Categories
Lynda.com Video Tutorials

Building WordPress Child Themes with Twenty Twelve – new and updated course on lynda.com


If you are following my courses on lynda.com you may have noticed that there is an update for my WordPress 3: Building Child Themes course. But this is more than an update. With all the developments and new features of WordPress, I thought it better to completely revamp the course to incorporate new tips, techniques, functions and features to make your experience building child themes as up to date as possible.

For the all new WordPress 3: Building Child Themes course I also chose to use the new Twenty Twelve theme as the parent theme. Twenty Twelve has been out for a little over a month, but only as an add-on. When WordPress 3.5 comes out in early December however, it will become the new default theme in WordPress. That means if you jump in now, you’ll have a head start on everyone else using Twenty Twelve and building child themes off it.

The course looks at how to build a standard child theme and best practices around how to create new styles, add new functions, and alter the different template files to give the child theme a personal touch and make it do what you want. I’ve also added in some clever new elements towards the end like a dynamic welcome message that only appears on the front page.

The original Building Child Themes course was hugely popular and I am hoping that this new and improved version will be even more so. But don’t take my word for it: Head on over to lynda.com and check WordPress 3: Building Child Themes out for yourself!

If you don’t already have a lynda.com account and you want to try it out, go to lynda.com/trial/mor10 and get a free 7 day trial.

Categories
Publishing WordPress

How can I monetize my WordPress blog? Blog like money didn’t matter!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nif01WZ9aI
There is a viral video doing the rounds right now titled “What if Money Didn’t Matter?” I’ve added it in here for your viewing pleasure. The video talks about how we would do things differently – most specifically we would probably do more things we actually like to do and things that make us happy – if money wasn’t part of the equation.

This video relates closely to a question that keeps coming up again and again and one I keep answering over and over: How can I monetize my blog? My answer? Blog as if money didn’t matter.

Most recently it showed up on Quora and I provided the answer you see further down. But before we get to that, allow me to elaborate:

The problem with the question “How can I monetize my blog” is that in almost every case it comes from a desire to make easy money online rather than a desire to make something of value and have that something actually return value to you. We have been lead to believe the internet, and the blogosphere in particular, is a money making machine you just plug into and then magically money will start appearing out of nowhere. Just like with most other get rich quick schemes this is utter nonsense. Even so there are enough shining examples of people who have beat the odds and are raking in the dough for the rest of us to support the illusion that there is a golden goose hidden somewhere on the www we can coax into laying diamond studded platinum eggs.

Rather than asking “How can I monetize my blog?” meaning “how can I put ads on my site and then get thousands of people to click on them so I earn money?” you should be asking “How can my blog or website help me make money?”

If you think about it, a blog or website is not much different from a printed magazine or newspaper. And the reason why printed magazines and newspapers are able to make money on advertising is because their content is excellent. No sane person would pick up a magazine that was pretty much all ads and no content, so why would anyone show any interest in a blog or website that was all ads and no content? The key to making money online is to produce great content. And in most cases advertising gets in the way of that.

Yep, you heard me right: Advertising distracts from your goal.

Here’s what I answered on Quora:

How can I monetize my WordPress blog?

Earning money from a blog itself is hard because there are a lot of people out there doing it (or rather trying to do it) and the ad market is not what it once was. I’ll ask you the same question I ask my clients when they ask how to monetize their blog: What is the goal of your blog? If the blog is to put information out there, then the monetizing component should be a secondary consideration. If your goal is to make money, then I politely suggest you spend your hard earned time and money on something more likely to give you a return on your investment.

The key to earning money through your blog is to use it to promote you as a service. If you are a writer, use the blog to get people to become interested in your content and then sell your services to someone who wants you to write for them. If you are a content curator, use your blog as an example and pursue contracts from other companies that have a larger base of visitors.

The hard truth is that most of the most financially successful blogs out there are successful not because they have a good monetizing strategy but because they started out focusing on how to produce great content rather than how to earn money off that content. Of course there are exceptions. John Chow is one.

Take a step back and think about how you can turn your writing / content into a value in its own right. Ads are distracting and more often than not more work than they are worth.

Like I said, the key to making money with your blog or website is to use it to sell what you are actually selling, not advertising. A blog or website can be a great marketing tool and can land you amazing jobs doing what you love. But if focus all your attention on making the advertising on your site work, you’ll lose focus of what really matters, and you’ll get nowhere really fast.

To put it into perspective: Blog as if money didn’t matter.

And be sure to follow me on Quora where I’m answering questions on WordPress, web development and other interesting subjects every day.

Categories
WordCamp

WordCamp Vancouver interview


Some of the peeps over at WordPress event calendar plugin time.ly came to WordCamp Vancouver last week and took the time to do an interview with yours truly about the value of the WordPress community and events like WordCamp and WordPress meetup groups. Check it out.

By the way, if you are in Vancouver and would like to talk to other WordPress enthusiasts you should check out the Vancouver WordPress Meetup Group.

Categories
My Opinion

Take a Stand Against Bullying – Amanda’s Legacy


[Update 12/10/2012: Read Amanda’s story as told by her mother portraying the dark reality of cyberbullying and pedophile predators: Amanda’s Story: In Her Mother’s Words.]

This morning during my regular Facebook morning scan I came across the video posted above. It was shared by a friend. The video shows a girl holding up cue cards telling a horrifying story of bullying and harassment at the hands of peers at several different schools. Even though I have seen several of these videos before this one left me stunned. Then I found out that some time yesterday the girl in the video, Amanda Todd, ended her own life. She was 15 years old.

I have myself been scarred by bullying, and this story has ripped up more scars than I knew I had.

Bullying is a serious problem and it is one we need to address right now. This simply cannot stand. I have no simple solutions, but we owe it to Amanda and all the others like her to do something, and do it now.

To the bullies:

You are better than this. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Show some compassion. Be the better person.

To the bullied:

You are not defined by what other people say about you. And though it seems like an empty phrase, things do get better.

To us all:

If you see someone being bullied, do something about it.

You are not alone

If you feel bullied, shunned, discarded, mocked, ridiculed, or alone, know that you are not alone. There are millions of us who have shared your pain, and we are all here to talk to you and help you through it. You deserve a great life. Don’t let anyone convince you to take it away.

I am here if you need me.

[The original Vancouver Sun story by Gillian Shaw: RIP Amanda: Social media networks tell story of Vancouver area teen who committed suicide over cyberbullying]

Categories
Lynda.com WordPress

Using the new WordPress 3.4 Theme Customizer – new post on the lynda.com blog

If you’re a WordPress user you need to check out the new Theme Customizer tool. I published an article and video on the Theme Customizer over at the lynda.com blog about a week ago. Here is the video and an excerpt. Head to the lynda.com blog for the whole piece with more info.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amUjCfpIsJ4

Of the many great reasons for using WordPress to create your web site or blog, one of the most important ones is that WordPress is an ever evolving platform. That means with every new version release you can expect to see either security and usability upgrades, or the addition of whole new features. In the case of the latest WordPress evolution–version 3.4, released for WordPress.com and WordPress for self-hosting–we see both regular security hole fixes and code patches, as well as some cool new features for site owners and developers. One feature in particular that is worth special mention is the new Theme Customizer.

Read more at the lynda.com blog.

Categories
My Opinion Windows 8

I predict a Surface by Microsoft in your not-too-distant future

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpzu3HM2CIo
Last night Microsoft lifted the veil on one of their ultra secret projects of which there has been much theorizing and guessing but little actual information. At a Los Angeles event presented by the top brass of the company, a new product line was announced, and with it a new path was staked out for the company that has pretty much defined personal computing.

What was presented (and what is shown in the flashy but vague video above) was the Microsoft Surface: A tablet powered by either Windows RT or Windows 8. The name itself is confusing – the Surface used to be a gigantic touch screen table – and the two variants will leave the masses stumped, at least at first, but even so this is good news. And unless something strange happens in the next few months I see a Surface in your hands in the not-too-distant future.

Why Surface Matters

Almost ten years ago I drew a computer for Angela. It was a touch screen computer with a monitor that flipped vertically so it could be used as a tablet or as a stand-alone TV. It had multi-touch (unheard of at the time) and both touch and pen input, and in my mind it would revolutionize the computing industry. Unfortunately I don’t own a computer company so the drawings remained on a piece of paper.

What mattered though was how the computer was to be used: I envisioned myself on a plane, with the computer on my lap, recording music with a keyboard on the multi-touch screen, editing videos in Adobe Premiere using a pen and doing work in Photoshop. What I drew was a crude version of a full feature tablet computer. And no matter what the iPad fanatics say, that’s what everyone has always wanted.

With the launch of the iPad we saw a dramatic shift in personal computing – one that took the computer from a working tool to a playing and entertainment tool. And though the iPad and Android tablets do have lots of productivity tools, when the real work is to be done the “real” computer is the only option. Before the iPad announcement everyone and their grandmother assumed Apple would release a slate MacBook Pro with multi-touch. They didn’t. And they haven’t since. As a result there is still a gap in the market. What Microsoft has done with the Surface Pro is fill that gap. And that is bigger than you think.

Microsoft Surface
Promotional photo of the Microsoft Surface – from Wikipedia

Touch computing in primetime

The Surface comes in two versions, one of which I don’t care about. I’ll get to that in a second. What matters here is the Surface Pro running Windows 8. And here’s why: With this device, which for all intents and purposes is a keyboard-less ultrabook, you can do everything you can currently do with your laptop, just in a smaller and more convenient form factor. In the demo at last night’s event they showed off photo editing with a pen in Adobe Lightroom. This resulted in me commenting on a Facebook thread that “Any photographer with a brain will buy this thing”. What I saw was a device that fits perfectly into an existing workflow: With the Surface Pro you can tether your digital SLR to the Surface, control it in Lightroom, and edit with a pen on the fly. You can do the same now, but it’ll be with a laptop and a Wacom tablet. This is just easier. And it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

What I hate (yes, hate) about my Transformer Prime is that a) it doesn’t let me do web debugging, editing and publishing on the fly, and b) it doesn’t let me run a local server so I can demo websites for my clients. These functionalities are imperative to me and the reason you’ll often find me lugging around both my Transformer and my laptop. It is also the reason you’ll notice a lot of Apple users lugging around both their iPads and their MacBook Pros or MacBook Airs. What Microsoft has done here is combine the two devices. And it’s a stroke of genius.

On that note I would not be surprised if Apple will release a touch MacBook Air in the next 12 months or even sooner. And when they do all the Apple heads will yell from the rooftops that it is far superior to anything Microsoft could produce. We live in a time of religious dogma. Sad but true.

A tale of two versions: Windows 8 vs. Windows RT

It has long been known in tech circles that Windows 8 will ship in two main versions: Windows 8 (the new version of the Windows operating system as we know it) and Windows RT. Windows RT is a weird little hybrid OS that is targeted towards tablets and other touch screen devices (phones perhaps? I’m just guessing here). The differences between the two are striking and I hope Microsoft changes their naming conventions before the release to avoid confusing the hell out of people. Windows RT as it is right now does not run your Windows applications. Instead it is similar to what you see on the iPad and Android devices: It runs apps from the Microsoft App store. That means it is light weight, uses less space and battery, and requires less beefy hardware. As a result the Surface (Windows RT version) will be lighter, have longer battery life, less memory and be snappier. But it will also not run all the stuff you want it to run. In reality it will be Microsoft’s version of the iPad.

The Surface Pro on the other hand will run Windows 8 proper meaning you can run all your regular software on it. It also means it’ll be heavier, have beefier hardware, and most likely shorter battery life. And it’ll cost more.

So right now Microsoft is talking about two different but eerily similar operating systems and two different but eerily similar tablets. If their marketing people have their wits about them they will solve this issue with better naming or a deliberate demarcation, but based on past history I don’t think they will.

Much of the concern in the tech media today has been this very issue: Microsoft is creating a fragmented market within its own product lines and people will be damn confused. I’m not sure if this is true, but only time will tell. The bottom line is this: If you want a tablet that behaves like a tablet, you get the Surface. If you want a tablet that behaves like a computer, you get the Surface Pro. End of story.

Erm… aren’t there already Windows tablets out there?

For those of you who live at BestBuy this announcement is a bit weird. Because if you go to BestBuy right now you can buy at least two different Windows tablet computers (known as “slate” computers). Yes, it’s true. And come the October-ish release of Windows 8 the market will be flooded with similar tablet computers running both Windows 8 and Windows RT from all the major computer manufacturers. Which is why I wrote the article “Don’t buy a new laptop right now” a few months ago. With the release of Windows 8 the computer market is going to change dramatically, and all the computer manufacturers are lining up new devices; desktops, all-in-ones, laptops, ultrabooks, and tablets, to correspond with the release.

This explains the last somewhat perplexing news from last night’s event: While the Surface (the tablet tablet) will likely be released in conjunction with Windows 8, the Surface Pro (the tablet computer) will be released three months or so after the release. This is by all accounts a blatant move to ensure that the OEMs (Asus, Dell, Samsung, Acer, HP etc) have a chance to roll out their own products before Microsoft steps in and takes over the market. Because unless the Surface Pro is a piece of shit computer that sets fire to your furniture and makes your dog go bald, everyone will simply wait for the computer right from the mothership and buy that one. I know I will. And so, I predict, will you.

Categories
My Opinion

The value of women in tech

The video above shines a light on an important topic. It may seem like a purely lexical trick – referring to women as ‘women’ rather than ‘girls’ – but it is so much more. Considering females constitute more than half of the world population and that in the western world at least, the female work force is both better educated and more skilled than the male counterpart, referring to them in a manner that properly indicates their age and maturity is vital.

But the issue goes much deeper than that: Even though many consider womens’ lib to be a thing of the past and feminism to be dead, women are still not treated as equal to men. This manifests itself in lower wages, lower positions and lower overall value in the work force. And this is especially true in the tech sector.

Why it is so is a mystery to me, but it is likely rooted in two main predispositions:

  1. Men don’t see women as equal
  2. Women don’t see themselves as valuable

Both of these ideas are fatally flawed and rooted in biasses that belong in the 17th century, not 2011. And to rid ourselves of them we all need to start thinking differently about gender in the workplace.

Consider James Chartrand – famed writer for Copyblogger and other online publications. When he published the article “Why James Chartrand wears women’s underpants” in 2009 it created a furore. James announced he was actually a she and was writing under a male pseudonym to gain respect. Her (yes, it’s confusing) claim was that as a man she had an easier time finding work and was paid more than as a woman.

Panzer Feminists and women’s lib (and anti-lib) opinionators world wide went ballistic on James for a variety of reasons. That itself was not a surprise. However, there were a group of arguments coming usually from women that really stuck out to me. I like to call them the head-burried-in-the-sand arguments. They came in two varieties:

  1. James is doing the women of the world a disservice by pretending to be a man. In fact, she is furthering the gender bias and worsening the situation. James should have her woMan card revoked.
  2. James is delusional. There is no gender bias in tech. Her woes were caused by her inferior writing and obvious self-loathing.

Both of these claims are, in my opinion, ludicrous. James did not do women a disservice or damage womens’ lib or feminism by doing what she did. In fact, by pretending to be a man she proved beyond any doubt there is a severe gender bias in the tech world. And by going public she made it impossible to ignore. And to the claim that there is no gender bias in tech? Get real. Of course there is. And it’s worse than most other industries. Don’t believe me? Check out this piece from Redit posted some 5 months ago entitled “I regularly hire woman for 65% to 75% of what males make“. A sobering piece of hard reality right there.

This last piece also highlights that often overlooked women devaluing themselves issue I mentioned earlier: Women, through cultural bias and lack of inbred arrogance will often sell themselves short either because they think they’re not worth more or because they think they’re not skilled enough. Men on the other hand will almost invariably oversell both their value and their skills. As a result there is an artificial gap created by honesty vs bravado. The only way to get past that dear oestrogen enriched human entities, is to start demanding what you deserve. Otherwise you’re just playing weak cards in an attempt to be well liked. And just like in poker, that won’t work if you have any plans of winning.

So what do we do now?

Inequality for women or between the sexes is nothing new. The sad thing is it continues today. So we have to do something about it. And bizarre as it may sound, it starts with the language we use. Just like you would never refer to me as a ‘boy’, you should never refer to a female over the age of 18 as a ‘girl’. She is a ‘woman’. And that goes for all you other women out there. I know you think it’s cute to call yourselves ‘girls’, but you’re not girls, and by doing so you are selling yourselves short. Girls are females between the ages of 0 and about what… 14? 16?. Anything older than that and they are either ‘young women’ or ‘women’ proper.

Try applying this simple rule: When referring to a female, if she were a male, would you call her a “boy” or a “man”? If ‘boy’, go with ‘girl’. If ‘man’, go with ‘woman’. That’s what this linguistic differential is for: to distinguish based on age as well as gender.

Once that’s settled, let’s start talking about not referring to people based on their gender but rather their skill set. But that’s a whole different argument.