Missing the point of Instagram

Today I realized something, I’m kinda missing the whole point of Instagram. I use it occasionally but just as a way to easily share a photo on Twitter. I never really paid attention to all the social features. Yesterday while trying to take a pic I pushed a wrong button and I realized that not only were there some cool social features but people had actually been using them and were liking and leaving comments on my photos. Now that I know these features are there I will be better about using/checking them but I still wonder how after all this time I never really used them.

Why WordPress.com

People ask me from time to time why should they choose WordPress (or more specifically WordPress.com) and I ramble on why I love WordPress which is usually not very helpful as I talk really fast and some things that get me really excited (like contextual help menus ūüôā ) aren’t very interesting to most people.

I wish there was a mini-site dedicated to answering one question, Why WordPress.com? It would be cool to have something like the new Basecamp site. I really like how they segment their potential users and let them know exactly why they should choose Basecamp.

Anyway, I think it would be cool to answer the question Why WordPress? on why.wordpress.com and I decided to write a post saying so as it was more sane than debating the merits of the idea with my imaginary friend.

_why

Today I was throwing around the idea of trying to learn Ruby again and it got me thinking about _why. I think I had been trying to learn Ruby for only a few months back in 2009 before he committed “infosuicide” and today while doing a little searching to see if anything new popped up on him I came across this Slate article. I have to admit I have never read Slate before but I found this article to be quite good. I’m glad to hear he is doing well and maybe someday he will let us know what happened to make him decide to disappear.

A whole new language

In an earlier post I wrote about how WordPress.com almost needs a dictionary due to all the jargon that is used. However, recently I found a flaw is that idea. A dictionary only works if the person knows the word but doesn’t know what is means. However, what if someone doesn’t even know the word. For example, let say someone wants to share their posts on Twitter. There is a great support doc for that feature however the feature is called publicize and if they search for publicize they will find out about the feature right away. But what if they don’t know what to search for, how easy will it be to find it? Or what about the boxes (widgets) in the righthand side of your blog (sidebar), if the user doesn’t know that they are called widgets and sidebars they may not be able to find out how to change/work with those features very easily.

What I think would be really cool would be have have an interactive WordPress.com support page that looks like a regular WordPress.com blog where the users would be able to see what the different elements are called and then be able to click on the elements and be taken to a support doc that explains how to use that feature. Here is a really crappy mockup.

Ze Frank

I was really sick this week so I spent a lot of time sneezing and watching stuff on Netflix. I stumbled across some TED videos featuring Ze Frank and if you haven’t seen the videos you really should check them out, he is a really cool guy. You will definitely be hearing more about him from me in the future.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/6226637″ params=”auto_play=false&show_artwork=false&color=3CF” width=”350px” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Also since I am in love with the new Soundcloud HTML5 player I thought I would post one of the Ze’s audio clips over from Soundcloud. Here is the background of the clip.

New WordPress.com Shortcode

I had an idea of something I would like to see on WordPress.com. Traditionally on an about page you talk about yourself, the author of the blog. However, on my blog I thought it would be neat to have a spot on the about page for my blog itself. Your blog is kinda like your co-author, nothing would get published without him (it?). It would be nice to have some way to showcase the great things about your blog. Here are some of the things that I think would be cool to have in an “About this Blog” shortcode.

  • Age in blog years (not sure how I’m going to calculate this yet ūüôā )
  • Number of words used across the entire site
  • Number of media files¬†separated¬†by media type,¬†maybe have it display the total number of pixels for all images
  • The theme¬†being¬†used
  • Any upgrades being used
  • The site stats
  • Number of posts
  • Number of pages
  • Number of comments
  • Number of commenters
  • Number of followers
  • Number of categories
  • Number of tags

More useful error messages

Today it really dawned on me that most WordPress error messages really aren’t that helpful. Most of the time they do nothing but freak the user out. For example, lets say someone starts a new WordPress.com blog and removes the Hello World post. On their home page they are now going to see a message that says something like “Not Found” with a search box. How helpful is that? This type of message makes the user think something is terribly wrong and freaks them out.

Wouldn’t it be better if the error message was customized to let the user know what is wrong and how to fix it. Like if the home page doesn’t have any posts to display the error message could say read something like this:

There are no posts to display. To make this message go away please add a post on the¬†Posts –> Add New Screen.

This way at least the user knows why there is nothing showing up on their home page and they are given a way to fix this problem in plain english. Just telling them “Not Found” doesn’t do any good.

PSA: Custom Menus

Theme developers, please include a fallback function or set up your menus in such a way so that they work and are styled just fine whether or not the user is using a custom menu. Not everyone uses custom menus and while they are really handy you shouldn’t force someone to use one just to save yourself a little bit of work.

Blogging is hard

In 2012 I have been trying to blog more but I find myself having a hard time coming up with anything to blog about. I can’t talk about my life because frankly it is quite boring. I can’t start a food blog because I eat like a¬†kindergartner. My¬†favorite¬†foods are peanut butter sandwiches and pizza. I want to write more about WordPress but I can’t really think of anything that I could write on that a) someone else hasn’t already done better or b) I know enough about as to not¬†embarrass¬†myself. So today I kinda cheated. I wrote a blog post about not knowing what to write a blog post about, but I think I will count it anyway ūüôā . In closing I will leave you with a quote from one of the greatest minds of the 23rd century.

Genius doesn’t work on an assembly line basis. You can’t simply say, ‘Today I will be brilliant.’
James T. Kirk

Update: I will try to be a bit more adventurous and we will see what happens.

WordPress.com or WordPress.org

As I was trying to explain the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org to a friend recently I thought that instead of me trying to explain it maybe it would be better to make the decision more interactive. So since I have been messing around with Wufoo on WordPress.com recently I decided to make an interactive form to see if it helps people decide which flavor of WordPress is right for them. Its pretty rough atm, but you get the general idea. Its probably easier/better to point people to this support doc but I was a little bored ūüôā . See the form after the jump.

WordPress.com or WordPress.org

WordPress Jargon

Today it dawned on me that when working with WordPress I tend to use a lot of jargon (the language, especially the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group). Now I didn’t realize this until someone pointed it out to me as since I use it everyday it doesn’t seem that foreign to me. However, I¬†recognize¬†that to others, especially those new to WordPress, I might as well be speaking greek.

What I thought would be a fun/useful project would be to start a WordPress¬†dictionary. Not just for WordPress¬†specific¬†terminology¬†but also for some basic computer/internet terminology¬†that comes up frequently in relation WordPress. Now I’m sure that some of these terms could be found in the support docs, but I also¬†realized¬†that the support doc use some jargon as well, which might be keeping users from getting full use out of the documentation. Also it looks like dictionary.wordpress.com has not been used in almost seven years so maybe it would be ok to bend the rules a little bit and have WordPress.com reclaim it ūüôā . It would be fun if you could have some sort of submission form as well so community members could propose terms that they want included.

Stripped Out Elements

One thing that takes a little getting use to on WordPress.com is not being able to put whatever you want in your posts. It’s necessary in a shared¬†environment like this and there are approved (safe) ways to embed just about anything you would want to but it still takes a little getting use to. The only thing I don’t like about the fact that certain things you put in your posts are stripped out is that there is no indication that something was stripped out except for the fact that part of your post is no longer there.

I don’t know if it is feasible but it would be really neat if every time code was stripped out of your post there was some sort of¬†indication¬†or admin notice. It would be even neater if that admin notice could be based on what was stripped out. For example, lets says you paste the regular Paypal embed code into your post. Once you press publish and the code is stripped out it would be nice if an admin message would show up and says something like…

“For security reasons this Paypal embed code is not allowed on WordPress.com and has been removed. Please visit this support page to learn how to embed Paypal buttons in a way that works on WordPress.com.”

What I would like to see is basically something to let the user know why their code was removed and how to acheive their desired result in a way that works on WordPress.com. As I said earlier I have no idea if this is at all possible but it would be really cool to have.

Finding Balance

In 2011 I pretty much spent most of my time working on or thinking about WordPress themes. Now that I reflect on the past year I realize that this probably isn’t healthy. So for 2012 I’m going to try and have a more balanced life, 50% WordPress themes / 50% WordPress plugins.

You probably thought I was going to say less WordPress, you thought wrong.

My motto for 2012 is More WordPress, Less Sleep ūüôā

Another random idea

Ok, I think I found a new use for this blog. I’m going to make it into my stream of consciousness blog. Want to get inside this crazy guy’s head than starting reading this blog. Since I only think of WordPress lately it makes sense to post everything I am thinking here. I thought of another idea to abstract support ever further. Sometimes I run into people who are just plain overwhelmed by all the WordPress options. They don’t really have a specific problem besides just being plain overwhelmed. I want to do something similar to what is already being done over on learn.wordpress.com, just a little less focused and specific.

What I think would be helpful would be to set up an interactive support page. Basically you could recreate the entire WordPress admin menu with the flyouts and everything in html/css. So lets say a user whats to know what everything on the Settings –> Media menu does, they don’t really need/want to change anything there they just want to know what those settings do. When they click on the Settings –> Media link on the interactive support page it takes them to a support doc that has a general overview of every setting on the screen with links to more detailed instructions if necessary. While they probably could have found this general overview support doc if they searched for it, I think something like this might be good for people who don’t even know what they need to search for, they just want to have a greater understanding of WordPress and how everything works and fits together.

Crappy Mockup

New Plugin Idea

During Christmas break I’ve had a lot of time to think. I’ve always wanted to make a plugin but I usually get discouraged because whenever I check out the plugin repo I see that someone has already made one similar to my idea. However, I think I finally thought of something that no one has done yet, which might mean it’s a stupid idea ūüôā .

I want to create a plugin called Quick Help. It would basically be a dashboard widget that you can use to answer some of your simple WordPress questions. I’ve noticed that a lot of the time when a user asks a question it is not¬†necessarily¬†how to do something but rather where to find the setting. For example,¬†take¬†the question “how do I change my title”. The “Site Title” setting is pretty self explainatory but most people who ask this question don’t know to look on the general settings screen, but once they get there they are all set.

BESsBESs

This plugin will be basically be a dashboard widget with a search field. When you enter in your question the widget gives you the link to the screen where you can find that setting. So if someone typed in “How do I limit by the number of the posts on the front page?” the plugin would spit out a link that would send them to the Settings –> Reading¬†screen. All this plugin would do is point you to the right screen. There are already many resources that point you to external resources but I didn’t find many that just point you to the correct screen of your WordPress site.

Maybe its a dumb idea but I think this could be useful in some situations. Hopefully I will get around to trying to develop this plugin in the future.