What are Drupal 6 Panels Contexts

Note: Although this was written for D6 Panels, Panels continues to include contexts. I haven't tested the recent versions of Panels to see if anything has changed regarding contexts but perhaps this will provide a quick review before you get started.

There is a Drupal module called Panels. There is a Drupal module called Context. There is a feature in Panels called context. Panel's context and the Context module are not the same, not even close. According to Earl Miles, the developer of Panels: "In Panels, context is lingo for a wrapper around any significant object. By default, Panels supports 'Node', 'Taxonomy term', 'Taxonomy vocabulary', and 'User' as contexts." But what does that mean?

I recently purchased "Drupal 6 Panels Cookbook" from Packt Publishing, hoping to get all my context/relationships questions answered. I did learn a couple things from the book so it wasn't money wasted but it didn't answer all my questions. So I did what I often have to do, I starting clicking and observing what happens. This article is what I have figured out. I hope you find this useful.

UX Design and Drupal Websites: A Planner's Guide

In the past year, the letters UX have grown very popular in discussion posts, job ads, etc. UX design or user experience design can't be defined in a sentence. I found a definition of UX design on uxdesign.com @ http://uxdesign.com/ux-defined. As I read, the author of this article brings up the "profound and practical insights of Jesse James Garrett" and his diagram of The Elements of User Experience.

Paper Clip Dilemma

I was a lucky student at Virginia Tech from 1980-1984. I had a father who wrote me letters on a regular basis. They were always entertaining and thoughful. My father has been an inspiration and mentor my entire life. He passed away December 18th, 2009 and as I remembered back on the many talks we had, I recalled a letter he sent me in college. He had a great sense of humor and this letter has stayed with me over the years. I thought I had lost the letter but found it today and have decided to share a little of his sense of humor with you. I can't use or buy paper clips without this story in the back of my mind. He was a great man and will be missed.

Drupal Roles: Wearing Multiple Hats

If you do a search for Drupal jobs, the most common jobs listed are Drupal developer, Drupal themer, and Drupal designer. If you look at the skills required for each, they say basically the same thing: HTML, CSS, PHP, SQL, and Drupal experience. If the job is graphic, you might see additional requirements such as Photoshop, Flash, etc. I wonder what the person will be doing in these jobs. Is a developer the same as a coder or is a developer the person who builds the Drupal site?

Building a Certification Program

Most of us have either heard of someone being certified to do something or maybe we have been through a certification process ourselves. Depending on the certification, the process could be to simply take a test. Or, it could be more involved such as to include one or more of the following: multiple exams, training, education degrees, experience, recommendations, and demonstration projects.

Building a Dynamic Workplace with Cross-Training

What is cross-training? I use this term to describe a management approach I tried as a Project Control Manager for TRW. A project control manager is responsible for managing the financial books of a government contract. The number of staff in this type of office is often limited in order to keep total project costs down. They are typically delegated to specific business tasks, enabling each member of the staff to become very good at what they do.

Instructional Design versus Building Online Courses

When we are given a tool that makes the development of online learning easier for the novice, we risk loosing the power of the design process. The temptation to open the course shell in Blackboard, for example, and start adding sections, items, folders, documents, etc. can be overwhelming. Add to this temptation the fact that the course is already being delivered in the classroom, why bother with design? Or, the belief that the if the classroom course is using Blackboard to host its classroom materials, then taking the course online is a snap, so why design?

Online Instructional Development in Higher Ed

In brick-and-mortar higher education institutions, where online learning is a grass roots effort, the quality of the course is dependent upon the professor/instructor. In other words, online environments quite often mirror classroom environments. A good classroom environment often translates to a reasonable online experience as well. The professors who put as much energy into their ability to teach and create quality instructional strategies, as they do their research, quite often deliver a better learning experience.

A Drupal Life-cycle

The process of Drupal web design has moved to the front of my thoughts recently. I am not necessarily talking about the graphic design but instead the information architecture component of the design. I started thinking about how much has changed since I was creating basic HTML sites. What constituted planning back then seems a far cry from what is needed for a content management system (CMS) where the number of pages can be significantly larger.

Facilitation Tricks of the Trade

There are a lot books out there on facilitation. They all say basically the same thing. They tell you a well planned event is better than one you do off the cuff. This is true. However, the best made facilitation plans have unknown factors that can prevent the plan from being successfully executed. I started facilitating in the early 90's. I have observed some challenges that not all facilitators consider when facilitating.

Process versus System

In today's world of do it better, do it faster, we often look to technology to save the day. There isn't anything wrong with looking to technology for opportunities to improve. The challenge arises when the technology is chosen before the process that needs to be improved is analyzed. This happens for many reasons. Some are just due to ignorance (we thought we had analyzed the process). Some reasons are due to arrogance (this is my department and this is the tool we will use). Others just don't realize the difference between a business process and a system process.

Requirements and Change Requests


"Bring me a rock, please."

Ever get the feeling that you are being asked to deliver a product or work that has not been completely defined? You assume you know what a rock looks like based on basic information provided. You find it and paint it, only to find the client wanted a small round rock painted red, not the large square rock stained blue you assumed was needed.

Training versus Education

The difference between training and education has been discussed for countless years. If you consult a dictionary, you might see that training is the process of teaching or learning a skill or job. And you might see that the process of educating is the imparting and acquiring of knowledge through teaching and learning, especially at a school or similar institution.