Monthly Archives: October 2011

Lesson # 9 – Gidget and Widgets

A simple definition of Widget is a “small technical device” which in electronic devices takes the form of an application, now in abundance in smart phones, for example.  In terms of this context, you can enrich your blog in numerous ways by activating or constructing a wide variety of these “apps”.  The Blogroll that I activated is one example.

What has this to do with Gidget?  Well, she was small, hence her name (a combination of girl and midget), played in the 1959 movie by that name by Sandra Dee.  Also, the movie was small time by Hollywood standards, but it is given credit by some movie historians as ushering in the surf lifestyle image to America at large.  The Beach Boys formed their band in 1961, and from there the vision went “viral” in that limited, not net-yet, 60s sort of way – radios, records and more movie classics like Beach Blanket Bingo.

To my mind, in a powder puff sort of way, it was also a precursor of the feminism of the 60s, as little but independent Gidget became estranged from her girlfriends when at 17 they became boy hungry.    Instead of chasing or alluring boys, her goal was to become a surfer, not as easy thing for a girl in what was then an almost all male pursuit.   Her spunk winds up serving her well, in more ways than one, but just in case you want to see the movie, I won’t say how.  If interested, here’s a taste of those times and that movie.

Either way, Gidget or Widgets….. are small activators of change.  And you pick your Widgets according to the impacts you want.

That’s enough for now.  We’ll get more serious in Lesson Ten.

Lesson # 8 – Pages, Pages and More Pages

As usual I would suggest you open up another tab and type your own blog on it, so you can go back and forth.

The difference between Pages and Posts, which you probably already know, is that you are reading a post while pages can be seen listed in that row below the photo above beginning with Home.  Pages can be used for anything, of course, but they generally give material you the reader might find useful grouped together and easily accessible.

To create a Page, you go to the Dashboard, then down the laundry list past Posts to Pages.   Below that click Add New, and there you’ll be staring at a space to write and title a page.   Then do what you’d normally do to put up a Post or edit or whatever.  Also, you could put some links on that page just as you can with Posts.   By now you might see that you can link just about everything to everything.

The Pages will appear in alphabetical order, which is OK with me on mine.  There is a way to change the order, but I don’t want to deal with that right now.  More important in my mind is the option to add Pages to your Pages, i.e. as sub-pages.   For example, under Help! I have added Tutorials as a sub-page and later might add  General Support or a number of other sub-categories of Help!

And under Tutorials, I have added Posts (what will be a tutorial on posts), so you  see how to pile up a lot of related info in this way.

Now it is your turn to create a sub-category.    Open up a new Page, title it and scribble something or leave it blank.   Then look at Page Attributes to your right and below that Parent.  Below, it says No Parent, but if you open up your list of pages there and pick one of them IT WILL INSTANTLY BECOME A PARENT, i. e. your new page will be listed under the title of your old page, as is my Tutorials page listed below my Help!.

To conclude, lower down below Page Attributes is the topic of Order.   Therein lies the path to change your page order, but I’ll leave that for you to figure out if you must know right now.

I’m moving on to Lesson Nine.

Lesson # 7 – How to Link Your Posts

Two posts back, I directed you to that tutorial on Posts, which included a section on hyperlinks.  Perhaps you have already learned linking through that information.   If so, you can forget this post.  If not, open up a new tab for your blog site, and once there go to a post you have written and open it up for editing.  (You can do this either through the back end by going to  Posts (All Posts), or through the front end by going to the post and scrolling down below your self-description and click a little edit on the right of line of options.)

Let’s Link something now.  I just highlighted hyperlinks and then pressed the Link button in the format options above (just to the right of page Align Right), and then will do what’s instructed, filling in a link to Cbssports.com.  Why?   Because I like sports.  When I Update this (look to your right) , my “hyperlinks” above should be linked to that URL.

Now you go to your blog and pick a word(s) to link to some URL.  Remember the link won’t be activated until you update your post, i e. if you press it now, nothing will happen.

Assuming that went well, now let’s link to one of our Posts  within our blogs.  I’m going to link to Lesson Five, the Post I did on Posts.  So I highlight the word, click Link above and then look for Lesson Five in the list of posts and pages shown below left.  I click the Post I want to link to, and I’m linked (once I press the Update button to the upper right).

Finally, I will create a link to the tutorial section on creating links, so you can learn a few more things, if you want to, about links.  For me, this is enough for today.  Other than to link you to Lesson Eight.

Lesson # 6 – Changing Your Blog Title

By now some of you probably regret the title you first chose and, if you haven’t figured out how to change it, here’s how.  Go to Dashboard and click so the laundry list of options unfolds on the left hand side.  Scroll way down, click Settings, then General beneath it, and you will see the title you want to change if you look around a bit.  Also, there is a subtitle (Tagline) which automatically is:  Just another Word Press Blog…..  You may want to change that, too.

Initially my title mirrored my site address:  WordPressforDunces…  I just went back and put spaces between the words, but I might like the spaceless option better and change it back.  The point is you can always make little changes.

At school, didn’t you love it when on a occasion a class was cut short for an assembly or something?  We will get back to Posts in the next post, but now:  Class dismissed.

Lesson # 5 – A Tutorial on Posting and a Recap

The center pieces of your blog are the Posts that you write.

WordPress provides a general tutorial at http://learn.wordpress.com and the part on posting is particularly useful and found under #6 – Get Published.  In a minute, I suggest you go read that part of tutorial , explore some of the options and write a post or two.

A couple of suggestions:  When you arrive at Get Published, scroll down past the post vs. pages (we’ll get into that later), and begin with Create a Test Post.  Read that and do a test post, but don’t read their Edit Post section, as I think they give you too much too soon.  When you’re ready to edit your post, come back here…………………………………………………………………………………………….

………………………………………………………………………………Are you back yet?

Here’s what you most need to know about editing your posts.  Once you view them, you can scroll down below the post  and you’ll see a little edit button at the end of a line of buttons.  OR, YOU CAN SAVE TIME AND DO WHAT I DO AND PRESS THE RETURN ARROW IN THE TOP LEFT CORNER AND BE BACK AT YOUR POST AND READY TO EDIT IT.   After editing, press the Update button to your upper right (it is the editing version of the  Publish button in your the initial post). View your post and either be happy with it or return to edit.

By the way, if at any time you have trouble and want some help go back to the top right and hover over your name and look for the Help button below it.  Click that, type in a topic and a number of informational aids will pop up.  You can also click Support under the Blogroll to the right and arrive at the same spot.  Also, a link to learn.wordpress.com is located right below Support.

In the previous lesson, I introduced you to what I think of as the Theme Park.  Just to get a sense of the wide variety of  “looks” for your site you might go to Themes and swap out mystique for a few others – if you haven’t already done so – just to have a sense of future options.  You can change them, or change them back more easily than you can your clothes.

And you can explore quickly by pressing the View button next to the Activate button under the mini-image of  any theme, and then return to try another theme by clicking the “x’ button to the left of the new theme you see.  It is interesting how with a click the same information can be lain out so differently, with very different looks that prompt  such  different feelings.  But keep this in mind, the themes vary in the automatic apps given.   Mystique provides more options than some of the others, one reason I’m using it.  Another is I like the look.

Again, while the theme templates offer many possibilities, don’t get carried away with them right now.   To build a basic blog, your present concentration should be on Posting.  And then later, on creating Pages and later still on creating Links and developing Widgets which I’ll explain later…..and so on until you have a basic, functioning blog site that looks very much like mine.

You can branch out to your hearts content later.

Now on to Lesson Six.

Lesson # 4 – Diving into the Dashboard

The dashboard is the control panel for the blog site, but it looks more like that of a 747 than  that of a car, so it may seem overwhelming at first.   Move your cursor to hover over your name in the upper right.  When options open up, go down to your blog title and to the left should open up categories with Dashboard at the top.  Press that and, like Alice down the rabbit hole, you’ll be in a strange new world:  The Back End of Your Blog.

Now take a look at that laundry list of topics on the left side in search of Appearance.   If you hover over that,  a bunch of sub-topics will appear with Themes at the top of the list.

Your blog site was automatically molded by a theme when you signed up, and they call this theme Twenty Eleven.  As I indicated earlier, I changed my theme template to Mystique (maybe I didn’t mention my new theme’s name).  And I would like you to change yours to Mystique as well, to make comparisons easier.  At a later time, you can easily change to another theme or add another blog, but for now please stick with me.

Click Themes and you will be in a world of opportunities you might ponder for days, but not now.  Focus!  Note the theme they show at the top is Twenty Eleven, the theme they gave you.  To change your theme to mine, go to the Search box toward your right side and type in mystique.

A mini-image of that theme will pop up to your left.  It shows an activate button, and if you click it, your blog will look very different from what you have and very much like what I have.

Congratulations!  You now have a blog site shell like mine and we can work together to develop them in upcoming lessons.  Let’s go to Lesson Five.

Lesson # 3 – Let’s Linger and Look for Awhile

Instead of diving into the dashboard, the control panel in the back end, let’s linger a moment and look at what’s in front of you again.   In Lesson One I pointed out that most of what you see is the home page created automatically by a theme template.  

Why this theme?  Well, like you, I was given a theme by WordPress and used that to set up this blog site.   However, gradually I got tired of it and looked at other themes in search of a format with a bit more pizzas that also offered most of the the same options (themes differ in that regard), so that’s why you see what you see.   With a couple of clicks I could reformat this site to what I had before.  That’s one of the great things about WP themes.

As mentioned, the topics below the photo are Pages which I will help you set up.   You can add more pages and create sub-pages to those pages, but that will all  come later.

Now go back and forth between your blog site and this one.  If you look at the topics in the Side Bar to the right, you will see some match mine while I have added a couple more at the bottom.  Also, I deleted one topic, “Categories“, because it has little use to me now, and probably not to you.

“Categories”, along with other topics you see on your side bar, are automatically installed by your theme template.  These categories are installed by what WP calls “widgets“, which work like applications on a smart phone.  The theme template automatically installs some,  and you can delete or alter them, or install other standard ones.

Bloggroll is a standard widget I activated, while Example Blogs is one that I created and then activated, so we have three categories of Widgets:  1)  Ones automatically inserted by your blog theme template 2)  Ones you can select from a list of options in the Widgets section (under Appearance) and 3) additional ones that you create.   Probably there are more categories of widgets, but I don’t know them yet.

Now I suggest you click the various topics in my side bar to the right just to see what they are linked to.   As indicated, I have gotten rid of one topic and added two more that I think will be more useful.  I can easily change or get rid of them, or alter the entire site by choosing another theme.

Next post:  A tour of the dash board focused upon what I think you need to know most right now.

Lesson # 2 – Putting a Little Pinky in the Pool

Hopefully I haven’t confused you so far.  If so, email me so I can try to clarify.  But let’s hope for the best and move on to the first steps of setting up a blog site for you.

First:  Add a tab up at the top of your PC or Mac screen,  type in wordpress.com, click it and look around the Word Press site for where you  begin creating a blog.  (What’s a tab?  Click that tab above to find out).  I told you to add a tab so that now you can easily tab back and forth between your blog site and mine for purposes of comparison.  

Second:  Once you click “begin”, or whatever it says, you will be asked to fill in a blog address, like my wordpressfordunces.wordpress. com.  If the address is not taken, it says you can pay $17 (or so) a year and have a domain name.  As far as I can tell, a domain name is not necessary unless you expect to set up a blog that will make money.   Initially I didn’t sign up for a domain name, but later thought I might later try to sell these lessons over the internet, so I went to godaddy.com and signed up for  the .com and .org names for a year for less than $20 for both  .  Other than that, the general rule, until I learn differently, is don’t pay for anything until you are clear you need it.

Third:  When it comes to filling out the blog address the form says:  “Don’t worry, you can change this later.”  True, but I suggest you make your address the same as your title for now, as I have done.  The address might as well reflect your title.

Fourth:  Then it asks you for a blog title, like my “wordpressfordunces.”  And it tells you that can be changed later, too.   Later I will  show you how to change it if need be.

Fifth:   You have a choice as to how private you want the blog to be.   It gives you a couple of choices. I chose the more private option and later I found a more private option still.  I wanted my blog to remain largely private until I was ready to show it off, but that’s up to you. 

Sixth:  Then it gives you options to upgrade for a fee.  I just went with the “free” option and clicked “create blog.”

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Here is an example initial shell for a blog site that I created:

imewe.wordpress.com is yours

imewe.wordpress.com is your new blog. Visit your dashboard.

If you click the “imewe” you will see a theme template that looks different than mine for “Dunces”.   What you see is called the front end of the blog.  Now create your own blog site.  Your front end will likely be different than either of mine because WordPress selects a template theme for new users, which can be changed later.

KEY POINT:   Think of a blog site as having a front end and a back end, just like a threatre has a front stage which the audience sees and a back stage with control panels and set and costume changes, etc.   We will venture to the back end in Lesson Four, but before that let’s think a little more about whats on the front end. 

I would like you to feel comfortable going back and forth between your blog and mine and understanding what has produced what you are seeing in each.   So we’ll take another look at that next.

Lesson # 1 – Get the Picture?

First off, when people talk about blogs, they are usually referring to one of two separate things:  

1)  The writing of the blog (i.e. the ongoing entries called Posts) or

2)  The blog site, the technical setting in which the blog is housed. 

What you want to write (post) and how you write it is up to you.  I am here to help you set up the blog site In other words, I am here to help you build a home for your blog.

I imagine you have put together picture puzzles in the past.  Ever think how hard it would be to piece that puzzle together if you didn’t have a picture on the box to guide you?   Think of my blog as a picture of a blog site.  You can piece together something similar yourself. 

THEMES

Look at the Title at the top AND the horizontal list of topics that are shown beneath the photo AND then the other list of topics shown vertically to the right..

Most of what you see was created automatically by what Word Press calls a Theme, or theme template.  It’s like buying a prefab home.   Most of what you need is supplied, and then assembled.  Had I chosen a different theme, the blog would look very different.  And I could change that theme instantly with a few clicks.  You would still see all the same information, but its visual look would be very different, so much so that you might have trouble recognizing it as my blog.

MY ADJUSTMENTS

Some of my contributions to what you see are the Title for the blog, the Tagline (sub-title:  How to build…), the Posts (you are reading one) and all the horizontal topics listed BELOW the title (except for the first two in the row above that begins with Home).   If you click them they link to Pages, which I have activated and written.

Themes, Posts and Pages are three key tools that we will go into in upcoming lessons.

So,  what you see is a combination of what was automatically set up by the theme template and what I added myself.   As you develop your blog, we will go back and forth between the two.

KEY POINT:  Much of what makes up your blog site is automatically installed by the theme template.   But then you can make additions and alternations, actually to a mind boggling degree.   My goal is to boggle your mind as little as possible while helping you learn set up a basic blog site like the one you are looking at.

So, that’s where we are and where we are headed.  Get the picture?

Next step, let’s get you signed up for a WP blog site.

PREFACE TO POSTING – Creating a Blog Site is Easy…

BUT only if you already know how to do it.  I have worked as a learning specialist and Michael, a cohort of mine, came up with this:  “When it comes to learning,  nothing is easy nor hard.  It is either familiar or unfamiliar.”   When we face something unfamiliar, we often feel dumb, and then after it becomes familiar we think:  Oh, I get it (and feel smart).

For example, I once put together a gas grill for a friend and, just like trying to make sense of Word Press, I was often frustrated and irritated upon reading the directions.   But, after I completed the project ( some four hours later), I felt smart, an expert eager to have others ask him to put together their gas grills.    Putting together that grill seemed ridiculously hard when I started, but easy when I had finished.  What took four hours of mistakes and backtracks and confusion, I’m sure I could do in less than an hour next time ( if the grill is exactly the same).

As with that gas grill, putting together a Word Press blog site might look intimidating at first, but with familiarization, you will see it isn’t so difficult as long as you are not overwhelmed by too much information too quickly. 

Let’s  begin.