Currently Browsing: Content Management

How to create a simple content workflow in Drupal

If your web site is running on a content management platform like Drupal, one of the things you may have wanted to do is create a simple workflow to allow other users to enter content for you, to have other authors. Drupal handles this fairly well, as long as you ahve the right modules installed. We can get into modules in a later blog post.

For this example, the site owner wanted to allow people outside their organization to enter content straight into a community calendar. This workflow is applicable to any content type on the site, not just calendar items.

To achieve this, we used Drupal functionality, and added modules but made minimal code changes, if any at all. We allowed for approved users to submit events to a community calendar, which can be expanded to multiple roles, modified permissions and multiple content types as well.

This is roughly how it works:

1. User registers here /user/register and is approved or denied by the site owner. The user registration process is somewhat configurable, and the user will have no access unless a site administrator activates their account. User settings found here: /admin/user/settings

2. If approved, the site owner assigns the user the role of “event submitter (moderated)”. The user then has the ability to add events, but not publish them, as well as edit their own submissions.

When the account is approved (made active, role assigned) the user will need another manual, instructional e-mail so they know how to create the calendar. The account registration link should also be put into a block and placed on the sidebar along with all calendar content pages to promote the availability of user generated content.

3. The user will log into Drupal and see the admin toolbar, but only have the ability to create calendar events. The process is reasonably intuitive and memorable.

Users take this path in the admin toolbar: Content Management >> Create Content >> Community Calendar to reach the entry screen (/node/add/community-calendar). None of the other functions are enabled, most are not even visible.

Possible modifications would be to add e-mail notifications of new user registrations, if this isn’t already happening.

4. Notifications don’t currently exist to inform the site administrator of new unmoderated calendar submissions, so this modification would prove useful. Currently, the content approver (content manager role or admin role) would visit /admin/content/node/overview to see the entries, which would be listed as “not published” under “status”.

To approve one of these items for publishing, the moderator would open the entry for editing, scroll to “Publishing Options” at the bottom of the edit screen; check the box next to “Published” and save the record. After these steps, the content will show publicly on the calendar.

This may be another place where notifications could be useful, sending a notice to the submitting user that their content has been approved and published. Additionally, content may be deleted in the edit screen.

As users prove themselves trustworthy, the site owner could choose to create an unmoderated version of this role and allow these selected users to publish without requiring approval. Another mod would be to allow the users to see all of the content they’ve put in. Seems like this must be configurable but I don’t see it. Not sure why “content” isn’t showing in the content management menu for that role. Also would be useful to filter the list of content by creating user.

In this case, Drupal was changed in these ways to open this functionality:

Altered the calendar content type from published to unpublished.

Created a role and permissions for “event submitter (moderated)” and tested it, also testing the previous step by creating a calendar entry under this role.

Activated the profile module and added the Personal Information tab to it. (/admin/user/profile)

Created test user with the new profile tool active. Sends user to this confirmation message embedded on the home page in between the menu and the photo/content block.

The user sees this message on regisrtation if you don’t change it. “Thank you for applying for an account. Your account is currently pending approval by the site administrator. In the meantime, a welcome message with further instructions has been sent to your e-mail address.”

Now that you’ve read this, does it make sense to you? What else would you add? What questions does it raise? Leave us a comment!

Content Management System ModX Has Big Plans. We Don’t Think So.

The following is an internal instant message conversation between myself and out CIO Paul Kulp regarding the news that ModX, a content management system we’ve worked in and discarded, was releasing a new version with high hopes.  We prefer Drupal, by a mile, if you’re asking.  And if you’re asking, drop us a line to talk about it!


paul: They’ve got a long ways to go to catch up to Drupal in my eyes

paul: and 3 yrs seems like a long time to get a new version out

paul: especially since it was in beta when i did my eval for IVCF

justin: like 2 years ago?

paul: yeah

paul: when i was doing the eval for us – i had to choose between the Evolution and Revolution platforms

paul: not a good sign

Site Launch: Stepping Stones II Early Learning Center

WSG is pleased to launch, a brand new site.  Stepping Stones is a child day care center located in Troy, NY.  As their site states:

Stepping Stones II Early Learning Center offers childcare services for children ages six weeks to five years — providing a warm, relaxed, “extended family” atmosphere — a home away from home. Reasonably priced with breakfast, lunch and snacks included and conveniently located off I-90 in North Greenbush.

The site is based on a custom design – including a custom logo – and is running on WSG’s own Content Management Tool.  The staff at Stepping Stones wanted to use the site to communicate with parents and find new families through the web.  Center Director Christy LaBarge has already been doing a good job of watching for and answering user-generated content related to the center online, most notably this thread on the entitled “Daycare help!” Good job Christy!

Google Sidewiki: I totally had this idea years ago.

Google SideWiki brings comments from users right to your browser.

Google Sidewiki brings comments from users right to your browser.

For those of you not completely glued to Google Labs or RSS updates from Google, there’s a new feature of Google Toolbar that’s found its way to Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers: Google Sidewiki.

Google Sidewiki puts everyone’s opinion or insights about a page right there with you on a site.  (To be honest, I’m pretty sure Google found some way to read my mind from 10 years ago and decided to implement the idea that I had, but I digress.)

Google Sidewiki can be used by visitors and site administrators alike.  If you’re the (verified) site owner, you can leave comments that are sticky at the top of the Sidewiki, which is very useful for getting feedback about your site, or prompting a conversation about your site.  However, if you have a blog or some feature that allows feedback on a specific article, it might be best if you promote that and let the user leave comments on that specific article, so the comments don’t get lost in the Sidewiki.  You can get a lot of great hints and feedback that will help better your site.  If a certain feature of your site is acting up, people would be more likely to leave a note in the Sidewiki as opposed to filling out the contact form just to let you know that something’s not working.  Any way that users can interact with your site will help you get return visitors.  So keep peoples’ Sidewiki comments in your mind when you make updates to your site.

To get the Google Toolbar (and in turn, have access to the SideWiki) you simply go to the Google Toolbar page and click the conveniently large “Install Google Toolbar” button.  Once it’s installed and you restart your browser, you can log in to your Google account and gain access to not only Sidewiki, but GMail, Your Google Bookmarks, and access to Google Translate.  Being a Mac/Safari nerd at home has made me miss Google Toolbar, but there’s a good chance I might sway to Firefox on my home computer with the release of Google Sidewiki.

Let’s Talk About How Awesome It Is!

I’ve always been a fan of reader interaction on webpages, whether it be posting on a forum, a chat room, or blog comments (*ahem*); however, those systems typically require a user to signup and can do so with a completely anonymous username.  With Sidewiki, you use your Google ID to leave comments on the side of webpages.  Google also gives users the ability to rate if a comment is useful or not, and if the comment is just spam, you can report it as abuse and Google will take action.  This is definitely a necessary feature because as we all know, spammers are out there trying to get their links to Russian Mail-Order Brides to as many people as possible.

I also really like how you can also make a comment specifically about one section on the page.  If there’s a certain paragraph or headline that I want to make a comment about, I can just pop open the Sidewiki, highlight the text that I wanted to comment on, and start typing my soliloquy about how Chewbacca is the greatest movie character ever.  It’s a pretty cool idea, but I am not sure how it will work when people make a comment on a news article on the front page of a site.  Once it gets moved to an archive, the comment won’t follow it, unless Google’s figured out some magical way to make the comment hook into the permalink of the page.  And if they’ve done that, then I’ll be completely flabbergasted.

Sidewiki also gives the ability for a verified webmaster (through Google Webmaster Tools) to post a comment and keep it pinned at the top of the sidebar.  I think it’s definitely a great idea for being able to welcome someone to your site and maybe ask for specific feedback on a certain element of the page.  Now, I may be biased because I have an affinity for all things Google, but this is definitely a step towards Google Wave which looks like it’s going to be the future of the Internet.

Relevance on Dynamic Content?

The main drawback I see to SideWiki is that there’s a big potential for an enormous amount of comments on a few popular pages which will dilute the usefulness after a while.  If there are some consistently “useful” comments on a page, and then the content of the page changes, those comments will no longer be relative but will still hog the top spots on the Sidewiki preventing the now relative comments from reaching the top.

What You Can Do To Help

As I always do, I recommend all of you check out Google Sidewiki.  It’s always fun to be an early adopter of some new technology and play around with it before it gets super bloated.  But most of all, you might have some awesome insights about a page or article that no one has thought of before, and you can be the one to bring it to the world.  So download that toolbar, sign in, and start sharing your opinions with all of the other users out there!