Aug 22, 2012

Aug - 15 2012 | By

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Remember, there's another show next week: 8/29/12

Paul and Glenn had Catherine Scholz on the show today. She's a web developer using WordPress: a blogging, website and content management system.

WordPress is free open source software that can be installed on a web hosting service (a company that owns the actual computer where, for a fee, your website resides). You can have the host install WordPress, and then you can easily create and update your website from any internet connection.

Paul called WordPress a content management system <CMS> similar to Joomla & Drupal and asked Catherine to compare them to WordPress. She said…
– WordPress is becoming more popular. It powers about 17% of the top 1 million websites and 22% of all websites.
– It's easier to use that Drupal & Joomla.
– It was just an blogging platform and, over time, took on more capability.

Paul noted that at some point, web content & presentation became separated: what's on a website vs. what it looks like. In WordPress you can change the appearance of the website without changing its content. Catherine agreed, you can change the theme, the colors, fonts, etc., and leave the content alone.
– There are many free themes to choose from as well as some you pay for, if you want technical support.
– Some free themes intend to lure you into buying a more advanced one. It's helpful to check that its author updates it occasionally or that there's a forum where other users carry on a discussion about it.
– You can create your own themes, which involves customizing a preexisting one.
– Themes tend to focus on subjects like nature, health or medicine.
– At home you only need a browser to maintain the WordPress website.

There are 2 ways to implement WordPress: self-hosted (using a hosting site) and using wordpress.com itself. For people just getting started, using wordpress.com is a good, free option. You don't have to worry about using the latest version or adding any bells and whistles (plugins), the WordPress company takes care of that. But you're limited in your choice of themes. However, if you later want to do something more ambitious, you can easily export everything to a self-hosted site. With a self-hosted site you can take on more maintenance responsibility and choose from more themes and plugins.

When you signup at wordpress.com, you'll see that it calls itself a blogging site but Catherine said you can use it to create a full website there.

Catherine got started with WordPress a few years ago when she saw a friend's website. He's a musician and was able to offer video, audio and sell his music on the site. She already had her own website but looked into what he was using and eventually switched over to WordPress. After she learned to use it, others asked her to develop websites for them.

When you first install WordPress, it comes with a "Wordpress-friendly theme" and a developer can customize it for their own use or install a different one. Catherine uses a theme by Ithemes called Builder, which can be completely customized. Talking about the tools needed to customize a theme, Catherine said some themes come with a style manager for making changes. These tend to be themes you have to pay for, though some free themes allow you to make some changes, too.

WordPress is very SEO-friendly. Search engines love WordPress because of the URL permalink structure. If you set it up in the right way using 'pretty permalinks' the keywords end up in the URL and the URLs are the number one thing search engines look at for relevancy.

Glenn encouraged listeners to become KVMR members.

Peter called. He had taken instruction from Catherine and now runs The Center For The Arts website.
– WordPress gives the site the ability to have a schedule of upcoming events using an event calendar plugin.
– Various staff members can have their own passwords, which gives them access to only certain parts of the website for editing.
– There's a way for an author to create content and editor to approve it, within WordPress.
– He said it mostly runs on CSS so editing is different from writing HTML.
– He's found it easier to use then the previous tool he used: Dreamweaver.

Catherine said the standard width of a page is now 960 pixels because that's the average monitor screen size. You can design for the desktop computer or a mobile device. There are themes with "responsive design", which sense what device is displaying the page and reconfigure the way it looks. <Smaller screens might look better with a simplified theme, for instance>

Zak called. He's runs a web software company in Australia and WordPress has been a major part of the income. He warned that some free plugins and themes contain malware and that it may be worth buying these addons from a trusted source. At least be aware of the problem and do some research. Catherine said she teaches "best practices" to avoid these problems as well as techniques to allow a site to be restored in case it does get hacked.

Paul said he uses 2 tools for security on servers. nessus.org offers a paid version as well as a "community" version. The program helps you "understand the kind of scripting defects that are widespread in generic plugins". <Scripts are just programming code>
– He also subscribes to an advisory called CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). Using it, he said, you can subscribe for notification regarding WordPress's plugin vulnerabilities.
– Catherine added the sucuri.net is a service you can use to scan your website periodically for malware.
– Zac also said there is great community of WordPress users where you can get much free information. Paul looked up and found wordpress.org/support. And there is the codex site which deals with the actual programming of WordPress.

Jenny called. She's an artist who wants to put together a website with a lot of visuals. She's currently looking at something called Intuit, which offers templates to get the site started. She's curious about WordPress but wondered about the learning curve, the complexity and the cost.
– Most of the cost is the time you invest in learning how to use it.
– She can expect her cost to be one-time rather than a monthly fee. Catherine said her service is a one-time charge and includes building the site and instruction on maintaining it. There's also the charge for hosting the website <renting the space on the server>. If you buy a theme it's usually a one-time charge unless you pay for continued support.
– With regard to complexity in learning WordPress, Catherine said she thinks anybody can do it. The interface to WordPress is pretty intuitive.
– Remember, wordpress.com is free to use and practice with.
– If you're concerned that you'll end up with the typical WordPress-looking site, have someone design it for you, then you'll only need to update the content.

Mentioned in previous shows, Nevada County Online facilitates like-minded people to meet up and discuss many aspects of the internet

Paul again said he'll post podcast of last weeks podcast which featured Coryon Redd discussing internet marketing.

Glenn reminded listeners the show will be on next week, too: 8/29/12

Catherine's site:
becomeawebweaver.com
Phone: (530) 362-8586
She teaches classes at:
sierracommons.org

Paul thanked Molly Fisk who, like Catherine, strayed from the realm of the arts to promote web endeavors as well as social media.

Paul addressed my own question, sort of. I asked about program that originally came from the Unix world: GREP. Specifically, I'm looking for a version that runs in Windows and has a graphical interface (GUI).

<GREP is the most powerful tool I've seen for searching within local documents for words or characters. It can find lines that, for example, contain both of the words 'cost' and 'finance', in either order, and also contain the alternates to finance–'financial' and 'financing' but NOT 'financed'. I already have a version that runs from the command line that I got here. But I wanted a version that runs in a graphical window. I'll eventually be exploring Wingrep>

Paul said there's no real equivalent on Windows. <That is not with all the capabilities of the original GREP. Though there are some versions with many of the same features>. He suggested running a Unix-like environment called Cygwin and getting the Unix tools, which come with GREP.

He also mentioned the search function built into Windows. But Glenn said he's had trouble with it not finding what he knew to be there. <That tool, I've discovered, tends to ignore the fact you've changed folders. You have to keep an eye on the box labeled 'Look in:'>. Paul added that if you have the Windows indexer turned off, searches may takes a long time or fail.

Paul also found the tool called Google Desktop, which over time, indexes your hard drive content and then lets you quickly search your documents. The indexing is done over a long time at a low priority so as not to slow the normal use of your computer. It also has plugins for searching special files like Lotus spreadsheets. Google doesn't support it any longer but Glenn said go to download.cnet.com and type in Google Desktop in their search box to find it.

My other question was how to tell if the product you're shopping for has a battery you can replace yourself. Glenn said he's not aware of any tablets like that. The tablet & phone companies have moved away from that model because they want you to come back to them & buy a new unit or send the device in to have the battery replaced. Paul said the other option is to take the unit apart yourself, perhaps with special tools, to replace the battery. He added that most units today have an LED backlight instead of fluorescent lights and can run much longer between battery charges, thus extending the overall battery life. He said this is true of many netbooks and PDAs and you can run at least 8 hours between charges.

Last updated: 9:45 PM 8/22/2012