Phew. If possible, in the future, I'm going to avoid making a major web launch on the first weekend of Daylight Savings Time—quite easily Benjamin Franklin's worst idea.
Essentially, the latest and greatest update for NewHopeKS.org is online. I cut over to the new software last night at 10:00. Anyway, I thought I'd mention a few details of this endeavor.
The new site is Drupal-based. Drupal is the same software that runs this blog, as of this writing. We picked it for a number of reasons. Drupal is popular, easy to understand, easy to extend, has lots of existing extensions, and is probably going to be around for awhile. Thus, if the three of us who are responsible for the web site suddenly moved away, it shouldn't be hard to find someone else to take over. (One must always be careful of volunteer commitments, because volunteers often fail to keep commitments. While Tim, Eric, and I are actually committed, we've gone through this process on the assumption the next person in charge might not be.)
Now, the web site isn't just Drupal—it's the CivicSpace-based distribution of Drupal. For those who know the history of this project, CivicSpace is the decendent of the DeanSpace, which is the software that was used by Howard Dean's presidential campaign web site. At first, it may seem a little odd for an evangelical church to be using this software, but evangelicals are advocates as much as any other CivicSpace site. We just happen to advocate for spiritual change rather than social change. Because of this and other factors (primarily Biblical guidance), we have quite a different M.O. for performing this advocacy, but there are still many similarities.
Anyway, at this time, we're barely scratching the surface of what we can do. As of this morning, the web site is a collection of events, announcements, and informational pages on New Hope. The web site will probably start being updated by church staff in another week or two. Parts of the web site will be modified by other volunteers starting today (especially, the SHAPE section). I am also going to start seeing what we can do about uploading our recorded messages. There's really a lot of work to be done still, but it's a great start.
I'd like to mention that the design of the web site is mostly due to the handiwork of Eric Benson. Unfortunately, he has no current personal web presence I can link to—many domains but no content. ;) I think it looks slick, though, as he tells me, most of the work isn't his, but he's got big-big plans. I can't wait.
Now, for the problems. The biggest and baddest problem of all is that the taxonomy system of Drupal is both awesome and a pile a poo. I'm probably going to patch Drupal according to the recommendations of GreenAsh in his three part series on taxonomy. It's either that or we see if Drupal figured some more stuff out when 4.6 becomes a stable release. The main issue is, that it seems obvious to arrange the New Hope web site into ministries: LIFE Groups (small group Bible studies), SHAPE Groups (small group studies of personal gifts), Construction Zone (children's church), Youth Group, etc. In fact, these things really could be mini web sites in their own rite. LIFE Groups could feature pages specific to each life group. Construction Zone could feature pages specific to each class.
However, Drupal is terrible at this. The problem is that the taxonomy system is too flexible. It can do a breadcrumb trail, but almost all documents show up in "Home". Gah! The reason this happens is because breadcrumb trails are single-inheritence heirarchies, just like a typical directory or file system. The taxonomy system of Drupal allows for mutliple-inheritance heirarchies and even more complicated structures, so a simple breadcrumb isn't possible without enforcing some sort of policy on this system. Honestly, this isn't a problem for me, but it might be for someone else. However, there's no reason I couldn't volunteer to be put under that policy and another site could decide not to be.
Anyway, GreenAsh has found some resolution to this by doing just that, he's established a policy that says that every page must be categorized into a top-level single-inheritance heirarchy. Then, he patched the Drupal source to make it work. I'm trying to decide if we want to do this or not. It would make a nice breadcrumb trail along with making new nodes a little simpler to organize based on the primary category. He also has some nifty stuff for cross-category breadcrumbing, which would be handy in our case too. I think I'll probably do this or some variation to make the New Hope web nicer to browse.
The biggest issue is, what happens at upgrade? Well, as far as I can tell, we're not actually doing anything bad to tables themselves. His patch just seems to nudge the behavior of Drupal in a slightly different direction, and then only in the places of taxonomies and breadcrumbs. The actual data stored in the system is unchanged. I imagine, we could lose some of the features for a time during upgrade, but still have all the raw materials to do it again. On the other hand, if Drupal actually implements this policy or something like it, but chooses to do so in a different way in a future version, this will be difficult to deal with.
However, I think it should be doable.