Adding a Twitter Feed

For those out there who use Twitter, we have now installed a WordPress plugin to allow for your Twitter feed to be added to the sidebar of your blog. The steps to set this up, unfortunately, are a little complicated. Most of it involves changes in your Twitter account itself. Here are the steps:

  1. From your blog Dashboard, go to Appearance -> Widgets.twitter_widget
  2. Drag the ‘Really Simple Twitter’ Widget to somewhere on your list of ‘Primary Widget Area’ widgets. A big screen of options and fields will appear:
  3. Click on the link at the top for ‘creating your Twitter Application’.
  4. You will be prompted to log into your Twitter account.
  5. Once you are logged in, you should have an option to ‘Create a New Application’. Click on that.
  6. Fill out the form, and submit it. What you name your application doesn’t matter at all.
  7. Once you’ve created your Twitter application, look for the fields labeled ‘consumer key’ and ‘consumer secret’. Copy-paste these into your WordPress plugin settings.
  8. Click on ‘Create My Access Token’ at the bottom of the page to have your Twitter application generate the ‘access token’ and ‘access token secret’ fields. Copy-paste these into your WordPress plugin settings.
  9. Finally, fill in your Twitter username in the plugin settings, and save the widget. When you view your blog, your Twitter feed should now appear!
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Joining Other Sites

With the myriad of different blogs and sites used for Education courses here at Pacific University, a question that comes up a lot is how to easily find each site that you need. Thanks to a new plugin we just installed on the WordPress server (called ‘Join my Multisite’), you can now quickly add yourself as a subscriber to the sites you need, allowing them to appear on the ‘My Sites’ navigation bar whenever you are logged in. To set this up for your site (so other users can subscribe to your site), there are a few quick steps to configure the plugin:

  1. Activate the widget by going to your blog Dashboard and choosing ‘Users’, followed by ‘Join My Multisite’:
  2. Check the box for ‘Manual’ membership, and choose ‘Subscriber’ for new user default role. Then click ‘Update Options’.
  3. Now click on ‘Appearance’ from the navigation menu, and choose ‘Widgets’.
  4. Find the ‘Join My Site Widget’, and drag it somewhere on the list of widgets in your ‘primary widget area’. This will allow logged-in visitors to your site to add themselves as subscribers!
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Embedding Code

A question that comes up a lot is how to embed various kinds of web-based interactive tools, videos, etc. into a post. Well, unfortunately by default WordPress doesn’t allow these at all, with the exception of a few specific (popular) video sites like youtube and vimeo. I wrote a previous post about how to embed video clips from these sites, so I won’t cover that here.

But, thanks to a new plugin installed on the COE Blog Server (called Artiss Code Embed), you can now embed code snippets from *any* site or tool right in your blog posts. For example, here is a Google Map embedded using the plugin:

View Larger Map

Here are the steps to accomplish something like this:

  1. Copy the ’embed’ code you want to have display on your blog. To get the embed code for a Google Slideshow:
    1. When editing your Slideshow, go to the ‘File’ menu and choose ‘Publish to the web…’.
    2. Click on the tab for ‘Embed’, choose any settings you want (you can always change these later, by hand), and then click ‘Publish’.
    3. The code you need to copy will be in the field.
  2. In WordPress, create a new Post or Page.
  3. At the top right of the screen, click on the little ‘screen options’ tab, and check the box for ‘Custom Fields’. Note: you only have to do this step once.
  4. In the Custom Fields section below your edit post field, click on ‘Add Custom Field’.
  5. Paste the ’embed’ code (from step 1) into the ‘Value’ field. In the ‘Name’ field, put in the name CODE1.
  6. Click on ‘Update’ to save the Custom Field data.
  7. Somewhere in the body of your post or page, type ‘%’ followed by the ‘CODE1’ label, followed by another ‘%’.
  8. Publish the post, and view it (you won’t be able to see the embedded item on the editing screen, but it will show up properly when you view the post).
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Embedding Video Clips

As users get more familiar with using WordPress, invariably a question that arises is how to embed a video clip (usually from youtube) right into a blog post. It seems like it would be really easy.. most streaming video sites have an ’embed’ option, where they give you a piece of code to copy-and-paste to make the video clip display on another website or blog. But what everyone finds out when they go to edit one of their blog posts, click on ‘HTML’ view, and paste in the ’embed’ code.. is that it doesn’t work. It turns out that WordPress is designed to not allow pasting in chunks of HTML code like this.. it’s a security feature to prevent users from embedding malicious or dangerous code on their posts and pages.

Fortunately, though, there’s an even simpler method for embedding video clips (in fact it’s so simple that it doesn’t occur to most users to try it).. simply copy-and-paste the address of the youtube video, vimeo clip, etc. right into the text of a post or page.. and don’t do anything to it (i.e. don’t make it a hyperlink). WordPress will automatically detect that the address is a video clip, and if the website is on the ‘approved list’, the video clip will automatically embed right in the post or page when you view it. Here is the current list of video (and photo gallery) websites that WordPress currently supports (and automatically embeds):

  • YouTube
  • Vimeo
  • DailyMotion
  • Flickr (both videos and images)
  • Viddler
  • Hulu
  • Qik
  • Revision3
  • Scribd
  • Photobucket
  • PollDaddy
  • (only VideoPress-type videos for the time being)
  • SmugMug
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Non-Traditional Blog Layouts

Those familiar with WordPress (and blogs in general) have probably noticed that most blogs, despite having a variety of themes, are very similar in layout and functionality. To quickly summarize, most blogs have two basic features:

  1. A main screen (the first thing that visitors see) that displays recent ‘posts’, and
  2. a navigation menu that contains links to semi-static ‘pages’.

For many blogs and bloggers, this layout and functionality works just fine.. but I do occasionally get questions like “What if I don’t want my posts to be the first thing that visitors see”? or  “What if I want to use that navigation menu to link to something other than pages”? Fortunately, WordPress offers a great deal of flexibility for those wanting something different. Here are a few options and instructions for common layout changes:

Making your ‘Posts’ show up on a different ‘Page’

  1. Create two new Pages. One of these you probably want to name something like ‘Main’ or ‘Home’.. this will be the Page that visitors to the site will see when they first arrive (instead of seeing your ‘Posts’ first). The second Page you can name anything you want, and it will be where your ‘Posts’ will be displayed.
  2. After creating the two Pages, from the Dashboard go to ‘Settings’ and then ‘Reading’. You should see a screen like the one below:
  3. Change the ‘Front page displays’ option to ‘A static page’, and select which of your new Pages is the new ‘front’ Page, and which one will display your ‘Posts’.
  4. Click on ‘Save Changes’.

 Changing the Navigation Menu

  1.  From the Dashboard, go to ‘Appearance’ and then ‘Menus’.
  2. Enter a name for your new Menu (this name is internal only.. visitors to your site won’t see the name of the Menu), and click ‘Create Menu’:
  3. You can add specific Pages, Post Categories, and other ‘Custom Links’ to your Navigation Menu.. just check the boxes for items you want to appear on the Navigation Menu.
  4. Under ‘Theme Locations’, select your Menu as the ‘Primary Navigation’, and click ‘Save’. Some themes may give extra menu options too.
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Embedding Google Docs/Presentations

I just found and activated a neat new plugin on the COE wordpress server.. the ability to embed a document or presentation right in a post. It’s a neat little plugin called the Google Doc Embedder. The name is a little misleading, though.. it doesn’t actually work with Google Docs. What it does is allow you to directly display any MS Office document, presentation, or .pdf file you upload using the media browser (instead of just displaying a link to the file). Here’s the process:

  1. Upload your document (e.g. .doc, .docx, .ppt, .pdf) using the Media Browser upload tool. Remember that right now the COE wordpress server has a limit of 8MB on each uploaded file (we’re still working on trying to change that).
  2. Copy the address of the uploaded file. It will be at the bottom of the window that appears after you finish uploading (labeled File URL):
  3. Create a new post, and click on the ‘G’ icon on the toolbar at the top of the editing window to access the Google Document Embedder:
  4. Paste the address of the file into the ‘File URL’ field below:
  5. You can probably leave all of the other settings blank. Just click ‘Insert’ and publish the post! Your Powerpoint presentation or Word Document should now be viewable right on your blog post.
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Uploading More Media Types

Although WordPress by default will allow you to upload and attach Microsoft Office documents to your posts and pages, if you’ve ever tried to upload more unusual documents (for example Inspiration concept maps or SMART Notebook files), you’ve probably gotten a weird “File type does not meet security guidelines” error message.

Fortunately, all is not lost.. we’ve installed a ‘MIME Types’ plugin, which will allow you to add new file types to the default ones WordPress will allow you to upload. You can get to those settings from your Dashboard.. just look for the ‘Mime types’ label under the Settings menu:

You’ll need the ‘File Extension’ and ‘Associated mime-type’ for the document you want to upload. Here is a brief list of commonly-requested document mime types:

SMART Notebook Files

  • File Extension: notebook
  • Associated mime-type: application/x-smarttech-notebook

Inspiration Files

  • File Extension: isf
  • Associated mime-type: application/octet-stream

Kidspiration Files

  • File Extension: kid
  • Associated mime-type: application/octet-stream

iWork Files

  • File Extension: pages
  • Associated mime-type: application/x-iwork-pages-sffpages
  • File Extension: key
  • Associated mime-type: application/x-iwork-keynote-sffkey

Google Earth Files

  • File Extension: kml
  • Associated mime-type: application/
  • File Extension: kmz
  • Associated mime-type: application/

Classroom Performance Software (CPS) Database Files

  • File Extension: cxm
  • Associated mime-type: application/octet-stream
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Blog Comments & Security

Thanks to a new ‘default settings’ plugin, your blog should be getting a lot less comment ‘spam’ than it previously did. When I backed up all of the old blogs, I discovered that some blogs had as many as 2,000 unwanted comments on them! So, the new default settings for all blogs only allow registered users of this site (which is only students and faculty) to submit comments on your blog. These comments will still go into a ‘moderation queue’, and will not appear on your blog until you’ve approved at least one comment from that user.

While these settings are great for most class-related blogs, in some cases you may want to allow more people (for example your students during your student teaching experiences) to submit comments to your blog. To make changes to these settings, click on ‘Discussion’ from the ‘Settings’ tab of your blog dashboard. You’ll see this screen:

To allow more than just Pacific students and faculty to submit comments to your blog, the setting to turn off is the one labeled ‘Users must be registered and logged in to comment’. Be sure not to turn off both ‘Before a comment appears’ settings, though. With those off, unwanted comments can immediately appear on your blog without you having the chance to decline them.

What are ‘spam’ comments, anyway? Typically, these are non-relevant (and often poorly-written/translated) comments containing links or references to various commercial websites. Often these comments are from computer programs rather than actual people, designed to try to make use of social media sites (like blogs) for advertising purposes. Basically, if you get a comment on one of your posts that seems really non-relevant, mark it as spam. If you approve it (something that the poster is hoping you’ll do), with the default security settings on your blog the poster will then be able to post (a lot) more comments advertising their products or websites on your blog without having to be approved.

Can I just allow comments on some of my posts and pages? Yes. To get to the settings for turning off comments on an individual post or page, when you’re editing it go to the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the very top of the page, and check the ‘Discussion’ box. This will reveal two new checkboxes at the bottom of each post and page, allowing you to turn on or off comments for that specific post or page only.

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