This weekend, I moved my wordpress.com “professional” (web development) blog and my “personal” blog both to my main website and merged them together. I had been planning on moving my blog from wordpress.com for a while, but recent problems with writing posts with code blocks pushed me to finally take the plunge. I’ve also been feeling like maintaining a separate personal and professional site might be more trouble than it’s worth. I do worry that the different sort of audiences that would go to the one wouldn’t want to see the content from the other and vice versa. I might be less inclined to write some personal stuff on my professional blog. But I think I will be able to find ways to mitigate those issues and make it work well.
Both sites are now redirecting to my main site. I had to pay wordpress.com ($13 a year) for the privilege, but I think it is worth it considering the “link juice” I have with that blog. I will probably continue paying for at least several years. With the use I’ve gotten out of WordPress so far, they’ve probably earned it.
There are still some things to fix:
The content imported from my professional blog didn’t bring over the markdown formatting, and thus all of the code blocks are messed up. I am going to have to manually copy them over one by one from the wordpress.com admin as far as I can tell. A pain.
I accidentally deleted all of the media files imported from the wordpress.com due to the way I deploy my site. I’m going to have to reimport on a local install and upload, then make sure my deploy ignores that directory. Hopefully the redirect I set up doesn’t cause problems for this.
There is plenty of non-blog content on my personal site that I will need to move to my main site. I don’t have any real “link juice” with that site, so I can move things wherever I see fit or not copy it at all if it doesn’t seem worth keeping.
The theme is just a slightly modified ‘twenty fifteen’. I’m going to have to decide what I want to do with it to better integrate it into the rest of my site.
My eventual plans are to move my blog out of WordPress and into the same system I’m using for the rest of my site. I may lose some things in the process, including possibly my connection to the WordPress project, but I will gain control.
I had a number of problems during my move, but am way too tired to write about them currently. Hopefully they’ll make for a few posts this upcoming week.
Testing out WordPress’s “aside” format. I’m hoping it’ll work nice for short little posts like a tumblelog. Most of the time I have thoughts that might not be enough for a full titled post but that I still want to get out there. I have a Twitter account, but posting here is more IndieWeb.
Slightly over a week ago, I finished my fourth Cleveland GiveCamp. GiveCamp is a weekend of developing websites and other things for area nonprofits. As usual, it was a good time. My project this year was an update to Lake Erie Ink’s site. They had actually had their site built at the GiveCamp two years prior (I was not on that project, but know someone who was). They just wanted a map added to their site that showed where kids were writing or writing about. With six developers and a developing project manager, along with a WordPress plugin, we were able to get the basic functionality working rather quickly. So quickly that we had something working Friday night and started shedding developers to other projects. By Sunday it was basically down to just me and the project manager (plus the Lake Erie Ink people, of course). We added in some extra improvements in addition to the map. We brought in a couple of designers for brief stints to help us with some design issues.
For my part, I did help some with the map, but spent most of my time making their site responsive and tweaking the home page to include a callout for the map page. The site had not been designed with responsiveness in mind at all. It had nested divs with fixed pixel widths that accommodated padding of the parents’ even when width: 100% would’ve done the same thing. In addition, id’s were used a lot, even multiple times per page, there was a lot of unnecessary redundancy and extra CSS in the styles (such as repeated blocks and things like margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px), and extra heading elements were made up to provide extra heading styles (h7, h8, and h9). The templates were confusing at times and some had different versions or nearly identical related templates.
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted a Happs or any blog post. I think a lot of the things I want to post about, I want to post a dedicated post, but that doesn’t always end up happening.
The weekend before last, I went to two conferences. I took notes, which I plan to post once I get them digitized and cleaned up. I enjoyed the conferences even though having both in one weekend, with one in Pittsburgh, was a bit tiring. I went to Rustbelt Refresh and Pittsburgh Tech Fest.
I had gone to this last year (the initial year) as well. I was pleased with the talks again. It’s a single track, single day event on general front end development and design. It brings in some of the “celebrities” of the industry. This year included Karen McGrane and Jeremy Keith, for instance, and last year had Eric Meyer (our local web “celebrity”) and Jonathon Snook. It is definitely nice to be able to hear talks by some of the people driving the thoughts in the industry. I had a good time, the talks were good, and I learned some things or shored up some ideas I already had.
These happs blogs don’t always allow me to go into as much depth as I would like, but they are definitely a lot easier to write. I have been writing much more frequently now that I’ve started them. “Remember, a writer writes, always.”
WordPress Starter Theme
After much time and effort, I’ve finally released my WordPress base theme, TJMBase. It is the very bare parent theme for what my website has been running on for several months now. These days, I don’t use WordPress for very much, but I have done several projects with it, especially earlier in my web development life, and to some extent still like it.
Years ago, I had made a theme starter that was basically bare of any styles and extra fluff, the kind of thing you might want to start with if you wanted a good starting point for doing a theme basically from scratch. I never released it (didn’t release anything open source at that point), though I did use it for some projects and let at least one interested party use it. I had stopped doing much with WordPress once I got my current job, but I did want my theme starter to be useful to the community. WordPress 3 came out and brought some important changes that made my old theme behind the times, missing some important features.
In remaking my website using WordPress, I’ve been working on a base theme that I can use for other sites. I decided to take some of my experience from the Symfony world, such as organizing functionality into namespaced classes, grouped into “bundles” of functionality that can be (somewhat) independently installed as needed depending on the project. I already mentioned the PHP-BufferManager I’m using in a previous post. I’ve also created a more specific to WordPress project with more varied functionality, a theme helper called WPThemeHelper.
The theme helper has several classes to help make theme development cleaner and perhaps a bit easier. The readme on github has more details, but some of the more important ones are:
SettingHelper: Allows setting of WordPress settings with a map (associative array). It calls the appropriate WordPress function at the appropriate time in WordPress’s initialization cycle. Helps clean up the ‘functions.php’ file and makes remembering what functions to call for various theme settings easier.
I haven’t been doing much with WordPress, since at Cogneato we have our own CMS. But a customer request for a WordPress site a while back and the upcoming GiveCamp which I will be participating in this weekend have rejuvenated my interest in working with it. Back when I was using WordPress more often, I had built a bare theme I used as a starting point, including for the Stearns Homestead site I was working on when I first started this blog. That was the WordPress 2.x era though, and the theme is now outdated. I decided to begin work on a new theme, making use of the new 3.x features.
I have learned a lot since building that theme, and wanted to bring in some of my new knowledge and coding practices to the new theme. I also wanted to put this one on GitHub, since I now have an account and others might find it useful. I still haven’t decided for sure what I’ll call it (for now it is TJMBare) and have more work to do, so it isn’t on there yet, but hopefully will be by this weekend. Anyway, I wanted to mention some of the things I have done or will be doing with it.
I am putting all of my functionality and data into classes that in most themes is put into the global namespace. The classes will help group functionality and data together, making it easier to develop and to avoid collisions. Since WordPress doesn’t yet require PHP 5.3+, I am avoiding using PHP namespaces, but am compensating by putting the equivalent on the front of the class names. Functions.php will just include the class files and instantiate what is needed. Child themes will be able to extend parent theme classes to change functionality.
Last weekend I went to GiveCamp in Cleveland. GiveCamp is a weekend of developers and designers building sites and applications for various charities. There were like 202 people there, working in the Lean Dog boat and in the hallway of Burke Lakefront Airport. There were 22 charities, each assigned a team appropriate to their needs. 21 of the projects were completed or nearly so in the one weekend allotted.
My project was Cleveland Carousel. My team also included a designer named Greg and another developer named Jon Knapp, who kind of managed the project most of the time. We had continuous help from at least one of the Cleveland Carousel people at all times. We also had a couple dedicated project managers come help us out for a little while as well.
The clients had a simple WordPress site in running with four pages, but they want something with a lot more content and pictures and a custom design. They came well prepared with a detailed plan of what they wanted, allowing us to move quickly with our small team. They worked with Greg to come up with a design, worked to put all of the content in place, and gave us continuous feedback as we built the site.
There are many issues encountered when using WordPress as a CMS. One thing that is common on regular websites is the concept of sections. Different sections might have different highlighted or open menu items, sidebar content, layouts, or actions from the same widgets (search this section for instance). WordPress offers the ability to use different template files depending on the category of posts or what is selected for a page. This is somewhat limited though, as sites might have multiple pages and categories in a section. WordPress also has various functions that can be used in “if” statements to determine if the current page/post matches certain criteria. These can be logically connected in “if” statements to determine if “the_post” is in a section and placed anywhere in template files, but this requires repeating the same logic questions in every place you must determine the section, and would thus be a pain to maintain.
To keep these “if” questions in one place, I built myself a function to store them in, allowing me to ask if a page is in a section using only a name.