Alledia News

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Joomla! Explained and Why Writing a Book is So Hard

Phew. Joomla! Explained is finally out.

If you’ve written a book, you know how I feel. Phrases like “piece of cake” and “walk in the park” aren’t involved.

Why Is Writing a Book So Difficult (Particularly for Web People)?

    1. Print. Oh man, the boot was on the other foot this time. If you’re a web designer, you’ve had a requests like these: “I’d like the image to be 5.4 cm high”  “I have this pixel-perfect magazine ad that want translated into a website”. I’ve been guilty in the past of making light fun of print designers who try to tackle website. Oh man, the boot was firmly on the other foot this time. I had a lot of ideas of how the book should be laid out from a tear-out handout to an almost-blank splash page for each chapter (an idea taken from Steve Krug). Now I was the noob. Everything was foreign from dealing with Word documents to formatting to image numbering. My editors did a great job of steering me gently away from my wackier ideas and producing a good output at the end. I now have a LOT more respect for print designers.
    2. Iteration. As web designers we’re so used to iterating that anything is really hard. After years of making small incremental improvements to everything, it’s really confusing to now have to produce a piece of work that’s perfect first-time and can’t be tweaked later.
    3. 450 pages?? Books requires radically different skills and thought processes those we use every day. Twitter? 140 characters? A blog or forum post? 500 words. Even a university dissertation? 150 pages. 450 pages is hard to conceive and plan for. It’s certainly hard to write that much and write it accurately. It’s really like running a marathon – way outside the range of things that people normally do.
    4. Rewriting. I was such a noob that I really didn’t know how to approach the book. I re-wrote it at least three times and went through around 30 different tables of contents.
    5. Joomla 1.6. The book started in late 2009 but really didn’t start to fall into place until Joomla 1.6 reached Release Candidate versions and things were stable enough to commit to screenshots and content/

    Why Write a Book?

    Quite a few people warned me against writing a Joomla book over the years. Barrie North coined the term YAJBB (Yet Another Joomla Beginner Book) and it neatly summed up why I didn’t want to write one: it’s been done so many times already. Then there’s the book-writing process itself: low-pay, long hours and little reward. Most of my friends who wrote books said they got no royalties at all: only ancillary benefits such as being able to raise their rates.

    In the end I decided to write it for two reasons:

    • The offer was from the Joomla Press (a portion of the money goes back to Joomla).
    • It finally felt like I had something different to offer in a book.

    What’s Different In This Book?

    The book is based squarely on my experiences as a teacher (we’re closing in on 300 public classes and well over 100 private classes). I can sum up what I’ve learned in one word:


    Building CMS websites is not a straightforward task. Everything from adding content to menus to extensions requires multiple steps.

    • Want to add set up a contact form? That’s around dozen clicks.
    • What to add an article that’s categorized and visible via the menu? That’s around a dozen clicks.

    Why is WordPress generally easier to use? Because those tasks take less clicks.
    Why is Drupal generally harder to use? Because those tasks take more clicks.

    It’s not easy for users to remember what or where to click and each additional click is an opportunity to get lost or click the wrong thing.

    So the book is entirely based on workflows.

    • Want to add a contact form? Want to add an article? Both of those are dealt with using the CASh workflow: Categorize > Add > Show. In Joomla 1.5, this was the famous SCAM (Section > Category > Add > Menu). However, this really helps. Lots of users would start with the menu links because that’s how Dreamweaver works. Lots of users would Categorize and Add and then wonder why they couldn’t see their new content. Workflows hold their hand and guide them through the process.
    • Want to add an extension? Research > Download > Upload > Modules > Modify. Lots of users would forget to do their research at the beginning or to move their modules around at the end. Workflows hold their hand and guide them through the process.
    • Want to build a whole site? Installation > Content > Extensions > Templates. Lots of users would start with the design of their site and then  wonder why building a site was so hard. We found in our classes that we really had to stress to people that they couldn’t reasonably design their site without any content or any extensions. Web designers routinely used to design site and then wait months for the client to send the content. That doesn’t work well in Joomla or indeed any CMS. Workflows provide reassurance and hep with best practices.

    So that’s they key thing that’s different about Joomla Explained. Almost every chapter and every task in the book is accompanied by a workflow.

    If you want to read more on this, I’d recommend reading The Checklist Manifesto. It explains how people have to remember so many things in the modern world that they routinely screw up. The author explains how everyone from pilots to doctors to people building skyscrapers use checklists / workflows to minimize errors when there’s so much to remember.

    Who is the Book For?

    Joomla! Explained is aimed squarely at non-technical users. There are about two lines of code in the whole book and those don’t have to be used.

    In the introduction I mention that I wrote the book for my Dad. I firmly believe that Joomla should be easy enough for anyone to learn. If my Dad can use Joomla, so can you and your family.

    Want a Review Copy for You or Your Joomla Event?

    If you write a blog post on the the book, or if you want a copy to give away at your Joomla Day or Joomla User Group, drop me a line via this Google Docs form.

    Thanks and if you’ve written a book, find me at an event and I’ll buy you a beer. I’m sure we’ll both agree that having written a book is much better than writing a book.

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We’re Bringing Joomla and Drupal to Boston

Joomla and Drupal in BostonWe’ve been to over 50 cities in North America from Anchorage in Alaska to Miami in Florida.

There aren’t many places left on the list of place we’d like to teach. There’s Hawaii of course (we very nearly had a client invite us there) and Puerto Rico too.

However, there is one gaping hole in our U.S. coverage … Boston.

No longer. Next week we’ll be in downtown Boston teaching Joomla and Drupal for 2 days each.

What’s even better is that I’ll be teaching with the wonderful Jen Kramer. If you don’t know who Jen is you will shortly. She’s a mainstay of the Joomla world:

Jen Kramer

Jen Kramer

Jen is a senior faculty member at the Marlboro College Graduate Center, teaching courses and workshops in web site design and management, including Joomla. She has also previously taught at Champlain College, the Community College of Vermont, and the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University. Jen is a author for the titles “Joomla! Creating and Editing Custom Templates”, “Joomla! Advanced CSS” and more. Her first book, “Joomla! Start to Finish” was published by Wrox Press/Wiley in January 2010.

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Apologies for the Blogging Absence

My apologies for the lack of blog posts here over the last few months.

Between the Open Source Matters board and getting a new company off the ground with Open Source Training it’s been a hectic year. In the last few weeks I took a working vacation to  Germany for JandBeyond and then back home to England.

I’ve been blogging but my limited time and energy has gone into rather than here. Still, there are quite a few things I’d like to write about that aren’t appropriate for so look for some new articles here in the next few weeks.

Here’s a recap of my posts:

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4 Joomla Classes for the Price of 1 in London and San Francisco

London Joomla ClassOne is warm, sunny and on the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

The other is cold, rainy and on the grey Thames (I’m allowed to make fun of it … I was born in its suburbs)

San Francisco and London and nearly 5500 miles apart and you might not think they have much in common. Normally you’d be right, but this is an exception.

Next week we’ve got two Joomla classes, one in each city:

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Thoughts on Being Elected to Open Source Matters

Last week I was fortunate enough to be elected to the Open Source Matters board along with 5 others. After having a very U.S.-centric board, it’s great to see such a wide diversity of new members. Add a Aussie and a penguin and we’d have someone from all seven continents 🙂

  • Marko Milenovic – Serbia
  • Javier Gomez – Spain
  • Jacques Rentzke – South Africa
  • Robert Deutz – Germany
  • Akarawuth Tamrareang – Thailand

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Our Joomla Training Classes Are Now Available Online

Remember that big countdown clock on the side of our site … this is what it was leading up to:

We’ve become the #1 Joomla training company by running 100’s of training classes in over 30 cities from Alaska to London, including 18 classes in the last week of January alone. However, we still get plenty of emails like this:

  • “Will you be holding any classes in North Dakota?”
  • “Any chance of a Joomla session in Australia?”
  • “Do you offer Joomla training in the Middle East?”

We could never go to all those places in person, so we’ve made the logical decision to put our classes online.

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We’re Opening Up Alledia To Your News and Blogs


You may have noticed a countdown clock on the right of the site, ticking away each day. We’re counting the days until we make a major product launch on February 1st. It’s now 2 weeks before the launch and we’re rolling out an early change here at Alledia:

Open to Your Guest Posts and News

Yes, we’re opening up to your news and blog posts. Over the years we’ve had many guest blog posts here on Alledia covering topics from accessibility, events affiliate programs, RSS feeds, Virtuemart and much more.

Up until now it had also been an informal process. Someone would Skype or email me saying they had an idea for article. Now, we’re giving everyone the chance to submit their article.

What Kind of Posts?

Anyone can contribute and all reasonable blog posts and news articles will be accepted. Content can be recycled from other sites, but the more interesting and original it is, the more publicty we’lll give it.

  • In the blog section please feel free opinions and tutorials.
  • In the news, please feel free to post about events, book releases, product updates or anything else that’s relevant to Joomla, Drupal and WordPress.

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The Biggest Ever Week of Joomla and Drupal Training

Joomla Classes in North America

Did you guys make a resolution in 2010? Lose a little weight … stop wasting so much time Twitter … (OK, those are mine)

As a business, we made just one: spread the Joomla and Drupal gospel as widely as possible.

At Christmas last year, we hit 100 Joomla classes. Those were held from Alaska to London and from Vancouver to Miami. This year we’re starting so quickly that we could run 100 classes in a month at this rate.

During the last 10 days of January, we’re running 18 classes all across North America. They stretch 3500 kilometers from Toronto in the north to Los Angeles in the south. Here’s how they look on a map:

Joomla Classes in North America

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We’re Expanding to Drupal, WordPress and

Open Source Training

By the end of 2009, will have run over 100 Joomla training classes in locations from Alaska to Miami and from Los Angeles to London. It’s time to grow!

We’ll be working in the same cities with the same high-standards, and even some of the same experienced teachers, but we’ll now be adding both Drupal and WordPress classes.

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Non-Profit Winners Announced For 100th Class

100 Joomla Classes

We’re delighted to be able to announce the winners of a free ticket to our 100th Joomla training class.100 Joomla Classes

Last month we announced that the class in Atlanta would be free completely free to non-profit or charity organizations.

We received many more applications than we had places, so this week we’ve been digging through the entries to find the winners. It was fascinating to see such a huge-cross section of society using Joomla – we had applications from groups focused housing, music, animals, education, theater, religion, cycling, tourism, families and much more.

We plan on making this an annual event so keep an eye out next year.

With no futher ado, here are the organizations who’ll be able to learn more about Joomla for free in 2009:

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Denver Colorado Joomla Training Class Next Week

Denver joomlaBack to the Mile-High City …

We had the great fortune to be in Denver last year as winter arrived and the CMS Expo rolled into town.

We’re back again next week with one of our day-long Joomla training classes. If you need to get up to speed quickly with Joomla, consider joining us next Wednesday in Denver. The class is just south of downtown in Denver’s main tech district and its on September 30th from 9 am to 4 pm.

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