Monthly Archives: February 2010

new irish plans (a construction industry thing)

We’ve just released newirishplans.com, a site for finding commencement notices. This is extremely useful for people in the construction industry, as I’ll explain.

Companies that work in construction need to be constantly on the lookout for new projects that are starting up. If you find a project just before it starts, you can call up and advertise your business, instead of waiting for the project manager to get around to finding someone else when the time comes.

As an example, if you sell bricks, it is better to call the manager of a house-building project just before they start building the house, than to not call at all, and realised when the house is built that the manager found a different brick supplier and didn’t realise you even existed.

You need to time the call as well – if you call too late, it’s obviously too late, but if you call months before the project starts, then the manager may totally forget you exist by the time the build actually needs your wares.

One way to find these builds that are starting up is to go around to all the planning authorities in your area of interest, and inspect any “commencement notices” that have been submitted since the last time you visited. A “commencement notice” is notification that you are about to start work on your build. All planning applications have this as a requirement.

Obviously, this can take hours out of your working week (and therefore, money), and even after you have the notice, you need to match the notice to the application and see if you’re actually interested in it at all.

The new irish plans project does this all for you. At the moment, the project covers about 17 counties, but we are always adding to this. For example, I’m working on getting Fingal added to the mix at the moment.

An account on the site costs 35 euro a month, and with that, you get an email once a week telling you of any commencements that the system has uncovered during that week.

But anyway – €35 euro a month. Just over one euro a day, and it’s all emailed to you.

If you know anyone in construction (does windows, landscapes, roofs, electrics, etc.) that is looking for work, tell them to go to newirishplans.com – the information is handed to you on a plate.

On the programming side, we wanted to make the search engine stand out, so we used the inline multiselect jQuery plugin (with a few small modifications) to help make selection of features and dates easier.

When I first came across that plugin, I was surprised and kinda proud to find that it’s based on some of my own work from 5 years ago! Open source is brilliant – you write a small piece of code and give it away, then 5 years later you find that someone has taken it and improved it vastly.

Commencements go through a “vetting” process. When a commencement is found, details about it are placed in a system where someone reads through the planning application, and marks down any interesting features about it. Those that have been vetted are then imported once a day into the main site itself, where you can search for them online, filtered by whatever interests you.

The system has been very long in the building, and has changed quite a bit over time. We’re very happy to finally make it public!

There’s still a few things that need to be completed on it (for example, we’re still organising WorldPay integration, but in the meantime we have PayPal), but on the whole, it’s ready for public use.

CMS Design using PHP and jQuery

I’m happy this week. Last week, I spent some time and organised myself a bit more. In work, things are going smoothly – managed to get over a tricky piece of work and the rest is simply a list of small tasks.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been emailing and messaging Darshana at Packt Publishing, about writing a second book (jQuery 1.3 with PHP is going very well – list of reviews).

I initially wanted to write about file management, to explain how KFM works, and to help force me to improve on it. But there’s just not enough of an interested market in that – it’s too specialised.

So instead, I’ll be writing about CMS design using PHP and jQuery.

We (webworks.ie) have a CMS engine which we’ve written and improved for the last 6 or so years. We’ve open-sourced it a number of times, but never managed to generate much interest in it. We never had the time to spend on publicising it.

The book will not be specifically about that engine, but rather about the concepts that went into creating it – how a CMS works, how to manage plugins, administration, user management, and all the other little bits and pieces that every PHP developer needs to eventually address.

By way of explanation, I will be demonstrating various parts of our CMS, and explaining how and why it was built that way. I will be closely examining the other major CMSes as well, and giving alternative methods where good ones exist.

The proposed chapter list is:

  1. Introduction
  2. CMS core design
  3. User management and access control
  4. Page creation and Navigation
  5. Template Management
  6. Plugins
  7. Form creation
  8. Image Gallery
  9. Panels
  10. Search and Polls
  11. RSS and News
  12. Online Store
  13. Products

I’m really excited about this project!