Drupal Learning Journal 17. Learning OG

Fear is a bad advisor. I have been afraid of starting to work with Organic Groups (OG), because I’ve heard that it is so complex. Before I go further let me share OG’s official description : “[It is a Drupal module that enables] users to create and manage their own ‘groups’. Each group can have subscribers, and maintains a group home page where subscribers communicate amongst themselves.”

My schedule, including my learning schedule was so full the last few weeks that I was afraid of jumping into learning OG, before I knew I could do it with full attention. I was also afraid of OG, because my first encounter with it was at a site where when  my colleagues attempted to install and enable it it messed up the site in some major ways. And you know how first impressions have resulting effects. I hope I can overcome them though.

Finally earlier this week I started the process of learning OG with watching a number of tutorial and informational videos. I did that first because in the past I found that I can learn quite well Drupal related techniques from videos. In hindsight I realize that it was not the best approach in this case. I should have started with how I am doing with less complex modules and projects:

  1. Read the manual/instructions, then
  2. Start playing with it and gain hands on experience.

There are two reasons why I think the “videos first” approach was not ideal for this process:

  1. I didn’t find the ideal video for me that would have shown how to set up OG 7 from beginning to end. Most of them what I found was about the Drupal 6 version and I learned only rather later in the process of watching them that Drupal 7 version is significantly different from Drupal 6.
  2. OG 7’s ReadMe file is so  clear and short that having read that first, the videos would have seen less daunting.

Nevertheless here are the list of videos I watched, with my comments. Only the first two is about/for Drupal 7.

  1. I started with one that our Drupal guru, who fixed what went wrong with out OG installation, recommended. The problem was that I had no idea what I was watching. The title sounded promising: “Organic groups for Drupal 7“, so did  the description of the video, “From the session in Drupalcon Copenhagen, 2010 given by Amitai (Amitaibu) Burstein.” As I learned later Amitaibu is the maintainer of OG, so he is the authority on it. This video is a really funny 19 minutes introduction into the possibilities of what you would be able to do with OG for D7. At the time the presentation was given OG for D7 was not ready yet, so Amitaibu could not demo it. Instead he used his knowledge of world politics and lots of humor about fictional scenarios for groups and assured the audience that for all of the OG will be able to satisfy all of those imagined user requirements. It was good to learn about all those possibilities, but not the ideal introduction for an OG beginner like me.
  2. The “Organic Groups 7” video, that you can watch or download from here, is 44 minutes long and is a presentation by Amitai Burstein. (I recommend downloading he QuickTime version as that has the highest resolution.) With a little digging I found out that it is from February 5 this year. Amitaibu demoed OG7, explained some of the thinking behind the rewrite and compared it to OG6. I will need to rewatch it a few more times, once i started playing with OG, because he gives a lot of examples on how to do things. Excellent resource, even if in the QA part I often didn’t hear the questions from the audience.
  3. This 4 minutes long video, titled “Creating an organic group“, from March 2010 steps you through the process of creating a new group. It is for for OG for D6. It is a fine video with three and a half caveats: 1, it assumes OG is already installed. 2, the resolution of the video is too low and cannot be viewed at a higher one to really see what’s going on, 3 the volume is a bit low (and the half: the presenter’s dialect is occasionally hard for me to understand, but fortunately he spoke slowly enough.)
  4. The title of this 5 minutes long video is quite precise: “How to add a new Organic Group in a standard OG implementation in Drupal” I liked it more than the previous one, because I could watch t in high resolution seemed to go more into the details and because they used a theme for the Drupal installation the site they made the video on was visually more pleasing.
  5. The title of this 8 minute video, “How to use Organic Groups,” should have been appended that it only applies for The Australian Greens. It is a guide from March 2010 for the members (not the developers) of one particular website on how to use the groups they have access to there. To the credit of the person who made the video the title is clear on the video itself, even if not in the text of the YouTube video itself. I wish he would have put a few words of description under the video though.
  6. This 15 minutes long video is from MustardSeed Media, who have a great series of Drupal video podcasts. The good parts: it is free, the presenter covers a lot of territory and the video contains lots of hands on tips. The not so good parts: it  is from July 2009, the presenter talks really fast, he is using Panels in combination with OG and I am not familiar with that yet, he is using lots of theming and retheming in order to accomplish things (i.e. not vie the GUI), they skip basic steps in order to cover only the more challenging aspects of OG6.
  7. Drupal Dojo‘s 18 minutes long screencast shows how the groups.drupal.org was set up with OG and panels. Good show of what could be done in OG5 for a large scale site. Meanwhile it’s good to note that the Dojo site has dozens of god screencasts on all sorts of Drupal topics. even if it hasn’t seen any new one for a while.
  8. DevelopmentSeed‘s blog entry and 13 minutes long video from March 2009 explains how to use in combination with each other three Drupal modules: “Context, Spaces, and Organic Groups“.

The official OG page at Drupal.org links two more videos, but the page they provide a link to moved and I didn’t find on the new site the videos (that based on an assumption of what URL’s “free-videos” section meant) I should have been able to access for free. And I am not ready to sign up for Drupalize.me’s fee based service yet. There are probably more videos out there about OG, but I didn’t find more for free.

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Gabor Por