NASIG 2011: Gateway to Improving ERM System Deliverables – NISO’s ERM Data Standards and Best Practices Review

Speaker: Bob McQuillan

I had notes from this session that were lost to a glitch in the iPad WordPress app. Essentially, it was an overview of why the ERM Data Standards and Best Practices Review working group was created followed by a summary of their findings. The final report will be available soon, and if the grid/groupings of ERM standards and best practices that Bob shared in his presentation are included in the report, I would highly recommend it as a clear and efficient tool to identify the different aspects of ERMS development and needs.

WordCamp Richmond: Starting From Scratch – Introduction to Building Custom Themes

presenter: Wren Lanier

Why use WordPress as a CMS for a small website? It’s flexible enough to build all sorts of kinds of sites. It’s free as in beer and there is a huge support community. It has a beautiful admin (particularly compared to other CMS like Drupal) that clients like to use, which means it is more likely to succeed and make them happy repeat clients.

First things first. Set up a local development server (MAMP or XAMPP) or use a web host. This allows you to develop on a desktop machine as if it were a web server.

Next, download dummy content like posts and comments. There are plugins (WP Dummy Content, Demo Data Creator) or imports in XML form.

Start with a blank theme. You could start from scratch, but nobody needs to reinvent the wheel. Really good ones: Starkers (semantic, thorough, and functional), Naked (created for adding your own XHTML), Blank (now with HTML5), and more.

A blank theme will come with several php files for pages/components and a css file. To create a theme, you really only need an index.php, screenshot.png, and style.css files. Lanier begs you to name your theme (i.e. sign your work).

Now that you have a theme name, start with the header and navigation. Next, take advantage of WPs dynamic tags. Don’t use an absolute path to your style sheet, home page, or anywhere else on your site if possible.

Make things even more awesome with some if/then statements. You can do that in PHP. [I should probably dig out my PHP for Dummies reference type books and read up on this.] This allows you to code elements different depending on what type of page you use.

Once you have your header file, build your footer file, making sure to close any tags you have in your header. Code the copyright year to be dynamic.

It doesn’t have to be a blog!

If you’re going to create a static homepage, make sure you name the custom template. If you don’t do this, the WP admin can’t see it. Go into Reading Settings to select the page you created using the homepage template.

Now that you have all that, what goes into the custom template? Well, you have the header and footer already, so now you put THE LOOP in between a div wrapper. The loop is where WP magic happens. It will display the content depending on the template of the page type. It will limit the number of posts shown on a page, include/exclude categories, list posts by author/category/tag, offset posts, order posts, etc.

Once you have your home page, you’ll want to build the interior pages. There are several strategies. You could let page.php power them, but if you have different interior page designs, then you’ll want to create custom page templates for each. But, that can become inefficient, so Lanier recommends using if/then statements for things like custom sidebars. A technique of awesomeness is using dynamic body IDs, which allows you to target content to specific pages using the body_class tag depending on any number of variables. Or, once again you can use an if/then statement. Other options for body classes.

Finish off your theme with the power of plugins. Basics: Akismet, All-In-One SEO, Google XML Sitemaps, Fast Secure Contact Form (or other contact form plugin), WPtouch iPhone theme. For blogs, you’ll want plugins like Author Highlight, Comment Timeout, SEO Slugs (shortens the URL to SEO-friendly), Thank Me Later (first-timer comments will get an email thanking them and links to other content), and WordPress Related Posts. For a CMS, these are good: Custom Excerpts, Search Permalink, Search Unleashed (or Better Search, since the default search is  bit lacking), WP-PageNavi (instead of older/newer it creates page numbering), and WP Super Cache (caches content pages as static HTML and reduces server load).

Questions:

What about multi-user installations? She used Daren Hoyt’s Mimbo theme because it was primarily a magazine site.

At what point do you have too many conditional statements in a template? It’s a balancing act between which is more efficient: conditional statements or lots of PHP files.

How do you keep track of new plugins and the reliability of programmers? Daren Hoyt & Elliot J. Stock are two designers she follows and will check out their recommendations.

What is your opinions of premium themes? For most people, that’s all they need. She would rather spend her time developing niche things that can’t be handled by standard themes.

How do you know when plugins don’t mesh well with each other? Hard to keep up with this as patches are released and updates to WP code.

Where can you find out how to do what you want to do? The codex can be confusing. It’s often easier to find a theme that does the element you are wanting to do, and then figure out how they designed the loop to handle it.

Are parent templates still necessary? Lanier hasn’t really used them.

Leave WP auto-P on or off? She turns them off. Essentially, WP automatically wraps paragraphs with a p tag, which can mess with your theme.

CIL 2009: CM Tools: Drupal, Joomla, & Rumba

Speaker: Ryan Deschamps

In the end, you will install and play with several different content management systems until you find the right one for your needs. A good CMS will facilitate the division of labor, support the overall development of the site, and ensure best practices/standards. It’s not about the content, it’s about the cockpit. You need something that will make your staff happy so that it’s easy to build the right site for your users.

Joomla was the #1 in market share with good community support when Halifax went with it. Ultimately, it wasn’t working, so they switched to MODx. Joomla, unfortunately, gets in the way of creative coding.

ModX, unlike Joomla, has fine-grain user access. Templates are plain HTML, so no need to learn code specific to the CMS. The community was smaller, but more engaged.

One feature that Deschamps is excited about is the ability to create a snippet with pre-set options that can be inserted in a page and changed as needed. An example of how this would be used is if you want to put specific CC licenses on pages or have certain images displayed.

The future: "application framework" rather than "content management system"

Speaker: John Blyberg

Drupal has been named open source CMS of the year for the past two years in part due to the community participation. It scales well, so it can go from being a small website to a large and complex one relatively easily. However, it has a steep learning curve. Joomla is kind of like Photoshop Elements, and Drupal is more like the full Photoshop suite.

Everything you put into Drupal is a node, not a page. It associates bits of information with that node to flesh out a full page. Content types can be classified in different ways, with as much diversity as you want. The taxonomies can be used to create the structure of your website.

[Blyberg showed some examples of things that he likes about Drupal, but the detail and significance are beyond me, so I did not record them here. You can probably find out more when/if he posts his presentation.]

na-blog-wri-mo?

Recently, I went digging through the archives of this blog to locate something I knew had to be there. I didn’t find it, and I suspect that has to do with things getting lost in the conversion from MovableType to WordPress. *sigh*

Anyway, I ended up reading some of the old link round-up posts I made back in the infancy of this blog, and it got me thinking about how much my approach has changed over time. For link blogging, I’ve started using a mix of Delicious bookmarks and Google Reader shared items, and for general “look at this crazy stuff” kinds of things, I use Twitter, FriendFeed, or Facebook.

What’s left for the blog? Well, short reflective pieces like this, for one. And, of course, there’s the conference session summaries and the “what I wrote for Blogcritics” round-ups. Other than that, I am finding that I have things that I want to write about, but I don’t have the time or energy to form them into anything worthy of public consumption.

Honestly, though, the main reason is that I’ve become rather lazy about the care and feeding of this blog. So, for the rest of this month, I’m going to try to write something here at least a few times each week.

trying out Windows Live Writer

So far, it has been an easy installation and setup.  The software took the URL of my blog, along with my user name and password, and in less than 30 seconds had created the connection needed to make this work.

My plan is to use the software when I travel or for live blogging conferences. I have slacked off quite a bit on the latter, although I do still use my laptop to take extensive notes. Mainly, I haven’t had time to sit down after the conference and compose those notes into a blog entry.  Hopefully, a Word-like tool such as this will help me compose my thoughts quickly and post shortly after each session, rather than whole-sale summaries days (or months) after the conference.

Windows Live Writer seems to be very easy to use. It has all the functionality of composing in WordPress and then some. Haven’t run into any snags yet, but then again, this is my first post from it.

i iz blogginz / leef I alonze

perception & censorship

I’ve been thinking a bit about perception recently, both in the context of starting a new job in a new town, and in the context of online personas. I am rarely truly aware of how I am perceived by others, and often I move through life oblivious to how my words or actions might come across to someone who does not know me well.

New situations make me nervous, and when I’m nervous, I often find myself babbling inanely until someone more sociable is able to skillfully maneuver the conversation to something more suitable. I’m hyper-aware of this now that nearly every day presents a new situation, which makes me even more worried that I’ll say or do something stupid.

The thing is, I’m generally a good person. I try hard to find common ground with those around me, and I’m fairly open to criticism or “learning experiences.” I can also be cranky and a bit mouthy, but usually only when I’m frustrated or pushed over my tolerance limit. Long-time readers of this blog may have picked up on all of this, but there’s no way for me to know for sure. I just have to hope that as I have grown as a person over the past five years, so has the representation of me through my writing.

This brings me to the topic of censorship. I would like to state clearly, for the record, that I do not censor comments on my blog, unless they are spam or trackbacks from splogs. Those things are evil and should be destroyed. Comments that are not spam are freely posted, regardless of their content.

One of the reasons why I moved from the MovabeType blog software to WordPress was because I was getting 50+ spam comments an hour caught in the clunky spam filter used by MT. This made it a nightmare to check, and often I just deleted them all without making sure that no legitimate comments were accidentally marked as spam. Since I rarely get comments, I wasn’t too concerned with that, anyway.

However, several people have indicated that they thought I was censoring comments on this blog because I didn’t want anyone who disagrees with me to comment here. The folks who told me this are friends whom I trust, and it surprised me that they would make that sort of assumption. Again, this is a problem with perception verses reality.

Do I come across as someone who does not want criticism? I hope not. Sure, like anyone, I prefer to have constructive criticism, but that is a difficult thing to get in the virtual world where it’s much easier to make snarky comments or flame someone than to have a real conversation where everyone feels like their perspective is heard.

All this is to say, please, do comment here. If there is an old post that you’d like to comment on and you discover that commenting has been disabled for it (an old setting I used to limit spam), send me a note and I’ll open it up.

wordpress

Wow! WordPress really is that easy to use! It took me about ten minutes to set it up on my server with an appropriate theme. Over the past 48 hours, I have added 80+ entries, three static pages, two plugins, and tweaked almost all of the templates for the Chartreuse Girls archive. I know nothing of PHP, but my experience with Perl and MovableType coding informed me enough to know what to look for. It’s not quite to where I want it, but leaps and bounds ahead of where it would be if I had been using MT. I don’t plan to convert this blog over to WP. While it is tempting, there are too many tweaks and hacks that make this blog what it is. However, I will strongly recommend it to any new blogger looking to host a CMS on their own site.

nasig part five

Well, I’m finally getting back to writing up my experience and thoughts of the 2005 NASIG conference. Sorry for the delay.

Well, I’m finally getting back to writing up my experience and thoughts of the 2005 NASIG conference. Sorry for the delay.

When I last left off, it was lunchtime on Friday. We all grabbed our boxed lunches and headed off to wherever we chose to eat them. In my case, it was the committee chairs’ meeting. This year, I’m the co-chair for the Electronic Communications Committee, which means among other things, I’m the “webspinner” for nasig.org. If you see anything that’s messed up on the site, let me know.

After lunch, I attended my third tactics session, “Do You See RSS In Your Future.” Both of the presenters, Paoshan Yue and Araby Green, come from the University of Nevada, Reno. The session began with a basic over-view of RSS, and then moved into how libraries are using RSS. Blogwithoutalibrary.net was mentioned as a resource for finding out what other libraries are doing with blogs and RSS. Here’s a list of how libraries use RSS, as suggested by the presenters:

And here’s a list of how RSS can be used in the serials world:

Most of these ideas have been kicked around in the library blogging community, but for many of the session attendees, RSS was a new and brilliant concept for getting customized information out to our users.

The presenters also had ideas for RSS within the serials community that included ejournal package/collection updates from publishers, and a closer-to-home suggestion that the NASIG jobs web listings have an associated RSS feed. I’m working on that one in my new capacity as webspinner, but it hasn’t been easy to get it just the way I want it. If anyone out there knows of a (preferably free or low-cost) blog software that allows you to create categories and will run on a Windows server, please let me know. Right now Blogger isn’t cutting it for what we need to do with the jobs list.

wordpress

Jessamyn asks, “Man, is everyone using WordPress nowadays?”

Nope. I thought about it briefly when MT 3.0D came out and there was a big to-do over the license pricing tiers, but now that MT allows one author with three blogs under the free license, I’m covered for all I need. I have this blog, my blog of playlists from when I did college radio, and a test blog that I hardly use as I find that test index pages for this blog works just as well. Though, if I ever need more than one author or a bunch of blogs, I’ll probably switch to WordPress.