Category Archives: Uncategorized

Joomla! & Beyond 2015

I’m very pleased to announce that I’ll be reprising my talk on Pricing for Freelancers (“You’re Too Cheap – & not nearly nasty enough”) at the Joomla! & Beyond 2015 (#JaB15) conference in May in Prague.

#JaB15 is the leading European conference for Joomla! developers and integrators, bringing together people from over 30 countries, and this year’s programme is stuffed with great speakers covering a broad range of subjects.

If you’re interested in Joomla! or how it can help you (whether you’re a individual programmer or company) please take a look at the programme and see what’s on offer.  It promises to be a really great and inclusive event this year.

Google AdWords Exam

Today I passed the Google AdWords “Advertising Fundamentals” exam (88% since you asked). It’s part of the certification process that’s a prerequisite for becoming a Google partner.

The Google Partner Programme appears to be geared towards helping SMEs to find accredited agencies that will manage their pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns. As part of the programme, agencies will have access to training materials and learn about “best practice” whilst Google will will be able to measure the effectiveness of each agency.

The end goal seems to be to reinforce SME confidence in the value of Google’s AdWords programme. I hope that when I’m fully accredited I’ll be better placed to help my SME clients with their PPC campaigns.


Writing a web design brief

If you are in the market for a new website, the chances are you’ll be confronted with the task of writing a web design brief. If so, here’s a fairly comprehensive web design brief template (or RFP) that you can use.

But why should you bother with a web design brief? Can’t you just sit down and talk it through with your web developer? Yes, you could, if you already have one. However, the web design brief serves several key purposes:

  1. it helps you choose a web developer
  2. it helps clarify what you want
  3. it provides a benchmark to measure success.

There’s the old truism, ‘fail to plan and you plan to fail’, and your website is really no different. Writing a web brief means you have to give serious consideration to

  • what you want to achieve
  • and how you’re going to achieve it.

So, in the brief you state what it is you want to achieve (increased visitors, increased sales, etc) and you also outline how this will be achieved (more optimised website, improved checkout process, etc). This tells the prospective web designer the what and the how.

When you’re writing the web design brief you should attempt to strip away all the buzz words and ‘domain speak’ in order to reach a zen like clarity with regards to what you want your website to achieve. This clarity will also help your web developer (or prospective developer) get to the kernel of your ambition. Finally, you will also have a benchmark against which to measure success 6 or 12 months down the line.

So, if you’re objective is to increase the number of visitors, then state how many you currently receive and also your desired number (remembering to be realistic). In 6 months’ time, you’ll be able to gauge the success or not of your new design. You should also then be in a position to figure out why this or that has or hasn’t worked.

Its simples really, but the more you invest in the up front stage of your web design project, the greater the return on your investment will be later on – and hopefully the fewer surprises you encounter along the way.

Murdoch, BSkyB, & the “Fit and Proper Person” Test

So, The News of the World (NOW) apologises for breaking the law. Like most who undertake criminal activity, those who apologise are normally sorry for being caught rather than for actually breaking the law.

Its also clear that NOW’s policy now is to admit liability and so prevent full disclosure of who ordered what from being disclosed in court – admitting liability means the court is limited to judging costs rather than investigating guilt. Equally importantly, NOW is also seeking to limit the timeframe (2004-6) and therefore the number of people thought to be involved. By doing so, Rebekah Brooks’ (nee Wade) tenure as editor of NOW would be excluded from the scandal, as Brooks is a key figure (chief executive) in NOW parent company News International. However, the Guardian reports that there are allegations that hacking was undertaken as early as 2002/3 – when Brooks was more fully involved in NOW.

Murdoch, it has been suggested, has known for sometime that his employees were guilty of criminality – his alleged attempt to get the then PM, Gordon Brown, to “cool [the] hacking enquiry” would support this viewpoint if its true. It also raises the important question of how far up the chain of command knowledge and complicity in the criminality went. A further question is how far News International witnesses before the various Commons committees were fully truthful in their claims that hacking was limited to a sole, rogue reporter.

The key consideration for Murdoch of course is the proposed BSkyB acquisition – Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary says this scandal has no bearing upon the decision. Yet, there is surely a consideration now of whether News International can be said to be pass the “fit and proper person” test.  Frankly,  there’s a bad smell surrounding News International – at best its top management is incompetent (if they were really clueless about the extent of the hacking at NOW) or were complicit in sanctioning gross criminality. The law regarding corporate responsibility must also apply in these circumstances – surely executives who connived in, or commissioned, criminality should be prosecuted?

Finally, the NOW hacking scandal reveals an even more troubling conspiracy. It would appear that the phones of Government ministers, of front bench ranking, were hacked. Tessa Jowell was Culture Secretary – hacking her phone is akin to industrial espionage, given her role in decisions over media ownership, for example. There’s also the suggestion the Gordon Brown’s phone was hacked when he was Chancellor – again, industrial espionage at best, at worst an attack on the integrity of the British government and worthy of old style foreign espionage.

The fact that NOW staff had the gall to undertake such action speaks of an organisation that believed itself above the law – indeed, the derisory investigations of the Metropolitan Police would seem to show that the Murdoch gang were indeed above the law, or that the law was in their pocket. If Murdoch did indeed attempt the “nobble” the enquiry via Gordon Brown, that also shows the reach of the Dirty Digger’s empire.

The implications of the NOW scandal are more important than the MP expenses scandal, since it goes to the heart of where political power resides in the UK. Very few MPs could “ask” the PM to nobble such an enquiry, or expect the Met Police to roll over so easily. Indeed, some MPs are facing prison – how many News International executives will do porridge? None!

Joomla Intranet & shared services

I have just completed a Joomla intranet project. Two district councils are embarking upon a programme of “shared services” in an attempt to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.

As part of this programme, these district councils are to share a common intranet, removing the need to renew licences for a propriety content management system. This was part of the reasoning behind the choice of Joomla! to power the intranet. Another reason they chose Joomla! was the belief it would be cheaper than Drupal!

Saving Money – Public Sector Procurement

George Osbourne has sounded the clarion call to slash public sector spending. In those ‘non ring fenced’ departments, savings of up to 25% are being demanded. Having worked within the public sector (local government) I know there are savings there to be made. I also know how real savings could be achieved – by radically reforming a public sector procurement process that increases costs for no benefit at all.

I have had the frustrating experience of tendering for public sector contracts, where the whole process seems to drive up costs, a sort of unintended consequence of a ‘compliance’ culture, where individuals appear more concerned to cover their backs than to make a decision. The result is that procurement officers place almost impossible barriers to entry to smaller and possibly cheaper suppliers, with demands that only larger and more expensive companies can comply with. For the procurement professionals, the result is that whatever the outcome, they escape blame because they appointed the best/most expensive supplier and its really not their fault if such a reputable company fails to deliver.

Let me give you a recent example. A police authority in central England publish a PQQ for a content management system (cms). They are not a large organisation and their requirements are rather simple and run of the mill. A small, local company might prove to be an ideal supplier. However, the PQQ states that prospective suppliers must have delivered 5 ‘large scale’ cms implementations within the last three years.

‘Large scale’ must imply contracts of at least £100,000 plus, yet their own requirement is not ‘large scale’ – Joomla!, Drupal or Alfresco, at a push, would suffice. Few small companies will have that sort of portfolio, otherwise they will have ceased to be a small company. Straight away these procurement professionals have ensured that this project is going to cost far more than it should.

Prospective suppliers must also have public liability insurance to the value of £10 million! I mean, how much damage could a bodged cms implementation do? This cms is not going anywhere near sensitive information, so why such an exorbitant insurance demand? Once again, the procurement process is upping the costs, for no real benefit at all (except for the procurement professionals, who now have a large scale public sector procurement on their CV).

Cynical? Possibly, possibly not.