Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) is a network of nonprofits working to reduce pollution through spreading environmentally sustainable waste management techniques globally. It is an alliance of committed social workers whose vision is a toxic-free world founded on the principles of justice and clean living. The Alliance consists of more than 800 grass-root groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries who actively demonstrate how to discourage incinerators, address climate change, counter environmental injustice, and ways to implement zero waste alternatives. They bring awareness to the fast depletion of our planet's finite resources due to the current way of life of many. A key problem that they are attempting to solve is that of improper production practices, dangerous disposal mechanisms, and a resultant rise in pollution levels that cause great harm to our fragile biosphere and ecosystem. Creating just, safe and sustainable alternatives against incinerators is the mission they pursue.

The Engagement

GAIA approached us in December 2012 to build an online library for their members to share documents and information. The members can obtain information in the form of reports, news, publications, presentations, multimedia by topic, region, etc from this private online library. While they were clear on what they wanted out of the system, they needed technology consultancy on how to go about implementing it. The Technical Architect at Zyxware discussed the requirements extensively with the representative of GAIA. Zyxware came up with an architecture and implementation plan which GAIA approved.

Our Consultancy offering included many aspects. This included helping them evaluate and decide on which technology to go with, keeping in mind Dspace, Greenstone, or a document management system like Knowledge Tree in comparison with Drupal-based solutions or even a custom solution for their requirement. We helped them analyze each in detail and helped them finalize on Drupal. Drupal, in our view, came with the following advantages compared to the other options.

  1. The others acted mostly just as a repository where documents could be stored. Expanding requirements to build other services on this would have proved to be difficult.
  2. Drupal was not just going to be a Library Management System but had the capability to expand limitlessly to incorporate any future feature requirements.

They were looking to use Drupal gardens for it. We offered them an additional option of Linode. However, on closer examination, we felt that for further builds including custom development, Digital Ocean would be a better choice. Keeping this in mind, it was decided mutually that we would go with Digital Ocean.

They passed us their wire-frames and we worked collaboratively to develop the prototype. A lot of minor technical glitches were cleared and we offered consultancy support to help them finalize to ensure their final product would meet all their requirements. Here are some of the main features of this site.

  • Facility for its members to upload documents in different content types such as PDF, Word documents etc.
  • Category-wise content listing- to facilitate easy organization and smooth navigation for users of the site.
  • Search feature was another major functionality in this site. We installed and configured 'Apache Solr' and 'Apache Tika' on the webserver. Solr helps in indexing of contents (normal Drupal content - which we can select) and Tika - indexing of contents for attached files. We used search API and Solr search and configured those modules for the working of the search function. Faceted search option was made functional which gave way to advanced search filters, improving search efficiency.
  • A rating mechanism was introduced in the site in the form of a vote up/down module.
  • Data migration was done with the help of the 'Feeds' module. All the data were in CSV format. All the corresponding files, taxonomies, etc were mapped to their correct nodes and around 500 contents with pdf/doc/docx attachments were uploaded with no errors.
  • Added Google translator to convert the entire content into different languages.
  • Necessary performance optimization tasks were carried out on the site to ensure that the site performed well given the expected traffic on the site.
  • We have taken special care of the security aspects of the site. We have configured the Apache Solr installation with proper access protection.
  • A pre-built theme was selected and all necessary theming level changes were done by us to bring the GAIA look and feel when looking at the website.

The representatives of GAIA were very happy with the build and the new easy-to-use, organized library management system using Drupal. Zyxware is happy to have been part of this noble cause by providing and continuing to act as the technical arm of this organization. Another success story in our basket!