Read the latest blog on our projects and new developments in areas like security, WordPress and Typo3. The team at Prater Raines write how projects have progressed with challenges that have been faced. We like to keep you informed in technology and security updates.
As Germany moves away from closed source software to a strategy using TYPO3 for all government websites, I joined Jana Höffner and Nikolai Jaklitsch at this year’s T3CON in Düsseldorf to discuss software in government and how Open Source is the only way to guarantee digital sovereignity, foster local talent and create a digital economy.
I missed spring conference even though it was in my favourite city, York. But I was a fair bit preoccupied waiting for child #2 to be born. The autumn event was back in Glasgow, so I didn’t have to wait too long for my next my cool northern city hit.
Major developments on our Lib Dem platform included statistics on email send and open rates, better email templating, and automated campaign groups based on area or membership status. Gary did a lot of design work on the sites, with a particular emphasis on making them more mobile-friendly and producing new skins which closely mirrored the rebranded federal party site, and enough other designs to triple the number of choices available to customers.
Oh, we had to move one of the sites behind a content delivery network after they put up a rather controversial petition and triggered a Distributed Denial of Service attack. It was though one of our most successful petitions, outside of Gurkha Justice, garnering 80,000 signatures, so there’s that, I guess.
FIM Capital (then IOMA FIM), the last of the Assanka customers, chose us to take over support of their fully featured investment management system which we continue to develop to this day. We added additional support around busy quarter end dates and a fully featured helpdesk for problem reporting, initially by importing from Assanka’s in-house system into Trac and later a fresh import into hosted Gitlab, which we now use.
With the CIPR we focused on new server hardware and improvements to their members’ only Continuous Professional Development portal, Ladder, including rebuilding the activity search using faceted Elasticsearch, and migrating their proprietary blog aggregator site The Conversation to WordPress.
In our tenth year working together we took on a large portfolio of clients from Assanka Ltd, as they went on to become FT Labs, and I’m very grateful they considered us reliable and trustworthy partners. Customers taking us up on our offer of development, hosting and fixed price support included the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, legal firm Stone Rowe Brewer‘s secure and searchable document storage application which remains cutting edge, Hampshire Foot and Ankle clinic, James Cooke Coaching, Merrony Wall, Naked Communications, Racepoint, Staines Prep School, Thameside Collaborative Lawyers & Mediators, Windtronics, and Twickenham Town Centre.
We had to end support for Internet Explorer 6 this year. It had been out of support for nearly 3 years and had 24 known unpatched vulnerabilities. Believe it or not this caused some consternation from customers whose work environments didn’t allow them to upgrade so we provided a direct download of Firefox Portable from the website backend to anyone using IE6. I hope nobody got in trouble with their IT departments.
2010 marked the release of our ground-up rebuild of the Liberal Democrat website platform, this time built on top of Symfony, and this kept us busy most of the year. Folkestone web designer Dane Williams helped us put together a great and varied choice of new designs for the platform including custom designs for several MP clients and we migrated all existing customer content from the old system.
The sites provided custom mobile and accessible views, rich text editing, Facebook and Twitter integration (back when this was possible), in-browser image editing, and graphical reports.
Tim spent much of the year knee deep in construction material rebuilding our office in a historic building on Sandgate High Street, expertly aided by Darren Briddock. It had recently been a newsagent and once upon a time a stationers and a tobacconists but had been closed for over a year and it was great to bring it back to life. As I recall, every floorboard lifted revealed another problem that needed fixing.
We celebrated by watching Gary Numan sing in the rain and with an opening party where there may have been plenty of leftover canapes but we bravely worked our way through all the Kentish sparkling wine and Gurkha beer.
2008 was an incredible time to be at Prater Raines, a year of events that honestly we are still struggling to live up to 15 years on.
The pinnacle of which was obviously working alongside Joanna Lumley on the Gurkha Justice Campaign where we built a bespoke online petition which ultimately received nearly a quarter of a million signatures and changed the law. In the meantime we plotted in Joanna’s summer house and we wowed the crowds of schoolchildren visiting the Houses of Parliament. I think it genuinely took some of the Lords down a bit to realise they weren’t the most famous people in the room. And I will always have with me the memory of watching the web server logs with trepidation throughout Joanna’s appearance on Al Murray’s Happy Hour on ITV one Friday night in October.
Peter Carroll has detailed it all in his book, in which I think I appear as a footnote to something like chapter 11 as “Tim Prater’s colleague was also in the room”. But it really was an excellent and surreal part of my life.
We incorporated as Prater Raines Ltd and started to provide technical consultancy in addition to developing and hosting web sites. Our first contract lasted two and a half years, working with magazine publisher IPC Media in a hand-picked team to rebuild their content management system for all the magazine websites including Country Life, Decanter, Marie Claire, Wallpaper*, and Ideal Home. This was my first introduction to Symfony and I quickly fell in love with the framework. It may have helped that it was a beautiful commute on the riverboat from the Isle of Dogs to the South Bank and the other contractors there were all great people.
The experience would later become the inspiration for a similar rebuild of the Liberal Democrat website platform. (Although, as I recall, the IPC database layer used Propel which I hated, which may also have kickstarted my love for Doctrine!)
We moved from renting servers to colocating our own equipment in a data centre on Marsh Wall in the Isle of Dogs. It was close enough to my house that I configured everything at home and cajoled a friend into helping me carry the servers there on foot. Once installed this increased redundancy, performance, and resilience for all of our sites. Thus Asquith and Gladstone began a so far uninterrupted trend for naming servers after Liberal leaders, and by the middle of the year they were hosting well over 250 Lib Dem websites.