Tag Archives: wordpress

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!

Bits of Tech: Google Reader Shared Items

This is the second installment of an occasional series on the various bits of technology I use in this blog.

Welcome!  You’re here!  That means you read blogs (well, I’m assuming you read more than just this one).  If you read blogs, an RSS reader is a handy tool.  If you already know about RSS readers, you may want to skip the following two paragraphs.

RSS readers, like Google Reader, allow you to0 pull feeds from various blogs and read them in a central location.  You subscribe to the blogs you want to read, and the latest posts automatically show up in your RSS reader.  You can just read them there, or you can click through to the actual site and leave a comment.  In some cases, only part of the post will show up in your reader and you’ll have to click through if you want to read the whole post (I don’t like that, but whatever).

In order to do this, you have to do two things:  1. Sign up for an RSS reader service.  There are several good ones; Google Reader, Bloglines, Netvibes and My Yahoo are just a few.  2.  Subscribe to some feeds.  Usually, a blog will have a button somewhere on the page with an RSS symbol (rss).  Click the button, and then select your RSS reader if necessary.

I’m subscribed to 206 blogs in Google Reader (which is really too many).  Often, when I’m reading blogs I find something that interests me, or that contains useful information, or that I think others would be interested in.  I don’t always want to devote a whole post to sharing a link, though, so instead, I just click the Share button.

Now, if we were “friends” on Google Reader, you’d be able to see my shared items (just like friends can see my activity on Facebook). However, I don’t have any friends on Google Reader.  Shocking, I know.  After all, the whole point of the internet is to rack up as many friends as possible on as many sites as possible.

If you want to friend me on Google Reader, go ahead!  But here’s what I really do with my shared items:  I have them show up in a widget on the left side of this blog.  You can see what I’m reading, and what I think is worth sharing, right there.

If you’re on Google Reader, you can get a Shared Items widget by clicking on Shared Items in the left sidebar of your reader, and then clicking on Add a clip.  You can then adjust the title, color scheme, and number of items before copying and pasting the code into your blog or website (I pasted the code into a text widget in WordPress).

If you really, really like my shared items, you can even subscribe to a feed of them.  But be careful.  Subscribing to feeds can be addictive.

#wordcampdx Changes Lives

Today I attended the excellent conference/unconference WordCamp Portland, and was amazed.

Like at most conferences, the networking and learning opportunities were terrific.  I came away with several resources and ideas that I will use on my blog (look for a new theme soon), and I was very happy to meet many people in person for the first time.

But that’s not why I think #wordcampdx was a life-changing, and perhaps world-changing experience.

It begins with this, the WordPress philosophy, as shared with us by our fairy blogmother Lorelle Van Fossen:

You give your best work
You give it away
The universe will reward

And, she says, this is actually changing the economy.  Boy, if there’s anything we need right now, it’s a change in the economy!  Could the WordPress model be one of the keys to that?

There’s also the way this conference was run.  Aaron Hockley and his team did an outstanding job not only organizing this, but organizing this so that it was affordable for anyone to attend.  This conference cost $10 to attend!  And for that $10, we got the conference sessions, a t-shirt, and three meals.  You can’t beat that anywhere.

How did they do that?  With sponsors.  Those who have some money made WordCamp Portland affordable for everyone.  How cool is that?

The model is already being used for another upcoming conference — CyborgCamp.  CyborgCamp will also be offered for a low price (not officially set yet, but probably $10-20) with sponsors picking up much of the tab.

Is this the future of our economy?   Is it?  Because it makes me all giddy to think about it.  Not like that bailout thing.

WordCamp Portland — I’m Going!

I’m really excited, because I’m going to a conference, and it’s only costing me TEN DOLLARS!  That’s right — WordCamp Portland, a conference for bloggers and developers using the WordPress platform, sometimes known as WordCamPDX, costs only $10.  For that, you get one day of speakers and breakout sessions, a t-shirt, and a a WordCamp Portland WordPress theme.  It’s being held at CubeSpace, where free wi-fi will be available for conference attendees.

WordCamp Portland will be on September 27, 2008.  Go sign up! Even if you blog on a different platform, you may find this conference beneficial.  See you there!

Surfing for Girl Scouts

My Tag Surfer is working again. For some reason, it was giving me a blank screen for a few days, but now it’s back.

Tag Surfer? Well, I know some of you use the Blog Surfer to keep track of your favorite blogs. Tag Surfer is similar, but instead of adding your favorite blogfriends, you add your favorite tags to a list, and then the Tag Surfer will show you the latest posts with those tags. It’s pretty cool. You can access it from the Dashboard — on my Dashboard, it’s two tabs over from the Blog Surfer.

If you know me at all, you won’t be surprised that one of the tags in my Tag Surfer is “girl scouts.” It’s been a pretty quiet tag until recently, but today I see several posts about Girl Scouts. The interesting thing is that three of them are about the same thing: Muslim girls in Girl Scouts. Apparently the New York Times did an article about this.

I think it’s pretty cool that Girl Scouting embraces girls of all religions and backgrounds — and always has. Rather than rehash the whole thing for you, if you’re interested, here are the links:

http://dromeish.com/2007/11/29/a-chance-to-fit-in/

http://godvertising.wordpress.com/2007/11/28/muslims-advertise-too/

http://hopesays.wordpress.com/2007/11/28/muslim-girl-scouts/

New York Times article