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

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 established in September 2012 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 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!