7 Ways to Scale the Learning Brick Wall of Drupal

7 Ways to Scale the Learning Brick Wall of Drupal

After writing recently about the Brick Wall of Learning Drupal, I got a lot of responses from people frustrated with trying to learn Drupal. Clearly this a big issue. Some of the big challenges are discovering "best practices" and finding the "good modules." While there is no quick and easy answer to learning Drupal, there are 5 ways to find the information you are looking for.
  1. Websites

    There are hundreds of websites offering various qualities of information on Drupal. Doing a Google search will often find the answers you want. However, there is no quality control at all on the information and much of it becomes dated very quickly. As a rule of thumb, if I am searching for an answer to something, I check the date of the article. If it is older than 1 year, I move on. More than likely, the information is outdated. Be sure to start with drupal.org as the amount of information there is probably equal to all the rest put together.

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  2. Local Meetups

    One of the best ways of learning and getting involved in Drupal is to join a local meetup group. This is a great way to meet people in your area who have been using Drupal for a while and have the opportunity to ask people face to face how they get specific issues done. This is actually one of Drupal's strongest features: it's community. You will more than likely find very friendly and knowledgeable people ready to chat with you and help you get started with Drupal. It is also a great networking event to find jobs and employees.

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  3. Drupalcons/Drupalcamps

    Twice a year the Drupal community has Drupalcons. Once in North America and once in Europe. If you get the chance to make either of these, they are very worth it. You will learn more about Drupal there, especially the direction Drupal is headed, than from any other place. If you can't make the Cons, there are more than likely DrupalCamps in your area. There are now dozens all over the place. These are actually turning into mini-cons with the most recent DrupalCamp Austin having over 300 people there. Be sure to check them out if you get a chance.

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  4. IRC

    Sometimes you may just have a quick question that a search isn't helping you with or you are having trouble determining which is the best module to use or if a module even exists. You may also be having some weird error or problem you are encountering and can't figure it out. There is a dedicated team on IRC that are more than willing to answer your questions. Try a search first to see if there is an easy answer but if that fails, hop on over to Drupal and ask your question

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  5. Books

    Whether you get the "dead tree edition" or a digital copy, sometimes there is no substitute for getting a good book to learn something. As Drupal gets more and more mainstream, there are getting to be more books available. A couple of caveats though. First, books tend to get out of date quickly since their contents is static. Often you will find more up to date information on websites. Most of the Drupal 6 books are still pretty good though. Second, do NOT start with "Pro Drupal Development." It is an excellent book, but if you are new to Drupal and particularly if you are a developer new to Drupal, you will start doing things the wrong way. Do not start by building your own forms and tables and writing custom modules for everything. Take the time to really learn CCK and views and what other modules are available. Those with a lot of experience can build very sophisticated websites with very little programming.

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  6. Training

    Sometimes there is no substitute for good old fashion classroom training. The basics of Drupal are getting fairly well defined and lots of groups are now offering training. These are designed to get you from zero to a good comprehension of how Drupal works in several days. Having now taught a few of these, they are well worth it for people new to Drupal.

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  7. Distributions

    After the previous 6 ways to learn Drupal you still may be a little cloudy on what is available and how to fit everything together. Drupal out of the box still gives you very little to start with and figuring out which modules to install and how to set them all up to work together properly can be very daunting. This is where distributions can come in. Distributions are prepackaged sets of modules and settings that are aimed at a particular type of site. For example: community, news or business websites have their own distributions. Installing a distribution and seeing how it is set up is a great way to learn some best practices and figure out what modules are mature and what they can do.

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