April 30, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Protect your content copyright with WordPress

Updated April 2019.

Protecting one's images and text online is an important topic, and one I tackled at my Chicago Creative Expo WordPress talk in March.

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April 18, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Checklist for choosing a WordPress theme

Updated April 2019.

We're already lucky to have 30% of the world's websites powered by WordPress. And WordPress themes are big business, with many developers and companies launching new themes every day. But what do you look for? Here's a checklist for choosing a WordPress theme.

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January 20, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Why WordPress?

WordPress stickers & badges

WordPress stickers & badges (Photo credit: thatcanadiangirl)

Updated July 2020.

It seems ubiquitous that so many websites are on WordPress — 35% of the web, by last count. WordPress powers the UPS site, CNN, the NFL site, the Dow Jones site, and many, many more.

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August 1, 2014Comments are off for this post.

WordPress.TV: Creating A Site Structure for the Future

If you've not had a chance to learn about site structure or information architecture for your website, you've got no excuse now! My 2014 Chicago WordCamp talk on it, A House with No Walls: Creating A Site Structure for the Future is now live on Wordcamp.TV.

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May 6, 2013Comments are off for this post.

Wordcamp Milwaukee

I've been to a few cities' WordCamps now, and every city has its own flavor — but every one has great info and a community of WordPress pros who are passionate about the platform. And, they're always willing to share tips, tricks and even the basics to newbies and professionals alike.

Milwaukee, though only in its second year, is definitely at the top of my list for a few reasons: Friendly folks, a relaxed vibe, and a great location, Bucketworks.

I'll be talking about freelance work and how I've found it, lost it, and found a good business rhythm for myself. And I hope you'll be there too!

The schedule is still being finalized, but it's going to be a great lineup! Sign up today using the code "Ghisolf" for a discount.

And be sure to follow the hashtag #WCMKE and the Twitter feed @WordCampMKE for updates.

February 5, 2013Comments are off for this post.

BuddyPress for building your social network

A few months back I talked about a client's success in moving a Ning community to WordPress and, inevitably, BuddyPress.

But what's the big deal about BuddyPress? It is a plugin, but it creates so many new features for your website, it's actually quite a bit more. I like to think of BuddyPress almost as a social networking application, in a plugin. Its features almost make it a Facebook clone. But it's not Facebook.

Buddypress features

A quick rundown of its features:

  • User groups
  • Friending, profiles
  • Discussion profiles
  • Private messaging
  • Blog tracking [for multisite networks]
  • Status updates
  • Activity streams [which are an aggregate of the above]
  • The wire [feedback wall, separate from the activity streams]

The "famous" add-on to BP is bbPress, which is essentially forum enhancement.

Keep in mind, BuddyPress is not multisite. Multisite WP [and certainly a topic for a future blog!] is for multiple blog sites in a single WordPress installation, and BuddyPress can be multisite or just one blog.

Forums v. groups

The confusion I found when starting a BP site is the difference between forums and groups. Groups can have forums and blogs, but forums can stand alone. And, groups can be made private — i.e, for membership or board members who need a private area.

Customizing BuddyPress also poses some new issues:

  • For developers: When editing your themes, don’t edit bp-sn-parent, the parent theme. Copy it to bp-default, and create a child theme.
  • Right now, you can't use any WP theme out of the box. There are some rather limited options, which are notably different because they include the "special" BP pieces: login, registration, forums, groups, etc.
  • Only some regular WP plugins will work with BP, but usually, multisite ones will work. It takes some testing to see which are compatible [but isn't that always the way?]

There are specific BuddyPress plugins, adding functionality for users and admins alike:

  • bbpress: forum enhancement
  • BP my home: allow users to move their own widgets & set up their “dashboard”
  • Pending activations: not on multisite
  • Ad manager
  • Activity refresh: you set timing
  • Registration options: attach to particular groups or blogs [multisite]
  • Ultimate Facebook
  • Private community
  • Welcome pack
  • Groupblog: associate blog w/group
  • Bookmarklet
  • Group Documents: doc storage
  • S2member: membership by restricting URLs by user

BuddyPress spam beware

BP is a huge target for spammers, but there are some ways to combat, or at least cut it down:

  • Bad Behavior, Wangguard plugins (July 2017 note: WangGuard is now no longer supported by its author, and I've found WPMU's Anti-Splog is quite effective but pricey.)
  • Remove Buddypress & WP credit lines
  • Rename your registration slug to block “insite:register” searches

What's next for BuddyPress?

Coming down the line for BP 1.7  is compatibility with all WordPress theme. This is simply huge! We've been waiting on this for a while, so not sure when it'll hit.

BuddyPress Resources

Some of my go-to resources on BP:

 

January 11, 2013Comments are off for this post.

WordPress in a Nutshell at Creative Chicago Expo

Hey! It's been a while, but as I work and rebrand Gizmo, I've been busy! Look for a lot of new, great stuff coming down the pike.

Also, I just learned I'll be speaking at the Creative Chicago Expo on March 2 @ 1:30pm, in the Claudia Cassidy Theater of the Chicago Cultural Center.

My topic is a light version of my WordPress in a Nutshell: Your Website, Security & More workshop:

WordPress is a very easy content management system [CMS] to use — once you've learned the basics and what is possible. I will take you through:  WP basics, the dashboard, how it all works;  How to run a clean WP site;  How to install plugins [and some favorites and not-so-favorites];  Security;  Where you can take your site from here!  I have been building WordPress custom & template sites since 2008 and can take you through everything from what to do if you're hacked, on to content management techniques. Bring your questions!

It's free and I'm sure there will be plenty more great seminars, so I hope to see you there!

August 28, 2012Comments are off for this post.

When Tweet Old Posts won’t tweet… or goes haywire

I adore Tweet Old Posts for WordPress and share it with all of my clients who publish blog content. Lately, however, I’ve found that some accounts aren’t tweeting out posts, or it’s tweeting out a dozen at once. Not exactly what I want, eh?

Found a couple fixes via the support forums:

  • First, I try their suggestions:
    • If current URL is not showing your current page URL, copy paste the current page URL in Current URL field and press update settings button to update the settings. Then retry to authorize.
      If current URL is showing your current page URL, press update settings button to update the settings. Then retry to authorize.
  • If not, see if your Twitter profile is authorized within the plugin itself. If not, try it and Update Settings. If this doesn’t work, deactivate Google Analytics for WordPress as it seems to be blocking it. Then, reauthorize your Twitter profile in Tweet Old Posts.

Sometimes it’s hard to even notice if your account isn’t posting correctly till you go through your feed, but this is a great plugin and worth the recon.

Update: I’ve also found that downgrading to 3.3.3 works, until the dev works it out. First deactivate and delete the plugin, then grab the 3.3.3. version and upload it.

July 11, 2012Comments are off for this post.

Case study: Migrating from Ning to WordPress & BuddyPress

Definitely watch this space: One of my favorite clients, Chicago acupuncturist Mitch Harris, already runs a WordPress site and knows its ins and outs. But, he also had a Ning site with 300+ members for a growing Eastern nutrition and recipe site, Food From East, fed by his Pacific College students. As Ning kept increasing their hosting rates for an undoubtedly useful set of tools, it also became unwieldy and didn’t really fit Mitch’s needs. Too, he wanted to make it more of a resource on Eastern nutrition, for both practitioners and the public alike.

The Ning migration

Enter WordPress, BuddyPress and the awesome WPMU Ning to BuddyPress Importer plugin. BuddyPress, for the uninitiated, is all about making your WordPress site social. It can make it a sort of Facebook “lite,” and is ideal for education, your private or public niche membership site, or really, anything you might have thrown on Ning before.

Image representing BuddyPress as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Now, this won’t solve all your problems: The taxonomies between Ning and WordPress are different, and everyone posts things in different areas depending on how they originally set up Ning. Though the migration was pretty painless, we are still cleaning up comments and posts that ended up in the wrong places, and are tagging and categorizing everything [which is no small task on some sites]. But, it also gave me a chance to create a better user experience: With just a “quick edit” of categories & tags, and with better labels for the user—there now are sections for disorders, symptoms, ingredients, and practictioner-speak. It’s a much better experience. With plugins like Mass Categorization, we can even create these en masse.

BuddyPress aftermath

This migration really gives you a chance to review where data is, where it will be imported, and how you want it displayed. Comments, for example, cannot have categories or tags, but if they’re correctly placed under a relevant post with the right tags and categories, they’re still findable.

I’ve written quick WordPress guides for members moving over to this new site, focusing on images, as Zemanta and PhotoDropper are instrumental and not obvious to new users. As easy as WordPress is, plugins are not always intuitive.

Now we haven’t set up forums or groups, as he doesn’t need them yet, but this again is a quick import over from Ning, and preserving your members’ conversations is incredibly important for a growing membership site, especially in terms of SEO. The best thing, IMHO, is every user and his or her avatar moved over to the new site with all of their information, and Mitch can send everyone a personalized email telling them where to find their new member site, and log in using their old login and password, or get new credentials. The connections between their posts and comments stay correct. This is what migration should be. And, as each user can create a full-fledged profile, instant message each other and generally have a much better experience, and it’s a clear winner over Ning, especially without the monthly fees.

Support & what they don't tell you

Boone Gorges of Teleogistic has been incredibly helpful in answering questions and an ongoing discussion with other users of this plugin—after all, no migration is perfect, so be prepared for flukes and figuring out data workarounds. But the data is intact, which is more than half the battle.

On the downside for BuddyPress: It’s incredibly popular among spammers. They’ll create accounts, post spam and generally create headaches. I’ve vacillated between Bad Behavior and WangGuard (July 2017 note: WangGuard is now discontinued, but check out WPMU's Anti-Splog. It's pricey but works.) for blocking spammers, and I’ve a few more tips in my BuddyPress presentation from May.

Overall, it’s a win: Improved user experience and less expensive & better WordPress admin. Features can be turned on and off at will, and you can encourage better engagement with a suite of tools. Now, where’s that next BuddyPress project?

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©2003-2020 Gizmo Creative Factory Inc. All rights reserved. Chicago freelance designer & WordPress developer.