SSAGO Website, Phase II

If you set your way back machine for June 2006 you’ll see a stub about how I changed the SSAGO Messageboard to use phpBB and particularly the Categories Hierarchy modification. Well the rest of the site did follow shortly after but it didn’t sit well with those viewing in Internet Explorer because of their issue with list indentation, not to mention the design compromises embossed by democratic vote.

So a new layout was needed and whilst I was at it I wanted to deliver on my promise to provide a Content Management System for SSAGO News. Well I knew I couldn’t change the forum software again so I had to find something that someone had already developed an integration method for or one I could quickly bodge together myself.

I tried a Joomla! but it was far too complicated, I had to assume that the next Publicity Officer, whether this would be me re-elected at the Loughborough SSAGO Rally AGM or in Feb 2008. I went through a slew of them; I rejected Drupal for it’s unfriendly support community, e107 worked fine but I couldn’t figure out how to get it to work along side phpBB and XOOPS was just too obscure. (Thank God for Open Source CMS.)

Then it dawned on me, WordPress. I’d been using WordPress as my blog software for 6 months or so and I loved it, I’d gotten quite close to the community and familiar with the code but I wasn’t sure how robust it would be with dozens of pages stored on it.

After a quick bit of research I found a code edit to accelerate the static page listings page which had exponentially gotten slower as I added more. (link) Next issue was user integration, there was a plugin with some minor code edits that I tried for a time but realised the author hadn’t updated it in almost a year, I tried working out what he had done and update it myself but decided that it would be quicker to start a fresh development cycle than catch up on an existing one.

So I had one WordPress blog working as the CMS and as the SSAGO News Article System. Hopefully the partnership will be a fruitful one.

Who wants to be a web designer?

No-one applauds our successes and few witness our defeats, yet our efforts are loved and everyone is a critic. As a web designer there are some injustices I’m willing to take on the head, I spend weeks of man hours working for charity, use logos that limit the scope of creativity and conform to the idiotic ideas of whom I’m working for.

What I will not tolerate are personal insults or disrespect about a format that can change, looking at René Magritte’s “Son of Man” (right) for example, some see and appreciate the surrealism others are baffled how a picture of a man in a suit wearing a bowler hat with an apple in front of his face can be considered a masterpiece.

In either case that medium is fixed, love it or hate it now and you will probably still feel the same in 5 years. A website design can change everyday so why insult it today when it can look different in a weeks time?

Criticism is fine, if you don’t say what you dislike then it won’t change but taking out frustrations on a design as though they’ve been produced specifically to made your life difficult is preposterous. Ranting and raving at someone is just not professional.

New Blog II

As promised, it took me a while longer to get to grips with WordPress but once I did the whole thing unfurled before me. It’s so easy that I’ve even created my own little plugin for Tag display (not finalised yet but it works well enough for me. 😉 )

So what has been lost and what has been gained? I’ve currently lost the photo album facility and sidebar random image which is slightly annoying. I’ve gained the Post Tagging Facility, I’m sure Serendipity has its own version I just never used it, with WordPress its been as easy as 1,2,3 getting up and clouding away. I’ve also gained the ability to create multiple menu bars so the useful stuff is at the sides and the interesting but not entirely critical stuff can go at the bottom.

Overall I’m very satisfied with WordPress as a program, particularly as a programmer as I’m actually using PHP in templates and for functions as opposed to some program specific markup such as ‘smarty’ or the gobbledegook that phpBB uses.

New Blog!

If you hadn’t noticed I’ve given up trying to use msn-space, it was fun and exciting in January when I gave in to peer pressure to get one going but not only could I not update the pages in FF but when I did in IE there would inevitably be a crash and I would lose 30mins/hour worth of typing. Not to mention if in the future I decided to move I couldn’t export everything so I have had a browse around the web and seen what is available.

Here’s a wicked site that truly gives credit to the phrase don’t judge a book by its cover, it mostly unstyled but the info is amazing, Blog Software Breakdown . If you’re looking to move away from msn space I would certainly look here first.

My key requirements were a database storage method, PHP, plugins no code edits ( I have to do enough of them as it is for phpBB ) and all the usual trappings you would expect from a blog; comments, photobloging etc etc.

In the end my criteria whittled it down to 3 contenders, b2evolution, Serendipity and WordPress.

Looking at it Serendipity seems like a new kid on the block compared to the rest, it didn’t quite get into the Google Summer of Code [proof] which took me back a notch or too but despite this it did have a few plugins I couldn’t find the equivilent of in other other contenders. The auto install was nice too, no need to download a plugin then ftp it into place just look click it installs, fantastic. A good starters for beginners.

Whilst WordPress seems to be the most popular for web gurus it lacked some plugin features the I really like the look of in Serendipity. It also seemed a bit much so my learning curve would be a little longer than with others.

b2evolution just didn’t really impress me visually or in the back end so despite its simplicity of install, and its gorgeously easy to read coding I decided against this one too.

My final choice was Serendipity, but after a week worth of adjusting it I found that some things weren’t quite what I expected, although their coders are very helpful and prompt through its forum in telling me what I wanted/needed to do I felt if this was the way I was going to continue I should get out now and have switched yet gain to WordPress. Which apparently can’t import from serendipity but Serendipity can import from WordPress. Having gone to WordPress and finding that a) not all the mods are compatible with the latest version and b) there isn’t a central official repository I quickly shifted back to Serendipity until there is as they say it’ll be very very soon*

So there you have it, why I chose my new blog, shiney, clever and robust so hopefully there should be more frequent updates! Not to mention a slew of other stuff!

SSAGO Website, Phase I

When the National SSAGO website moved servers a lot of things were made non-functional, after struggling for weeks to convert the Cutecast flat files into a MySQL database and getting them to work with a modified messageboard I’ve managed to finally get it all working together and online.

I used the Flat file to SQL converter here: LINK after reversing the order of the flatfiles to have them numbered in the database in order of creation.

Hopefully people will be happy that they have a far superior messageboard and not annoyed at the forum, for no fault of my own, being down.

Hopefully this new phpBB messageboard will last a while and the rest of the site won’t be far behind.

Visit the SSAGO Website to see it in action.