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The Community Media Drupal Project

Jason Daniels

In 2012 a loose coalition of community access TV stations committed to continue to work towards the original vision of the Knight funded Open Media Project at a summit in Austin, TX. This collaboration's aim was to further develop the project to align the principles of open source with the philosophy of community access. Participants challenge each other and themselves to be more than users and invest in a shared code base that is functional, feature rich, free and flexible. These stations are committed to openly sharing improvements, documentation, and problems with the community.


Public Access TV stations from around the United States have been utilizing Drupal as an open source platform since the release of Drupal 4.7 (1).  Each major release of this software has fostered further adoption by community access TV users and a new level of engagement with open source software. Drupal 5 was widely adopted as a solution for community access stations.  Drupal 6 saw further custom development for community media specific functionality.   What distinguishes the community media activity on Drupal 7 and CiviCRM 4.x is due in part by the effort dubbed the CMDrupal project. This is an ongoing effort to merge the practice of nurturing an open source software ecosystem with the philosophy of organized community media. 

The Community Media Drupal Summit established a venue for web developers and community media practitioners to initiate open conversations around both the idea and implementation of a shared codebase.  This group coalesced in March of 2012 in Austin, TX.  Stefan Wray’s invitation email:

...A small group of community media centers’ decision makers and staff who deal with technology, along with Drupal developers working in this field, are gathering to discuss the status of our work in progress with the implementation of Drupal-based tools at our facilities, ways we can collaborate and share, and what we see as our future direction that is only limited by our imagination. The focus is to develop a culture of collaboration. (2)

The work following the Channel Austin summit in 2012 has encouraged development and communication out in the open, establishing this project as a prerequisite to successful collaboration.  

The principles of transparency, empowerment and education in electronic media have long been a mainstay of the community access television philosophy.  However, the practice of software development has not translated easily to community access television organizations  that generally cling to rigidly defined technical roles from a pre-internet age.  

From 2012 through the summer of 2014 three different Starter Kits, or stand alone installation profiles are actively being developed upon Drupal 7 and CiviCRM - identified distinctly as Easy, Moderate and Difficult Kits.  The intended workflow is to transition an organization's website to an Easy Kit and as time and skills develop migrate to a Moderate with CiviCRM member database, and finally work with a developer to configure modules and features of the Difficult kit. Some of the functionality in the Easy Kit is as follows:

  • Checklist to walk you through the initial configuration

  • Adaptive theme that works well for mobile users

  • Front page Slideshow

  • RSS Feed driven Video on Demand Library

  • RSS Feed driven Airing Schedule

  • Legal (to manage member behavior and replace cablecast agreements)

  • Manage Permissions for Staff, Members, and Administrators

  • Online Show Submissions (replace paper forms)

  • Webforms (replace other paper forms)

  • Captcha and Badbot to block spam (3)

Organizations who have taken the task of investing in this software project are learning how to collaborate openly in this space.  There has been the ongoing challenge of investing the sweat equity required to support an open source project and challenging small organizations and management to have the wherewithal and discipline to contribute quantifiable non financial support.  These new skill sets include:

  • Using version control to add patches and fixes to modules

  • Creating issues in the proper public queues  

  • Responding to issues in public forums

  • Fully understanding the vocabulary of open source.

  • Updating documentation  

  • Creating support materials and events

The organizations are no longer simply using free software without contributing back.  They are invested to help improve and shape the future.

For those with financial capacity, the challenge is articulating development needs to sustain shared development.  A Memorandum of Understanding has been implemented so that larger organizations, such as channel Austin, Portland Community Media and Manhattan Neighborhood Network, can work together in this direction.  Share early and often and follow ”The overarching principle guiding this agreement is a maxim at the core of open source software development in addition to a variation of core principle of Drupal development: Do no harm; Don't hack core, but if you have to hack it. . . do it openly.”(4)    

(1) - A History of PEG 2.0 initiatives -

(2) Stefan Wray’s email invitation to the Community Media Drupal Summit

(3) Community Media Starterkit Easy Features -

(4) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) revised draft as 5/5/14

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