So after sitting down with Highwire Press’s geospatial Drupal guru Patrick Hayes, who walked me through the structure and benefits of spatial data in a CMS that could handle collaboration and security, I walked 90 feet from my desk to meet with Academic Technology Specialist and Drupal evangelist Zach Chandler who, in about thirty minutes, walked me through a clean Drupal 7 install, including all the modules I’d need to process and present spatial data.
After a few hiccups, including an upgrade to the developer release of the OpenLayers module, I can now provide a faculty member with a peer-collaborative environment that satisfies most of the representative and analytic needs of a scholar interested in dealing with spatial data. While Google Maps and Fusion Tables provide much of the low-level spatial tools that many scholars require, and ArcGIS provides the high-end functionality for analysis and representation of large, complex and GIS-oriented datasets, the middle ground between those two solutions was, in my mind, always a custom application (though one that could, hopefully, rely on reusable data services and APIs). That solution became far less of a solution if the scholar in question wanted to integrate with existing security and collaborative structures in place here at Stanford. The fact that I’m a fair hand with PHP and MySQL also means that I may actually be able to give back to the Drupal community both here at Stanford, and elsewhere.
Of course, I’d much prefer it if there were simply a D3 module for Drupal–if any Drupal developers listening. Or maybe that’s me now.