Archived entries for Open Source Projects

Interesting Links

Programmer Competency Matrix

I was surprised to find that I placed in level 3 for most of the “Programming” rows (as I understand my skills anyway :). Art school has definitely made for some strange bedfellows.

It was motivating to see where I placed in all of the topics, as my approach to learning programming has been to aquire as much understanding as possible about the the things I don’t know. Finding that I was at level 2, but knowing the existence of the concepts in level 3 validates that this approach is moving me in the right direction.

I likened this philosophy to Elizabeth the other day as analogous to how one understands their city. We live in LA, a big, sprawling metropolis, and while I’ve never been to Monrovia or Cerritos (far out there), I understand that both are cities in Los Angeles County. Not the best example, sure, but one that illustrates the differences in approach. I actively seek out and retain this type of understanding in the belief that it may be useful at some point. Others my see it as the inevitable result of living in the same place a long time.

A better example would be to relate it to one’s chosen carrer. Using this angle, it becomes quickly evident that the ones who take an active approach are usually more successful (the definition of the success is based on the specific domain, of course). Conversely, those taking a passive approach tend to exert more effort in defending how what they do know is more tried and true, and hence more reliable. More dangerously, as a superior, they tend to actively block their peers and subordinates. Anyone who has worked in a university or college setting will loudly attest.

Deep Linking with Javascript

Open sourced javascript implementation for linking to paragraphs, and even sentences, in webpages. Uses a matching pattern based on the first letters of the first 3 words in the first and last sentence of the paragraph. That was a mouthful. For example, the key for this paragraph would be [OsjFet].

A fun way to practice your Dvorak skills

I still intend to pick up proper typing. And when that time comes, it will definitely be on a Dvorak keyboard.

I started the typing tests last year and unfortunately, lasted only a week. It takes the same discipline as QWERTY (no surprise there), but I find the layout much easier to memorize. Now, if Apple could get on the ball with creating a beautifully designed split keyboard, I could get rid of this clunker. It’s hideous, poorly constructed and loud (key paddings wear out quickly), but it’s still the most comfortable I’ve found.

Two Sides to the Story of Support

Side one, the Developer

To the question:

“Do the thanks and appreciation go anywhere near compensating the constant e-mail asking for support? What inspires your desire to give without return?”

Alex King responded, in part, with this paragraph:

“In talking with other plugin developers, it seems fairly universal that the reward for a successful plugin is a deluge of support email that includes the worst kind of sense of entitlement, rudeness and ignorance. The community as a whole seems to expect to be able to pay nothing, yet received expert and individual help and support for free.”

Every time I’ve thought of releasing a plugin for WordPress (or jQuery), I’ve had to think through this same issue. It hasn’t yet stopped me from releasing a plugin (I still have yet to release any, but they’re in the works), but it definitely stakes a claim in the “How” of the decision making process.

So far I have yet to find a bulletproof solution. The 3 best options I’ve observed are:

  1. Directing all support to the WordPress forums via tagging.
  2. Directing all support to Alex King’s WordPress Help Center.
  3. Create a subscription-based support structure as exemplified by Justin Tadlock’s ThemeHybrid and Ingenesis Limited’s Shopp Plugin.

Even with one (or all) of these strategies in place, there are still going to be issues. Mostly, that you’re not able to fully recoup your efforts managing support work (via payment and/or hours that could have been devoted to coding). Plus, it’s not really that enjoyable, for either party.

Side two, The User

As a WordPress user, relying on free plugins that provide little or no support can get frustrating very quickly. I started using WordPress in 2005 and later joined the community in 2006. Not long after, I realized that relying on the free, forum-based support model was unsustainable. As a result, I quickly began contracting developers to write plugins I needed.

Most users would be surprised to find that the cost of contracting a plugin is minimal, especially when compared against time spent in the forums asking and waiting for help. The range for a plugin (one that doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel) is around $100-$400. I realize this price range could be prohibitive depending on your financial status, but I wasn’t making much then (first job out of grad school and a heap of student loans).

To be sure, the forums are a great resource, staffed and frequented by a lot of excellent and helpful people. I owe them for a good bit of help and have contributed back over the years

Choosing a great developer is key. Their reputation and hourly rate isn’t necessarily indicative of your potential cost. Great developers work quickly and have a vault of stored solutions they’ve developed over the years that will directly benefit your project’s budget. An inexperienced developer charging half the hourly rate may take 4x as long to complete the job. Not to mention that the code quality may have you needing frequent fixes and upgrades as WordPress evolves.

A few points in support of my opinion:

  • They’re normally willing to give you a flat rate. This avoids any surprise overages.
  • They’ll usually provide free support, especially if they feel it was their mistake or that they could have written the code to be more forgiving of certain edge cases.
  • They tend quote lower if your idea presents good challenge. Developers love to be challenged.
  • They usually will not charge for time spent learning something needed to code your solution.

Regarding choosing a great developer, start by contacting the most prominent names in the plugin community. I’ve never had to go further than contacting 3 people for a given project. The best ones are always busy, but if your schedule is flexible you’ll have more luck.

Small disclaimer, I am currently using Alex King’s WordPress Help Center for 2 large pieces of client work.

This Looks Interesting: noSWFUpload

I’ve been thinking about the subpar experience of the WordPress media manager lately. Getting it out of a modal and removing the need for Flash to upload multiple files would go a long way towards providing a better posting experience.

While searching out anyone else who might be thinking the same thing, I found the following project in Google Code:


“Multiple files upload without SWF objects, applets Java, or other third parts plug-ins.”

I’ll be trying this out first chance I get.

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