August 2008

You are browsing the site archives for August 2008.

Excellent membership management plugin

One of our clients wants to build a membership-based site, with several different membership levels and options. And of course, both Joomla and WordPress options for fine control of who-sees-what are relatively limited.

Both systems have very basic authentication protocols, where you can hide posts from users who aren’t logged in, but neither have any sort of system allowing several levels of privileges (WordPress’s role system is geared towards posting rights, not reading rights).

Enter the Role Scoper plugin, by Kevin Behrens. It’s still in development, but it offers the level of control my client is looking for. And, after spending an afternoon playing, it’s relatively easy to set-up.

How to set WordPress categories to different members only groups

  1. Create your categories and populate them with articles (even if they’re filed with nothing but random characters). This is helpful. Really.
  2. Go to the “Groups” tab, and create your groups (e.g. a group for each class or membership level). Don’t worry about populating the groups with members just yet.
  3. Go to the “Roles” tab, then the “Exclusive Sections” sub-tab. For each category where you want to limit who can read, check the box next to “Post Reader”. When you’re done, scroll back up to the top of the page, and make sure “ignored – equivalent section/object role required” is selected in the drop-down list. Click “Update.”
  4. Go to back to the “Groups” tab, and click the “Section Roles” sub-tab. Check off one group in the “eligible groups” box (Membership level 1, for example). Now scroll down to the appropriate category, and check the box next to “Private Post Reader”. Scroll back up to the top and click “Update.” Do the same thing for each group.
  5. Go back to the “Groups” tab and add/manage your members!

While there are other plugins out there that do similar things, Role Scoper offers the most granular control over who can see what on a WordPress site.

I’ll be even more excited when I get the French translation done.

Bye-bye Twitter

Twitter recently stopped sending tweets out via SMS to Africa. To be fair, they stopped service in a lot of other parts of the world too, but it’s disenchanting to discover that we West Africans are not on their list of future locations (i.e. places where they plan to negotiate with cellular providers).

Ouch.

As an IT worker who does not have Internet access at home (6 months of saying “we’ll get it next month” has yet to yield desired results), Twitter quickly proved an invaluable source of news and happenings. Even someone as unplugged as myself (I am embarrassingly bad at the social media game) found it useful. WordPress development? WordPress plugins? Global voices? BarCampAfrica? Barak Obama? All on Twitter, all great to have with me during long weekends of unconnectivity.

Hash, of whom I’m a great admirer, recently wrote about a vision for a Twitter competitor here in Sub-Saharan Africa. Any service that would allow instant cheap communication, free from web interface, paid from SMS, could gain a huge following. Look how popular services like hi5 and facebook are here in Cotonou.

It’s a shame that Twitter cut us off just as the conversation could have started. What kinds of tools CAN be used for cheap communication here in Benin? The answer is that today, there aren’t many at all. Tomorrow, though, who knows?

Welcome back, Carpenter.

There are a million challenges to web development here in West Africa, not the least of which are poor and/ or expensive internet connections, a general ignorance of what the web can do (this is actually true all over the world, including the States), and computer illiteracy.

What do you do when someone who’s never sat down in front of a computer wants a website? And what do you do when they’re standard for professionalism is yahoo.fr? “Lots of zoom,” they tell us. Zoom = “moving flashing things like on yahoo.” And how do we teach these people how to update their websites?

I’m starting this blog taking this blog in a new direction so that I can explore some of these questions. People Online has a French-language blog, but it’s hard to write in French, and I’m lazy. And that blog doesn’t really have a direction yet. That is, we’re busy publishing articles, but we haven’t quite figured out what we want. This blog will be more focused. And hopefully, as I find my voice in English, I’ll find it that much easier to reproduce the effort in French.

So who am I?

I’m an American, working with a small NGO here in Cotonou, Benin. Our goal is to make technology more accessible to small and medium sized businesses. We set out to change the way the IT services sector, and specifically web development, works here. People Online’s motto is “Getting Benin Online” (La mise en ligne du Bénin), and so far, it’s working.

I do make websites. I also do a lot of book keeping, managing freelancers, and keeping the business side of the non-profit running correctly. Mostly, I work with WordPress. I’m a fan girl, which is embarrassing (for a web application? who falls in love with a web application?!?!). And I like to play.

Anyway. We’ll see where this goes. Professional blogging is probably harder than it looks.

Wish me luck!