Category: WordPress (page 1 of 2)

Ordering Clarify

clarifyHappy Monday morning! Getting in to work today I checked my Feedly (RSS reader – yep, I still use RSS every day) and discovered that Tim Owens at Reclaim Hosting had written a post about using Clarify for documentation. Clarify is a piece of software I am familiar with, but I had forgotten about. I will be doing documentation for an exciting new project that is coming up (more to come…). After a quick search, I discovered I had a license lying around… The following is the “WordPress Export” directly from Clarify that tells the story of finding a license and “upgrading” to the latest version of the software.

It really was quick and easy and I post this largely unedited to show you what I slapped together. I’m thinking this will be software and a workflow I will return to often in the upcoming weeks and months. So here it is, my story of rediscovering Clarify…

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World, Hello.


When I worked at the University of Mary Washington, I always got a kick out of a new semester and hence new websites from a new group of students using WordPress. Whether it was UMWBlogs or a new Domain of One’s Own project site, “Hello World” posts would dominate the UMW landscape. As I continue my ed-tech work here at UNF, I am going deeper into the world of WordPress. It’s still somewhat intimidating as I think about projects I would like to accomplish, but don’t feel like my skills are “there” yet.

I’m attempting to expand my WordPress network, by attending my first full WordCamp here in Jacksonville this weekend (April 16-17). I attended a WordCampEd conference at George Mason University in 2008. Here’s a post from Tom Woodward about that event with that picture of me deep in thought. I also plan on attending the inaugural WPCampus event in Sarasota FL in July (15-16).

As I read some of the bios of folks who will be presenting at the WordCamp, I see lines like “I’ve been working with WordPress for 8 years…” and it got me thinking about how long I’ve been using it. Well, here it is. My “Hello World” post from June 21, 2005 – almost 11 years ago.

Hello world!

By no means am I claiming any expertise, especially in the coding arena. I am a hacker-wanna-be-coder. I get WordPress sites to do what I want by brute, ugly, force. And sometimes I can’t get WordPress to do what I want. That’s where the great WordPress community comes in. It’s something I want to tap into more here in the land of sunshine and palm trees.

WordPress and Its Amazing Longevity

Las cadenas se cortan por el eslabón mas débil / Chains break by the weakest link

I’m realizing now that I could write several posts that start with the title, “WordPress and Its Amazing …” However, this post tells a funny story about broken web links. I use a plugin on many WordPress sites, including this one, called Broken Link Checker. I get emails that notify me of any broken links on my site(s) and I am then able to modify the link or eliminate it altogether.

I did just that on this post from 2008. As I look at that post again, I see I need to do more updates on links for the colleagues mentioned. However, by updating the post, it sent out notifications to the folks mentioned in the form of pingbacks/trackbacks. One of those notifications was received by none other than Gardner Campbell – you know, that guy I worked with/for at UMW, and with whom I recently had a happy reunion.

How did I know? Well, because Gardner re-read that post from 2008, and decided to comment on my last post about WordPress. Ironically, the post from 2008 was some smack-talking about how much my colleagues were (or were not) blogging. As Gardner said, it generated a number of comments. That post reminds us all that it is forever thus – that we all struggle with wanting to blog, but don’t for all kinds of reasons – except for Jim Groom, he is always blogging.

So my excuse for this blog post is two-fold. First, is that Broken Link Checker is a handy little plugin that helps with the maintenance of your site and making sure links go somewhere. Second is that this Broken Link Checker “process” literally allowed me to reconnect with people on the web. For as long as I have been doing this blogging (since 2004), tweeting (2007), facebooking (whenever) thing, I have been amazed at the connectedness thing. Through those technologies I can know what people are thinking. I can visualize the nostalgia for days gone by. I can see the constant struggles that we work through in the present. It’s mostly at a distance, but it isn’t any less real. So thank you Broken Link Checker, and thank you Gardner Campbell, for keeping these links alive!

flickr photo by Hernan Piñera shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

WordPress and Its Amazing Openness

Several years ago, I got tagged as the “media guy” while I was working at the University of Mary Washington, which meant I was the resource for all things video and audio in DTLT (UMW’s Teaching and Learning Division). We all at one time were wildly experimenting in WordPress and sharing out what we were doing often. However, while Jim Groom was heavily evangelizing WordPress, and Martha Burtis was getting deep into the code, I was diving into digital media, and would defer to their expertise. Now, I will probably always defer to their expertise, but in my new role as Coordinator of Online Course Media Development at UNF, I get to more generally combine my knowledge of digital media and online publishing. In 2016, and beyond, digital publishing has to feature WordPress. Why? Openness.

What is amazing about the timeline of WordPress and its feature set is how it continues to improve in terms of functionality and in terms of style – what a WordPress expert would call “theming”. One of the most important aspects of WordPress and its open source ecosystem is that it opens up the code to add extensibility. You can begin with a basic theme and extend its functionality because you have access to the code. Best practices encourages the idea of doing “child themes“, but what other system allows anything like it? For those who don’t know, a child theme in WordPress uses smaller bits of code outside to modify a “parent” theme. That way when a theme gets updated (functional or security updates), the code changes you make don’t get overwritten by the update.

Plugins are another way WordPress extends functionality. What’s astounding to me is that there are some incredible plugins that provide functions that I couldn’t even have imagined back in the wild DTLT experimentation days. That’s the advantage of open. People build off of each other’s ideas, and if there is a feature that you have thought of that you might like, there’s a good chance a coder has thought of it too. And if they haven’t, you’ve got great opportunities to suggest a feature in some open forums, and they might add it. If they don’t, you might even be able to build it yourself. You may not have those kinds of skills, but there’s nothing about the system preventing you from doing it yourself.

As I begin to experiment with WordPress again, I hope to communicate some of my favorite themes and plugins. One that I’ve already talked about will produce “featured images” from YouTube thumbnails, for example.

“If you will it, dude, it is no dream.”

YouTube Thumbnails for Featured Images

dmc screenshot thumbnails

In my new job, I am getting deep into the inner workings of WordPress again. More about that in a future post (promises, promises). However, I will say that WordPress continues to progress towards a wonderful environment of beauty and extensibility. I know, that sounds like a Deepak Chopra quote. In other words, because WordPress has been “open” for so many years (I started working with it in 2004-05), it is increasingly easy to make a website look good and function well.

Because of the great WordPress community, there are many great themes to work with, and with just a short investment of time you can build a brand new site, or revitalize one, in no time at all. The one that I am working on right now is the Digital Media Cookbook site. I started this exactly 7 years and one day ago. It is again in need of revitalizing. The concept, I think, is a strong one. Present “recipes” for digital media tasks in a format that appeals to those who like to watch video demonstrations of how to do something, but also provide step-by-step text instructions. I know that I have often searched the web for how to do something and preferred the greater context that a video can provide, while at other times I just needed that one step in the process to refresh my memory on how to do something. In one recipe, you hopefully get both.

So for those of you thinking about the title of this post, when will I get to the point? Well, the new theme I am using for the site, called Gazette, has, like many modern WordPress themes out there, something called featured images. Depending on the theme (and that is the beauty of WordPress is it’s flexibility), featured images get presented as thumbnail images in different ways on a site. For example, the Gazette theme not only uses them as “preview” images for the posts on the main page, but it uses them as a nice header image for the post itself. It will also use the thumbnails for a featured post header on the site (as I write this I have not specified “featured posts” yet). In my opinion the implementation of thumbnails look great, and are perfect for a site that features different categories of posts.

So what image would I want to use for the featured image of a recipe? Well, I could get cute, break out Photoshop, and dream up some fantastical image that suits the subject matter, but in this context, and to simplify things, I just want a static thumbnail of the YouTube (or Vimeo) screencast video that accompanies the recipe post. How to get them efficiently is the question. The concept is plain if you’ve ever uploaded video to YouTube. You even have a choice of what thumbnail you can use when you publish your video, but is there an easy way to grab that image to use as the featured image in WordPress? Well, you can right click on the small thumbnails on the YouTube site in the “Info and Settings” tab, but they’re tiny. How can I make available bigger versions?

As is so often the answer, Google “thumbnail generator youtube” and get your answer – Vidthumb. Now I’ll confess I wanted to have YouTube thumbnails as well as Vimeo ones, and I started by using the Boing, Boing YouTube thumbnail grabber, and the Get the Vimeo-Thumbnail! sites respectively. Any of them will give you a suitable version to use as the featured image, the sizes and formats will vary.

The next step is to determine the image that you want to use and right-click on it in the browser and choose “Save Image As…”, save it to your hard drive and then upload it to your WordPress site as the Featured Image. The process of uploading all those images is repetitive, but the process of grabbing the thumbnail is certainly simple.

Simple? You might think that’s the end of the story. No, no, and no my friend, for the quest for automation never ceases. What I really wanted, and I should have Googled this from the start is “thumbnail generator youtube wordpress featured image plugin“. What you get is the Automatic Featured Images from Videos plugin, which basically searches your post for a Youtube or Vimeo link in the first 1000 characters and automatically grabs the thumbnail and saves it as the Featured Image. Jiminy! It couldn’t be easier. It doesn’t seem to work retroactively, so you’ll have to go back in and edit posts with YouTube or Vimeo links and hit the update button. It also doesn’t seem to find the video in the old embed code that you might have used. However, you should be using oEmbed anyway – the process by which WordPress takes the URL for the given media (like YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, etc.) and automatically embeds it for proper display/playback in the post. The plugin hasn’t been updated in a while, but their support forum is currently active so hopefully we’re good for the near future. WordPress extensibility continues to amaze, and I think I know what recipe I’ll be writing next.



Thanks, Tom Woodward

the majestic Tom Woodward

Photo by Serena Epstein

Thanks to Tom Woodward, I am doing some Thanksgiving WordPress blogging. He wrote this awesome, simple, WP plugin that makes an “Easy Button” for writing posts. It get’s placed in your Dashboard and beckons you to click the shiny button and BLOG! Just be sure to change the bit of code to reflect your website or else you’ll find yourself trying to blog at Tom’s Site.

Here’s the link to the GitHub site for the plugin.

Here’s a picture of MY button, available in my experimental “Testing” blog.


oEmbed, Can You Hear Me?

Can You Hear Me?

We’ve arrived at the final post (for now) on using WordPress embeds (see part 1 and part 2). This post fills in the gap to something that is obviously missing in our oEmbed examples. We saw the popular media sites like VimeoYouTubeFlickrSlideshare, and even Twitter all had the capability of simply copying and pasting a URL to the media page in a WordPress blog and the full media shows up. The glaring omission is audio. If you look closely at the WordPress Embed Codex page, as of WordPress 3.5, SoundCloud is now an option for embed. Below is an example from the Radiolab show:

Again, WordPress knows what to do when I paste the URL from the media page and it gives us a nice SoundCloud player. SoundCloud is a popular service, but it’s limited in the amount of audio one can upload and play from an account for free. You can upgrade to a premium plan, but they start at 29 euros (which equals about 39 U.S. dollars today). To get unlimited downloads you need to pay 79 euros per year ($107 per year). That might be a bit too pricey for some. Another option is to create a “video” out of your music or audio file. By that I mean import your audio file into a video editor, then add an image or text/title, and finally export that as a video file to a site like YouTube. It’s slightly inelegant, but it gets it published for free. Be aware that even if you think you have a file that clears copyright (like Creative Commons audio), someone associated with YouTube may try to make a claim to it.

Lets step back and think about what if we simply have an MP3 file on a server somewhere (maybe you uploaded it into the WordPress Media Library). Well, to follow our philosophy on using the minimal URL of a file to get our media embedded and playing in our posts, I recommend the oEmbed HTML5 Audio plugin. Now I warned of using plugins in the first post of this series because plugins can become outdated and unsupported in the future. However, this plugin does not use any shortcodes in its implementation. What it does is emulate an oEmbed option for audio. Paste in the URL for the audio file and you’ll get a built-in player embedded in your post. It will even work on an iOS device because it supports HTML5. A caveat is that you generally have a limit to the size of the file you can upload to your WordPress account which usually is 2MB. If you have control over your server you could up that limit or place it somewhere else on a server you control (It’s why you need A Domain of Your Own!).

So I paste this:

And I get this:

If you have a URL to an MP3 elsewhere, you can just paste it into your post, and it should play. I used this technique when I posted the audio file on my Got Running post.

Hopefully WordPress will begin to natively support this type of embedding in the future so you won’t have to install the plugin. In the mean time, even if the plugin goes away, you will still have the link to the audio file. Some users may not know where to go from there, but they could always ask their local instructional technologist.

The WordPress oEmbed technology seems to add new support with every new release of the software. I’ll be curious to see what they add in version 3.6.

This is part 3 of the series of posts on WordPress embeds. Here’s Part 1, and Part 2.

YouTube Time

In this 2nd post about WordPress embeds (here’s the 1st one), I wanted to point out a simple trick that is part of the API for the YouTube embeds. You may not notice anything special about the YouTube video included above, but if you click the play button you will notice that it does not start from the beginning, but at the 15:10 mark of the video instead.

This is accomplished by adding a small piece of extra “code” to the end of the YouTube link. Again, in the instance above we wanted start this 15 minutes and 10 seconds into the video, so we add the following to the standard YouTube link:


Show the whole link looks like this:

Again pretty easy. Wes Fryer also pointed me to a site that generates the extra time code for you. It’s available at Sure you can type in the code yourself, but laziness is the mother of invention.

Now what if you want to END a YouTube video at a specific time? A little bit of research didn’t lead to any answers using the oEmbed API, but it may be possible that I missed it. What you can use it a site called TubeChop. It will generate code you embed into your posts. Just enter in your YouTube video link and then on the resulting page choose the start and end points for the video. Finally, click the “chop it” button and you’ll see both a link and the embed code for the video. It would look something like this:

The downside to TubeChop appears to be that it generates only a Flash version of the outputted video so it’s a no-go on an iOS device.

So remember when it comes to your WordPress YouTube video embeds, it all in the timing.

This is part 2 of the series of posts on WordPress embeds. Here’s Part 1.

Oh, Embed

embedded mechanic

We are thick in the middle of WordPress here in DTLT, constantly creating new sites for ourselves, and wouldn’t you know, now helping great gobs of faculty with their domains and WordPress installs. We are daily discovering new ways to twist WordPress into our heart’s desire of a publishing platform.

What I have long concentrated on in regards to digital publishing has been various types of media (you know, as the New Media Specialist). We get at including video and images in WordPress posts with “embeds” which is the process of inserting code into the editor along with the text. YouTube, Vimeo, and other sites include “embed code” to copy and paste into web documents to allow for easy media publishing.

In DTLT’s long history of working with WordPress, we have seen all manner of plugins that have come and gone, to give us the media publishing capabilities. We’ve also used the embed codes from services that have come and gone. What can happen over time is that remnants of posts are left that used long forgotten plugin “short codes” and embed code that no longer works. What I have been recommending of late is that people use the built in feature of WordPress for embeds. It’s a technology known as oEmbed. As the WordPress site states, it makes embedding media content “super easy”. It also future-proofs the media that you embed. Plugins and code can go, but what remains is the link to the media, so as long as that media exists on the hosting sites, you always follow the URL to the media.

How can take advantage of the easy embed? Well, it really is easy. Just simply go to the page for the media that you want to embed in a WordPress post and just copy and paste the link into your editor window. Just be sure you are in the text editor as some of the oEmbeds don’t work in the visual editor. For example if I want to embed a Vimeo video, I would paste in the link to the corresponding video page. An example would look like:

What would show would be:

I’ve got an example page for other supported media sites, which include Vimeo, YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, and even Twitter. It simply shows how the embedded media looks in the blog post or page. It’s dead simple.

This is part 1 in a series on WordPress embeds.

Happy WordPress 2.7 Day

It’s nice to see that WordPress 2.7 is available, at least on Having attended a great WordCampEd conference at George Mason with the UMW crew last month, I feel like I own version 2.7 a little more than previous versions. I got to sit in on a “user experience” session with Jane Wells from Automattic where we provided her with some feedback and we got to hear about plans for future WordPress releases. A whole new media management redesign is planned for version 2.8. So congrats to the WordPress team, and as soon as it’s available as an automatic upgrade (a feature that will be built into the WordPress back-end from now on), I will install it on all my blogs.

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