Writing "The WordPress Bible"

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

That’s how the process of coming to be the newest author for Wiley Publishing seems to have gone, even though the initial contact was only in late April.

Back then, I received a mysterious email in my inbox asking if I would be interested in writing The WordPress Bible. Fascinated, I immediately responded back and the conversation began.

We have had an agreement in principle for several weeks and now that the contract is official, I feel comfortable talking publicly about the deal – though the details of the deal will remain undisclosed.

I’m excited about writing this book. As many of you who have been with me for these more than five years know, I began the process of writing a book with my friend and colleague Jeremy Wright back in 2005. Honestly, I don’t think either of our hearts were in that book and we amicably agreed with the publisher that we wouldn’t complete that project. Sort of a shame in itself, but all for the better.

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That project gave me a little window into the life of an author. Overcoming writers block. Roadmapping chapters. Communication at all time with project editors. Stylesheets. Deadlines. All that jazz.

At that time, I was much less mature as a writer so it was a huge challenge to write effectively and for an audience. At that time, I was a much more free-spirited author writing often elaborate (and possibly poetic) prose which might not have been the right fit for a book of that nature. Today, I still am the best damned writer around (kidding) but know when to turn it on and off and how to write an effective 4000 word article or a 140 character tweet.

Today, I approach The WordPress Bible with some fear and trepidation. Currently, the book is marked at around a cool 700 pages. And oh yes, it has to be done in October. Yikes!

What this effectively means is that for the next four months, I will be spending monumental amounts of time doing nothing but writing. I’m considering disappearing to the mountains once a month for 3-4 days just to write.

During the process, I am going to continue to work with my clients to deliver valuable WordPress solutions for their businesses. In the past week, I have secured 3 more clients that I will be able to work with over the next few months.

I want to thank Stephanie McComb at Wiley for believing in me and reaching out to me in April. This will be a great addition to the Bible series. I also want to thank Lynn Haller from Studio B for helping me through the process and running valuable interference during the negotiations. Anyone looking to write a book should reach out to her to represent you. Authors should usually have agents and she’s a great agent.

I can’t wait for this book to hit the shelf. It’s going to be an invaluable resource for WordPress users, themers and developers of all range of skills and will be a “must order”.

WordPress and WordPress MU to Merge

This is the first year I did not attend WordCamp San Francisco, the annual event that is the largest of the WordCamp gathering. It seems like I’m missing the announcement of some big news.

Matt Mullenweg announced during his State of the Word speech, thaa going forward, WordPress and WordPress MU (Multi-user) would be merged. In principle, this is not all that surprising, as WPMU offers a single major feature that WordPRess single user does not – the ability to have multiple blogs with a single install.

In talking to attendees of the event, there were few details given in this announcement but conventional wisdom suggests that, either during the installation process or later down the road, a blog administrator would have the ability to “flip a switch” and turn on the capabilities of the WordPress MU system.

This seems to segue with an earlier announcement from the event that the BuddyPress plugins that turn a WPMU installation into a social network, would be made available as compatible with WordPress blogs.

It’s also unclear when this merging of streams will actually occur, but my best guess is WordPress 2.9.

More details as we get them.

SixApart Engaging WordPress, and Other Thoughts on WordCamp Mid-Atlantic

It was a brilliant day on Saturday at University of Baltimore where Jimmy Gardner and I kicked off the inaugural WordCamp Mid-Atlantic. I have been to half a dozen or more WordCamps since the first one in San Francisco in July of 2006. Without being at all conceited, because it had nothing really to do with me, this was the best one yet.
Continue reading “SixApart Engaging WordPress, and Other Thoughts on WordCamp Mid-Atlantic”

WordCamp Mid-Atlantic Approaches

WordCamp Mid-Atlantic is five days away (May 16) and things are beginning to fall into place. This is my first attempt at event organizing and I definitely have learned some tough lessons along the way. It’s also been tremendously helpful and rewarding for me. I’m looking forward to this thing coming in to land though.

Along the way, people have been asking me, “What the heck is WordCamp?” If you’ve never experienced an unconference, it might be hard to explain. In essence, it’s a loosely organized event put together to draw the WordPress community out, share experiences, instruct, learn, network and connect. WordCamp is a one day event that will have a variety of speakers, a technical and basic track, plenty of open space to launch into small groups if people felt inclined and basically learn from each other.

WordCamps are typically geared toward a particular city. I chose to lead a new regional-based event that is focused on Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The event is held in Baltimore because it’s centrally located, and the blogging/social media/technical scene is least developed there out of the three cities. Baltimore has significant potential and has some great leaders in the community. I hope our event will spur that forward.

I’m excited about this opportunity and grateful to my co-organizer, Jimmy Gardner, all the sponsors and speakers and the attendees who, with very little marketing, sold this thing out. It’s awesome to see such a great engagement.

How We Moved Thomas Hawk to WordPress

It’s been about a week and I haven’t said a whole lot about one of the most special projects I’ve ever worked on. Thomas Hawk has been one of the people I’ve most looked up to since I began shooting photography. I’ve never met the guy before, but I hope to at some point. I also keep my eyes and ears open to absorb anything and everything he ever says about photography in a hope that I will learn from him. Mentor from a far? Maybe.

A few weeks ago, a comment was made on Friendfeed (I don’t remember how it started) and it became clear to me that Thomas desperately wanted to get off of the Blogger blog platform. I can’t blame him. I’m always looking to help people move to WordPress so I asked him to contact me. As a veteran of “moving people to WordPress”, I was sure I could help him out.
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We exchanged emails over the subject and his biggest hurdle seemed to be the number of comments that were housed on Blogger. He was concerned, naturally, that all of his content would not be able to come over. I asked him to give me a shot at it and he obliged.

Blogger Problems

As I’ve mentioned, Blogger can be a bit of a pain. While it used to be the great granddaddy of blogging software, Google has done little to keep it nimble and competent. That, I hope, will change in the months ahead as my friend and colleague, Rick Klau, formerly of FeedBurner has taken the reins as the product manager and has been incredibly helpful working with me on this project.

The problem was a pretty common problem. It didn’t take long Googling around to find hundreds of other people who were having problems with Google having a 5000 comment cap on their export. In other words, if you had over 5000 comments (Thomas had over 21000), you were screwed and could not get all of your data.

I went to Rick and asked if he could help me get this problem solved. He happily obliged, asked me to wait a few days, and went off to his team. Within a few days they had solved the problem. Not only for me, they solved it for everyone.

WordPress Problems

For an unknown reason, though, the WordPress Blogger Importer did not work the way it was supposed to. Though it now accurately reported that there were over 21,000 comments that could be imported, it failed to do so. As a result, I was forced to improvise using the Blogger-supported format for data portability – a super large Atom-format XML export that included all the data I needed. Unfortunately, importing this data was now impossible in its present form unless I decided to build a WordPress import script for the occasion. Instead, I discovered the Google provided Blog Converters, open source scripts that could convert WordPress or Movable Type exports into Blogger Atom formats and vica versa. With this tool in hand, I was able to successfully convert the Blogger Atom file into a WordPress native WXR file.

Importing the new file was a breeze but created a new problem. I needed to maintain all of Thomas’ permalinks for the search engines. Blogger has a strange way of creating permalinks that involves breaking the title of the post into “word chunks” then piecing together a permalink out of a seemingly random number of words. In WordPress, permalinks are generated by taking all the words in a title, and piecing them all together to make a link. So I needed to find a way to preserve all of this.

I found the Maintain Blogger Permalinks plugin, a single use plugin that would alter the post slugs to the previously used Blogger slugs. Unfortunately, it relied on content that was pulled directly out of Blogger, on import, using the Blogger import script. Since I had gone around that by using the Blogger export format, I had to figure out how to get that data. Fortunately, it was as simple as actually running the Blogger importer. Since the importer only did not work with comments, all I had to do was make some simple PHP changes to the script in order to make it not skip over already existing content, and instead update that content with the appropriate data I needed.

I could outline those details, but that is special sauce. I’m happy for you to pay me to do this for you. ;-)

WordPress Perks

Once all the data had been moved over and Thomas had blessed the “flipping of the switch”, we kicked it on live. All the permalinks still worked. All the data was successfully moved into its new home. Comments were good. Posts were good. We had a nice minimalistic theme that brightened up his digs. I used the Picturegrid plugin to pull in his Flickr photostream.

We, of course, encountered some problems involving caching. WordPress still doesn’t do well on high traffic sites without some caching. I implemented WP-Super Cache, an absolutely essential plugin for high traffic sites.

I am Available

This was a special project for me as Thomas is someone I look up to. At the same time, it’s what I do. It’s how I make a living. And it’s how I am able to continue keeping this site going. Contrary to popular belief, it is not sustained by advertising.

In the next few days, I will face the darkest time of my life so far. At this time, I have exactly one week to extend my pipeline with additional work, find viable employment elsewhere or simply… I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it. The economy sucks right now, and I’m in the middle of it. Though I know everyone is tight and hiring is frozen, there is still some liquidity available. I am asking, even begging, that if I can help you with WordPress (or any) consulting work – even short term – that you let me know. I hesitate to strike this tone, yet I am in in dire straits right now and need a breakthrough.

If you work for a company, go lobby for them to employ my services. If you are a CEO, I ask you to consider if you could try to get me for a discount. If you are an entrepreneur, I ask you to consider if you are able to pass me projects that are filling your plate. I have put up a consulting page to provide an overview of some of the services I have done and can do for you.

Thank you all, and thanks Thomas for letting me work on your site. It was great fun.

WordPress 2.7 Hits The Street

Public Service Announcement to note that WordPress 2.7 has now been released. In addition to our earlier coverage of things you can expect in this release, others have also written some handy posts about the release as well. Take it all in.

Go get WordPress 2.7 now.

WordPress Plugin Pack: Real Estate

We continue our WordPress plugin pack series that we started yesterday with the Photography pack, by announcing the Real Estate Pack. While I am not a real estate professional, I do know that real estate folks need as much help as they can get right now. Fortunately for you folks, you do not need to manage a mortgage to get these plugins. As usual, Akismet is included by default as the recommended anti-spam plugin. Keep in mind commercial licensing (you do have to pay, but it’s not much. Go to Akismet.com for more info) and the All in One SEO pack is necessary for marketing and search engine reasons.

Aside from that, here are five plugins you might consider grabbing if you’re in real estate:

  • Great Real Estate – turn WordPress into a full featured Real Estate management center.
  • Insights – Allows quick additions of photos, videos and other “bling” for posts.
  • Lightbox Plus – Similar to the Lightbox 2 plugin listed in the Photography pack.
  • WordPress Word of Mouth Marketing – adds the ability to “share” content across a variety of mediums. Personally, I prefer AddThis but AddThis is not GPL compatible so cannot be bundled in this pack. We use AddThis on Technosailor.com and it can be seen in the “Bookmark” button below this post.
  • WP-Realty – Useful for integrating listings into WordPress

Download the Entire Pack

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WordPress Plugin Pack: Photography

Every day, I get emails, IMs and other questions asking me “What plugins do I have to have in WordPress?” My answer is always the same – depends on what you do or want to accomplish. There are two plugins that are absolutely required, in my opinion, for any WordPress blog – Akismet to combat blog spam and All in One SEO Pack to handle all the basic search engine marketing stuff that most of us forget (or maybe don’t even know how to do) every day.

I will be releasing these “plugin packs” regularly so feel free to request (by email) packs you’d like to see. All plugins released are GPL and publicly available – but I will provide a zip that includes all the plugins for one easy download.

The first plugin pack is for photographers.

  • Lightbox 2 – frames photos in an aesthetically, pleasing frame over a darkened screen.
  • WordPress Flickr Manager – provides controls for managing your Flickr library and inserting Flickr content into posts.
  • Yet Another Photoblog – allows you to turn a WordPress install into a Photoblog
  • SlidePress – Turn your photos into slideshows.
  • NextyGEN Gallery – built on the Gallery software, leveraging WordPress functionality.

Download the Entire Pack

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WordPress Consulting Extravaganza: One Day Only

Forgive the marketing speak, but I’ve decided to do something that really is a special deal. I get inquiries everyday asking me questions about WordPress from “How to setup a category based structure for my blog?” to “What are the most essential plugins I need for my blog?”

If I could cut and paste answers and spend no time, I would, but really every situation is different. Most times I can’t answer these questions because of limits on my time, but I’ve decided to create a day-event where people could book my time for a bit and get any or all of their WordPress questions, recommendation requests and “how-to’s” answered.

Mark December 18th on your calendar. On this day, I am taking reservations for 30 minute exclusive time slots on a first come, first serve basis. I will give you 30 minutes of my time to get on the phone and offer my insight and assistance on your WordPress related problems and questions. The cost is $100 per time slot. Even your grandma can do that!

If you’re a business looking for some strategy guides, or individual looking for recommendations on themes or plugins or other assistance, your time is now.

One person (or group of people, if you choose) per call. One day only. Book your slot now. All times are US/Eastern.

10-10:30 am
Book this appointment and pay online using Monetime.

10:45-11:15 am
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11:30 am – Noon
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12:15-12:45 pm
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1:15-1:45 pm
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2-2:30 pm
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2:45-3:15 pm
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3:30-4 pm
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MobilePress Allows Readers to Read On the Go

As a fan of all things mobile, I have been continually frustrated by websites that do not render a mobile friendly version of their sites. Let’s be honest, I’ve been frustrated by me not rendering a mobile friendly version. As a Blackberry user, I’ve been tormented by the inadequacy of the mobile browser that has been supplied on handsets for a long time. Each new iteration of the Blackberry OS improves the browser, but nothing has been breakout. (That said, I hear the new OS 4.6 which is shipping with Blackberry Bolds and Blackberry Storms is quite nice, but I have not been able to independently confirm).

Captured with Safari 3 Simulating the iPhone
Captured with Safari 3 Simulating the iPhone

Fortunately, now you can read this site on most mobile web browsers including the iPhone (with iPhone bling!), Opera Mini, Internet Explorer for Windows Mobile as well as Blackberry and generic mobile browsers. This thanks to a WordPress plugin called MobilePress. I highly recommend it as a must have for every blogger who wants or needs their blog accessible to mobile users (they are becoming fairly common place).

The only hitch seems to be on the Blackberry browser (<=OS 4.5). You must disable javascript support in your Blackberry Browser configuration. Failing to do this will cause most sites that load javascript/AJAX libraries to spin unendingly and eat up your device memory. The only way to solve this is to pop the battery.