" is a different proposition.

by Arthurkc 2009-01-31 01:13PM | 0 recs
Re: What About TPM and Social Security ?

That is a good example, and in fact I'd say there have been quite a lot of good examples to come out of TPM over the last few years.  Notice, however, that most of them have been driven by the front pagers to some degree (at least as far as I recall - it was Josh asking people to make the calls and get back to him with results, I think).  Successful projects which are more or less completely reader-driven are much less common.

by Shai Sachs 2009-02-01 02:59AM | 0 recs
I find your Drupal boosterism disturbing

As long as these threads keep coming up it will continue to be noted that Drupal is in its internal technology a big gross inefficient hack. It's not the panacea you report. People should exercise caution and look into the alternatives before getting sucked into building a Drupal site. My experience with drupal is that if it already does exactly what you want it's ok (but can be annoying to configure to do those things the way you want), but developing new features or custom code for it is horrible.

by bolson 2009-01-31 02:16PM | 0 recs
Re: I find your Drupal boosterism disturbing

I can see how you might be frustrated with it, but I have to disagree with you on the technical merits of Drupal.  Going under the hood with Drupal is quite easy and painless, once you've learned your way around, and it's quite easy to develop new features.  Compared to Wordpress and Joomla, it seems to me that Drupal is a much stronger technical platform.

by Shai Sachs 2009-02-01 03:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Blog-based project groups and Drupal

I think the tools that you mentioned about Drupal are not really not communication/collaboration tools, they are merely scheduling tools. Probably also not the easiest in the world.

The others mentioned are online collaboration/Project Management tools that are provided by 3rd party companies (that usually handle improvement/enhancement of the software, not to mention the backup).

The latter is, IMHO, a better choice.

by PM Hut 2009-02-01 09:53AM | 0 recs

I have not used the CiviCRM ( system with Drupal myself, but it certainly appears to have much of what you are looking for in a collaboration platform.

by Chris Davis 2009-02-01 11:01AM | 0 recs


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