Valuable Resources: From WordPress Beginner to Pro

Sorry there was no post on Tuesday. The good news is my grandson Ben (yes, I’m old) had the marvelous opportunity to play basketball on the home court of the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center (yes, there’s a corporate sponsor, but I’m not required to include that bank’s name) last night. His New Berlin West Vikings (western suburb of Milwaukee) played a team from Muskego (southwestern suburb) for around 10 minutes ahead of the Bucks game against the Detroit Pistons. Couldn’t tell you what the score was, but it was fun to watch, and even more fun to play! The Bucks won too!

A picture I, Jeramey Jannene, took of the Brad...

My friend Jeramey Jannene took this photo of the Bradley Center floor before a 2005 game. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But that’s not what I’m here to tell you about.

WPMU‘s Career Resources Page

English: WordPress Logo

WordPress Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you use WordPress? Want to get better at using it? Want to start developing your own themes or plugins? Think you can make a living doing any of the above? Rachel McCollin at WPMU has put together a spectacular set of links to help you do all of the above.

From WordPress Beginner to Pro: 200+ Career-Boosting Resources

McCollin walks you through the whole process of WordPress goodness:

  • Getting started with WordPress: Creating your first site, using themes and plugins, adding and editing content and tweaking your site’s settings.
  • Becoming an advanced user: Taking WordPress beyond the blog, managing your site and working with themes and frameworks.
  • Coding your own: Developing themes and plugins and adding more CMS functionality to your site.
  • Advanced developer topics: Action and filter hooks, the database, queries, WordPress APIs, translation and libraries and third-party tools.
  • Professional development for clients and users: Becoming a WordPress pro, managing client projects, selling WordPress to clients and customers, customizing the admin screens, development practices, Multisite and BuddyPress.
  • Contributing to WordPress and its community: Contributing to WordPress Core, creating free themes and plugins and helping others to learn.

Now you probably shouldn’t be surprised that many of these resources are from WPMU itself, but it’s not just linkbait. If you work through these sites, you are well on your way to becoming a WordPress pro – free!

When you’re done exploring all these sites, you should also track down a copy of WordPress in Depth for even more material that will help you learn and take part in WordPress.

McCollum and her colleagues pledge to update the list as required, so if you find a worthwhile site, let them know.

Rededicating to NaBloPoMo

One of the side slogans for National Blog Posting Month is “30 days, 30 posts.” I’m still aiming to do that. Despite the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US, there will be a post on Thursday. You’ll probably see two posts on Friday, even have the subjects picked out. See you then!

Does software make you stupid?

Interesting article by Nicholas Carr at the Wall Street Journal this weekend, “Automation Makes Us Dumb.”  Carr wants to make the case that, like factory automation in the years after World War II, the increasing sophistication of software to help us do our jobs may be de-skilling even our smartest people.

Worrisome evidence suggests that our own intelligence is withering as we become more dependent on the artificial variety. Rather than lifting us up, smart software seems to be dumbing us down.

I’m not at all sure I buy the argument entirely. The “worrisome evidence” he cites is minimal. The first case involves airline pilots who rely too much on “fly-by-wire” software. If you’ve forgotten (or don’t know) how to fly a plane manually, tricky maneuvers that allow you to safely land in the Hudson River become more difficult when the moment requires it.

The second item is ripped from the headlines, about computerized health systems, and is a little worrisome:

English: Biosafety level 4 hazmat suit: resear...

Biosafety level 4 hazmat suit: researcher is working with the Ebola virus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a recent paper published in the journal Diagnosis, three medical researchers—including Hardeep Singh, director of the health policy, quality and informatics program at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Houston—examined the misdiagnosis of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to die of Ebola in the U.S., at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. They argue that the digital templates used by the hospital’s clinicians to record patient information probably helped to induce a kind of tunnel vision. “These highly constrained tools,” the researchers write, “are optimized for data capture but at the expense of sacrificing their utility for appropriate triage and diagnosis, leading users to miss the forest for the trees.” Medical software, they write, is no “replacement for basic history-taking, examination skills, and critical thinking.”

Meta-learning lab meets with Doug Engelbart

Meta-learning lab meets with Doug Engelbart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where I agree with Carr almost completely is his solution, which sounds like one of my favorite hobby horses: Doug Engelbart‘s augmented computing, or what Carr calls “human centered automation.”

In “human-centered automation,” the talents of people take precedence. Systems are designed to keep the human operator in what engineers call “the decision loop”—the continuing process of action, feedback and judgment-making. That keeps workers attentive and engaged and promotes the kind of challenging practice that strengthens skills.

In this model, software plays an essential but secondary role. It takes over routine functions that a human operator has already mastered, issues alerts when unexpected situations arise, provides fresh information that expands the operator’s perspective and counters the biases that often distort human thinking. The technology becomes the expert’s partner, not the expert’s replacement.

Something tells me I’ll have to read his referenced books.

Telecom companies step up pressure on FCC members

The president has declared himself for the “strongest possible form” of net neutrality rules, drawing rule making authority on Title II of the Communications Act. In response, the telecom companies have stepped up the pressure to keep their ability to create “fast lanes” for well-heeled content providers.

net neutrality world logo

net neutrality world logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Federal Communications Commission is a bipartisan affair. Two Republicans, two Democrats, and the chair who usually represents the president’s party (but for the last several years has also represented the communications industry in one fashion or another). In today’s Washington, you’ll not be surprised to learn that the current Republican members think Chairman Tom Wheeler’s first fast-lane proposal didn’t go far enough in removing restrictions on whatever the telecom companies want to do.

Until very recently, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has been the most forthright about defending the strongest possible form of net neutrality. Very recently, however, she offered a less explicit defense of net neutrality during a Reddit Ask Me Anything session:

I support a free and open Internet because I want to preserve the openness and innovation that has occurred. I am focused on the consumer and the consumer experience. I want to know what attributes are necessary to keep the Internet free and open. I want to know whether the rules the FCC adopted in 2010, which banned blocking and unreasonable discrimination were the right approach.

Interestingly enough, the Washington Post reported on November 18 that Rev. Jesse Jackson and other traditional civil rights leaders visited the FCC to lobby against Title II regulation. The Post story cites a statement from the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council that buys into the telecom company arguments that “Section 706 regulation would achieve all of the goals of Title II reclassification, but would do so in a way that avoids the uncertainty of forbearance proceedings and without creating disincentives to infrastructure investment. Less investment would translate into less deployment, fewer jobs for our communities, and fewer service options to boost broadband adoption and close the digital divide.”

What the MMTC statement and Clyburn’s AMA comments don’t discuss is that Verizon won its lawsuit against the FCC’s 2010 rules precisely because they relied on Section 706 of the Communications Act, and not Title II. They suggest that telecom companies will stop investing in infrastructure if net neutrality is enforced, yet these companies haven’t exactly been bowling the country over with investment in low-cost, high-speed access.

It’s a shame that advocates for the poor are apparently bowing to the deep pockets that write off contributions to nonprofit organizations, but are not interested in investing in the infrastructure that meet people’s needs. Commissioner Clyburn should get back on the road to real net neutrality.

As always, I apologize for the wonkiness of my net neutrality posts. Check out Why Net Neutrality Matters to Writers for a broader description of these issues.

Hot music on a dreary day

It’s finally warming up in Milwaukee. After 10 days under 32 degrees, it was a (relatively) warm day here in the mid-40s. Very cloudy, though. My wife said it was a great day to visit Milwaukee’s Holiday Folk Fair, so that’s what we did.

English: Samosa

Samosa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Folk Fair is a November institution in my home town, and now takes place at State Fair Park, a couple miles from home. This is where greater Milwaukee’s ethnic groups offer traditional crafts, costumes, dances — and food! Yes, food is really the star here. For lunch we had chicken paprikash and wonderful dumplings from Slovakia, Indian samosas, Ugandan sambusas, a Czech pork dish with a different sort of dumplings from the Slovak version, and a variety of cookies and desserts.

We also enjoyed a batch of ethnic music and dancing, from the Philippines, Mexico, China, the Czech Republic, and some pipers from Wales (I think). Wandered around all the exhibits, and chatted with folks from the Friendship Force. We don’t go here every year, but always have a good time in the process.

Seeing the creative process in action

Tonight, after watching the Wisconsin football team escape with a win at Iowa, we had a different sort of musical experience from earlier in the day. We watched the Showtime film Lost Songs: The New Basement Tapes.

Bob Dylan and The Band touring in Chicago, 197...

Bob Dylan and The Band touring in Chicago, 1974 (Left to right: Rick Danko (bass), Robbie Robertson (guitar), Bob Dylan (guitar), Levon Helm(drums)) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you heard about this album? T-Bone Burnett was offered a box full of lyrics Bob Dylan had written while hunkered down with The Band at Big Pink in Woodstock, NY (a few years before Woodstock became iconic). The lyrics had never been set to music, but Dylan allowed Burnett to see what he could do with them. So he pulled together a fine collection of performing songwriters into the Capitol Records studio in Los Angeles to finish the songs.

The assembly was composed of Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford (of & Sons), Jim James (of My Morning Jacket), Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and (for a bit of variety) Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

The film offers a fascinating look at the creative, collaborative process among the musicians, that may have also mirrored the process that resulted in the original Basement Tapes, now also newly released. It’s great music, let me tell you. Go see this film if you can.

The film also reminded me of Door County’s Steel Bridge Songfest, where dozens of not-quite-so-well-known performers show up at the Holiday Music Motel on a Sunday night in Sturgeon Bay, are thrown together in a random fashion and expected to have at least one song ready to perform on Friday night. This resulted in one of the most fun weekends I’ve ever spent. You can hear some of the music at SteelBridgeRadio.com

So, as I type, the Wisconsin basketball team is having its way with Boise State, 44-29, early in the second half. Again, a good day.

In praise of open source communities

English: Conceptual Map of the FLOSS (Free/Lib...

Conceptual Map of the FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) Polski: Konceptualna mapa FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the best things about free and open source software (FOSS), and Linux in particular, is the community spirit. Many of the people who use and build these bits of code are genuinely passionate and dedicated to the products and projects they are involved in.

In the FOSS world, a development team is the core of the community, and the symbol of one’s demonstrated ability is the right to commit source code to the core software. Bigger communities, like openSUSE and Ubuntu, have structures for other community contributors.

The openSUSE Project logo

The openSUSE Project logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been a proud member of the openSUSE Community since nearly the beginning in 2007. To be a community member, the openSUSE project board of directors confirms your “continued and substantial contribution to the project.” My primary contribution was having written openSUSE Linux Unleashed and the many posts I’ve written on openSUSE and other FOSS topics. Learn more about the openSUSE Community here.

Tux, the Linux penguin

Tux, the Linux penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Goes to show how wired in I am to the world of Ubuntu, but I completely missed Ubuntu Community Appreciation Day yesterday. I’ve been involved with (mostly as an observer) the Ubuntu community for the last year or two, but I’ve played with Ubuntu regularly for much longer.

Ubuntu has a similar membership process as openSUSE, described at the Ubuntu Community site. Someday, I hope to join this community as well.

While I will not suggest for a moment that these communities are electronic Lake Wobegons, peaceful and friendly at all times, I will say that I typically find them helpful places. Then again, occasionally fights break out over issues like systemd (like this one, that ran for over a month!) religious wars between distributions, desktops, and text editors, and whatever else annoys people on a given day.

As we approach Thanksgiving in the United States, it’s a good time to think about giving back to your favorite open source software. A long time ago, I had some suggestions for working with free software if you don’t code. Many of the items on the list involve contributing to the community (filing bugs, getting help, giving help) and overall the list still looks pretty good to me.

If you’re already part of an open source community, you certainly have my appreciation, today and every day! If not, and you use the software, think about giving back.

Cheating just a little on NaBloPoMo

Aside

NaBloPoMo November 2014
This will be the shortest post I’ll deliver during National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). I’ve been busy this evening with a couple of potential projects, nothing I can talk about, but may well be fun.

Tomorrow will be more interesting. Hope your NaBloPoMo is also going well!

Great time to be a sports fan in Wisconsin

Spent a good chunk of the evening watching the third-ranked University of Wisconsin-Madison basketball team performing admirable public service by playing the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Ever since Coach Dick Bennett left UW-Green Bay for the Madison job, the Badger basketball team has played the other three Division I schools in the state every year (or close to it).

The Big Ten Badgers have a longstanding history with Big East in-state rival Marquette, but let’s just say the other two state schools (Green Bay and UW-Milwaukee) offer but token resistance most years. Tonight, the  Badgers topped the Phoenix (a favorite to win the Horizon League this year) 84-60. Milwaukee (my alma mater, and last year’s Horizon League tournament winner) lost tonight to Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (aka UIPUI) 70-68.

English: Horizon League Secondary mark.

Horizon League logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But I didn’t really mean to write about the Wisconsin round-robin. It’s about the level of excellence among the state’s most prominent athletic teams. The Wisconsin basketball team made the Final Four last year, and is now ranked #3, behind Kentucky and Arizona.

On the football field, Wisconsin rode running back Melvin Gordon III right over Nebraska 59-24. Gordon ran for a record 408 yards in a single game (actually in three quarters!). And the Green Bay Packers have looked unbeatable of late, scoring 50+ points in their last two games (another feat never achieved in the nearly 100 years of the Green Bay NFL franchise).

So we’re smiling here in the Land of Cheese. Let’s see how it all turns out.

Firefox Developer Edition: A Quick Look

So I’ve spent the evening playing with the Firefox Developer Edition, and watching Nikita

English: Cropped image of Richard Nixon and Ni...

Cropped image of Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev debating at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959, part of what came to be known as the Kitchen Debate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Khrushchev tour the US on American Experience on PBS. Firefox is fun, and pretty interesting. Though I have to admit it took me a little while to find the Developer Tools that makes it different. I still just play at developer in my spare time.

Developer Edition comes with a Web console that sits at the bottom of the browser, and a standalone Browser Console window (below) that reports on the current page that you’re working on.

Firefox Browser Console

Firefox Developer Edition Browser Console

The Developer Toolbar is actually the start of a “highly usable command line for web developers.”  Here’s the help file with available commands:

Firefox Developer Toolbar

The Developer Toolbar is really just a command line.

I suspect there’s more to come, but it’s nearly bedtime. Until tomorrow… share any experiences you have with Firefox Developer Edition or your favorite web development/design tool.

Ooh, Shiny, or Why I Can’t Get Caught Up

If you’ve spent an appreciable amount of time with me (or this blog), you’ve probably heard me complain about having too much to do. Three years ago, I even pleaded for help finding an effective project management tool to help me juggle my life. It didn’t work. I couldn’t even find the time to look at my options. The project still sits in MyLifeOrganized, waiting its turn after 1116 days. My Uncompleted Tasks list now has 2,343 items on it. I think that’s the first time I’ve actually looked at that number, so I’ve not been stressing out about it.

The routine maintenance that keeps my computer running, and the lawn mowed, and the sinks relatively unclogged, it eats a lot of time. I’m even pretty good at checking off boxes in the average week (my Completed list is pretty sizable, too).  But that isn’t the real problem. It’s all the new stuff that software developers and other creative minds keep pumping out that I just have to try out.

Stuff to try

Consider these items in my list:

  • In the last two weeks, I’ve been invited to two brand new social networks, still in beta.You’ve probably heard of one (ello), but probably not Biosgraphy.
  • I also got an invitation to Google Inbox, which I’ve experimented with in the last week.
  • A week ago, I blogged about the just-released Firefox Developer Edition, which I’ve downloaded and installed, but really have yet to try.
  • Nearly forgot about the Google Web Starter Kit
  • You know that my favorite Linux distributions (openSUSE and Ubuntu) released new versions recently.
  • I’ve even installed the Windows 10 Preview, and ran it … twice.
  • Today, I read about OSJourno, a version of Fedora Linux specifically designed for journalists, and I’m dying to try it out.
  • Not too long ago, the folks at GitHub announced a “hackable text editor” called Atom. A couple of weeks ago, they had an alpha version of same for Windows. I’m downloading it now, with the help of a brand-new package manager called Chocolatey. Then I have to check my Linux distros to see if any of them have an Atom build available.
  • Think I mentioned this before, but to round things out, I’m still learning Scrivener with the help of some videos from the Scrivener Coach.

Stuff to Learn

Then there are the tools and technologies I really should learn more about:

  • Simplified markup (Asciidoc, Markdown, Textile). I’m told it takes 10 minutes to learn these commands.
  • Web development languages: JavaScript, Python, PHP and the like
  • My MOOCs: Cryptography, Data Journalism
  • The Learnable course catalog

Yep, it’s definitely time for me to prune the list, but in the meantime, could all you creative people stop making cool new products? Please?

This may be a plea for help. Advice on what to do next, and how to solve these problems are much appreciated. I’m not close to “losing it,” but the time may come.

A Fun and Productive Weekend

Last night’s emergency post, typed into the just-installed WordPress Android app from my Nexus 7 tablet may have been just a tad uninformative, but certainly counted as a NaBloPoMo post. That said, you may find it useful to read that before this one.

Milwaukee woke up this morning with an inch or two of snow on the ground, the first of the

2002-2004 Toyota Camry XLE photographed in USA...

2002-2004 Toyota Camry XLE photographed in USA not unlike mine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

season. I got out the big orange push shovel and cleared the driveway and sidewalk reasonably quickly. Both of the family cars were having issues, though. My car had complained of low tire pressure since Friday, and we got that tended to on the way to breakfast. Our new (actually quite old) Toyota Camry started displaying the Check Engine light last night. We deferred that to Monday; she’ll probably take it into the dealer for some other repairs that we’d already known about. I’m the eternal optimist, and thus inclined to think the other repairs will resolve the Engine light, but I’ve been wrong before.

After a lovely breakfast at John’s Sandwich Shop, and a bit of grocery shopping, I knocked out a Goodreads review of Virginia Eubanks’ Digital Dead End:Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age. Excellent analysis, if a limited conclusion.

Spent the rest of the afternoon watching yet another (ho-hum) Green Bay Packer game, this time a spectacular 53-20 annihilation of the Philadelphia Eagles. After last week’s pasting of the Bears, and yesterday’s Wisconsin victory against Nebraska, it’s been a good football week for the state of Wisconsin. Oh, and the college basketball teams did pretty well too.

We’re looking at a pretty quiet, if bone-chilling, week ahead. I expect to share more on-topic information. Will let you know what happens to the car, though. Hope you have a good week!