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LocalGov Drupal Beta Sprint 5 Notes

As usual, we're starting with the research and project sprint goals as this is the order we went through them in our sprint review session, allowing less technical folk to escape before we overload the screens with code and abstraction. So we'll run through our sprint goals from 7 to 13 before coming back to the product sprint goals 1 to 6. 

6. Implement a plan to promote survey to specific councils [GOAL!]

We really want to get as many councils to complete the survey we have running, so please do promote to other people you know working with websites in councils ( We are also now starting to cross reference existing research into which councils are using which technologies with our survey responses to try to target new councils of specific size, location and technology to gather as much insight as possible. 

7. Complete research phase 1 interviews with existing content editors and Product Owner users [GOAL!]

The phase 1 research interviews with content designers and product owners are now complete. Alex and Maria have produced anonymised summaries, which make for interesting reading. We also have audio transcripts provided by

8. Start developer interviews (at least one!) [Maybe in extra time]

Maria interviewed one of the developers after our sprint review, which perhaps counts as a goal in extra time! By the time I am writing this the interview has happened, and I am super keen to find out what other developers are experiencing.

9. Start developing questions for phase 2 interviews with new users [GOAL!]

Alex and Maria have started preparing the interview questions for phase 2, for users that are not yet on LocalGov Drupal. Generating insight into what drives decisions or creates barriers to adoption is key, so these interviews are an important opportunity and making the questions as good as possible will really help. We're happy to have made a head start with this one.

10. Award the communications contract [GOAL!]

We have a communications team! We received a number of great proposals and after deliberation/scoring the work was awarded to Tim and Michael at Data Content Reach. We are so excited to finally have some dedicated resource to help with both public-facing communications strategy and internal communications, and we had a productive kick-off meeting last week.

11. Get started on our comms strategy [GOAL!]

Tim and Michael are diving into the complex product, project and community network that has emerged to date and will be implementing strategic changes in the coming weeks and months. 

12. Finish documentation for services, news and alert banners [On target, but saved by the keeper]

So much documentation has been written but there is always more to do. It is a bit like the Forth Bridge – as soon as you finish a section you need to start again!

Maria has done sterling work on producing documentation for the services content types (now live on the the docs site at, and we have a logical separation of documentation for content designers and more technical developer audiences. Thanks to Ben Hills Jones and Joeri Poesen for their suggestions and help with on this.

Our goal had been to make similar progress with documentation for news and alert banners. Both are in progress, but not quite there yet.

13. Start another working group [Not yet]

We did not start another working group just yet. It is quite a big ask to get at least 5 people together to dedicate an hour or two per week for at least a few weeks, so the timing needs to fit with the urgency and people's availability. Hopefully we'll get another working group set up soon, as we do think this is really important for the success and sustainability of the project.

1. Deliver useful improvements to the content publishing workflow

Our first sprint goal was to build out some of the publishing workflow requirements defined by our Content Publishing Workflow and Lifecycle working group. This included a number of reasonably well defined user stories to:

  1. define the roles, states, transitions and permissions of content publishing workflow 
  2. create the 'approval dashboard' for content managers
  3. add support for scheduled transitions such as publish or un-publish content at a given time 
  4. enable the previewing of content before an item is published.

Stephen dived into this work and had it up for testing mid-sprint, at which point various people from the Content Publishing Workflow and Lifecycle working group started to test. 

The functionality all worked well and as specified, but the user stories are not yet 'done' as a fresh discussion evolved around the naming of the roles.

One of the roles is an ‘author’, who can publish their own content. It happens that Drupal also uses the label ‘Author’ in the default ‘Authoring information’ section of a standard node edit form. This is a potential name clash, as it states that content was ‘Authored by’ a specific user and ‘Authored on’ a specific date at a specific time. The fact that the user that ‘Authored’ the content could have the role of ‘Author’ or ‘Contributor’ or ‘Editor’ caused some confusion, leading to further discussion and testing. 

A proposal was raised to follow the GDS naming convention. Ekes pointed out that we could potentially re-label the fields ‘Authored…’ to ‘Owned…’ which is what they are called in the database anyway, but the discussion continues. 

So great work, emergent issues, but not quite done yet.

2. Schedule alert banners

We have agreed to use the scheduled transitions module for content workflow in general which paves the way to follow suit for alert banners, but no time was spent this sprint on pushing forward with the scheduled alert banners.

3. Complete initial development on the new base theme (feature parity, release an alpha or beta tag) [GOAL!]

Mark reported to the sprint review that the LocalGov Base theme now has at least – if not more than – feature parity with the LocalGov Theme, so we are considering this a goal!

We’ve not done the default theming for LocalGov News or LocalGov Search just yet, as both are relatively new features. 

Mark demonstrated various aspects of the new base theme, including a toggle to allow people to opt out of the css / js easily if they want to. We confirmed that we are happy to release a beta tag of the LocalGov Base theme now.

Next steps on the LocalGov Base theme are to arrange time with Croydon, London Councils and anyone else using the LocalGov Theme to help them migrate across. Great work! 

Meanwhile, Dan Champion has been building a sub-theme for Cumbria County Council on top of the LocalGov Base theme, which is starting to look nice.

Early draft of a sub theme of LocalGov Base theme for Cumbria Council
An early draft of a sub-theme of the LocalGov Base theme for Cumbria.

4. Open Referral implementation - alpha release [still in progress]

Ekes has done loads of work on the integration with the OpenReferrals UK data standard, which at times went a bit over our heads, but is really exciting!

At the start of the sprint, this was largely hard-coded, with a services end point at /openreferral/v1/services/ to list our services. Since then, Ekes has coded it properly but with YAML configuration to ensure flexibility where appropriate. The new feeds are built on Drupal views, based on a Search API index. It now filters by taxonomy and vocabulary, following the OpenReferral standard. We also now have endpoints for vocabulary and location.

Another area of extension is with taxonomies. Ekes wanted to avoid technical debt, so taxonomies are now imported for circumstances, activities, services, open active etc.

These consistent taxonomies can be then used by the content designer to categorise directories and services. Content designers can additionally use their own vocabularies, which are also published on the OpenReferral api endpoint.

In summary: it is all there, it all works, and there are a couple of things to fix. It can then be merged in, deployed for validation, and we can write some documentation on how to implement it on a new site and – more complex – how to deploy it on an existing site.

5. [For Croydon] test adding a map / address to the Directory Venue content type

We've not had time to follow up with Croydon to see if this work has been tested, so are keeping it open for next sprint. 

Governance and decision-making

Something not covered by our sprint goals is the governance strand of work. We are continuing to try and improve how decisions are made inclusively and transparently, but also efficiently and effectively.

Agile Collective's Aaron Hirtenstein has re-joined the project to observe how various meetings are working, with a focus on the nascent working groups. He has already made a number of suggestions for improvements in meeting structure and facilitation and will continue this process over the next few sprints. It is really useful to have someone just observe and then feed back with insights on meeting dynamics and suggestions for improvement.

As we increase the number of working groups in the LocalGov Drupal community we hope that this will naturally lead to more people feeling comfortable and confident leading and facilitating working groups. Ultimately this will lead to better decisions on product direction and specific feature requirements that can be fed into the development sprints.

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