Taking a Peek at Software

On Wednesday evening I gave a laymans talk on GPL and WordPress which resulted in a question from Phil Wylie via twitter on looking at other peoples code

you’re well within your rights under the GPL, but is there not an ethical issue if you’re going to save many hours of research/dev

Is it ethical to look at the underlying code of a GNU GPL licensed piece of software that has been ‘purchased’ on a commercial basis?

Continue reading Taking a Peek at Software

DataFlexor Clarification

Ok so we have launched and it received a fair bit of interest at BuddyCamp however it was apparent that there was a slight misunderstanding on what it is about. This is something that we need to address.

What DataFlexor Is

A way to create a web based app using WordPress as a configurable data store.

What DataFlexor Isn’t

A variation on Advanced Custom Fields or Custom Post Type UI or Types or Pods. All of these are great at what they do and that is for the most part managing the existing functionality that WordPress has for Custom Post Types, Meta Fields and Custom Taxonomies. These are where DataFlexor starts rather than finishes.

Why Do We Need to Go Further than CPT’s etc..?

At this point in time WordPress has come a long way towards being an application development platform. It is used by a whole host of businesses in some way from the smallest to the largest.

It does however suffer a bit in it’s database support to help build out more complicated applications. This is often seen as the province of other technologies such as Drupal/Symfony or Laravel in PHP or perhaps MS MVC or Ruby or Node.js.

To a certain extent I can understand this as there is a definite advantage to building from a framework up with sets of engineers who know what they are doing. The rather large downside to this is that it is not easy or cheap.

BuddyPress is currently downloaded about 30,000 times a week, even if 10% of these turn into actual sites this is 3,000 sites per week that are looking for interactive tools. They are not looking at these other solutions and that is why it is worth pursuing.



BuddyCamp Brighton

A quick review of BuddyCamp Brighton, where we ‘launched’ DataFlexor. Overall I would say that it went very well indeed and certainly achieved what we wanted it to do;

  1. Force a DataFlexor release.
  2. Get some exposure for DataFlexor.
  3. Get some feedback on DataFlexor.
  4. Connect to top class BuddyPress folk.

BuddyCamp itself was a pretty low key affair with a relatively small attendance when compared to WordCamps. It was more like an extended WP Meetup but, and this is a BIG but, the attendees were very experienced and committed BuddyPress developers. This meant that the quality of both the presentations and the general chat was as good as it gets. I would strongly recommend anyone with an interest in BuddyPress to look it up on WP t.v. when the videos are loaded.

There was certainly some interesting takes on BuddyPress and it’s place in the world. For me there were two very telling statements:

WordPress is for publishing, BuddyPress is for communities: Paul Gibbs

This is very important in that it indicates a fundamental difference in the purposes of the two.

Two or more people engaging on a site is a community: Sven Lehnert

I think that this is spot on and if you combine it with Paul’s statement then this indicates to me that BuddyPress is a suitable start for developing applications on the web.

For myself I would probably extend this to say that a community is two or more people connected for a common purpose.

I am going to follow this post with a bunch of others that will extend of these and other take aways from BuddyCamp. In the meantime I will just say that it may well have been one of the most thought provoking and valuable days of my web development life so far!

How we got to now?

I have recently been watching a TV series on the BBC called “How we got to now” with Steven Johnson and it is essentially a history of how incremental changes combined with lots of base work ends up with what can appear to be massive and dramatic changes. That is to say that there are really not many Eureka moments except that these are the instances when a realisation is made of all the pieces slotting together.

In one sense this a very perceptive insight however it is not one that I am unfamiliar with, especially as there are many examples of this in the IT and software world; think Facebook and Twitter both of which were never originally intended to be what they have now become.

All this is very interesting however the more relevant question is where do we go from now since that is what will define our collective future. So I am now going to give you my take on how we got to now with WordPress and then where do we go from here. This is a personal journey rather than any ‘official’ history and relates to my perspective. It will happen over a few posts…

The Way We Were

Back around the year 2000 I had a web development company based in London. We had grown from me and two others in 1995 to about 25 strong and were developing sites for some of the biggest household UK names. Somehow we caught the attention of a company called Vignette
vignetteAt the time this was a company that was rocking the CMS world and was running many of the world’s largest news sites and according to Wikipedia had a market capitalisation of $9 billion in the year 2,000. They offered to invest a significant sum  for a minority share in our company and we would then have become what is now the equivalent of an Automattic VIP partner with a charge out rate well in excess of £1,000 per man day. For some reason we turned it down which was a bit of a shame as the dot com crash was just around the corner and all the projects disappeared together with the hard built company.

This was not however my last dalliance with Vignette as I became associate web producer for the International edition of TIME.com


and guess what, the site ran on Vignette and to be honest it was OK. I do know however from my previous dealings with the company that it did not come cheap in that a single server license was was in the multiple tens of thousands of dollars. That is to say they had the equivalent of a straight WordPress install for which they were paying top money and needed to pay top rates for developers. Ouch!

Unsurprisingly this did not last and Vignette fell on hard times ultimately being bought up by Open Text.

These days TIME.com runs on WordPress and are an Automattic customer. In fact someone I know of who worked at TIME in New York ultimately moved to Automattic and has now left to go freelance.

That’s it for today but the story will continue.


What’s it all about Alfie… er I mean Andrew

ahead4.biz is all about communication for business. Actually its all about communication really but it is framed in a business context and this context is online based.

At present we are creating a system that can allow anyone to allow others to join in their conversations without the complexity that some other systems but that has flexibility and usefulness over and above the limits of say email or group chat.

Continue reading What’s it all about Alfie… er I mean Andrew