31 posts categorized "WordPress"

FIR On Technology Episode 3 - Understanding Markdown

Firontechnology 300What is the Markdown language all about? How is it being used on sites like Ello, Github and in the Jetpack plugin for WordPress? Why should communicators and others involved in PR or marketing careabout Markdown? How can it help more rapidly create content for the web?

Those are all questions I sought to answer in episode 3 of FIR On Technology with Dan York that I published last Friday. The podcast is now available for listening directly on the FIR website or in iTunes or the podcast RSS feeds.

On the episode web page I also provided a list of links for people wanting to know more about Markdown, which I'm reprinting here: 

I've found using Markdown to be extremely helpful in rapid content creation. I've naturally been using it on Ello (where I also wrote about this FIR On Technology episode) and on Github, but I'm also starting to use it for some posts on a couple of my WordPress sites courtesy of the Jetpack plugin. As I note in the episode, Markdown is not something necessarily new... after all it first came out in 2004... but it has seemed to attract more interest in recent years.

One point I forgot to make in the episode is that Markdown is not the only "lightweight markup language" out there. There are definitely other similar languages, each with their own take on how to make markup simple. An example I've used on several sites in the past is Textile. However, my interest these days has been in Markdown, and there seems to be a good bit of momentum behind the language... and so hence this podcast.

Anyway... I hope you find it useful and helpful. If you do, or if you have other comments or ideas or suggestions about Markdown, please do leave a comment here - or over in the FIR Podcast Community on Google+.


P.S. I also recorded a The Dan York Report episode providing a preview of this FIR On Technology episode:

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WordPress Seeking Feedback About "Community Hub" - Fill Out The Poll Today

Wordpress orgWhat would you like in a "community hub" website that would help local WordPress groups? What would you like to see for helping publicize events? Connecting groups to each other?

If you are involved with a local WordPress group, or would like to start one, the team behind the "Make WordPress Community" effort would like your feedback on what should be part of a community hub web portal. They'd like you to fill out this quick survey:


The poll closes at 00:00 29th January 2015. (Not sure the timezone... so I'd err on filling it out sooner than later.)

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New WordPress 4.1 Provides Much Improved Distraction-Free Writing Experience

WordPress version 4.1 is out today and the greatest feature I like is a new and MUCH improved "distraction-free writing" experience.

Wordpress4 1 dfw

The beautiful part about this is that when you click in the window and start typing, all the sidebars and menus fade way so that you can just focus on writing...


... the moment you move your mouse outside the writing window all the sidebars and menus come back!

This is a huge improvement over the previous experience with WordPress 4.0 where once you clicked the button you were in a white screen with no way out unless you scrolled up and clicked the link in the menu bar that appeared:

Wordpress4 0 dfw

I found the WordPress 4.0 way so annoying that I never used it. Inevitably after I entered the mode I needed to change categories or tags or something like that - and so it was simply easier to NOT use the distraction-free mode.

The WordPress development team produced a video that shows how well this new writing mode works.

I like it because it lets me write but also makes it super easy for me to get back to the menus and sidebars.

All you need to do to enable the "distraction-free writing" mode is to click on the box on the right top of the editing window:


It acts as a toggle to turn the "DFW" mode on or off.

Very nicely done!

There were of course many other aspects of the WordPress 4.1 release. The release post and the field notes as well as the codex entry go into much more detail. The Twenty Fifteen theme is pretty cool... and some of the other features are also interesting. But for me... I just like this new writing environment!

What do you think? What do you like best about WordPress 4.1?

An audio commentary is available as TDYR 200:

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The WordPress Plugin I Want: Statistics About Content Creation - Number of Posts, Pages, etc.

Here's the one WordPress plugin I really want to have - something that tells me the number of blog posts, pages or other content types that have been created in my site over a certain period of time.

As every year draws to a close, I'd like to be able to generate a report that says something like:

In 2014, we created:
  • 210 blog posts
  • 43 pages
  • 25 events
  • 72 articles (or pick some other 'custom post type' that you create)

Now, for some sites, like the Deploy360 site at work, I'd like to be able to do this on a quarterly basis so that we can provide updates internally about how much content we've created. For this reason I'd love to be able to choose a date range for a report. I also want the plugin to be able to work with custom post types, as on a couple of sites I've used that feature to create new post types with certain formats so that they are easy to enter by authors.

That's the minimum of what I'd like - the number of posts, pages and other content types created within a given interval.

Beyond that, a few other features would be great:

  • the word count for each type of content and in total;
  • these kind of statistics based on categories and tags so that I could know how much writing is happening on different topics (kind of like the Story Board in the EditFlow plugin only with counts);
  • these kind of statistics for each author of content, so I could understand the output of the writers on a site.

All of which would be great... but the key is the early part about the counts of content type over a time interval.

Anyone using a WordPress plugin that does something like this?

If so, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! Either as a comment to this post or on social media... or via email.

I've spent time searching the WordPress Plugin Directory but so far I haven't found anything that fits what I need. A great number of the "statistics" plugins are related to visitor statistics, i.e. how many people visited your site - but I don't need that. I already have Google Analytics and the Jetpack plugin helping me there.

What I want are content statistics.

I want to be able to easily see how much content I and the others who write on a site are producing over a given interval.

I'd note that for some sites (such as my work) I'd be willing to pay for a plugin like this if it were from a commercial plugin developer.

Seen anything like this?

UPDATE: I should have noted that the closest plugin I've found so far is Word Stats, but the plugin hasn't been updated in almost 2 years and while it works fine on one of my sites, it has a problem creating reports on another of my sites and another site went unresponsive after I activated the plugin (and so I quickly ssh'd in and removed the word-stats plugin directory).

An audio commentary is available as TDYR 199:

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WordPress 4.0 Provides A MUCH Better Editing Experience!

Wp 40 focus on your contentWordPress 4.0 is out today and I am VERY pleased with one small but incredibly important tweak - when you are editing a long blog post or article in the browser window the formatting menu bar no longer scrolls off the screen! This may seem like a trivial point... but every day when I am in the Deploy360 site editing some of our longer documents, I spend a good bit of time scrolling the browser window back up to be able to use the formatting menu. This will be a huge time saver for me!

The other features in WordPress 4.0 are also cool. Being able to more easily work with the media library will be nice. Having the embeds automagically appear in the post without needing to preview will also help save time and let you know how the post will look. Improving the plugin directory is nice, too, although right now I'm pretty set with the plugins I need on my various sites.

It's the improved editing experience that I'm really looking forward to using more. I've already upgraded several of my sites and I like the experience so far. Tomorrow I'll upgrade Deploy360 which is where I expect to reap the biggest benefit.

What about you? Have you upgraded yet? Do you like it? (Keeping in mind that there is nothing special about WordPress "4.0" other than that it is the release between "3.9" and "4.1"... i.e. it's not a "big" release but rather just another "regular" WordPress release.)

Here's the WordPress 4.0 release video showing some of the new features:

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WordPress.Com Restores Ability To Add Media When Using New Post Window

Last week people in one of the various web forums I'm in started complaining about the new "WordPress" user interface for posting and how they couldn't easily add images or access their Media Library. I and others were completely confused because nothing had changed in our WordPress installations.

It turned out to be that the people were using the WordPress.COM hosted service while we with no problem were using self-hosted WordPress on our own servers. (What Automattic folks call "WordPress.ORG" software.)

I still have a WordPress.Com account and so I logged in and hit the "New Post" button and... sure enough... there was a brand new user interface. Well... first there was a "Beep Beep Boop" :-) :

Wp com beep 500px

And THEN the editing window appeared:

WordPress com new post 500

And yes, indeed, there was no way to add an image! You could create a "gallery", but there was no way to add a single image. Nor could you get to your Media Library to add an existing image! There was also nothing on the WordPress.com main blog or in the support forums - although there were many threads asking about this.

You could still add media to a post by going into your Dashboard and then doing "Posts -> Add New" to get to the traditional editing window, but this "new" window was the default if you just clicked the link at the top of the admin window.

I found this quite bizarre and even talked about this in my report into last week's FIR podcast episode.

I went as far as opening a new topic in the WordPress.com support forums where it was confirmed on July 5th that there was no way to add media.

But two days later on July 7th a post to that topic alerted me to the fact that the "Add Media" button was back... and indeed it is:

Wordpress com add media 500

So all seems well and people can get back to adding media from the window.

I still haven't seen any explanation other than that the team is "working on some updates and changes". I would hope that in the future if they are going to remove something big like this they'd give people a bit more of a clue... but... by the same token I commend the WordPress.com team on all they regular work they keep doing to that site. While I use self-hosted WordPress software, I do recognize that many of the changes and improvements to that software first get tested out on the WordPress.COM hosted service.

Anyway, if you were frustrated about this last week... it's back! All is good now. :-)

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Awesomeness! Jetpack 2.7 Lets WordPress Users Auto-Post Content To Google+

JetpackNow here is an awesome gift for the holidays! Any self-hosted WordPress users who use the JetPack plugin can now automatically publicize their posts out to a Google+ account... including to a Google+ page. This is all courtesy of the new Jetpack 2.7 release that happened yesterday.

For quite some time, users of Jetpack (and other similar WordPress plugins) have been able to auto-post out to Twitter and Facebook using the "Publicize" component of Jetpack, but posting to a Google+ page always required you to manually go to G+ to post the link. As a result, it was just yet-another-step that sometimes didn't happen. This was particularly true for scheduled posts that you might arrange to go out at particular times when staff were not available to post the link into Google+. (I've scheduled posts like this any number of times when I'm going to be spending a day traveling on planes.)

This changes with Jetpack 2.7 and puts Google+ on equal footing with other services. Now when you configure "Publicize" within Jetpack you see this screen (shown on my Monadnock Curling Club web site):

Publicize settings 2

You then are asked how you want to connect to Google+ for this WordPress site. You can either connect to your own G+ account or to any of the Google+ Pages for which you are a manager:

Google Accounts

You next must approve the permissions and indicate who you want to see your posts:

Gplus permissions 2

One final step is to approve whether you want all users of the blog to be able to publicize the post through this Google+ connection:

Sharing Settings Monadnock Curling Club WordPress 3

That's it!

Now all your future posts will be publicized through Google+! I'd note that you do have the option to control on a per-post basis what services your content is auto-posted to. When you are in a post you can see right in the "Publish" box an area for "Publicize" and by clicking on an "Edit" link you can have control over what services get the post automatically and what the message will be:

Add New Post Monadnock Curling Club WordPress

In a very nice feature I found that you can click "Add New" and go through the process again to connect additional Google+ pages or accounts. Here I've configured posts to this blog to go not only to the Monadnock Curling Club page but also to my personal Google+ account:

Sharing Settings Monadnock Curling Club WordPress 6

All in all a very cool addition to Jetpack! Well worth the upgrade to 2.7 (or the installation of Jetpack if you're not using it yet). Looking forward to now being able to more regularly get my content into Google+.

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Releasing a New WordPress Theme Through Github

Deploy360 frontpageAs part of my work with the Internet Society on the Deploy360 Programme, I've wound up spending a good chunk of time learning the inner workings of WordPress due to the fact that WordPress powers our Deploy360 site. Given that the main Internet Society site uses Drupal, we wanted our site to look as close as possible to the main site. The Internet Society also has 100 local chapters scattered around the world who also maintain their own websites - and some of them use WordPress as well. The result is that I've spent a good bit of time working on a custom WordPress theme that is available through Github for chapters to use:
It's been an interesting experience using Github for a WordPress theme. Given my love of the git version control system, Github was a fairly obvious choice for public collaboration, given that I'd been using Github for long before joining the Internet Society (ISOC) in 2011. Perhaps the single biggest advantage of using Github beyond the ease of collaboration has been the issue tracking. We can maintain a list of "issues", be they bugs, enhancements or otherwise, and collaboratively work through those issues. Github does a great job of tying in code commits to issues and lets you easily associate them with milestones. Today's experiment for me was to learn more about Github's "releases" feature and to make the theme available as a formal "release". I documented this in (of course!) an issue for the theme after Github removed the "Downloads" functionality very early this year. My main issue was that for ease of documentation and support I wanted people to install the theme into a folder called isoc-wp on their WordPress server. If they did so they would be able to use some of the examples in the documentation without any modification. The problem is that if you just download the code from Github using the standard download buttons, you get a ZIP file with a directory name with a version number on it, such as isoc-wp-v1.2.0 or isoc-wp-master. This does actually work perfectly fine when uploaded to a WordPress server... but the documentation examples don't work verbatim and need to be modified with the directory name. With the "Releases" functionality, what I can do is separately create a ZIP file that has isoc-wp as the directory name and then upload that ZIP file to Github as part of the release. I've documented my release packaging instructions in the Github wiki for the theme. All in all it's a rather nice way to maintain a WordPress theme and I'm pleased with how it is all working so far!
P.S. If any of you out there want to help work on this WordPress theme, perhaps as a way of learning more about themes - or about working with Github, you're welcome to join us on Github, even if you have no connection to the Internet Society or an ISOC chapter... best place to start may be to look at the list of open issues and see if there are any you can comment on or contribute to. (You'll need a Github account but those are free.)

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Video: Matt Mullenweg's State of the Word 2013

If you are fan of WordPress... if you use WordPress or maintain a WordPress site... and haven't yet watched Matt Mullenweg's "State of the Word 2013" talk from WordCamp San Francisco in July, I'd strongly encourage you to sit down for a bit and watch:

It's a great view into where the WordPress ecosystem is today - and where it is going in the future. Incredible stats, such as 46 million downloads in just the past 12 months! 336 new themes added in the past 12 months. 6,758 plugins added in the last year... and so much more.

A huge number is that 18.9% of web sites on the Internet now run WordPress!

Intriguing info about WordPress as an app platform... and where it is all going...

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WordPress 3.5 Nears Completion - First Release Candidate Now Available

WordpressLast week Andrew Nacin of the WordPress core team published an update titled "The short road To 3.5" that outlined exactly how close the team is to having a final release. The next day, in fact, the first "release candidate" of WordPress 3.5 was made available for download.

As noted in both posts, as well as the WordPress 3.5 schedule, the goal is to go through a couple more release candidates and then have the final release on December 5, 2012 - only 9 days away!

Whether or not the core team hits that goal will really depend upon how much testing they get (and they are looking for more people to test WP 3.5!) and what the status of the major issues are as the date draws closer.

For communicators/marketers, WordPress 3.5 continues the ongoing series of improvements to the WordPress "user experience" to make it even simpler and easier to use. I don't know that anything in 3.5 necessarily rises to the "MUST HAVE IT NOW!" category, but certainly the improvements look good. I am particularly interested in the rewritten media subsystem that will apparently allow for much simpler insertion and handling of images. One thing that has always bothered me about WordPress' media handling was the dialog boxes around setting a "Featured Image". From the tickets, this seems to be one of many improvements.

New WordPress Multisite Goodness

Another feature I'm looking forward to for new installations is the ability to set up WordPress Multisite in "subdirectory" mode versus "subdomain" mode. To date, Multisite has only worked when you used a subdomain as the base for all blogs. For instance, you might base the blog at:


and then your individual blogs would be:


This works fine (and is still in 3.5), but if you want to integrate your blogs into an existing web site, you weren't able to easily use Multisite. Now, with 3.5, you will be able to install WordPress Multisite into a subdomain, so that your base can be:


and then your individual blogs can be:


This then allows you to continue using your main domain for SEO or branding purposes, but still have all the power of WordPress Multisite with regard to letting different groups have their own blogs with separate users, access control, etc. ... and all the other goodness you get from Multisite.

Now, this option can only be chosen when installing WordPress Multisite, so it doesn't help existing installations... but any new servers can be spun up in this mode if that works better.

The Normal Caveats Apply...

If you want to know more of the details of what will be in WordPress 3.5, the Beta 1 announcement had all sorts of good info. There's also a ticket with a rough list of changes in 3.5. All of that info should eventually make its way to the Codex page on WordPress 3.5 as the release date nears. There are some really good changes for developers that ought to improve WordPress performance and help in so many other ways.

You should, of course, not just drop WordPress 3.5 onto your production site, even after it has been fully released. There are changes to the underlying systems and so you should really test it with your theme(s) and plugins to make sure that they all work before you make it live. You also of course want to backup your system and make sure that you have the ability to restore if you need to do so.

WordPress also has a "WordPress Beta Tester" plugin for the more adventurous who want to run a site testing out the newest releases. Again, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this for production servers given that things will break during the normal course of development. Rather than use that plugin you can also just download the 3.5 release candidate and try it out.

I'm looking forward to seeing what this new release brings and to trying it out on my own systems. Kudos to the development team for their hard work and aggressive schedules!

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