Archive for the ‘Squigglocity’ Category

Have I found my new favorite CMS?

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

I’ve used TONS of content management systems (CMS) over the last several years. There are usually things I really like and things I really don’t like about each of them. Until now, the one that I’d pretty much standardized on was ModX. I found it was harder to setup a site that had blog, community, forum, etc features than some of the ones geared specifically for that, but I think it’s great for setting up an info-only or store-front style site. It really gives you great flexibility in setting up such a static site.

But, when I started to use it to setup a site for my church, I found it was just unnecessarily difficult to add some of the features I thought we wanted (blog/news, discussion forums, media gallery, etc). I also decided it was just a bit too quirky and difficult for a non-technical user to go in and create content. I really hate the WYSIWYG HTML editor they include by default (tinyMCE) and hate that I have to manually install one I actually like (FCKeditor, for example).

So, I started looking around for a new CMS…I quickly landed on glFusion, and while there are still some things that I think need some work, I think it just might be the best compromise of features I want, ease of use, and expandability. I’m still learning some things, and I’m trying to work with some features I don’t like (the way they do themes/templates seems really odd to me), but I think it’s very usable.

Only time will tell, but I’m hopeful this will become the standard CMS for all my sites.

yeah, but…

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Matt Asay has an interesting little article on about how open source drives innovation and shortens the effective “patent monopoly” period for proprietary software.  While I completely agree with most of what he says, I have just a couple of small caveats.  Yes, innovation is usually a good thing, but it can lead to multiple standards (oxymoron, I know), fractured development/user communities, and increased upgrade costs for licensed users.

Competetion can obviously lead to innovation and provide useful features and a general improvement in user experience.  And yes, I think the consumer can be the winner in such scenarios.  But it also means that licensed users of proprietary software could be on a continual upgrade treadmill, forced to keep up with the latest updates to the software they already paid for.  What’s more, software updates often bring changes to file formats, dividing users even further into open source vs proprietary camps, as well as old version vs new version camps.  And let’s not even get into the increased security concerns with updates and features that are rushed to production in order to meet deadlines.

So what’s the answer?  Moderation…cooperation…cohabitation…probably at least one other kind of -ation I can’t think of right now.  There’s got to be a happy medium for everyone involved.  Users need to be able to make the most of the software they pay for without being forced to upgrade before they need or want to.  Vendors need to figure out there are ways to make money from software without resorting to the perpetual upgrade path.  Better yet, vendors could make use of dual-licensing strategies and allow an open source development community to drive innovation into the company’s non-free software.  Finally, the open source community needs to realize that just because they can produce a free alternative to a specific piece of software, that doesn’t mean they have to.  Choice for the sake of freedom is a good thing…choice for the sake of division isn’t.

There is definitely still a place for proprietary software, just like there’s a place for open source alternatives.  It’ll be nice when we find the balance between the two that’s so desperately needed by users and vendors alike.

“…choices are exploding”

Monday, October 27th, 2008

The number of choices we now have for purchasing music online is encouraging.  I still buy CDs at times, but I buy most of my music at because they cost the same as iTunes but they sell you an unrestricted MP3 file which I can put on my network and multiple iPods or other MP3 players.  I don’t share my purchased music with others, and I don’t listen to music I didn’t purchase…I just like to have the freedom to do what I want with my music.  But while iTunes doesn’t give me that, I’m not saying it shouldn’t exist.  You see, choice is a good thing, and (usually) the more choices you have, the better.  Stephan Jenkins, the lead singer for the band Third Eye Blind, finally got around to saying that, but not before he really kinda confused the whole thing.

According to this story, Jenkins was the keynote speaker at the SanFran MusicTech Summit (what, you’ve never heard of the SFMTS?) where he talked about his feelings for releasing singles, apparently through iTunes and other online music download services.  He said things like “I don’t think (the album) is necessary or useful,” and “The album is an arbitrary concept. It’s not something that has to exist.”  So let’s see if I understand…Stephan doesn’t like albums and thinks today’s single-download-centric music marketing scene is a good thing.  OK, fine.  I happen to disagree, but I’m OK with him feeling that way.

Well, then Stephan apparently got a lot of flak from other folks who disagree with him and he felt the need to respond in an email mea culpa of sorts.  To start off, he addresses a critic who apparently heard him speak at the SFMTS.  “…to the person putting me down because I have a speech impediment…you are just mean.  I bet you watch Fox News!”  Oh Stephen, you don’t have to stoop to some idiot’s level…now you’re mean too!  Anyway, the rest of his email is all about how he grew up listening to albums and how he believes the album is the “most vital and compelling art form.”  Huh?  Now I’m confused.

Eventually, Stephan gets to a position I can agree with.  There’s room for both single-centric and album-centric marketing in the music industry.  Amen, brother…can’t we all just get along?  I also understand where Stephan is coming from when he says a band’s website can be their album, providing lyrics, liner notes, etc for conusumers who have presumably bought individual songs off of iTunes, Amazon, etc.  However, I like the fact that some artists continue to package a group of related (either by theme or time) songs together into one artistic offering.  Unlike Stephan, I just don’t think a website — which can and really should change on a regular basis — can offer the kind of stability I’m looking for when, years from now, I get ready to listen to a CD and want to hear the songs in the order the artist intended.  So, like the author of the CNet article (and apparently like Stephan himself) I like the choice of buying a single when I want/need to or buying an entire album when I want to.  Give me choice or give me silence!

“…the proud owners of $700 billion of crap.”

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Just listened to the followup to the “Giant Pool of Money” episode of This American Life, called “Another Frightening Show About the Economy.”  Wow.  Really worth 2 hours of your time to listen to these 2 shows.  The guys from NPR do (I think) a really good job of explaining how we got into the economic mess that required the $700 Billion Bailout.  And don’t get the impression from the title of this blog — which is a direct quote from the show — that they necessarily conclude that the bailout is the wrong thing to do.  They were just listing some of the problems with the bailout plan, comparing and contrasting strengths and weaknesses of different ways of handling it.

Anyway, good job Ira, Adam, and Alex.  Keep up the good work.  The more we know and understand, the more likely we can help avoid something like this in the future.

“…the triumph of data over common sense.”

Monday, October 13th, 2008

This isn’t as much of a tech issue as most of the things I write about, but I just listened to the May-05-2008 episode of This American Life, an NPR show that I’ve listened to off and on (more off than on) over the years.  This particular episode — which my brother Marc said I really needed to listen to — was an explanatory piece about how the mortgage industry went absolutely nuts in the early 2000s and started giving money away with what they called NINA (No Income, No Assets) loans.

I turned this on while I was on the treadmill, and over the course of my jog, I found myself saying (out loud,  repeatedly, and slightly out of breath) things like “Oh my gosh!” and “You’ve gotta be kidding me!”  What an insane cluster bomb of bad business practices, corporate greed, and personal irresponsibility.  This explains a lot about how we got into the current Credit Crisis (or Sub-prime Mortgage Crisis) that we’re all fretting about.  It’s a good background to how we got in this mess, and all the greedy, short-sighted, logically flawed, non-sensical, downright shady decision making at every step of the process.

At one point, pretty deep into the program, they talk about a financial firm who had all this really expensive software that analyzed millions of loans (rolled up into pools or “tranches,” each with thousands of individual loans) and predicted how good an investment they would be.  This software was saying that pools of mortgage loans, even those including NINA loans, were good, safe investments, but the software only looked at historical data of loan performance, default rates, etc…data that pre-dated the existence of all those NINA loans.  What the really expensive software failed to realize was that these newer loans were at a WAY higher risk of default, somewhere near 50%!  To paraphrase the program, they said “the data was coming back saying everything was fine.  The data looked great.”  At that point, the narrator used the line I quoted in the title of this post…this was “the triumph of data over common sense,” and it helped us get in the mess we’re in now.