Categories
Lynda.com WordPress Themes

Free Responsive WordPress theme Anaximander – now available through lynda.com

The wait is over: The free responsive WordPress theme Anaximander is now available for you to use through my new course WordPress: Building Responsive Themes on lynda.com. If you don’t already have a lynda.com subscription you can follow this link – lynda.com/trial/mor10 – and get a free 7 day trial. As you can probably deduce, this theme release is a bit different, so let me explain how and why. But first, check out the features:

Anaximander features

Anaximander is a fully built out responsive WordPress theme built to use all the latest features in WordPress 3.4.1. Theme features include:

  • Fully commented and explained theme files
  • Flexible height header image functionality
  • Custom background colour
  • Custom header and link colour
  • Full Theme Customizer integration of all theme functions
  • Superfish main menu with advanced flyouts
  • Responsive menu for smaller screens
  • Masonry index front page
  • Automatic video embeds on front page
  • Responsive videos through FitVids
  • Responsive images
  • Featured images
  • Three post formats: Regular, Video, Image
    • Regular displays the post as is
    • Video displays any oEmbed video on the front page
    • Image displays the featured image at the top of the single post
  • Custom social media icons in the super-header
  • Advanced search and 404 pages with latest posts
  • Related posts feature with option to switch to Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP)
  • Optional footer widgets
  • and much much more

A theme you understand

Anaximander was built as a learning tool as well as a modern WordPress theme. The idea of Anaximander was always to ship it in such a way that using it was a learning process. This is how it works: To get Anaximander you have to follow the WordPress: Building Responsive Themes course on lynda.com from beginning to end. You start off with a static version of the theme and end up with a fully responsive theme with tons of extra features like jQuery Masonry, Superfish, and Flexslider built in.

The WordPress: Building Responsive Themes course takes the viewer through the process of converting Anaximander to a responsive theme addressing most of the issues raised by working with responsive themes including how to deal with layouts, images, videos, and menus as well as how to make the theme fit all screen sizes and work well for as many visitors as possible. The course also demonstrates how to incorporate JavaScript plugins and tools properly and provides the viewer with best-practice guides on how to make any WordPress theme responsive.

How exactly is this free?

I’m sure your next question is “How is this a free theme when I have to have a subscription to lynda.com to get it?” There is a simple answer. If you don’t already have a lynda.com subscription you can follow this link – lynda.com/trial/mor10 – and get a free 7 day trial. That’s enough time to follow the course and get Anaximander all set up. I know this looks like some sneaky marketing ploy, but it really isn’t. The whole point of Anaximander is for it to help you learn how to build responsive themes and give you a solid understanding of how the theme works. That’s why it’s not being released as a completed theme. To ensure that the theme would be available to anyone I was able to set the course up so that the static version of the theme is available to everyone including free trial subscribers. Bottom line is the theme is free to anyone who wants it.

Categories
Lynda.com WordPress

New lynda.com course: Start with a Theme: Creative Portfolios in WordPress

Want to get your creative portfolio up on the web right now with minimal hassle? Look no further than my latest lynda.com course Start with a Theme: Creative Portfolios in WordPress. The Start with a Theme (SWAT) course series provides step-by-step guides on how to quickly set up different types of websites using standard WordPress themes.

The three themes covered in this course are all very different, very cool, and responsive so they translate well to smaller screens like smartphones and tablets. You’ll get a walk through of setup and configuration and be able to get up and running in less than an hour (if you have all your content ready that is).

Go check out Start with a Theme: Creative Portfolios in WordPress and let me know what you think.

If you don’t already have a lynda.com subscription you can get a 7 day free trial by following this link: lynda.com/trial/mor10

Categories
GitHub

tryGit – Finally an easy way to learn Git and GitHub

If you have ever tried to use GitHub and half an hour later wanted to throw your computer out the window, you are not alone. To save computers everywhere from high falls and imminent death, the good people at GitHub and Code School have created tryGit, a 15 minute interactive course that teaches you how to use Git and GitHub without performing computercide in the process.

A few months ago I wrote about the new GitHub for Windows and how it took strides to democratize coding. But even with this new tool, wrapping your head around how Git, GitHub and version control in general works can be quite a challenge, especially for people who don’t live and breathe code.

To further democratize the use of tools like Git and GitHub a proper learning environment is required. Because although documentation is great, it is often unapproachable. I’ve been trying two figure out how best to teach people how to use GitHub myself. The best I could come up with was a general idea of a hands-on coding environment where people could do guided lessons and experiment in a safe setting. How I would pull that off I had no idea. Fortunately I wasn’t the only one on that track, and now GitHub has teamed up with Code School to create pretty much the same thing, just much better: tryGit.

No love for octodog
No love for octodog

tryGit is a clever tool that walks you through all the main stages of using Git and GitHub in a guided step-by-step process. From start to finish the course takes 15 minutes and results in a new repository being published on your GitHub account. The genius in tryGit is that it creates a realistic scenario, takes you through the proper algorithm to get things done, and addresses the main issues people run into when starting to play with Git and GitHub, all in a fun and quite amusing environment.

By following the lesson from start to finish you get to publish, modify, merge, and delete dogs and cats aplenty. What the people at GitHub have against octodog is beyond me, but reading the instructions made me chuckle several times which is a great accomplishment for a learning tool designed to teach you something that is both highly technical and dull.

I said it in my earlier article and I’ll say it again: The biggest hurdle for the democratization of code is creating environments and tools everyone can use regardless of background. By launching tryGit, GitHub has taken great strides to educate the general public on how to use this tool and allow them to start scraping at the surface of the wonderful world of open source development.

Whomever came up with this idea, I applaud you.

Categories
Theme Weekend

Theme Weekend #1: Come Together, Right Now, Over Themes

Open source is all about collaborative coding, but more often than not that coding happens in isolation, the contributors only connecting via bursts of zeros and ones over global networks. And though this works quite well, it does little to establish true relationships and encourage conversation, idea exchange and innovation. For that to happen physical proximity and face-to-face interaction is required. What was needed was a meeting place, an agora where like-minded people could come together over a common goal. This is how Theme Weekend came to be.

Check out all my photos from Theme Weekend on Flickr.

The Inception

I’ve been talking about it ever since the idea popped into my head around January 2012. It was based on the same lofty “built it and they will come” principle that the 12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon came from, and with the first event completed it is clear that principle is still sound.

Theme Weekend attendees
The inception of Theme Weekend came from three things: My own experiences working with designers and developers, conversations with members of the Vancouver WordPress community, and requests from members of the Vancouver WordPress Meetup of hosting hands-on classes and events: The interaction point between designer and developer is a much joked talked about area of frequent conflict. The simplistic view is that this is because the two sides have different ideals and goals and don’t understand each other, but my feeling is it’s because they don’t speak the same language and don’t have the experience of working together necessary for that common language to establish itself. Speaking to members of my own community I realized the only real interaction that takes place between these two groups is through clients or emails. There is no common meeting point where they can work together in a non-competitive or non-task oriented environment. In addition we’ve gotten frequent requests from both designers and developers to host hands-on events that focus on “actually building something”. Combine these three observations and the answer is clear: Theme Weekend is long overdue.

The First Theme Weekend

The Theme Weekend Class Photo
In early June I announced I was looking for some collaborators to pull off the first edition of Theme Weekend and Joachim Kudish and Pauline Lai immediately voiced interest. Joined by my trusted partner in crime Angela the four of us worked out the practical aspects of how to organize the event, nailed down a venue, got a sponsorship from the WordPress Foundation and started promoting the event.

It didn’t take long to get the 20 seats filled, and on Saturday the 20 participants along with our three volunteer “floating experts” Catherine Winters, Christine Rondeau, and Andrew Ozz and the organizing team set up at Vancouver co-working mecca The Network Hub for two days of WordPress geekery. For a full recap of what transpired, check out Joachim’s post.

This was just the beginning

Theme Weekend attendees
Anyone who knows me knows that my ideas are always huge, all encompassing and intended to expand and evolve. Theme Weekend is no different. From the original idea – get some WordPress designers and developers together to build themes over a weekend – the idea quickly evolved to something more akin to a targeted Open Source creating event . Theme Weekend will be an event template that can be used to host events around anything and everything open source all around the world.

The first key component of Theme Weekend is the “theme” part: Each weekend has to have a specific goal in mind, clearly defined and curated. The first installation was about creating general WordPress themes. The next one will likely be about creating free WordPress themes for a specific pre-defined audience or even a specific organization or cause. But Theme Weekend doesn’t have to be about creating WordPress themes. It can be about creating Drupal templates, or Joomla templates, or WordPress plugins, or Orchard whatevers. The point is to bring people together to create something while learning from each other. And I believe giving these people a specific target to work towards makes that process far more effective.

The second key component of Theme Weekend is to ensure what is created at the event continues to evolve after the event. For that we landed on the use of GitHub as a repository for all the projects. This proved to be a bigger hurdle than we anticipated due to the unfamiliar nature for most of the concept of version control, but this is a hurdle I think can be overcome with good documentation and careful planning. By using a version control system and publishing everything in public on the web, the team members themselves and others interested can continue working on the projects long after the event is over. And as Theme Weekend becomes more prevalent we’ll see a burgeoning archive of crowd-created open source projects appear on the web for the world to use and contribute to.

Coming Soon: ThemeWeekend.org

To ensure that Theme Weekend spreads and evolves I am working on a website that will be hosted at themeweekend.org. On the website you’ll find a full and evolving rundown of how to host a Theme Weekend along with lists of upcoming Theme Weekends, archives of past Theme Weekends, and links to all Theme Weekend projects. The site will serve as a central hub for the even concept and will allow us to evolve the concept by letting you and others interested take part, organize, collaborate, improve and make the event into all it can be. We’ll start off with the lessons learned from the first event this past weekend and expand from there. And hopefully we’ll soon see Theme Weekends pop up elsewhere around the world bringing communities together to do what we all love to do: Create Open Source greatness just because we can.

Theme Weekend is powered by us, the Pink & Yellow Not For Profit Society, and is hosted in conjunction with whomever decides to organize an event. We provide the template, you use it to create something awesome.

Categories
Theme Weekend

Theme Weekend registration is live

Registration for the first ever Theme Weekend is now live. Head on over to WPYVR.org and put your name in the hat to take part in this awesome (if I may say so myself) new event!

Theme Weekend, held on the weekend of June 30th and July 1st 2012, brings together 20 designers, developers and WordPress enthusiasts to build WordPress themes in a weekend.

The event takes place at The Network Hub in downtown Vancouver and costs $15 per person. All funds raised will be put towards food and beverages for participants.

The event has a simple set of parameters: On Saturday morning the participants will form groups that each will build a WordPress theme over the two days of the weekend. The themes will be hosted on GitHub and will be made available to the public. Throughout the event the groups can seek help from each other and from the floating pro developers and designers. The goal of Theme Weekend is simple: foster creativity and collaboration, team building and to learn from one another.

For a full writeup of Theme Weekend check out the original blog post.

Categories
Events

Views from Northern Voice 2012

Northern Voice is a blogging and online publishing conference held in Vancouver every year. This year it was held at the W2 in the Downtown Eastside. These photos were taken in preparation for my part of the PhotoCamp lectures.

Categories
twitter WordPress

Twitter oEmbeds are not responsive – The little things that bug me

If you have a website using WordPress you should be excited about the new 3.4 release which introduces a whole bunch of new features. For a brief look check out the announcement or you can get an in-depth look at all the newness in the Codex article for the release.

Twitter oEmbeds are here!

One of the many new features is the ability to use oEmbed to add Tweets to your posts. All you have to do is grab the URL to a tweet, for example https://twitter.com/mor10/status/212999553023090688, and paste it into the editor. WordPress finds the URL, figures out it’s from Twitter, and embeds a nice active Tweet window in the post, just like the one you see above. Very cool. Almost.

New technology hampered by old thinking

I have a serious issue with the Twitter oEmbed: Inspecting the code you’ll see the widget comes with a small inline style call:

style="width:500px!important"

This small and unnecessary piece of code makes the Twitter oEmbed awful to work with. As you see from the grab at the very top of the post, the oEmbedded tweet is not responsive. That’s because the width is hardcoded – something that should never happen, especially not inline. What’s worse is that infernal “!important” at the end of the offending piece of inline style code. That !important makes it impossible to use a stylesheet to override the width and make the box responsive.

The Solution (that you can’t apply)

The solution to this problem – one that must be implemented by either Twitter or WordPress (at present I’m not sure where that piece of code is originating) is to change the style code to say:

style="max-width:500px!important"

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the clear:both!important; call. WTF.

Categories
Facebook plugins

Facebook for WordPress – plugin brings integration on a whole new level

Facebook just released a new plugin for WordPress that makes Facebook integration, publishing and a lot of other cool stuff easier than ever. Like you would expect, the plugin ships with new widgets and lots of cool toys, but what is more important is it lets you mention Facebook pages and friends right in the post for further integration. And what’s more, when you do, your post automatically appears on that person’s timeline! The marketing (and spamming) potential is enormous.

Setting up Facebook for WordPress is a bit of a pain: After installing the plugin you have to create a Facebook App and hook the two together. If you want to allow the plugin to push content directly to Facebook you also have to create an Open Graph action within your app. It’s all explained in documentation, but even so it’s not as easy as it should be. Considering this is a Facebook app that’s hardly news.

I just hooked the plugin up to my own Facebook account and pages and will be running some experiments throughout the next few weeks. If you have any experiences yourself and would like to share, please do so in the comments below. I’m always looking for information about real life usage of stuff like this.

Categories
Theme Weekend

Theme Weekend Announced

The best way to learn a skill, to improve a skill, or to perfect a skill, is to put it to use and share it with others.

The first ever Theme Weekend will put this to practice. Twenty designers, developers, and WordPress enthusiasts will gather at The Network Hub in downtown Vancouver for a two-day weekend event on June 30th and July 1st, 2012 to collaborate and build WordPress themes.

THE PREMISE

Theme Weekend grew out of requests from members of the Vancouver WordPress Meetup Group for a more hands-on workshop-type event where everyone can learn more about building WordPress themes. This event combines skills, collaboration, team building, and a bit of good old-fashioned competition to produce a learning environment and some great free WordPress themes.

Saturday kicks off with a pitch session of theme ideas which are voted on, the most popular of which will move on to the next stage. Teams consisting of designers and developers and those in between will then be formed. Over the course of the two days, each team will design and build their chosen theme and make it available via GitHub.

To read all about it and get in on the fun, head over to WPYVR.org – the home of the Vancouver WordPress Community – for all the details.

Categories
Events Speaking Engagements WordPress

Talk: WordPress 101 – Web Publishing for Everyone

Join me on Tuesday May 29 for a WordPress primer at The Office. I’ll be talking WordPress 101 and also asking questions about anything and everything WordPress and web publishing in general. The event is free and open to everyone. Sign up at Meetup.com or the event page on Facebook.

Blurb:

Want a new website for your company, yourself or for someone else? WordPress makes advanced web publishing available to everyone regardless of skill level. Join web developer, lynda.com author, and WordPress expert Morten Rand-Hendriksen and learn how to get up and running with your own free WordPress website right now.

Morten Rand-Hendriksen is a web designer and developer with a passion for clean design, standards-based code, and open-source software. He is an author with online video training library lynda.com and has published several books on the topic of web development with Microsoft Expression Web. Through his company Pink & Yellow Media he builds websites for everyone from local bloggers to companies to multi-national corporations. Morten is an expert on advanced site development with WordPress and is a popular speaker at conferences. He divides his time evenly between building web solutions and teaching others how to do things right and get the most out of the web. Morten grew up in Norway and made Canada his home in 2002.

3RUH97CNC5TG

Categories
GitHub Open Source

GitHub for Windows changes everything

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the web development world or lifted the lid on the code behind your own or someone else’s website, you will at some point have encountered a site called GitHub. GitHub is the home of millions of open source code repositories that are in constant flux and evolution, and GitHub is where you will find the bleeding edge of innovation when it comes to code on the web.

The challenge with GitHub, at least for Windows users (so the majority of the computer literate population) is that there has never been a good Windows-based interface for GitHub. As a result, Windows users have been relegated to using GitBash or another command line based interface. And though this isn’t a solid non-starter, it is rather intimidating and hard to wrap your head around if you’re not used to using command line.

Those days are gone. Yesterday GitHub released GitHub for Windows at http://windows.github.com/: A graphical user interface (GUI) that allows you to manage your GitHub repositories with ease using familiar point-and-click behaviors. And it’s designed with Metro principles to boot. Though this may seem like a small deal for Git affiliations and Mac Dogmatics it is in fact a groundbreaking very big deal. And here’s why:

The Democratization of Code

As I alluded to earlier, previous Windows solutions related to GitHub have been command line based and therefore unapproachable to say the least. And in today’s world, that is a serious problem. Though people like me who grew up in the dark ages of computing with MS-DOS as our operating system, the modern computer user is not familiar with command line and finds it hard and cumbersome to use. As a result, services like GitHub have been relegated to the selected few who have the skills to user command line or use other operating systems. In other words, GitHub has been the domain of the coding elite.

Because the web runs on code, and code has been relatively hard to learn and understand, it has been the purview of a select group of people who can read, write, and understand code. But in the last several years this bar has been lowered substantially by the introduction of rock solid Content Management Systems like WordPress and user interfaces that make it easier to use and understand what happens behind the scenes. The result of this democratization of code is that now anyone with a computer and an internet connection can publish and customize their own websites and take control of their message online. That is the very definition of a revolution.

In the past several weeks there has raged a debate in the development community over an initiative called “Code Year” which claims that the ability to code is so vital to the modern world that everyone should learn how to code. The (not so) surprising thing about the debate is that the detractors by and large argue that “regular people” don’t have the ability to learn how to code. In other words, the elite is afraid that their pedestals will shrink and they will be brought down to the level of everyone else.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I sit firmly on the other end of that argument: Not only do I believe that everyone should learn how to code; I believe that everyone can learn how to code and be good at it too.

GitHub for Windows (again)

Which brings me back to GitHub for Windows. The reason I am so excited about this release is not that it makes it easier for Windows users to use GitHub but instead that it makes GitHub available to all Windows users regardless of skill level. That is an important distinction and one that will be felt almost immediately in the GitHub community. What was once the purview of the coding elite has suddenly become the playground of anyone with an aspiration to use, collaborate, or publish their own pieces of code.

Revolutions usually start with a single spark. I believe this is one of them. Go download GitHub for Windows and be part of it.

Categories
WordPress

Theme Customizer adds new level of simplicity to WordPress theme customization

WordPress is evolving at break neck speeds these days and every major release sees inclusion of some new feature or trinket that makes it easier for site owners to use and customize their sites. In the upcoming 3.4 release one of the new features is the Theme Customizer which allows an administrator to make theme customizations such as changing the background colour and image, changing the header, changing site title and description and assigning menus from one central location and see the results in a preview right away. This is a vast improvement from the previous in-admin solution that had multiple tabs and required you to jump to the actual front page to see the results.

There is a lot to say about this feature, and I’ve only started scratching at its surface thanks to Otto’s excellent tutorial, but as you can see from the grab this feature allows theme developers to add in their own theme options for even more customizability. I am hard at work building these features into my most recent theme Anaximander and will publish more on the topic when I have a clearer idea of how everything works.