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Transcend the Drupal documentation, use the source Luke!

During the first few months of my Drupal experience I looked for answers to any issues that came up first in the official documentation, then on Google. It's a big Drupal world out there so more often then not I would find someone had come across exactly the same issue before and I could just parrot the solution without necessarily understanding why it worked.

Unfortunately, I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to having my software do exactly what I want. Encouraged by my initial successes I became more ambitious, and as I strayed away from the well beaten path my hunt for answers on the Interwebs decayed much more frequently into unproductive exercise in futility (not to mention random procrastination).

If the issue was important enough, or I was just in a stubborn mood I'd find myself sifting through the source code, trying to make sense of it all, which can be a bit difficult when you're looking at an unfamiliar codebase in a programming language you despise (Oh how I hate thee PHP!).

A few months later and I had picked up enough in my random, unstructured expeditions through the Drupal code base that I find I don't bother reading the documentation or Googling issues any more. I just go straight to the source code, which is always up to date, and never lacks in detail.

I think the main obstacle in getting to this point was an irrational source code shyness. The idea that going direct to source is not productive for a mere mortal (I.e., a casual Drupal site admin with minimal PHP experience). Which turns out to be utter nonsense once you actually dive in. Sure, there's a bit of a learning curve, but once you get past the initial lack of confidence you realize that Drupal is actually pretty simple at the source code level and that the only thing we really have to fear is... fear itself!

On the other hand, I probably wouldn't have gotten this far if I had not been encouraged by my initial successes with the easy stuff, and I have a warm and friendly Drupal community to thank for that. Drupal experts who transcended beyond the documentation before me, but were still eager to share their knowledge on forums and blogs, or write modules that provide cookie cutter solutions for the most common stuff.

Since it wasn't that long ago, I still remember what it feels like to be a newbie, and how thankful I was for all those times I had only to seek to find. Now that I've "graduated", I'm going to try to give back and share the more advanced, uncharted stuff I'm figuring out in return. My way of saying thanks to the Drupal open source community. More to follow.


shano mango's picture

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