Archive for December, 2006

Joomla 1.5 and MVC Extension Tutorial

Gotta love the community. A group of developers are putting their heads together to create an excellent tutorial on the new Joomla 1.5 MVC (model, view, controller) structure and how to build a component using MVC and the new Joomla libraries. This is a great resource for all you developers out there. Hope to see some good components come out in the future because of this.


IAVA Web site receives high praise from e.politics

IAVAIt’s always great to see good organizations get high praise for great work they’ve done in the online communications world. One of our clients, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America received props from e.politics for having an outstanding advocacy website.

While the polling was far from scientific, it nonetheless speaks volumes for the great work of IAVA’s staff who makes sure the content and the message come through loud and clear, Free Range Graphics (the design team), and our tireless PICnetters who keep the site up and running.


An early Christmas gift teaser: Soapbox Events

We’re not about to let the secret out too quickly, but here’s an early Christmas gift teaser for all you following PICnet’s development of the Soapbox family of services.

Soapbox Events

We’re looking forward to the launch of Soapbox Events in January 2007. Stay tuned for more information.


Paying a visit to Google with the Joomla team

GoogleSometimes your schedule changes, and you’ve got to rearrange a meeting. Then sometimes you get invited to have lunch and go to Joomla presentations by core team members to a Google developer audience and your day completely changes.

Tomorrow I’ll be attending a few sessions at the Googleplex, led by Joomla team members including Louis Landry, Wilco Jansen, Hannes Papenberg and Laurens Vandeput. Their Google guide for the trip, Leslie Hawthorn, is a wonderful mix of open source developer mom and supporter of everything that leads to happy developers. She’s even talked about the great open source speakers series that they’re having a Google these days, including our Joomla devs.

Throughout tomorrow I’ll do my best to post updates to the blog, including some video and photos of the talks. I’ll also make sure to provide fully detailed reports on the Google cafeteria food, which I promise to eat until fully stuffed.

(Photos and video after the page flip…)

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Getting connected with the community

J!SalesforceIn our efforts to go beyond just the nuts and bolts of bridging the gap between CRM and CMS applications, PICnet has kicked off our community building effort for Joomla and users. We’re a bunch of regular matchmakers.

Yesterday I had great meeting with Meghan Nesbit of the Foundation at their offices in downtown SF. We chatted about a variety of items, including the impact that Salesforce is having in the non-profit community, with well more than 1,000 licenses of their non-profit version of Salesforce distributed for free to organizations across the US. Even better, these non-profit users get the same standard support paying Salesforce corporate users receive.

I also learned about a vibrant non-profit Salesforce user community that bubbles up in three different places:

When I had a chance to demo what we’ve already put together for J!Salesforce, Meghan seemed pretty happy with the results, and seemed especially in tune with some of the trickiness to the integration on items such as multi-select boxes. Her comments were a nice pat on the back of Kevin’s tireless work over the past few weeks, and sparked a fire under our feet to keep the ball rolling.

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Breath of life for non-profit open source organization

Tux the PenguinWhen PICnet first grew legs in early 2001, there was one new group that we watched closely in our sector: the Non-Profit Open Source Initiative. After a few years slowly quieting down, NOSI has been given a new lease on life by its leader, Michelle Murrain, of Zen and the Art of Non-Profit Technology fame.

I met with Michelle in San Francisco’s ferry building yesterday to discuss everything from NOSI to open source sessions happening at this year’s Non-Profit Technology Conference. She’s found her way back to non-profit technology after a short hiatus, and has been finding a variety of ways to throw herself back into the ballgame. For instance, Michelle and I are working closely with Holly at N-TEN to make sure that open source is a strong part of the sessions, affinity groups, and geekouts at the upcoming NTC.

Meanwhile, Michelle is on a mission to make NOSI a self-sustaining organization that once again lead our non-profit open source community. I think partnering with great groups like N-TEN and Aspiration, she’ll be able to pull it off. What’s going to be necessary, as Michelle knows, is for NOSI to have a tangible deliverable to our community, much like what they produced in the open source primer for non-profits.

She’s got a couple of great ideas for NOSI, and I don’t want to steal her thunder, but I think that anything that brings together open source and best practices/case studies from real non-profits will better aid organizations that are interested in using open source. and Joomla now speak the same language

Salesforce.comIn our continuing efforts to bring you breaking news from the Joomla – integration front (humbly known as J!Salesforce), we’re pleased to report that our master J!Salesforce developer Kevin has made a few more breakthroughs that should make developers’ hearts skip.

Basic use-case proven: member directory

One of the basic use-cases we had to achieve was to display a basic member directory system, that allows visitors to search for members in the Salesforce database based on any of the variables the site’s administrators allow searching within. We now are able to have three basic views for this directory:

  • search
  • search results
  • detailed view of a record

Best part about all this: it’s pretty quick! Even though we’ve got the system pinging Salesforce a few times, the roundtrips for data retrieval are very tolerable. I’m sure the bigger your database, the longer it might take, but it’s pretty quick in our development test bed.

Create new user in Joomla and contact in Salesforce at registration

Another big hurdle leaped over by Kevin last week was the ability to make a seamless registration system for Joomla and Salesforce. When someone signs up to be a member on your site, or to be added to your organization’s rolls as a volunteer or donor, J!Salesforce immediately adds them as a user in Joomla and a contact in Salesforce.

This one step alone will save countless hours for administrators that are fed up with having their Joomla site and CRM user managers out of sync, and hopefully keep hair on the heads of development directors that are sick and tired of missing the connection.

Goals for this week

With all this great work going on, we’re gearing up to let the non-profit world know about what’s about to be released in early January. We’re keeping in touch with our friends at the Salesforce Foundation, and we’re hoping to work closely with Salesforce to help spread the word through either their AppExchange or other online collaboration tools.

Meanwhile, on the development side, Kevin will be continuing to clean up the front-end and build some developer guidelines, so when we release it, we’ll be able to make life easier (not harder) for our developer friends.


Must be doing something right.

Joomla must be doing something right if Google is impressed. Wilco posted a little blurb about Google going to Joomla!Days. He quotes the Google rep on how impressed he was of how Joomla was run and then invited them to speak at the Googleplex on December 21. If you didn’t believe Joomla was the best CMS before, I don’t know how you can’t believe it now.


PICnetters spend time with friends and family over holidays

Holiday dinnerThere’s one thing that trumps nearly everything we do here at PICnet: family. When the holidays come around, our office has a mandatory “spend time with your family” policy, that ensures our PICnetters soak up all the eggnog with distant relatives that they can handle.

It seems that our generation of business leaders are realizing that time with family is more important than time at work, and we PICnetters believe it. An interesting USA Today article entitled, “The family first generation,” points out the generational differences that seem to strike a chord with us.

This year, PICnet will be running a minimized office from December 26, 2006 through January 2, 2007. While most of our clients have already been informed of this schedule change, we hope this notice, and emails from your PICnet account manager will provide a good reminder.

Meanwhile, in case of emergency, you’ll still be able to email or call your account manager, and make sure that emergencies are still addressed immediately.

We wish you and yours a happy, family-first, holiday season.


Simplicity gets a bad name, for the good of all of us

simple.In nearly every project and product we develop at PICnet, I constantly ask one question that likely annoys our team more than a day working under Steve Jobs: “can’t you make it more intuitive?”

Note that I don’t say, “can you dumb it down so that a banana slug, without so much as an opposable thumb or high-speed Internet access, can still work this?”

That’s an important difference. Not the banana slug part, but the idea that dumbing down technology for the sake of simplicity should not be a goal we strive to achieve. Instead, I’m happy to see that like-minded people like Dan over at Adaptive Path feel the same way. In his posting entitled Strive for Elegance, not Simplicity, Dan lays out his thoughts on this matter, and focuses on elegance in his designs rather than simplicity.

Rather than simplicity, I try to make my designs elegant, which is something different. As I’ve noted before, simplicity can remove something precious from users: control. Users sometimes prefer having more complexity because it can sometimes provide users with more control. Even if, as Norman rightly notes, users don’t use the controls, there is something about having them that is comforting.

As our clients have seen, and the world will see when we release Soapbox Events, we’re constantly striving to make sure that our offerings are both simple and utilitarian, with a splash of eye candy design. This makes sure our clients have both ease-of-use and control, which to be honest, is quite a challenge. Stay tuned, and challenge the developers…and designers. Neither is always right.