Building (Virtual) Community in the Big Easy

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to attend Do It With Drupal, a conference on the open source content management system (Drupal) that we’ll be adopting at the Law School in the near future. Aside from the chance to experience Abita Turbodog, great jazz at the Spotted Cat (and more great jazz across the street at D.B.A.), beignets at Cafe Dumond, absinthe, the earliest measurable snow ever in New Orleans (thanks to Avi Schwab for those photos), and the greatest snack food in history, I had the chance to rub elbows with some of the leaders in the Drupal movement, including the conference organizers, the Drupal consulting firm Lullabot.

Now, I’m not a programmer by trade or by inclination, so there was plenty of full-frontal nerdity at this conference that flew well over my head (I’m pretty sure at one point folks at one presentation were actually talking in PHP), though the introduction to the Views module by inventor Earl Miles was worth the price of admission to me. Most fascinating to me, though, were the talks about community building, particularly those by Brian Oberkirch and Lane Becker. They really got me thinking about how we can continue our mission to make the Law School’s site into an extension of the very distinct community it represents, to function as a virtual Green Lounge (the main gathering place at the school) where people can debate, argue, and laugh together.

What’s great about using Drupal as a tool for this task is that it is more than a content management system — it’s a community of people building a platform for building communities. Interaction and community are, as one presenter put it, “baked into the code.”

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