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WordCamp St. Louis 2014 Videos Coming Online

We just got an email from the fine folks at WordPress.tv letting us know that the first of the recorded sessions from WordCamp St. Louis 2014 are now online.

The first one is from Chris Koerner and covers How to Get Involved in the WordPress Community.

As the rest of the videos are edited, uploaded, and approved they will show up under the WordCamp St. Louis 2014 page.

A big thanks to Chris Miller for agreeing to help edit and produce the videos. A hearty thanks to all the volunteers who helped to record the sessions throughout the day. Last, but not least, a big hug to the folks at WordPress.tv for hosting our videos for the world to see.

If anyone is interested in adding subtitles or translations for not only these videos, but any others on WordPress.tv, you should get involved!

wpcore

New, Must-Have Plugin: WPCore Plugin Manager

Wow, I’m impressed! WordPress has been needing something like this for quite some time. I just wish I would have thought of it first.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, it’s a new plugin called WPCore Plugin Manager. This plugin allows anyone and everyone to create a custom collection of plugins for WordPress and install them all at the same time on a WordPress website. You can have private or public collections.

Screen for adding a custom plugin on wpcore.comIt even allows you to add custom plugins that aren’t on the wordpress.org plugin repository! This is a serious game changer!

Questions?

You no doubt have some burning questions that need answering…

How much does WPCore cost?

Nothing, it’s free…seriously, why are still reading and not installing this plugin?

How do I get started?

Great question, register!

I typed in a plugin name and it doesn’t show up. What do I do?

I’ve noticed while searching it doesn’t always list your plugin. All you have to do is find the plugin on wordpress.org and grab the slug from the url for that plugin.plugin-slug

Other Questions?

Check out WPCore’s FAQ or ask em in the comments below!

Photo by Chris Koerner - Licensed under Creative Commons

We’re now a Member of the WordPress Meetup Chapter Program

We’re now a proud member of the WordPress Meetup Chapter Program.

What does this mean? Well first, our Meetup.com fee is now covered by the fine folks at the WordPress Foundation. That means we don’t have to raise funds or charge admission to cover the cost. It also means we’re not at the mercy of a sponsor to cover this cost every year. This will also result in more visibility to our group, and other benefits to organizing events and activities.

We are still free to pursue sponsorships and the like, and run our group as we have for the past 4 years  - open, inclusive, free, and fun.

You can see a list of all the other Meetups in the chapter program (right sidebar) or a list of all WordPress Meeups on Meetup.com.

A small sliver of hubris – we’re also the 71st largest (out of 599) WordPress Meetup Group! (UpdateI misread that list. We’re actually #92!)

Photo by Saad Irfan - Licensed under Creative Commons

Themes and Plugins – Notes from the July 2014 General WordPress Meetup

After a roller coaster of scheduling fun we had our first Meetup in our new location at Lab1500 (home of Pushup). We talked about Themes and Plugins. For those who couldn’t make it we put together some notes from the evening’s presentations. For those of you would did make it, feel free to add your own thoughts via the comments below!

First up, Bob Barker shared with us an official Bob Barker Whitepaper. Here’s the copy from his handout.


Just another Bob Barker Whitepaper. Whitepaper (defined): useless or minimally valuable information that someone distributes so as to obtain your email address in order to send even more junk of even less value (aka fodder).

Places to check out… 

  • Spybar  - a handy toolbar that shows you the software (and plugins) used to build the site you’re visiting.
  • WordPress Theme Generator
    •  (ed note: Chris Miller also mentioned Headway as a similar solution)
  • WPMU 
  • iThemes

Looking for the awesome WordPress themes? Here’s the place to find them! 

http://www.wordpress.org/themes/

As of: 7-16-2014 2,620 THEMES, 106,186,898 DOWNLOADS, AND COUNTING

Looking for the awesome WordPress plugins? Find them here!

http://wordpress.org/plugins/ 

32,251 PLUGINS 695,392,281 DOWNLOADS, AND COUNTING 

Disclaimer: All information and advice provided by Bob Barker, Mid-American Marketing Associates, The Barker Companies, Their affiliates, associates, Their Foundations, employees, or associates of any of Bob’s companies are NOT warranted or carry any guarantee whatsoever. Please seek the professional advice of an attorney or accountant before proceeding with any endeavors as a result from information provided or questions answered; we do NOT guarantee or give any warranty of the information we provide. Please proceed at your own risk.


Chris K. (that’s me) then talked about the various kinds of themes.

From the most raw and basic (and heavy code knowledge to use), to most advanced and determined (with little code editing) there are generally 4 different kind of themes.

  • Starter Themes
  • Regular Themes
  • Child Themes
  • Theme Frameworks

Starter themes

Starter themes are the raw stuff of theme design and function. Many are minimal, barebones themes that you would use to customize and develop up on.  Most have few (or no) design decisions made beforehand. So no pre-defined colors, layout, grid, etc.

A few popular starter themes are:

A starter theme should probably not be your first theme to muck with. Instead I recommend you take an existing Regular Theme and play with it first.

Read more:

  • https://thethemefoundry.com/blog/wordpress-starter-theme/

Regular Themes

These are the majority of themes you’ll find on wordpress.org, elegantthemes, themeforest, etc. In most cases they are well build and well designed themes that have a certain visual appearance (trendy, retro, dark, earthy, etc.) and purpose (photography, real estate, blogging, e-commerce, etc.).

For most of these themes, many design, layout, and functionality decisions have been made for you.  Most will offer some customization via the theme customizer, but to really change things up you’re looking at building a child theme and getting your hands dirty with code.

Child Themes

So let’s say you download a regular theme, make some changes, and maybe even dip into the css or functions.php to add some custom functionality or style. Then an update to that theme is released. Being a good WordPress owner, you click the big update button.

What happens?

Those custom changes are overwritten with that update. Whoops.

Let’s say you get into custom post types, or custom fields – some fairly advanced stuff. How do you keep those changes across updates to your themes? Especially with advanced themes (like the frameworks mentioned below) there are security risks with not updating – updating is good!

The answer? You should create a child theme!

What is a child theme? Like real children, they need a parent to survive and they inherent traits and capabilities from that parent theme.

A child theme allows you to modify an existing theme (even a starter theme. They too have updates!) without worrying about your changes being overwritten with theme updates.

A basic child theme is as simple as having only one file – style.css. From there you can modify any additional files from your parent theme. header.php, single.php, heck even functions.php!

There’s a great article on the codex on creating a child theme. Remember, files (and their modifications) in a child them override the parent theme files, but not overwrite them. Meaning child themes are a great way to take apart an existing theme to see how it works, without making your changes permanent.

For example, let’s say you wanted to modify the footer from a them you found on WordPress.org. You could copy the footer.php from your parent them into your child theme and edit to your heart’s content. When your site is visited, your custom footer.php is loaded in place of the existing file!

Read more about child themes:

Theme Frameworks

Theme frameworks are like a micro eco-system within WordPress. There are tons of options, development hooks, and extensions outside of the stuff you normally would do with vanilla WordPress and a traditional theme.

Some theme frameworks have options that you’d normally see in separate plugins included as part of the framework. SEO options, custom widgets, layout options, security, support, etc.

Generally, frameworks have many custom features and functions that WordPress doesn’t offer out of the box. The catch is that many have a financial cost, and require (or work best with) a smaller selection of themes.

Genesis - one of the larger frameworks available. It has a large user and developer community, many Genesis-specific themes and some brilliant features making managing content, layout, and design easy without touching code.

Thematic – an open-source theme framework

Read more:

Choosing Themes and Plugins

We then talked a little about choosing themes and plugins for use. A few things we suggested were:

  • Start at wordpress.org
  • Read reviews
  • Look at how frequently the theme is updated
  • Check to see if it has the features you need – like being responsive.

Other resources for finding themes include:

Some of my favorite Themes

Plugins

Plugins extend WordPress and new and useful ways. Plugins operate using something called a hook to insert themselves into WordPress.

Hooks basically add some code using either an action or a filter. A plugin that operates on an action works when an event happens – you load the admin dashboard, save a page, etc. Filters happen when you query the database for information – like rendering a page, or a list of pages in a category, etc.

The codex (once again!) has a great entry on Hooks.

Some plugins are very advanced in what they do. They can totally extend WordPress in new directions, giving it capabilities it didn’t have. Some examples:

Read more on plugins

One last thing, in WordPress 4.0 coming in August there is an update on how you search and install plugins. You can read a little about the 4.0 update at WordPress.org.

Like these notes? Join us at our next meetup. They’re free, welcoming meetings where we share and learn together. Find out more at meetup.com.

Location Change for General WordPress Meetup

A quick update. We won’t be having our General WordPress meetup at goBrandgo! moving forward. We’d like to thank the folks at GBG for the past 4 years of being gracious hosts and providing our rag-tag group a place to hang our hat. Thank you and good luck to you all in your future endeavors.

We were going to announce this at our last meetup there tomorrow night, but there was a scheduling snafu that has us moving a month earlier. I apologize for the short notice and hope everyone can still make it.

The leaders at GBG were kind enough to get us in contact with Dan Lohman at Pushup and Lab1500.  I met with Dan and Lindi and we talked about giving Lab1500 a chance. They have a nice space, and the location is right in the heart of the lively activity on Washington Ave.

The plan was to let the community know about our need to find a new home and see if Lab1500 would be a good fit. Since we’re moving a little sooner than anticipated we hope you understand and appreciate your feedback and thoughts.

We’re also going to take this opportunity to look at the time and date for the General meetup. Does the 3rd Wednesday of the month at 6pm still work for everyone? Join us tomorrow night and we’ll figure it out together.

Meetup Event Details

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July Developers Meetup – Mobile Apps and WordPress

This month we had two presenters: Chris Kiersch and Alex Rodriguez speaking about mobile apps and WordPress.

Chris Kiersch

Chris talked more at a high level about the difference between a mobile app and mobile website. When he sends his notes from the meetup I’ll post.

Alex Rodriguez

Alex talked about the different options you have for pulling information out of your WordPress website using APIs:

  • JSON REST API (more useful for those using wordpress.org self-hosted sites)
  • Jetpack REST API (more useful for wordpress.com hosted sites)
  • Thermal API (just another api that Alex had found)
  • Roll your own

Roll Your Own

Alex shared some code that he had created on making his own JSON API for WordPress (available on GitHub).

Presentation


The presentation is also viewable on slides.com.

Next Month’s Meetup

Next month will be more of an open discussion about plugins you’ve had problems with and how you overcame those issues. Originally it was going to be called “Plugins that Suck”, but we are hoping to find out the bad plugins and what you did to work around the problem. Did you find another plugin, talk to the developer, etc…

Other Cool Stuff

  • JSON View plugin for Chrome - formats JSON into an easily readable view and adds collapse buttons on the different JSON nodes.
  • AppPresser - a set of tools to help you build an app on top of WordPress.
  • Aesop Story Engine - I never got to show this to the group, but it’s a plugin for creating rich, interactive experiences using WordPress to help tell a story. I’ve not used it, but it looks really cool.
  • InfiniteWP – If you manage updated across multiple WordPress websites, this is a must. This is a separate product that must be installed on your server, but it monitors your WordPress websites and allows you to update plugins, themes and the core files all from one place. It’s free, but it has commercial add-ons.
screenshot-stl-tech-talk

STL Tech Talk Visits STL WordPress

If you’ve been to the last few of our Meeups (both the Dev and General meetings) you may have noticed JJ Hammond and his crew. They run a technology news and community site for the St. Louis area called STL Tech Talk.

A few weeks ago JJ wrote up a nice little introduction to our group. You should check it out, but to whet your appetite here’s a choice quote.

The group was full of people from different walks of life. A real estate agent, an attorney, a mailman, an airplane pilot, and web developers. I really feel confident that anyone would fit in here. I also was really satisfied with the turn out, and the desire from everyone to learn more about how WordPress can help them solve problems.

JJ and the rest of his crew have a nice sit over at STL Tech Talk. It’s a great place to learn about current trends, upcoming events, and the pulse of the tech community in St. Louis. Naturally, they’re using WordPress to host the site and their podcasts offer a trove of great interviews and discussions.

Thanks to JJ for visiting out meetups and helping to spread information about our great group.

 

June Developers Meetup – Developing for WordPress Multisite

Presentation

Questions From the Meetup

Calendar Plugin

There was a question about a good calendar plugin that can pull data from other sources. I believe that All-in-One Event Calendar might be able to help.

WordCamp St. Louis Planning

Want to help out with the next WordCamp St. Louis and make it even more badass? Join the group!

Next Month

Our next meetup will be about mobile apps and WordPress.

Using WordPress Basics to Get Your Best SEO

Editors note: This is a guest post by the wonderfully talented Tina Eaton from Integrity. If you’d like to be a guest writer here on STL WP, let us know.

Tina_Eaton

Originally a traditionally trained journalist, I naturally gravitated toward content strategy when I started working in the digital world. And where I work, content strategy includes learning about a wide variety of topics, including search engine optimization (SEO).

After writing countless WordPress user guides for clients, I became pretty familiar with the content management system and learned a lot about implementing SEO in a WordPress setting.

SEO is the practice of using keywords and/or phrases to increase the amount of traffic that a website receives from search engines. Search engines “crawl” a website and read the URLs, headlines, body copy, picture titles, author and social media links to determine what information this site is intending to share. From this crawl they gather popular and common keywords and recall these whenever a web search is performed.

The majority of traffic to a website comes from search engines, so the order in which search engines rank websites is very important. Google, the leading search engine, uses hundreds of algorithms to determine the order of websites on the search engine results page (SERP).

Here are a few basic guidelines for optimizing your content for SERPs using just the standard WordPress content fields.

Title and Body

Your title and main content area offer the most opportunity to use the keywords and keyword phrases that you have determined will produce the best SEO results. The title will appear on your website and should make sense in the context of the page or post. It should appeal to a human reader, not just to search engines crawling your site.

The content area should be human friendly while implementing strong keywords and keyword phrases. Organizing your content with headers and including outbound (send the user elsewhere) and inbound (keep the user within your site) links will aid your SEO.

Permalink

Edit your Permalink to be both SEO and human friendly. It should utilize keywords and be short and descriptive of the post or page. Click on the Permalink to write in what you’d like to change it to, when you click OK it will automatically format it.

Imagery

Search engines cannot read images, but they can read the text that is attached to them. When saving an image that you’re going to use on your website, use a common file type (JPEG, PNG, SVG, GIF, etc.) and a human-friendly name. Place the image within the text near the section that it is most relevant to. Use images and keywords that are relevant to the content.

When you upload your photo, choose to edit it. You can also visit the Media Library to edit pictures after they have been uploaded. Use a short, keyword-focused title. Enter a Caption if you would like to display a caption with your image. The Alternative Text, often referred to as “Alt Text,” should be straight forward and keyword heavy while avoiding “keyword stuffing.” The title and Alt Text are what search engines will use to read and identify your images, so if nothing else you should at least pay attention to the SEO value of these.

Enter a description if the person uploading the image might need to differentiate between similar images in the Media Library. Make sure to remove the Link URL so the image doesn’t open in its own page when clicked on, which can slow down your site and diminish SEO.

Categories and Tags

While Categories and Tags themselves aren’t especially powerful SEO tools, they aid in SEO in other ways. Think of categories as your website’s table of contents and tags as the index. When a search engine reads these, it helps it understand – and more effectively crawl – your website and indicates what topics your website is focused on. Categories and Tags also increase navigation and readability for users.

It’s important to remember there is no shortcut for creating quality SEO. Follow these guidelines and regularly post interesting, sharable content and you’ll be well on your way to increasing your SERP rank.

Tina Eaton, Project Lead and Content Strategist
Integrity
Online: http://integritystl.com
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the 5% solution

Get the Word Out – A Call for Writers

We’re looking for folks in the St. Louis community to be guest writers here on  The St. Louis WordPress Community site.

Why would you want to write? It’s a great opportunity to get feedback, share ideas, toot your own horn about a project you just finished, talk about your company or services, or other wise geek out with a group of like-minded WordPressers.

Feel free to talk about your workflow, best practices, favorite plugin, tips and tricks, integration magic – you name it.

If you, or someone you know, would like to have an opportunity to share their thoughts fill out the form and we’ll get you setup.

There are (only) three rules.

  • It’s has to be about WordPress in some relatable way (talking about CSS tips, or good color theory are OK)
  • It’s positive in nature (no “Drupal Sucks” or “Clients are Goobers” type posts)
  • It’s honest (no crazy pyramid schemes)

Photo by David – licensed under Creative Commons