Tip of the Week

Creating a WordPress Forum

forumA forum is an online resource for the open exchange of ideas; but it isn’t an intuitive part of WordPress. Yes, users can leave comments on your WordPress pages or posts. You can also give users access to your site so they can add posts themselves; but this involves some training and has some real limitations.

So along comes the WordPress plugin bbPress that sets up a forum on your site where, without any training, a registered user can create a topic and other registered users can add comments. A real online discussion can ensue. All the while you, as the site administrator, have overall control of the process.

bbPress would be a great match for classroom Web sites bringing students and/or parents together around homework, projects or events. Or image subgroups like ELD teachers or elementary math teachers or school secretaries, groups that are difficult to bring together face-to-face, having a real place to talk.

Setting up a forum is pretty straight forward. You’ll see Forum on your Bethel Blogs Dashboard (Forums for Bethel District Web sites are coming soon). Put your mouse over Forums and select New Forum. Give the forum a name and in the edit window enter a description for what you’d like discussed. Click on Publish. Now copy the address for the forum from above the edit window or view the forum and then copy the address. Finally create a link on you site using the forum address.

Anyone can view the content of the forum, but only registered users can create topics and make comments. You can make a forum private, but that’s a subject for another Tip of the Week post.

We’re setting up a bbPress forum on the new Smart Board site for the 16 Bethel teachers with the donated interactive whiteboards. Stop by the site and see how we’re doing and get a first hand look at how it all works.

Subscribe2 Replacing Post Notification

subscribe2Many Bethel WordPress sites use the WordPress plugin Post Notification to email registered users with the latest post. Post Notification, however, has been showing its age causing some problems with our mail server. Post Notification’s author has stopped updating and supporting the plugin so it is time to move to Subscribe2.

Subscribe2 is similar to Post Notification but has some slick features not available in the older plugin. Subscribe2 sends the email with your email address. This  means you’ll get an email from the mail server for any bad address. You can then remove the clunker from your list. You can also make some modifications to the format of your email.

On February 16 we will remove Post Notification from the Bethel WordPress sites. If you would like to continue emailing your fans, you have two choices:

Follow the steps below or let me know and I’ll be happy to make the change for you.

How to set up Subscribe2:

1. First you’ll need to export the email addresses out of Post Notification. Go to your Dashboard and click on Settings and then Post Notification.
2. Click on Export Addresses and then drag through your list and copy (CTRL + C) the list into memory. It is probably a good idea to paste the list into a WordPad or Google Doc to save it.
3. Now we’re ready to activate Subscribe2. Go to Plugins and Installed Plugins and click On Activate under Subscribe2.
4. Once Subscribe2 is activated, you’ll see it at the bottom left on your Dashboard. Put your mouse over Subscribe2 and select Subscribers. Here’s where you will paste (CTRL + V) the list of users you copied from Post Notification. Be sure to click on Subscribe at the bottom to save the list.

You could stop here, but let’s look at a few more things to set up:

5. Like with Post  Notification, it is a good idea not to set the email to be sent automatically when you publish. Here’s how to ensure you will need to manually set the post to be emailed. Go to Settings under Subscribe2 in your Dashboard. Click on the Appearance tab and then ensure that the box is checked before “Disable email notifications is checked by default on authoring pages?” and then save your changes by clicking on Submit.
6. The other box to check on the Appearance tab is “Enable Subscribe widget?”. This will put a box on your site’s front page allowing users to subscribe/unsubscribe. Be sure to click on Submit to save.
7. You can modify the format of the email that is sent my clicking on the Template tab and modifying any of the text that is not in brackets. Be sure to save it.
8. Finally, when you are ready to publish your post, be sure to uncheck the “Disable email notifications is checked by default on authoring pages?” box below the post you are writing. Then click Publish. You’ll automatically receive one or more emails.

One more nice feature I just thought of: Under Subscribe on your Dashboard is “Send Email”. This will allow you to send an email to your entire list of users. Type in the message and send. This isn’t a post, just an easy way to email users that perhaps isn’t important to the casual reader of your site.

Let me know if you need assistance and I’ll be happy to either give you some advice or make the entire change over for you. Remember 2/16/2013 is the end for Post Notification.

Creating Tables with a Plugin

Lining up columns of information in a WordPress post or page can be frustrating. Using the plugin WP Table Reload is a slick and easy to way to create professional looking tables that can hold data, images, links or any combination of those items.

Make it Smart Phone Pretty

wordpressHere’s a very simply way to make your WordPress site format beautifully on any smart phone whether it is an iPhone, Android or Blackberry. Simply activate the WordPress plugin WPTouch and you’re done. Yes, there are a lot of settings that you can adjust; but I found that out of the box WPTouch is ready to go without any tinkering.

Your WordPress site will automatically detect the smart phone and format accordingly. Smart phone users also have the option of switching back to their Web browser by simply turning off WPTouch at the bottom of the page.

A simple solution. That’s what makes WordPress, well, WordPress.


“How am I Doing?”

WordPress users often ask “How am I doing? Who’s visiting my site?” Out of the box, WordPress doesn’t give you that information. But there is an easy-to-use plugin called “Counts Per Day” that will graphically show you how many visitors you have by day/week/month; where the visitors are from; what posts and pages they are reading and how long they spend on your site. Here’s a screenshot of what some of the data looks like:

See the easy-to-install steps below to start using Counts Per Day.

Equally important is how to drive people to your site. Think of your WordPress site as a store on a dead-end street. Just because you open the story doesn’t mean customers will flock to it. You have to get into your mattress costume, go down to the corner with all the traffic, wave and hold up your sign. You can do this by including a link to your site in your email signature, add it to paper newsletters, tell parents about it at conferences or when running into parents in the produce aisle at the super market.

You can also use the Post Notification plugin to send an emailed link to your registered users every time you publish a post.

How to set up Counts Per Day:

1. From your WordPress Dashboard, click on Plugins.

2. Scroll down and find Counts Per Day. Click on “Activate”.

3. There are a myriad of settings for this plugin, but I didn’t even look at them. I just kept all the defaults.

Now that the plugin is installed, you will find Counts Per Day on your Dashboard just under Dashboard and Home at the very top-left. Click on Counts Per Day and view your data.

You can also put a Counts Per Day Widget on your site. I did that below left to show you what it looks like. Just go to Widgets under Appearance on your Dashboard, find the Counts Per Day Widget and drag it to the appropriate Widget area.

Happy counting and be sure to send me an email when you get to 10,000 visitors.

Khan Academy: Scale of Earth and Sun

Here’s an example of how you can embed a Khan Academy video into your WordPress site:

1. Find the video on the Khan Academy site and right click on it and select “copy embed html”.
2. Create a new WordPress post and paste the copied embed code into the post with the HTML tab selected.
3. Adjust the height and width of the video by changing those values in the html code.

What’s in a Post Name?

Apparently not commas. Depending on how you have WordPress configured (see below), using a comma, period or perhaps some other punctuation marks in your post name will break the link to the post. It seems to be just good practice not to use a comma or period in your post title and to avoid any unnecessary marks as well including colons, quotation marks and slashes.

To see how you have WordPress set up to create the links to your posts (and pages):

1. Go to the Dashboard and click on Settings.
2. Under Settings click on Permalinks.
3. If you have Permalinks set to include the name of your post, either change it to some other format, or be cautious when creating post titles and avoid unnecessary punctuation.

Two more suggestion:

1. Make each post name unique. Having all your posts named “Room 25 Newsletter” doesn’t say anything about the content of the post and it doesn’t help user find posts when searching.

2. Make post names short but expressive. Using action verbs in the name makes it more interesting. A post name of “Science Projects” might be improved with “Science Projects Dazzle Parents”. The name for this post might have been “Commas Can Break Your Links”.

Adding an Insert More Tag

If your post is rather long and would require the reader to scroll to continue reading, you might consider adding an “Insert More” tag to jump to the full story. Here’s how:

1. Compose your post then find the point where you’d like the jump to occur. Place the cursor there. If you have a picture or graphic with your post, put the “Insert More” tag at least below the picture so it stays on the front page.

2. Move to the edit window menu bar and click on the “Insert More” button. You’ll see the line appear where the cursor is blinking.

3. Publish or Update your post and then view the post to see how it looks. Not where you want the “Insert More” tag?

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Tip of the Week: Adding a Table

Sometimes one column just isn’t enough. You might have a list of 20 things to add to your post like some links you want students to use for a project. Putting them in one long column isn’t a very good use of space. You can add a table to a post in several ways:

1. By far the easiest way is to simply cut and paste these 9 lines of HTML code into you post with the HTML tab active. Then switch back to the Visual tab and you’ll see that your table is ready for entry:

<table style=”text-align: left; width: 590px; height: 32px;”
border=”0″ cellpadding=”2″ cellspacing=”2″>
<td align=”left” valign=”top”></td>
<td align=”left” valign=”top”></td>

Your table should look like this:

ABC News
LA Times
The Nation
New York Times
 News Hour Extra
Front Pages from Around the World

You can adjust the width of the table by clicking on the HTML tab and changing the width to a smaller or larger number depending on the size of the center column of your site.

2. A second way to create a table in a WordPress post is to use the plugin WP Table Reloaded. Although this plugin takes a bit more effort than using the HTML code, it also provides a few more bells and whistles. You can see an example of the WP Table Reloaded plug in at List of Bethel Bloggers. WP Table Reload is a plugin ready for you to activate in all Bethel Blogs.