Beside my Drupal work at artus.com I attended the Mobile Users FFM monthly meeting on Wednesday. The group exists since 13 years and it started as the “Palm user group, Frankfurt”. Do you remember Palm? During the last 13 years the world changed and it was interesting for me me to hear stories about different types of smartphones, smartwatches, phone contracts and gadget like the Yota Phone 2.
A member of the group (@android_oma) is developing an interesting Drupal/Android/open data project. The basic idea is to collect photos from German railway stations (bike stations, elevators, facilities inside and outside of railway stations). She pulls open data from the German Deutsche Bahn with longitude, latitude and unique id numbers of German railway stations. These data should be imported/synced to a Drupal site (http://www.deutschlands-bahnhoefe.de).
With an already existing Android App, people can see railway stations where photos are missing. So far the project is in early stage, the app is not in the app store but available via in this Google+ group.
Later on the app should post the photos directly to the Drupal website by using web services. So far people are just tweeting photos (it’s easy to participate ) (https://twitter.com/hashtag/bahnhofsfotos. Railway fans are unique, so the project is getting attention and they are planning an international version starting with Switzerland.
A blog is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first).
A conceivable simple concept.
The existence of blogs has now arrived in everyone. Blogs are read and also the traditional media take them seriously. I’ve also a blog that you are reading
When you post messages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Foursquare, CouchSurfing, DeviantArt, Ello, Flickr, Google+, LinkedIn, Meetup, SoundCloud, Tumblr, LinkedIn, YouTube and all the other platforms, then you run also something like a blog.
If you are looking for an entry (status, check in, photo, video), you realize many things. It is not easy to search, archive or download your “own” data. It is often impossible to transfer your data from one platform to another. You can not evaluate “your” data.
You also’ll realize that it is not “your” data. Depending on the conditions of use of the platform you have issued many or all rights for your content to the company that operates the corresponding service.
My data is not worth anything anyway
If LinkedIn is purchased for US $ 26,000,000,000 by Microsoft, then Microsoft paid about US $ 60 per user (User 433,000,000). Do you have a LinkedIn account? Do you also have an account with other services?
I have accounts at 12 major services where I post occasionally content. If I expect US $ 60 per service, my data is currently worth around 720 US $ on average.
Your data is worth something!
At LinkedIn, users networked to do business. Please consider briefly what kind of data you are generating : texts, photos, music, videos, your fitness bracelet, your car, your bank card, your home automation and all the other stuff that creates data .
Do you also have a box of keepsakes from your childhood? Any tinkering, postcards, pictures, souvenirs and other things. Sometimes it takes 30 years or longer, until you look back into that box. Often to show them to your children. Maybe you don’t have a box and store everything to your memories.
In the age of online communication most memorabilia are made from bits and bytes and are stored on data storage media, on which you have little control. That means, even if you have no box, other people you do not know personally have a “collection box with your experiences”.
Private companies, and increasingly governments, collect treasures from historical data. They are used for predictions about the future. Based on these data decisions are made by SMART algorithms. Of course, Microsoft is only interested in the details of 433’000’000 business contacts and the raw data in the case of LinkedIn. Microsoft sells software, hardware and services for this target group and 26,000,000,000 will recoup a profit.
But back to your blog project.
A private blog
Now a private blog is of course not the solution to all problems related to data and not the ultimate archiving machine, but it is a bit “more ownership” than on the platforms with their services.
When I wrote the STOP BÜPF article (German), it struck me how important any blog can be, even if it’s a small one.
This tweet lead to some blogposts of Swiss providers.
An Schweizer Provider, ob Zugangs-, Web- oder Kommunikationsprovider jedweder Art:
Bitte ruft eure Kunden auf, zu unterschreiben!#StopBÜPF
Swiss provider whether access, Web or communication provider of any kind: Please call on your clients to sign! # StopBÜPF
Finally it was possible to collect more than 50,000 signatures which is a base for a referendum against the law. BÜPF is a proposed law about censorship and surveillance in Switzerland. Have a look at this video to get an idea what could be possible afterwards (subtitles in English are available).
It’s a good feeling when you publish your text on your platform and then post the link to your platform in different services. The principle is called POSSE(Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere).
In POSSE your content is stored on an environment over which you have control. If you refer for example to Facebook on your own blog, then Facebook “visits” your blog and copies the first words and an image and displays both in your status message. Similarly, it works on all platforms. When you offer an RSS feed, your data can be read in an external feed reader. However, the data remains under your control.
The consequence is (among others):
You are perceived. This can not prevent, because everybody wants your data and are curious what you have to say.
The longer you think about it, the sooner you’ll probably notice why it is good to have your own blog.
This is a small list of benefits:
It helps you to learn new things
You begin to think more clearly
You learn to write better
Your self-confidence grows
You talk more structured about topics you wrote about
You can make money (if you wish)
You can support a good cause
You need no prior knowledge
It is a real challenge
It’s free (or affordable)
You learn always something about yourself, others and the issues about which you write
How to start?
The popular software for blogs is WordPress. It works well with many other programs too and all the known and unknown content management systems, but WordPress is simply practical and has become the de facto standard.
If you do not have a blog, you can set up a blog on wordpress.com for free in minutes. WordPress.com is also a service (from the USA) and your data will be stored on their hard disks, as in the platforms described above. But you’re the one who determined about your data. You can export them at any time and import them into a self hosted WordPress installation. At this moment you begin to take over any responsibility for your data. You can import the data also into many other systems (Joomla, Drupal).
The WordPress software is open source and is developed by a large community. You can download the source code from wordpress.org and install it locally or at a hosting provider of your choice. You can also at any time move your data to another place.
The farther you go away from “all around carefree” services, the more responsibility you transfer to yourself. It’s a bit like growing up. Suddenly you have a car / phone / bike / boyfriend / girlfriend / family / apartment / house / boat and you learn that you have to care so that it continues to work well.
A blog is therefore also a good exercise in “grow up”.
You need a blog and if you already have one, then please post but your URL as a comment.
The template is one of the most important pieces of a website. It provides the appearance, the design. The combination with relevant content motivates new visitors to stay on your site and explore. Regular visitors and users appreciate being on a site with a beautiful and useful design. Think of other products, for instance. A car needs a good engine and tires but one of the most important reasons for buying one is often the design.
Even if the design is not the main reason, it is often a trigger to contemplate the idea of purchasing and may cause a buyer to consider more tangible reasons. If the design is well-made, people expect the rest to be well-made, too (Figure 1, Figure 2)!
Both of these cars are made for different target groups and they come of course from different car makers in different countries. They are just an an example of different approaches in design.
A few definitions related to the design of your website
I just want to clarify a few terms to sensitize your thinking.
What is design?
The noun design stands for a plan or drawing which shows the function and the lookout of an object, to accomplish particular goals in a particular environment and to satisfy a set of requirements.
The verb “to design”stands for creating a design, in an environment (where the designer operates).
The term design can be used in
art (“almost instinctive”, “built-in”, “natural”, and part of “our sense of ‘rightness’),
engineering (product design of a new car)
production (planning and executing)
processes (business process modeling)
What is color?
Color is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue, and others. Individual colors have a variety of cultural associations such as national colors. There is great diversity in the use of colors and their associations between cultures and even within the same culture in different time periods. HTML colors and CSS colors can have 16 million different values. The combination of Red, Green, and Blue values from 0 to 255, gives more than 16 million different colors (256 x 256 x 256).
BLACK = color HEX #000000 = color RGB rgb(0,0,0)
Several online tools like the one in (Figure 3) can help you to find the right colors for your website project .
Figure 3: Popular Color Combinations – http://www.colorcombos.com/popular-color-combinations
What is page layout?
Page layout is the part of “graphic” design that deals in the arrangement and style treatment of elements (content) on a page.
To speak in Joomla terms, it is the arrangement of Joomla modules and the components on predefined templates positions.
A template involves repeated elements visible to the visitors. Using a template to lay out elements usually involves less graphic design skill than that which was required to design the template. Templates are used for minimal modification of background elements and frequent modification (or swapping) of foreground content. Joomla! come with two site- and two administrator templates.
User Interface Design (UI) / User Experience Design (UX)
“User interface design (UI) or user interface engineering is the design of user interfaces for machines and software, such as computers, home appliances, mobile devices, and other electronic devices, with the focus on maximizing the user experience.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_interface_design
The connection between both types of design is fluent. A simple but quite good explanation is based on Ketchup bottles. The UI part focusses on the interface of the bottle, the UX part of the experience in the moment of engagement (Figure 4).
Joomla! is only one more tool in the toolbox of a web designer.
A good Joomla template is not only about colors and graphics. The shape and positioning of the content is just as important. The website has to be user-friendly and reliable. Exactly this challenge reminds me of the two cars again.
Web design is still a young profession and it is starting to become an industry.
A web designer often has to deal with low bandwidth, incompatible browsers, inexperienced content editors and other people involved in the process of creating a ‘good’ website.
The creation of a Joomla! website is often a process, in which everyone involved learns a lot.
Good web design is hard work and everyone has to start somewhere!
After having your site up in the language you prefer, most people start tweaking the colors and want to upload e.g. a new logo, even if there is no content so far. Joomla comes with preinstalled templates and so called template styles. A template style is a set of options (color, logo, layout) for a template. The configuration possibilities are depending on the template. Some template have a huge variety of settings and some are quite limited. It is possible to create as many styles as you want and assign them to different pages of your website.
In Joomla a single page is generated by the HTML output of one component, several modules and the template. Each page is accessible via a unique URL. Take the front page as an example. The content component produces the HTML output for the articles in the middle. This screenshot is based on the Joomla Beez Template (Figure 5). The blocks next to the articles are different modules. You can combine the HTML output from one component with the HTML output of any number of modules. Existing modules can also be reused on other pages.
You must know, of course, at which point you can assign modules at all. For this purpose, each template provides so-called positions. In order to see these positions you have to enable the Preview Module Positions switch (Extensions → Template → Options). After that, you can access your website by using the parameter tp=1(http://localhost/index.php?tp=1) or click the Preview link in Extensions → Templates(Figure 6).
You’ll see the emphasized module positions with their names (Figure 7).
In Extensions → Modules you can assign one of these positions to each module. If you need the module at different positions, you may also copy it.
To make things easier for you, Joomla! core comes with two site templates and two administrator templates. You can see a preview in Extensions → Templates → Tab Templates. You can filter between Site and Administrator templates by choosing the location filter (Figure 6 and Figure 8).
Styles offers the possibility to create and use different versions of one template. This is useful if you want to have different templates styles on different pages. A template has a minimum of one style. In this style, configurations can be made depending on the template, such as changing the colors or uploading the header logo. You may set the default style for your site in Extensions → Templates → Styles.
Example: An individual Style
Let’s create an individual style for our website:
Template Colour: #f88638
You can create additional styles by duplicating an existing style. For this example I duplicate the existing protostar style (Figure 9).
A new style appears, the name is protostar – Default (2). We’ll change the name in the next steps. Set it as the default style by clicking the star icon (Figure 10).
Check it and click the Edit Button. Enter the name for the style. In the Advanced tab you can choose colors, upload a logo and a few more parameters (Figure 12, Figure 13)
Each style can be assigned to a menu item (Menus asigment). If you would like a green background on your site when people click on menu item A, for example, and a blue background when they click on menu item B, you can assign the corresponding styles. In my case I have only one menu item and I already marked this style as default style, so it’s not necessary to assign it to a menu item
After saving the style, the website looks different (Figure 14) and because the Protostar template is fully responsive, the website is shown perfectly on a mobile device too (Figure 15).
Create your own template and customize it
A template in Joomla is the base of a style and consists of various files. It’s possible to edit the files of a template online.
BUT! You should NEVER change the source code of a core template. The reason is very simple. Your changed code will be overridden by the next Joomla! update!
It is possible too to copy an existing template, so let’s do that first.
Copy the Protostar template in Extensions → Templates → Protostar Details and Files by clicking the Copy Template button. Give your individual template it a name. I call mine “MyTemplate” (Figure 16).
Beside the new template Joomla creates a new template style too (have a look). It is possible now to work on the new template. You are able to create, delete and edit files (Figure 17).
It’s of course possible to edit the files in an external editor too. The site templates are located in the folder /templates. Each template has it’s own folder. There is now a mytemplate folder too. Under the /templates/systems folder you’ll find the template files to edit the Offline and the Error page templates. The admin templates are located in the folder /administrator/templates.
Overrides are a possibility to change the markup of an extension inside the template. The interesting point is, that your individual template is able to do that. Your template can even rewrite the output of third party extensions. A common use case is an alternative layout for an article in Joomla!.
In the template manager it is possible to create these overrides too.
There are by definition endless possibilities to design something creative. Joomla give you everything you need to build something amazing and hopefully you start to get more curious.
Last week, David Opati Aswani visited us here in Fitou, France. He is doing a lot for the Joomla project in East Africa and I met him for the first time in Bangalore, India at JWC15 (Joomla – A Social Movement In Tech Industry?). He invited me to CMSSummit 2016 in Kampala, Uganda and I enjoyed every minute. Then it happened that Jandbeyond 2016 took place in Barcelona, Spain (200km from the place where I live). Unfortunately, it was not possible for me to attend, so I was happy that David decided to visit us in our small village. We spend a few days together and it was funny, interesting, inspiring, motivating, encouraging and sometimes a bit sad, especially during a traffic stop of the Spanish police. They carried machine guns and stopped our car at the border between France and Spain. Four policemen first searched the luggage of David, then both of us and then the car. Other policemen surrounded our car. Welcome to the “new Europe” with fresh border controls!
Luckily, the rest of the stay was without these kind of incidents.
Even if I’m not so present at Joomladays all around the world anymore, I still use the software, write some blog posts about it (in German) and try to follow the development of the Joomla project. I noticed that the community of the Joomla project became more and more a market for extension developers and template clubs and there was and still is a lot of #jpolitics. I also noticed, that the Joomla software is still very useful, easy to install and to maintain and that it’s totally possible to make a living from using Joomla for clients and/or yourself. At #jwc15 Hung Dinh from Joomlart asked me, whether I would write again a book about Joomla if he sponsors me. I agreed and started to write but then the release of Joomla 3.5 was delayed and the project stunted.
With David I talked not much about Joomla but during his stay I noticed that
CMS Summit 2017, organized by David, Shedy and Oduor will be held in Abuja, Nigeria and they are looking for sponsors – anyone?
David tries to organize a JoomlaDay in Somaliland and is also looking for sponsors – anyone?
the “official” budget of Open Source Matters for travel costs and sponsoring of Joomla days was cut (I don’t know details). Update: I still don’t know details but I was told I should write “appears to be under threat” instead of cut!
if more people could learn to develop, contribute to core, sell extensions and services it would be a good business for the individual and a good deal too for the project. For most people, Joomla is a source of income!
Joomla needs “fresh ideas”, people in Joomla are often very old (me included )
there are other CMS’s in this world (e.g. WordPress, Drupal, PageKit, Grav, List of CMS)
Important Disclaimer: These are my thoughts and interpretations. David don’t know that I write something in my blog about these topics and at the moment he is in a plane ;).
During his stay, he took a photo of some of the books I wrote between 2002-2010 and published it on his Facebook profile.
Since the release of Joomla 2.5 I published the books by myself with the help of sponsors and offered them as a free download. People like that and still until today I receive feedback. The last book was about Joomla 3 and I wrote it in 2012 (Free PDF download).
Today I brought David to the airport in Barcelona for his flight to Kenya. On the way back I thought it might be a good idea to write again about Joomla (and beyond). The “and beyond” part is important. Joomla is a good Content Management System and with a little bit of know how it is possible to build amazing websites. The more “and beyond” you know the easier it will become to earn money with Joomla!
Since last year I’m a so called Iron blogger. Iron bloggers are publishing a blog post every week and because the language I know best is German, I joined a German Iron Blogger group (Ich werde Iron Blogger :)). The basic idea is very simple. Everyone who participates needs a blog (CMS doesn’t matter). He or she has to write one blog entry per week. All the blog posts will be aggregated.
From now on, I’ll try to write about Joomla (of course in English).
If you like the idea, join me, become a Joomla Iron Blogger too and tell me about your decision in a comment
A good topic for the first entry could be
where do I get information about Joomla?
what means “and beyond”?
some websites made with Joomla!
how to publish content in Joomla, especially images?
Ever heard of a website made completely from Chocolate? Yes, you read right! Every tiny itsy bitsy details made entirely from chocolate. And the best part is the pieces are for sale too! Read about it here
Ever heard of a website made completely from Chocolate? Yes, you read right! Every tiny itsy bitsy details made entirely from chocolate. And the best part is the pieces are for sale too! Read about it here