Multi-council Drupal code sharing: Alpha, Sprint 1 notes

Croydon Council and partners have completed the first sprint of an Alpha code sharing project, and here's what they've found so far.

Regular readers will remember tales of Croydon and three other councils working out how to share Drupal code. Our six week Discovery project ended in March, and you can read our conclusions here.

In April we won money from the Local Digital Fund for an Alpha project, to test the ideas we had at Discovery. This week we kicked off a six sprint project (12 weeks) and we’ll post regular updates here. Sprint 1 finished on Wednesday, so here goes…

What we’re thinking about

Alpha problem statement: How can we create a Drupal distribution that’s flexible enough for use by many councils, and easy for all to contribute to?

This means it should:

  • be easy to install
  • have a component based architecture, so you can choose the parts you like
  • include a parent theme so it works out of the box, but it can also be styled with a child theme
  • offer a clear and transparent method for any Drupal developer to contribute
  • encourage Product Managers from different councils to work on a shared vision and roadmap

The councils involved in the Discovery agreed to try an open licence, so we’ll be looking at GPL v2 later in the Alpha.

What we’ve been doing

We all knew, and the Discovery confirmed, that the code we had wasn’t flexible enough for sharing. Getting this right will be the focus for the first few sprints at least.

In sprint 1, our developers have created a new Github repo where our new distribution is starting to emerge. It’s now possible to install a basic site, with three page formats:

The links show you what these pages currently look like on the new Croydon website.

We’ve agreed new shared names for the formats, and replaced mentions of Brighton and Croydon with “LocalGov Drupal”. It’s also given us a chance to tighten up how they work, based on many months of use by two teams of content designers. There’s a lot more refining to come.

The admin site now has a fresh look, thanks to the Drupal Claro theme. Front end wise, it doesn’t look like much right now. You can see hints of Croydon’s design, but the layouts are a bit broken. It’s on the list to fix.

We also ran a retro on Miro – a first for me. Really like it!

Running a retrospective in Miro

Here’s the start of our first retrospective in Miro. We all wrote virtual post-its and dragged them to the coloured categories in the middle.

What’s next?

Now that we’ve got working pages, the first job in Sprint 2 is to make them look serviceable. That will be the start of the parent theme work described above.

There’s two knotty issues we need to resolve soon. First, what to do about topics? At Brighton & Hove City Council (where I used to work before joining Croydon) we used topic tagging to allow multi-surfacing of content. Garden Waste could live in “Rubbish and Recycling” and also “Environment”, for example. This is a nice feature, but it’s also a bit of a pain to manage. We’ll be looking at this in depth.

Workflow is the other pressing issue. Brighton decided to follow the GDS model where content designers review (or 2i) each other’s work. It’s a good idea, but we only had time to finish parts of it. We’re planning a separate blog post about this, and it would be good to get your thoughts.

If there’s time left over in Sprint 2, we’ll continue chipping away at page formats. There’s a lot to cover here – Guides, Step by Step, Campaigns, Directories, News and more.

The initial team includes developers from Agile Collective, Brighton & Hove and Croydon. We’ll soon grow to include a product manager and user researcher from DXW, and our new friends from 5 more councils.

We’ll post again in a couple of weeks, but please do share your thoughts in the meantime.

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