Why we created a new Drupal distribution

Since we pushed the DataPublic distribution to Drupal.org a few weeks ago, a number people have asked the question, "Why did you not use the OpenPublic Drupal distribution as a base?".

There are many reasons we followed the path that we did. I hope to outline a few of them here:

1. Multilanguage

I downloaded, installed and tested the OpenPublic distribution but could not get it to function correctly in a multilanguage environment, node translations were simply not working. Whenever I attempted to translate a node I got a "404 page not found error" (The About page for example - fr/node/add/site-page?translation=8&target=fr#overlay-context=about). Also, the administrative interface was not functional when a language prefix was present in the URL. Due to restrictions in time and resources it not possible for me to absorb hours if not days investigating exactly what was going wrong on a system that I didn't build and that contained far too many modules to troubleshoot easily.

2. Don't Repeat Yourself (DRY)

I've built many many Drupal sites in the last five years and during that time created a number of features that satisfy the needs of our most of our clients. Using features means that I don't have to repeatedly build the same feature for every new site. Those existing features were a good fit for DataPublic and meant that I didn't have to start building the site from scratch, I already had a head start.

3. Learning

Had I just taken the OpenPublic distro, re-themed it and pushed it out as DataPublic, I'd never have spent those long days figuring out how to create an install profile, export content to features and resolve feature conflicts. Today I'm a stronger, faster, fitter Drupal developer thanks to what I learned creating this distribution. I've also contributed some of that learning back into the community.

There are of course some very good reasons why we should have used OpenPublic as our foundation:

1. Reputation

Phase2, the developers of the distribution, have a wonderful reputation in the Drupal community, have obviously thought long and hard about this distribution and have released some fantastic modules that were created as part of this distribution.

2. Support

Now that we've built our own distribution, we have to support it. If there's a bug, we have to fix it, no excuses. We put it out there, we are responsible for it functioning as it should. Had we used OpenPublic, we could simply pass the bugs onto the developers and let them devote their time, not ours, to resolving them.

With all of that said, I feel that DataPublic is a solid Drupal distribution that will help to make life easier for organizations wanting to create an Open Data portals. It has some unique features and a wonderful design that can be easily changed. It's Open Source, costs nothing to download, is built run on Windows Azure and supports multilanguage.