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.”