Codes that Changed the World

Just been catching up with this series from April, ‘Codes that Changed the World‘, from BBC Radio 4 about the history of programming languages. Really enjoyable and accessible so I’m linking to it here. The series is presented by Aleks Krotoski and looks at four key programming languages – Fortran, Cobol, Basic and Java. I really liked the idea that Basic was the punk rock of programming. Also notable how many women were prominent in the story of these languages. The music for the series was very good too – but sadly I can’t find any further information about who made it.

Since the beginning of 2015 I have been doing some work for a London borough helping them develop their approach to open data.

As part of a wider agenda to make local government more open and transparent councils are being encouraged to publish some of the non-personal information they gather and use as open data. This can be something of a challenge both in terms of the practical implementation of the mechanisms needed to do this and the cultural change needed to see such an activity as valuable.

I’ve been working on the practical side of things. Helping to develop systems and processes that can be used to meet this particular organisations ambitions towards open data but also ones that work within the constraints of time and resources available.

It has been interesting work and I’ve begin to develop a real feel for the wider open data agenda, as well as also seeing where many of the issues and frustrations of such a new field are arising. It is a field that I think I can contribute to and so am planning to try and develop further expertise in open data. Obviously, my starting point is to approach it from a local government perspective but I am already getting interested in some of the wider issues. Naturally I am also starting to look at how my WordPress development skills can be applied to this topic.

As I delve further into open data I will be writing up notes and discoveries here. Follow the open data category find my posts on this subject.


Currently working on a project involving open data…

Currently working on a project involving open data in local government. Available from April onwards.

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.

The latest version of WordPress was released in September 2014. Today, being a little tardy, I’ve finished upgrading all Grit & Oyster maintained and hosted websites to the new 4.0 version.

Perhaps surprisingly for .0 release there aren’t that many new features to shout about. Instead it focuses on a number of solid improvements to the admin user interface.

For more info on the changes see the accompanying release video:

Trying out a new body text font family on the Gri…

Trying out a new body text font family on the Grit & Oyster website — Asap

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.

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

K-Type: Very British fonts

The K-Type font foundry produce a range of typefaces that include New Transport, a font based on that used for road signs and now used on the website; Keep Calm, a font based on the lettering used in the famous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ posters; Blue Plaque, a font that simulates the lettering on English Heritage plaques; and a font called Dalek. You can’t really get more British than all that.