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Learning is painful

You get it out of the box and plug it in. You gauge or seize its complexity — for a little while. Then you open the owner’s manual and read.

What sort of owner’s manual comes with the Content Management System Drupal for the developer or the advanced “user” ? A few “core developers” (as we call those who work on Drupal’s code) are now in the process of writing such owner’s manual. The book will be published sometime in April. If I may be so blunt, quite a few core developers (not the two authors of the book though, as far as I can tell) are arrogant assholes. What’s more, they (these “quite a few”) keep other developers new to Drupal at arm’s length and hold “users” (lusers) in disdain. Not too long ago I would have certainly bought the book had it been published already. But it’s too late now, I’ll wait till I can get my hands on it for free. It’s too late now because I suffered and learnt, and now I know my stuff. I was guided by a few incredibly gifted and sweet non-core developers, guys who can both program and relate to other human beings.

“Drupal is one of the most popular content management systems in use today”, says the back cover of the yet-to-be-released book. “With it, you can create a variety of community-driven sites, including blogs, forums, wiki-style sites, and much more. Authors [...] delve into Drupal internals, showing you how to truly take advantage of its powerful architecture. You’ll learn how to create your own modules, develop your own themes, and produce your own filters. You’ll learn the inner workings of each key part of Drupal, including user management, sessions, the node system, caching, and the various APIs available to you. [...] Simply put, if you are working with Drupal at all, then you need this book.” Ironically, the gig here is probably right on. The documentation on drupal.org lacks a cohesive quality, is not well-organized, the head of documentation is abrasive, but what’s worst : the documentation is seriously lacking in explaining the internals of Drupal, as if it was a secret to keep, a lingo to be understood only by the elect. “Drupal architecture and behavior are mapped out visually”, says the back cover. “Chapters provide regular discussion and reference to why things work the way they do, not just how”. Well, well, couldn’t we find this in Drupal’s documentation as well ?

My experience with learning Drupal brought back some memories.

I’d like to talk about the culture I came from — back in the days where I was a practicing engineer. Let me describe that culture to you, as it was when I was hired : whatever “we” (hired engineers) had went through ourselves when we had just started in the company, new engineers had to go through as well. It wasn’t written anywhere, but such was the rule. Such was the culture when I came on board anyway.

I suffered : you’ll suffer. No one helped me : I won’t help you.

Pain was something of value. Straining was synonymous with learning. Actually it was believed that you’re not learning unless you’re bumping your head against a 100 roadblocks and overcoming them on your own. Anything else was seen as “hand holding”. C’était le baptême du feu. This was typical of my department but it was different elsewhere. Because elsewhere habits had changed or the culture had always been different. I suppose that because employees did not good through bad experiences when they themselves just started, they just didn’t think that newbies had to have a hard time. I was helpful. I remember the time when I conducted interviews to hire a new engineer. With that new employee, and thanks mostly to that new employee, the culture experienced a shift in my department.

Strong people get help and give it. Strong people can relate to other people’s frustrations, they put people first in their lives and their projects second, and they don’t abide by the archaic belief that rites of passage should be part of their professional life and that of others. But I’ve got it all wrong probably : it’s not a matter of being strong or not, it may only have to do with conditioning.

Someone asked in the Drupal’s forums, after searching and searching for an answer on his own : “Does someone have an answer to my basic and perhaps absurdly simple question or is it an ‘initiation rite of passage’ ?” Another person said : “You must hate Drupal before you can love it.” I hear them, it really is like that, but does it need to be like that ? I don’t think so. I think some guy nailed it in explaining why certain people value pain in learning : the experience of learning something difficult pretty much left on your own is “both rewarding and incredibly frustrating”. It’s that mix of pleasure with pain that some love.

Last edited by Caroline Schnapp about 10 years ago.

Comments

I did ?

you nailed it, maaaannn, that's what I've been concluding over the last few weeks of trying to learn Drupal. They just can't seem to come down to a beginner's level. You have to know the lingo. You kind of have to understand it before you can understand it.

Your article rings so true with me because I was in telecom for 20 years, and it's like you say -- everyone is territorial about their knowledge and just talks you around in circles. You just have to go figure it out yourself. What a waste.

Drupal is quite frustrating, but looks like it might be worth the pain.

This wasn’t a spur of the moment posting. I know that what we see & hear tend to confirm our feelings if we’re biased. But I don’t think I have such a bias.

Thank you for taking the time to comment, and thank you for dropping by (it gets lonely here). I think I know exactly what you mean when you write : “You kind of have to understand it before you can understand it.”

I agree with you that sending people off to run in circles is a waste. Usually people are left on their own until they get socially integrated, and then, whatever question they have (at least it was like that in my department) they will get. So I am just not buying the excuse that people serve you all the time : that you have to let people learn to be autonomous. It is not only condescending but is, most of the time, a pretence. I totally understand that you have to help people help themselves. Of course, people, once integrated, are also more experienced in fetching information on their own. But that is not what I am talking about here.

There came a time when I felt that it was just too late for me to contemplate using another content management system because, frankly, I just had invested too much time and effort in Drupal. There was some of that. I also genuinely appreciate many of Drupal’s features. And I have gotten used to its weaknesses, to the extent that I would (unfortunately) not get involved in yet another discussion about them in the drupal.org forums.

Unfortunately I agree

I learned much of what I know about Drupal from the lullabot podcasts. I have discovered that you can get stomped on in the forums: There was a discussion about login problems and I suggested that it might be due to a separate cookie for the www. domain prefix. I was basically told very abrupty by a senior Drupal developer to get out of the way because this was a red herring. I followed the discussion and guess what, several months later I was proved to be right.
I remember my first few days working as an electronics engineer. It was as you say. (But that was another country and another life.)
But I admit, I have ordered the new book!

Login problems

But I admit, I have ordered the new book!

Excellent. Let me know how it is. I will get my local library to get a copy for me. I should do this tomorrow as I have to renew a few books there. My library is quite accommodating, it orders books that I am the only one to take out LOL... (I am currently not in any position to spend any more money than absolutely necessary on books). Apress is a great publisher, and I am sure that the two writers and the Apress editors have done a fine job with this book.

I suggested that it might be due to a separate cookie for the www. domain prefix. [...] was [told] by a senior Drupal developer to get out of the way and [...] several months later I was proved to be right.

I experienced the login problems too, as so many people have, judging from the length of the threads in the forums about that problem, and that was my fix indeed : there were two cookies : one using .www and one that did not use it. An additional rewrite rule in my .htaccess file solved the problem for me. (But there are other fixes). 'Cogrusty', who is both so intelligent and kind (he's not a core developer) helped me and others with that.

You are so right. I

You are so right. I especially agree with the part about a few core developers being arrogant assholes, or well, at least one that I've come across so far. I'll be nice enough not to mention any names.

About people not wanting to help other people with things that they've gone through themselves. It's probably because of many different reasons (of various strength in various people of course), but I'm wondering if there's not a bit of a fear thrown into that mix as well. A fear of being overtaken, outrun, by someone else. As in, "it took me a week to learn this stuff, therefore it should take you just as long, or else it's just a matter of time before you're smarter/better than I am - which makes me inferior/obsolete".

The part about drupals core documentation is also spot on. It's really like they want to keep the inner workings a secret for some reason.

Pain and Suffering it is!

I have been wanting to create a simple social networking website for a while now. I am not new to programming. I have many years of programming and application development under my belt. But, this time I was really trying to get a new site up and running quickly so I thought let me try drupal. I was trying to do very simple things first, allow user login and password creation through the front page of my site. Well, I haven't yet figured how to do this in drupal yet. So, I started writing my own php scripts to create a user in the database. I already have a mysql server up and running. But, then there is no point to drupal if I go this route and create my own scripts. Drupal is supposed to help you do this with little effort. Moreover all other features I need which drupal might already have, I will have to recreate. So, I would appreciate Since you folks have gone through the pain, if you can share some of your thoughts on how to get started, will save me some time. Thanks.

I was trying to do very

I was trying to do very simple things first, allow user login and password creation through the front page of my site.

That's very basic. You have to place the 'User login' block, either in the Left Sidebar or right one, or in your header, or in your content area. Go to admin/build/block. As far as 'per page' visibility of this block, click on the Configure link next to the 'User login' block — on that same page. This will bring you to admin/build/block/configure/user/0. Scroll down. Look at the fieldset with title 'Page specific visibility settings'. Select this radio button: 'Show on only the listed pages.' Then, under 'Pages', write this:

<front>

So, I started writing my own php scripts to create a user in the database.

That's crazy talk, man ;-) — that's how young people talk...

Have a splendid day! Chin up!

ps: you may want to read this book: http://11heavens.com/building-powerful-and-robust-websites-with-drupal-6-reviewed

Abrasive and frustrating

Yes, indeed, the api online documentation is quiet frustrating :/
Thanks a lot for your articles!

totally agree

Wow, and I thought it was just me. this is what's preventing drupal from being used by some 80% of the market. Asking simple questions as you're a newbie, or asking why tables aren't keyed/indexed properly will prolly get you an "eff off" in the rooms. Times were VERY bad at the time of this post before PDD came out.

I'm not sure if it's fear. I first thought that when I got ignored, or the answers 'research is the answer, now go away' or 'drupal is free, you get what you pay for' from a particular 'senior' drupal core dev. however, I think it's just a complete inability to be able to communicate with people.

'Research is the answer', the docs on Drupal are the worst I've ever seen, and it becomes near impossible to 'research' on drupal.org. node/12345 and node/214325 are not easy to remember, even though the two nodes could be on the same subject. A book with no index page and a clear structure is as unusable as drupal.org

Clean urls? Taxonomy? Autopath? Any non-tech user who went to drupal would expect to see what Drupal is capable of, obviously a huge wad of unordered docs by the look of it.

Drupal's core system was shrouded in mystery that the core devs wanted to keep a secret. And then there's the reply, 'well if they're so bad, then why don't you contribute?...' which shows a complete lack of understanding of devs of drupal vs users of drupal.

The notion of keeping something a secret faded out with the invention of vocabulary and the printing press, it's time Drupal.org caught up!

Solution

Caroline Schnapp, I am also engineer. I also faced the same problem and same circumstances in the industry. I come up with a solution. Telling you and I am sure it will help you and all others.

Go to: www.lynda.com

You will find videos for learning.
The problem in IT is that one must have strong concepts. When we deal with problems on daily basis, there is no set formula to resolve them. Every problem have its own nature and unique to others. The engineer who succeed in this field and become role mode for others, should have strong concepts of relevant technology. Only strong concepts can help him. Shorten the accomplishment curve, lessen the brain pain and make one confident. On lynda.com, they teach the basics and advance levels as well. Moreover, The teachers are Gurus in their fields.

If you understand my point, send me Love.

I’d like to talk about the

I’d like to talk about the culture I came from — back in the days where I was a practicing engineer. Let me describe that culture to you, http://e-papierossy.com.pl/en/e-papierosy/96-e-papierosy-gambit-5609.html as it was when I was hired : whatever http://e-papierossy.com.pl/en/e-papierosy/99-e-papierosy-gambit-1221.html “we” (hired engineers) had went through ourselves when we had just started in the company, new engineers had to go through as well. It wasn’t written anywhere, but such was the rule. Such was the culture when I came on board anyway.