Stay in School: A review of Lullabot Learning Series Videos

(8/25 Update: I contacted Lullabot and they say that they offer a 10% discount for nonprofit orgs. The best way to get a discount is to contact Lullabot directly.)

Though I’ve worked in many different content management systems, I’ve primarily been working in Drupal for the last four years. Since tech is always changing, a good techie is always learning. When you’re a nonprofit techie on a limited budget, it can be hard to know what learning resources to invest in.  In this case, my first instinct was to turn to Lullabot—a company that’s widely considered to be the gold standard in Drupal expertise.

Lullabot has been doing Drupal for what seems like forever. The Lullabot team literally wrote the O’Reilly Using Drupal book. So I promptly went out and bought the book, because, in theory, I like the romantic notion that I am going to kick back in my home office and thumb through my library of bound technical manuals. In reality, my O’Reilly books take up a ton of space on my shelf, and I am far more likely to first turn to Google when I have a code problem rather than look it up in a book.

I’ve learned over the years that I learn best when I am as actively engaged as possible with the source material, and when I can go back again and again to review things. So I was very interested to find out that Lullabot has a series of learning videos. They’re about $75 apiece (a little cheaper when bought in bundles). I decided to take the plunge and give one a try.

My particular area of Drupal expertise is theming (and all the configuration tricks that go along with it), so the first video I tried was the Advanced Theming. After that one video, I was convinced that they were going to work for me, and I decided to get a few more them to reinforce and fill gaps in my self-taught Drupal knowledge. So I also snagged Theming Basics, and the Views and CCK bundle. Most recently, I got the jQuery and Javascript videos, too.

Each video is roughly three hours long and is broken out into helpful chapters. They feature endearingly geeky Lullabot experts who painstakingly explain the mysteries of Drupal alongside easy-to-follow screens of code. CEO and co-founder Jeff Robbins and themer Nate Haug were the main protagonists of the particular videos I’ve been using (note for others who care: the Lullabot team does have high-level women techs on it, too, even though they aren’t featured in these particular videos).

Nate and Jeff are extremely clear and methodical, leading the viewer through code, building it step-by-step and then showing the results of that code in a browser. The Theming Basics video was elementary for me, but was still worth it for the shortcuts and tips they offer there—the ins and outs of special Drupal modules that exist to help developers and themers, Firebug tricks, etc. Being a typical web junkie, I can watch them in a fragmented way, starting and stopping and coding in-between to reinforce what I am learning in a real-life context (this is particularly great now that I am working with jQuery). When they lead me to an a-ha moment, where I understand exactly how some snippet of code is put together, I pause the video and use SnagIt to make quick-reference screen captures for myself.

At least for my particular learning style, these videos are the best tech learning resource I’ve come across in the last decade of my career and I give them my highest recommendation for anyone who works in Drupal or who wants to learn. Though I’ve known about Lullabot for years, the videos have turned me into a loyal fan. I’m even thinking about traveling to one of their in-person workshops. When and if I can afford to pull that off, I’ll definitely report back.