A Hub for The Circle

VCU is reading The Circle by Dave Eggers. All of the first year students will read the book in addition to a number of different faculty members and it’ll play various roles in various classes. So all that means lots of potential for interesting connections but very, very little consistency or hope for consistency.1 The usual things that help you structure a site an experience like this aren’t going to happen but I would really like to allow people to engage with the larger community around this book. That’s the whole point of everyone reading the same book! So I’m relying on the basic blog-based aggregation hub option. The plan is for it to be a lot like the #thoughtvectors site which Alan has explained at length. People can enroll via a Gravity Form that’ll get them tied to their teacher/class and/or we can cherry pick anything with the #VCUcircle2 tag from the Rampages community feed. That is pretty standard these days. 🙂 But a major uniting factor in these sites is usually common assignments or common frameworks. Lacking that, I looked for other options. The interesting option here is the ability to unite the conversations using the page numbers of the physical book which seems counterintuitive but has the potential to be pretty neat. I see it as an […]

The Tao of Posts

I’ve been having quite a few conversations around student portfolios eportfolios online representations of their learning over time. These conversations have mostly centered on using WordPress and, almost inevitably, the first instinct is to create a series of pages that are aligned to either courses or assignments. Those pages usually contain a number of different pieces of content. That structure makes the most sense to people who are used to building websites in the Dreamweaver/static paradigm. I don’t think this is the right path in most cases. It’s easy in the short term but starts to limit you (absent lots of work) in the long run. Strange that I don't really know what a web page is anymore. Individual tweet? Blog post? Flickr image? #vcuols — Tom Woodward (@twoodwar) May 14, 2014 At the heart of this is the issue that “page” is hard to define. In the broadest sense anything I can address with a URL is a webpage. That’s a big bucket. WordPress makes things more complex by including a way to create pieces of content called “pages.” Pages are usually contrasted to posts. I usually described1 the page/post difference was that posts were pieces of content that flowed with the timeline (more ephemeral but archived) and pages were pieces of content you wanted to be more permanent/static. […]

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Jetpack Tiled Gallery Example

I turned on the Tiled Galleries (directions on that link) in the WordPress Jetpack Plugin. This is an example of what it looks like. It’s easy to do and has some decent options. You do have to accept what you’re given but such is the price of convenience . . .

Some FeedWordPress Advanced Filters Details

Here are a few things that have come up recently that might be of value to others wandering the FeedWordPress/FeedWordPress Advanced Filters Syndication highway. Same Name, Different Pictures I ran into this with the Field Botany page. A variety of factors came into play here. We now have over 1300 posts with at least one image, usually more per post. This ups our chances for conflict. A lot of these images were taken on mobile device, in particular Apple devices, which have a very unimaginative naming structure (essentially Picture 1, Picture 2 etc.). This doubles down on our chances for conflicts. We are using Advanced Filter for FeedWordPress to pull those images into the mother blog. What would happen is that a post would come in on Blackberries. It would have a few images named Picture 11, Picture 14 etc. Later on a post would come in on Poison Ivy and it would have some pictures. One of them might be named Picture 14. As a result, the original Picture 14 would appear and it’d look like the wrong label/picture had been given. It’d all be correct when you traced it back to the source blog. You can see how this might happen in the example below. The cure (no known hiccups at this point) is to use the developer […]

Field Botany WordPress Site Breakdown

The Field Botany class is underway and the vegetation is rolling in despite floods and hail. There are 20 student participating on 20 different blogs. Right now we have almost 700 posts in the mother blog. Amazing to see all this great work and to be able to keep it instead of having it stuck in paper notebooks which only a few people ever saw and no one in the public could use. This early days for the site but in the end the intrepid biology duo of Jill Reid and Dianne Jennings will worked with their students to create a site that local residents can use to identify plants in our James River Park System. The nice thing about this setup is it can be used as is or modified to support a variety of other scenarios pretty readily. It has already inspired a sister project that will be documenting mortality and local cemeteries with Susan Bodnar-Deren (who just finished the first round of theOnline Course Development Initiative). Plugins Used On The Mother Blog/Set Up NS Cloner – Site Copier – This was handy for setup. In this case we wanted student sites to have the categories, pages, themes, and plugins already activated. This plugin let me do that easily from a blank template site. The free version doesn’t […]

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WordPress Short Code Plugin

It wasn’t too long ago I wrote my first WordPress plugin. Essentially, I Googled “wordpress plugin tutorial” and wandered from there. Another helpful piece for me is downloading plugins that do something close to what I want and trying to figure out what they did. Inspired in part by Boone Gorges and his description of how he handled iframe embed issues in multisite, and David asking for some way for students to embed Debate Graph I figured I could write a plugin to allow a shortcode embed for that site. The dead simple example is below.1 It allows you to put [debategraph url=”http://debategraph.com/whatevertheurl”] and it returns the needed embed code. I’ll probably set it up with height/width as a user option but I wanted it as pure as possible initially. I’ll also need to tie them in with the main WP editor sooner or later. In writing this and trying to piece together how I figured this out, I also found this shortcode generator which might be very helpful in the future. This was hiding2 at the bottom of the WP Codex page on shortcodes. This is pretty much a barebones template so when we had a little stutter this morning around embedding Google Forms. I was able to alter it in a few minutes and have something functional. I’ll […]

oEmbed Additions in WordPress

One of the minor hassles of running WordPress Multisite is dealing with the rules about HTML cleansing- mainly the removal of iframe elements. You could install unfiltered MU but the plugin itself warns you that’s end-of-the-world dangerous and the plugin hasn’t been updated in two years. The combination might make one a bit nervous. In this particular case, I have a group who wants to use videos from dotsub.com. Turns out it’s a good site for captioning and other things that make the video more accessible. This group is working on universal design so dotsub makes doubly good sense. WordPress supports a number of sites using oEmbed. That’s the magic that allows you to paste in a YouTube URL and the embed codes are taken care of without you having to do anything. WordPress essentially run off a white list of sites that it accepts off the bat. It turns out that oEmbed lists a bunch of sites that support the API and dotsub.com ended up being one of them.1 That means I just have to add dotsub.com to the WordPress install’s whitelist. The ever handy WordPress codex lets me know that I do that using wp_oembed_add_provider and further down on that page you’ll see that lives wp-includes/media.php. I could have done it this way but I don’t like editing […]

Biology Field Journal Continues

I think this is kind of a neat WordPress theme trick. You can download/fork it here if you want or go over here and try it out. I took the mixitup child theme from a little while back and modified it a bit. This new page template uses posts rather than attachments and adds the page text above the images. It is also smarter about removing some of the sorting categories it displays for the posts. Directions create a page name that page the same name as one of your category posts apply the template (Featured image sort by page name/category) now all the posts from that category show up under the body of that post in sortable format The Changes I’m trying out the Syntax Highlighter plugin given how much more often I’m posting code lately. I also really commented up the page. I am still struggling to find a decent way to do this kind of exposition about code and the process it took to figure out the code.

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Diigo + FeedWordPress & WordPress Snap Workflow

These last few posts are an attempt to document both how things I post on this blog come back up and help me do new things and an attempt to document how I come to solutions for things that I don’t understand how to do. Then there’s an attempt to explain what I did in case anyone else wants to do the same. I hope that it’s a narrative on my learning process as much as it is a tutorial on the particular topic. The Past So I’m fairly focused on making things easier for myself for the simple fact that if they don’t make sense/work with my current life then I tend not to keep them up. A good examples is that way back in 20111 I modified the WordPress “Press This” bookmarklet in combination with the WordPress Snap plugin to allow me to auto generate screenshots of pages. I used it a few times after that but it didn’t fit my workflow. It solved one problem- I wanted visuals of these websites to make the posts more engaging but I didn’t want to take screenshots, upload them etc.2 So one problem solved but the fact remained that I didn’t use “Press This” to bookmark pages. I used Diigo for that kind of thing so despite solving one workflow […]

A WordPress Child Theme with MixItUp

Earlier, I attempted to integrate a slick javascript sorting library called MixItUp into a WordPress theme. It didn’t go all that well despite a series of tutorials from different people. After a decent amount of effort- You can see a working example at this link. Click on “Moo” and it’ll sort. Click on “All” and it’ll revert to state. Some categories have no images attached so you’ll get nothing.1 The following is mainly based around this karine.do tutorial that I couldn’t quite get to work properly. Alan Levine saved me2 after I backed myself in a corner where the “tiles” would sort . . . and then immediately unsort. I’d get into the the details of the issues but essentially, be careful what you name you CSS elements (#gallery, for instance, will likely have conflicts) and call jquery by its name not by $. Anyway, I hope having all this together will help someone down the line. Step one was seeing what WordPress suggested regarding child themes. I’ve never done it before but it seems pretty straight forward. Essentially, name your folder whatevertheme-child, in this case twentytwelve-child. All you need to make a child is one style.css file. In this case, we’re going to need a bit more. Overview Notes style.css – This will have the extra CSS to format […]