Archive for July, 2010

Word Of The Week

The word of the past week is WikiLeaks, of course! Although not a Wiki in the classical sense of the word, watchdog sites like this are essential in a democratic society.

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Electronic Kids-ID Required?

Yesterday, there were alarming messages in the newspapers and on radio and TV: if a Belgian family wants to take a child to a foreign country they need to have an electronic “Kids-ID” when boarding a plane, a ferry or a fast train:

That Kids-ID is pretty expensive if you need it in a hurry (the local authorities in my village make you up to 180 EUR for a document that costs just 3 EUR if you can wait a month). So did my wife and I needed to panic, since our daughter didn’t have such an electronic ID card?

Of course not! Belgian law is clear: Belgian children under 12 years of age need an “identification document”, but the “old” paper version is just as good as the electronic version, as long as the validity date isn’t in the past. So why all the fuss? Well, basically because journalists don’t seem to take the time to verify their sources. Copying text from another website, whether that is a news agency or a competitor, seems to be the rule these days. Is that just because it’s easier and quicker? Do journalists no longer care about what they write, or about the correctness of the information they provide? Do journalism schools no longer teach the need for a critical evaluation of news sources, or the need to verify information? And where are the editors and publishers?

I know, I know: this is my second rant about sloppy journalism in just a few weeks (see 2010-07-07). A sign of the times? Or am I just getting grumpier and grumpier? I hope not!

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Last night I added another month to the archive section of this blog: February 2004 has been resurrected. This time, I have tried to correct broken links , whenever possible – I care about what I wrote then, even if it’s just to see what tickled my fancy then… Imagine my surprise when I found references to the Apple iPhone even then – just check the link about a mysterious new Apple PDA on 2004/02/19!

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Yes, it’s a great little tool for developers, beginning and experienced alike – if you’re on a Mac: “OS X Development Tool: RegExibit“. You can use it to teach yourself regular expressions, or to make it easier on yourself when you’re working with regexes. Not too many of us are capable of whipping up complex regular expressions while writing code, so I guess I’m not the only one who will happily use this tool! By the way: I have seen at least one similar application online.

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Dave Winer, in his post “Apple’s Flash policy is a breach of Postel’s Law“, writes: “Linkrot is usually accidental, but this was deliberate.” Well, if it’s deliberate, then it’s not linkrot, but link poisoning.

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It’s a long presentation, but it’s an excellent overview of what our social “networks” look like in real life: “Presenting ‘The Real Life Social Network’ at the IA Summit“. At the same time, it’s also a clear explanation of why current social networking tools like FaceBook and Twitter will have to change fundamentally if they want to survive in the long term… or will they be replaced by others, that are more tuned to the realities of how we want to interact with our family, friends, co-workers, etc? After all, just like in a content management system, we want to target our messages to a specific audience – which is why I mainly use email (but with seven or eight different email addresses) to converse with others… but that isn’t ideal either.

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These days, a ‘content management system’ is supposed to be a “serious” tool, and that usually translates to a big and somewhat complex software system, that is either hard to install or hard to use, and often both. CushyCMS is something quite different: there’s nothing to install, since it is a hosted package. For the end-user, it’s a very simple tool: log in, select a webpage from your site, and edit away in a wysiwyg editor. How does it do that? Technically, CushyCMS can best be described as a web-based editor, that uses FTP access to a website to read and write pages.

CushyCMS basically sees two types of users: designers of webpages, capable of building the site, and editors, i.e. the people that will edit the content on those pages. With CushyCMS, an editor cannot edit the whole webpage, but only those part that the web site designer marked as editable. Web designer and editors must be defined on the CushyCMS website, together with the specifics of the website to be edited. You have to tell CushyCMS the account and password of the FTP access to your website, and unfortunately there’s no explicit explanation of their policy concerning your privacy and the security of your data.

I’ve tried it on the nukleos.com website. I had a bit of of a problem while configuring CushyCMS and my homepage at the same time: I had both my FTP tool and CushyCMS opening a connection to the site simultaneaously, and CushyCMS got very confused. But apart from that, it works well. Adding the required markup for CushyCMS to detect the editable parts of a page isn’t too difficult, as long as you’re not afraid to dive into a bit of HTML coding; any web designer can take care of that. Editing the content takes place in rich text editor panes, one for each designated zone on the page you’re editing. Pasting text from your word processor will be a bit disappointing, since CushyCMS only accepts plain text, without markup or links. Whether that is an acceptable limitation depends on the situation.

CushyCMS won’t replace my FTP-plus-text editor, because adding new pages or paragraphs to my site is a job that CushyCMS can’t do. But changing a typo, adding a bit of text or editing a link is much easier and comfortable with CushyCMS.

So, do you need this solution? In practice, CushyCMS should only be applied to simple static sites, with a limited number of pages. But for those sites, it’s quite an easy way to get one or more end-users involved in the maintenance of the content. The name of the tool raises high expectations, and actually it’s not really a ‘content management system’ (CMS), but just a web page editor. But as such, it does what it promises.

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