Manage Convention Contacts with Twitter Lists and Feedly Categories

You’re going to a great conference. You’re going to do lots of networking. The stack of business cards you accumulate will be enormous. Here are a couple of tips to help you keep all those names, faces, Twitter handles, and URLs straight.

Twitter Lists

Twitter lists are easy to create. They provide a way to read Twitter feeds from people according to groupings or interests. You don’t even have to be following them. You might have a list of food bloggers or tech bloggers or some other category of Twitter users. When you view the list you see tweets only from the specific people you added to the list.

When someone hands you a business card at a conference, you can quickly add their Twitter handle to a list. That will help you keep names and faces organized.

You can create a list and add to it from a desktop browser or from a mobile Twitter app. Let’s step through creating a list with a desktop browser first.

Create a list with a desktop browser

Sign in to your Twitter account in a browser. Here’s mine as an example.

The Lists option is on your profile page

In the menu bar opposite your profile photo, click the Lists link. When the Lists page opens, you’ll see any lists you subscribe to (you can subscribe to any public list, including your own), any lists you’ve been added to as a member, and the invitation to create a new list. Once you have lists created, this is where you would find them in your desktop browser.

Create a new list button

Click Create new list, give the list a name, and you can begin adding Twitter accounts to it.

When you create a new list, you can make it public or keep it private. If it’s a public list, it has a URL and anyone who is interested can subscribe to it. For example, here’s one of my public lists: womeninwebeducation.

To add someone to a list, find their user profile. You can search for their name, or just click on their name if you see it on Twitter. When their Twitter profile opens, click the gear icon by the Follow button to see user options.

Select Add or remove from lists

Select Add or remove from lists. Your lists open up and you check or select the list you want to put the user in.

Create a List with the Twitter App

Open the Twitter app.

Click the Me icon

Touch the Me icon at the bottom of the screen to see your own profile.

Click the gear icon to see Lists

Touch the gear icon next to your profile image to see Lists on the menu. Touch Lists.

Touch the plus sign to add a new list

At the top of the Lists page, you see a plus (+) sign. Touch it to create a new list. Give the list a name and decide if it’s public or private.

Once you have lists built, this is where you would go in the mobile app to read the lists you’ve subscribed to. This is also where you can see lists you’ve been added to by someone else.

Next, add Twitter accounts to your list.

Touch the gear icon to see Add/remove from lists

When you’re viewing the Twitter profile of the account you want to add to a list, touch the gear icon to see Add/remove from lists. Press Add/remove from lists and select the list you want to use.

In addition to viewing lists from a browser or the mobile app, tools such as TweetDeck have options that allow you to add columns for lists to your display.

Organize Blogs with Feedly Categories

Feedly is an RSS feed reader. There are many such tools, and you may already be using one to keep track of blogs you want to follow. The reason I mention Feedly in particular is that it offers a way to organize blog feeds into categories. You create categories yourself, or you can use Feedly’s suggestions for categories such as Food, Fashion, Books, or whatever.

Feedly has both a mobile and a desktop version, which makes it easy for you to take those conference contacts you made and quickly add blog URLs to the proper categories. In addition, there’s a pro version of Feedly ($5 a month or $45 for a whole year) that connects to Evernote where you can write notes or save snippets from blog posts.

You can login to Feedly with your Google ID or your Facebook ID.

Using Feedly on a Desktop

I logged in and customized my view a bit, which explains the orange. Hope you like orange as much as I do.

The Home menu in Feedly

At the Home page, there’s a menu on the left. It shows you the 3 categories I have so far: Cinema, Culture and Pop Culture. So far I only have a few blogs in each category. When the home page opens, all the unread feeds from everything appears, but I can click on any one of the categories or blogs and see only that.

Feedly has many categories you can browse, or you can make your own. Feedly calls these Collections. To quickly add a specific blog, find the search box on the upper right. Type in the URL of the blog you want to add. I typed www.theculturemom.com.

The search brought up the culture mom feed

The search brought up the feed from The Culture Mom. Next to the name of the blog at the top you see a button with +Feedly. I click that to add this blog to one of my collections.

Add the blog to whatever collection you want

I select the collection I want. Or I can add a new category.

Using the Feedly App

On your mobile device, the Feedly app takes some practice to get used to the way it swipes, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly.

A menu at the top left shows your feeds

It opens with all your unread posts. A menu at the upper left reveals your specific collections and blogs, which you see opened above. At the upper right, there’s a magnifying glass. Touch that to quickly add a blog.

Search for the blog you want to add

The search box opens, where the URL of the blog you want, e.g. theculturemom.com, can be added. Feedly also suggests blogs it thinks you will like. When the search results appear, you see a plus (+) sign at the top near the name of the blog feed. Touch that plus sign and add the blog to the appropriate collection.

It only takes a few seconds to add the information from a business card to a Twitter list or Feedly collection. If you do it while the person who gave you the card is still fresh in your mind, it will help you remember who you’ve talked to, what their interests are, what their blog is about, and it will give you a way to keep an eye on their tweets. Then you can concentrate on having a great conversation with the next person you meet.

[NOTE: This post was syndicated in slightly different form on BlogHer.com.]

The Basics of Choosing and Obtaining a Domain Name

Thinking of starting a new website? Two preliminary steps are choosing a domain name for your new site and then buying that domain name. Let’s take a look at some of the basics involved in that process.

Choosing a Domain Name

A good domain name is easy to remember and easy to spell. A domain name that’s easy to spell shouldn’t have characters like hyphens between words. It you want more than one word in the name, run them together like alistapart.com or webstandardssherpa.com. It’s a bit awkward to read, but for someone typing the domain name for A List Apart or Web Standards Sherpa in the location bar of a browser, it makes perfect sense.

Are you starting a website for an established business? Try to make the name reflect the business name and the branding that is already in place for the business. This may be a bit hard if it’s a commonly used name. For example, a Denver floor tile company might have trouble getting the name mountaintile.com. But perhaps denvermountaintile.com might be available.

If it’s a personal website, try to use your name. Karen McGrane owns karenmcgrane.com. How simple is that?

If it’s a blog where you’ll be exploring a particular point of view, pick a domain name that reflects your point of view. A name like Mountain Poet or Lesbian Dad tells you a story about what you can expect from the website before you’ve even visited.

Before you seek out a place to purchase the domain name, it’s good to have a few ideas ready to go. Your first choice might not be available.

Obtaining a Domain Name

Okay, you’ve got some ideas for a great domain name. It’s time to see what’s available for purchase.

There are literally thousands of places where you can buy a domain name. I use the domain name services connected to the hosting company where I do business. I like having the domain name company and the web hosting company connected. But I know people who think this is a bad idea. I think the reasoning of the people who think it’s a bad idea is that if one company shuts down suddenly, at least the other one still operates. If you choose an established company with a good history, I don’t think it’s something you need to worry about.

If you search for domain names on Google you get 84,000,000 results. There are a lot of choices! I’ll just pick one to use as an example. This does not imply that I endorse this company, it’s just an example. Also, prices vary, so the prices you see in these examples may be different from other domain name sellers.

A typical domain name search form.

A typical domain name search form.

At domain.com, you see something similar to what you see on any site where you want to purchase a domain name. You enter the name you are hoping to purchase. The site will tell you if the name is available. If it’s not available exactly as you want it, the site will suggest alternatives that are close to what you want.

I searched for vdebolt.com, my own domain name. Here’s what the tool told me.

The .com is gone, but other top level domains for that name are available.

The .com is gone, but other top level domains for that name are available.

I can’t buy vdebolt.com (duh, I already own it) but other top level domain name types are available like vdebolt.net or vdebolt.org. (Domain names are cheap. Many people buy several variations and direct them all to one site.)

If the name you want isn’t available, choosing whether or not to go with a .net or .org or some other .whatever is an option.

If you don’t want the .org or .net or .whatever, the tools usually suggest variations of the name based on your original search. Here are a few suggested to me:

A few of the suggested variations on my domain name.

A few of the suggested variations on my domain name.

Even better, create your own variations like the denvermountaintile.com example and use the search tool to see if it is available.

If you can’t get a name close to what you originally wanted, go back to step one and brainstorm a new idea. Keep trying until you eventually find a name that will work and is available.

You can buy the name for 1 year or for several. You’ll probably save a few dollars if you buy several years at a time. Don’t forget to renew it on time, or you might lose it!

You’re all set. Go build something awesome.

[Note: This post was originally published on Blogher.com.]

3 Ways to Add Instagram to a WordPress Blog

There are several choices open to you if you want to bring in your photos from Instagram into a WordPress blog: You can add a badge from Instagram, use embedding, or choose from a number of plugins.

How to Add Instagram to Your WordPress Blog

Place an Instagram Badge on Your Site

Sign in to your account on Instagram. There’s a “badges” option in the menu. A badge will put an icon on your site that links to your Instagram URL. It doesn’t bring in any images.

Instagram badges

Select a badge type and copy the code. I selected an icon, copied the code, and pasted it into Text view in a post. What showed up was a nifty little Instagram icon that linked to my feed on Instagram.com.

If I wanted this type of Instagram badge on my blog, I’d paste the code into a text widget in my sidebar, near my other social media badges and buttons. It doesn’t make much sense to put this icon in a post, because it will get buried over time.

Embed a Single Photo

You can put a single Instagram photo into a blog post using the Instagram “embed” option. Find the icon showing three dots next to the comment box and click it to see the embed option.

Embed a single Instagram photo

Instagram gives you the option to embed a single photo. Copy that code and paste it into the Text view of your post, and the photo will show up.

Instagram’s embed feature allows you to embed other people’s photos in your blog as well. The link to the original image on Instagram is included in the embed code, and shows up when you hover over the word “Instagram.”

Having this link included with the image skirts copyright problems by linking directly to the photo on the Instagram feed of the creator of the image.

WordPress Plugins

With a plugin, you get more than just an occasional image to insert into a post. There are plugins to create image sliders, to back up your Instagram photos to your WordPress database, or to place a small gallery of photos in your sidebar; others do even more. Most of the plugins below only require your Instagram username to work. The last one I mention gives you the option to set it up using the Instagram API.

DsgnWrks Instagram Importer, according to its description, “will allow you to import and backup your Instagram photos to your WordPress site. Includes robust options to allow you to control the imported posts formatting including built-in support for WordPress custom post-types, custom taxonomies, post-formats.” This plugin also imports Instagram video. When you first launch DsgnWrks Instagram Importer, you can set up the import to filter by hashtags or by date. There are a number of custom tags you can use to control the title and content of imported images.

Instagram Picture provides a way to add Instagram images to almost any position in your blog. You can use shortcodes, widgets, and PHP to insert images with this plugin. Here’s a screenshot from the developer of one of the widget styles you can choose with Instagram Picture. This plugin also has a feature for adding individual image to posts.

Instagram Picture plugin

Instagram Slider Widget will display a grid of thumbnails like you saw in the image above, but it also has the option to shows up to 20 images in a slider. You can set the number of images to include in the slider and set a time for how often the plugin goes to Instagram to look for new photos. Instagram Slider Widget has an option to insert the images into your WordPress Media Library, which gives you a backup of your Instagram photos.

Alpine PhotoTile for Instagram offers more options than the plugins mentioned above. It retrieves (but does not back up on WordPress) as many as 100 photos. According to the developer, “The photos can be linked to your Instagram page, a specific URL, or to a Lightbox slideshow. Also, the Shortcode Generator makes it easy to insert the widget into posts without learning any of the code. This lightweight but powerful widget takes advantage of WordPress’s built in JQuery scripts.” The lightbox feature on this plugin sets it apart from the others. Alpine PhotoTile for Instagram will insert photos in a page, a sidebar, or a post. Of all the plugins I’ve mentioned, it has the most and best reviews.

The WordPress plugin directory has many, many Instagram plugins; I’ve only scratched the surface with these four. The ones I’ve highlighted all have good reviews. I suggest you look at the number and quality of reviews when you consider any plugin. If you use a plugin yourself, it’s very helpful to the WordPress community (you) if you return to the plugin page and leave a review.

Keep in mind that a widget that doesn’t store your photos in WordPress, but instead reaches out to Instagram to retrieve photos, may experience delays in loading if the Internet is clogged up that day.

Many Instagram plugins allow you to display not only your own photos, but the photos of people you follow or photos with a particular hashtag. If you choose a plugin with that capability, check carefully for the copyright issues involved, and make sure the original creator of the image is linked to the photo. I can definitely see the value of a post with a slideshow based on a particular hashtag, say #blogher14. Enjoy sharing your Instagram photos on your WordPress blog!

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How to Use the WAVE tool to Test and Boost Site Accessibility

Did you hear? A website should be accessible to everyone who comes to visit. Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard that. But how do you know if you have an accessible site? There are all sorts of rules and checks involved in accessibility, but if you’re working with a WordPress blogger who just wants to do the best with limited knowledge, there’s one tool that can be a big help. It’s the WAVE tool from WebAIM.

How to use the WAVE tool to test and boost site accessibility

The WAVE tool tests accessibility. Many other tools do the same thing, but this one is particularly user friendly and helpful.

Start by entering your URL in the opening screen.

The WAVE tool URL entry form

The tool churns away for a while, and finally posts a shot of your blog with icons all over it. Each icon tells a story about some accessibility feature of your blog.

The WAVE tool results show icons on various parts of your blog

The default results page shows you a summary in the sidebar. It lists errors (red icons), alerts (yellow icons), features (green icons), structural elements (blue icons), HTML5 and ARIA elements (lavender icons), and contrast errors (which don’t show up as icons). Above the summary results are buttons to let you look at the page with no styles, or to view only the contrast errors. To the left of the summary panel, you can opt to see details, documentation, or an outline of the page structure.

Click on any WAVE tool icon for more information

On the right, where your web site is pictured, you can click on any icon to get a brief explanation and a link to more information. In this image, the yellow alert icon is telling me that the link in the date goes to the same place as the link in the H1 heading just before it. This isn’t great, but it also is something about WordPress that I cannot change easily. I’ll get into what you can and cannot fix easily in just a bit.

You can look at the code for the items the icons mention if you click the “code” tab at the bottom.

The code panel shows you the code related to any icon you click on the page of WAVE tool results

When you click the “code” panel, you go right to the code for any icon you click.

Fixes: Dealing with Content

The easy fixes for WAVE tool errors and alerts all deal with the content of your page. This is the stuff you control when you enter a new post.

  • WAVE looks for alt text on images. The WordPress image uploader always wants to add title text—you don’t need that. You do need alt text that describes what your image is and how it functions as part of your content.
  • The WAVE tool checks for structural elements like headings and lists. Headings are important in terms of organization, structure, and information hierarchy. These should be real headings made from tags that begin with “h,” like h1 or h2 or h3, and not some words that you’ve made bold. Headings also help with navigation for users on assistive devices like screen readers.

If you don’t have these two features on your page, you need to change your habits as you write your content. Add the alt text as you embed images, and make headings using the formatting tools in the tool bar as you write your post.

Fixes: Dealing with CSS

You may have errors that relate not to how you enter content, but to the CSS for your blog. Perhaps your color scheme lacks enough contrast for certain users. In How (and When and Why) to Set Up a Child Theme in WordPress, I explained how to change the CSS in your blog with a child theme. If you need to increase color contrast or make other changes involving styles, a child theme is the way to do it.

Fixes: Dealing with Code

Some errors and alerts come out of the code that comes from WordPress. Sometimes errors like these are easy to fix; sometimes they are not. I pointed out a case above where duplicate links were shown in an alert. That’s just going to be that way on my blog.

The WAVE tools error for a lack of label on a form field.

There’s an error on my blog because the select menu for my categories doesn’t have a label. The category menu is a widget. There’s no way to get into the code for this widget. Knowing about the error made me do the best I can with the heading right before the select menu. I hope the heading helps, but this error is just going to stay an error.

The WAVE tool looks for ARIA landmark roles

The WAVE tool looks for ARIA landmark roles. If your theme is missing them—that’s a code problem that’s easy to fix. The fix uses a child theme. In Think about ARIA roles when choosing a WordPress theme, I explain how to insert ARIA landmark roles in your code. It’s easier than it sounds.

Getting started with accessibility can be daunting because there are so many details involved, but the WAVE tool can guide you on your way. Run your blog through it. Fix any errors and alerts you can fix. If you absolutely cannot fix something, so be it. But if you can correct an error with a simple change of habit—or by implementing a few easy changes —it will make a huge difference to your users.

Go back to the WAVE tool every once in a while, and retest yourself to make sure you’re still on track.

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Improve Your SEO with the WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

WordPress SEO by Yoast is one of the most useful WordPress plugins available. It’s been downloaded by millions of WordPress users. At the WordPress plugin review page, there are almost 1000 reviews, with a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. If you are like me and always check reviews before you download a plugin, you will agree that those are some impressive stats.

Improve Your SEO with the WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

WordPress SEO by Yoast does several things that make it so helpful.

  • It analyzes your post based on a focus keyword of your choice. It checks on your use of the focus keyword in the title, headings, and text.
  • It looks at your title and lets you write a meta description of the post that appears on sites where you might promote your post such as Google+.
  • It comes with Twitter card implementation, which means when you post to Twitter a description of the post appears in the tweet.
  • It gives your post a rating of good, okay, or bad and teaches you how to improve your score if it isn’t as good as you want.

Let’s look at how it does the things I mentioned in more detail.

WordPress SEO by Yoast Analyzes Your Post with a Focus on Your Keywords

When the plugin is installed, a panel appears directly under your post. This is where you enter focus keywords and meta descriptions as well as learn how to improve your post and create meta descriptions targeted for particular social media if desired.

Improve Your SEO with the WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

The snippet preview shows you how the post will look to the search engines. You enter the focus keyword and the meta description. As you enter the meta description, it tracks your characters and tells you how many are left. Save the draft of your post to see how SEO Yoast graded what you’ve done.

Your rating appears in the Publish panel.

Improve Your SEO with the WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

The green disc next to SEO in the publish panel indicates that I’m doing pretty well with things. Yellow indicates okay and red is bad. If you click the “Check” link next to the colored disc, you are returned to the WordPress SEO by Yoast control panel, where the second tab gives you Page Analysis. You see the same info by selecting the Page Analysis tab.

Improve Your SEO with the WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

By looking at the page analysis, I can see what I need to change. I changed one of my H2 headings after checking this. I appreciate getting the reading level analyzed, because I tend to write long convoluted sentences, rather like this one, that decrease readability.

Customize the Meta Description for Different Sites

If you select the Social tab in the control panel, you can customize the meta description for specific sites.

Improve Your SEO with the WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

Twitter Card Implementation with WordPress SEO by Yoast

Using Twitter cards makes a big difference in how your tweets display. The heading, the description, and a photo all show up on Twitter if you use a Twitter card. Here’s an example of how a tweet with a Twitter card looks:

Improve Your SEO with the WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

With the plugin installed, an SEO category appears in your WordPress Dashboard menu sidebar. Clicking anything in this menu takes you to the Yoast WordPress SEO dashboard, so I always make sure I’ve saved my draft before I use this menu.

Improve Your SEO with the WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

Select Social and then select the tab for Twitter.

Improve Your SEO with the WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

Select the Twitter card meta data checkbox and supply your Twitter Username. Save. Follow the link to the Twitter Card Validator, where you’ll pick a card type, grab some embed code to add to the document HEAD of your page, and apply for Twitter card approval.

A Few Final Options

The screen shots above show a number of options and settings I didn’t have the space to get into in this post. On the Advanced tab, there are options for redirects, Canonical URLs and more. Options in the sidebar SEO category will take you to the Yoast WordPress SEO dashboard where you can set up your site with Google and Bing webmaster tools, make choices about titles and meta settings, enable an XML sitemap, make choices about permalinks, internal links, breadcrumb settings, RSS feeds, import settings from other plugins, and edit your robots.txt and .htaccess files.

I’m not a heavy user of plugins, but this one provides a lot of benefits. I think you’ll find it helpful. You can download the plugin from the developer’s site at yoast.com or from the WordPress plugin directory.

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How (and When and Why) to Set Up a Child Theme in WordPress

If you aren’t quite up to creating your own WordPress theme from scratch, but you know some CSS, you can still customize a WordPress theme. The secret is using a child theme.

How

Besides knowing a bit of CSS to customize your theme, you also need to know how to create a folder and add a file to it on your server. You can do this with FTP, or you can sign in to your server and use the control panel to do it.

Pick a Theme

What kind of theme do you want? You might be looking for a responsive design that will work on any device, you might want a certain number of columns or a certain layout. It’s often easy to find something that’s almost what you want. Maybe you don’t like the colors or want different fonts, but it comes close to what you want. That kind of theme is a perfect candidate to customize with a child theme.

Get your almost-perfect theme installed in WordPress and make it the active theme. Now you’re ready to start working on the child theme.

Create up the Child Theme Folder

For the examples, I’m going to assume you picked the WordPress theme twentyeleven. Everything I say about twentyeleven should be changed to reflect the name of the theme you actually use instead.

In your themes directory, create a new folder. If the theme you’re using is twentyeleven, the folder for the child theme would be twentyeleven-child. That’s the theme name, a hyphen, and the word child. Here’s an example of how it might look.

a child theme folder in the directory structure

Add the new Style Rules

The only file that has to be placed in the new child theme folder is a style.css file. Any changes you make to the CSS for the theme will be saved in the style.css file in the child theme folder and will overrule the CSS in the parent theme once you’ve set it all up.

The style.css document you put in the child theme folder must start with specific information. Of course, you change it to match your particular names.


/*
 Theme Name:   Twenty Eleven Child
 Description:  Twenty Eleven Child Theme
 Author:       Jane Doe
 Author URI:   http://example.com
 Template:     twentyeleven
*/

@import url("../twentyeleven/style.css");

/* =Theme customization starts here------------ */

You don’t have to have all that. The only required lines are the Theme Name, the Template, and the ‘@import url’ line. The @import line brings in all the style rules from the parent theme.

Under the line where it says “Theme customization starts here,” put any new style rules you need. The rules you’ll need are things you want to be different from the way they are in the parent theme.

Activate Your Child Theme

Even before you add any CSS rules to the child theme stylesheet, you can activate the theme. Log in to your WordPress site’s dashboard. Go to Administration Panels > Appearance > Themes. You will see your child theme listed there. Click Activate.

When you look at your blog in the browser, it will look exactly like the parent theme, but as you add new rules to the child theme style.css file, you will see your customizations taking shape.

Find the Selectors and Write New Styles

If you see something you want to customize, you need to look for it in the style.css file for the parent theme. Once you’ve found the rule in the parent stylesheet, you know what selectors to use to make changes in the child stylesheet.

For example, on one of my blogs, I didn’t like the way the h3 headings in the parent theme looked. I found the rule for the the h3 headings. In my parent theme, it looked like this:


.entry-content h3,
.comment-content h3 {
	font-size: 10px;
	letter-spacing: 0.1em;
	line-height: 2.6em;
	text-transform: uppercase;
}

I didn’t like the size, or the line height, and I didn’t like the uppercase. To overrule that, I used the same selectors, but I put a new rule for those selectors in the style.css file in the child theme folder.


.entry-content h3,
.comment-content h3 {
	font-size: 16px;
	font-weight:bold;
	line-height: 1.6em;
	text-transform: none;
}

I got bigger, bolder, headings that weren’t all uppercase! Just what I wanted.

More Advanced Customizations

Other parts of your theme can be customized as well. You might want to add something to the header.php file or the functions.php file. This can be done by adding the changed files to the child theme folder. If the parent theme is updated, none of your changes in the child theme folder will be lost. The WordPress Codex has more information to help you to move to the advanced level.

Note that a child theme can only be used when a blog has WordPress installed on its own domain. Child themes won’t work for themes hosted on wordpress.com.

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