Workshop: Website hack session, 4/20/11

It’s the middle of spring break, so only one student showed up at my office hours/workshop this evening. We started around 4:40 pm and ended an hour later. Specifically, we:

  • Reviewed how to change directories in the terminal and update her theme from the main Git repository.
  • Increased the number of images appearing on the homepage of her website. This also involved the Git workflow of committing her changes and pushing them to the origin repository.
  • Hid a couple of elements using CSS. She has a good grasp of how to do basic CSS.
  • Enabled the “ShareThis” plugin on single posts with the Twitter and Facebook buttons.

The project site is functionally complete. She wants to update the photo content before promoting it.

Her next big project is to convert the portfolio website mockups she’s done into a WordPress theme. I told her to read through the WordPress.org documentation as much as she can, and try to outline all of the files she might need. Content first, then markup, then polishing it with CSS. I think I’ll put together a workshop next week on building or modifying WordPress themes and promote it heavily.

Workshop: Website hack session, 3/30/11

Only three people showed up, so it ended up being more like office hours than anything else. It was a productive use of my time, although I need to solve the problem of one teacher to N studens with individual needs. I wish students were more receptive to the idea of teaching one another and wonder whether a digital tool would more effectively route those connections. There was definitely a usable gradient of skill sets.

One of the Entrepreneurial Journalism students is moving her project site from Tumblr to WordPress to take advantage of custom taxonomies. I showed her the PHP to register one. She followed my lead by copy and pasting to register the other two. No errors at all, though that would’ve been a good teachable moment. We also talked about template tags. She correctly surmised she needs to replace the existing category and tag snippets on her single.php file with the new custom taxonomy snippets. Lastly, we walked through adding a tag cloud to the sidebar and changing it to use one of the custom taxonomies.

Question: How many times does a person need to review a topic in order to fully grok it?

Another student is in child theme territory for her photo side project. We’re modifying the Fullscreen theme from Graph Paper Press to handle (hopefully) thousands of images on the homepage. Tonight we covered child theme structure, WP_DEBUG, and the HTML, CSS and modifying PHP function arguments of displaying the homepage. We’re just getting started and she wants to have it live by the beginning of New York spring break. Effective project management should be a required course for everyone at the school.

The last student had a few minor questions. These included how to remove an extra menu item that had shown up, modifying the padding and margin of div’s using CSS, and modifying the width of subnav items using CSS. Two more required courses: troubleshooting and accurately stating the nature of your problem.

Again, overall, it was a pretty productive time. I think I’ll continue hosting these on a weekly basis as long as students continue to show up.

Workshop: Working with HTML/CSS, 3/23/11

Last night between 5:30 and 7, we did another HTML/CSS workshop at the J-School. Twelve people showed up, which was much better than the six or so we expected. The participants were mostly from Interactive 2 although there were a few from other programs who had never touched CSS. Overall, I think the workshop went quite well even though I don’t feel we hit our stated goals and deviated a lot from the written agenda. I’ll review the process and the session notes are at the bottom. Continue reading

I’ll be speaking about WordPress at CMA NYC in March

Following Lauren’s lead, I’ll be speaking at the Spring College Media Convention on Sunday morning, March 13th (the conference runs March 12th through 15th) at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. The organizers have asked me to lead two sessions:

  • WordPress hack attack (Sunday, 9-9:50 a.m., New Media Central 1) – The basic WordPress website is pretty stripped down, but plug-ins and themes can perk up its appearance, simplify your workflow, and streamline your mobile delivery. The former director of CoPress will show you some of the best add-ons, teach you some nifty design tricks, and tell you how to keep your site running at peak efficiency.
  • Making WordPress work for you (Sunday, 10-10:50 a.m., New Media Central 1) – Considered making the switch to WordPress? The former director of CoPress offers tips on how to make an open-source content management system work for your organization. Learn the pleasures and pitfalls of migrating from another CMS and why WordPress is a good solution for college newspapers.

My goal is to make each primers on core concepts, include usable takeaways, and offer lots of links for later digestion. In the first, I intend to cover topics like backups, version control, development sandboxes, and performance, a few different tools, and several of my favorite plugins. See my notes in progress on a Google Doc. In the second, I’d like to give a complete overview of migrating to WordPress, including how to migrate your archives, what to look for in a web host, and where you can train your staff, and then have a healthy Q&A session at the end. These notes are also in progress in a Google Doc.

If you have any concepts, tricks, or wisdom you think I need to cover, please let me know. I’d be happy to credit you in the presentation. I also intend to publish my full notes for reference prior to the sessions.