At the intersection of marine conservation and social, economic, environmental and food justice

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cutting Edge of CSFs & the Interwebs

This blog comes from NAMA's coordinating director, Niaz Dorry.

Our website just had a major facelift. We have one of the first websites built in Drupal 8 (Beta). For most of us that means nothing. For some people, it means something pretty exciting.

Regardless of which camp you belong to, we thought you’d appreciate hearing about what makes the new site unique and what it has to do with Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) and the emerging CSF movement.

What’s Drupal? It is an open source platform for building websites, much like WordPress but a little more robust (at least we think so). I’m not a techy, so don’t expect me to get all geeky on you. But for over a decade, I’ve had to become versed in techy things - especially Drupal-ly things - out of necessity.

Unity Homes model in Gulfport, Mississippi
Nine years ago when I was at the Healthy Building Network, somehow I got roped into helping build a website for Unity Homes, a project of HBN at the time that would build affordable, healthy, affordable, modular homes for those who lost theirs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Oliver Seldman was the person hired to do the techy part, and he and I began a cyber relationship that has lasted since. Back then, Oliver and I began playing with Drupal, which wasn’t really that widely used at the time.

Shortly after coming to NAMA, we lost the old website. Don’t ask! At first I wished there was a magic cyber grapple. Then I took it as a sign that we were meant to start anew. But with very limited resources and expertise, it proved very challenging to get a good, new site up.

After a few failed attempts at DIY website building, I found myself teaming up with Oliver again. We built another Drupal site; the old NAMA site. We were at the beginning of the Community Supported Fishery movement, a network no one was supporting at the time, and in fact very few could even imagine. It was important for us to fill the gap. We knew the potential of CSFs for creating change on the water and on our plates. We wanted to create an online place where any CSF that didn’t have resources for a website could use to put their information till they could have their own; we wanted a CSF locater so people could put in their zip code and find a CSF pick up location near them; we wanted a place to store information such as regulatory requirements; and, we wanted a place to put our original CSF Bait Box, a step by step resource guide for fishermen and communities ready to start a CSF, amongst other things. 

Out with the old....
These functions weren’t readily available in Drupal then. To meet our unique needs, we had to create some things for the first time. I should say Oliver got to create some things for the first time.

As it is with open source software, improvements, suggestions, and ideas emerge from the community and strengthen the community. We know that the tools we built to support the CSF movement helped Drupal grow and serve more needs while serving the CSF movement at a critical time.

With our once cutting edge website nearing an out-of-date state, we had to take action. In fact, if we didn’t, it would be obsolete and no longer supported by year’s end. We would be floating at sea without a lifeline. And this time even a cyber grapple wouldn't help!

So with the help of two of our funders - Maine Community Foundation’s Broad Reach Fund and Food and Farm Communications Fund - we were able to invest in an upgrade - actually a double upgrade.

And that’s where Oliver came into the picture again, but this time he made us an offer we couldn’t refuse!

Oliver, now no longer a solo contractor, had joined the team at Advomatic, the premier digital agency for mission-driven organizations. We would be their first website to be built in Drupal 8, the latest version that only exists in Beta. By coming together, NAMA would get a double upgrade, meaning we would likely not have to do anything other than basic maintenance to our website for a good number of years to come. For Advomatic, it meant their staff becomes one of the first teams to build from the ground up in Drupal 8 while creating solutions, ideas, suggestions, fixes, improvements, and maybe even some innovations to offer to the community to make Drupal 8 more robust and productive out of the box. 

We took the plunge, even though we recognize there are risks involved in trusting our cyber presence to a program with bugs and unknowns. Taking risks isn’t something we shy away from, in the real world or the cyber world.

Advomatic had to take some risks, too. Their staff has spent nearly 800 hours on our website, and they had to go where their programmers, developers, and designers hadn’t gone before. Read more about Advomatic's end of things by checking Oliver's blog here.
... in with the new.
After months of work, our website launched last week. Check it out. We’re excited to once again find ourselves on the cutting edge of the interwebs, and we like it! This has been a win win win win situation:

* We have a high performing, easy to use for us lay people, and well designed website and we didn’t have to increase our budget to get a website that we really really really like.
* Advomatic broke ground by being one of the first firms to build in Drupal 8 from soup to nuts increasing their capacity to support and work with mission driven organizations like ours to have solid web presence. Especially those, who like us, were living in Drupal 6.
* Drupal community wins as so many of the bugs that emerged and were fixed, tools that were built to meet our online needs, and boundaries that were defined will improve Drupal 8 considerably.
* Organizations like ours win. Those who have to live with limited budgets to spend on websites, have to have a website that they can easily manipulate as needed often without an in-house IT department, and who are looking for user friendly web platforms can have access to the latest and greatest.

Please take a few minutes and visit our new site. Let us know what you think after you dive in, but please be patient as we get our bearings straight. It takes everyone some time to adjust when they’re standing at the edge of something new.

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