What I like about WPBeginner

I started with a WordPress.com blog in fall 2012 (well, actually my instructor hosted WordPress.org blogs for those of us in his course that summer, but I had to transfer the content after the course ended). I played with WordPress.com for a year before I decided that it was time to take back control and have access to the HMTL code again (not that I was using it more than pasting in Goodreads widgets, but still.)

For me the transfer process and install of a self-hosted WordPress.org site was daunting. It still is. There is something about domain hosting that trips up my little brain. However, I do follow detailed, step-by-step instructions well, and lucky for me, they are out there.

WP Beginner was exactly what I was looking for, more than once: http://www.wpbeginner.com/

For example, here were the instructions I needed to transfer WP.com to WP.org. I think as we start the actual coding for our upcoming redesign projects, this article about creating child themes is really going to come in handy because it explains how to modify some of the stuff the WordPress takes care of for you by providing themes. When we sketched out our ideas and chose color schemes in the early planning stages, we based them on our creative imaginations, not existing WP themes, so we’ll have to compromise those idea or pitch them unless we do some modifying. So in this case, I’m pretty jazzed about having some instructions.

Another thing this site does really well is answering the question, “How can I do X with WordPress?” and enlightening you to some of the possibilities that you might tap into within the realm of this CMS. I had no idea that you could password-protect a single post, for example, but here’s how. Let’s say you want to mess with the line spacing in the CSS, which we learned how to do from our course readings, but since we didn’t handcode the content, it might not be obvious what the classes or IDs were tagged with–maybe not the hardest thing to examine and figure out on your own, but I think I would appreciate someone just telling me what to look for specifically in WP. I still need help with Google Analytics, and I am encouraged by the help WP Beginner has to offer for that too.

So, if this is your first experience with WordPress, this is where I would start: http://www.wpbeginner.com/guides/. In fact, the guides pretty much go in order of the things you would want to do:

  1. How to Pick the Right Domain Name
  2. How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting
  3. How to Install WordPress on Your Site
  4. How to Select a Perfect WordPress Theme
  5. Recommended Plugins for WordPress
  6. How to Install and Setup Google Analytics in WordPress
  7. Setup a Professional Email Address for Your WordPress Blog

We’ve got a bird problem

Yesterday, I got a proverbial bug up my hinder and decided to go check out the swallow’s nest that appeared this spring over the fresh-air intake vent for the furnace.

The vent has been clogged up with crud as of late too, so this is not a case of live and let live (the picture was taken after I cleaned it, btw). While I can calmly close the window in the wee hours of the morning when the swallows’ songs become ridiculously loud and I can no longer sleep, the vent cannot not stay clogged. As I was up there on the ladder, the entire swallow community rose up in anger and tried to dive-bomb me the entire time. Sort of made me want to knock the whole thing down, but I wasn’t sure this one contained eggs, like the “neighbor’s nest” did. (Can you see them peeking their little heads over the side?)

I climbed up there, thinking, “I can figure this out,” and discovered that I couldn’t tell if there were eggs inside, only infer, and what’s more, the crud built up on the vent was on the inside of the grate, so as I scraped/poked it off, it basically got sucked inside (yeah, I got yelled at on that one for not using the vacuum–lord only knows how I would’ve got the vacuum up there).

What does this have to do with libraries and digital tools, you ask? Well, quite simply, I just didn’t know how to handle it. This is how I feel about Twitter right now. Like the bird’s nest, I’ve had a presence there for awhile now. I actually have two accounts: @hennebe was created years ago when I thought Twitter would be used like status messages on facebook, just more succinct–and purely social; I created @MisGenes (if you speak Spanish, this “handle” is how I’m known among my Latino students–it’s a double-entendre and completely hilarious to me) for my teaching and then never did anything with it.

That brings up my first dilemma: What do I do about two accounts? I like both handles. I’ve used hennebe around the internet a lot, so it’s got that going for it, consistency-wise. That account is also more established with real-live connections I have with people I know, but who really have nothing to do with my professional life. I feel a little weird about moving on and tweeting about Library and possibly ESL stuff when this network of followers I have could care less. As for MisGenes, if I use it, I wouldn’t want to ditch the first established Twitter network I built, but really, who wants two accounts?

Basically, I can’t decide if I want to mix my professional and personal. I don’t know if I want to clutter my personal stuff with a zillion tweets by a professional LIS community and have to “shut the window” like I do with the neighborhood birds. Some people tweet 30 tweets a day (or so) and I may only be interested in one of those tweets here and there.

Then again, as Clay Shirky points out in Here Comes Everybody, even if I think the personal stuff is “among friends,” it’s really not, it’s out there and it just depends who’s listening.

The other problem is that I have simply never found a way to make Twitter work for me. I read what Donna Ekart says in her 2011 article, “Making Twitter work for you” (Computers in Libraries, 31(4). 34-35), and I think yeah, if I used hashtags more and did better searches, I could really take her advice. And then I get to Twitter, and I choke. I don’t know what hashtags to write or search for. And searching, yeah, who knows. I’ve been trying out HootSuiteTweetdeck and Seesmic and I almost feel worse.

Truthfully, I buy in to the value of the LIS Professional Commons. Kyle M. L. Jones and Michael Stephens sold me on it in ” The LIS professional commons and the online networked practitioner” in Defending professionalism: A resource for librarians, information specialists, knowledge managers, and archivists (pp. 151-161). When I am finally at the point where I can become a professional librarian, I want to be all of those things that they describe: connected and engaged, knowledgeable, skillful and innovated, full of potential for leadership. Michael Stephens says in his article, “Beyond the walled garden: LIS students in an era of participatory culture”:

It makes me happy to see students, especially those who have taken my classes, lauded in the professional networks for their contributions. When an author has commented on a student’s blog post or a notable library figure “retweets” a student’s Twitter post, these actions prove that everyone can be a part of the discussion. Value is present from all who participate. The notion that only professional librarians’ opinions matter, for example, loses strength as everyone contributes.

In my small little world of Southern Wisconsin, I just don’t know that many people here that would engage me at the level that the global LIS Professional Commons would. If that’s what I want, that’s where I will have to go. Only there can the newbie’s experience and insight be as highly respected. In real-life, it feels like you have to serve some time before you are allowed to jump right in and work for change.

To me, microblogging, a.k.a. Twittering, seems like a good link between real blogs. If you’re going to participate by consuming and sharing blogs, I would think it also makes sense to participate by writing them too. I had a VERY negative experience with blogs back in 2007 that involved a real-live confrontation and a lot of tears, so I’ve shied away from blogs, especially ones that aren’t like journals with pictures you’ve taken yourself. Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli point out in “Becoming a networked learner” in Personal Learning Networks (pp. 33-57): “So make sure what you share isn’t going to get you in trouble. You never know who will see it.” They continue to explain that while prudence is wise, it’s also a great opportunity to put yourself out there because “you never know who will see it”–there might be an opportunity waiting for you because of your participation.

During my years of hesitance, however, I’ve missed a few opportunities to learn about trends in blogging like WordPress. I feel like I’m late to the party. I also have no idea to get WordPress to do what I want it to do. I am stepping back into the light with both Twitter and blogs and hoping that things work out. I’m kind of tired of the birds crapping in my hair.