This is an interview with Anthony Montalbano who is one of the main reasons why WordCamp Detroit was able to take place this year, a first for Michigan. In this interview, I ask Anthony what was the largest hurdle he had to jump over in order to make the event a reality. Although the event organizers really wanted to do a WordCamp in the Detroit metro area, it just didn’t come together this year which is why they opted for Novi, Michigan which is a happening place in and of itself. I also asked Anthony to give prospecting WordCamp organizers some tips on putting together a WordCamp of their own.
By Jeffro on October 16, 2010
By Jeffro on October 12, 2010
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the folks over at PollDaddy.com for sponsoring my trip to WordCamp Detroit. Without their support, I would not have been able to attend. If you’re looking for an easy to use service to poll your readers or conduct surveys, definitely give them a try. I suggest taking a look at their brand new product: PollDaddy Quizzes which is great for teachers, marketers, or trainers. Who’s going to be the first one to create a WordPress Quiz?
WordCamp Detroit was held this past weekend and for a first time event, went off quite well. The event was not held in Detroit itself but rather, a North West suburb called Novi. Novi seems like a happening place, especially at the town center. However, go two or three miles down the road and you’re back into farm country. The venue was called the Rock Financial Showplace and is built-in such a way that walls can be rearranged to provide as much or as little space as necessary to hold an event.
Loved the catered food during breakfast and lunch. Not only was the food at the same location as the event, but the organizers gave a substantial amount of time for lunch so that everyone had a chance to network with folks and talk about presentations during the first half of the day.
Plenty of 15-20 minute breaks throughout the day to talk about presentations or ask additional questions to the presenter.
One room for all presentations which minimized moving around and the need to have a map.
Majority of presentations focused on the WordPress software itself instead of SEO, content generation, etc.
Very engaged audience. This is one of the first WordCamps I’ve attended where just about all of the attendees sat in their chairs for every presentation with a minimal amount of people walking around outside the room.
Based on what I saw, it looked like a half and half ratio of men to women which is a good sign.
Within the conference hall, the only section that had power outlets was the left hand side of the room. For next year, I would set up a recharging station or ask volunteers to bring some power strips along with extension cords.
The conference hall held all of the attendees as presentations were all done in the same room but those who sat in the back or at a wrong angle from the presentation screen had a difficult time reading. If it was not for my glasses, I wouldn’t have been able to read anything on the screen. I suggest having the projector take up the entire white screen next year so things are larger and not confined to a little square.
Lack of a genius bar. For this particular WordCamp, a genius bar would have been a wonderful thing as most of the attendees were WordPress beginners. I hope to see a genius bar set up next year so beginners or anyone else can go to a central location to ask specific questions regarding WordPress.
WiFi. I’ve placed this in the Cons section but it’s more like an in-between. The free WiFi worked just fine until the start of the event when it became unusable. After the first two presentations, I was frustrated to the point where I paid $20.00 for a one day pass to use the Rock Financials paid access. This worked great albeit the outrageous price but later on in the day, Anthony fixed the problem by working with the venue to open up that section of their network for free and has worked with those who paid for WiFi to get reimbursed.
If it’s not too much trouble next year, I’d like to see the addition of an interview room so attendees have a dedicated quiet area to conduct video or audio interviews.
Overall, I had a great time. The hotel was very accessible from the highway, plenty of places to shop and eat and only a mile and a half away from the venue location. I must give Anthony Montalbano and his team of volunteers credit for pulling off a great WordCamp, especially since it was the first one for the Detroit area. Thankfully, Anthony had attended a few WordCamps previous to creating one for Detroit which led him to do many things right the first time around.
I met a bunch of cool people and found out that many of them in the Detroit area listen to my WordPress Weekly podcast. I enjoyed talking to every one of you that stopped me to say hi and I look forward to starting the show again in November. Hope to see WordCamp Detroit 2011 become a reality!
By Jeffro on October 8, 2010
As you’re reading this, I’m currently on my way to North West Detroit for WordCamp Detroit that’s taking place this weekend. Luckily for me, a person canceled at the last minute and I was able to pick up the ticket. Based on the schedule of speakers and presentations, it looks like the majority of the conference is going to be solely dedicated to WordPress itself rather than strictly SEO, or social media. I’ve got my eyes on a couple of individuals that I want to conduct video interviews with but we’ll see if I have better luck this time versus OpenCamp. I’m also planning on recording a couple of sessions with my digital voice recorded to push through the WordPress Weekly stream when I return. Hope to see some of you up in Detroit.
I’d also like to give a special thanks to PollDaddy as they have sponsored this particular WordCamp for me. Without their support, I wouldn’t be attending this event.
While visiting the PollDaddy site, check out their development blog as they have been on a tear lately adding all sorts of new features as well as improving elements of the site.
By Jeffro on October 7, 2010
At A Glance:
GravityForms is a commercial form generation plugin for WordPress created by the team that makes up RocketGenius. GravityForms comes in three flavors: $39.00 Single site license, $99.00 for a multi-site license and $199.00 for a developer license. Last but not least, GravityForms is licensed under the GPL.
Configuration And Use:
Installation was a breeze as all I had to do was upload the zip file from the plugins page in the back-end of WordPress. Once installed, the first thing you’ll want to do is insert your support license key. This key enables automatic updates as well as access to the support documents on the GravityForms website. From within this settings page, you’ll have the choice to Output the CSS that comes with the plugin along with HTML5. After setting up the license key, you’ll want to configure the reCAPTHCA settings which require users to sign up for a free account in order to acquire a public key and a private key. Before you configure any forms, be sure to take a look at the bottom of the settings page to make sure the installation status shows all green check marks.
Creating a form couldn’t be simpler. You have a field manager on the right with your form on the left. There are three different field types in GravityForms: Standard fields, Advanced Fields and Post Fields. The standard fields are those that you would typically find within a form such as a single line text field, paragraph box, check boxes or multiple choice. Advanced fields allow you to get more detail from the user such as address, website, or email address. This set of fields also includes CAPTCHA and file upload functionality. The last set of fields specifically deals with posts in WordPress. From here, you can create your very own post submission page with fields for excerpt, category, tags, and even images. These fields are especially cool because they work with existing properties. For example, the Category field can be configured to use all of the categories on the site or just specific ones.
After adding fields to a form, you can organize the way in which those fields will be displayed by dragging them above or below other fields. This is one of the reasons why it’s so easy to create forms in a matter of minutes, not hours. Since most of the fields you need are just a button click away, you don’t have to mess with complicated short-codes or PHP to add or customize form fields.
Once a form is created, you’ll most likely want to configure it to send you notifications once something has been submitted. GravityForms takes things a step further by not only allowing you to customize the information those notifications will contain, but storing those notifications within the back-end of WordPress for easy viewing or management.
In the screenshot below, I’ve configured my notifications to contain the subject line of [WPTavern Contact Form] so I can easily filter it in Thunderbird. I’ve also chosen to include all of the fields that make up the form. This way, I can see all of the information within the notification versus having to log in to the back-end of WordPress to see it. However, the possibilities are almost endless as you can make the notifications as detailed or as vague as you like.
One thing you have to watch out for when managing entries is that GravityForms does not have a trash can to store items pending deletion. Instead, when an item is deleted, it’s gone for good. I’m not sure if at some point in the future, the GForms guys will hook into the native trash can feature of WordPress so that items will go into the trash instead of being out right deleted.
While reading the manual before playing around with GravityForms is a good idea, I decided to see how far I could get without reading any instructions. The plugin is very intuitive as I was able to create a form without any difficulty. The one problem I ran into was figuring out how to get a created form to show up on a page. I’m so used to seeing a short code that I have to copy and paste into the content of a post or page that I was really confused. Thankfully, the support page provided the answer I needed as GForms adds its own button to the text editor which enables me to add created forms.
I initially thought that it would be a good idea if the short code for a form could be shown on the Edit Forms page but at the end of the day, this would add to UI clutter and since the easier, more straightforward method of adding a form to a post or page is through the text editor button, nothing should change.
One of the last things I wanted to mention regarding this plugin is the built-in Import/Export tool. This will save developers a ton of time, pending they have a developers license and multiple sites using GForms as you can Export/Import forms from one site to another. In fact, you can even export form entries. Users have the choice of exporting certain fields from the entries or can just export entries based on a date range. Form entries are saved into a CSV file while the forms themselves are saved within an XML file.
Support for this plugin is handled on the GravityHelp.com domain. This is where the support forums are located along with the documentation and FAQ. The plugin is fairly straightforward to use so I doubt you’ll need extensive support but it’s there in case you need it. When browsing through the forums, I noticed quite a bit of activity both by users of the plugin as well as the developers themselves. That’s a good sign.
I remember back in 2009 when I attended WordCamp Chicago which is the first time I met Carl Hancock, Keven Flahaut, and Alex Cancado. Before Chicago, I never heard of these three folks within the WordPress community. While at the event, they gave me a glimpse and run down of GravityForms. At the time, I along with many others were looking for a plugin that made it easy to create a post submission form. Michael Torbert ended up creating a custom one for me (Thanks Man), but GForms didn’t have those specific form fields at the time. It didn’t matter. After I saw GravityForms in action, I immediately told all three of them that they had something special. GravityForms was going to be a smashing hit in the WordPress world. They gave Jason Schuller, Mark Ghosh, Matt Mullenweg and other notable community members a demo and they all came away thinking the same thing.
GravityForms specifically does one thing and it does it better than any free or commercial plugins that exist. The interface meshes in perfectly with the rest of WordPress, it’s not too fancy and there are helper tool-tips all over the place to help guide you along. Don’t get me wrong, Contact Form 7 which is the plugin I’ve used on WPTavern.com for the contact form since its inception has no problems and is a great plugin that can provide a contact form but GForms does it so much easier and prettier. At $39.00 for a single site, it’s a bargain, even without any discount codes. However, the real savings with GravityForms comes with the developer license.
The developer license gives customers priority support, access to current and future add-ons such as MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, and Freshbooks. The one downside that may be a put off to some people is the fact that all licenses come with only one year of support and one year of upgrades. However, that was a business decision made by the GForms team and it’s their way of receiving recurring income.
I know that most of the WPTavern audience consists of consultants and developers but they already know this plugin kicks ass.
By Jeffro on October 6, 2010
1.2.6 Release – Many of the tickets left for 1.2.6 have patches. Ticket 2587 appears to be the only blocker dealing with the ability to hide multiple child-level comments. The feeling is that 1.2.6 is really close but a
firm date can not be given.
When JJJ entered the chat about a half hour after it started, he mentioned that 1.2.6 needs to be pushed out ASAP. It’s likely that we’ll see it released by the end of this week.
Strict Release Cycles – There was some discussion on whether it was time for the BuddyPress project to adhere to a more strict release cycle. In defining strict, I noted that it probably is more about predictability rather than a strict release cycle. The core development team along with contributors will in the future, discuss whether or not if it’s possible to release 2 or 3 major versions a year per the amount of development effort that BuddyPress currently has.
BuddyPress.org – There was a call for volunteers to help clean up the Codex along with filling in the gaps. The BuddyPress.org support forum will soon show topics you’ve participated in.
I put in the suggestion that the moderator team be expanded so that more users have the capabilities to delete spam user accounts as they pollute the activity stream. It looks like in the future, some additions will come to BuddyPress that helps this issue not only for the BuddyPress website, but BuddyPress powered sites in general.
How To Participate:
If you would like to participate in the chat next week, install IRC or an IRC compatible client and connect to the following IRC server.
chat.freenode.net or any random server on the Freenode network and then join this channel at 3:00PM Eastern time on Thursdays. #buddypress-dev.
The log for this chat can be found here.
By Jeffro on October 4, 2010
Version 2.6 of the WordPress iPhone app was released a few days ago with the most notable addition to the app being support for video. However, while new features and some outstanding issues were fixed, 2.6 introduced new bugs or made current ones worse.
We’ve received many reports of improved speed and ease of use, so we’re happy to hear that many of you are happy with the update.
However, since WordPress is such an amazing and extensive platform, we weren’t able to fix everything, and in some cases we created new bugs that made things worse.
Chris Boyd outlined some of the issues being reported the most by users which include crashing during video uploads for WordPress.org users, crashing after video compression, and crashes at the start screen. The app is working just fine for me although I have yet to try adding any photos or videos to any of my posts. If you have an issue with version 2.6, report it in the comments or within the feedback section of the forum.
By Jeffro on September 28, 2010
I’ve been writing about WordPress since 2007 and since then, I’ve seen a number of websites about WordPress come and go. Like many of you, I’m a fan of all these different websites and enjoy reading their points of view. Some of them even have breaking stories from time to time. However, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before the RSS feed goes dormant, never to be heard from again. As a writer and reader of a site devoted to WordPress, here are a few tips.
Consistency – Something I’ve lacked recently but I enjoy sites that are consistently publishing something during the week. If it’s only one or two things during the week, it’s easy to forget about that website despite subscribing to their RSS feed. Consistency also retains the audience and gives them an expectation that there is always something new to participate in.
In-Depth Knowledge – There are a ton of people in the WordPress community that know what is going on amongst the various facets of the project, write about it. Link things together, talk about stuff in the past and mix it up with stuff in the current/future. Bring comments, track tickets, discussions together. The WordPress.org project is a spaghetti of stuff going on, do your best to try to give visitors the big picture without all the cruft.
Try Not To Do It Alone – I’ve learned that there is just too much going on for one man to write about. To truly have a great, successful site about WordPress, you’re going to need at least 3-4 knowledgeable writers. A good example of this in action right now is WPCandy.com which is one of the few WordPress centric sites that was buried 6 feet under and has been resurrected with new life. In fact, the new site is better than the old one before it and it seems like the site hasn’t lost a beat.
Curation Is A Good Thing – Something I do here on WPTavern.com is curate news and information. I use my RSS Feedreader as a cockpit with a window to the internet. From here, I can get a good idea as to what the topics and trends are within the world of WordPress. The best part about my feed reader is my subscriptions to the WordPress keyword in Google because it brings in posts from places and people I have never heard of. Occasionally, I’ll find a real gem in that crowd. People are busy and if you can link to useful items with brief descriptions, you’ll be thanked for saving them time.
Longevity – If you’re going to start a site about WordPress, at least stick to it for a year. This has been the biggest culprit of good sites I’ve seen disappear. They all seem to do a good job for the first three months, then things gradually die off and within 6 months of starting the site, it becomes another graveyard on the web. There is plenty of room for sites about WordPress with everything that goes on during a weekly basis. Give yourself the time needed to gain exposure and become a reliable stop for information within the community.
Follow those five tips and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a destination stop for the WordPress train. Do you have any tips or suggestions that you could lend?
By Jeffro on September 28, 2010
I’m a day late and a dollar short on this story but it’s great to see Microsoft migrate their users to a robust platform that is actively developed rather than shutting down their doors without providing their users any recourse. Upon reading a lot of feedback on the deal, it’s become clear that there is still a large amount of people who don’t understand the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress the open source project. When folks just say WordPress, that enhances the confusion even further. How many times has this nightmare played itself?
Another thing I’ve seen mentioned a number of times is that there are now only two services where blogging can be done for free, WordPress.com and Blogger. This is not the case. You still have TypePad, Tumblr, and a few other services, despite the argument that they are mostly meant for short-hand publishing. There is a part of me however that would not like to see Blogger be absorbed into WordPress.com because things get pretty boring when you’re not chasing the #1 spot. As confirmed by Matt, the largest group of importers into WordPress.com are from Blogger. Since that’s the case, there is no reason to go after Blogger because Blogger is coming to them, slowly by surely. WordPress.com is in a great position as a hosted publishing service.
To all those who think WordPress can’t scale or be used for large websites, I suppose we’re about to find out as Automattic doubles their user-base. I’m looking forward to a post by Matt or Barry within the next few months that explains what had to be done to make the transition as smooth as possible. Congratulations to all those involved with the deal.
By Jeffro on September 27, 2010
Dion Hulse also known as DD32 recently celebrated his birthday (happy belated birthday!) and in a recent blog post announced that he is looking for additional contributors to his plugins. According to Dion, his plugins are about to reach the 110,000 download mark in total and is concerned that if a security issue comes up with any of his plugins, it would end up leaving a lot of users out in the cold. There are a few caveats to those interested in becoming contributors as outlined by DD32:
- You need to run it by me before you make a new Release of the plugin (that’ll be relaxed if you show you know what you’re doing, and I trust your judgement)
- You need to retain the current naming, licence, and Commit-often strategy to the Plugin’s repo.
- You need to respect the code and functionalities offered, as well as the users of the plugin, Upgrades to new versions MUST work nicely with users existing data, re-writing the plugin from scratch will not be taken nicely (But refactoring is fine, and there will be exceptions of course)
- You MUST follow the WordPress coding standards
- You cant just work on new features and ignore any present bugs, Sorry, but both need your attention.
According to the list of plugins Dion currently maintains, Add From Server is one of the more recent ones with close to 39,000 downloads and worked perfectly for me when I needed to move media items from an FTP folder on a server into the media library of WordPress. Earlier this year, DD32 was granted committ access to the core of WordPress and recently, has not had time to dedicate to either his plugins or the WordPress core. Dion is in the process of changing that by getting back in the groove starting with WordPress 3.1. For those that don’t know, Dion Hulse is primarily responsible for the WordPress installation process.
I’m only following the SVN Commits mailing list, and Trac tickets which I have personally commented on, So if you’ve got a ticket related to Upgrades, Filesystem, HTTP, Taxonomy, or something else I might be interested in, Please leave a comment pointing it out, If its up my alley, I’ll look at it, It’s going to take some time to go through the 2,000 open tickets on Trac.
Will be interesting to hear from him on what he plans on doing with WordPress QI.
By Jeffro on September 27, 2010
Inspired by an article that explains how to bypass WordPress core functions in order to implement custom gravatars, Chip Bennett explains how to properly work with custom gravatars without having to bypass any core functionality. Using Chips tutorial, creating custom avatars for your users is a cinch. Always better to work WITH core instead of against it, especially when it’s much easier to accomplish the task.