Skip to main content

CiviCRM multilingual and customization: nice progress!

Today we've launched the 2012 French for the Future National Essay Contest. The full site is someone else's, but the contest submission pages are built using CiviCRM.

The essay submission pages are actually implemented as event registration pages of CiviEvent, which isn't exactly what CiviEvent is built for, but was close enough and provides some nice functionality that other alternatives (e.g. a simple CiviCRM profile) wouldn't provide.

Before starting, my biggest fears were around the custom presentation bits. My first CiviCRM implementation was back in 2006, and ever since then, my standard wisdom for anyone using CiviCRM is that CiviCRM is great as a CRM, but less great in exposing itself on your website. Partly, that's because CiviCRM is CMS agnostic, so it can't use all the great tools that I'm accustomed to with Drupal (notably the forms api), but also because of the whole Smarty/QuickForm architecture, which was okay for the day, but now way behind the competition.

On the other hand, CiviCRM has put a lot of work into improving this aspect over the past few years. My personal favourite trick, ever since learning jQuery and having that available for CiviCRM pages, is to use it via the theme layer or a custom module for almost any cosmetic changes. It's cheap, easy, safe and powerful. But it won't do functionality changes - for that, the new hooks are a nice complement.

Another great example - the new ability to add multiple profiles to event signups. Breaking up the fields into groups (which have to correspond to separate profiles), is both sensible from a useability point of view, as well as backend organization.

What I hadn't experimented with so much was the multilingual option, which until recently (i.e. mysql 5.1) required very unsafe mysql permissions for the site. But after one earlier success, I jumped in and have been surprised all the way along - the functionality has been perfect, and the administrative tools more than adequate. Particular thanks to DaveD for pushing forward the new "Word Replacement" feature (but no points for changing the name from string replacement and hiding it in the options section, I almost didn't find it!).

So my report from this project is: awesome, and thanks. I had a highly detailed-oriented client, and could satisfy almost all her requests.

CiviCRM also was able to import previous year's data, and next we'll be setting up donation pages and testing CiviMail.

Popular posts from this blog

Confused by online payment processing? You're not alone.

In the old days during "polite" conversation, it was considered rude to talk about sex, politics, religion and money. You might think we're done with taboos, we're not (and I'll leave Steven Pinker to make the general argument about that, as he does so well in The Better Angels of Our Nature).

The taboo I'm wrestling with is about money - not how much you make, but about online payment processing, how it works, and what it costs. In this case, I think the taboo exists mainly because of the stakes at hand (i.e. lots of money) and the fact that most of those who are involved don't get much out of explaining how it really works - i.e. the more nuanced communications are overwhelmed by sales-driven messaging, and the nuanced stuff is either proprietary secrets or likely to get slapped down by the sales department.

In other words, if you want to really understand about online payment processing because you want to decide between one system and another, you'…

Me and varnish win against a DDOS attack.

This past month one of my servers experienced her first DDOS - a distributed denial of service attack. A denial of service attack (or DOS) just means an attempt to shut down an internet-based service by overwhelming it with requests. A simple DOS attack is usually relatively easy to deal with using the standard linux firewall called iptables.  The way iptables works is by filtering the traffic based on the incoming request source (i.e., the IP of the attacking machine). The attacking machine's IP can be added into your custom ip tables 'blacklist' to block all traffic from it, and it's quite scalable so the only thing that can be overwhelmed is your actual internet connection, which is hard to do.

The reason a distributed DOS is harder is because the attack is distributed from multiple machines. I first noticed an increase in my traffic about a day after it had started - it wasn't slowing down my machine, but it did show up as a spike in traffic. I quickly saw that…

drupal, engagement, mailing lists, email

I lived, worked and studied in Costa Rica from 1984 to 1989. Ostensibly, I was there to study Mathematics at the University, and indeed I graduated with an MSc. in Mathematics supervised by Ricardo Estrada (check that page, he even advertises me as one of his past students). And yes, I do have a nine page thesis that I wrote and defended in Spanish somewhere in my files, on a proof and extension of one of Ramanujan's theories. But mathematics is a pretty lonely endeavour, and what drew me back to Central America (after the first visit, which was more of an accident), was the life and politics. The time I lived there was extremely interesting (for me as an outsider, though also painful and tragic for it's inhabitants) because of the various wars that were largely fuelled by US regional hegemonic interests (of the usual corporate suspects and individuals) and neglect (of the politicians and public) - the Contra war in Nicaragua, the full-scale guerrilla wars in El Salvador and …