Monthly Archives: December 2011
If you just wandered upon this blog, here is what you should know. This is not a normal blog. A normal blog tends to be a journal of events or ideas, someone’s travelogue, or ongoing thoughts on a subject like politics or even information regarding one’s personal area of interest, like hair styling or ones opinions about anything. If you scroll down the side bar to your right, you’ll find examples of travel and political blogs. And at the bottom of this post are links to more developed blogs, one about hairstyling and the other presenting the blogger’s assessments of various things, such as WordPress itself …..just to give you a sense of the diversity of “normal” blogs.
Unlike these other blogs, my “blog” is really just taking the blog format and employing it as a learning aid to help those who want to SET UP A BASIC BLOG SITE. In other words, my blog is a lesson plan not a journal.
I created this “blog” because when I wanted to set up a blog site I found the information that was supposed to help mostly confused and frustrated me. It made about as much sense as the diagram above.
I took a workshop and that didn’t help much, either. Too much information too soon. I’m not the sharpest tool in the technological drawer, but as both a trainer and teacher over 30 years I have learned quite a bit about learning, and I know learning the essentials of basic WordPress is being made needlessly complicated.
The uniqueness of my approach is that WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU’LL GET. You are looking at a basic blog site and I will show you how to create something similar. We will begin with this “look” but later you will learn how to create a look very different than this with a few clicks, faster than you can change your clothes. If you are anything like me, once you have a functioning site, you will feel much more secure about further exploring the wide world of WordPress possibilities.
Oh, keep this in mind in exploring this site, that for the purposes of instruction I have intentionally put in duplicate ways of doing the same thing or left some things unfinished, i. e. this is a blog workshop and I keep working on it
If you want to learn more, go to About this Blog, to the upper left below the photo and, if you still are interested, there is a link to my first post.
Once you have a blog that you want to show the general public there are many steps you can take to help others find you. WordPress suggests beginning with writing interesting posts and attach to them Tags that aid in “search engine optimization.” However, that assumes that you have not put privacy restraints on your Posts like I have with mine. If you have, go the Dashboard and down to Users-Settings-Privacy and click Allow search engines to to index this cite….and of course save it.
Now you return to whatever Posts you have written and either use Zemanta to add Tags or do it with what is called the Tag Module. If you’ll recall from Lesson 15, Zemanta offers several suggested Tags and you could go to Support-Zemanta-Search to learn how to activate them, but I’ll make it easy with this link.
Or you could go to Support-Tags-Search and then click Tags at the top of a list of information on Tags, and that will describe how to use the Tag Module within each Post. It will also differentiate Tags from Categories for you and talk about the uses of each (see Note below).
Other topics listed in that section could be of interest to you as well, especially the section on Global Tags, which will show you the most popular tags used on WordPress blogs, something to keep in mind when you are adding tags.
Tags are only one aspect of getting your blog noticed in the blogosphere, but becoming accustomed to employing them is more than enough for one lesson. Lesson #9 in the WP Tutorial is titled: Get Famous. That offers several other suggestions for making yourself known. You might want to glance at them and develop a self-promotion plan.
But as for me, that’s it for now. I believe I have given you the essential information to set up a basic blog site similar to mine. And, if so, it should give you a solid foundation to learn how to add and alter all sorts of stuff to make your site just the way you want it.
NOTE: As phrased in the Idiot’s Guide: ” Categories group like entries in your blog post archives, while tags help with search engine optimization.”
I have ignored categories here (and removed a Categories Widget from the Side bar) because I don’t find it useful in this limited context. Eventually I plan on beginning a regular blog, and before I do that, I will try to imagine the various categories I might regularly touch upon AND THEN I WILL EMPLOY A CATEGORY WIDGET AND LEARN MORE ABOUT USING CATEGORIES IN WAYS TO ASSIST READERS.
As you should know by now, I keep focusing on the bare essentials believing the best way to proceed through the WordPress world of possibilities is on a need to know basis.
In the last lesson I shared what is probably a worst case scenario when it comes to learning some aspect of WP. If you have been following the blogs of others, you would have known one way to alert readers how to follow yours. Also, it may have occurred to you, as it belatedly occurred to me, to type follow in the Support-Search box. That would lead you to most aspects of following the blogs of others and allowing them to follow yours. Had I thought of “follow”, I would have saved a lot of time.
If you don’t already have a tab opened for your blog, do so now and get to the Support-Search-Follow section just mentioned. There you will find a list of links that will help you in all aspects of following, including tie ins to Facebook and Twitter.
And you can learn EVEN MORE about following options if you look to the right of the list of topics under Follow and find Topics–Following. That’s likely too much more for now, but the Email Notifications may interest you, as it explains why you might you want to use two different emails for responses from WordPress.
Once you are clear about how to allow readers to follow your blog – get updates of your new posts – and how to follow the blogs of others, you may want to know how to expand your following. We’ll look at that in the next and final Lesson.
Since I am about to wind up this beginners course on building a basic WordPress blog site, I think it useful to tell the story of how I learned what I explained in the previous lesson. It underscores the difficulties that you will likely face if you want to continue to learn more about the many options offered by WordPress.
It won’t teach you much knew about WordPress, but it might prove a useful reminder in the future that trying to learn all that WP has to offer is like weaving through a labyrinth, expecting obstacles and wrong turns and the need to backtrack to eventually reach your goal. It might help save your sanity and most of your hair.
My Story. Even before I started to develop this site the question came to mind in reading sites of friends: How can I get email updates of their posts? I tried to subscribe to one, but it didn’t work. So, I went to WP Support for clues. I typed in “email notification” and “email subscriptions” in Support-Search, but couldn’t find what I needed, so I turned to my Idiot’s book.
There I found a chapter on “feeds and subscriptions” which introduced me to “feedburner,” a site to help me set up subscriptions. The book gave good instructions how to set up a feed, so that’s why you see: Subscription Feed at the top of my Side bar.
I was very proud of myself until I got to the “keep it simple” section of the chapter that explained how to set up an automatic email notification. That’s what I wanted, not to set up a feed. Why does Idiot’s guide give me the simple option last? Doesn’t it make sense to go from simple to complex in instruction? Really, whose the bigger idiot? Well, at least I finally had what I wanted, an easy way for readers to get email notification of new posts. Also, the feeds option would likely come in handy some day.
So, all was fine in this regard until I happened to look up “feeds” in Support and saw this note regarding feedburner subscriptions: “This is legacy information”, which means, outdated. WP apparently had developed its own application, making feedburner unnecessary and the Idiot’s book suggestion outmoded (and it was a 2011 edition, too) . In short, what you see at the top of my side bar are two unnecessary relics kept around as reminders of how quickly things change these days.
But knowing WP has its own way to set up email subscriptions (I’ll call them ES’s) , is not the same as knowing how to do it, and though I typed in various things in Support-Search I couldn’t find what I needed. So, I looked up “email” in the index of WordPress for Dummies, a book that I don’t usually find very helpful, but in this case I give it kudos.
The book led me to my Dashboard and then to Settings – Discussions. I scrolled way down to Avatars and just above that saw a ‘follow blog’ option in the comment form that was already activated (i.e. box already checked).
In short, your theme template has automatically set up that “follow blog option” (an option for comments, too). WP just doesn’t let you know, and since you don’t know, you can’t alert your reader. And, unless you have learned how from sending comments to other blogs, you won’t know you can tell readers to subscribe this way because the subscriptions box is only revealed after a reader chooses to make a comment.
In short, a reader of your blog might find out more quickly than you how to subscribe, as WP doesn’t do much to make the blogger aware of these options.
As indicated in the previous lesson, another way to set up ES’s is to activate the Follow Blog Widget. When glancing at Widget options, I didn’t realize that meant for others to follow my blog, but instead thought it was for following blogs of others. True, if I explored each Widget carefully, I would have learned this, but if I explored everything in the WP Dashboard, I’d have given up a long time ago.
Anyway, you don’t need to activate that Widget if you realize there is a Follow button on the right hand lower corner, which reveals an email sign-up for subscribers if clicked.
However, I only noticed that button after I learned of the other ways to set up ES’s. Why? Because most of the time when opening up a tab to work on my blog I click an URL that sends me to the Dashboard in the back end, not to the frontend. And once a blogger is logged in, the Follow button on the lower right hand corner stops popping up
These are two great examples of how, even when WordPress makes something easy for you, they often drive you nuts in the process by not letting you know. So, you just keep pulling out hair while trying to figure it out.
The difficulties in learning WP exemplify a common problem in instruction. Did I already mention the example of my doctor who when trying to fill out a form on a computer, shook his head and said to me: “The people who create these forms have no idea of what the end-user needs.” That’s true of much instruction, and particularly true of WP instructions both on the site as well as in training materials by others that I have found so far.
Therefore, the moral of this story (lesson) is that when you struggle to learn more, it is most likely the fault of the instructions rather than a shortcoming in you.
You’re fine. The “instructors”, including me, often have no clue what you need.
By now, if you haven’t figured out a way, you might want to know how readers can get automatic updates when you add a new post. One way is for you or them to set up a notification by email.
There are at least four ways to do this, and three are very easy, even though it took me a lot of time to figure out even one, and that was the hardest one. I’ll get to that tragic story in another post, but right now, let’s cut to the chase.
ONE: There is a Follow Blog Widget you can activate in the way you’ve activated others. I would place yours at the top of your side bar though, rather than the bottom, so as to attract more attention. I put mine at the bottom to underline the fact that I learned this way last.
TWO: When readers download your blog (as when you download mine), they should see a Follow tab at the right lower corner. If they click that and insert their email address, they will receive an update when they upload a new post.
THREE: If readers, after reading a post, press the button to send a comment, a small box will appear before “follow blog option”. If they check that, they will receive email notifications of new posts.
FOUR: The web site feedburner provides another way to install an email notification as shown on my side bar near the top. But why bother to go that route? You might employ that if you failed, as I did, to find the first three methods I have noted.
There is another way readers can automatically be informed of new posts and that is through “feeds”. As Word Press explains “A feed (often called RSS) is a stream of posts or comments that is updated when new content is published. This is very useful, as it allows other people to monitor your blog, along with other websites they are interested in, and aggregate them together through applications known as feed readers….” You can go to Support and search for “RSS feeds” to learn more, but it might be too much more for right now.
Instead, I suggest looking at my side bar for the Meta topic, and click Entries RSS and you can get automatic notifications to your “bookmarks” section of your your email site, if you check that, or you can get notifications to yahoo or google accounts if you have them. Those are a couple of feeds for those readers who like their various blog update to be grouped together in one area rather than receive various individual emails. For me setting up feeds is going a bit beyond a basic blog site, so that’s all I’ll say about it for now.
We have installed a few key Widgets already which have added program options listed on your Side Bar. Zemanta has offered the most options so far, but the Text Widget can give that one a run for the money. As WP explains: “You can use a text widget to display links, simple text, images, tables, CSS styled HTML, or a combination of these.”
Well, that’s enough to make you immediately want to take a nap. But we’ll pare down the possibilities to inserting text and HTML. An example of text is just the words I’m typing, while HTML might be thought of as the underlying computer language that makes all of this work. The letters are short for HyperText Markup Language (HTML). If that is of any help, you are officially a “geek”, and can likely help the rest of us.
Anyway, if you go click Widgets on your Dashboard, and then scroll down to find the Text Widget, and then drag and drop it somewhere on the right, you will see a box for you to insert some text and give it a title above. If you do that and “save” you will have something like my “advertisement” at the bottom of my Side Bar.
This is obviously useful for inserting some comments in your sidebar, which in turn could be linked to other areas.
We’ll save the insertion of HTML until the next lesson where we have a specific use for it.
While Zemanta offers a lot for doing little, so does WP’s program for uploading video from the internet into your posts. There are several sites that allow it, though You Tube is by far the most popular. I inserted the video below by going to youtube.com, selecting the video and, while it played, copied the URL. Then I open a new post and pasted the URL into it, and: Voila! Here it is.
The ease of adding Zemanta and videos from the web is your reward for struggling with so much else in building your blog. And, if you are up for a little complexity, you can alter the size of the video insert along with other change options, with help from Support. Type in the Search box: videos you tube.
If you want to download videos to your hard drive, though, you need to sign up for an additional service from WP which costs about $60.00 a year per blog. If you want to explore that option click this.
Hopefully I have helped more than confused you about downloading images from the internet to your blog or uploading them from your files and inserting them in posts, pages and side bars.
Now I would like to introduce you to Zemanta, a service WordPress has partnered with “to make blogging easier and faster by letting you quickly add recommended links, photos, tags, and articles. With just a few clicks your post goes from simple to snazzy.” Were you curious about that Morguefile image at the top of my last post? That and the related article linked at the bottom were among several options presented automatically by the Zemanta program.
But first you have to activate it. Look for Users in the Dashboard list to your left, hover and click “Personal Settings.” Scroll down to find Additional Post Content, and click the little box and then Save Changes at the bottom of the page.
Now, if you go to any of your posts and look to your right and scroll down, you’ll see various options added by Zemanta, most notably Tags, a Media Gallery of related images, and a list of Related Articles. We’ll ignore “Tags” right now and return to them when examining various ways to get your blog known. For my post, I ignored the suggested tags and clicked that Morguefile image and it became inserted at the top of my post.
Then I clicked a Related Article and it popped up at the bottom of my post. After updating the post I read the article, didn’t care for it and went back and chose the present one instead.
Very easy for starters. Now as with everything WP, there is lots more you could learn about Zemanta found in a Support article under that name. I could provide a link, but maybe it would be good to refresh your memory. Remember you can find Support by hovering over your name in the upper right hand corner and then clicking Help, and then typing in Zemanta in the Search box.
Curiously, this Note might head up the section: “We have disabled Zemanta for a short time while we resolve an issue with their integration.”
Well, apparently they resolved it as it worked for me. If you find it doesn’t work for you, perhaps it became unresolved.. Add such uncertainties to the long list of things that can confuse and frustrate you, and roll with them as best you can. Once again, the more familiar you become with all of this, the easier it becomes. Though it it likely will remain ever challenging as there is more and more and more to learn, if you want to.
I have a confession to make. The images of the black board and the book shelves that I uploaded from my files were first downloaded from the internet. I wanted you to understand how to upload images you already have before searching the internet for more. As far as I can tell, you can download any image you find on the internet. Also, you can download these images directly to your blog rather than to the files on your hard drive, but there are legal, ethical and even practical issues involved. In the last case, if you do download an image directly to your blog, and the original site ceases to use that image, it will disappear from your blog.
So, to keep it simple for starters, I suggest you initially use sites that offer free images, like http://www.morquefile.com.
That’s where the ‘board and ‘shelves images came from and telling you this is one courtesy involved in using such free services. Come to think of it, I’ll link you to their web site*. I learned of them through The Complete Idiot’s Guide to WordPress, which I have found the most useful of the literature out there, something I will speak more of in a later lesson. The book lists five sites and I chose morgue probably because it appealed to my gallows sense of humor. Anyway, it gives me what I need for now, so let’s go there.
Click the linked link above and at the morgue note the Search option on the upper right. Type in a category, like “dogs”, press search and you’ll see a collection of dog images. You could also press Search Log right next to Search and be taken to a list of categories and search them. As for uploading the images to your files, I’m assuming you have a program to upload images from the net and know how to use it. If not in the first instance, you can find free image editing programs and in the second instance, ask help from a friend or me.
The key point to keep in mind right now is that there are several sites that allow you to use their images for free. Google “free image sites” and get a bunch of them or pick up a copy of The Complete Idiots’s Guide…, which gives short, recommended lists of both free image sites as well as free image editing software in their Appendix C.
Now we are going to take importing images and other things up a few notches by introducing you to Zemanta, a multi-tasker that can do a lot for you in short time. But before moving on, check out the not3 below, and below that a related article.
* “It’s always something”……..when dealing with technical things, and this morning typing in morguefile, I found myself landing on another site by that name. I did this several times, typing in the same URL and got a different site. While Morguefile might be updating their site, there seems enough differences to suggest this is a different photo service. The one I’m using has a white background, while this other one has a black back ground. Something to keep in mind if you go there without my link.
- 5 Reasons Why I Love MorgueFile (cash-bandit.com)
As indicated in the previous lesson, the image in the Dunces Page above was in my computer files and I inserted it in the same way I inserted the photos in Lesson Twelve. If you look at my Side Bar to your right you’ll see that same image inserted TWICE, one that fits and the other badly sized as examples of right and wrong.
So, how do you insert an image in the Side Bar? Well, not the same way as with Posts and Pages…. That would be too easy. Think of it this way. Usually when you want to add or change something in the Side Bar you go to Widgets to do it, as we have already done. But, hold on a minute, as we have to pick up something at the Media Library en route.
If you look at the Dashboard near the top, and hover over Media, you’ll locate the Media Library, where the image (s) you have uploaded to Posts or Pages will be “on the shelves” so to speak. Without knowing it, when you uploaded an image, a copy was made for your Media Library, so you can access it easier. Here we just want to pick up (copy) the URL of an image you uploaded. Then we’ll insert it in the Side Bar with the help of a Widget.
So, hover over an Image you want to insert in the Side Bar, which will then reveal Edit. Click that, copy the URL of the image and now you’re done with the library for now.
Go to Widgets and scroll down to find the Image widget. Drag and drop it anywhere in your Side Bar (you can always move it later). Click the arrow to your right to open up options and, if you want to write a title, do so, but right now most important are:
ONE: Inserting (pasting) the URL you have brought from the Media Library and TWO: Adjusting the Width and Height of the image. You can get this down to a science, but for now I suggest just playing around with different sizes. The size of my smaller image is 150 by 150 (in pixels, whatever they are). The size of the larger is 300 by 300. If you put no size down, Widget will try to adjust the size. If your image is too large it might not appear, or appear as a sliver of the image very elongated. That’s for you to play around with. For now, Save, Close and go to your front side to see what you’ve produced
Here is a link to the SUPPORT section which goes further into the various aspects of this, beyond my bare essentials approach.