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23Sep2017

Behind the scenes September 2017

Information
614 hits Updated: 01 October 2017

Site makeovers

Documentation

Announcing an exciting new product

Free downloads?

Things have changed a lot in the three-and-a-half years since I created this website.  From starting out with the idea that people might seek professional help with with Ku­ne­na (as well as to give me an opportunity to derive a small income by writing software specifically for that product), I soon realised that a boutique website dependent on the success of Ku­ne­na was never going to be profitable.  It may have been a “good idea” at one time but, as I observed the withering interest in Kunena, I decided to broaden my horizons—extend the purpose of this site to webcraft more generally (with Joomla in mind, of course)—while still offering fearless, independent commentary about the issues of the times.

My own forum needs notwithstanding, other Joomla software vendors’ sites—associated with Kunena—still continue to use Kunena and most of those have updated to a more current version than what I saw during my examination last year[1].  But this article is not about Kunena; this article celebrates several achievements that I’ve made in the past couple of months.  I have much to celebrate and the future of this site is looking better than ever.  If you’ve been here before and you haven’t already noticed what’s different then read on; as I wrote above:  “things have changed a lot” …

Site makeovers

Returning visitors to this site will probably have noticed that I have added thematic images to my articles.  The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” one of the reasons I did this but also I thought that it would add a bit of colour to otherwise plain text and, besides, I was able to have a bit of fun in choosing some of picture subjects.

With more people using social media platforms like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter these days, if you want your content to stand out from the many thousands of one-line comments posted online, what better way to do that if you add an image to your tweet as well?  This also drove me to do more research into how social media platforms employ proprietary <META> tags so that, by merely referencing the URL of a page on your website, one’s posts on those platforms automatically embed an image and a summary of the article that you’ve referenced.

Unfortunately for Joomla website owners, the ability to create Facebook, Google+ and Twitter <META> tags is not included as part of the Joomla core system.  This gave me the opportunity to develop my own software to achieve that (more about this later).

It has also been a long-term aim of mine to write user guides for the products that can be downloaded from this website.  Documentation is, as we all know, one of those unenjoyable tasks that no-one particularly wants to do and, remembering that I don't derive a significant portion of my income from developing software extensions for Joomla, it hasn’t been high on my list of priorities, either.  I’ve made a start—there’s still a long way to go—on a new documentation area of the site.

Even if some of the changes I’ve been involved with are not immediately obvious, I’ve put many hours into reviewing whole-of-site navigation to help people navigate better around the site.

And I could not possibly quantify the amount of time I’ve invested to improve the search engine result pages from Google, etc.!

Announcing an exciting new product

Have you ever wondered how some tweets in Twitter, or posts of Facebook and Google+ are displayed differently—better—than everyone else’s?

Ogplus Facebook
Ogplus Twitter
Ogplus Google+

I wondered why this was the case so I researched the mysteries of Facebook’s OpenGraph, Twitter’s Twitter Cards and Google+’s Meta Tags.  It was a little overwhelming at first and, when one has dozens of articles and one needs to add all this information to each article automatically (without spending half-an-hour hand-crafting a dozen or more <META> tags), it’s just not worth the hassle of doing these things oneself.  As anyone else in my situation would do, I searched the Joomla Extensions Directory for packaged solutions and I found one or two plugins that performed these tasks but the ones I tested were designed specifically for only one or another of those platforms; not all of them.  The best of them was Phoca Open Graph Content Plugin[2] but, as I mentioned, it was only a partial solution for my needs.

By combining images with your Joomla articles[3] (and if you spend a little extra time with the article’s Publishing options) you can create content that appears professional when it appears on someone’s Twitter feed, Facebook page or Google+ blog … not to mention the benefits it has for SEO.  Every bit helps when you’re trying to attract more visitors to your own website.

Using Phoca Open Graph Content Plugin as starting point, I rewrote the plugin to generate the additional proprietary metadata used by Twitter and Google+ and the result—I’m proud to say—is Ogplus for JoomlaPhoca Open Graph Content Plugin is not too bad but I believe Ogplus for Joomla is much better (even if I do say do myself)!  For a short time I am offering this plugin at no cost.

Free downloads:  “and now a word from our sponsor …”

As an independent developer of extensions for Joomla, I rely on the Joomla Extensions Directory [JED] as a place to do business.  The past twelve months have been difficult for developers of Joomla extensions because of new conditions imposed on us who want to use the JED.  People who download products via the JED may be unaware of the amount of effort we have to make to ensure that our products—whether or not they’re available at no cost to the end user—are reliable, robust and secure.  It's a thankless task:  the people who manage the JED seem to be unconcerned about our lives as well as our customers who siphon software from our websites and do acknowledge the work that we do.  Is it any wonder, therefore, that more developers are moving away from sharing their work for zero financial return for their time?

For as long as this site has existed, I have offered a mixture of software that can be downloaded at zero cost as well as software that is available on a pay-to-subscribe basis.  The “subscription service” model that I use is very simple:  for the payment of AUD7.00, people can download anything and everything located through the site’s download section.  Seven dollars is not a lot of money; it’s a little more than the price of a glass of beer, and for that cost people can download whatever they wish for one week.  People can also use the forum during this time to ask questions or seek help about just about anything that is related to Joomla.  Even so, there are still a few products that people can (and do) download regularly at zero cost.  The following is a list (correct at the time of publication) of the products that are available and the terms under which they’re available:

For the present, until I continue to update these products so that they all will use the Joomla autoupdating service, any of the above items that are available at zero-cost (i.e. that do not require a subscription in order to download them) will continue to be available free of charge.  However, as from 1 November 2017, all the above products (with one exception), will require an active subscription in order to download them.  It was not easy to arrive at this decision and I did not take it lightly.  If more people had given their feedback on the JED then, perhaps, I would not have been forced into this situation.  The costs of maintaining these products simply outweighed the benefits that I receive from offering them for nothing.

Lastly, if you have any comments on this article, please use the form at the bottom of this page; if this article was useful to you, please use the “star rating” system at the top of the page.  All comments are very much appreciated.  Thanks.

Notes:

[1]  Kunena 5.0.11, released a couple of weeks ago, has deployed with built-in advertising for 9themestore templates.  It is interesting that 9themestore (having made a sponsorship deal with Kunena) should have abandoned Kunena software for their own site purposes, stating:

We have switched our forum from Kunena component to EasyDiscuss component. The EasyDiscuss component is [the] best commercial discussion component for Joomla! 9themestore forum, 10-Jun-2017

[2]  If you’re looking for a cheap—free—mechanism to prepare your Joomla articles to be used with Facebook, Phoca Open Graph Content Plugin is a very good; it works well “out of the box” without having to make any changes after you’ve installed and enabled the plugin on your Joomla website.  Because the plugin was developed with Facebook’s OpenGraph protocol in mind, it does not do anything for Twitter or Google+ and, because it was written a few years ago, it does not generate all of the Open Graph <META> tags that you might need.  In spite of these drawbacks, I would still recommend this plugin as a way of making your Facebook posts stand out from the rest of the material that people post these days.

[3]  see https://docs.joomla.org/Help38:Content_Article_Manager_Edit#Images_and_Links:Content_Article_Manager_Edit#Images_and_Links for information about how to add article images and links.

[4]  Ogplus for Joomla is not yet available on the JED; it takes about three to four weeks to obtain approval from the people who manage the JED for new listings to appear.  The “Sample help page for Kunena” [boilerplate] text file is also not available on the JED (and it never will be listed there); this file will continue to be available for download at zero cost.

 

About the author:

is a Joomla professional and former member of the Kunena community for more than 8 years—a substantial contributor to the original Kunena documentation project with over twenty thousand messages posted at the Kunena forum. The opinions expressed in this article are entirely those of the author. View his profile here.



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