Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Drupal Views and Taxonomy

I'm learning about Drupal modules, and what sorts of things you can do with a Drupal website. Everything I read tells me the "Views" modules are sine qua non, but that's where they stop. I'm trying to find out why the views modules are so useful, and what I might be able to do with them.

Same goes for Drupal's "Taxonomy." Drupal tutorials say it's wonderful, then they explain what taxonomy means, and then they stop. Now, as an insect taxonomist, I've got a good grip on what taxonomy means, and why it's wonderful, and I understand the various types of taxonomy they discuss. But how can you actually use the taxonomy capabilities? What can you make for readers/viewers? Here are a few things I've been reading on these topics.


Dave said...

I've heard some criticism from WordPress folks about the way taxonomies are set up in Drupal, but I don't know any more than that. Blogger only has one taxonomic system that I'm aware of - labels. WP has two, categories and tags, and like a lot of people I use the former for broad groupings, e.g. Plummer's Hollow, and the latter (when I remember) for more specific things, e.g. porcupines. In WP, categories can be hierarchical; tags cannot. Both add to SEO as they become part of a post's metadata, so they are part of the semantic web. I also us a third taxonomy, Series, via a software plugin.

Over at qarrtsiluni, which is, we use categories to create issues, and tags for a contributor index. Very useful. If we had a third taxonomy available, we could conceivably use that for genres. One can also hack a self-hosted WordPress blog to put categories in the navigation bar, rather than - or in addition to - static pages. One can also write special templates for any category or tag archive. So let's say you wanted special styling for a PCF Knitting category - a nice header and an introductory paragraph, say. With WordPress, and I'm sure with Drupal as well, that's pretty straight-forward.

Hope this helps. As an inveterate platform geek, I'm following your Drupal explorations with great interest.

Dave said...

I should add that every category and tag on a WP blog has its own feed, so they are really useful for creating sub-blogs. I imagine that's the case with Drupal, too, though as a full-fledged CMS I believe it also makes setting up sub-blogs on the same installation much easier than WP does.

Rebecca Clayton said...

In Drupal, you can make your categories hierarchical with up to 9 nested levels (Linnaeus only went to 7 layers!), or you can make them act like Blogger's tags, or you can establish a "thesaurus" of equivalent and/or related terms. (or all three at the same time.) It's really well thought out, but I haven't found any "modules" (like WP plug-ins) that exploit this amazing functionality.

That doesn't mean they aren't out there, it just means that people like to write php scripts more than they like to write explanations of what their scripts do (in a language I can read). Linux was like this 12 years ago, but documentation has improved a lot, so that these days it's easier to install and learn than a certain commercial OS.

If you want to make a really nice blog with some added material, I think WordPress is the tool of choice, because the documentation is more nearly complete. You don't have to spend much time getting started; you can do lots of fancy things as you get more proficient with plug-ins; and you can write your own PHP/MySQL stuff as you learn more about it.

Drupal out of the box seems geared to multi-user sites, where each user can have a blog, put up photo galleries, post news articles, start forum topics, and perhaps pull selected news stories, blog posts, and images together into organized "books" on particular subjects. All this without turning on the "Taxonomy" function! It's these add-on functions I'm having to explore by trial and error.

Drupal would be great for collaborative projects like qarrtsiluni, and I'm (mostly) enjoying my learning experience. I've learned a lot about how Apache servers work, I've brushed up on my SQL skills, and I'm learning php scripting a little at a time. (I used to spend my days writing SQL queries and shell scripts; this is just different enough to be frustrating.)

Why not download Drupal and play with it locally? It's an ideal cold-weather project.

Dave said...

Just what I need - another hobby! But maybe when you grow proficient in Drupal, qarrtsiluni can hire you to help us with a move. Someday we'd like to add a sister publication focusing on commentary and reviews, and at that point we'll probably want to go self-hosted, either WP or Drupal.

Re: documentation, the codex may be better than the Drupal equivalent, but it's still very spotty and the search function is almost completely worthless. I generally search the tech blogosphere when I want to figure out how to do something gnarly.