Building Online Communities with Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress

Reviewed by Major Keary


Building Online Communities with Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress describes three open source applications, each of which serves a particular purpose within the field of building online communities. The book is not a manual or tutorial for end end users; that is, those with an account that enables them to create content. The primary audience is those who develop, build, administer, and maintain community web sites. The applications covered are Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress.

Building Online Communities with Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress describes three open source applications, each of which serves a particular purpose within the field of building online communities. The book is not a manual or tutorial for end end users; that is, those with an account that enables them to create content. The primary audience is those who develop, build, administer, and maintain community web sites. The applications covered are Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress. The book has three parts that respectively cover each of them.

Drupal is a content management system (CMS) that consists of a set of PHP scripts. It lends itself to being used for "a forum, a blogging tool, and an organiser of information". Drupal is extensible, enabling custom modules, and provides "a set of programming APIs that allow web developers to create custom web applications … rapidly and efficiently".

phpBB is an open source forum script that replicates the old bulletin boards, but is more sophisticated in that it enables modern security features.

WordPress "is a state-of-the-art, semantic, personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. … it is semantic because it generates XHTML markup with meaning [and] produces web pages that work without any style applied … [which] makes for lightweight pages that download faster … ". WordPress has a built-in presentation facility that takes care of design, leaving the user to focus on content. This is not a tutorial for novices who have an urge to set up a blog—especially here, now.

Readers are assumed to know the fundamentals of HTML, PHP, and MySQL, or be able to acquire that knowledge (there are plenty of good introductory texts on each of them). However, a knowledge of programming is not necessary to understand the book's content or set up a blog, forum, or web site with the applications described. All the software required is open source and URLs are provided for download sites.

Open source software does not come with printed manuals (neither do many of the—usually expensive—proprietary applications); Building Online Communities … is not a user manual for Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress, but is the only in-depth treatment of them that I have seen. An invaluable resource for anyone, or any group, wanting to assess software for building online communities.

Robert Douglass, Mike Little, and Jared Smith: Building Online Communities with Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress
ISBN 1-59059-562-9
Published by Apress, 530 pp., RRP AU$ 89.95

The Australian distributor for Apress titles is Woodslane <www.woodslane.com.au>

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