Useful links: Migrate, AccessWorks, 10 Tips, LMS

Migrating a website to WordPress is easier than you think is a well done article at Smashing Magazine that can help you if you are contemplating a move.

I’ve worked with Knowbility for years but I didn’t realize they offered Document Accessibility and User Experience Testing. Using a group called AccessWorks, they provide people with disabilities who have been highly trained to help you with making your PDF and Office documents accessible.

10 Easy Accessibility Tips Anyone Can Use. You could build a class or a presentation around these basic tips from WebAIM.

Study ranks accessibility of Learning Management Systems.

The review examined four major LMSes: Blackboard Learn version 9.1 Service Pack 6 and 8, Desire2Learn version 10, Moodle version 2.3, and Sakai version 2.8.

WordPress 10 Year Anniversary Meetup

Ferndale WordPress Meetup (March 09)

The Albuquerque WordPress community hosted a 10th anniversary of WordPress Meetup and party last night. In attendance were 30+ Automattic Happiness Engineers from around the world. It sounded like the UN, with all the accents you could hear in the room.

During the actual meetup, the people from Automattic talked about the various jobs they perform and explained how bloggers and developers can get involved in WordPress.

The Happiness Engineers have a variety of roles, from working with people needing help and support via email, to working on the WordPress core, developing plugins like Jetpack. There were specialists in both the .com and .org issues, WordPress store, and more. There was also a ‘happiness gardener’ who works on issues and bugs no one else is assigned to do as well as developing for the WordPress core.

Someone asked about developers contributing to the core. The response suggested it’s a good way to grow and improve as a developer in an environment where there are so many people who can help you. If you develop a theme, there are a list of guidelines for what will be tested.

Some of the people from Automattic mentioned that they got their starts working in the open source part of the community and were eventually hired by Automattic. There are many ways you can contribute to the open source project that is WordPress. Here are a few suggestions I heard.

  • Use the forums to give back to the community
  • Write plugins
  • Work on documentation (the documentation in the codex is user created.)
  • Get involved in writing patches or fixing bugs
  • Work on adding feature requests
  • Translations are always needed for all the documents and other information because WordPress is in so many languages
  • There are a number of public mailing lists. [http://codex.wordpress.org/Mailing_Lists] in which you can participate
  • Contribute to the development of mobile apps
  • Join in meetups and Word Camps
  • Someone from the audience suggested that submitting ratings for plugins is helpful so that other people can see ratings and comments

At Automattic, all developers spend their first 3 weeks as happiness engineers and one week a year for every year thereafter.

2 Timely Tips from the WordPress community

You know that you should be downloading and saving a backup of your blog each time you upgrade WordPress. But did you know there’s a company that does it for you – every day – for a minimal charge? That company is VaultPress. Check it out. It could save you from a disaster.

Everyone from newbies to old WordPress hands can find something valuable at learn.wordpress.com.

How to Modify a WordPress Stylesheet for a Child Theme

WordPress has many outstanding attributes that have helped to make it the most popular blogging platform in the world and one of these is the parent and child theme format. The introduction of this means that when modifications are made to a WordPress theme, upgrades to newer versions can be made without losing any of the new code. This is a huge bonus for website developers, who in the past, would have to spend hours finding customised code and applying them to upgraded themes.

Modifying a WordPress stylesheet for a child theme is a relatively simple process. The first step is to ensure that the child theme itself has been set up. To do this, you will first of all need to login to your FTP client and look at the WP content directory for the installed WordPress. Once there, enter the “themes” section and you will see a list of the themes available. If, for example, there is a theme there called “holiday” and you wish to create a child for it, you will now need to create a new folder and call it “holiday-child”.

The next step, is to create a valid stylesheet called style.css and put it in the folder. The easiest way to do this is to simply create one using your favourite text editor, save it and then transfer it via the FTP. The new stylesheet should contain the following minimum information.

/*
Theme Name:   my child theme
Theme URI:      http://mysite.com
Description:      This is my child theme I have created
Author:             My Name
Author URI:       http://mysite.com
Template:          parenttheme
Version:            0.1
*/

Although much of the information in the lines above is generic, the one thing that must be altered for the child theme to work is “parenttheme”. In the example we are using, this should read “holiday”. The theme name should also be renamed holiday-child.

Whilst the above stylesheet is valid, what will happen when it is activated is that the site will load without any new formatting, as of course, the stylesheet does not have any actual CSS in it at the moment! Adding the following code would load the parent themes CSS file inside the child theme, thus making the site formatted.

@import url(“../parenttheme/style.css”);

Again, the phrase “parenttheme” would be replaced with “holiday” in the example that we are using.

Once this has been done, it can be uploaded to the site via FTP.

The second step is to then activate the child theme. Having logged into WordPress admin area, you should navigate over to “Appearance>Themes” where you will see that the parent theme is currently active. If everything has worked correctly, you should also be able to see the new child theme listed below. Clicking on “Activate” will send this theme live.

Keen observers, upon checking their website, will notice that there has been no change. The reason for this is because at this stage no actual modifications have been made to the theme. All that has happened is that a child theme has been created.

To make modifications to the child theme, you now only need to edit the style.css file that you originally created in a text editor, and then upload it via FTP again.

The wonderful thing about doing it in this way is that any changes that are made do not impact on the parent theme. This means that if a massive mistake is made, then, the parent theme can simply be reactivated in order to get the site back up and running again. At the same time, if there is a core code update, the child theme will be unaffected. Due to the fact that the site cannot be “damaged” in any way by using child themes, it also provides a great opportunity to experiment with code and develop some web design skills in a safe environment.

Creating a child theme for your WordPress blog takes just a matter of minutes, and after that, editing the child theme is, to use a pun, child’s play itself. In no time at all, you will be able to create unique looking sites that when built upon a good parent theme, will rival any commercially available themes for none of the cost.

Guest author Richard McMunn is founder of How2become.com, the UK’s leading training and recruitment website for public sector careers.  You can also find How2become on Facebook.

Useful links: Sexism defined, assholes moderated

Two posts that complement each other well caught my attention. I hope you’ll read both of them completely, they aren’t too long.

Yup. That's my man. In an apron, cooking japchae. :)

First there is What is sexism? by Lea Verou. Lea explains the idea in simple terms.

Both prejudice and gender-based discrimination are sexism. Prescriptive gender stereotypes are sexist (e.g. women have to be nurturing, men have to be tough) as they oppress the part of the population that doesn’t conform to them. Statistics aren’t sexist (e.g. “Many women are nurturing” isn’t a sexist statement, “Women are nurturing” or even worse “women should be nurturing” both are).

The second post, from Anil Dash, is If Your Website’s Full of Assholes, It’s Your Fault. Anil discusses a set of principles that will keep your website from turning into a morass of bad behavior. He introduces the principles with,

As it turns out, we have a way to prevent gangs of humans from acting like savage packs of animals. In fact, we’ve developed entire disciplines based around this goal over thousands of years. We just ignore most of the lessons that have been learned when we create our communities online. But, by simply learning from disciplines like urban planning, zoning regulations, crowd control, effective and humane policing, and the simple practices it takes to stage an effective public event, we can come up with a set of principles to prevent the overwhelming majority of the worst behaviors on the Internet.

Logical, clear-thinking words from two different sources that can help Internet communities that suffer from a plethora of assholes change to more productive and useful environments.

Dear I-Don’t-Know-Any-HTML Blogger

It’s true. You don’t need to know anything about HTML or CSS or JavaScript or any other techie stuff to write a blog. You have to fill in a few forms, choose a theme, answer some questions, and start writing.

Anyone can be a blogger.

That’s a good thing. That’s a great thing. We have plenty of wonderful bloggers in the world who are good at writing but don’t know much about what’s happening behind the scenes on their blog.

Which way do you roll?

Two things can happen when you write a blog without having any background knowledge about HTML, CSS and other web standards that make your blog work.

  1. You can write your posts, use the simple formatting tools like headings, lists, bold and italic and push Publish.
  2. You can write your posts and then fiddle with how things look by changing colors, alignment, fonts, and other appearance features.

If you do number 1, that is, stick with the way things are set to appear in your theme or template, you’re okay. Your theme or template has a style sheet (that’s the CSS) in place that determines appearance. Go with that and you’re golden.

If you do number 2, you are adding things into the post that aren’t in the theme style sheet. That means you are inserting stuff about appearance into the content of your post. You may not see it in what you write, but it’s happening behind the scenes in the HTML. Adding stuff about appearance into the content of your post is a problem.

You cannot predict what people are using to view your blog. It might be a smart phone, it might be a large monitor, it might be something in between. The style sheet for your theme probably has made allowances for this unpredictability – unless you are using a really old theme. But when you add appearance stuff right into the post, it doesn’t go into your style sheet and it might not adapt to different sized viewing devices.

In addition, added appearance stuff right in the post isn’t portable. By that I mean it makes it hard to reprint your post somewhere else and have it look good there. When you copy and paste somewhere else you carry along all that appearance stuff and it won’t look good in the new location. The new location for your brilliant post has its own style sheet, its own appearance, and you’re pasting in stuff that doesn’t work with that.

Some advice

I talked a bit about this in my post Web Teacher’s Seldom Asked Questions. I even made up a law about it called Virginia’s Law Against Unintended HTML. It goes like this:

Play with the way your content will look before the content is on the page, not after.

The bottom line for you don’t-know-anything-about-HTML bloggers is pick a theme you like and stick with that appearance. You do need to format your headings and lists and that sort of thing, but don’t fiddle with how those things look on the page after you’ve written them.

My most popular outbound links

Chain link

I post a lot of outbound links here. Frequent useful  links posts and frequent mention of resources for teachers mean a lot of outbound traffic. I thought it would be fun to see where you are going based on all the links I promote and suggest here. This also tells me something about what you are interested in learning.

By a large margin, most people go from here to the W3C page that describes ARIA roles. Links to various parts of this page such as the ARIA banner section or the ARIA complementary section are counted individually, with the total number of clicks adding up to almost 6000. There are a few other pages at the W3C that get traffic from me, but ARIA roles are predominant. I feel oddly proud that I’ve sent 6000 clicks about ARIA roles in the direction of the W3C.

The next most visited links going out from here go to amazon.com. Since I’m not making more than about $10 a quarter from Amazon affiliate links, I think most of you are looking at books but not buying once you get there. That’s fine with me because making money off affiliate book sales isn’t what I’m all about. I simply want to help you find the best books for teaching or learning.

After these two pack leaders are accounted for, the next most popular links leading away from here go to my home page at vdebolt.com, to old posts I wrote for eHow several years ago, to Carsonified, to WordPress, and to BlogHer.

Beyond that are a wide range of destinations with fewer numbers: Flickr, Twitter, and a whole lot of individual blogs and sites.

If any of my links to resources outside this blog have taught you or informed you in any way, then I’m happy to have been helpful.

Mad Scramble

I haven’t had time to writing anything for Web Teacher today because I’ve written two posts for BlogHer.

The first is What I Remember about the 2013 Oscar Show. I figure if Dori can write about the Oscars at Backup Brain, I can too.

The other post is Moms Join Facebook to Creep on Kids. Oh, REALLY, Mashable? This one is about an unrealistic infographic that Mashable published.

Please check them both out.