Community & Nonprofits

Building a Community or Nonprofit Website in Drupal

One of the earliest and still most common uses of Drupal is to build websites for community organizations and nonprofits. The reasons are obvious: as open source software, there's no up-front or continuing cost, and the Drupal modules provide enormous functionality right out of the box (or out of the download to be more specific).

In addition, the wide array of social media/social web modules means that you can have a modern website up and running quickly. My rule of thumb is that it typically takes half a day to a day to put up a site like this. That means a site that has appropriate security settings so that a variety of people can update and maintain it and so that its long-term prospects for survival are good. One of the problems with webmaster-based websites is that when the webmaster moves on to another project, the website languishes.

This series is based on experiences, comments, and questions many of which have come from others for which many thanks.

I'm trying to keep the technology in the background. It's based on my book, Sams Teach Yourself Drupal in 24 Hours which covers just about all of the technology here. In addition, there are updates about the modules mentioned on

This is a work in progress, so comments and requests for other topics are welcome.


Wired on the iOS 9 encryption bug

Here's Wired on the solution to the iPhone security bug:



House of Representatives Encryption Hearing March 1, 2016, 1PM

Agenda for the hearing. It includes links to the prepared testimony of Bruce Sewell (Apple), Susan Landau (Worcestor Polytechnic Institute), and Cyrus Vance (District Attorney, NY County).

Car Automation Revs Up

Join Jesse and Joe at 11:30 on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 at the WAMC Roundtable as we talk about car automation. Android Auto and Car Play (from Apple) are shipping with new cars from many manufacturers now. We'll talk about what's going on including--

  • Integrating mobile devices with entertainment systems and phones (this has been going on for the last few years)
  • Using built-in automation (Car Play and Android Auto) -- what they can and can't do (plus why and how)
  • Turning your car into a mobile hot spot -- how, why, and who do you deal with
  • What is the next step in car automation and when might it arrive?

In addition to these technologies, Ford Sync 3 and Onstar compete to provide back-end services like emergency support, navigation, and hands-free calling. On the Android side, here's a summary of the state of the art of Android Auto along with a number of links to further resources). Once you're ready to dive in, here's a good getting started guide for Android Auto.

Here's a good overview of the state of Apple's Car Play automation as of the end of 2015 (note that some of the 2016 models referenced are now available). It also includes getting started info when you're ready.

Elsewhere on the car automation front, this just in from Matt McFarland of the Washington Post: "For the first time, Google's self-driving car takes some blame for a crash." From Google: "We clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn't moved there wouldn't have been a collision."

Dark Software: Roundtable Tuesday, January 18, 2016 11: 00 AM

It's only the beginning of the year, but a leading contender for the word of 2016 may be dark. Dark is everywhere these days:

  • Politics: Dark money is money raised by individuals, campaigns and various groups that is untraceable (or traceable only with great effort). Who's spending that money? Who's receiving it?
  • Communications: Dark fiber is fiber optic cable that is not currently used. Some of it was bult as fiber-optic networks have been built out. Because so much of the cost of laying cable is on the engineering side along with labor, over-building makes a lot of sense: The cost of the cable itself may be only 10% of the total project cost.
  • Cosmology: "Dark matter a hypothetical kind of matter that cannot be seen with telescopes, but accounts for most of the matter in the universe." (Wikipedia). Is that like this hypothetical bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you?
  • More cosmology from Wikipedia and the Planck mission from the European Space Agency (ESA): "The total mass-energy of the known universe contains:
    • Ordinary (baryonic) matter - 4.9%
    • Dark matter - 26.8%
    • Dark energy - 68.3% (we won't go there right now -- takes too much energy to get there)"
  • Technology: Dark software. Mostly unknown but often essential it's all over the place. Sometimes it's used (and occasionally misused or causes problems), and oftentimes it just sits there unused having been created and sold at great expense. Ian Foster at Argonne National Laboratory and University of Chicago writes a summary of his work here focusing on dark software in extreme-scale projects. (There's a link to the full paper here.) Jesse focuses on the dark software in commonly-used software such as word processors, spreadsheets, website development, chat support, and much more. This dark software represents a waste of time and energy in its development and testing, opportunities lost for end-users who don't know about it or use it, and in many respects, a drain of resources as the same basic utility software is written and rewritten (and tested and retested) ad infinitum.

Joe Donahue and Jesse Feiler discuss dark software on The Roundtable, Tuesday, January 18, 2016 at 11:00 AM.

Guide to Your Own Dark Software

Here's Jesse's list of some of the major dark software tools you probably have and don't use. People spent hours and hours (days and years often) designing, developing, testing, and updating it. Then you bought it (even if it was free). All that effort is gone to waste unless you use it. And, by the way, chances are it could make your work and play more enjoyable and more useful. Here's a list of what you probably have by product category (not brand -- the issue transcends brands):


  • Work processing: Styles and stylesheets to avoid formatting individual letters, words, and paragraphs (often inconsistently).
  • Databases: Relationships and normalization.
  • Spreadsheets: Worksheets or multi-table spreadsheets.
  • Web authoring: Cascading style sheets (CSS).
  • Presentation software: Styles, backgrounds.