Standards for Government Digital Services

I am continuing my exploration of common standards and have been looking at those that can be applied to the provision of services online. Here are some notes.

As part of their “digital by default” agenda the UK Government has defined a standard against which the development of government services provided online should be judged against. The…

Standards for Government Digital Services

Standards for Conceptual Data Models

It is to state the obvious that data is about things. But I am often finding that I have to ask myself precisely which things?

The creation of data models is an integral part of software engineering. They are used, particularly in database design, to understand and map out the structure and characteristics of the data you…

Standards for Conceptual Data Models

Three online training courses for local government data publishing

The Open Data Institute (ODI) together with the Local Government Association (LGA) has developed three data publishing and data standards learning modules for Local Government.

These online courses include information to support local authorities to publish data, improve the quality of data, and use common standards to be able to more easily share, combine and compare…

Three online training courses for local government data publishing

Making Data Standards Work: 25 April 2016

On Monday 25th April 2016 I attended a Local Government Association (LGA) event “Making Data Standards Work” which through a series of presentations explored the role that common standards for data can have in improving the performance, effectiveness and accountability of local government.

Given I have a background in web development, an activity that wouldn’t exist…

Making Data Standards Work: 25 April 2016

Last Friday (26 February 2016) I visited the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House in London. The exhibition explores the implications of the huge explosion in the amount of data we are now generating, sharing and storing about our world and our behaviour in it. It looks at the positive uses that this data can…

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Tools for managing Twitter followers

Here are links to two services I’ve begun using to help understand and manage the followers associated with my Twitter accounts. They help you to analyse both who is following you and the accounts that you are following. This means you can then do various housekeeping tasks such as making sure you are following back those following…

Tools for managing Twitter followers

Loading WordPress template files in plugins

I’ve been working on a project where I wanted to include a template file to handle the display of a particular WordPress custom post type. However, I wanted this template to be included in the plugin that created the custom post type and not in the theme. The plugin adds the post type to one site, and one site only, within a multisite network, so I didn’t want to clutter up the folder of the theme which is used on other sites that don’t require the plugin.

So I looked for a way to do this and discovered the role of template loaders within plugins. Including a template loader in your plugin allows you to associate a template file in your plugins folder with a filter hook or a shortcode. But the great advantage is that it replicates the behaviour of the get_template_part() function — which means you can override the default plugin template file with a custom file in a child or parent theme. (Obviously I didn’t need this in this case but it is an example of the good practice of ensuring that plugins and themes are not dependent on each other.)

For a better explanation of this see Template File Loaders in Plugins.

As suggested in the above post I made use of the Gamajo Template Loader which is:

A class to copy into your WordPress plugin, to allow loading template parts with fallback through the child theme > parent theme > plugin

I found this class really easy to implement and you can download it from GitHub.

Thanks to Gary Jones the developer who made it available.

Concern at the closure of Readmill

Last month saw the announcement of the closure of another online service that I have been using. This time it is Readmill the ebook service that consisted of a reading app for iOS and Android devices and a social network for sharing the reading experience.

As with the closure of Editorially announced in February, Readmill was, in my view, a well designed product which sadly seems to have failed because of the lack of a sustainable business model.

I am not as upset with Readmill’s closure than I was with Editorially as I was only really using a part of the service. I wasn’t particularly interested in the sharing and community aspects. The reason I signed up was that I wanted an app that allowed me to read and organise my ebooks, that provided a good user experience, and that was an alternative to Apple’s iBook app and the Kindle/Amazon service. This I thought Readmill did well.

The ebook market place is currently not as open as it should be with two dominant players and the confusion of proprietary formats and DRM implementations. I am concerned that Readmill’s demise hasn’t helped this. I also now need to find an alternative solution.

However, there is something of a silver lining. The announcement of the closure of Readmill included this;

Our team will be joining Dropbox, where our expertise in reading, collaboration and syncing across devices finds a fitting home. Millions of people use Dropbox to store and share their digital lives, and we believe it’s a strong foundation on which to build the future of reading. We’re delighted to work alongside this talented team and imagine new ways to read together.

Dropbox is a sustainable business and has considerable clout. If as this suggests it is looking to do more to develop features for ebook readers then I would welcome this. It will be interesting to see if anything comes of this.

The Web’s 25th Anniversary – a Message from Tim Berners-Lee

Last week it was 25 years since Tim Berners-Lee first proposed to his boss at Cern his idea for what was to become the World Wide Web. A magical combination of concept, technology and imagination that has transformed our lives.

Note that it is not, as far too many people and media organisations have claimed in the last few days, the anniversary of the invention of the Internet. They are not the same thing. The Internet is older and has a different story.

What is inspiring to me is that Berners-Lee, and the organisations associated with him, want to use the anniversary to reiterate and strengthen the principles of openness and access to knowledge that motivated the original creation of the web. To make real the promise that “This is for everyone“.

More at webat25.org