The latest news from the meaning blog

 

Our new website launches

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Wait a long time for a bus and when it arrives, how often is there another one right behind? So too it seems with websites. Not only did research magazine launch its splendid new website last week, but following right on, so did we. And the two are not unconnected. What we launched this week is the first phase of our complete overhaul of our web presence. All the goodies and resources of old are there – the software reviews, the software directory, our research reports, papers, presentations and articles. There are four big changes, though.

  1. At the centre of our site is now our blog stream. We will fill this regularly with contributions from me and the others at meaning.
  2. We want to make the site part of a two-way dialogue. Yes, we’re being very Web 2.0 and we are proud of it. So there is opportunity for you to register on the site, and then you will be able to add comments and provide feedback on many of the pages on the site as well as, we hope, react to and contribute to our discussions in the blog.
  3. We have provided an RSS feed to the content, so you can be kept up to date as we add new content, if that interests you.
  4. We have also taken the opportunity to rationalise the order of the content on the site and made it even easier to navigate, we hope.

Behind the scenes, we have moved our site from a static website managed with increasing difficulty in Dreamweaver, to an up-to-date, content management system. We are using WordPress and MySQL, having looked at and discarded Joomla and Drupal, and we are very happy with the result. While many think of WordPress as being a blogging tool, we were very pleased to find that it is also a mean and highly efficient CMS, with a lot of extensions available for managing really quite large, content rich sites flexibly and relatively easily.

But this is only phase 1. Shortly we will be announcing an completely new and vastly extended replacement for Research Software Central, our software database, which we are doing jointly in association with Research magazine. And at the same time, Research magazine are going to be featuring highlights from our blog. We hope you like the changes. We hope you will tell us what you think – using our new comment form down below.

A new blog starts here!

For a while now I’ve been thinking of doing a blog – a professional blog about market research and technology – about the stuff I think about at meaning, a bit of the background to some of the reviews I do, notes from conferences I go to, interesting conversations I have with people who come to see me, or vice versa. There could be plenty to say, and it might even be interesting to other people. Indeed, from time to time, people have asked me if I have a blog, and the answer has moved recently from “no”, to the more cryptic “not yet, but that might be about to change”. Today the answer switches to “yes”, though I am starting with a soft launch. Chances are, you will find this as you dip back through the archive.

I realised I had to take the plunge. One concern I had had for a long time was that I am often brought in to discussions with companies in confidence – often with good reason as they may be trialling a new idea with me, or the situation the have asked me to look at is not one that covers them in glory. I had used that as a reason no to blog. But lately I have realised that there is still plenty to say without breaching confidence – and if I am in doubt, I can always ask if people mind if I blog about what they have just told me. People might be interested in my ideas, the connections I make, the things I see (perhaps even some of the things I don’t see).

So I taken the plunge. I’ve been tinkering around with WordPress for a few weeks now, after it featuring in a session on Web 2.0 communications at the British Computer Society. I realised that not only would it be a wonderful vehicle for my meaning blog, but rather like the person who naively approaches Ikea one Sunday with their spouse, to buy a new bowl to do the dishes, and ends up ordering a whole new kitchen, so the blog project has led to moving our entire site into a content management system (yes, using WordPress, which is a surprisingly versatile CMS too). The site won’t launch for a few more weeks, but from today I am blogging in anticipation.

Of course, those of you who know me very well will know that there is a bit of the programmer in me still, from my early days. I don’t think I was actually a very good programmer, but I know how it works, and from time to time, it can make a pleasant change to be knitting some code again. So, I have been delving deep into MySQL, PHP and of course CSS. I hope you are impressed. I am a bit surprised by what I have managed to do. But it also serves to remind me just how slow and painstaking any kind of code development is, even in today’s so-called rapid development environments. And how 3% of the end result can seem to consume 97% of the effort – particularly galling when it happens to be the last 3% prior to launch.

In my next post I will say a bit more about my plans for the blog, and also the back catalogue – you may have noticed a curious feature of this entry, for entry number one, is that it is not the first entry.