All posts by Joey Hicklin

I am a self-motivated team-member who has a knack for troubleshooting anything; from electronics and appliances, to coding, applications and generalized life or social challenges. My rich background gives me a prismatic viewpoint to see the world in many different aspects. As well, those experiences have given me a powerful toolkit that spans across multiple disciplines. I can build a house from scratch, just as efficiently as I can build a computer or create a custom gourmet dish. I also enjoy analyzing designs, as it grants me the opportunity to use my many hats for scrutinizing a subject from multiple viewpoints.

Interview: Jino Conklin, The Columbian

Jino Conklin attended Clark College, just like we are right now. But he attended classes here between 2011 and 2014 for his web development degree. He now works over at The Columbian as a world class Web Developer, where they just transferred completely to WordPress from another major CMS. But before I go spilling all the details of the interview, here are the words from Jino himself.

Jino Conklin

Q & A

When did you first start using WordPress and was it your first time using a CMS (Content Management System)?

The first time I used WordPress was actually in Lorelle’s class, back in May 2013 as part of my Web Development Degree Program. And, yes, it was the first time using a CMS. I’ve had a couple projects going at that time trying to create my own CMS, but once I found out that Matt Mullenweg had beat me to the punch, I started using WordPress.

How do you use WordPress at your job? (Do you alter Themes, create content or code custom Plugins for your company?)

We do quite a bit with WordPress here at The Columbian. Up until August 2015, we were on a completely different CMS (a very popular one used around the country) that was hosted off site. Our vision was to bring columbian.com on-site and forego a hosting company. It took us from January 2015 – August 2015 to get switched over (with only myself and my Senior Developer, and a crew of 4 IT gurus). Now we are full fledged WordPress.  We’ve had to convert all of our Theme templates from Django (written in Python) to WordPress.
What do I do personally with WordPress at The Columbian? I’ve written a couple custom Plugins for our Events site, I’ve modified Themes to fit our needs. As we speak, I’m in process of writing a new Plugin for our Best of Clark County contest coming up in February. And I do maintenance for columbian.com when issues arise.

Do you have a personal preference towards WordPress, as compared to other CMS’s like Drupal or Joomla?

I personally really enjoy WordPress. I like how the action and filter hooks give you pretty much endless customization and abilities to do everything you want. I’ve touched Drupal and Joomla, and while they are great CMS’s, I was pulled toward WordPress because of the minor learning curve, and because all the support that comes with it (Codex, WPDevelopers site, Support Forums, etc). I felt that trying to learn Drupal or Joomla was off the course of where I wanted to be with The Columbian, so I didn’t go that route. I’m not saying I never will, but right now, I’m content with WordPress.

Is there anything that you wish that WordPress would change that may make your job easier?

I’m still new in my career with WordPress, but so far, I haven’t had any major requests for WordPress to change. Everything that I’ve wanted to change, WordPress provided a way, either with a custom Plugin, or a little bit of custom code inside of a Theme.

Plugin: Google Analytics Dashboard for WP

Google Analytics Dashboard is a WordPress Plugin that connects the power of Google’s analytical software with the far-reaching spread of WordPress sites. While I wasn’t able to actually test the Plugin, since I had to install it on an offline version of my site and Google couldn’t pull data from a site that wasn’t connected to them, I was able to mess with their interface to get a better idea about what is possible with the software.

A New Way to Track

After activating the Plugin (which had an error because of the type of page I was using) I was able to check out some of the ways that I could track data through the Plugin. I was able to mask IP addresses while I track data, to keep any personal user data private, in consideration for my users. And I was also able to enable demographics and interest reports from Google’s targeted ad system. I could track by all outbound data, like outbound links and downloads, or I could track identifiers like hashmarks (#).

Google Analytics Plugin for WordPress

Organize Data

I was also able to sort custom tracking definitions, like being able to create different tracking data files for authors of the site, or maybe a specific category. And if I find that I’m starting to have a bunch of useless data, I have the ability to exclude certain users from the tracking process. For example, if I start to notice that the data from my staff is throwing off my early morning number, I can exclude the admins, editors, authors and contributors from tracking for a set period of time. I can even link the analytics software to my AdSense account, to ensure that I’m getting the most out of my Google AdSense advertising. If you’re interested in the Plugin, check out the first link in the Additional Resources section, and you’ll be well on your way to having a better understanding of your users.

Additional Resources

GPL: Share and Share Alike

The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or GPL) is the most widely used free software license, which guarantees end users (individuals, organizations, companies) the freedoms to run, study, share (copy), and modify the software.
Wikipedia – GNU General Public License

The usage of a GPL can actually be beneficial to both the developer and the client, as Josh Pollock outlines in his article published in Torque Magazine. Josh explains that as you develop a library, after creating numerous software solutions for various clients, it will become extremely beneficial for you to reuse some of that code. This is how the GPL can help the developer, and especially a WordPress developer who is making either a theme or Plugin that they hope multiple clients will use in the future. However, the client will also be concerned about liability, in the usage of the code you have written for them, as well as their ability to hire another developer, should they want to expand the software later. This is how GPL can benefit the client.

Sounds like Socialism

While it may sound like a “hippie-commune” mentality when you say that you want to open your work so that it may be taken and used by others, but as the statistics show, most developers prefer the GNU GPL license. Just look at the rankings for the license market share for the SAAS community:

Statistics of license market shar among the SAAS communnity

So why are developers okay with their work being open to be used by others? Well, the simplest way to say it is that coding is an impossible feat for any one person, regardless of the time invested. In a way, coding anything requires that you have a large amount of work already completed that gives you a framework to build around. And this required framework is enormous. If coders didn’t share their work, we wouldn’t have the majority of the code-dependent technologies that we enjoy today. It would be like a car-manufacturer having their cars built one at a time, with only one person working on each car. Making the paint from base-materials, smelting the metals, hand-tooling the custom parts. It would be an unsustainable system.

The Better Road

So in the end, the GPL not only provides peace-of-mind and freedom for the client, but it also protects the developer and ensures that they can focus on the client’s specific needs, instead of reinventing the wheel every time. And when a developer solves a problem for a client and licenses it under the GPL, they are in a sense, solving the problem for everyone in the future that requires that particular solution.

The web has an immense amount of work to accomplish in it’s future, and The GPL is just one facet that we as society need to utilize, if we are to get it all done in a timely manner. If you’d like some more information about the GPL and what is involved in its rules, head over the official GNU GPL page to read the actual license for yourself. Over there they will go into more detail about the limits and rulings of the license.

Additional Information

Web Accessibility: Low-Bandwidth Users

As of 2013, we have an estimated 2.7 billion users on the internet, which is nearly 40% of the entire human population (7.3 billion, as of July 2015). Of those users, only 1.8 billion are connecting to the internet at broadband speeds (this includes both land-line and mobile broadband connections). With web pages becoming more and more data heavy, thanks in large part to Plugins, large images and videos becoming common content, the 33% of internet users who have connection speeds under 150 kbits/s are at a major disadvantage when it comes to accessibility.

So what can you, as a developer, do to better serve the lower third of internet users who suffer from low connection speeds? Well, Aptivate has already put together a very comprehensive guide to developing with low-bandwidth users in mind, so in this article, I’ll just be reviewing the most important aspects of their approach.

Size Matters

One of the main points that you must be aware of when developing for low-bandwidth users, is to keep the total size of a page (including all HTML, Javascript, CSS and images) under 25kB. I know that this may not sound achievable in some situations, but in the modern age of design, minimalist structure and design is not only good for low-bandwidth users, but also for all users in general.

After all, when users arrive at a page that has too much (or too little) information displayed on a single page, they are likely to leave. This requires designers and developers to work hard at distilling the raw idea of what you need to convey to users on your site, instead of just filling your site with content.

A Picture Takes as Long as 1000 Words

Though this metric isn’t completely accurate, the message is this: If you can convey a message with words, instead of pictures, always use words. When you do have to use a picture, have it in the correct format to reduce size, and if the image is very large, consider using a thumbnail that links to the full-size image. This way, the user isn’t forced to download those large images when your page loads initially.

Cache and Inform

Allowing your site to be cached enables users to save duplicate content (like images) so they don’t have to re-download that content each time they visit your page. There are several techniques that you can utilize for this, and the full guidelines go over those techniques in their section about caching.

Lastly, it’s best to warn users of page sizes when you link to them. This way, they can decide whether or not they want to follow the link. For example, if you provide a link to a chart that details more about the subject you are talking about on your site, a user would probably be very interested in the link. However, if that chart is a 20MB image, the user may want to know that before they prepare for the 5-minute or more download time that it will take to access the information.

Additional Resources

More information on this subject can be found in thew following locations:

Forms: The Real Connection to the User

A form allows a user to enter data that is sent to a server for processing.
Wikipedia

Forms on WordPress have the same limitations that an HTML form has. Granted, WordPress comes with a built-in form-making tool to make a contact form, and a tutorial for how to use that can be found in the “More Information” section below, but that’s not what I’ll be talking about.

WordPress also has numerous Plugins that allow you to utilize a tool for creating custom forms, or you could create your own with some HTML. If you just install a Plugin, the creation process is dictated by that specific Plugin, so in this tutorial I’ll be talking about making forms with raw HTML.

What Can a Form do?

A form consists of a number of varying input types, that you supply to the user, in hopes of receiving feedback. There are 23 different input types, along with the “select” element for creating a drop-down list. The full list of input types can be found on an HTML input tutorial page.

Since forms have so many input types, the applications for their use are almost endless. You could create an embedded calculator to determine a person’s BMI (Body Mass Index), or you could use a form to have users complete a survey. You could even use a form to allow users to alter program variables for software that you are running.

How do I Make an HTML form?

Technical Cafe actually has a great video that goes over the basics of creating an HTML form. Just watch the video below, and you can apply the basic input types they talk about with other input types to fully utilize the form creation possibilities of HTML.

More Information

WordPress Words: Trackbacks

A trackback is one of four types of linkback methods for website authors to request notification when somebody links to one of their documents.
Wikipedia.

Example: If I’m writing about a subject, and I find an article that I think makes a bunch of good points about the issue, I can link to their page as usual. But if both my site and the owner of the linked site are trackback-enabled, then my link automatically creates a notification that will inform the linked site of the new connection. This notification also provides links back and forth between the two pages, allowing readers to easily follow related streams of information

About The Word

Trackbacks have been in use since 2002, and there are currently efforts to make it’s usage an internet standard through the IETF. Though trackbacks can be very helpful, many bloggers have stopped using them. This is mostly due to some companies who have abused the feature, linking to spam sites. Though spam filters exist, the headache of having to sift through spam has led to a decline of trackback usage. On WordPress, trackbacks must be created manually, this process is explained by the first “More Information” link below.

Here’s what a trackback looks like on a site:

A trackback displayed on a website.

For More Information