WordPress for Syllabus Submission

This post is specifically about addressing a syllabus submission problem but it’s worth thinking about more broadly. It should be pretty applicable to any structured data entry problem you have. These are often administrative chores (like this one) but could also be about cataloging grave markers or indexing resources or Collecting the syllabi for their department is one of those miserable things department chairs often have to do. They then need to store and reference those syllabi for a few years.1 The normal pattern is to ask people to email the syllabus and there is usually some desperate plea for a common naming convention.2 This plea is followed by ~2 people. People are bad at directions (giving and following). Email makes this basic flaw 20 times worse.3 This particular pattern for misery incarnate is repeated over and over at VCU and across universities everywhere. I recently met with a faculty member who’d at least been asked to submit the syllabus to a shared Google Drive folder but he was having issues because of directions and Google’s interface for this kind of thing being not what it might be. The department chair was also stuck with the naming convention falling apart already and they only had about 8 syllabi in there. Please don’t do that. It’s best to avoid directions as […]

Put The Events Calendar Month View on Your Homepage

Because I’ve been messing with The Events Calendar for the RVArts project, along came another conversation where that plugin seemed like a good answer. It answered all their needs except for one – the wanted to have the month view of events be the homepage for the site. I knew that didn’t happen natively but I figured I could do it. The first step is to create a custom page template. There are a number of tutorials on how to do that. I usually just duplicate the page template for the theme I’m using as a parent and go from there. The one I’m using is below. The Events Calendar has this nice function (tribe_show_month) which’ll pull the month’s data by default. That’ll get you something that looks like below (depending on your theme). It’s the right content but it’s not applying the same CSS/JS that’s on the regular month view. You could go in and rewrite CSS and JS etc. but that would suck for this particular project. It turns out you have to enqueue the right stuff and this post was so very helpful in telling what to enqueue. I updated it to the newer functions and presto everything worked just like the normal month events view. It goes into my child theme’s functions.php. This particular version only […]

WordPress Reverse List a Particular Category

I often get requests from instructors that ask me to get WordPress to behave in a way that’s just different enough that WordPress fights them. Now that I can mostly program, I could make quick child themes to deal with this but that causes me the hassle of keeping all that stuff straight so I still do some quick and dirty stuff with plugins. This example is based on an instructor who wanted one particular category (lesson plans) to list from oldest to newest rather than the default WP blog layout of newest to oldest. That’s a pretty easy thing to do if you use the List Category Post plugin. Once you’ve got the plugin on and you’ve found the category id (mouse over the category when you’re in Dashboard>Categories and look for id= in the URL at the bottom of the page) all you need to do is put in [catlist id=9 numberposts=-1 order=asc] In this case, it says get the posts in the category with id 9, -1 means get all of them, and order them from lowest to highest/ or oldest/newest. That’s it. I’ve now got a page that shows all 41 lesson plans from oldest to newest and no child theme to keep track of.

RVArts – Dealing with Dates in WordPress

We have an awesome general education course starting this semester called Cultural Passport (aka RVArts). The goal is to get students involved with the community’s cultural events – participating, promoting, reviewing them. The web side of this ends up being pretty interesting. See their video below for more details on the course. When we started this conversation last year, I thought I was going to go the Gravity Form submission route1 and use a js library to make it possible to add the events to various calendars. Like most projects, particulars shifted and we started changing things pretty radically right before winter break. We ended up shooting for full WordPress editor access for students to create events and the desire to write three different types of responses (interviews, reviews, and features) that would be associated with a specific event. Also, like most projects, this was all a bit beyond what I’d ever done before. I started off thinking I’d create a custom post type for events. I was trying to make up my mind between using Advanced Custom Fields and CMB to help do that when I realized I hadn’t really thought about repeat events. The complexities involved there really made me rethink my decision to do this from scratch. After that I started trying various plugins and eventually decided […]


Color Thief WordPress Plugin

Color Thief is a slick javascript that grabs a color palette from images. I found it after talking to an art professor who was looking to help future art teachers reflect on their work in different ways. Color palettes seemed an interesting way to get at that. I was talking to Larry about this earlier and he wanted to look at color usage for ads in different magazines. I didn’t have any handy but thought I’d throw a few other websites in the mix and see what they look like. It opens up some interesting ways to look at all sorts of visual elements. I don’t know if it necessarily means anything but it provides you the opportunity to argue one way or another. It’d be a fun way to look at ads for toys and the whole gender thing. To make it accessible to people, I made a WordPress plugin. The NRA I was interested in the caucasian flesh tone. I hadn’t noticed that all but one1 of the people were white prior to seeing that. Garden & Gun (Larry’s suggestion) CNN How’s it work? It took a bit to get somewhere decent-ish mainly because I spent some time solving a problem that didn’t exist.2 If you’ll look at the comments below, it’s chunked out and described. If you […]

#openupTRU – Simpler WordPress Writing POC

I’ve had a number of requests to simplify WordPress, to make it more Tumblr like. I get that. It was mentioned again while I was at Thompson Rivers University and that inspired me to get it done. WordPress has a lot more complexity than Tumblr and that allows you to do a lot more. Doing complex things often requires tools with some complexity. The thing that interests me is when and how you make that complexity visible.1 So could we do something more Tumblr like in WordPress? There are certainly ways to completely re-write the dashboard and to set up user roles that only have limited kinds of access. That seems a bit heavy-handed to me and I don’t want to wall this stuff off. I simply want to make things very accessible to inexperienced users. The full re-write is also somewhat beyond what I have the time to do. I could take the time but in “innovation” land time is energy lost and I must ride the mixed-metaphor wave of getting stuff done fast. So in the time honored spirit of throwing stuff together with duct tape, I offer this for consideration. WordPress does have a simplified authoring view. Really. You can activate it using the ‘Press This’ bookmarklet and despite a slick revamp in WP 4.2 virtually no […]

Blurry Reflections – WP JSON API, Angular, & Images

I had a conversation with a professor from the School of Art yesterday that ended up someplace fun for me. The focus was on how technology might help art educators reflect on their work in a visual way. It took me a while to get that she really wanted something outside the norm but we got there eventually. One of the ideas that came up was taking the featured image from the last 30 posts and applying a blur to it (I had this DS106 assignment in mind). With bit of CSS and a new plugin (Better Rest API Featured Images Plugin1) I was able to repurpose the Angular template I used for counting links in about 5 minutes. I also made another version that tries to overlay all the images in one spot. Both need some tender loving CSS care and some additional focus to make sure they’re really capturing the right data but they’re examples that start to open the door to really different ways we can start to look at work in the digital realm. These abstractions can lead to reflection that wouldn’t necessarily be apparent from viewing the images in non-abstract form. You can see I tend towards black and white images. A number of my posts don’t seem to have featured images. (I’ll have to […]

WordPress Reflection Plugin – Step 1 – Counting Links

The idea that technology ought to help students reflect on their use of technology seems to make sense. As we have more and more students engaging in online writing little things come to light. Take the humble/magical hyperlink for example. We often look at the use of hyperlinks as a marker for progress in digital fluency. Are students using the thing that makes the web so webby? Can we help make that a point of reflection for them?1 I had a conversation with Laura a while back about pulling out URLs and looking at the their use over time by students.2 Clearly, these aren’t pure quantitative things. You’ll never say “Six links? Failure!” or even “Seventy four links? That’s an A+.” Not that I would ever think that about you but this is on the Internet and I don’t want anyone tying hyperlink numbers to Bloom’s levels and then linking to me. But it would be interesting to look back over your writing and see when you use lots of links and when you don’t. So, at the moment, that’s what this plugin does. It’ll do some more tricks in the future but these are early days. The plugin as it sits now (below) will do three things. It’ll run a regex on the post and store all the URLs […]

Auto Screenshots & New Project Site

Before Mark left us for the green dusty start-up fields of Austin TX we had a conversation about creating a better, faster way to do our examples page. The idea of having a resource like this is always popular but people don’t add content.1 My current belief is that it’s because it’s a hassle and despite good intentions people just don’t do it. After seeing what Mark did to associate users with their blogs in the mother blog plugin, I figured he could also automatically pull the theme, plugins, and admin email of any blog on our system based on the URL . . . and indeed he could. This theme requires Advanced Custom Fields and the Benson plugin to tie in the Angular stuff. The one thing he wasn’t able to do was to auto-generate the screenshot from the URL. I’ve looked into that in the past and done it in a variety of ways but none of them were quite satisfactory. I didn’t really want to end up reliant on a 3rd party system and then Mark sent me http2pic yesterday. So now I just needed to install it and get it working. That led to a bit of an adventure for me. There are directions on the github page but they’re written for someone who is a […]


Current rampages.us stats . . . 11,772 sites remain of 11,900 created 12,029 users 229 plugins (not all visible to all users) 229 Themes1 (not all visible to all users) 153 GBs of data You throw a few other elements in there . . . 4 other WordPress installs, a separate server with its own WordPress environment, a Discourse install on Linode . . . you end up with a lot of infrastructure to manage. Things to upgrade, users to support, issues to track down and fix . . . not to mention learning the particularities of different server environments and software packages . . . most of it done on the fly. It’s a lot of pieces and a lot of people. I start to feel like things are complex. I start to understand why people lock stuff down, give users a plugin or two . . . streamline administration. It is sensible. It is hard to keep up and keep track. But I keep thinking about the two billion lines of code that Google deals with and how they do it. Google engineers modify 15 million lines of code across 250,000 files each week. Sure, some code is more locked down than other code but it seems pretty open.2 Clearly I’m not Google and, as is frequently the […]