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“Code is Poetry”: WordPress and Sustainability

The brief history of open source content management systems (CMS) is the history of a range of applications offering similar core functionality – desktop publishing features – but all pushing different specialisms: blogs, portals, forums, e-commerce, e-learning and so on. There is one application, however, that has gone a long way in a short amount of time to covering all these areas, and if you’ve read anything on this blog you’ll know it’s a platform I carry unequivocally close to heart: WordPress.

Gone are the days when you had to run 3 or 4 different MySQL databases, create themes for 3 or 4 different platforms, and link all this up to achieve a comprehensive CMS for your company’s website; WordPress is the king of all trades and I think the reason for this can be summed up by three crucial factors. Click here to continue reading

Linen: The Cleanest of WordPress Magazine Themes?

A while back I reviewed an innovative horizontal sliding WordPress theme called Shelf. Today I’m covering a new theme by the Theme Foundry and it goes by the name of “Linen“. It’s billed as a clean and flexible magazine theme and I’ll be putting it to the test to see if it lives up to its claims.

On first glance Linen is an elegant, spacious and professional looking magazine/blog theme with a well integrated home page slider; a clear and simple layout and a useful extended footer. But it’s not something we haven’t seen before. Linen sets up shop in a fierce market of minimalist WordPress theme designs. So the question is: what – if anything – sets it apart from the competition? To answer this, we have to look beyond the surface at a little thing called detail. Click here to continue reading

Facebook, the domain, and a call for a new Web

Back in 1990 a select group of computer scientists in the post-industrial world witnessed the birth of a powerful communications tool, something that had been in the offing under various technical guises since the Second World War. But it took a radical leap of faith to conceive of this tool as serving a progressive human function rather than a covert institutional one. Unsurprisingly, Tim Berners-Lee has it best:

“The world wide web went live, on my physical desktop in Geneva, Switzerland, in December 1990. It consisted of one Web site and one browser, which happened to be on the same computer. The simple setup demonstrated a profound concept: that any person could share information with anyone else, anywhere. In this spirit, the Web spread quickly from the grassroots up.” (Source)

The keywords in Berners-Lee’s genesis story are ‘share’ and ‘grassroots’, and further on in the article he speaks of principles of egalitarianism and freedom. The main thrust of his article is to warn netizens of the growing affront to these liberal foundations by means of network control and domination by the few over the many. What is written out of his brief history of the Web however, is the oft-stated but underrated fact that it was the commercialization of access to the Web that enabled it to ‘spread quickly’ – AOL et al. Click here to continue reading

Life on a Shelf: Musings on a WordPress Tumblelog Theme

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I’ve been fairly vocal about my predilection for free WordPress themes in recent weeks. I’ve applauded the up and coming WPShower.com for producing clean and usable templates, and for reviving the ‘share alike’ spirit that WordPress was founded on. But that’s not to suggest that paid theme developers can’t stir up some excitement now and then, or raise the WordPress design bar, far from it. In fact WordPress owes much of its success to premium theme developers, to those dedicated design professionals who have a vested interest in expanding the performance and the appeal of the platform. But whether free or premium, when it comes to designs that change the way we think about WordPress, we are dealing with a select few, a few rare pearls in a sea of similarity.

In order to redress the free vs premium balance on this blog, I’ve decided to review a recently released premium theme that strikes me as a bit of a game changer. The theme is called Shelf, and it was created by the renowned UK designer John Hicks in collaboration with The Theme Foundry. Rather than write a technical account of its feature set, I’ll begin with a quick tour of the theme and then address its form factor, its viability as a Tumblr alternative and some suggested areas for improvement. Click here to continue reading

Mille Feuille or Mont Blanc? Musings on RockMelt, the Social Browser

Like a mille feuille or a mont blanc pastry, this post is intended to be short and sweet; a light gathering of thoughts, sprinkled with icing sugar. Any extension of this post by way of comments and feedback will, as always, be most welcome, and anyone slipping off to the local pâtisserie to satisfy a craving for cake will be duly forgiven.

Effectively, this is the continuation of a personal response to a recent trial of RockMelt, the new Chromium powered, social browser. My purpose here is not to offer a user review, but to question some of the basic assumptions at work in the way the browser frames the user experience of the world wide web. Click here to continue reading

WPShower.com, Rising Star of the WordPress Theme World

The old school bloggers among you will remember the days back in 2004-5 when WordPress was just starting out; a time when the themes were free and the blogosphere was alive and bristling with excitement. By 2007 the platform had begun to dominate the blogosphere and the blogging industry as a whole was about to reach its peak. Around that time a whole new market opened up for paid WordPress themes. The era of the ‘premium theme’ had arrived and with it some brilliant developments to WordPress architecture. Premium theme developers helped move WordPress on from being an efficient blogging engine to a fully-fledged CMS. Click here to continue reading

Meet Apertus, The Open Source HD Cinema Camera

A while back I listed 10 of the most promising real world Open Source projects on this blog, and today I want to add one more contender to that list: Apertus, an Open Source cinema camera project.

Led by Oscar Spierenburg and a team of international developers, the project aims to produce “an affordable community driven free software and open hardware cinematic HD camera for a professional production environment”. Let’s take a quick tour of the hardware and software components that constitute Apertus, before moving on to address some concerns about the overall viability of the project. Click here to continue reading

Monetizing Word of Mouth: Towards New Ad Spaces

I want to share the following idea for a new WordPress plugin or Open Source widget in the hope that someone might either: implement it; bring an existing implementation of the idea to light; critique it as not worthy of implementation; and/or build on it, make it better. Here goes nothing… Click here to continue reading

When do ideas cease to be free?

Two websites were brought to my attention recently, the first is Open Source Ideas and the second (very similar in name) Open Ideas. It prompted me to google the terms “Open Source Ideas” and I discovered a long list of sites that attempt to apply the principles of open source software to thought processes or the generation of ideas. In browsing through some of these projects I began to question the validity of the claim “to open source ideas”: What constitutes an idea? Is an idea inherently closed at source? When do ideas cease to be free? When we say “I have an idea”, what do we really mean? Here below are a few musings on the theme.

Idea – from the Greek idein (to know, to see) – is to bring to the fore of the conscious mind a synthesis of past knowledge with a desire to shape or give shape to an aspect of the world as yet unexplored by the ideator.

The use of the verb have in the utterance “I have an idea”, is at the same time possessive and ‘unpossessable’; bound on the one hand to the confines of individual thought and thought-mechanics, but free on the other in its transfer to an audience at the point of public scrutiny – an act of (in/dis)semination, a disclosure of the amalgam of past knowledge from which it draws and an exposure of the new configuration, a transformative act which cements the idea as proposition(s). Click here to continue reading

5 Things To Think About Before Launching A Website For Your Open Source Project

I review hundreds of new and existing open source software (OSS) for inclusion in the OSLiving archive, and so inevitably I get to experience a wide range of websites. More often than not, the website experience leaves alot to be desired. Aside from the very large-scale projects for which money (and therefore custom design and usability testing) is no object, the majority of Open Source project websites are either community-built or left to the program developers themselves. While instances of good practice can be found in both large and small-scale projects, problems tend to arise more frequently in the latter group. All too often the website is the last “chore” in a taxing software development process. This is problematic since the success of your software depends very much on how you present and contextualise it.

In this article, I highlight some of the recurrent issues and offer some common sense suggestions for an improved OSS experience. My purpose is to help remove as many barriers as possible between your open source application and your potential audience. This is particularly important in thinking about attracting first-time and novice OSS users. The good news is that it really doesn’t take much to improve accessibility other than simple planning, realistic goals and some solid resources. The following notes are part of a forthcoming project for the main OSLiving site, a guide to getting started with open source. Accessibility, usability and ‘findability’ (see above diagram) are the 3 core criteria that Paul Veugen uses in his micro usability tests. I’m going to borrow these terms (somewhat out of context) to inform our discussion here. Click here to continue reading

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The OSLiving blog addresses issues of import in a broadly based Open Source context. It is a space for information, opinion and informed debate.

Discover software reviews and interviews with leading figures in the field, commentary on current Open Source issues and musings on all things WordPress.

If you'd like to contribute a guest article to the blog, please get in touch.

Sites We Like

SourceForge - one of the longest running portals devoted to housing projects from the Open Source community. A great place to find OSS projects to collaborate on.

Open Source Initiative - the OSI maintains the Open Source Definition and offers a range of information on OSS licensing and standards.

OSALT - a brilliant site devoted to open source alternatives. The site compares quality OSS with its commercial peers.

Got a great OSS link? Let us know.