Technology: Learning By Doing

I learn a lot by reading. I’d say it’s my preferred method for learning most things. I don’t like watching information-packed videos; I can read faster and absorb it better. I fall asleep during lectures. My attention wanders when listening to something being read aloud.

But most of what I’ve learned about using technology, I’ve actually learned by doing. Something doesn’t look right on my computer? I open up the settings and start playing around with them.  And I mess up all the time, but that’s part of the learning experience. I learn what doesn’t work along with what does.

Right now, I’m learning about the Postalicious plugin. What’s a plugin? It’s a piece of code that helps WordPress do something specific that you want it to do. It’s one of the great things about WordPress — if there’s something you wish WordPress could do, you can write and/or install a plugin to make it do that.

I don’t write plugins. I just use them. Postalicious is a plugin that takes your bookmarks from other sites (like Delicious) and automatically pulls them into blog posts. I installed it the other day, and made sure I added some bookmarks to be posted, but then nothing happened! I quickly realized I had the Feed URL wrong, and fixed that. And then later I realized that I had never updated my blog to Daylight Savings Time, which meant Postalicious was using the wrong time, too, so I fixed that.

And then the automatic post finally happened! But it was kind of ugly. The title included both the date and from/to times, which I really don’t need. And the format, once I got to see it, clearly leaves space for a description of each link, which I hadn’t bothered to enter, so the entries looked weird.

But never fear, I’ve tweaked that now, too! I edited the Post Title settings to say what I want to say, and tweaked the Post Template while I was at it. And I’ve started adding descriptions when I add links to Delicious, so those should show up in the next post as well.

Many people recommend trying out things like this in a test environment, rather than on a live site. I don’t mind learning in public, though. I think it’s good to share these experiences — and hopefully you can learn from them, too!