As far as the software development industry goes, the capitalist crisis has imposed the open source business model upon development producers as a “Just in Time” method of production for the enterprise, leveraging thriving and bustling communities of usage and talent which deliver quality products, as opposed to the improvisation and lack of vision engendering the much poorer and limiting offerings developed in secret rooms, proper to the “proprietary” business model plagued by overproduction and the falling rate of profit which the former model attempts to offset.
For us working stiffs cum “small business owners” manning the bridges at the small Drupal shops, the question in our minds is how long can we hang on? The open source business model for the enterprise brings with it a growing complexity: in process, in dealings, in taxation, in deployment, in a low ceiling in terms of the kinds of projects a small shop might be capable of taking on. More and more these require industrial methods and upping the ante in order to compete in viability. Can we be expert requirements analysts and software engineers, expert coders, expert development, staging and deployment environment specialists and administrators, scrum masters and experts at scaling and system fine tuning, delivering 24/7 service level agreements, all rolled into one or two? It is inevitable, at least in the medium and long term, if things go on as they are, that we “small business owners” end up as employees of larger concerns capable of making the necessary investment in personnel and infrastructure.
But every so often, something comes along that makes your jaw drop in terms of empowerment and makes you forget all that, and makes you think that yes, you can go it alone, you can still play along like the big boys do, and leverage your experience after all.
Enter TopNotchThemes for example, and their brand new PowerSite environment. All of a sudden, yes I can! What am I on about? From the TopNotchThemes Fusion site: “I don’t want to give away too many details yet, but how does your own hosted, fully configured theme & site with sample content, modules, and a web-based interface for Drupal upgrades and module installation sound?” It sounded great to me, so I fired off a mail and they were kind enough to let me in on things, and shared with me a review version of their Market Share theme bound up in a PowerSite. Oh, cool, I thought, single click themeness! I don’t have to bother firing up my aegir and cloning off a new test site, drushing in ubercart and generating content to see what it’s about (or with an even more tedious procedure if I weren’t using all these excellent tools). But… well Market Share is great, I’ll mention that in a bit… but I really wasn’t prepared for the awesomeness of the world which started opening up to me, I’ll try and describe it in a worthy fashion if you’ll bear along with me.
I get this mail, from Stacy at TopNotchThemes, saying “I went ahead and shared the Market Share theme with you via WebEnabled… You should be receiving an invitation from WebEnabled in a separate email. You must accept the invitation in order to access the Market Share clone… We would love to have your feedback on using your own PowerSite…” Whaaat? What is WebEnabled? Market Share clone? Is that like Dolly the sheep?
So I get the invitation from WebEnabled:
“TopNotchThemes has shared an application with you:
Please create an account on WebEnabled or login if you already have one to start your own copy of this application by clicking the link below…”
Well, I know better than to start clicking on links below, so I visit the WebEnabled site with something like “wwwhhhat iz thisss? going on, and check out the wording on the front page of their site:
“Create, Develop, and Deploy Any PHP-based application: Start from scratch or build on top of an existing application in our library: Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, Elgg, Magento, and SilverStripe. Dashboard that includes easy and intuitive backup and restore, domain management, team management, and project interface. Developer tools include ssh/scp/sftp, phpMyAdmin, cron jobs, access logs, and custom php.ini.”
OK, I’m down, that’s for sure. I clicked on the link like a shy girl.
I signed up for the Trial version from the Shared Developer Hosting Plans page. A Drupal site, of course. After sign up I was taken to the home page again, and on top it said “Hi Victor Kane” with “Dashboard or Logout” below. Clicking on Dashboard I saw I had a Default Project, as well as an Uncategorized Application section. Since the trial version said I could have two applications going, I thought I would explore around a bit with the Default Project, suspecting that the Uncategorized Application was the one TopNotchThemes had shared with me. I clicked on Default Project, on the right hand sidebar menu, and below the info message making it impossible to forget that I was “using the Trial Plan and that if I upgraded I would not have to renew my application every 30 days”, there was a shiny Base Camp like plus sign offerning the promise of “Start new application”. And so I did. A textfield opened up, and there was an Advanced options field group like section that could be opened below and an unpretentious Html link “Click to select an application”. I first opened the Advanced options, of course, and was astounded that I could choose my own shell username and admin username and domain name, etc. Then I clicked on the low-key “Click to select an application” link. Wow! I could select between the Pressflow or the Acquia stack, as well as between Drupal 5.22 or Drupal 6.16, both with Drush 3, or Drupal 7 alpha 3; and no less than five Drupal installation profiles, including Managing News, Open Atrium and Open Publish; plus other heretical applications from the Drupal standpoint, such as Magento, Elgg, Lime Survey… WordPress! With long tool tip info on each one. Amazing. I chose a one click Pressflow just to be difficult. And then clicked on the Configure button. Less than a minute later, a big informative sign pops up, the gist of which is, the URL of your app, the ssh/scp/sftp user name and password, and the application admin username and password, the MySql username and password, and lots of helpful info in case you didn’t have the least idea of what half of this was all about. I saved the info and clicked on the little inobtrusive Html link to the application Management page. Here’s where my jaw started dropping. I had a Drupal installation profile all set to go, DNS and IP info, a single click to access PhpMyAdmin, an SSH command to copy and paste into a terminal (or set things up on your favorite IDE), at the bottom of the page a place to invite team members to collaborate on the project, and on the right a longish list of options… one said “Drush” so I clicked on it. OMG, a drush status of my project right there in my browser; with “Update” “Modules” and “Themes” tabs. I looked over again at the menu on the right hand side and clicked on “Upload public key”, uploaded it, and then ssh’d into the dev server in just a few seconds. Talk about having everything you need right in front of you… you can clone it, share it, even sell it, back it up and restore it…
Wow. Compared to what I usually do, even on aegir, this lends new meaning to the word dashboard…
And that’s not all… you get SVN version control thrown in (wot, no Git?), even in the free Trial version (although nothing on the dashboard shows this, guess I need to watch the 2 minutes training Video after all) and… WebEnabled provide Production Hosting Options: “You can seamlessly deploy from a dev environment to your VPS with a single click of a button. No hassle at all. And you get full root access to your VPS”.
So what’s TopNotchThemes PowerSite?
Well, it was a struggle, but after a while I remembered that I was there to test the TopNotchTheme, and so… then it hit me! This is the TopNotchThemes PowerSite! When you get a theme, it’s stuck on top of all of this. Lending whole new meaning to “ready to go”. Going against DRY, I re-read the cryptic note at fusiondrupalthemes.com/story/100406/early-access-new-drupal-site-box-next-ten-customers
“I don’t want to give away too many details yet, but how does your own hosted, fully configured theme & site with sample content, modules, and a web-based interface for Drupal upgrades and module installation sound?”
So I went back to my dashboard and looked hopefully around for some mention of the theme, and since that wasn’t available, clicked hopefully on the Configure link in the Uncategorized Applications section on the WebEnabled Dashboard. But that just gave me the same input form as clicking on Default Project had before. Not realizing it was a single click away I fired off a querying mail to Stacey, and was instantly rewarded with a short FAQ which explained everything about TopNotchThemes integration with the WebEnabled environment plus a fully illustrated PDF showing that alll I had to do, after clicking on the Configure link, I simply had to enter a name for the app (and optionally the advanced options) and then click on the Configure button, and I was in. I did so, and got the corresponding “important information”. I clicked on the app URL, and realized I had a fully fledged Ubercart Store all set up with the Market Share theme, and it was an awesome experience just looking around. I was impressed with the really clean forms, and then went in on the command line and explored the theme itself, and it certainly was everything it was advertised to be. Since it is integrated with the Skinr theme (we used TopNotchThemes free Acquia Prosper theme as the basis for a recent e-commerce launch at http://zendeluxe.com (on the basis of cliente @jessekanner’s PSD design) so I can really appreciate the amount of work that has been put into Market Share, with its extra re-usable styles, for example) you can see under the hood without looking at the code; just look at the configuration of the various blocks and you can see the styles available and which ones are actually used in which contexts.
For my next project, I am certainly considering starting out with a PowerSite that already has most of the theming done for me, and explore not only the great collaborative drush updateable development environment which anticipates, I believe, all of the infrastructure and environment work I find myself doing most of the time, but the single click deployment option from WebEnabled also (That’s just an option, you can still use the dashboard with external servers, both on the development and the deployment side). It’s the big leagues for all of us.