Tag Archives: Wordpress

The Society Blog Network

Network Blog Example

You’re looking at the front page of the Moultrie Creek Online Historical Society’s blog. You’ll be surprised to learn that none of the articles presented on this page actually reside at the MCOHS site. When you click on the title of any of these articles, you’ll be taken to the article at the blog site where they do reside. This is the hub of a blog network.

If your society is lucky enough to have members blogging about their families or their research, using the society’s blog to spotlight them not only keeps your blog’s content fresh but gives your blogging members the special attention their efforts deserve. The toughest part is choosing which articles to spotlight and when.

In my example above, I’ve interspersed local (society) content with external (member) articles. I can do that thanks to the magazine-style theme I’m using. WordPress is better suited for a network blog thanks to its category system for organizing posts. I can set up one or more categories for these member articles and use those categories to create sections within the blog site.

Network article

Here you see what a networked article looks like in the editor. The most obvious difference is the post title – it’s a link. Yes, unfortunately, it has to be crafted in HTML but there’s a quick and easy way to do that. Set up your title in the editor screen, add the link, then change your view to HTML before you copy/paste it into the title.

Even though clicking the title will take the visitor straight to the member’s blog, I still like to put a bit of content into the article. This content is what will be distributed via your blog’s RSS feed to those reading by news reader. The excerpt section below the main article is used by WordPress to display the teaser text/image you see in themes that support it – such as the Under the Influence theme I’m using at MCOHS. Choose a category for this article – Network in this example – and publish.

Notice that the Excerpt section is also HTML only. I copied the image code from the main article and pasted it here, then just changed the size to fit into the area available in the theme. If you’re just using text for your excerpt, you don’t need to include any HTML.

One other very nice thing about WordPress is that the site publisher can display a list of categories as a site directory and when a visitor clicks on a category, WordPress creates a special index page displaying just the articles assigned to that category. Your theme will determine what that index “page” looks like, but most use excerpts if they are available.

Now that you see how easy it is, here are some possible uses . . .

  • Use this to present a “guest author” with an article on a topic of interest. The blogger writes the article on her own blog – where she is most comfortable – but gets the extra visibility of a spotlight from the society’s blog.
  • Create a journal blog and have members “submit” their articles for inclusion. Actually, the journal doesn’t have to be a separate blog, but could be a category within the society’s blog.
  • Are you spotlighting a specific topic or location? If your members have posted articles related to that topic, ask if you can spotlight them at the society blog.
  • Introduce an upcoming speaker by spotlighting one or more blogs from his/her site.

Building a network blog is a win-win situation for all involved. The society gets the benefit of additional content with minimal effort and the bloggers get more visibility at their own sites. And, since you are only introducing their articles and linking to the originals, there are no copyright issues.

If you’re looking for ways to add a spark to your society’s site, consider creating your own network blog. It’s not something you have to jump into all at once. You can start with a guest post here and there to get a feel for it, and if you like it, build from there. The toughest part is getting started.

DISCLAIMER: Moultrie Creek Online Historical Society only exists in my imagination. The society site is used solely to demonstrate some of the ways a genealogy or historical society can use a blog – especially a WordPress blog – to attract members and keep their interest.

WordPress’s Mobile Apps

WordPress offers mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows phone, Blackberry and several other devices. I have the mobile app on both my iPad and iPhone and everyday I discover another reason to love it. Although I seldom try to write an article on the iPhone, I do use it to check stats and manage comments. The iPad app is becoming an important tool in my blogging toolbox. And, with my Logitech Keyboard/Cover, even typing is a breeze.

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As you can see here, I manage a few WordPress blogs. And on the iPad, they’re all in one easy-to-reach location. One of the nicest things is that when I add a blog to the app, I set up my login for that blog once and from then on I can easily move between blogs without constantly having to log in. LOVE IT!

It’s a great place to manage comments and reply to them – when they happen. The app sends a notification when a new comment is added and tapping on the notification takes you right to that comment in the app. From there all you have to do is tap the check mark to approve it. Of course you can reply very easily too.

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There are some down sides. As you can see in this screenshot, your toolbar appears in the onscreen keyboard and is quite sparse. When using a bluetooth keyboard, the toolbar sits alone at the bottom of the editing screen. There is no visual view of your article – it’s always the text view showing the HTML. The biggest problem with me is that a lot of the articles I write include desktop screenshots and require referencing other web sites. It’s a lot easier to do that on a desktop, but I’ve been know to grab the screenshots and create a post on the desktop, add some basic notes, dump the images in there and save it as a draft. Then I can work on it whenever I have a few minutes – either on the desktop or on the iPad.

The WordPress mobile apps are free and available at the iOS App Store, Amazon’s App Store and the Google Play store.

Archive Your WordPress Blog

It’s the end of the year and a good time to make an archival copy of your WordPress blog. It’s really a very simple procedure, but it could take some time depending on the size of your blog site.

wpexport

In your workspace, choose the Tools > Export command. A screen similar to this will appear. Make sure the All content option is selected, then click the Download Export File button and sit back while your blog data is compiled into what WordPress calls an extended RSS file. The file will contain the data from all your posts, pages, comments, menus, categories, tags and more. It will not contain theme or platform data. You can look at the results in a text or HTML editor app, but it will appear more like a database than a web site.

While an end-of-year export gives you a text-based archive that will last as long as plain text is a functional data standard – it has been for more than 50 years – it’s also a good idea to export your blog site every quarter as a backup in case something should happen to your online blog site. Last year, I lost a veterans site I maintain because the hosting company’s servers where taken out by tornados. Fortunately, the site wasn’t updated often and I had a recent export that could be imported as soon as the host came back online.

Build a Network Blog with WordPress

More and more family historians have taken to blogging as a way to document and share their family history. Savvy societies can take advantage of these opportunities in a way that benefits both the family history bloggers and the society. Creating a network blog to spotlight your members’ posts give members more visibility and may well attract others to your association.

A network blog is a blog site that spotlights articles written by other bloggers. The network blog contains posts introducing articles that network members have posted at their own blogs with links back to the original post at the member’s site. The member’s content remains at his or her blog site. The network blog serves as a virtual table of contents for its members.

There are several advantages to a blog network:

  • The network blog is a central location for articles related to its members’ research efforts, areas of interest, location or family group. The network can be focused on one topic – local families, for example – or it can be organized to cover multiple topics.
  • It helps researchers find others interested in their areas of research.
  • It gives both the individual blogger and the network blog more visibility.
  • It’s a cheap and easy way to provide additional services to your society’s membership.
  • It allows distant members to be more active in the society.
  • It can attract new members who discover the network blog and find its content relates to their own research.

The society decides how to choose articles for the network blog: 1) have network editors choose articles from the member blogs, 2) have members submit their articles or 3) do a combination of both options. Your choice will depend on both your goals and the skill-level of your editors.

One of the easiest ways collect and post the featured articles from around the network is to use WordPress’s Press This bookmarklet found on the Tools > Available Tools screen. Drag the bookmarklet to your browser’s bookmark bar and you’re ready to go. Now, when you find an article you want to spotlight on the network blog, just highlight the content you want included in your feature post then click the Press This bookmarklet.
pressthis01

A post screen similar to the one shown here appears over your browser with the highlighted text already included. It also automatically adds the bottom line shown here pointing back to the original article and blog site. You can edit the captured content and even add your own comments if you wish. Click on the image icon just above the toolbar and the bookmarklet displays all the images included on the original post. You can select one or more to include in this post. Once you’re ready, select the appropriate category for this post, add any tags you wish to include then click the Publish button. Your feature article is sent to the network blog and published. If you want to schedule when feature articles appear on the network blog, you can click the Save Draft button which saves it to the network blog without publishing. Someone will then need to visit the network blog to update the draft post to schedule it for publishing.

While the society will need to set parameters for the type of content included in their network blog, review requirements, publishing schedule and other operational factors, WordPress provides easy-to-use tools to make the technical side of a network blog very manageable.

WordPress Plugins – J ShortCodes

One of the most useful WordPress features is shortcodes. These are simple codes surrounded by square brackets that call in more complex functions. You are probably already using shortcodes to simplify the insertion of media items such as embedded YouTube videos. Instead of copy/pasting a strange embed script, using a shortcode, all you need is the link to the video page.

Media placement isn’t the only use for shortcodes. The multi-column layout of this post was created using a columns shortcode from the J ShortCodes plugin. This delightful plugin gives me the ability to add columns, boxes, tabbed content, buttons and much more. One shortcode that gets a lot of use over at Moultrie Creek Books is the box. I use it to spotlight the details about each book. Here’s what the box looks like.

shortcodes02

And here’s what the code looks like in the WordPress editor.

shortcodes01

Yes, it’s really that simple. Visit the J Shortcodes detail page to see the complete specs for each shortcode included in the plugin.

For more WordPress information, check out my WordPress 101 collection at Scribd.

    Tech Notes – 9 Nov 2012

    Sunset on the Marshes of Glynn – Jekyll Island, Georgia

    The election is finally behind us and it’s safe to answer the phone again. Unfortunately, the recovery efforts in the northeast are still moving slowly. You can help the Salvation Army and Red Cross help storm victims through your donations.

    Sunday is Veterans Day. In our household it’s a day to celebrate the many people, places and events that were part of our military service. Not every veteran has seen combat, but each has had a part in protecting our country and continues to serve by supporting those currently on the front lines. My days in uniform ended more than 25 years ago, but I’ll always be an Airman who was fortunate enough to serve alongside some truly amazing people – including that very special Soldier I married.

    Updates

    Automattic has released Jetpack 2.0 giving self-hosted WordPress sites even more WordPress.com goodness. Included in this update is a new publicize feature which makes it easy to connect to a number os social networks (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Yahoo!) to announce your new posts. With Jetpack, you can also post by email and there’s a new Photon feature that will automatically adjust images to fit within the new layout when you change your blog’s theme. I can’t wait to start playing with that one!

    At WordPress.org, they have added a reviews tab to both the plugins and themes so users can add comments in addition to ratings. This will make finding the right theme/plugin a lot easier.

    Evernote 5.0 for iOS brings a beautiful new interface to the iThings. They’ve added a new Places view as part of the new design and there’s both a What’s New page and Getting Started tutorial to get you going with the app and its improvements. Premium users have a section within the app specifically to manage their premium features.

    The Kindle Paperwhite also received an update this week. Version 5.3.0 has improved the Baskerville, Futura and Palatino fonts so your text will look even better. You can turn off the recommended content display on your device’s home screen and you can now get to your device settings from within a book. They have improved the transition from sample to book when you purchase it after reading the sample and they’ve improved the reading experience for comics and manga. The update is being pushed out via Wi-Fi or, if you can’t wait, you can download and install it yourself from the update page.

    Readability, the free iOS app for reading selected web pages, has received an update that includes a new grid view – giving it newspaper-style look to the collection screens.

    Cool Tool

    This week’s cool tool is something iPhonographers will love – the Olloclip 3-in-1 lens. This clip-on lens combo includes a fisheye, macro and wide-angle lens all in one neat package. It’s a two-sided lens that slips over the phone’s camera. There is only an iPhone 4/4s version at this time with a $69.95 price tag.

    Tech Notes – 2 November 2012

    HMS Bounty arriving in St. Augustine – April 2012

    There have been many tragedies in the last week – including the loss of the HMS Bounty, her captain and one member of the crew. Our prayers and donations can help those suffering from the devastation this storm has brought. You can help the Salvation Army and Red Cross help storm victims through your donations.

    Application Updates

    Apple released iOS 6.0.1 yesterday with several bug fixes for issues with iPhone 5 and Passbook. Most iOS devices can be updated via the Settings > General panel, however, iPhone 5 users must first install the iOS Updater utility.

    Apple desktops get a couple of updates – Safari gets security updates and iPhoto’s update improves several things related to sharing photos and using Photo Stream.

    Evernote has released a public beta of their new Mac desktop app with a complete overhaul of the user interface and it is beautiful. Adventurous users can download the beta from Evernote, but it’s not available if you got your app from Apple’s App Store. Readwrite has the details and lots of screenshots.

    Waze [iOS and Android - free] – the navigation app with crowd-sourced traffic updates has released version 3.5 with several new features. You can now see estimated arrival times for you and your friends to a destination. There’s a new pickup feature to coordinate car-pooling efforts. Also added are private messaging and privacy controls that let you go invisible on the maps. The maps and interface have gotten some design love too making it an even more impressive application.

    WordPress.com bloggers can now embed Instagram images in their blog posts. All you need to do is copy the URL to the Instagram image  and paste it on its own line in your post or page. WordPress will automatically embed the largest size for your blog’s content area. As with other embded media, you can use the Instagram shortcode to customize the image options. Currently this capability only works on WordPress.com blogs.

    Paper by Fifty-Three, the gorgeous sketching app for iPad, has just released an update that adds more colors along with a color mixer to the app’s many drawing tools. This component – called Colors – is a $1.99 in-app purchase. The update also adds support for Pogo’s new pressure-sensitive stylus which unfortunately has a $80 price tag.

    Roku has added a new search tool that will help you find a specific movie or show across the growing number of media channels served through Roku. Roku Search works with Roku 2, Roku LT, new Roku HD players and the Roku Streaming Stick. You can even search with the keyboard in the Remote tab of the Roku iOS and Android mobile apps!

    Tips & Tricks

    Did you know that iPhone 4s and iPhone 5 devices with iOS 6 installed can now take panoramic photos? TechHive shows you how.

    Dragon Dictate 3 for Mac has added a transcription feature that lets you dictate to a portable device then import the recording and transcribe it with the desktop app. There are limits to how this feature works and MacWorld has an very nice article with all the details.

    A new Chrome extension – the Flickr CC Attribution Helper – adds a panel on Flickr photo pages to help provide the proper citation when using photos licensed with a Creative Commons license. MakeUseOf has the details on the extension and how to use it.

    That’s the news for this week. Please vote so we can put all this political madness behind us and get on with the business of living.

    Multi-Site WordPress

    Like a number of other genea-bloggers, I have more than one blog site. In my case, I want the Gazette to be separate from the bookstore and my family stories to be separate from both. On a hosted platform such as WordPress.com or Blogger, this isn’t all that difficult to do. You log in once and easily move between your blogs. When you’re on a self-hosted system, having separate blogs can be a challenge. Fortunately, WordPress offers a multi-site option. I say option, because it’s available in the basic WordPress package. It’s a matter of changing a couple of settings and voilà – you now have a multi-site version.

    Like anything else, WordPress multi-site has its pros and cons. On the plus side, it saves space. There’s only one set of WordPress files and only one database. Your themes and plugins are installed once and shared by each site. Yes, each site can still have its own look and feel, but now you’re only backing up one database and performing updates once. I’ll only have to log in once, then I can move from one site to another quickly and easily. On the flip side, not every plugin or theme will work in the multi-site environment. Even worse, you may not find that out until you install it and everything crashes.

    I’m using multi-site in the sub-folder mode – meaning all my sites have the same http://moultriecreek.us address followed by their own folder/section (such as http://moultriecreek.us/books and http://moultriecreek.us/gazette). This is the easiest way to set up a multi-site installation. Giving each site its own URL is the toughest. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a few challenges. The biggest one is the move itself. First of all, I can’t have two http://moultriecreek.us/gazette sites running at the same time. So, I’ve set up a temporary site with a selected number of posts, pages, etc. to get the themes and plugins checked out. Once everything’s ready, I’ll use the WordPress export/import tools to move the content.

    This will also be a good time to do a bit of redecorating. My current themes are quite old and don’t take advantage of all the whistles and bells WordPress now offers. This part could take more effort than actually moving the data. Why? I’ll have to adjust image sizes and post excerpts to fit within the new design. There’s usually a hiccup or two in these situations so please pardon the dust as the Moultrie Creek blogs get spiffed up a bit.

     

    Tech Notes – 19 October 2012

    Aviles Street

    Are you one of the few who hasn’t jumped onto the ereader bandwagon yet? A new reader from Germany may change your mind. It’s called the Beagle and it’s about to be released by txtr. It weighs half as much as the Kindle Paperwhite and has no cables. It’s powered by two AA batteries and uses Bluetooth to move books to it via your smartphone. It’s not available in the U.S. market yet, but when it is it looks like it will be sold at somewhere in the $20 range. Here’s a look . . .

    txtr beagle from txtr on Vimeo.

    Amazon’s making news again with the introduction of its new free Whispercast tool for Kindle. This tool is designed for the education and business markets to deploy Kindle devices and content from a single point. Administrators can control device settings as well as push content (books, PDFs, documents and even apps) to them. Not only will this work on Kindle devices, but it can be used with Kindle apps too. And it can be used with personal Kindles as well. It looks like Amazon is getting serious about the educational market and offering some very affordable options for educators to put to use.

    Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper, has created a new technology publication, The Magazine, that’s now available at the iTunes Newstand ($1.99/month). Each issue contains four articles and is published every two weeks.

    Thanks to TeleRead, we get this interesting announcement from Random House, Inc. According to Skip Dye, vice president of library and academic marketing and sales:

    “When libraries buy their RH, Inc. ebooks from authorized library wholesalers,” says  Skip Dye, Random House’s vice president of library and academic marketing and sales, “it is our position that they own them.”

    “This is our business model: we sell copies of our ebooks to an approved list of library wholesalers, and those wholesalers are supposed to resell them to libraries. In our view, this purchase constitutes ownership of the book by the library. It is not a license.”

    A reminder that Moultrie Creek Books now has a newstand with a collection of great genealogy and history magazines.

    Tips and Tutorials

    The Armchair Genealogist has an on-going instructional series on Scrivener - the amazing writing tool for Mac and Windows. If you’re considering a family history writing project, take a look at this series to learn how it can make every step of the process easier.

    iPad users who use iPhoto to edit photos on the go will find The Ultimate iPhoto Workflow article at Macworld interesting. This article shows how to use your iPad and iPhoto to manage and edit photos while on the road. His point about using memory cards is a good one.

    Tips & Tricks offers a look at WordPress 3.5 which is expected to be released in December.

    Apps and Updates

    The MacHeist 4 bundle promotion offers 15 Mac apps for $29. Included in the bundle is Scrivener, Artboard and 15 months of Evernote Premium along with lots of other great apps. And, there are several bonus apps which will be included once certain purchase thresholds are reached. I’m hoping to snag the new Painter Lite app. This bundle is also a fund-raiser with 25% of each purchase going to charity. You have until next Friday (26th) to take advantage of this offer.

    Acorn [Mac - $49.99] – an impressive and affordable photo-editing app for Mac – has released an update that includes the ability to export a single layer from a project, a new sunburst filter and several new layer blending modes.

    We’re looking forward to a beautiful – and cool – weekend here at the Creek. Hope yours is just as delightful.

     

    Tech Notes – 5 October 2012

    The Kelly Mansion is located on the Matanzas River just south of the mouth of Moultrie Creek.

    Girlfriends ForeverI’ve been a big Susan Branch fan ever since I first saw the VW convertible sketch on the cover of Girlfriends Forever. I often talk about blogging the story of things that are a part of our family’s history and this week Susan gave me a delightful example in her post, A Lot of Charm(s). Here, she’s telling the story of her charm bracelet and the background to each of the charms on it. The story is delightful, the artwork is always divine, but one thing that really struck me is that she has turned special things into charms for her bracelet. One of those is her baby bracelet.

    She’s inspired me to take a fresh look at my charm bracelet. There’s lots of good stories there . . .

    If you are a fan of Things [iOS - $9.99] and have an iPhone 4S or 5 with iOS 6, you’ll find that the latest version incorporates both Siri and Reminders in the app. So now you can dictate reminders which Siri will add to your Reminders and display in your Things inbox. I’m hoping we see more of this kind of thing in lots of apps!

    A new iPhone app lets you capture video, edit clips and combine them, add filters, transitions and music then share them via Facebook, YouTube or email. What’s different about this app is there’s no limit to the size of your video projects. The app’s called Givit and it’s free in the App Store. You’ll get 5GB of free online storage to save your creations and you can purchase more if needed.

    https://twitter.com/skipz/status/254120777077628928

    Google is shutting down AdSense for feeds – the ads that are distributed within RSS feeds – and the speculation grows that Feedburner won’t be far behind. It really looks like it’s time to pull back my feed management and take advantage of the tools WordPress provides. More on that later.

    That’s not all the news about Google. Google has reached a settlement with publishers over their book-scanning operation.

    https://twitter.com/verge/status/253869885204086784

    https://twitter.com/CBSAtlBreaking/status/253863188209233921

    https://twitter.com/dancohen/status/254013889375793153

    Another project for this weekend . . . I wrote yesterday about the book, Digging into WordPress, and right after that post was published I received the announcement that the newest edition was ready to download. From the Twitter buzz, it looks like there’s lots of new goodies to keep me entertained.

    https://twitter.com/perishable/status/253903715885535234

    Blurb Books has released an ebook editor which allows you to add video and audio to your stories. At this point, the books can only be viewed on an iPad.

    https://twitter.com/BlurbBooks/status/253493581388591104

    That’s it for this week. Hope everyone has a great weekend!