A few people who try AOM quickly feel out of their depth, and express dissatisfaction with the claim that the program is easy to set up and use. So last month we discussed the published requirements for using Associate-O-Matic, detailing each item for the benefit of anyone who might have been unsure about them. We also identified the statement that seems to be the cause of all the confusion. This month, let’s continue to look at where the problem seems to lie, and conclude by outlining what else is needed to successfully run the software.
As you may recall from the previous post, we’ve focused on this statement in the requirements as the crucial one:
Absolutely NO programming or database required
Specifically, the claim that no programming is required. What does this mean in detail?
When most people think of “programming”, they think of having to actually deal with computer code. It’s usually a complex process. If you look at the various steps involved in setting up a forum such as phpBB (view here) or vBulletin (view here), you’ll see that both the requirements and the instructions are much more detailed than AOM. A CMS like Joomla is similar (view here). Even WordPress in manual mode requires a few extra steps to set up correctly (view here).
Compared to these systems, the standard install for Associate-O-Matic is a breeze, and really does not require any programming. No database setup, no need to open and edit files before uploading, no config files or directories to remove before use, and so on. Once the files are downloaded and unzipped, all you should need to do is upload the files and folders to your website. Then open the control panel and enter your information. Only if there is a problem are any extra steps usually required.
However, no programming is not the same as no computer skills whatsoever. And this is where so many people run into trouble.
There are large numbers of people who know how to turn on a computer, open a browser, and check their email. They can click on links, view sites and use a search engine. But they are completely ignorant of the most basic processes used by the programs they deal with. In a similar way, someone can drive a car, but be clueless about anything going on under the hood. Even changing a tire is a skill they lack. And while you can navigate a computer or drive a car for years without having to ‘get your hands dirty’, it can put you at a severe disadvantage, whether you’re stuck on a lonely road with a flat, or staring at an error page you don’t understand.
And here’s the ugly truth: even a program as simple as AOM can be difficult for someone with no computer skills whatsoever. I would go as far as to suggest that people with ‘n-c-s-w‘ should not even consider trying to operate any kind of website. Just as every driver should know how to change a flat, or check their brake fluid levels, etc. Otherwise, sooner or later your luck will run out, and you’ll be left stranded by your own ignorance. You don’t have to be a master programmer to deal with life on the web, just as you don’t have to be a master mechanic to drive to the shops. But the more you do know, the better-equipped you’ll be. Dealing with people who wear their lack of knowledge like a badge of pride is always a mystery. Why don’t you learn the basic skills required so you won’t continually frustrate yourself?
Here in no particular order then, are the absolute basic chunks of knowledge you need to know in order to set up and run AOM, as well as 90% of all the other programs available online today:
1. How to use FTP – This stands for File Transmission Protocol, and is a handy way of uploading or downloading files. As you use a browser to view data online, you use an FTP program to move data between your computer and your online webspace. One of the most popular programs is Filezilla (download from here). It and many other FTP programs are free. Being able to upload files and folders is absolutely crucial to installing AOM. So get an FTP program, and learn to use it.
2. Basic knowledge of HTML – Hyper Text Markup Language is still the bedrock of every website. At the simplest level, it’s the rules that govern how text and images are displayed in your browser. In many cases it is used in conjunction (or supplanted entirely) by XHTML and CSS, which are more refined versions. But the core of the Internet is still largely plain simple HTML. Knowing what a < b > tag is, or what < center > does is not critical for using AOM, but it can help you format and visually sculpt your custom text or images. It can be the difference between a site that looks amateurish, and one that looks competent. A nodding familiarity with HTML can also take away some of the fear of the unknown that a lot of users feel when working online. There is a wealth of information online regarding beginning HTML functions and commands.
3. How to Unzip files – Many files are sent around the net in a ‘zipped’ or compressed format. This reduces the overall size, making it faster and easier to download or upload. Many free unzip programs are available, and Windows introduced a built-in unzipper as far back as XP (right-click on the file name on your hard drive, and look for extract or extract all in the menu). A good unzipper will unpack the files and folders into their original directory structure. When unzipping AOM for example, you should end up with two folders, aom and ioncube, as well as several files (admin.php, shop.php, etc.). If instead you see just a long list of files, there’s a problem somewhere.
4. Understanding your Website Control Panel – The webhost you’re paying to host your website (GoDaddy, HostGator, BlueHost, etc.) will have their own control panel, allowing you to manipulate the files on your website in various ways. Cpanel is one of the most common control panel interfaces. GoDaddy has their own version, and other hosts may use things like Plesk, etc. These control panels will have sections such as File Manager, which is where most of the work is done. Some of the functions most panels will allow you to do here include:
- upload files
- rename files
- change file permission settings
- open and edit files
- delete files
These are all simple skills that anyone with a website should know how to do. Every host should have a tutorial or video or support that can assist you if you don’t know how to do these basic operations.
It should be stressed again that this short list of skills is not programming. These are minimum basics that anyone who wants to operate their own website should know how to do. Filezilla is no more complicated than whatever email program you’re using. Understanding HTML is the closest thing to ‘programming’, but knowing how to make text online appear bold or italic is a far cry from writing in Perl (an advanced computer language used to write programs). Nothing on this short list is rocket science, and the gist of it can be understood by most people in a very short span of time.
The standard list of requirements covered in last month’s post are the minimum standards for the online software; AOM must have those in order to function correctly. This month, we’ve looked at the minimum human requirements. These are the things that you need to be able to do in order to operate effectively online. It bears repeating once more that the most important point is this:
‘no programming’ does NOT mean ‘no computer skills’
As someone with no driving skills should not be allowed behind the wheel, someone with no computer skills should not be trying to operate a website. Hopefully the more people understand this crucial difference, the less frustration and disappointment there will be.