Special: The Tech Show Interview

April 17th, 2011

Last week I made a guest appearance to talk about blogging on The Tech Show on WIFI 1460 AM New Jersey. This is a snippet of the show with Glenn and his daughters Bailey, Sarah, and Chelsea. Thanks Glenn!


Jetpack for WordPress

March 9th, 2011

Today the fine people over at WordPress gave us a little gem, Jetpack.

If you have read our book Teach Yourself WordPress in 10 Minutes, you will notice that the book is almost split  up in two parts. There is the first set of Chapters that deal with WordPress.com exclusively and then there is the second part of the book that talks about installing  your own WordPress.org install. The reason was that the two have some differences and including some features. Jetpack is designed to bridge those two.

When installed Jetpack will make new features that are available on the WordPress.com side to your own installation. Several of those features were previously only available on WordPress.com and not for those with local installs, or at least they were not available yet. Today, that changes.

Some of the Jetpack features include Hover Cards, ShareDaddy, After the Deadline Grammatical checker, and more. Head over, have a look, and install. It’s free.


WordPress maintenance fail and Facebook photo fetcher plugin

October 18th, 2010

I was recently doing an upgrade to one of my sites. I tried the automated update and it said it downloaded the software, was doing the upgraded and then just got stuck there. It never said the upgrade was completed. When I tried to get back in I was greeted with the message

An automated WordPress update has failed to complete – please attempt the update again now.

If you ever encounter this message, first check to see that your site is still operating as it should. Try logging in to your admin page and see if you get a dashboard. If you do not, you’ll want to go to wordpress.org and download the latest version of WordPress from wordpess.org, extract it on your laptop or desktop then FTP the files to your web server. Detailed instructions on this can be found in the book Sams Teach Yourself WordPress in 10 Minutes.

If everything seems OK except for that annoying message, and you’ve noted on the dashboard that you’ve got the latest version of software installed, you’ll need to use an FTP client to log in to your system, look for, and remove a file called .maintenance in your root folder.

Next, I found a way to save some time posting photos to my personal site. My original plan was to post photos to Flickr.com until Facebook came along and I found I no longer needed (or wanted) to pay and additional fee for a pro account to store more than 200 images. As Facebook grew, I found I posted less and less to my family site because it was duplicate work. That was made much easier this past week when I discovered a plugin called Facebook Photo Fetcher. This plugin lets you connect to Facebook and access any photo album you’ve normally got access to and present it in your WordPress content. Using it is pretty simple. Install it like you would any other plugin from Plugins> Add New on the side menu. Enter Facebook Photo Fetcher and activate it. Once activated, go to Settings> FB Photo Fetcher and provide you your Facebook credentials. It links to Facebook and presents a list of your photo albums. Next to each album name is a number. This is the Facebook unique identifier. At the top of plugin page of an example how to use it. There’s a snippet of HTML that you enter on your post or page. Unlike a short code, the HTML doesn’t require as much work to retrieve all the content every time. You can read more about the inner workings on the author’s page if you like. For now, it’s sufficient to know that you take that snippet, replace the ID with your own, and plop it in to your page or post – making sure you switch to HTML mode. When you save your post, magic happens and the short bit you put in is expanded to more HTML to actually do the work.

Facebook Photo Fetcher is quite configurable in the number rows and columns you can display. You can tell it to display captions or not, and several other features. How you configure it is up to you. The benefit is that I no longer have to upload photos to Facebook and my blog. This saves time and disk space. Once they’re on Facebook, I get the gallery UID from the plugin page, create a new page, put the code on it, and modify my custom menu so it has its own drop down item. How you choose to display your Facebook gallery in your blog is up to you.

When someone visits your blog and clicks on a photo, the image is displayed in a very simple photo view that allows them to go forward or backwards when they hover over the left or ride side of the image. It’s pretty straight forward.

Finally, I wanted to note that the new version of the book has a slightly new title. It is titled “Sams Teach Yourself WordPress 3 in 10 Minutes.” Kreg and I finished up all the author edits on October 12th so now it’s off to layout and the printing press. The book is available for pre-order on Amazon.com or the link on the sidebar of the website at http://www.chuckchat.com/wpin10.

The new book also has a bit of a new look. The cover art now sports a photo from yours truly. It matches the podcast and website graphic of a blue keyboard. We proposed this on the first book, but didn’t make the cutoff. I proposed it again for the new book and Pearson agreed. I am pumped to have the book looking soooo good.

Episode 5 – Forms

September 23rd, 2010

I’m going to tell you how to create embedded forms in your site, manage that information, and even get notified of data changes – all for free. First the disclaimer – this feature only works with self-hosted solutions. Sorry WP.com users, but this calls for iframes and WP.com doesn’t support that today. It’s another one of those constraints you have to live with.

I couldn’t help myself – I was going through the LinkedIn group on WordPress and saw a discussion about plugins that are available for creating forms. I saw people suggesting one called Cforms, Gravity forms, and Contact Form 7. While I don’t have experience with those, I saw that at least some of those had a pretty steep price tag associated with them. I have no doubt that these are fine products and provide functionality beyond what I’m going to talk about, but let’s start with my free solution and if it doesn’t meet your needs, you can look at one of the other options.

To begin, you’ll first need a Google docs account. If you use Gmail, you’re already set. If not, go to google.com click Sign In in the upper right and create an account.

Once that’s done, either go to docs.google.com or use the options in the upper left of the main Google page, click More, and select Documents.

Now it’s time to create our form. Click the Create New button on the left and select Form. The screen displays a default form with two questions to get you started. Give your form a name and a description in the top two boxes then use the icons on the right of each question section to edit, duplicate, or delete the question. To add additional questions, use the Add Item button at the top. If you like, you can add a theme to liven up the look of your form. There are limited themes and some may not agree with the theme of your WordPress site.

You can use this to create surveys, polls, or any series of questions to gather data. From experience, if you are creating a survey, don’t go nuts with questions. Keep them around 10-15 at the most. I know other services like SurveyMonkey.com are free and limit you to 10 questions. With a Google form, I haven’t found a limit to the number of questions, but keep your reader in mind. Think how you would feel if someone asked you to take a survey and you saw 400 questions. I think not. C’mon admit it. You’re more likely to fill it out if is short.

Once you’ve got the form the way you like, click Save, then click More Actions and select Embed and copy the contents from the textbox.

Now the final and simple step. Login to your WordPress site and create a new page. Change the visual editor to HTML mode and paste the contents you copied from the Google Docs site. Preview your page and have a look. Pretty neat! You can see a sample of one of mine at chucktomasi.com under Speaker Request.

The cool thing about this is your results are collected in a Google Docs spreadsheet which you can quick review, manipulate, or even export to Excel for additional analysis, graphing and so on.

Want to get email notifications when someone has added data? Go to Google Docs and open them document by clicking on the name. On the right click on Share, and select Set Notification Rules. Choose the options you like and how you want to be notified. Me? I like to know when any changes are made and email me right away. That’s it. You won’t know who submitted the form because they never login to anything.

If you need to change your form, just go back to Google Docs, click on the document name, and under the Form menu, select Edit form. I don’t recommend changing the form if you’ve already started collecting data, but sometimes its necessary. You won’t lose any data, but it makes analyzing it a bit uglier. If you do make changes, be sure to grab that embed code again because it includes a height and width of your frame. If you add questions or take some away, it is going to render the new form in the old space and you could end up with a lot of extra space, or heaven forbid, scroll bars within your WordPress page. ICKY!

Another suggestion if you do need to tweak the page in WordPress, such as putting in new HTML code. If you edit the page and start in the Visual Editor page, you’ll see the form rendered. Switching to HTML mode will just display the message “Loading…”, not the HTML code itself. Likewise, going back to the Visual mode will display Loading too. The solution to this conundrum? Switch to HTML mode and exit the page. When you go back in, it will still be in HTML mode and display the HTML code properly. Now you can put in the new embed code and everything will be fine.

There you go! Use Google docs to create a form, send you email of data updates, and embed the form in your WordPress page or post simply by pasting in a snippet of HTML code. You can view and analyze the data at any time via Google docs, all for no charge. How’s that for cool?

Episode 4 – Customized Menus

September 14th, 2010

As I redid my personal website one of the coolest things I discovered about the Twenty Ten theme (and several others) was the support for customized menus. You no longer need to employ a knowledgeable programmer to create tiered drop down menus. You can take your site navigation from simple page ordering to complex hierarchical menus with links to pages, posts, and custom URLs all with a drag-and-drop interface. This is one of my favorite new features of WP 3.0 and I’m sure you’ll love it for giving your site a more professional look too.

Episode 3 – Migrating v2-v3 Sites

September 7th, 2010

In this episode, Kreg shares his experience with me about how we consolidated five WP sites in to a single v3 instance. What challenges were there? How did he overcome them? Why did we do this at all?

We also give a quick update on the book!

Episode 2 – Secret Keys and More Space

May 20th, 2010

First, a little FYI – upcoming episodes in this series will be done by either Kreg or me. We have been running in to some scheduling conflicts and rather than hold up the content until we can get together, we’re going to divide and conquer and work to bring you these podcasts in a more timely fashion.

Like the book, this episode has two parts. The first is for WordPress.org users regarding security. The second part is for WordPress.com users about some new hosting options. Regardless of your skill level or how you host your blog, you’ll want to be sure to listen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Episode 1 – Pre-Blog Planning

April 23rd, 2010

Before you through caution into the wind and start blogging there are some things that you should consider before you start. If you set expectations for yourself when you start, it will also set expectations for your readers.

Episode 0 – Kick Off

March 15th, 2010

This is our inaugural episode of Teach Yourself WordPress in 10 minutes..in 10 minutes podcast. Each episode is less than 10 minutes and we cover topics that didn’t make it into the book “Teach Yourself WordPress in 10 Minutes” and we will take a deeper look into topics that were presented.

In this Episode, Chuck and I (Kreg) introduce ourselves and talk about some of the topics we will be talking about in upcoming shows.

WordPress in 10 Minutes Podcast

March 5th, 2010

This is the site that hosts the compainion Podcast to “Sams Teach Yourself WordPress in 10 Min” hosted by Chuck Tomasi and Kreg Steppe.

The goal of this podcast is to help you along as you dive deeper into WordPress. Each podcast is 10 minutes or less and we will cover topics that were not included in the book, and perhaps go deeper still into topics that were.

We hope you enjoy and learn something new about WordPress as we go forward, and if you would like to learn more about a particular subject, let us know!