Published: Saturday January 17, 2015.

Back (once more) into the Textpattern fray

This weekend is the first time in months that I’m working with Textpattern on my own sites. It sounds absurd to write this, but I took a break from it late last year when I realised I made a stupid error that I should have spotted before hitting Post Reply on the Textpattern support forum. The month or so that I’ve taken off from actively working with and helping support Textpattern has been eye-opening, mostly because I’ve been helping a couple of new Textpattern-using business clients with their own websites and not having to fix broken things. Extending, tweaking, building (emphasis most definitely mine) and exploring ideas rather than dealing with the reactive hey, why is this not working kind of query that’s common on the support forum.

I took tentative first steps to return to the Textpattern fray by poking around to see what was happening on the forum. Largely the same stuff, frankly; people needing help being served by other people offering help. I understand this is largely how the realm of open source software technical support works, most of the time. Sweeping aside all the politics, it’s a fascinating time to be involved in this kind of thing. I can, rightly or not, directly influence the future of the software I use. I can’t write code, but I can bodge changes and offer assistance in other ways. I have a different viewpoint to offer the development team, and while that could be construed as an obstacle to progress in some respects, it’s paying off in other ways.

I set up a chat room for Textpattern users and developers. It’s early days right now, but I’ve been able to chat freely with a couple of the more public-facing development team members with a view to helping them out. In the first instance, there’s going to be a meeting on Tuesday evening to have a bunch of eyes go through some commits (changes) made on Google Code to make sure the correct ones make it to GitHub. This job involves co-ordinating a small number of people at a given time and then have them look at code, then feedback with their take on things. I don’t have to know the intricacies of what bit of code does what, I just need to spot the differences between two pages of text (code) and say what I see. Simple. I don’t consider myself an armchair slacktivist, and by the same measure I can’t yet pick up the software I know so well and improve it by myself.

Today is Saturday, and this evening I’ll be making websites with Textpattern. Headphones on, music pumping, occasional frowns as I miss trailing slashes that prevent the whole page rendering, subsequent duh, idiot! moments when I locate the missing slash, a craving for snack food and an enormous sense of accomplishment when I make a Textpattern site.

This is what web development means for me.