The beauty of Open Source

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!

Our Blog...

We blog from time to time when there is something worth blogging about! We look at how schools change how they use their websites and how we can respond to those changes and when we have something really interesting to say, we will! Thanks for reading!

Latest News

November 10, 2021

Statutory Information for Academies & Trusts

Like for mainstream schools, the Government have published a set of information which has to be provided in order that Academies and Trusts (and Free Schools) be compliant with government legislation. This legislation was published in June 2016 and evolves as regulatory demands change.  Note that if your school or college is one of the following types, you need to check your funding agreement to find out exactly what information you must publish on your website; academies, including free schools, studio schools and university technical colleges, sixth-form colleges, general further education (FE) colleges. 

There are also publishing requirements set out within the Equality Act 2010 and Children and Families Act 2014, with which you must comply.

This guidance gives an overview of those requirements and the further information that the Department for Education (DfE) recommends that you publish on your website if you are one of these schools or colleges. Many academy trusts are under a duty to publish much of this further information, due to clauses in their funding agreements.

October 20, 2021

Slideshows from PowerPoint

An area that so many schools like to have easy control over - rather than having to rely on their web provider to manage - is creating and changing the slides used on their webpages. These slides sometimes have to be 'specially' created and edited using applications like Photoshop to support the best way to shape and size these images for use. Photoshop needs a level of skill (let alone cost) that schools like to avoid and so we have looked at other, more accessible ways to give administrators the ability to create and modify slideshows.

All schools that we encounter use PowerPoint and most have very capable staff who can be very creative in the development of PowerPoint slides and this is an ideal way to give schools the power to devise their own web slideshows that we can support as web based slideshows.

So, if you have a super set of slides from an event that you want to display on your webpage, it is now entirely possible and we have created a help video guide to show the steps involved, from exporting your slides and importing them into your website, and setting up animation and navigation as well as adding the resulting web slideset into pages for parents to view.

 

CLICK TO VIEW THE HELP VIDEO

 

July 01, 2021

Centralised File Management for MATs

One problem that Multi Academy Trust environments have is 'how can we be confident that our academy schools are all displaying the most recent and correct policy documents?' In fact, this question has many threads to it, the most relevant being that the methods that many MATs use to keep schools updated rely on quite rudimentary but sadly flaw-ridden processes; emailing updated files to the school administration or head is one way for the school to miss the email or they see it but action it much later than the MAT head office would like. That, or the MAT administrator has to login to each remote school console and make the changes themselves. Its all a real pain.

May 05, 2021

Online Training Course Successes!

In January 2021, Tapiochre undertook the delivery of online training courses for their school customers. The impact of coronavirus was continuing to  impact the ability to visit schools to provide face-to-face coaching and despite best efforts it was simply impossible to attend in person as we normally do. One of the keys of implementing a successful remote coaching service is to ensure that not only is it properly marketed but it also has to be easy for attendees to book onto chosen sessions and to  benefit from timely and appropriate communication about the event.

August 21, 2020

Ditch paper-based newsletters? Surely not?

Since the emergence of wordprocessing and desktop publishing, schools have sent out newsletters in Microsoft Word or Publisher to parents in hardcopy or electronically. And the timing of those newsletters differs from weekly to once per term, so we often get quite a varied response when we ask how these schools deal with the newsletter problem.

August 29, 2018

Social Networks - thoughts for Schools

If I had a pound for every head teacher who said they were worried about using the leading social media platforms "Twitter" and "Facebook" I think I would have £45.00, or perhaps more. The main fears are that, let's call them, 'certain users' will take advantage of the ability to publically post comments as a way to complain or, even worse, be abusive or threatening toward the school or its staff. From experience, such behaviour is rare but when it does happen the implications for the school can be significant, calling up all manner of policies like complaints, greivances, acceptable use,  safeguarding and more.

August 21, 2020

What's a decent school blog page look like?

I am often asked this question when primary schools start blogging. Essentially, the question stems from a fear of the unknown but experience has shown that teachers make excellent bloggers and there is a good reason for this. Teachers know what is happening in their classrooms, better than anyone else.

September 16, 2020

Statutory Information for school websites

Schools often ask us if there is a prescribed set of information which has to be provided in order to be compliant with government legislation. This legislation was published in September 2014 and continues to evolve as regulatory demands change. Occasionally, local authorities will make recommendations for additional content to be shown on your school website. This is further compounded by the demands of schools within a diocesan or Trust setting. Please refer to your local setting for this guidance.

August 25, 2019

The beauty of Open Source

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.

August 24, 2019

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!