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Showing posts from 2010

Circling Around Again

I've just finished "Three Day Road" by Joseph Boyden, an appropriate novel for this time of year when death is in the air, in a "circle of life" kind of way. It's also just over 5 years since I started out working on my own, and a year since I started working again with a couple of old friends. One of those (Reema) has just found herself a real job so she'll be leaving us and I wish her well. Starting new things is usually harder and slower than I imagine, which is good, since I'd probably not bother otherwise. At the machine level: we've just brought online a new server and moved all the services left on my oldest server in preparation to shut it down. Shutting down old servers is rarely worth it from a time/finances point of view, but it seemed like the right thing to do in this case, in spite of the backlog in client work I've now accumulated. And of course, in the global scheme of things, death has the excellent function of making s

Me and Features

It started off with a 5 minute presentation at a DUG-TO monthly meetup about OpenAtrium and the new Center for Social Innovation Community Site . Then Kahlid asked me to come do a real presentation at their Waterloo group. That presentation is now up here: After my presentation, Khalid said he was hoping for more details about the Features module , so when I was thinking about what I could offer to Toronto Drupal Camp, I decided on a straightforward intro/presentation . That went surprisingly well (considering that I don't usually do "straightforward" very well), and now I've ended up feeling like a Features ambassador, evidenced by the following diplomatic photo: Thanks to Chris Luckhardt Short answer: I use Features on all my new projects of any size bigger than tiny and encourage other developers to also. It's not (yet?) the holy grail, but it's definitely an essential tool for managing the ongoing development of any site. Want to know more? Check the

Bell Canada: A study in bad business practices, or Kafka lives.

I had an account with Bell Canada for more than 10 years, both phone and internet. I endured some pretty steep prices, un-requested changes of service with price hikes, and endlessly irritating calls to their automated machines. I'm currently on hold trying to unravel their latest, truly, incredibly, bad business practice. It started earlier this year, when I tried to combine my bills that had been up until then separated. I didn't care too much except that I would get these irritating advertisements for cheap internet and when I phoned them up, they'd tell me I wasn't eligible since I was already a customer. After combining my bills (that was the only way they could give me a cheaper service), it got worse and the last straw was when they charged me $.20/minute for a call to Spain. Apparently not covered with my normal long-distance plan to which I'd enrolled, they decided they could just charge any old extorsionist rate... But even aside from that, they had

Thanks for all the blueberries

I'm back from vacation, excitedly but also reluctantly returning to my web development projects. But before I forget it all, I just wanted to share my thanks and awe at the beautiful piece of the world I was visiting. So, big thanks to the Surmans who shared their cottage rental up north of Parry Sound with us and threw in the free photos as a bonus (left, and  lots more on Flickr ). And also the St. Louis Andersons and Chantal and Carter, who also came with their delightful children. Special mention goes to Estora for coming blueberry picking with me and the dogs before anyone else was up, and to Kelly for making the yummiest blueberry and peach pie that ever was. And, having said that, as I go through my inbox and listen to the radio to reacquaint myself with the human part of this country that I live in, I also want to give thanks to a couple of people who I think are responsible in a kind of fundamental way for these gifts that we all enjoy: David Suzuki I just hea

4 Launches and a Vacation

I'm about to go on vacation without my computer, so this is a bit of a catch-up kind of post. In the last 2 weeks, I helped launch four sites. You might think this would be the culmination of a lot of work for me, but in fact none of these sites were a lot of work for me - my role was more of the fixer, but not the prime mover. They were: 1. Toronto  Workforce Innovation Group This was a project of Blackfly , the collaborative whole-site web development shop I've been working on since last fall. Most of the work of this site was done by my colleague Reema. It's a great showcase of how you can assemble some pretty standard parts, and with a minimum of coding, create a great looking, functional site that still reflects the complexity and specificity of an organization. She made good use of a theme from TopNotchThemes, and the interesting relationships between the "Challenges" section and the "Solutions" section was a nice text-book use of views/cck.

Drupal Camp Toronto 2010

Okay, I haven't been involved in organizing Drupal Camp TO since 2008, and last year it didn't even happen, but I'm delighted to report that it appears that a new crop of organizers are really, really making it happen this year. So, pencil it in for October 15 - 16, 2010. Once there's a site up, it should be accessible here: (but meanwhile it's still showing our 2008 camp ...). Congratulations to the organizers! [Oct 4, 2010 update: actually, extra congratulations for bringing in an amazing line of keynote speakers, including Dries himself: keynote page . Now - go register before it fills up!]

Drupal Node Access

Most website permissions work like this: you've got the anonymous public, who can see everything you've published, and a webmaster or two who can see and edit everything. But once you add the complexity of users publishing their own content, or adding an 'intranet' where only some people are able to see private content, it gets tricky. Unlike Wordpress and Joomla that are very focussed on the simple website permissions model, Drupal was originally built as a platform for collaboration, and it's got some great tools for addressing all kinds of access use cases. In particular, sometime around when I started working with Drupal, the node access system  of access control was born. Unfortunately, the problem of access control is inherently challenging due to its complexity, and every time I try to implement it, I have to reread about the Drupal node access model to remember how it works. I've just had to do this again while implementing a customized Open Atrium

IATS again

If you're using my IATS CiviCRM plugin, then please see this post on the civicrm forum:,13758.0.html Short version: thanks Matthew Clarke for fixing a bunch of problems that were primarily affecting the recurring payment option.

DrupalCon 2010 in San Francisco

I'm on a plane back from San Francisco this morning, after 3 days of DrupalCon, the annual gathering of Drupal people in North America (there's another one in Europe each year as well). At the first day's plenary -- the traditional State of the Drupal address by Drupal's founder Dries -- we saw pictures from ten years ago of Dries in his university dorm where he first created Drupal, and then another picture from five years ago at the first DrupalCon in Amsterdam with 40 people. Last year's DrupalCon in DC had about 2000, and this DrupalCon was over 3000 attendees. So Drupal is still growing. I went to DrupalCon last year as well, and I valued it because I learned some things that are hard to learn from just reading websites, I got to know some of the personalities of the project, I met some useful people to know, and I generally got re-inspired about working with Drupal. Still, I'm mostly an introvert and had decided not to go this year until I found out it w

Blackfly solutions

I'm happy to report that our new Drupal and CiviCRM website development shop is now available to take on new projects. You can read my official welcome here. If you're wondering what's happening to my existing work - not to worry, I'm still providing the same service to my current clients. Like all change, there may be some hiccups, but my goal is to be able to provide a better service by focussing on what I do best, and getting help with the things that I don't do as well.

The environmental post

I've been meaning to write up some notes about "the environment" and me. I'm on the tree-hugging side of the fence politically, and have some of the old-fashioned skin-flint variety of environmentalist in my personal choices [keep the house cool, hang up my laundry to dry, walk/bike/TTC most of the time, own an old used Prius, caulk and insulate my old house obsessively, pay attention to my gas/electricty bills, etc.]. But for the purposes of this post, I want to point out that my website development business is also "environmental", even though I don't flaunt it very much. Here's why: I work from home [no extra office to heat, no commuting]. I host my sites on a "green" server at By focusing on only Drupal, I can set up my server to be optimized for Drupal hosting, which is more efficient [both at a machine/energy level, as well as my time]. I host quite a few environmental organizations. So if you're looking fo