Something Different for Joomla!

Website Progress Report #2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Larry Grinnell   
Friday, 11 January 2013 17:56

I promised I would advise you, dear readers, from time to time about the progress of bringing back some much-loved features of the GFA website. I must admit I have been extremely remiss in this area. Much of the problem is that I have taken on way too many projects at home, and in the community; mainly a demanding job that requires me to make a 42 mile one-way commute, and a board membership for the Palm Beach Phoenix Apple User Group. I also maintain an active membership in the local chapter of the Society for Technical Communications. Lastly, I'm a lifelong procrastinator; something that often goes hand-in-hand with depression and anxiety. I've got every excuse, good and bad (and finally some great medications!), that I 've used to put off this project or that. It's a matter of getting off my duff to get busy, as it were.

All of that said, I do really intend to do better in 2013. Here's what I have done in the past year, if only to prove to myself and to you that I've done something!

First, much as I like the software that runs our site, something called Joomla! (the exclamation point is part of the name, so no angry letters...), it lacks key support for the things we need to do with this site, namely provide a single login/password for paid members to access the genealogy and the newsletter archives. I could probably throw something together today if I didn't feel the need to provide what is known in the industry as single sign-on. It would also be an administrative nightmare to maintain two completely separate lists of accounts for members to access the genealogy database and the newsletter archives, and trying to keep ever-changing passwords synchronized between these to premium functions, because frankly, I don't want to receive dozens of requests for password resets because someone forgot or mis-entered the password for one section, when it was supposed to be the password for the other section. Nope...not gonna do it!

I have been seeking something known as "bridging" software (software that makes two independent pieces of software work together). Problem is, genealogy software is a very specialized animal, and there aren't a lot of software developers writing genealogy software designed to work on the internet. Apparently there are one or two fewer folks writing genealogy software that works with Joomla!, as the bridging software that was out there (that really didn't work anyway), was last updated in 2008 or 2009.

The good news is that I have found a bridging app that works with our genealogy software, The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding Software (TNG). The bad news is that it doesn't work with Joomla!. But it is available for an even more popular piece of software, called Wordpress, which, like Joomla! and Drupal, is what they call a web content management system (CMS). Having a CMS makes it much easier to manage a growing website, as the content is kept separated from the style, and it's all managed by a powerful database that really doesn't require a lot of effort to set up. But I digress.

There is a TNG to Wordpress bridge, and it's even free! I haven't tried it out yet, but do plan to do so soon on my development system (allows me to set up and test without putting it online until it's ready). I've already figured out how to extract the bulk of the content sitting on the current GFA website and convert it all from Joomla! for use in Wordpress, and have already done some initial tests. There are a few glitches I still have to work out, but it basically worked right out of the box. So next, I need to finish reorganizing the content so it functions in a somewhat similar way that the current site works. Once that's done, I can jump into the genealogy bridge software (which will probably be the hardest and most time-consuming part of the project), and then will implement something that will allow registered members to search and access the newsletter archive. I can't give you a firm date, but I hope I can at least have something to show you by this summer at Glacier National Park.

Again, I deeply apologize for hindering your ability to use some of the GFA's wonderful resources, and will make every effort to get things rolling again.

I'll report back with my progress soon.

Last Updated on Friday, 11 January 2013 18:44