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Parrot Shouts 1Now and again, as and when the fit takes us, we will be writing what we see as informative and perhaps challenging updates to our blog to pass on news and views about our experiences as we work with schools and businesses, attending to their web requirements. We hope that you will stop a-while and browse our ramblings!

Feel free to use our comments option to pass your views back to us...

Thursday, 17 September 2015 23:43

The beauty of Open Source

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We like to 'bang on' about Open Source (OS). The very nature of OS software (or hardware) creates significant benefits for us and for our customers because it reduces 'time to market' for our websites and also drives cost out of the business model. Why make things from scratch if OS offers low cost but highly functional software as a way to build websites and online applications.

The basic premise of OS is that developers create software and might include software from other OS developers to generate a complete 'solution' for which they might charge a fee.

To do this, the software they use must be 'free' - not in terms of money, but in terms of access; a developer may take a code written by someone else and can modify it for his or her own purposes. The only rule is that  the modifications should be published so that others can also take advantage of the modifications if it fits their needs. In this way, Open source software can be freely used, changed, and shared (in modified or unmodified forms) by anyone. How great is that?

In day to day use, we at Tapiochre don't normally need to worry about modifying existing code - it is normally quite unnecessary! This week though we had reason to celebrate the joy of Open Source in a real world, real problem scenario.

One of the applications we use has undergone several updates over recent months and, as a result of this, one particular 'feature' was deemed no longer needed and was simply 'removed'. The problem was that we used this feature extensively!

The feature related to the ability to choose how to sort files on a webpage; A to Z, by date, ascending, descending and so on. Now, that might seem dull but, when we work with schools, it is great if we can show Newsletters sorted in descending date order (so the most recent is first in the list) and on a different page we need to show Policies in A-Z ascending order. Oddly, this option was removed and so we were only able to show files in one order, across the whole site - and that was not much fun.

So, we contacted the developer, a great chap by the name of Jan who works out of the Czech Republic. The OS comunity is a truly 'Global Village' and OS developers appreciate others taking time to help, test and prove their work - Jan is such a character. Our request was placed late one evening and within 24 hours a suggestion was provided, but we had work to do.

Jan suggested we look at an example of a different requirement that he had provided in the past and that was enough for us to emulate and adapt his recommendation, applying a patch to an XML file in the web platform to remedy the problem.

The work took under an hour, including testing and documenting and we were able to feed back to Jan and the community what our process was and what the specific changes were that we had implemented.

Giving back to the community to allow others to use our 'code insertion' for their own benefit is what Open Source is all about and it was fantastic not only to learn from the experience of others but to offer an input into the big world of 'Open' in our small way.

Others might never use our technique but if they do - and  they don't have to tell us or pay us for it - we know there will be a small part of the Joomla online webspace that is forever Tapiochre!


Tuesday, 21 July 2015 11:06

Do we do WordPress?

Well, there’s a good question!

As most of our websites need the levels of massive flexibility for the positioning of blocks of information on different pages and in different locations on that page, we have generally used the Joomla content management system (CMS). The fact that we often need to add a chunk of information in any position we wish on any page that we desire is so well handled by Joomla’s modular framework that it is the logical decision to use it instead of WordPress. That doesn't mean to say that WordPress is not a valid option for some blogging and medium-sized websites. In fact, we have seen some fairly significant scale corporate websites running WordPress!

Yes, we do support WordPress and we have built and adapted sites in the past which use that particular content management system. A site running WordPress is very easy to create - there are endless numbers of templates, many of which are free with even more at a very low cost - so, within a matter of an hour or two you could find yourself with a website for the most simple of situations.

Many WordPress themes are very elegant and do offer levels of flexibility in terms of visibility of content. So, if all you need is a website with the same type of information across most pages, then WordPress will probably be ideal for you. Just like Joomla, online support through services such as YouTube and are available in abundance and this means that you can start running your own website at administration level quite quickly.

How do we support WordPress?

Well, all of our hosting platforms, regardless of the provider that we use, always offer support for WordPress. The installation is almost automatic so the deployment of WordPress website is pretty much a case of was flicking a switch for the basic, empty, WordPress site to be up and running. Once the site is visible, it is then a matter of applying a template which fits the business in question. You can look around and find a template which you like and we can install it for you. From there, it is a case of adding pages or posts to create your blogging site or, if designed as such, website with blog features.

The additional plug-ins will give even further which experiences to your WordPress website though the compatibility of some of these plug-ins has to be tested before being installed in order to ensure you don't compromise the stability or security of your site.

WordPress, due to its huge popularity, is very easy to use but can become somewhat unwieldy if there are a large number of pages created. The menu features are pretty good in our opinion that can be confusing for the beginner; we guess that's where our support plan comes into play!
Remember that WordPress was created initially as a blogging and content driven website so if choosing WordPress is your way forward it should tell you that blogging should be one of your core reasons for doing so! It's a fantastic blogging platform, and that there is no doubt!

Why might you change to WordPress?

Well, if you are unhappy with your small  to medium sized existing blogging site and would like to switch across to a solid, dependable and well understood content management system, WordPress is probably a great place to start. If you want to manage the whole thing yourself, with no dependency at all on third-party agencies, WordPress can also be a good fit. If you want to update your website by virtue of a mobile or tablet device, WordPress is well supported in the marketplace to make that happen. These are just a few of the reasons why WordPress may be good for you.

We can’t necessarily say that it is as hugely flexible as Joomla, and it is often difficult and time-consuming to create special tools to allow widgets within the WordPress system to be displayed wherever you want them to be but WordPress does give you that fantastic first step into a website that you can look after yourself in a self-contained manner.

At the end of the day, we believe that WordPress is perhaps a little more intuitive than Joomla, but the “sophistication” and extensive development of Joomla components, plug-ins and modules allows it to be a much more versatile system for larger and more complex, demanding website.

So, yes, we do support WordPress, we love it as much as we do Joomla, and we'll be happy to help you on your journey to that destination if you need us!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015 21:12

On the naming of Governors

Today, the BBC reported that there are more changes afoot for schools in terms of reporting details about their Governors. Quoting the BBC website:

But in the government's response to the Trojan Horse report, which argued that MPs had downplayed the seriousness of the problems in Birmingham, there are now plans to gather information about governors.

"We will create a national database of school governors by toughening up requirements on schools to publish the identities of their governors," says the education department.

The details of governors published by schools should also include "details of where they serve on governing bodies of schools elsewhere".

We thought, as we have had many discussions over the past few weeks with schools about the Governors pages of their websites, it would be prudent to advise that you should think about including this in the increasing amount of 'technical' information that your school will need to plan for over the coming weeks.

Forewarned is forearmed.

For the full BBC report online, go here.

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