Helpful Magento Theming Links

I’ve been teaching myself Magento themes as I’m planning on setting up my new websites, MJB PhotoArt and U-Scrap using Magento as the e-commerce CMS.

So far, I’ve got the following handy links in no particular order. These are pretty much all that I’ve read so far and have helped me get my head around the theme system and extension system of Magento. They have also helped with ensuring Magento is configured correctly for Australian use. Not all of them are completely current in what they say, but they are still helpful nonetheless:

Magento Theme Reading

Magento Extension Reading

Handy Extensions

WordPress.com – Web 2.0 Case Study – INB347 Assessment 3

Note: This case study was completed for assessment item 3, INB347 Semester 1, 2011.

WordPress.com is a hosted blogging platform based on the open source WordPress system. It is designed to allow users to sign up and create their own blog. Users can choose from a completely free version, or pay for upgrades to add functionality, including the ability to use custom designs and to register and use a custom domain name instead of the free youraddress.wordpress.com sub-domain. WordPress.com provides a suite of easy to use tools including a what-you-see-is-what-you-get content editor for blogging, simple CMS functions and tagging. It also allows for simple customisation of their provided templates through the use of widgets, many of which allow content to be pulled from other services, such as Flickr feeds and RSS feeds from other blogs.

WordPress.Com has two primary competitors, TypePad and Blogger. Comparatively, Blogger is the only one of these three platforms that was originally developed as a hosted blog publishing service and was first released in 1999 (Google, n.d.). WordPress was originally developed as a standalone blog solution for individual blogs and was first released in 2003 by developer Matt Mullenweg (Mullenweg, 2003). TypePad has a similar story, originally developed as the Movable Type blogging platform that was first released in 2001 (Trott, 2001). In 2003, Google bought Blogger and began to push it as a blog publishing service (Gillmore, 2003). TypePad came soon after in 2003 (Wikipedia n.d.). In 2005, WordPress.com was released as a hosted blog publishing service (Mullenweg, 2005). This could be seen a way to turn the open source platform into a viable business with an effective business model capable of revenue generation.

Addressed throughout this case study, are examples of how WordPress.com has fulfilled the 8 patterns of Web 2.0 as defined by O’Reilly (2005). Also inclusive are gaps, legal and ethical implications, and potential future directions for the company. The case study will then look into the strategic side of Web 2.0 and how WordPress.com has approached it.

Read moreWordPress.com – Web 2.0 Case Study – INB347 Assessment 3

Lightweight Models & Cost-Effective Scalability – WordPress.com

Lightweight Models & Cost-Effective Scalability - WordPress.comOverview

WordPress.com is a hosted blogging platform based on the open source WordPress platform. It is designed to allow users to sign up and create their own blog. Users can choose from free or paid versions, with added functionality available on the paid platform, including the ability to use custom designs and to register and use a custom domain name instead of the free youraddress.wordpress.com sub-domain. WordPress provides a suite of easy to use tools including content editor for blogging, simple CMS functions and tagging. It also allows for simple customisation of their provided templates through the use of widgets, many of which allow content to be pulled from other services, such as Flickr feeds and RSS feeds from other blogs. WordPress.com blogs are hosted on the WordPress.com grid which is capable of scaling to handle enormous traffic spikes, load balanced across hundreds of servers (n.d.). This means that WordPress.com websites are automatically capable of handling going viral and will scale as necessary to meet the demand. While not as Lightweight as some startups, the company behind WordPress.com, Automattic operates with approximately 76 staff across the world (n.d.). 76 staff though is still remarkably small for a company that manages a network infrastructure with over 1,200 servers across 3 data centres (n.d.), whilst also continuously maintaining the WordPress.com platform and contributing to the further development of the open source WordPress platform. Not to mention handling customer support queries. It should be noted that while WordPress.com does provide an extensive self-service support section (n.d.), they do have email support services available, as well as paid VIP support for enterprise level clients (n.d.).

Comparison

Lightweight Models & Cost-Effective Scalability - WordPress.com
Create a new blog entry in WordPress.com

WordPress.Com has two primary competitors, TypePad and Blogger. Comparatively, Blogger is the only one of these three platforms that was originally developed as a hosted blog publishing service and was first released in 1999 (n.d.). WordPress was originally developed as a standalone blog solution for individual blogs and was first released in 2003 by developer Matt Mullenweg (2003). TypePad has a similar story, originally developed as the Movable Type blogging platform that was first released in 2001 (n.d.). In 2003, Google bought Blogger and began to push it as a blog publishing service (n.d.), and in early 2005, WordPress.Com was released as a hosted blog publishing service (n.d.) and as a way to turn the open source platform into a viable business with an effective business model capable of revenue generation. TypePad came soon after in late 2005 (n.d.).

Of the 3 services, Blogger is the only one that is completely free with no paid versions available (n.d.). WordPress comparatively offers a full-featured free version with the ability to pay for the extra features you want to have added-on without the need for a subscription that may have unwanted features (n.d.). TypePad however puts the emphasis on their paid subscription plans with a free “Micro” version available for personal users offering a limited feature set (n.d.).

As mentioned earlier, WordPress.Com utilises a load-balanced grid, or in other words, a cloud of servers to manage their hosting and ensure cost-effective scalability for all their hosted blogs. Compared to this, TypePad describe their hosting as being provided in a tier 1 data centre (n.d.), but little more information is provided. No information is provided about exactly where or how Blogger websites are hosted, except that they are now run from Google servers.

It appears from browsing through the features, about information, pricing structures and tutorials for each of these services that Blogger is targeted towards personal users with only minimal support for large customers. WordPress.com and TypePad however appear to be designed to cater specifically for enterprise grade customers, with support for individual users as well. TypePad boasts large corporate clients such as ABC, MSNBC, CBC, BBC and Sky News (n.d.) whilst WordPress.com claims large clients such as the Dow Jones “AllThingsD”, the CNN “Political Ticker”, the official NFL blog, the official Flickr blog, and more.

All 3 of these systems however provide user friendly WYSIWYG editors, traffic statistics, the ability to display advertising and make money from ad traffic, promoting your blog, customising your design (though this does depend on paid upgrades to some degree for WordPress.com and TypePad), spam blocking, multiple-language support and some level of functional customisation and third party integration. Each of these systems also provides tagging and categorisation capabilities along with simplified CMS functionality, such as pages.

Implications

The implications of a system as robust as WordPress.com that is regularly updated and improved and is capable of withstanding an entire data centre outage (n.d.) is fantastic uptime with an easy to use system that is constantly improving. This means that individuals as well as companies are able to quickly and easily create content for the internet in a way that is capable of both becoming extremely popular and withstanding that popularity without downtime, serving most pages in under a tenth of a second (n.d.). This gives individuals the ability to have a voice and be heard, or to simply write about anything they want to share.

WordPress.com is a large part of what Web 2.0 is all about, user generated content. The implication here is that WordPress.com and it’s self-hosted counterpart, WordPress could be perceived as a large part of the driving force behind what the internet is today. The question is, how will it fit in with the internet of the future?

Potential Legal and Ethical issues

The main issue I can see here is content ownership. Who owns the content that a user publishes on WordPress.com? In their support section, WordPress.com makes it clear the users retain ownership of their data and provides suggestions on how to license their data or ensure their data is adequately protected by copyright laws, including suggested copyright notices and the ability to select Creative Commons licenses for content (n.d.).

The other issue I can see is with their hosted solutions. This is that if a significant amount of downtime was had, it could cause substantial losses for their customers. While this might not present such an issue with free customers, paying customers, especially those of VIP hosting, could have the potential for legal action if the problem is not solved satisfactorily and promptly.

Future Directions

The future direction of WordPress.com is vital to their continued growth and success as the web is changing towards a portable network where access is available from numerous non-traditional devices. At this time WordPress.com already supports mobile blogging, including iPhones and other mobile platforms, and features themes that are optimised for mobile readers. It makes sense though that their future focus should be on greater interoperability between systems. For example, users that maintain a cooking blog and have an internet connected fridge may find it convenient to simply send a recipe straight from their fridge to their blog based on the ingredients in their fridge.

It also makes sense that the future of WordPress.com should be continued scalability and light weight operation. As it becomes accessed from more and more devices, this means greater loads and greater need to scale easily and quickly. Operating as light as possible also means that more features can be made available for less or for free. As users want to pay as little as possible, this could be key in drawing potential paying customers away from competing platforms.

Where do you think WordPress.com should head?

References

Automattic. (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://automattic.com/about/

Google. (n.d.). Blogger. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from https://www.blogger.com/

Mullenweg, M. (2003). WordPress now available. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://wordpress.org/news/2003/05/wordpress-now-available/

TypePad. (n.d.). Blog hosting. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://www.typepad.com/features/blog-hosting/

TypePad. (n.d.). Pricing. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://www.typepad.com/pricing/

TypePad. (n.d.). TypePad. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://www.typepad.com/

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Blogger (service). Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blogger_%28service%29

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Movable Type. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movable_Type

Wikipedia. (n.d.). TypePad. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TypePad

Wikipedia. (n.d.). WordPress. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordPress

Wikipedia. (n.d.). WordPress.com. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordPress.com

WordPress. (n.d.). Premium features. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://en.wordpress.com/products/

WordPress. (n.d.). Prevent content theft. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://en.support.wordpress.com/prevent-content-theft/

WordPress. (n.d.). Support. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://en.support.wordpress.com/

WordPress. (n.d.). VIP Hosting. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://vip.wordpress.com/hosting/

WordPress. (n.d.). VIP Support. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://vip.wordpress.com/support/

WordPress. (n.d.). WordPress.com. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://wordpress.com/

Note: This blog post is part of a series of blog posts that form assessment item #2 for INB347 – Web 2.0 Applications.

What Service!

What Service!I’ve been meaning to write this blog for about a week now, finally found time to do it! A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog on the Bank of Queensland after I was extremely unimpressed with some fees I was charged.

I drew some comparisons with my other bank, the Greater Building Society. I have been very impressed with the Greater Building Society in all aspects for as long as I have been with them, the Bank of Queensland thouh I am very unhappy with, and I think that shows quite clearly in my previous post. I also made a few Twitter comments about it and comparing the two.

Now I’ve not heard from anyone from the Bank of Queensland at all regarding the complaints I made, and I didn’t really expect to. However, 5 days after I wrote the blog and made the comments on Twitter, I received an @ response on Twitter and a comment on the blog post, both addressing the one complaint I had about the Greater – no branches or ATM’s in Brisbane. Turns out that there will be ATM’s from the 1st of June via the RediATM network – Press release here.

I thought that was fantastic, not only the fact that there are going to be numerous ATM’s available to Greater customers without direct ATM fees, but because someone took the time to actually respond to the one issue I had, which isn’t really a big issue anyway.

If that’s not enough though, the next day I got a call from the bank manager at one of the nearest Greater branches, Pacific Pines. She wanted to thank me personally for the glowing feedback on Twitter and the blog post and to give me a suggestion on how I can reduce tax on the interest on one of my accounts as well as to see if there was anything else she could give me advice on or give me a hand with.

I can tell you now, if I wasn’t already happy with their service, I would be now! In fact, I’m absolutely extatic! A bank that wants to see if there is anything they can do better when I’m already extremely happy with them makes me far more confident in them than a bank that takes no interest at all in my complaints (as I said earlier, I didn’t expect any response at all, it was just my venting and I haven’t formally complained to the Bank of Queensland, I don’t like them enough to bother), even if they are only on my blog and Twitter feed. If a building society can afford to actually look at what is being said about them online and respond to it, I’m sure a larger bank can manage it. After all, they need their customers just as much as a small bank/building society do.

Suffice to say, I am happy.

On another note, I’ve applied to go on Exchange to either England or Scotland next year for a semester, and look what I just came across while writing this blog: Win $1,000 spending money on a Travelex prepaid Cash Passport – From the Greater website. Basically, buy a Travelex ATM or Debit Cash Passport through the Greater before the end of June to go into the draw to win a bonus $1,000 on the card. I had a quick look at the Cash Passport information page on the Greater website and also on the Travelex website, and it turns out, British Pounds is one of the currencies available! Timing or what?

WPRex – Free WordPress Themes

WPRex sells free WordPress themes on their website with almost 7,000 currently available. There are some quite unique templates available and the filter system is great for sorting through the themes (which is pretty important with that many available!).

The majority of the themes are user submitted as well, with only 82 (at the time of writing) being themes designed by WPRex. So it is a very community driven website, meaning that there are designs of all shapes, sizes and colours in just about any combination you can think of.

I run a number of WordPress blogs and currently don’t have time to do up custom designs for them all, so it’s a great resource for the interim, and possible a more permanent resource as well. There are plenty of paid premium theme sites and while some themes on WPRex are not as high quality as those you might pay for, there are many that are well and truly on par with paid premium themes.

Got any other free WordPress theme sites that you like? I have primarily used those found on the WordPress website before, so I’ve not really looked into other sources that closely. Let me know what sites you use and what you think of WPRex in the comments!

I’m also meant to say that this is a paid post, but it is definitely useful and relevant to this blog, which is excellent!

New Blogs

Over the past few weeks, I’ve setup a couple of new blogs. What’s that? I hardly update this one or http://matthewbrown.net.au as it is? I know, I know, I have lots of things to put on them and no time to do it!

The two new blogs are both for very good reasons though!

Show Me In The Bible

Address: http://showmeinthebible.com

This one is based on Drupal and was created during the Show Me In The Bible seminars run at Springwood church, initially presented by Pr Russell Willcocks and now continued by Pr Travis Manners.

I set it up with two ideas in mind, the first as a point to centralise all the videos that I have been uploading to Youtube and Vimeo from the seminars so that other people can find them easily. The second as somewhere I can continue to share video, audio and just general information from or on other Bible based events and presenters.

At the moment this just uses the standard Drupal template and doesn’t really have any special functionality. I hope to redesign this and implement some nicer things in the future, but just have not had time.

MatthewBrown.com.au

Address: http://matthewbrown.com.au

This one is WordPress based and is setup as a university assignment for KIB216 “Advanced Web Design”. The aim is to be an online professional portfolio. In some regards, this will overlap a great deal with http://terramedia.com.au but ah well, I own the domain already and it is an assignment requirement, so I might as well and then try and figure out some further use for it afterwards.

At the moment it just uses a template I found when I did a quick look at templates that aren’t Kubrick, because I despise Kubrick. The assignment was to use the blog to display our graphic design of what we intend to design the blog to look like, and then the next assignment is to do up the template itself. So this will need to be done in the next 2 weeks which makes this one a bit of a priority, even though I don’t exactly have a permanent use for it yet.

I have to say though, in being forced to work with WordPress again, it reminds me why I started moving to Drupal. Aside from the one click updates on the core and plugins that WordPress has, Drupal is a far better blog and CMS platform in general. Yes, Still as Life is still WordPress based, as is http://matthewbrown.net.au but hey, I don’t have time to migrate them completely to Drupal and it doesn’t hurt to have live WordPress installations I can play with in case I need to use it for a client.

Peekaboo Internet Explorer 7

I posted yesterday regarding a problem I was having with Internet Explorer 7 rendering some JavaScript controlled pop ups incorrectly in one of my current projects.

I ended up fixing it by applying a position: relative; and z-index: 100; to each <p> tag. Nothing below 100 would display the text.

It turns out its a variant of the Internet Explorer 6 peekaboo bug. One of the guys over at Stack Overflow pointed me to a blog post on small-software-utilities.com where they listed finding a similar bug in Internet Explorer 7. Interestingly, their fix didn’t do it for me. I had to apply the z-index as well as the relative positioning before it was fixed. It would be nice if Internet Explorer could at least be consistent in it’s bugs!

Thanks to everyone that helped out!