WordPress Shortcodes – Recipes

Are you familiar with WordPress Shortcodes? These are handy little codes that simplify adding all kinds of formatted elements to your blog posts. For example, shortcodes make it easy to build a presentation right in your post. No PowerPoint or Keynote needed. Shortcodes simplify embedding videos, make it easy to create a sitemap of your site and many more things you’ll find useful. Some basic shortcodes are available to both WordPress.com authors and self-hosted WordPress authors. There are a number of shortcodes that are only available to WordPress.com authors. This recipe shortcode is one of them. Self-hosted sites have a broad range of shortcode plugins available to them as well as any number of recipe plugins.

If you want to post family recipes to your WordPress.com family history blog, it’s really quite simple. Here’s what a recipe looks like in the editor.

recipe shortcodes example
A view of the recipe in the editor screen.

Here’s what that recipe looks like online. Note that your site’s theme will impact the actual look for your recipe.

formatted recipe
The formatted recipe as it appears on the website.

I kept this recipe simple, but the  shortcode supports a number of additional features like notes, number of servings, difficulty and even makes it easy to include a photo of the dish. You’ll find complete details on how to use the recipe shortcode at WordPress.com Support.

Scrapbook page

Reimagining the Scrapbook

Scrapbook page
A page from my childhood scrapbook

Did you keep a scrapbook in your childhood? Was it something like this – black pages with all kinds of ephemera pasted or taped to them?

It’s always a delight to pull out an old photo album or scrapbook and take a trip down memory lane. It’s even more exciting when we get our hands onto an ancestor’s scrapbook. Unfortunately none of us ever heard of anything like “archival quality paper” at the time we were saving our precious childhood treasures. As a result, some of those treasures are in pretty sad shape.

It dawned on me a while back that my family history blog had become a sort of scrapbook. This wasn’t anything I had planned, it just sort of happened. I thought about it a while and decided I like it. Apparently, my family does too. More of them are email subscribers to the site and I’m getting more feedback from them too. Yes!

A blog scrapbook
A catchy title and graphic will grab their attention

What does it take to build a scrapbook-style blog? Not much. My Moultrie Creek Journal blog is hosted at WordPress.com using the Personal plan ($36/year). This gives me a domain name along with extra space for all the photos and graphics. I’m using the Fictive theme which gives a funky kind of look. Even better, it supports post formats. Most of the recent WordPress themes include post formats. With post formats the look of each post differs a bit depending on what that post contains. In the example above, the post is formatted as a photo post. Notice the camera icon above the title. It spotlights the photo of my choice at the beginning of the post.

The post below uses the video post format. This is useful for videos hosted with WordPress’s VideoPress (requires a Premium plan) or via an online platform like YouTube.

Video post format
Video post format example

Other post formats include standard, quote, link, audio, gallery, status and aside. Not every WordPress theme supports post formats and those that do may not support all of them. Each theme presents each post format differently. You’ll notice the Gazette’s theme has a more formal look including a beautifully “framed” spotlight photo. The Journal is much more casual in both style and color scheme. Take advantage of the information pages and demos in the WordPress theme catalog to see how each handles post formats.

Capt. BarrettWhat about content?

I’ve got tons of family ephemera and while I don’t know the story behind a lot of it, there’s plenty I do. My father shuttled water to Guantanemo Bay after Castro shut off the water. This news clipping documents his last trip. I have more clippings related to this project which will get posted sometime later.

One of my favorite topics is “Lost St. Augustine”. These are photos and stories about favorite places that no longer exist. And, since this scrapbook supports more kinds of media than just paper, I often include a photo slideshow or a video clip.

By taking advantage of WordPress’s categories and tags features, I don’t have to tell my stories in any particular order. The category list in the sidebar serves as a table of contents while the tag cloud makes a great index. And, at the bottom of each article, visitors will find several recommendations linking to posts related to the post they are currently reading.

My scrapbook doesn’t just interest my immediate family. It has also attracted research cousins. WordPress is very search-friendly and even my oldest posts are easily discovered via today’s search engines. The commenting component provides a platform to discover if we are related and share what we know.

If you are looking to kick your family history up a notch, try creating your own online scrapbook. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The Family News Network

Are you looking for an easy, affordable and private way to share news, photos and family history in your family? The Posthaven blog platform may be just the thing. Posthaven doesn’t have the whistles and bells offered by the the major blog sites, but it does provide a simple and easy service for posting and delivering content. Posting is a easy as sending an email message. That message is automatically posted to the blog site and delivered via email to everyone subscribed to the blog. And, when subscribers receive the post, they can add their comments by simply replying to the message.

Posthaven Posting
Sample email message and resulting post

Posthaven isn’t free. It will cost you $5.00 a month, but that gives you ten blogs to use however you wish. Don’t think you need ten blogs? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be put to good use. More on that later. I suggest you begin with two blogs – one public and one private. The private one allows your family to share news that isn’t appropriate for public access. This could include vacation pictures or announcing a new arrival. Posting this kind of information on a public blog or social network can result in identity theft, burglaries and other unpleasant incidents.

The beauty of Posthaven for family networks is how easy it is. Subscribers don’t need to remember passwords to see the latest post from a private blog. It’s delivered to their inbox. When others comment on a post, those comments are also sent to all. In our family, we post a “birthday card” – a scrapbook style graphic created just for that person. Once posted and delivered, family members can reply with their own greetings.

A sample birthday card
A sample birthday card

Take advantage of a public blog to post family history stories. This serves several purposes. First, it’s a way to share your family’s history with your family. Stories posted on public blogs are very search-friendly and it’s not unusual to meet a research cousin (someone researching the same family you are) through your blog.

Here are some ideas to put those other eight blogs to work . . .

  • Build a virtual museum of family heirlooms using the blog to post photos and scanned documents along with the stories associated with these artifacts.
  • Posthaven makes a great travel blog. Take pictures with your smart phone and email them with supporting descriptions to your blog. Within minutes, those photos will be delivered to all subscribers.
  • Tired of all those round-robin emails as you organize a large family event like Thanksgiving dinner, a wedding or a family reunion? Task assignments, who’s bringing what dishes and other details are delivered to each person via email while the “master list” is always available at the blog.
  • Give the kids in the family a blog and challenge them to learn about their family history – documenting what they’ve learned on the blog. As site owner, you can oversee their efforts and adult subscribers can offer encouragement and support.

Want to learn more? Download a copy of the Posthaven Primer (PDF) for details on how to get up and running.

Geneablogging with Ulysses

Many family historians use blogs to document the stories their research discovers. They soon discover those little stories have grown into a significant collection. After posting a story to my blog I was copy/pasting them to a Family Stories folder in Ulysses to repurpose and reuse in other storytelling projects. I say “was” because ever since Ulysses introduced their publishing feature, I’ve been writing and publishing them in Ulysses. If you are a WordPress blogger (either hosted or self-hosted), you can now take advantage of the publishing feature in the Ulysses writing platform (Mac – $44.99 & iOS – $24.99) to have your story and post it too.

Why use Ulysses? Let me count the ways:

  • all the WordPress tools (post format, categories, tags, excerpts, etc.) are available in Ulysses publishing
  • when published, all of Ulysses’ formatting features (bold, blockquote, lists, images, etc.) transform to HTML matching your blog’s style
  • Ulysses offers impressive organizational features like groups and filters to organize your growing story collection for repurposing into other family history writing projects
  • it’s easy to quickly pull out selected stories, style and export them as PDF, ePub, MS Word, HTML or plain text documents.

Best of all, since Ulysses saves my stories as plain text using the Markdown standard for formatting, I am also future-proofing my writing. Years from now, when today’s writing programs are obsolete, I will still be able to read and edit my Ulysses stories.

The stories group in Ulysses

In this example, you are looking at a selected sheet in a Stories sub-group under my Family Stories group. Within the Stories group I am using tags and filters to organize my stories. You can see some of those tags at the bottom of each sheet listed in the center column. This particular article will appear in both the Barrett and Military filters. At the very bottom of the group panel you see two other filters – Needs Work and Need Pictures. Once a story is complete, those keywords are removed.

Ulysses publish sheet
The Ulysses publish sheet

When the story is ready to publish, tapping the Share icon in the toolbar first displays a panel for choosing the blog to publish to. Once that choice is made the panel you see here appears. It offers publishing options along with fields for adding an excerpt, choosing a feature image and other familiar settings found in the WordPress online editor. I usually send them as drafts so I can preview them on the site before I publish.

Many of these stories were imported to Ulysses before the publishing feature was added. I have tagged them as published so I can easily identify which have been posted. Fortunately, Ulysses also makes it easy to bulk edit keywords. All I do is select the appropriate stories in the sheets panel, right-click and select Keywords, then add the necessary tags.

Life is good.

WordPress Gets Personal

Badge-BlogBytesYummy! WordPress.com has added a new Personal plan. For $2.99/month (billed annually), you get:

  • a custom domain name
  • basic design customization using hundreds of free themes
  • site support via email and live chat with WordPress support personnel
  • 3GB of storage for images and files
  • no ads

Look at the Media page on your WordPress.com site and it will show you how much space you have used for images and attached files. My family history blog – Moultrie Journal – has more than 267 posts – most with images – and I’m only using 240MB of storage. My current Premium plan comes up for renewal in November and I’m going to change to Personal.