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January 18, 2010

Exploring Drupal

This post has turned into a recurring theme as I sort through the maze of possibilities within Drupal. Here are some Drupal tidbits that deserve a follow-up at some point:


Taxonomy

This post is by a taxonomist who is also a Drupal user. He goes over creating a biological taxonomy using the Drupal taxonomy. At first blush, it seems that the taxonomy capabilities combined with the taxonomy image module might offer a solution for our herbarium samples. Unfortunately, it seems a given taxonomic character could only be associated with 1 image.

Reconciling Data File and Variable

This page outlines how to create multiple nodes of different content types from one submission. I highlight it because we may be able to use it when creating a data file. Basically, you would enter the information for the variable at the same time and, although different content types would be created, it would be fairly seamless. Better usability there.

Context
Here is a nice video about Drupal taxonomy. The last minute or so breezes through a few, potentially useful modules that leverage taxonomy. A comment on the same gives good resources for the Context module (see below.)

It is worth looking into features, spaces, context and panels 2 in Drupal. Within these modules is a great way to increase connectivity within the website. Context and Panels2 seem a bit redundant and I am not sure which is better to use. The whole idea of spaces is strange (surprising given the self-evident name.)

Rules

Another good video from GotDrupal. The Rules module will be useful to enforce our data access policy. We will be able to set up a rule that says, when a user tries to download a data file, re-direct the user to the policy page where they can either agree to the terms (and then download) or not. This buttons module may also be helpful.

Web services
If I can figure out how to leverage web services my life will be made much simpler and our website much better. Specifically, how to handle the copious amount of species-related information at the Biological Station.

These materials are in someway related to web services and Drupal:

- A good groups post on the subject.
- Services module to offer services from your site.
- Web services module, apparently an insecure fork of Services that will also be available for Drupal 7.
- Soap Client module for allowing modules to access web services. Current usage is less than 500 sites. Can't imagine how many hours it would take me to figure this out!
- Taxonomy XML is the most intriguing "solution" I've seen thus far. My understanding of it is incomplete but it appears that we could use it to establish taxonomic hierachies (Family -> Genera -> Species), synonyms and common names without doing recreating the tree of life.
- A video about web semantics and using taxonomy terms to bring in related material from other web servers.
Graphing and Charting Data
Initially, I expect all data files to be stored as flat files (e.g., csv, txt) but eventually, it would be great to dynamically generate graphs that summarize data sets. Here are some related links:

- Views Calc module, allows for simple calculations to be made within a view. Fairly limited but interesting.
- A blog post and tutorial on charts and graphs in Drupal.
- A dead module called Xstatistics.
- Views Charts module for integration with the Views module. Looks useful but notice dependencies.
- Charts and Graphs module, a new module that appears redundant with Charts. Probably need to install some flash stuff.

Manage Data Files as Tables

As mentioned above, I currently plan to manage data (e.g., climatic readings) as flat files. However, advances in functionality will require the data be stored as tables within the MySQL database. It looks like the Data module and the Table Wizard Module are the way to do this.

Here is a comparison of the two and here are a few videos on importing data in Drupal.

Posted by kkwaiser at January 18, 2010 12:59 PM

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