I’ve Decided to Dew the Drop

What do you think of that witty little title? You get it, don’t you? The Drop, from Drupal. Dew as in Dewdrop but meant as do (that’s a homophone y’know). Pretty cute, huh?drupliconsmall.png

Alright, I’ll explain. I have chosen to use the PHP based content management system (CMS) Drupal for one of my projects. This may not seem like a big deal to you but it is for me. You see, I have a small problem. I end up spending massive amounts of time trying to figure out what tools I should use for each project. This was no exception.

The project is a gaming related site with a specific focus. I admit I was able to create a shortlist right off due to continued research on CMS’s and PHP Frameworks. The shortlist consisted of: Drupal, Joomla!, CodeIgniter or MODx.

I will introduce each and explain the major factors that lead to my decision.

MODx CMS and PHP Application Framework

MODx was awarded by Packt Publishing the “Most Promising Open Source Content Management System” in the 2007 Open Source CMS Awards.

MODx is a very interesting project which is targeting the Web 2.0 audience with an AJAX library, SEO focus, web standards compliance and cross browser compatibility among other things. It is an open source project with the standard no-nonsense GPL.

The decision against MODx was mostly due to the current rewrite of the core code. As of writing the official release is There is a newly rewritten core on the way and slated as version 0.9.7. In my opinion this is a major problem with many CMS’s and Frameworks. Often these open source projects are in constant flux due to major revisions.

The small part of me that is a geek feels excited about MODx but I don’t feel comfortable starting a project with what could be an outdated and unsupported code base ala Further, who’s to say how long it will take 0.9.7 to become stable and what kind of backwards compatibility will it have? I’m not sure this was a great plan right after winning the most promising CMS award.


Joomla! took “Best PHP Open Source Content Management System” and came in second for “Overall Open Source Content Management System Award” in the aforementioned Packt Publishing Awards. Joomla! started as a fork of the Mambo CMS and has been working at making a name for itself ever since. Joomla! has two versions available at this time: 1.0.15 and 1.5.1. Both are licensed under GPL.

Version 1.0.15 maintains a certain compatibility with Mambo to allow for use of the large assortment of Mambo/Joomla extensions. A large focus on the project has been a steady move away from its Mambo beginnings. That move has resulted in Joomla! version 1.5.1. The latest version includes an object oriented API, split of logic from presentation, search engine friendly URL’s out of the box (about time) and several other changes, additions and goodies.

Again, therein lays the big problem. 1.5.1, in comparison, is a new code base with limited usable extensions. Even some die hard Joomla! fans recommend staying away from 1.5.1 until the community can catch up and provide ample offerings for it. Starting a major project with 1.0.15 may cause additional problems and considerations if the need to upgrade arises.

I do like Joomla! for its sheer simplicity and ease of use. You can have a good solid working CMS up and out the door in no time. It reminds me of a new generation of the old Nuke CMS’s where there is a large user base constantly adding to the project. The Joomla! project is a beast that is only going to get bigger and better.

CodeIgniter PHP Application Framework

CodeIgniter is not a CMS. It’s an open source library type framework for PHP programmers with a very liberal BSD like license. CodeIgniter (CI) is a great framework with excellent documentation that provides a simple and lightweight collection of libraries. It is not overly abstracted, has a very short and easy learning curve, needs minimal server requirements and moves like greased lightning compared to many other PHP frameworks. The CI team does its best to maintain backward compatibility to allow for easy transitions to new releases. This, to me, is a major plus that many open source teams are missing.

I really don’t have anything bad to say about CI. The main reason I decided against it is the amount of time involved to build the application. There are a few CI based CMS’s that are just surfacing. I will keep a close eye on them for this and future projects. Until then, I’ll be working with Drupal.


Finally, that leaves us with my decision. Drupal is a PHP based CMS which was awarded “Overall Open Source Content Management System Award” and took second for both, “Best PHP Open Source Content Management System” and “Best Open Source Social Networking Content Management System” in the Packt Publications 2007 contest.

Drupal is currently offering two versions, 5.7 and 6.1, both under GPL. I have opted for the older 5.7 due to module compatibility. Drupal provides a way to upgrade from 5.7 to 6.1 so instead of trying to run 6.1 with legacy code I will upgrade as the modules do. I am confident Drupal will continue to provide a solid and reliable way to move forward.

That leads to a serious plus for Drupal. The team is dedicated to a rock solid core and they seem focused with a steady development plan. I don’t have to worry about newly rewritten cores or drastic changes every few months. The Drupal project has that ‘old reliable’ feeling, one that is not riddled with surprises and upsets.

What has kept me away from Drupal is the learning curve. Drupal does things its own way using its own terminology. I’d say it is very unlikely someone new to Drupal could churn out a fully featured website in the same time a new Joomla! user would. What may take a new user one day in Joomla! may take a week in Drupal.

On the flip side, after that week with Drupal you are left with a sense of awe at its flexibility and potential. Sure, it is still awkward in many ways but it can be a powerful system to work with.

Another plus for Drupal is reports of an excellent API. I haven’t dove into that yet but expect I will soon.

A note for developers and designers both Drupal and Joomla! can open doors to additional opportunities. I often see local contracts for developers and designers familiar with Drupal or Joomla!. Sometimes both.

If you’re looking for a flexible and reliable CMS I would strongly recommend giving Drupal some time. I have found the online documentation to be spattered throughout the site. Often it is not very enlightening especially for modules. If you want to give Drupal a shot I would recommend checking out a Drupal book from your local library to help you along.

CodeIgniter 1.6.1

Obviously I’m not on the ball with this one as the CodeIgniter team popped out another release, version 1.6.1, on Feb 12, 2008.

1.6.1 is consider a maintenance release but it does include some interesting new features such as active record caching and a path helper.

The official release text and link to changelog can be viewed at http://codeigniter.com/news/codeigniter_161_released/

Technology-less Personal-less Job Recruitment

(Question 1) Does technology kill the creativity of recruiters?

(Question 2) Are head hunting human resourcers becoming lazy due to the Internet?

(Question 3) Is the Internet and technology destroying common courtesy?

(Bonus Question) Can we stop our world’s downward de-humanizing spiral encouraged by the Internet and technology? Is there any hope?

As finding an additional form of stable and enjoyable work is my focus as of late, I expect there to be further articles on this topic. So stay tuned or run away because here we go.

As mentioned, I am looking for additional paying gigs. A few potentials have lead me to read, “Finding Keepers : The Monster Guide to Hiring and Holding the World’s Best Employees”. I admit, I am only 36 pages into it but recent experiences and thoughts generated from this book have me questioning the whole human resources world. This article will touch on the aforementioned questions.

  1. The employment industry (is this what we would refer to it as?) and recruitment systems seem to be lacking in creativity due to technology and the Internet. Now, before I get lambasted, the fact is many businesses and industries have this same problem. For recruiting it seems to me they are using new transport systems for old and possibly out-dated methodologies. I like to refer to this as the ‘Build it and they will come’ syndrome. They also seem to be dropping the personal touch which in my opinion shows more about a person than a creative resume or CV.

    For example, where it once was the norm to place jobs in print (newspapers) it seems Craigslist is now that current workhorse. Where there was a quick resume drop off there is now email. Where there was once word of mouth… well I guess there’s still that.

    My point is that the Net and technology should allow for some interesting recruiting and screening practices. I may be missing something, but where are the ‘Meet and Greet 2008 in IRC’ or ‘Four hours with <insert company and name> on video chat’ or ‘Play our online Manhunt Talent Game’ or ‘Join our Virtual Tour on Second Life”. At the very least, why are companies not asking for a Video Resume/CV?

    These are off-the-cuff ideas. There are many possibilities with our current technology yet the same old practices are applied to such a powerful medium.

  2. I will say, I do believe there are many more applicants for jobs than their used to be. It is just too simple to throw your hat into the ring with an email as opposed to mailing it, dropping it off in person or what-have-you. This may be a large factor in what is quickly becoming the standard ‘no phone calls’, ’email only’ and lack of business name or address in ads.

    With that said, shouldn’t the current technology help handle many more applications? Shouldn’t it open hiring staff or agents more time for the personal touch or possibly a little more two way communication?

  3. This leads us to common courtesy. This is a no brainer. The fact is email and the Net and the concept that “it’s just business” all have negative effects on common courtesy.

    What I find mind boggling is the lack of even the most simple form mail stating your resume/application has been received. This problem, in my opinion, also crosses over into the laziness point.

    How difficult is it to create a email template stating the position is filled, that you don’t meet or that you exceed their requirements? This is down right unbelievable and should send a message to potential employees about the company practices and priorities.

There are some companies who are considerate and personable when it comes to hiring. They are proactive and have creative ideas. This is a generalized article based on some of my experiences and by no means is meant to attack or insult any one or multiple entities.

I saw a statistic on the news (sorry, no reference) that soft skills were narrowly the number one priority for companies and that this was an increasing requirement. Current pre-screening methods really aren’t considering this. A resume is not an indicator of a person’s soft skills. First off, a resume is spun a specific way and there is no telling who created or helped tune it.

Additional considerations for the recruiter or HR representative, as stated in ‘Finding Keepers’, and what I believe is general knowledge at this point is that people are increasingly more informed and considerate about their jobs. The fact is you have to sell someone on working for you. There has been a slow shift from where the employee was happy to have a job to where the employer is happy to have a productive worker. There is more to keeping an employee than money and the threat of job loss. There are human factors to consider and it should start with hiring practices and considerations, from the ground up.

I will leave the bonus question for you to answer. Any comments or enlightenment would be appreciated. Expect some further articles on hiring an ego and the forgotten art of training and ‘growing’ your most important resource, people.

CodeIgniter 1.6

The latest installment of CodeIgniter (CI) Framework was announced on Jan 30, 2008.

Due to the 120+ changes the expected 1.5.5 release was passed over for the current 1.6. I won’t go into the change log as you can check out the official release yourself.

Upgrades are reported to be easy as pie. Guides can be found at: http://codeigniter.com/user_guide/installation/upgrading.html. One user posted an easy update from version 1.4 range to 1.6.

The official release forum thread which contains the standard celebration and thanks can be viewed at: http://codeigniter.com/forums/viewthread/70329/P15. So far the most interesting posts for me are from PoWah and tonanbarbarian which indicate a small increase in overhead and speed but nothing serious considering the additions.

Some 1.6 specific bugs have been trickling in on the bug report forum but I haven’t seen anything major as of yet. Most issues in the CI Bug Tracker were dealt with in this release so it is looking very clean.

As with previous CI releases there are few concerns with backwards compatibility. Further, Derek Allard, one of the CI developers has basically stated that it is fair to ‘expect tighter development cycles’ and that they already have 1.6.1 code.

If you don’t know what CodeIgniter is or haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it. In my opinion it is one of the top PHP Frameworks with boasting rights in speed, simplicity, documentation and community support. You should have no trouble in knowing what works in various versions and if you understand PHP you shouldn’t expect any serious learning curves.

Go Daddy, Whoa Daddy!

I got surprised today! Shocked too! The source? Go Daddy.

The surprise: A nice, polite email telling me how much my auto-renewed domains cost. Not such a good surprise. I prefer gifts with some kind of value, be it monetary, physical, emotional, you know, good stuff. Directed to me of course, not other people.

Yes, it is my fault for not being diligent and luckily it wasn’t too serious. Three domains renewed all with private registration. It wouldn’t have been too bad if I hadn’t just renewed two domains the other night for $2 less per domain. So I was looking at a $6 dollar slap on the hand with a $27 dollar chaser for good measure (the 3 private registrations).

Thoroughly surprised and appalled at such an affront I was out for blood and so I called Go Daddy and I did it quick. Quick and aggressive. I punched those numbers on my phone with determination and a steel heart.

The Shock: After listening to the automated message routing me to who knows where (no shock) I end up talking to Moses in billing. Moses I say! Further, I understand him! This guy is speaking a language I know and he’s doing it better than I am.

Without crying I tell this Moses guy I was just billed for 3 auto-renewals with privacy options and I want it canceled. To add to the shock, Moses is nice and friendly. He tells me my options without even a hint at how I’m a dumb <something> for letting it happen. No preaching at all. He just tells me I can delete the order but the domains would be available for anyone to take.

This Moses guy is way too professional for me. I explain to my friend Moses that I renewed two domains for cheaper just the other day. Unfazed and again without any hint of me being stupid for letting this happen he explains he can’t drop the price after the fact. But we do figure out we can cancel the privacy options and get a refund for that.

Now, I’m pretty certain I could have worked it a bit and had the privacy dropped with a refund and redo the transaction with a discount but Moses was working his magic on me. I figured I’d eat the difference, it served me right. So we agree on this and Moses transfers me to support. Yes, the dreaded transfer.

Take a wild guess what happens next? Next thing you know, I’m talking to Linda. She must be related to Moses because she’s all nice and friendly and I understand her! Me and Linda strike up a great convo after I give her my account number, tell her my name and give her a password.

I’d say she wasn’t exactly sure what I was trying to get across with the cancellation of the privacy option. Either that or she wasn’t sure of the process. Even so, without missing a beat she gets things going. She’s on the ball and arranges it with the supervisor, sets it up and passes to me… and I fumble.

Seems I have to cancel the privacy on domainsbyproxy.com before they can process the refund and like I have any idea what my ID or password is. She helps me a bit by telling me its the same password as my Go Daddy account but a different ID. After that she waits patiently while I don’t find my account info. After fumbling around for a couple of minutes and feeling like a dolt, I ask if I can call back. She’s agreeable and tells me it’s ready and there’s a note in the file, I just need to cancel and let them know.

Things are really rolling now. I find my account details post-haste and do my part like a professional. I get the job done and call back. Now, obviously you know and expect what happens next?

I get in touch with John. John too is part of the same family, he’s all nice and friendly. I tell him once what the deal is and like it’s nothing to him he asks me for a couple minutes to get the job done. So, bing bang boom, with less than two minutes of silence John gets back to me and apologizes for the delay. He tells me it’s done and asks if there’s anything else he can do for me.

Well, shiver-me-timbers, who said customer service was dead? It’s alive and well at Go Daddy! I’m not sure what they’re feeding their support staff but I like it. Considering Go Daddy is well known as a low-cost option for a variety of web services I was not expecting such a pleasant experience. I can’t recall the last time I had such an easy exchange with any kind of support.

So, as much as I hate to push the ‘big-boys’ if this one experience is any indication of what Go Daddy is providing I’m in. I’m in enough to at least pay $2 more per domain!

A couple closing notes:

– Go Daddy can be found at: http://www.godaddy.com/
– Unfortunately their 24/7 support line is not a 1-800 number.
– Fortunately the wait times were quite acceptable. My initial wait time was estimated at 4 minutes, I would say they answered in under 3 mins. When transferred to support another wait estimation of 4 minutes and again I was talking live in under 3. My second call was estimated at 6 minutes and I’d say it was under 4 mins.
– They have a nice option of being on hold with or without music.

Host Hunting.

My father is someone who enjoys spending. In my younger days he would often chide me about being cheap. I am certain he was disappointed that I never had it in me to work my way up to his lofty purchasing indiscretions.

On the flip side, in the early stages of my relationship with my wife I was able to shock her at how I wasted my hard earned money on frivolous things such as take-out. I have been with my wife for some years now and she has had an effect on me. What may not have come as a surprise to my father, my wife has been quite successful in guiding me to becoming more… lets say, thrifty.

I’m not sure I can say it any clearer. As you must have deduced from my wordy intro and such a descriptive title, when it comes to web hosts I can be down right tight fisted.

Seeing as I’m on the search for another host you get to see me rant about them. I could be the responsible type and argue both sides of the topic but that is beyond the scope of this ‘article’ and my current interest.

Now, lets consider some of the options on hosting plans. There are hosts that are setting limits like: Number of Domains (1), Addons Domains (None on this package), Email Accounts (3), Mailing Lists (No), FTP Access (1 Account).

What the..? They’re giving away what costs them money when providing ‘free’ domain (sometimes ‘free’ domain for life) and ‘free’ site transfer (they have to pay their employees to do this). These are items that actually cost them something but they limit options that cost them nothing or next to nothing.

Is it really fooling any prospective clients into thinking they get a great deal when they can have 10 email accounts instead of 3? The fact is, from day one they would have been further ahead by pretending these extras were the lost leaders instead of having true lost leaders like domain names.

Ok, before I go any further, I will admit this post is coming a little late in the game. Most of the plans I’ve seen have become much more reasonable and have updated offerings. Sadly, I would speculate the change is due to pricing wars (or option wars) and not from customers complaining that they don’t appreciate the strategies.

As I hinted this reminds me of the strange pricing model you used to see fairly often in software. You know, that completed software package that allows one user at one computer for $39 but with a flick of the software switch you can have 12 users for only $3000, 64 for $50,000. Same software, same code. Where did this pricing idea come from?

There are a few things that should be the main focus in the cost of plan. Those are: Storage Space, Bandwidth (Traffic) and Server Load (CPU/memory usage). Some of the other features do increase some costs, but they are secondary. A plan should mostly be priced and monitored on the said three items.

For example, does it make sense for the poor sucker who had to purchase a Gold Plan at $30 a month to park 50 domains that are taking up zero bandwidth, a minuscule amount of drive space and basically no resources? Specially when the other guy has a Copper plan, for the low introductory price of $4.99 a month, and is hosting 1 site, taking up 2 gigs of space, 2000 gigabytes of bandwidth and is burning out CPU’s like crazy with custom coded software.

I’m just trying to say, as I search for a new host, my crazy mind keeps bouncing back to the whole idea that it would make me much happier if they would just be straight forward. Oddly, I’m not the type who appreciates the marketing garbage and the attempts to convince me how beneficial the Ultra-Diamond package is because it has a mailing list option.

Now before everyone goes crazy and wants to debate, obviously the pricing schemes must allow for facility costs, hardware purchases, employees and various standard business costs. That’s standard business and of course the company needs to make something. Further I do understand that some of the pricing schemes have to do with targeting specific buyers but I wouldn’t have had as much fun writing about that.

If you were able to last this long, I’m surprised. I’d be happy for any comments or suggestions on good, affordable hosts. I’m quite interested in slicehost but $20 a month for a hosting plan is downright painful for a ‘thrifty’ person.

Technical Skill Semantics.

This entry is going to be a bit rough on me. As someone who dislikes technobabble with excessive terminology and classification this entry is going against my grain.

You see, I’ve been looking for some casual contract type of work and find myself a bit uncertain as to how to rate or grade my skills.

Using some of the terms found in ads I wonder, am I a Ninja? Is a Ninja better than an Expert? Obviously a Guru is much more skilled and knowledgeable than an Expert. It takes years and strict training to become a Guru and I know I’m not that in any technical abilities.

So, should I consider myself a Star? I would sure like it if everyone called me Star. Better yet, Super Star! I assure you I am not a Rock Star and I don’t know what that has to do with web skills let alone what a Wizard does.

One thing I am certain – I’m not is a Fiery Dancing Faerie Master! OK, I admit I just made that one up.

It could be my age as I’m now deep into my thirties. I’m pretty good at understanding terms such as ‘basic knowledge’, ‘good’, ‘understanding’ and ‘excellent’. I do start to waver a bit with the semi-obscure or relative terms such as ‘intermediate’, ‘advanced’, ‘experience with’, and ‘expert’.

I further admit to finding it confusing when someone is advertising a ‘Junior’ position with a list of 10 or more different major skills. Another speed bump for me is ‘expert’. There is no way we have millions of experts and all willing to work for $10 to $15 an hour according to the ads. An expert to me is someone who has mastered their chosen profession, who lives and breaths it, someone who can school a teacher.

So my point as you may be wondering is that we need a good Technical Skill Rating system to gauge proficiency. You know, like the standard trade skill apprentice, journeyman and master. Something of that like. Is there something out there I, and most companies, don’t know about?

So back to my search where I can at least feel safe in understanding what ‘Local’ means.

Throw another blog on the fire!

So hey, I figured over 200 million blogs just didn’t cut it. Obviously we needed one more and I was the person for the job. I am certain the world needs my in depth, thoughtful and sensitive take on various IT type topics.

To be polite, I’ll give you a brief run down on what to expect – The what and why:

What: Topics will typically fall in the categories of web development, software/applications, search engine optimization (SEO), some business and marketing, programming, IT and Internet in general. Expect the content to focus more on my opinions or feelings regarding the specific topic.

Why: I can’t say one reason stands out more than any other, so in no particular order:

  • Research: I find myself spending a lot of time researching various tech related topics and thought my confused ramblings may help save someone else save some time.
  • Self Development: I’ve been away from full time web developing for several years and I want to update my knowledge and learn a few new things. For me writing, summarizing and ‘teaching’ (in this case preaching to) others is the best way for me to learn.
  • Can I have that in layman’s terms? I find it common for people to get caught up in the technology aspect, the terminology and various other things that can over-complicate the issue or message. I prefer to have it boiled down to a simple summary. Hopefully there will be some of that here by either myself or others.
  • Opinionated: I’ve always had strong opinions. I’ve done a pretty good job of saving the Internet from them but I think its time to let it out. Translation: I like to express my opinions and the medium of blogging and/or articles writing. This is a sad sample to show I can put a bunch of words together that can make sense. Who would like to hire me now?
  • Sharing: I like to share, it makes me feel happy and purposeful.

Expect some real content to follow soon as well as some additional details in the ‘About’ section.

Finally, as some of you may notice and as a good indication of my layout/design skills, the site is running a stock WordPress template. I do expect to do some modifications over time but do remember, “Content is King”. I’ll bet someone who had poor design skills came up with that quote.