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Drupal – chaging the content of $node through hook_node_view

Drupal has hooks, one of then is called hook_node_view which allows you to inject variables into your node templates. In order to actually modify the node with the content variables… done like so:
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Drupal – Setting multiple flags using hook_flag_flag

Drupal has a great flag module that is able to flag pieces of content. Sometimes you want one flag to be able to set other flags as well. Drupal provides a hook for whenever an item is flagged. This hook can’t easily be used to flag an item beacuse each time you attempt to flag another item the hook gets called again and again until PHP is out of memory — it’s pretty much infinite recursion. There is a way to fix this and it goes like this:
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A strategy for entering the online storage market

Someone on LinkedIn asked for my advice about entering the online storage market, what follows are my opinions on the subject that I gave her.

Dropbox has been done. Box.net is a good competitor. Going up against them as a me-too competitor is a waste of time and not very likely to succeed.

What has not been done however is a hardware box that you host at your office that provides file sharing which then backs up to the internet. So locally you have all your files available, but they are also avaialble online.

This box should also have the ability to backup to the internet using local encryption so that you can be sure your files are 100% safe as the encryption key never leaves your box.

It should also have the ability to sync some folders online that are not encrypted for file sharing purposes much like dropbox… which a similar sort of windows client.

This right here then is a killer app that should make you millions — make sure you send me a check when you make it!

You can sell the boxes for around $200 or subsidize them if you really want to drive sales. That would be actually a really good use of VC funding. To use that to build these boxes and then give them out for say $100. Say you get 10 million in VC funding and then you give them out. You can move 100,000 boxes, which is a really good customer base to start off with.

Best of luck. It’s a difficult market.

Five Super Simple SEO tips

Use headings that your target market is searching for

The headings, meaning the h1 tag, on the pages of your site must be appreciable enough to let your visitors and search engines know the topic that your post or page is targetting. Don’t use images for your headings, search engines can not read these. Images may serve as better visuals but text headings, preferably using the h1 tag are always better to provide appropriate information on different web pages in a clear and concise way that your visitors and search engines are expecting. They also have the added effect of helping your search engine ranking.

Find the best position of the site search box

Nowadays, people are buzzing around the web like busy bees. When they want to find information, they want it fast! Visitors who want specific information on your site might use the your search box to find it, and therefore you must put some thought into the best place to put your search box. You can optimize the search box by creating filters that identify specific keywords related to the articles posted in your website. Search technologies like the Solr search engine can help do this with leading content management systems like Drupal and WordPress.

Select a customized theme

Generic themes might look good, but just like their name suggests they have generic written all over them. A personalized theme for your website is the best way to go. You get to choose which styles for your text, pictures, and links would go along well with the products you are endorsing. Remember that repetition is not advisable since the developer may use different page templates for each important web page part.

Provide supporting images

Do not forget to incorporate images in your post. However, you must not let overdo it. Using too many images and too little text can weaken the search engine optimization of a page, around 200-300 words per page along with a good title image is deal for pages and posts. Also, it’s useful to add title and alt descriptors to the image tag. This may help you get traffic through Google’s image search.

Details

The very important part of every post is its content. The details must be enough for the viewer to thoroughly understand the thought expressed by the web page. We also encourage you to include contact information which builds credability. Make the presentation of the products appealing. Do not forget to add description on the products and services to support the visual facts that product image may provide. Utilize stylish fonts, pretty background images and interesting  heading to increase the appeal of your page’s appearance.

Does Open Source matter for clients of hosting services?

In response to this article, I wanted to write a rebuttal. Omega8.cc claims that open sourcing your platform is not something that matters to clients and I respectfully disagree. Omega8.cc open sources their platform, but is giving their competition some room by saying that it’s a myth that open sourcing a platform should matter to clients… or at least that’s what it seems to me that they are saying on that page.

So should whether the platform that you are hosting your application on is open source or not matter to you or your organization as a client of a hosting provider.

Yes. The reason is not that complicated. If you have your application being hosted somewhere but you hate the level of support, the ineptitude of your provider, or any other aspect of their service you have the option to move the site to be supported by a different company or by your in-house staff. That essentially is a form of freedom from the tyranny of a certain hosting provider.

Currently with some providers the fact remains that the actual backend is a black box that no one has access to. Lots of stuff is going behind the scenes and it is not disclosed exactly how that stuff is even working. So if your application is working fine but you don’t like company or how they are running the show you have the choice to say “see ya” and immediately switch to someone else and get similar features and functionality at a similar cost. Without this option, no matter how inept the company servicing you, you don’t have a choice and have to put up with their terms and their treatment. So does it matter to consumers whether a certain stack is open source or not, sure it matters. As insurance for your hosting provider to actually do their job well… because if they don’t then you can leave.

It also creates possibilities of competitors moving in, but really it’s not that difficult to keep competitors as bay by using something like an Affero GPL 3.0 license which would force your competitors to open source any innovations that they make so you can improve your service with their efforts. It does not seem to happen that often that a VC funded company is driven out of business by an underdog just because they open sourced their code. Even in cases where a company has complained it can be seen from the success of the fork that they were really asking for it — SugarCRM comes to mind.

Ultimately, open source is about services and not products. To try to convert open source into a product entails lock-in and allows ineptitude and bad customer service to flourish which in the long run is not good for the industry or the consumers using the services. However, it may also entail more profits in the short term for its proprietors until someone else comes along and changes the game. In the meanwhile you have to put up with people just because they got there first.

Why WordPress is a winner

Etopian Inc. critically analyzed all the best publishing and blogging platform out there and we have decided that WordPress is still the winner. For us this wasn’t a big surprise, we have been using WordPress for over 6 years and in that time it has definitely come out on top for us more often than not. After all, WordPress, or simply WP as it’s commonly referred to, is largely accepted by newbie bloggers and old school web publishers. Enumerated below are the reasons why it’s number one in almost everyone’s list.

User-friendly

Among the CMS platforms made available, WP is one of the easiest to use. You could basically learn how to do important things in a single day. It requires absolutely no experience from any user other than how to use a computer. No matter how many pages you would like to add and content you would like to upload, there would be no hassle involved. Because of the tons of practical plugins like image galleries, slider carousels and the like, you could make your website engaging and attractive. WP also paves the way for ultimate customization. You have the power to arrange your pages any way you want it. What’s more, WP can be linked to other social media; thus, providing you an opportunity to connect fast and effortlessly to your target market.

Secure

Users can set their minds at ease that their data, especially the most important aspects are protected. Even more, it’s further possible to improve the security using various free plugins and incorporating server-side anti-spam measures.

Dependable when it comes to SEO

Search engine organization or SEO is undoubtedly an effective marketing tool that plays a key role in generating web traffic. Etopian Inc. can help you further in this endeavor. Bear in mind that wider client base means more profit more often than not.

Always updated info about your products and services

Another benefit that the WP can give you are practical solutions regarding the updating of information about your products and services. No matter how fast the pace of your customers’ lifestyle, WordPress has ways to reach them.

Reinforces client satisfaction

Together with the tools presented by this publishing platform, Etopian Inc.’s has the capacity to build websites that improves the manner of delivering service to the customers. This will only result to generation of sales and even loyalty in the long run. In addition, you will have the means to widen your client base through attracting new clients and keeping them through effective communication.

Measurable

With WP using services like Google Analytics, you can get feedback from your clients in real-time without the need to draft questions and administer a survey. Not only that, you can deduce more vital details as well. This is because tracking and analytics give you an idea how people who take time to drop by use your website. You can determine which pages are looked at more often, what questions are usually asked and whether or not they find answers to them. This way, figuring out keywords you should utilize for SEO should not be much of a challenge.

Gaining and keeping your competitive edge online

There are millions of web sites on the web showcasing many different businesses in varying industries. And each business has thousands of potential rivals. This reason alone should be enough for you to focus your efforts to gain an edge over them. As the author Seth Godin puts it, it pays to be the purple cow in a field where brown cows graze. Let the practical tips below be your first steps in standing out and make that online marketing endeavour pay up.

USP: What in the world is it?

USP stands for unique selling proposition. It is how you will sell yourself to the potential clients. Forget how marketing specialists define it. You can determine your USP by answering the following questions:

 What product and/or services do I offer that the clients can’t find elsewhere?

Suppose someone would recommend Etopian Inc, what would I want that person to say?

Why would the probable clients choose Etopian Inc.?

 Your answers to these questions would tell you what makes you unique. This will set you apart from the rest of the pack. This can be your trademark that you can use to be recognized and remembered.

Work on your website.

Maintaining a website is a must in online marketing. Remember that it speaks for you and your business. It is not just a platform where you sell. More importantly, it is a tool to reach out to your probable clients. Make sure that it contains all the important details that your customers would like to know. You may include supplemental details that will increase the chances of your customers finding a win-win solutions before they even talk to you – in another words let your customers sell themselves. For instance, post positive testimonials from your previous clients and videos that share practical tips and sell your products/services indirectly at the same time.

Generate more web traffic.

There are tons of ways to do this. Your USP is no good if you keep it to yourself. Podcasting isn’t just fun, it can also help you market your company. Another effective tool is writing articles you can post to popular blogs and websites. Embed a link that will lead the visitors to your web site. You don’t always have to pay for this. You can exchange favours and encourage other businesses to post their articles on your site which are relevant to your audience. Cater to visual people through making videos of you or your previous clients sharing a testimony about how your products have helped them and post it to popular social media – one word of advice, these must be genuine and look at least somewhat professional otherwise they may do more harm than good. Take advantage of the social networking site’s fame. Create a page for free and gain a huge following. How? Well we can’t give all of our secrets away, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested.

Evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts through getting feedback.

Survey and ratings are two vital components that can help you get feedback from your clients. This will give you an idea whether or not your marketing efforts work. Prepare a survey form and have it filled out by your clients and people making visits to your website – it is whatever much easier to get your clients to fill out your surveys if they are satisfied than a random customer looking for a product or service. Having them rate say, Etopian Inc’s products and services would give you an idea which ones you should work on more to make them more pleasing to your clients.

Rinse & Repeat

Marketing is a process, not a product or a result. Just because you already have done everything above, it does not mean you are done. You must continue monitor your unique selling proposition to make sure it continues to be unique. The same goes for generating and keeping traffic coming to your site. Finally, you must keep collecting feedback which can be used to refine the other steps or to gives you a heads up on how you can keep improving so you won’t be buried in competition.

Some ways for Calgary businesses to promote their brands online

Blogging

There are numerous sites like WordPress where you can blog for free. This can serve as your platform to promote your brand(s). It’s your choice to sell directly or indirectly.

Article marketing

The key in this marketing tool is writing contents that are of use to your target readers. Share a tip or two about web designing. Embedding links to the articles is helpful. This will direct your visitors to your sites.

Video marketing

People who are into web designing are more often than not visual types. Videos of you treating them with helpful web designing tricks and tips would surely be a hit for them. Post the videos on your sites or upload it to YouTube and other popular sites.

Making use of social networking sites

Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites are so “in” so why don’t you jump into the bandwagon and make use of its fame.

Why have keep one brand when you can have two?

While working with clients in Alberta, and more specifically Calgary, we often find ourselves helping our clients alter their presence. Sometimes, however, an alteration results in a complete re-branding where the old brand is destroyed in order to make room for a new brand. And while this is not a bad idea as consumers do love the new rather then the old, there are times where we feel that our clients would be better served by taking an alternative route.

Everyone knows that changing your brand is a gargantuan task. At times, it can be like starting all over again from scratch. Some of the tasks involved include informing your existing clients of the switch, designing a new logo, creating new websites with new designs and ideas, and finally launching your new brand to cheers from your customers who thrive on change and jeers from those who don’t.

The need for change

The first thing you need to determine is whether or not it’s worth your time and effort to change your brand. This is vital. Imagine the separation anxiety you must cope with while deliberating on this decision. After having devoted much time, effort and money to building your existing brand you are now going to spend at least as much time, effort, and money reinventing, re-engineering, redesigning what you have worked so hard to build. You certainly can not make this decision just because you “feel” like doing so. In addition, you have to consider the mind share that you have already acquired – it is going to take a lot of work to port that mind share over to your new brand if you already have a huge following with an existing brand.

Some key questions to ask

  • What pushes you to think of changing your brand or aspects thereof?
  • Are your reasons for changing your brand valid enough?
  • Are there any solutions aside from doing the switch or to what extent do you
  • think you need to change your brand or aspects thereof to meet your objectives?
  • What about incorporation of new projects into your present brand or expansion?
  • Do you have the needed resources, i.e. money, time and effort, to make changing brand possible?
  • What are the possible ramifications?
  • How it will affect your company’s sales in the short term and the long term0?

Creating multiple brands

Let’s say you have thought of multiple ideas that you just can’t afford to drop. Furthermore, they are conflicting in some ways so that a brand extension is simply not possible – these are two different brands and they should each have their own identity. In this case, changing your existing brand isn’t necessarily the preferable option, you can instead create a separate brand. Maintaining several domains each with their own brand could be a win-win solution. This way, you’ll be able to cater to your clients’ varied needs and present your ideas in a way that is appealing to two different demographics or psychographics.

Make no mistake, there are many downsides to this option so let’s talk about a few. First, you might need additional human and financial resources to maintain multiple brands – instead of a single brand now you have two. Though the initial effort may be the same as if you dumped your existing brand and created a new one, the effort of maintenance will be doubled which might mean losing focus. Being a one-man team might be an option in helping you reduce your costs but it’s going to take a bite out of your social life. Finally, you will have to exert more efforts because each one of your brands should stand out from the crowd. However, we can you could always hire us to help you  be that purple cow that stands out amongst the brown ones.

Drupal node_save action firing in a hook (gotcha)

Recently while developing a website for a client I ran into this issue which is so simple, yet the effects so devastating. First a bit of background. I was trying to use a hook that is fired by an existing action to update some fields on the same node after the action has occurred.

This hook was firing after the node had been saved, so it should work. Yet after the initial save the node in question become uneditable, you could no longer update any fields on it or publish it. The issue is that when I loaded the saved node so I could update it, I did not reset the node’s cache so the existing node’s value always overrode any values in the future.

The effects of this problem are that after you initially submit an item you can no longer update it in any way. The same fields are written to the system no matter what. The solution is simple.

When you load the node use the $reset variable on it.

So instead of:

node_load($nid);

node_load($nid, null, true);

That’s it, not really much more to it then that. You should consult the API in Drupal for more information.

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