Perplexed by Drupal blogs

by anchorarchivist... ()

Last week one of the Roberts Street residents (Macho!) came up with an awesome idea: start a blog on the website for residents to post info and updates about their projects. Of course! I've also been meaning to move our Zine Catalogue Blogue over from our Wordpress site to the Roberts Street website since it's hosted on a server in Zac's closet and we're worried that the server might die one day and the blog would disappear. I figured it would be easy to make some blogs on our Drupal site since one of Drupal's core modules is for blogs; we just haven't been using it. It turned out to be not so easy after all. Unfortunately, my catalogue/website administrator partner Zac just started a bike trip from Vancouver to New York, so I've been on my own. It's good, though, because now I have to figure things out for myself instead of asking the computer scientist to do it and I'm kind of enjoying getting back into Drupal problem-solving. Although I have to say that working with Drupal is way easier when you have someone to talk things through with and I very much look forward to Zac's return.

On its own, the Blogs module allows any user with permission to create a blog in Drupal. However, the blog is then just called "[username]'s Blog" by default and when you go to the Blogs menu link you see all of the recent blog entries for all of the users mixed together. This works well if you only have one blog on your site or if all users are blogging about the same thing. If you instead have different blogs on different topics that you want displayed differently, you have to do some extra work.

After doing a lot of searching around Drupal forums, I learned that you can make blogs on different topics by creating a taxonomy called, say, "Blogs," then creating terms for your different blogs (in this case "Residency Blog" and "Catalogue Blog"). You associate this taxonomy with the content type Blog and make it required. Then you create a View that filters by node type (blog) and by taxonomy term and displays the taxonomy term field. I did this and made sample blog posts in each category and it seemed to work. I had a page that displayed links to Residency Blog and Taxonomy Blog and when I clicked on each it took me to the respective blog post. But then I made a second blog post in one of the categories and suddenly my view showed a link to the taxonomy term for every blog post. In other words, my view showed 2 links to Catalogue Blog and 1 to Residency Blog. Hmmm.

I studied my View and tried to find a way to only display each taxonomy term once but I couldn't figure out how to do it. I feel like I still have a lot to learn about Views. In the meantime I thought of another approach. I edited my view so that the Taxonomy filter was exposed and added fields for Node Title and Date Created. Now users could select a term/blog type and then see a list of all blog posts within that blog. I actually like this better, except I don't like how the exposed filter looks and the header text I added to my view explaining what the blogs are about only shows up after you select a blog when it would be much more useful to see before you select a blog. I'm going to keep working on this.

In the meantime I've been transferring all of the blog posts from our Wordpress blog over to Drupal, and as I was doing this I started thinking what about tagging our blog posts with topics in Drupal? Our Wordpress blog entries are all tagged and categorized and I think these tags are quite useful for finding information about specific modules and topics on the blog. I created another Taxonomy/Vocabulary for the Blogs content type called "Blog tags." I made it not required and allowed freetagging and multiple entries. This wasn't difficult but I think it might make my above challenge of displaying blogs by taxonomy terms more difficult. I'm going to investigate using the Directory module. We had this module installed and were using it to allow browsing zines by topic, but we disabled it in favor of making a page that listed all taxonomy terms. I'm going to reinstall Directory and see if it will work for browsing blogs.