DRAIP: Drupal Remote Administration Interface Protocol
"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, err drape, err draip!"
--- with appologies to L. Frank Baum :)
About 20 years ago when the PC world was mostly DOS and the internet was mostly text there was a cry for better online user interfaces. Programmers began to develop graphic front end "RIP" clients that could grab the text menus of BBS systems and restructure them into more attractive and more manageable layouts. The RIP screens could look nothing like the original menus and yet provided all of the required functionality and more. RIP clients proliferated and that early concept eventually led to what we know today as Mosaic.
Today Drupal faces the same dilema, a cludgy administrative interface that desparately needs a cosmetic and functional facelift. Fortunately we also have the modern day equivalient of RIP clients, RIA clients based on such tools as Flex and Ajax. I propose that rather than trying to wholescale rewrite Drupal and all the various Modules, instead we create a new "RIP", a protocol and an RIA that is smart enough to interface with the "raw" Drupal menus and yet modular enough to allow various people to create, juggle and reprogram how it looks and reacts with the admin-user. Various simple hooks would be added to the existing Drupal/Module codebases to minimize the communication signals between them and the RIA client. Menu databases could be built to simplify navigation across large lists of items like nodes/pages/users/etc.
If this is done right, the Drupal admin world will self-evolve new "useful" interface designs. Frankly, we do not know what Drupal will look like in the future, we do not know what twists and turns will be created by new killer modules. Any attempt to statically improve the interface is doomed to dead-ends and constant revisions. Any attempt to say "my menu design is the best" will certainly lead to disputes and unhappiness in the community.
So instead of futility and dispute, let's create a universal and adaptable interface to the menu system and leave the menu code pretty much alone.
One of the early pioneers in GUI was Robert Trifts who said this about RIP:
"In 1991, RIP was the first attempt to add standard graphics and low res .gif GUI interfaces to the BBS. RIP was important as it was designed not to be BBS software, but to be a means of displaying output from ANY BBS software that could be interpreted and graphically decoded by any communication software on the user's end that supported RIP. RIP, like ANSI, was designed to be independent of the BBS software that ran it."
That is what we need, a stable protocol for interfacing with Drupal menus, and one or more standalone Admin GUI clients to use that protocol independent of the various Drupal configurations.
Here is a whitepaper on RIP for those of you who missed that era of software evolution: