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#11 2010-03-01 20:09:43

peleve
New Member
From: McHenry, MD
Registered: 2010-02-24
Posts: 4

Re: [contrib] New Textplates round

I’m new to Textpattern and have immersed myself in it for a solid week now. It’s definitely the system I want to learn, but I have yet to create something myself. Wherever and whatever I read always appears to assume that you know the system already!
Anyway, rather than working on a new set of templates, there is a real need to cleanup the existing templates and tutorials, e.g., make them clean with Textpatttern 4.2. So far I have tried over a dozen templates and only got one to work as advertised.
I would also like to see an installer for a template, not the tedious and error prone cut & paste approach. This seems to me a little retarded. Ideally, the installer should be a script that you can invoke from Admin and which loads all of the forms, styles, modules, files, images, sections and especially sample data (articles).
Sorry to bitch, but other systems are easier to get started with, but they don’t have the overall potential that Textpattern does.
Once I get up to speed I’ll gladly help where I can.


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#12 2010-03-01 20:56:56

stephan
Plugin Author
From: Bochum, Germany
Registered: 2004-07-26
Posts: 196
Website

Re: [contrib] New Textplates round

peleve,

you are absolutely right that the templating system isn’t one of Textpattern’s strong points. But if you use hcg_templates or mem_templates (basically hcg_templates that includes plug-ins) it gets a lot easier. I think it is important that template designers are aware of these existing templates.

Textplates is all about the fun of designing new (and hopefully easy to use) templates for Textpattern. Since the last rounds took place way before the latest version of 4.2.0 came out “fixing” older templates would actually be an interesting approach, but I think most authors would not take the time to do so. Ease of installation is definitely one of the criteria for the textplates entries, so maybe the resulting themes get a lot easier and more “fool-proof” to install.


Yoko for Textpattern – A free blog themeMinimum Theme – If all you want to do is write.
Note: I am currently not actively using Textpattern, so I am not in the forums very often

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#13 2010-03-01 21:17:00

Bloke
Developer
From: Leeds, UK
Registered: 2006-01-29
Posts: 5,925
Website

Re: [contrib] New Textplates round

peleve wrote:

there is a real need to cleanup the existing templates and tutorials

Hopefully a new round of Textplates will actually address this. The problem is usually that older templates suffer from tag rot (tags renamed or altered) and they are often distributed with old versions of plugins that no longer work on newer versions of TXP.

But the templates that are out there are quite often used / modified so if anybody uses a template that isn’t quite up to scratch, a contest such as this is a chance to update it for a new audience and the newer capabilities of TXP. Anyone can take anybody else’s template and modify it; I hope people will take the opportunity to do so.

I would also like to see an installer for a template, not the tedious and error prone cut & paste approach.

Yeah it’s a nice idea which is unfortunately a double-edged penguin. Having easy to use & install templates means that people can get off the ground quicker with a look that suits them for the type of site they’re trying to create. But the downside is that might mean that TXP falls into the Wordpress trap whereby truckloads of people just use the same default theme without modifying it.

On one hand, TXP’s beauty is its diversity — I would guess that’s partly because you do have to think about design and content and how it all gels together a little more than other CMS tools — but at the same time its smallish community could actually be testament to the fact it has a steep learning curve and no easy to install templates!

btw, have you looked at the hcg_templates or mem_templates plugins? They make it (slightly) easier to manage this stuff.

Mildly OT: I have recently been discussing with some prominent members of the community about the prospect of taking a fresh look at templating but we’ve yet to find a reliable system. The problem is that stuff needs importing into the database and Sections need to be created, with Pages and Stylesheets associated with them; plugins installed, activated, etc. It would be nice if a template could be a self-contained disk unit that you could try out — a bit like using a glorified version of smd_admin_themes but for front-of-house themes — and when you have flicked through them and found the one you want, you can choose to install it properly into the database. That’s not outside the scope of possibility, but it’s non-trivial, especially if you already have Articles and Forms and Pages defined within existing Sections.

Once I get up to speed I’ll gladly help where I can.

That would really be appreciated. The documentation on Textbook is in constant need of tweaking and tidying so the more people that can get wiki accounts and help out the better. Thanks!

EDIT: stephan beat me to it with far more succinct points :-)

Last edited by Bloke (2010-03-01 21:19:46)


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#14 2010-03-03 04:33:48

peleve
New Member
From: McHenry, MD
Registered: 2010-02-24
Posts: 4

Re: [contrib] New Textplates round

Sorry, I was off the air for a day.

With all of my googling, and looking at hundreds of pages, I never came across hcg_templates and mem_templates. These concepts are great and perhaps not perfect, but an enormous improvement. The hcg_templates approach is perfectly workable. I tried hcg_templates with the mistylook and crystalx templates and got the latter to work, but not until I fixed some issues: 1) had to change “sitename” to “site_name” in both mistylook and crystalx 2) change “.html” to “.form” or “page” as appropriate in mistylook, and 3) (no where explained that I can see) to make things work you have to change the “default” value in of “default’ in Presentations>Sections – to me counter intuitive.

This is very symptomatic of Texpattern… A lot of errors or incomplete things in examples. It turns most people off!

Bloke’s comment: “But the downside is that might mean that TXP falls into the Wordpress trap whereby truckloads of people just use the same default theme without modifying it.” I don’t see at all. I would guess that 99.9% of the web surfers have no idea what a website was produced with, and couldn’t care less. A website is attractive foremost by its content. The content is what make people come to it. Keep in mind the old saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” I would have no problems with 100 websites of the same look, as long as there is content, but I would like a nice look, which is what Textpattern can be!

If you want Textpattern to be accepted as a serious tool then a novice must get a good experience with it. You may not realize, but a novice is just someone who is trying to decide where to spend the company’s money, what to recommend, and they want to make sure that they understand what they are recommending. There is no better way than letting them put together a small website with ease.

You already have a good system for the geek programmer. If you want to bring it up a notch. Make it easy for a novice! From everything that I’ve seen and gone trough the past week here are my recommendations:
1. Get the simple install (hcg or mem templates) perfected. Have it tested by a number of “beginners”
2. Get all of the existing templates conformed to the “simple install” method in a simple database. Make sure that a sample page is shown.
3. Get several good tutorials aimed at the beginner. (there are several good ones around but they are outdated and don’t work completely as advertised)
4. Port templates from other systems. The more the merrier. People will tinker with them.
5. Work on the documentation
6. Do Template 2010

Make quality your number one priority!


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#15 2010-03-03 09:17:24

jakob
Moderator
From: Germany
Registered: 2005-01-20
Posts: 1,921
Website

Re: [contrib] New Textplates round

I agree that installing and trying out templates is not a one-click option in textpattern and many of the points you make are valid, especially with regard to user-experience and outdated templates. Making things easier to use out of the box, providing better step-by-step and up-to-date tutorials would help make it easier to adopt txp.

To a certain extent, I find templates in txp a little ‘illusory’ in that they modify the look, creating the impression of a nearly finished homepage but, except for the simplest of cases (e.g. as the standard blog-article format), most fall short of providing a full structure for your homepage just waiting for you to drop in content. In other words, in many cases after installing a template you are soon faced with the “what next?” question. People then looking for a “switch on and go” calendar module or forum module etc. will be disappointed not to find these, though there are plugins available to help you build these.

I think it helps to understand txp as providing you with a set of powerful and flexible tools, sometimes more complex “machinery” in the form of plugins, with which to build your site as you want rather than as “a kit of prefabricated modules” cms. On the one hand, you will only get so far without getting your hands dirty with txp-tags, on the other you don’t have learn a programming language. In that sense txp is in my view a more “serious tool” than many modularised bolt-together functionality CMSs.

The down-side is that it is not as immediately accessible as to novices, though you are right that here there is still room for improvement.

Your recommendations are good, but frankly whether that will all happen is doubtful. As the templates are all a community effort, keeping past material up to date is one of those unloved tasks that template authors don’t always keep up with, I guess because it’s more fun to make new stuff. With a bit of luck template 2010 will bring with it improved documentation and perhaps also better and more up-to-date templates.

Some other notes:

had to change “.html” to “.form” or “page” as appropriate in mistylook

hcg_templates/mem_templates were built as a response to the error-prone manual approach but are optional plugins, so it is completely up to the template authors to use them. Some have, some haven’t. A recommended way and recommended minimum instructions would help.

had to change “sitename” to “site_name” in both mistylook and crystalx

Textpattern does have a mechanism for auto-updating tags that have changed between versions (thankfully this does not happen all too often) but this happens when upgrading from one version to the next. Installing a template bypasses that. This is in the setup folder that one removes after installation but I guess there would be an argument for making the “clean up old tags” part of it available separately as a plugin.


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#16 2010-03-03 10:39:30

Bloke
Developer
From: Leeds, UK
Registered: 2006-01-29
Posts: 5,925
Website

Re: [contrib] New Textplates round

peleve

Thanks for your comments. I know where you’re coming from. And I would like to help but for all the reasons jakob mentioned (and more) “templating” as it applies to other CMS is currently trickier due to TXPs underlying structure. That’s not an excuse and it’s not to say it can’t be changed, it’s just the way it is right now.

Get the simple install (hcg or mem templates) perfected.

Which unfortunately leaves us in the same boat. They both do things differently so no one template archive will work with both tools. Plugin authors are free to choose how to implement a system so, as jakob says, without a core set of guidelines we have no control over how stuff is done. I’d like to be able to make an ‘official’ method or make it easy(ier) for plugin authors to tap into a core-sanctioned templates system but as I alluded to eaarlier, we’ve not come up with anything foolproof enough yet. If you can code, or have some implementation ideas that’d help us see the light, please share them.

Get all of the existing templates conformed to the “simple install” method in a simple database

Again as jakob says, that’s either down to the original author or someone who loves a particular template to adopt it and make it work. The current ones are in a database over at Textgarden.

Get several good tutorials aimed at the beginner. (there are several good ones around but they are outdated and don’t work completely as advertised)

As a recent beginner, you’re perhaps best placed to do that. Request a Textook wiki account and edit the ones that don’t work, or write new ones!

Port templates from other systems.

I believe some people are doing that already. Perhaps not on the scale you’d ike to see, but it’s happening. I know Stuart has done quite a few.

Work on the documentation

Given unlimited time I would. Sadly, my family and the day job get in the way of all this volunteer stuff! As above, you can help make the Textpattern environment better.

Make quality your number one priority!

It already is. TXP is quality over quantity — check our release schedules in the past to see how meticulous we are at trying to make sure it remains a quality, secure and bug-free tool ;-)


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#17 2010-03-03 14:56:07

peleve
New Member
From: McHenry, MD
Registered: 2010-02-24
Posts: 4

Re: [contrib] New Textplates round

The comments to my latest post from jacob and Bloke reflect ‘developer centric’ thinking. It’s a good thing for developers to do the things they like to do because that spurs innovation and produces neat things. Such research is fun and constructive. However, the next step, needs to be ‘engineering’, meaning to make the research done useful for the consumer (researched > engineered > consumed). The consumer is the one who’s going to hopefully use what the researcher produces. Remember the old saying: the consumer is always the ‘king,’ or ‘queen’ as may be.

Textpattern is definitely quality software, with great flexibility. It’s great for those who want to think outside the box. But there are the masses…. They just want to use stuff. They are the consumers that need to be catered to.

Perhaps one should consider a wiki type system where people can add the things they have produced and let users refine and correct them. For example, I spent some time making the templates work, which really meant making a few small changes once I found out where to make them. I’m quite happy to put the corrected files in the system so that others don’t have to go through the same hassle.

As I said before, I’ll gladly contribute where I can once I’m more adapt at using Textpattern.


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#18 2010-03-03 17:22:22

stephan
Plugin Author
From: Bochum, Germany
Registered: 2004-07-26
Posts: 196
Website

Re: [contrib] New Textplates round

It may be interesting to see, who uses Textpattern. Peter, your post assumes that the majority of users are “the masses”. Maybe the majority of Txp users are people who create websites for a living and they would rather that their services be contracted by potential customers, so why should things be too easy? But that’s all pure speculation and I am being the advocatus diaboli here.

I think it’s important to think about what you can do to advance a project like Textpattern and then just jump in and do it. I for once am way to incompetent to come up with a web design but I am capable of making adjustments and tweak things. Therefore I wanted to start a new round of Textplates because it produces new templates which I can use as a basis for my own sites. My motivation is partly egoistic, but eventually it will do some good for the entire community (there’s hope, at least).

About the wiki, head over to Textbook and start adding information in form of corrections, new how-tos and the like. You are more than welcome. I find that in the Txp-realm people are very open to constructive criticism and improvements. Just take a look of how many plugins were started by one person and then taken to the next level by someone else.

Coming from a commercial software background (mainly strategic, I have no real talent in development) I find you always have to ask the question “cui bono” – who benefits from it? In open source you don’t want to make lots of money, but you don’t want to create something you cannot use yourself instead of spending time with your family.

However, I think we’re moving into quite a substantial discussion that deserves its own thread instead of being buried inside some pre-anouncement for a template contest.


Yoko for Textpattern – A free blog themeMinimum Theme – If all you want to do is write.
Note: I am currently not actively using Textpattern, so I am not in the forums very often

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#19 2010-03-03 17:40:19

thebombsite
Plugin Author
From: Exmouth, England
Registered: 2004-08-24
Posts: 3,251
Website

Re: [contrib] New Textplates round

Somebody mentioned WooThemes somewhere, I think it was in the other thread about the competition. I can tell you that Woo are doing Textpattern. I know because it’s me that’s doing the porting. I should mention that they aren’t available yet but “watch this space” as they say. I’ve learned a few things during the last 3 months or so about trying to make this as simple as possible for the novice with Textpattern in it’s current 4.2.0 state.

I have no desire to change the way Textpattern works. It’s greatest asset is it’s flexibility. Basically it can do just about anything you want it to. The problem with this is that it doesn’t in any way lend itself to “one-click” installs but so what?

WordPress on the other hand does the “one-click” install to perfection but it does it by restricting your options. I personally would not want to see Textpattern follow this route.

Never-the-less I do understand the novice problem and have been working hard (very hard) to simplify the process and include what I consider to be the finest documentation available plus I have beta-testers trying the themes out who have never used Textpattern before. They are pretty much die-hard WordPress users. The feedback I have been getting from them has allowed me to improve the install process and documentation in the areas that matter not to mention the fact that some are taking to Txp in a big way.

I have recently ported a WooThemes “freebie” and I’m going to ask permission to put it up on Textgarden so that people can see the direction I’m going in. I’m not in the least bit interested in whether you like the theme or not. It’s not mine so why should I be? I would only be interested in your views on the mechanics of it.

I think that what we need here is some kind of “prescribed” method of producing theme downloads so that all themes use the same methods. That way people will get used to how to do things and know what to expect when they unzip a theme download and the same could be said for those that produce them.

I am aware that there are old themes out there that don’t work first time due to tag changes etc. plus I am aware that there are many that use plugins which have since been superseded by new Txp tags. I do make an effort to keep my own ports up-to-date but I have no control what-so-ever over themes hosted at Textplates nor over other theme developers. The problem I have with themes produced for these competitions is that once the competition is done and dusted the theme owners seem to disown them.

Maybe now is the time to start raising the bar as far as theme development is concerned and cut out the crap. As mentioned earlier, let’s get some quality standards sorted out.

I did start a thread about this over in the “Development” forum but it seems to have attracted little interest.

(That’s a bit of a rant for me)

Last edited by thebombsite (2010-03-03 17:45:05)


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#20 2010-03-03 18:21:59

peleve
New Member
From: McHenry, MD
Registered: 2010-02-24
Posts: 4

Re: [contrib] New Textplates round

Perhaps a thread entitled: “What do I (Textpattern) want to be when I grow up?”


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