A Day of WordPress Website Updates

A Day of WordPress Website Updates

I know it’s vacation time when I can spend almost an entire day on the couch updating WordPress websites. That may not sound like a fun way to spend break time from teaching at school, but it does to me! Here are some of the updates I made today to some of my websites, several of which were LONG overdue.

Eyes Right Blog

Back in 2006 I setup the “Eyes Right Blog” as a separate Christian blog site, and invited several friends to contribute posts there. I updated the “about” page on the site today with more details about why I set it up and the history of how it developed.

The WordPress theme I was using on “Eyes Right” had become VERY outdated for several reasons. It didn’t include “responsive web design” features which optimize the site display when visitors have different sized screens. I did utilize other mobile theme options in the ensuing years (like Carrington Mobile and JetPack’s mobile theme), but other WordPress features that were added MANY moons ago (like custom menus) were not supported by my old theme. I tried several different, free themes today (all from the WordPress repository) and ended up falling in love with Smartline Lite. In addition to changing the theme and creating a new header image (using free Seashore software) I updated and created several new pages on the site. I also installed and configured WordFence and WP Super Cache as new, free and VERY helpful plug-ins.

I created a new “Presentations” page to collect, link and share the Christian-themed presentations I’ve shared since 2010 at different conferences and events. The vast majority of my presentations as a digital learning consultant are secular and focus on different technology integration topics, but I really enjoy the opportunity to share ideas and technology tips in explicitly Christian settings as well. Hopefully by sharing this page I’ll have more opportunities to present similar sessions in the future.

I also created a new “Christian Website Projects” page with a similar goal in mind. In the past 8 years or so, I’ve started and built a variety of different Christian-themed online projects and websites. Until now, however, I really didn’t have a single place where these were linked and shared with others. I hope this new page on “Eyes Right” will further amplify these projects and inspire others to start similar initiatives in their churches and/or communities.

The last update to “Eyes Right” was the most time consuming. Over the years I hadn’t taken the time to maintain published podcasts on the site very well. Instead of publishing all my media files to the same website location (as I’ve done faithfully with “Speed of Creativity podcasts” and “Fuel for Educational Change Agents” podcasts over the years) I published Eyes Right podcasts in multiple locations. In part this was because I’ve used the site as a “media sandbox” to try new web tools and apps. This follows the media literacy philosophy I shared and articulated in my first book, “Playing with Media: simple ideas for powerful sharing” (2011). While this pattern of media “playing” has proven beneficial for my own digital literacy, it’s also resulted in a messier podcast channel than I’d like for “Eyes Right.”

After literally HOURS of work, I now have all the podcasts on “Eyes Right” cleaned up and available both on the site in a single category and also in a subscribable RSS feed created by the “Blubrry PowerPress Podcasting plugin” and made browser-friendly by FeedBurner. My site had still been running an old and buggy podcasting plugin called PodPress. I guess it’s still available, but I would NOT recommend using it. A number of years ago, the mySQL requests it was generating on my site (due to a large number of downloads) caused my web host to basically extort significantly more money from me per month and go through some very painful upgrade/website transition experiences. See my November 2008 post, “Is this web hosting extortion?” for more background. I decided to use PowerPress on “Eyes Right” at this point for podcasts for a couple of reasons. I used PowerPress a few years ago when I was inspired by Jess McCulloch‘s Tumblr-powered “Life Sounds Like This” blog to start my own “Sounds of My World” (ambient audio recordings) blog. It works pretty well. I knew it was under active development / updating, which is very important for WordPress from a security standpoint. It also offers free “basic podcasting statistics,” which is a bonus but not a huge deal for me anymore. Since migrating to the PodLove Web Player for my “Speed of Creativity podcasts” channel a few years ago, I’ve given up on trying to gather and analyze podcast statistics.

The main catalyst for using PowerPress today was the fact that the “Mobile Podcaster” app for my iPhone supports it and I couldn’t get an audio podcast I recorded earlier today to publish with the default WordPress audio setting selected. I ended up having to email myself the M4A audio file Mobile Podcaster created and converting it to MP3 with iTunes on my laptop to get that episode published tonight, but I was pleased overall with my website switchover to PowerPress. My biggest problem was enabling the “free basic statistics” option on the developer’s website.

There were several podcast episodes I “digitally resurrected” today from “Eyes Right” which had broken links due to web server hosting changes in the past. The post, “Exploring the Biblical World via Google Earth: All Sessions Available as Podcasts” from November 2008 is the most dramatic example. I had to change the links for those five episodes to Amazon S3-hosted versions, and change deprecated Flash plugin embed code to HTML5-compatible, newer WordPress audio shortcodes. I also re-created the RSS feed for this 5 episode podcast series using FeedForAll Mac software. I have no idea if anyone will ever listen to these mid-week adult discipleship classes on “Google Earth,” but since I’d gone to such trouble in the past to digitally share them I figured I might as well repair the links and code required to keep them online.

My biggest disappointment of the day was realizing I’d lost most of the audio podcasts I created with elementary students who I taught Sunday School to in the past five or so years. I created a new category, “BLASTcast,” for those posts on Eyes Right. These were all cross-posts from a site I setup on WordPress.com a number of years ago (blastcast.wordpress.com) to share Sunday School posts and media creations with parents. The most noteable “preserved podcast” from this elementary Sunday School series is “10 year old reflections about Jesus on Christmas Eve” from December 2007. It’s a very touching radio show, which we created in GarageBand (at the time) as an “enhanced podcast.” It was shared during our church’s family Christmas Eve service that year. A few years later, in 2010, I published it to YouTube, but I think some of the image synchronization was off. Still, it’s GREAT to have that recorded media and be able to re-experience it.

My lesson learned after spending HOURS cleaning up these audio files is this: When creating media files for a class podcast/radio show or other purpose, consider cross-posting / saving your original files on a reliable file storage website. That could be your own or another robust and reliable service you are confident will be maintained into the future. Hopefully the site won’t go the way of Cinch. At least one of our BLASTcast podcast episodes was ONLY saved to Cinch, and since I never backed it up, cross-posted it or downloaded it when Cinch went offline, that media is (apparently) forever “lost to the ages.”

Learning Signs Blog

“Learning Signs” is our WordPress-powered family learning blog which we’ve been posting to sporadically since October 2007. Today I updated its theme to Smartline Lite and also installed the free plugins WordFence and WP Super Cache, as I did with Eyes Right. In addition, I created a new “Family Digital Footprint” page and included links to the different websites our family members are posting and sharing content on these days. Our youngest daughter, Rachel, is the main person still posting to the site, although I do occasionally as well.

RachelFryer.com

Another WordPress website I worked on today, with Rachel, was her website RachelFryer.com. I registered that domain for her a few years ago after she illustrated my first book and started creating eBooks of her own that she wanted to share. She wasn’t ever happy with the theme and look of that site, however, and today after she taught herself (using YouTube videos, of course) how to create a new header image for her YouTube channel (RachelArtist) I suggested we find a new WordPress theme for her site. She really liked the Matheson theme, but for some reason it formatted her homepage image “wonky” and I couldn’t figure out a fix. Currently she’s using the Make theme by The Theme Foundry, but I’m guessing that may change in upcoming days now that she’s learned how to search for, install, activate and customize WordPress themes from the official WordPress repository.

PlayingWithMedia.com

The last WordPress website I worked on today was Playing With Media. I recorded two new screencasts today which I linked on the “Videos” page of the site. PlayingWithMedia.com now has an eStore where people can purchase any of my eBooks, but instead of just getting one format they can get them (in most cases) in three. (ePUB, MOBI and PDF) I also have a subscription-based video library of instructional/training tutorials that has many hours of content in dozens of different videos. Today I made the linked “table of contents” page of videos organized by category “public” for anyone to view. Previously recently added video titles were visible in the website sidebar and linked in the Twitter account I setup to share new video links (@VideosByWes) but the table of contents wasn’t public. Hopefully by sharing this openly, people can better assess whether or not an annual membership to PlayingWithMedia would be personally beneficial.

I also recorded and added two screencasts to the site today. They were:

  1. Crop an Image to a Custom Aspect Ratio (9:51)
  2. How to Screencast with Screenflow Software -Mac users (7:55)

Check out the full list of available videos, which includes several full-length, recorded workshops I’ve taught in the past. In upcoming weeks I’m going to add a video request form, so members can request tutorial videos about specific apps, software programs or websites.

That just about covers my day of WordPress website updates. Whew! I’m thankful to have time to make many of these changes which will hopefully provide better access in the year to come to content I’ve shared and our family has shared in the past.


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out!

Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard!
If you’re trying to listen to a podcast episode and it’s not working, check this status page. (Wes is migrating his podcasts to Amazon S3 for hosting.) Remember to follow Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wesley’s Facebook pages for “Speed of Creativity Learning” and his eBook, “Playing with Media.” Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Mapping Media to the Curriculum.”

On this day..

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