UK government Confirms Open Document Format

In a move that goes against proposals by Microsoft, the UK government has confirmed Open Document Format (ODF) as the standard government document format. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has today announced that the ODF will be the standard for sharing or collaborating on government documents, with PDF or HTML also approved for viewing.

The decision follows a long and often controversial process that first started in 2011, and led to a consultation that concluded in February. The possible open standards were published on the Government Standards Hub website, with requests for ideas and comments. Microsoft had urged the government to include Open XML (OOXML) which is the standard used for its Word documents, however opponents say is not a truly open, vendor-independent format.

According to the article in Computer Weekly, the government said that the benefits of Open Document Format would include:

  • Citizens, businesses and voluntary organisations will no longer need specialist software to open or work with government documents.
  • People working in government will be able to share and work with documents in the same format, reducing problems when they move between formats.
  • Government organisations will be able to choose the most suitable and cost effective applications, knowing their documents will work for people inside and outside of government.

It would be interesting to know how much the delays and procrastination over open standards, has cost all the users, citizens, businesses and voluntary organisations who interface with government. Meanwhile revenue for Microsoft continues unabated. Go figure!

To find out more about Open Standards Principles visit Government IT Standards Hub

Government Signs Deal to Extend Microsoft Windows XP Support

In a move that sends shivers down the spines of security and IT professionals across the country, the government has signed a deal with Microsoft to provide Windows XP support and security updates across the whole UK public sector for 12 months after regular support for the operating system ends on 8 April. The agreement is worth £5.548m, and covers critical and important security updates for Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003, all of which have reached end of life in Microsoft’s normal product cycles.

While it is difficult to get any accurate figures for the numbers of Windows XP desktops which are still in use in government circles, approximately 800,000 PCs in the NHS still ran XP as of September 2013, and 27% of all desktops worldwide still run XP (

Perhaps some bold MP would like to ask Parliament why government users are still using using this outdated operating system. You could buy an awful lot of Linux support for £5.548m.

For more information on the Extended Microsoft Windows XP Support see:

7 Ultra Useful WordPress Plugins

WordPress, one of the most popular content management systems now powers over 16.6% of all websites. The great thing about WordPress sites is the community support that it gets, which means WordPress developers are busily created useful plug-ins that help with SEO, social media, editorial, site speed, and more.

There was until recently a useful list of seven helpful plug-ins at, compiled by Eric Siu which we have found could significantly enhance your site. They’re simple to install and will have effects that scale across your site. Keep in mind that not every plug-in will be a fit – mix and match and see what works for you.

  1. Scribe SEO – this plugin will help you do keyword research, grade your post in terms of overall SEO, and also help you find external or internal links. In short, it’s like having an SEO assistant in WordPress. If you have multiple editors writing for you, Scribe SEO is a must.
  2. Facebook for WordPress – enable your posts and pages to include Like, Send, Subscribe, Social Publisher, Recommendation Bar, and Comments capabilities. This plugin also includes Facebook Insights in your backend. In a nutshell, this plugin connects your site to Facebook.
  3. Tynt – if you are worried about scrapers or people that manually cut and paste your content without giving you credit, you can use Tynt to automatically create a link back to your site when people scrape your content. By doing this, you’re adding a wall of defense from scrapers and gain some SEO value by acquiring more links. Tynt states that you can expect to get up to 40% traffic from these added links. If you’re a big news site, you can expect to see 8,000 to 10,000 more links per week. Not bad for a plugin, right?
  4. WordPress SEO – this is the best SEO plugin out there for WordPress. Control indexation, breadcrumbs, RSS feeds, sitemaps, authorship, titles, and more. A must have.
  5. Social Sharing Toolkit – if you want to add social media buttons before and after your posts, this is the plugin to do so. You have the option of displaying various social network buttons such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and more. The added benefit is the ultra clean look and feel of the buttons.
  6. WP Touch – with mobile usage slated to overtake desktops by 2015, it’s no secret that you need to have a mobile site. This plugin will create a simple mobile version of your site.
  7. Zemanta – this plugin allows you to add relevant links and images around the web to your blog posts. It’ll also help you tag your posts and give you more additional research points. In short, this plugin can help drive more traffic to your site.

Update: eMarketer’s estimates US Time Spent on Mobile to Overtake Desktop by 2014

How to Use the WordPress Media Manager Gallery

As of December 2012 and the release of WordPress Version 3.5, the new Media Manager has changed the way photo galleries are created. If you are new to WordPress, or have been using one of the photo gallery plugins and themes, then this post might help you use the built-in WordPress Media Manager to display photographs on your site.

Place your cursor at the point on your post or page where you want the photo galley to appear, and follow the following easy steps:

  1. Click on the Add Media button on the left, just above the Editor quick menu bar.
  2. Click on Create Gallery
  3. Click on the image you want to add
  4. Under Attachment Details fill in the following fields:
    • Title
    • Caption
    • Alt Text
    • Description
  5. Add as many photos from your media library into the gallery as required, repeating 3 and 4 above for each
  6. Click on Create a new gallery
  7. At the Edit Gallery screen drag the images into the required order.
  8. Under Gallery Settings Select the number of columns of thumbnails to display
  9. Click on Insert Gallery to finish.

You can then preview or publish your gallery of photographs in the usual way. If you decide that you need to add more photographs to the gallery, or change the order the pictures display, follow the following steps:

  1. Edit the post containing the gallery.
  2. Click on Visual editor tab, if not already selected.
  3. Click on the gallery you want to edit
  4. Click on the top left icon in the gallery (a camera picture)
  5. To add new images click on Add to Galley and proceed as before.
  6. Reorder or make any other required changes then click on Update Gallery.

That is it! All you need to do to use the new Media Manager to display photographs on your WordPress site.

For more information about using the built-in WordPress Media Manager, including a video of inserting a gallery then click here to visit How to Insert a WordPress Photo Gallery into Your Blog

Top 10 WordPress Plugins

When we get asked “What are the Top 10 WordPress Plugins?”, it is sometimes a challenge to limit the list because there are so many out there. The ones which we are currently finding the most useful are (in alphabetical order):

  1. Breadcrumb NavXT
  2. Broken Link Checker
  3. CMS Tree Page View
  4. Contact Form 7
  5. Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin
  6. Types – Complete Solution for Custom Fields and Types
  7. Viper’s Video Quicktags
  8. WordPress Database Backup
  9. WP-PageNavi
  10. WP-Table Reloaded

The details of our Top 10 WordPress Plugins are listed below, together with links to further information. Each is given a TechCo Rating, which is an indication of the level of use which we would expect to see.

TechCo Rating:

  • Basic – Every site must have a plugin like this.
  • Intermediate – Most sites should use this plugin
  • Advanced – Plugin could provide functionality to make the site special.
  • Admin – Plugin provides administrators with tools not seen by the public.

Breadcrumb NavXT
TechCo Rating: Intermediate
Breadcrumb trails are a good supplementary navigation system that aid in site usability, and can provide SEO benefits. This plugin adds a breadcrumb navigation showing the visitor’s path to their current location. These represent the page hierarchy leading to the current page.

For details on how to use Breadcrumb NavXT plugin visit Breadcrumb NavXT.

Broken Link Checker
TechCo Rating: Admin
This useful WordPress plugin checks your blog for broken links and missing images and notifies you on the Admin dashboard if any are found.

Among other things it will detect missing images and files, and links to deleted YouTube videos. New and modified entries are checked immediately, while the plugin periodically checks links in posts, pages, comments, custom fields and the blogroll. If any problems are found you get a notification on the Dashboard.

You can run a full site scan from scratch by Settings, Link Checker, Advanced and then click on Recheck All Pages. You might get a surprise if you add this plugin to a mature WordPress site!

For more information on the Broken Link Checker plugin visit the Broken Link Checker site.

CMS Tree Page View
TechCo Rating: Admin
This plugin is for admin use only, and adds a CMS-like tree view of all pages on the site. You can use the tree view to edit, view, add and search pages, while drag and drop allows you to rearrange page order.

To find out more about CMS Tree Page View visit the CMS Tree Page View site.

Contact Form 7
TechCo Rating: Intermediate
Not just another contact form plugin, Contact Form 7 is simple and flexible. It allows you to flexibly design the form and mail, and allows you to manage multiple contact forms. In addition, it supports many features including AJAX submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering and file uploading.

To find out more about Contact Form 7 visit the Contact Form 7 site.

Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin
TechCo Rating: Advanced
This plugin can be useful for managing permalinks without losing existing SEO to the page, or for sites converted to WordPress. It allows you to redirect Pages, Posts or Custom Post Types to another location quickly, for internal or external URLs.

The options available are extensive, so for more information on how to use the Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin visit the Quick Page Post Redirect plugin site.

Types – Complete Solution for Custom Fields and Types
TechCo Rating: Advanced
This is a useful plugin if you need to create custom fields, custom post types, or a custom taxonomy to your website through the WordPress admin screen instead of adding PHP code to your theme. For PHP developers, Types provides a comprehensive PHP API and documentation.

To find out more about the Types plugin, check out the Types User Guide

Viper’s Video Quicktags
TechCo Rating: Intermediate
Easily embed videos from various video websites such as YouTube, DailyMotion, and Vimeo into your posts. Since version 2.9, WordPress has featured native easy embeds. However this plugin offers more customization than the default options. It will work alongside the easy embed code, and you can opt to use either embed method.

For more information about Viper’s Video Quicktags, visit the Viper’s Video Quicktags site

WP DB Backup – WordPress Database Backup
TechCo Rating: Basic
Everyone should have a regular backup of their WordPress database, and this plugin provides on-demand and scheduled backups. To configure your backup go to Tools, Backup, and backup your WordPress database.
To install this plugin search for “WP DB Backup” Keyword on the Install Plugins page.

To find out more about WP DB Backup

TechCo Rating: Advanced
This is a handy plugin if you want to replace the old Older posts and Newer posts links with some more advanced paging navigation.

This plugin provides the wp_pagenavi() template tag which generates fancy pagination links. See the installation instructions for using it in your theme.

To ind out more about WP-PageNavi, visit WP-PageNavi site

WP-Table Reloaded
TechCo Rating: Intermediate
This plugin allows you to create and easily manage tables in the admin-area of WordPress. However it has been superseded by the TablePress plugin, which at time of writing stands at 0.9-RC

You can still download WP-Table Reloaded, but if you are starting a new project, we recommend waiting for the full release of TablePress.

For more information on the table plugin see TablePress replaces WP-Table Reloaded from the plugin author.

Well, that is our current stab at the Top 10 WordPress Plugins. This list may change in a few months as trends and available plugins, so is not fixed in stone. In future we will offer deeper insight into some of these plugins a give examples of how they can be used.

Campaign Management Planning with HootSuite

Are you involved in developing your company’s social media campaign? If so, it is important, if not imperative, that you use the best practices. Fortunately HootSuite provides some useful tools and information to help manage social media campaigns.

HootSuite Enterprise provides advanced features for team members to leverage HootSuite’s advanced functionality to deliver effective social media campaigns campaigns every time.

Best Police Social Media practice across Europe

Have you been watching the rate of uptake in new media changing rapidly as each new form emerges? Have you heard of new uses for social media and wondered if your organization could also benefit? Do you feel that you need some guidelines in adapting your policies to cope with the widespread use of social media? Perhaps now is the right time to take a look at the way police forces across Europe have adapted to the phenomenon of social media

First some facts about the growth of social media:

  • It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million listeners.
  • Terrestrial TV took 13 years to reach 50 million users.
  • The Internet took four years to reach 50 million users.
  • In less than nine months, Facebook added 100 million users.

In the 2012 document by COMPOSITE Project titled Best Practice in Police Social Media Adaptation, the document describes the best practice of European police forces in adapting social media. According to Russell Webster in a blog post, the report’s findings are of particular interest to a British audience because they are based on different approaches to social media across Europe bolstered by an additional focus on the UK because of the riots study.

The researchers identified nine key themes:

  1. Social media as a source of criminal information
  2. Having a voice in social media
  3. Social media to push information
  4. Social media to leverage the Wisdom of the Crowd
  5. Social media to interact with the public
  6. Social media for community policing
  7. Social media to show the human side of policing
  8. Social media to support police IT infrastructure
  9. Social media for efficient policing

If you want to find out more, see the article titled Best Police Social Media practice across Europe by Russell Webster

Sir Patrick Moore Dies Aged 89

Sir Patrick Moore, an inspiration to generations of astronomers has died aged 89. The Astronomer and Sky at Night TV presenter died died peacefully at 12.25pm on 09 December at his home in Selsey, West Sussex.

Sir Patrick Moore

Sir Patrick Moore was born on 4 March 1923, and presented the world’s longest-running television series with the same original presenter, having presented the show since 1957, which is acknowledged as a Guinness World Record.
His rapid diction and monocle made him a popular and instantly recognisable figure on British television.

Sir Patrick Moore was a former president of the British Astronomical Association, co-founder and former president of the Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA), author of over 70 books on astronomy. As an amateur astronomer, he became known as a specialist on observing the Moon and creating the Caldwell catalogue.

His work has been an inspiration to generations of scientists and engineers, and particularly his willingness to admit that Astronomers (and by implication scientists and engineers) are not infallible. They make mistakes, but unlike politicians are honest enough to admit them.

Sir Patrick Moore Links and Credits

Featured Blog Making Movies by Giacomo Sardelli

This months featured WordPress Blog is Making Movies, the blog of Giacomo Sardelli, the person behind the viral video Further Up Yonder, which has been on local and global news. For those who have not yet seen the video, it explores the idea of different nations and cultures all living together on the International Space Station (ISS), exploring the edge of our world.

Making Movies uses the Twenty Eleven Child theme, a child theme based on the 2011 theme for WordPress, and caters for both English and Italian readers so may not be to everyone’s taste both style wise and for content. However, it does show the incredible versatility of WordPress.

Among the plugins in use are Jetpack, SEO Facebook Comments and Twenty Eleven Theme Extensions. You can find out more about the details via the following links:

This site is well worth a visit if you are interested in movie making or editing and the viral video is a must see, as it is a classic stop frame compilation using images from the Science and Analysis Laboratory from NASA. We recommend a visit to Making Movies, so follow the link below and watch the video, then check out Giacomo Sardelli’s blog.

Information Technology is Part of Your Core Business

While reading an article preview on Why Your IT Project May Be Riskier Than You Think, we came across a comment by James Watson which deserves a wider airing. Actually warranting a post on its own, this response is about projects which are labeled as black swans, and is a reason why companies looking to engage in IT enabled transformation should take a deep breath.

If your company leadership is considering a strategic change of direction, planning on ditching your in-house custom software without taking the advice of the internal IT professionals, or without competent IT stakeholders at the highest levels of the organization, then you should point out this post to them without delay. Remember, Information Technology is part of your core business.

The issue is that in most non-software companies, information technology is treated like something separate from the business. The conventional wisdom of a decade ago dominates. That is, if your company is not producing software for sale, it shouldn’t be building software. It should be purchased, like Word or Excel.

This line of reasoning seems pretty bullet-proof until you dig into the details and it leads to a number of problems including the issues in the article. First, lets be clear, no company should seek to build software for internal use that can be purchased at reasonable cost and can can meet their needs without customization.

Secondly, companies should seek to purchase or otherwise acquire software that implements the generic functions and allows for powerful customizations. The issue arises when companies purchase something like SAP assuming that their needs are sufficiently supported by the software and that anything they need that is special will be supported by ‘configuration’.

What then happens is that the company realizes (after investing large amounts of money) that they can either make their business completely generic and lose all strategic advantage over competitors or they can pile on a lot more money to customize the hell out of it. Given the options, most high-level execs prefer more investment over losing strategic advantage. Some companies (I suppose) choose the other option and a lot of IT people think this is a good idea (it isn’t.)

You might be more likely to succeed at the project but the company will often be ruined in the process. In the ‘success’ example, I wonder how much of the companies strategic differentiation was sacrificed in order to avoid increasing scope. Alternately, the ‘success’ could be a shelfware system that is unusable because it doesn’t meet business needs. I have seen many ‘successful’ projects that produce no positive business value.

The true error is taking on a project based on false assumptions and magical thinking. Once that mistake is made, there are no good options. Companies need to stop thinking that information technology is separate from their core functions. Most information technology is only worth having if it is tightly coupled to the design of the business and often technology imposes fundamental constraints on business.

No project management methodologies or helpful tips will address this problem. Companies need to embrace technology and make IT a stakeholder at the highest levels of the organization for the kinds of problems described in the article to be fully addressed.

This comment by James Watson was cribbed wholesale from Why Your IT Project May Be Riskier Than You Think by Bent Flyvbjerg and Alexander Budzier. Check out the full article and then quote James Watson to your company leadership!