Social Publishing with Drupal

Thank you to Jeff Whatcott of Acquia for the blog post that inspired this page.

Drupal websites that strive for social publishing (also known as multicasting employ the power of Drupal's online tools to support a community that collaborates to develop and use the site. Where appropriate, this costs less than hiring copywriters, and builds buy-in to the site, the brand, and the products or services. Schools, organizations, and businesses that market to young people need to understand this model.

Most websites in the 1990's were "brochureware" - online versions of the kind of information that would go into a brochure, changing rarely, allowing for no user interactivity. "Web 2.0" sites have a very different structure, combining:

  • Dynamic Content Management (pages that can be drafted, edited, search-engine-optimized, proofread and updated by different people with different roles)
  • Interactive Modules(blogs, forums, calendars, chat, and other online applications where users can contribute content)

Configured as a social publishing system, Drupal can provide a cohesive set of tools and workflows for assembling a web site where people express ideas and engage with each other in varies patterns of activity. These patterns may include:

  • Wiki: several people jointly editing a document or group of documents, prior to publication or as a developing reference (e.g. wikipedia).
  • Forum: a structured discussion about an idea, issue or document.
  • Blog: a person publishing personal opinions and observations on a regular basis, with public comment.
  • Article: a writer and editor moving an article or story through an approval chain.
  • Custom content: a custom content type like a calendar event, a press
    release, a conference session, etc that is posted by an individual and published for a commmunity.
  • Social networking: people publishing personal profiles,
    creating and maintaining an online presence through various tools and communities, and interacting within their networks.

Actions like tagging, commenting, rating, and voting, and tools like RSS feeds and WYSIWYG editors permeate these patterns and need to be built in. User roles and access control make it possible to manage the permissions given to various groups, so that website content is controlled based on who sees it and what it is intended to achieve.

These are Drupal's strengths out of the box. The alternative is acquiring and integrating separate software systems as the awareness of these trends require, which is more costly and risky than using a unified system that handles all of the patterns well.