SA student's project accepted by Google

By   |  April 17, 2007

A project by South African student Charl Van Niekerk has been accepted by the Google Summer of Code.

The 20-year-old from George, in his third year at UNISA doing Software Engineering, will work on the Joomla content management system (CMS) to make the generated content more compliant to Web standards. One of the key goals in having standardised content pages is that they can be better viewed by software designed for allowing people with disabilities to surf the Web. (A common example is JAWS . Click here for a list of similar software.)

“I got really involved with Web Standards. I liked the idea of all the information found on the web being available in a format which anybody could read and implement without paying royalty fees or anything of the sort,” explained Ven Niekerk.

“My project is all about improving the XHTML output that Joomla generates and sends to the client-side. I need to clean up the existing output to make sure there’s as little as possible semantic abuse (tables for layout purposes, etc) that could hamper accessibility,” he continued.

“I also need to add as much semantics as currently practical to the document so that client software can get more value out of a Joomla-based site. For example, I need to implement various Microformats for additional semantics.”

“When a user visits a Joomla contact page, they will immediately be able to export all the details (telephone number, physical address, etc) to their contact management application (providing they’re running the right software) without copying and pasting all the individual details over.”

“Everything can be exported in one go automatically. This is because the computer can now ‘know’ what’s what on the page. It will know that a particular piece of information is a telephone number, and another piece is a cellphone number and so on,” he said.

“I will also be integrating hAtom into the blog articles / content module. Software will then be able to use the actual XHTML page just like a separate RSS / Atom feed for syndication,” he added

Coding for the project begins 28 May and finishes 31 August. Before that Van Niekerk will be in contact with the Joomla core development team, with whom he will work in integrating the changes into Joomla.

Van Niekerk is the only Summer of Code participant working on the project, but he will be in contact with other students and share ideas with them.

The project progress will be covered on his blog (http://blog.charlvn.za.net/ and all feedback and input is gladly welcomed.

As far as he knows, there are no other African participants in the Google Summer of Code, but he says “if there are I would certainly like to get in contact with them!”

Despite his age, Van Niekerk has already been involved with open source and Linux for a number of years. He is a founding member of the GROSSUG (Garden Route Open Source Software User Group) as well as the myXchange geek meeting group in George (website still under construction)

He as contributed to projects such as Translate.org.za (as the web developer), WordForge (on Pootle and the translate toolkit) and the Freedom Toaster (as the administrator for the toaster in George and contributor towards the toaster software)

The proposal for Van Niekerk’s Summer of Code project can be viewed here.

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