An early 1990s builder of the web and a blogging advocate, Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling, photography, bending WordPress, and exploring the serendipity of the infinite internet river.
As we all aim to better recognize and honor the lands we live on, we have added here a new plugin that offers OpenETC users the ability to add to their sites an Editor block that providers their readers an ability to do a search at https://native-land.ca/
To add this to your site, in your Dashboard, click Plugins. Scroll down the list until you see the entry for Native Lands Search, and click Activate.
Ah, if it were that easy! To use this plugin you need to obtain a Google Maps Geocoding API Key — what is that? “The API key is a unique identifier that authenticates requests associated with your project for usage and billing purposes. You must have at least one API key associated with your project.” It is a service that can match the name of a place or an address to its map location.
Note that Google requires a credit card even to provide this service at a free level (they say that you will not be charged and must approval if your use exceeds the basic level, it is highly doubtful that will happen). If you are willing to go this far:
There really is no megaphone to reach everyone who uses the OpenETC and we are certainly not going to spam folks with emails. So my work here is reflected in blog posts on the site, some re-organization of the web face here (check out the sidebar and menus), but more in the Mattermost community space. There has been more use of that by folks to ask questions, yell for help, and share their work. That was the idea of Asking As Contributing.
The OpenETC idea of “Contributions not contracts” was a guide. Two attempts here involved putting SPLOTs to work as places for OpenETC to contribute by sharing.
The OpenETC Inspire site asks you to share the work of someone else that “inspires” you. It’s a new spin on an old idea, and I hope some folks pick up the habit (admission, I’m responsible for a lot of these). But it uses the TRU Collector, a theme available here on the OpenETC to build your own sites to open collect media or stories.
In preparation for an OERxDomains21 presentation (where the OpenETC was very well represented), I also created the Stories of OpenETC in Action site (this uses SPLOTbox) as a place for anyone to share (in text, image, video, audio) the “story” of what they have done with an OpenETC site (you can even record directly into the site).
We have no way of compelling people to contribute to these sites, but hope you might see some value in sharing back to the OpenETC what you have done.
That is the idea of a third thing I put together, the idea of just sending a small “Shareback” to let the people running this project the ways it is being put to use.
A lot of my time was kicking up some conversations in Mattermost and attending to calls for help. There has been a good amount of upticks in the use of Mattermost- I put together a new request form for any BC educator looking to create their own Team Space.
Often the requests for help in Mattermost lead to some new “how to blog posts.” I try as much as possible to put to work the things I am trying to explain, so in talking about using the Display Posts plugin, right here I can generate a dynamic list of all my blog posts here.
I’m also grateful to the OpenETC as we were able to put it to use for my other part-time project, where the H5P Kitchen had a home http://kitchen.opened.ca/.
The thing about a co-op experience is that it ought to really never end. So I am still checking in on the Mattermost spaces, and I will get pinged (and rather excited) when someone shares a site in the Inspire or OpenETC Stories sites.
A big thanks to Tannis Morgan for setting up this opportunity for me and Tracy Roberts at BCcampus for keeping the position open for me through June. And also to fellow co-op behind the scenes folks Brian Lamb, Anne-Marie Scott, Grant Potter, Troy Welch (we cannot thank Troy enough for doing all the sys admin stuff).
We are not suggesting your WordPress sites are garbage! But if you can clean your digital room of unused sites, the system administrators here may smile.
At the time of writing this, there are over 3100 separate WordPress sites created at the OpenETC! That’s fantastic! And we hope you create more as needed. In the back room of the server (there is no such place actually, we are in the CLOUD) we do come across many sites that were started but not used much beyond. Or, if you are like me, maybe you create one to test something out, but then it just sits there, taking up database space.
Previously only those with the keys to the server back room (see note above) could delete a site. But now you can do it yourself! Do this only if you are 100% sure you no longer need the site.
When logged into your WordPress dashboard, look under the Tools menu for Delete Site.
It is not immediate as we want to make sure that you really want to delete a site. You have to confirm with a checkbox AND then respond to an email confirming this step. So there are two chances to reconsider.
Again, this is something to do only if you have no plans to use a WordPress site and truly want to see it vanished.
You may want to move your WordPress site maybe to another host, your own domain. Exports should be easy, right? As usual with technology, you run into nuances. Guides are out there. While you can generate the export of your site’s content (via Tools — Export), you would still need to install themes, plugins, etc to a new site. And unless you leave the old site in place until exported, you will not be able to import all your media.
But maybe you want to create just an archive. Tools are out there that can convert a WordPress site to a standalone HTML archive, if you never intend to use it as a WordPress powered site again. I have used an OSX one called Site Sucker. Yes, it’s icon is a vacuum cleaner.
Let’s say you are not ready to decide! The OpenETC does not currently have a policy about when/if old sites should be removed. One thing you can do is publish a post left at the top of the site that indicates that it is no longer active. Who cares? Someone out there does! See what Dr Blog just did to make this clear.
It’s a small thing to do, but definitely, if you created a WordPress site here and never used it, please consider taking it to the curb.
In a web building galaxy long ago (the 1990s), HTML tables were the way to control the layout of your web sites. Right now, we have much more elegant tools, and ones that work better on different sized devices,
But there are times in a blog page or post when you may need to present data or information in a columnar format. There is a place for those <table>...</tables> after all.
Hi all! My question (via a faculty member at Camosun). Tables in the OpenETC WP – possible? And it’s ok if the answer is no.
And this is how a co-op should work, right? Tannis was unsure but Troy quickly pointed out there is a Table block in the visual editor. I was double checking as I had not used it, but when you click the + sign to add a new paragraph, enter “Table” in the search for a block type, and you will find it is waiting for you.
It’s not all that different from creating a Table in Google docs, you first pick the number of rows and columns (you can add/delete later). I made a simple one summarizing our exchange in Mattermost:
asked about tables in WP
said probably not easy?
yes, use the Table Block
doing a demo now! Can we have longer rows?
Creating a table in WordPress using the block editor
The options are not very sophisticated and any one wanting to precisely format tables might be frustrated. Primarily, the tables are meant to be flexible, so the expand/contract to fit the available space. The options on the block let you make fixed width tables (making them equal width proportional to the space available, and to add column labels for the header and optionally footer.
Editing in the WordPress block editor interface is far from everyone’s favorite mode and despite using it since it came out I shake my head often at it.
But as I was curious to see how it would do copy/pasting from Google Docs, as much content does do well in the transfer (I imagine that Word would do okay too). I thought I could find an existing document with tables in my Drive, but after 20 minutes of rummaging, I just made a quick silly demo document with a table inside of it. Copying the entire table, and pasting into a blank block here brings it over fairly well:
LaTeX is a markup language but quite a few tags above and beyond HTML– and using it on web sites and other applications requires some addition bit of code under the hood. But, it allows you to publish equations like:
Getting this in WordPress means putting something like this into a code block- look at the LaTeX, lovely?
I will admit I have no idea what this equation means (yes, I googled for an example). And this display is not quite the optimal size. .
Jason Diemer asked in the OpenETC Mattermost channel
Hi folks. Is there a LaTeX plugin for WordPress?
I know little of LaTeX to be sure, but as I have access I could see no plugins we have available. The only option we have available (and used for my example above) is “support” for LaTeX via the JetPack plugin. You can activate this plugin in your OpenETC WordPress site, but it does require authenticating via a WordPress.com account (this does not seem to be a requirement for using the LaTeX option).
Plus, as Jason pointed out, this renders the LaTeX as an image that lacks good accessibility features (the raw LaTeX code is shoved in the image’s alt tag, I would guess that is of little use).
We are at present researching other plugins that provide better support, these are ones that use a library called MathJax that appear to require a server to run it from. This is currently being researched, but we expect to have support for better Math display soon. We always have to also explore the impact of more plugins on a shared service that powers some 3000+ sites.
What About LaTeX in Mattermost?
Jason stepped up again to the mic in Mattermost, with a related question
If MathJax or LaTeX is something that can be used in Mattermost, then I can see this becoming a very effective tool for course discussions in STEM courses. I’d been contemplating using CampusWire for its LaTeX-ability, but if Mattermost can handle it, then there’s no need to look elsewhere.
Actually we were able to do this, and LaTeX is now available in Mattermost!
Writing LaTeX is not quite most people’s cups of tea! But to experiment with it, I discovered MathLex (nicely shared service under Creative Commons license) that as a visual interface for piecing together math expressions, and it reveals the LaTeX needed below.
That was how I made the utterly meaningless:
Jason did inform us that the Matterost mobile client does not yet render LaTeX.
This little exchange should demonstrate how the co-op works. We cannot meet everyone’s needs like an IT department, but we will try to provide support to technologies like LaTeX that have potential for broad use (and send some love to Troy Welch, our tireless admin who actually does the work to make this stuff happens.
We are still looking at getting a WordPress plugin available that can handle LaTeX better than JetPack. And we also are looking at recent requests for plugins to handle multilingual content.
As the old boys never quite sang:
No, you can't always get the plugin you want
You can't always get the plugin you want
You can't always get the plugin you want
But if you ask in Matternost you might find
You get what you need
Posts. Posts. Posts. That’s what you write and publish in WordPress. They show up on your front page, newest first. Maybe you organize them into categories, which you can display… newest first.
But there’s a lot more you can do to use them in other ways with the Display Posts plugin, available to everyone’s sites hosted at the OpenETC. You can embed a listing of posts in page, a widget, even… inside another post! And you can use extra options to change which posts are selected, in what order they are listed (including my favorite, random) and how they are displayed (to show an excerpt, date published).
This is one plugin I use over and over.
I saw a possibility when Emily Schudel shared in our Mattermost Community (what, you are not in there? Join now) a fantastic project she has done for over a year for the Camosun College eLearning site. First, check out the Camosun Faculty Stories. They are a wonderful testimonial to the care and effort Camosun faculty put into adjusting their teaching to pandemic conditions.
Here you can find inspirational stories from faculty across Camosun College who bravely moved their courses from face to face to completely online, sometimes in a matter of a few weeks.
This says to select posts only from the Faculty Stories category (using the part of URL used in displaying the category) https://camosunelearning.opened.ca/category/faculty-stories/ The ASC option for order flips the default action to list newest posts first, we want to list them in the order they were published. The posts_per_page value of –1 is a trick to have to display all posts (otherwise you only get only 10 posts).
If Emily wanted to include an excerpt from the post and a link to continue reading, this should work:
The OpenETC was more than well represented with four–count them– four presentations with materials/resources hosted here in our co-op. You can find details, the recordings, on these sessions at https://opened.ca/oer21/.
If you were not at the conference there is no reason to be stuck on FOMO, as all of the keynote and sessions are archived and available for rewatching via the TV Guide inspired program guide.
There should be plenty of topics of interest there, so put aside NetFlix and pick up what was showed at OERxDomains21.
What does having your own OpenETC WordPress site, Mattermost Community, or access to Web Apps mean for you? We want to collect these stories to demonstrate the impact an Open EdTech Co-op can have.
Charts and numbers are one way to show this, but personal stories can say a lot more.
As another way of contributing back to the OpenETC we are asking for short stories that can submitted in a number of formats via a new collection of Stories of OpenETC in Action.
Using a pre-built SPLOTbox media theme available to all OpenETC users, you can add a story in video (YouTube or vimeo), audio (uploaded audio or recorded directly to the site), or an image and text. We just want to see, hear, share in your own voice what using OpenETC platforms has enabled for you as a BC student, teacher, educator.
You do not even need to identify yourself or your site, just share as much as you wish. This will also help give people new to the OpenETC a reason to start their own journey.
The default display of most WordPress themes is the standard reverse chronological listing of published posts (newest stuff first). This works fine as a blog or reflective journal.
But with one small trick, you can take over the front page of any site with the information you want to provide there- an introduction or overview, and invitation to take part, maybe a current assignment. And you can provide that chronological listing to a secondary page.
Okay, I could not resist slipping in a few more tricks like random header images, category descriptions, a wee bit of custom CSS to make the subtitle more readable. These are teasers, but if you want to learn more,just ask in a comment or the OpenETC Mattermost channel for WordPress fans.
Posts are organized by date and also category. But pages exist on their own, and are displayed only via links, adding to menus, etc. A typical use of a Page is the About page that usually comes by default in a new site (and many people ignore) which explains what the site is about. But they can also be used for offering a CV, contact information, a course description, an artist’s statement. A site might exist solely of Pages, maybe if it is more like a book, because Pages can be organized in an outline format.
But for now, the front page trick.
Create a new Page with all the content you want to show up on the front. This can be almost anything. You can change it at any time. Or you could have a series of ones that maybe you swap in and out at different times of the year.
If you want to have an interior page that has the default blog format, create a second Page with a title like “All Posts”, “Reflections”, or even “Blog”. It needs no content.
In your WordPress dashboard, look under Settings and select Reading. The top setting controls the front page layout with the default for Your homepage displays set to latest posts.
Switch that setting to A static page and use the menus to chose the ones you representing the front page (or Homepage), and optionally, one to show all your Posts (moving the blog post listing to an interior page). For Dr Blog, these settings look like:
Save these settings, and zip over to your site. The front page of posts has been pushed aside! For Dr Blog, you can still access this via their interior page.
Big Deal or Not?
To me this is a key way to make a site more your own, as you can design anything you want in the front. But it makes sense for many sites to offer a welcome, or explanation, something other than post, post, post.
I would want this in a portfolio site to introduce visitors with information about me
I was nudged to write this from a question emailed from an OpenETC member who wanted to exclude a certain category of posts from their home page. To me, replacing with an information page, and then using categories, menus to direct visitors to specific groups of posts, is effective. In a future post I can share how a plugin like Display Posts (available here) can be used on a front Page to list posts from a certain category, rather than all posts.
Few things divide WordPress folks as much the [relatively] new Block Editor, aka “Gutenberg” vs the venerable Classic one.
You are either one side or the other.
The 2500+ WordPress sites here at the OpenETC all run from a shared install of the software, so we constantly try to balance everyone’s desires. We allow all users to choose Rabbit or Duck via the Classic Editor.
Recently we changed things for new sites to be set by default for the Block Editor- this may have triggered notices for all WordPress users, but no one is taking away your Classic Editor. You still get to choose. You can check and manage your WordPress Editing environment under Settings — Writing in the Dashboard / admin area of your site. These are your options and you can change them anytime.
I’m Fully Into the Block Editor (Daffy Duck)
Copy these options under Settings — Writing
Even if the user is just you, set Default editor for all users to Block editor and set Allow users to switch editors to No. You will not lose any content, and your previous posts will all show up in the “Classic Block” which is close to the old one. All new posts will be done in the Block Editor.
I have gotten rather accustomed to the Block Editor. It means each paragraph is its own thing. Yes, I still stumble over things, but as the features have expanded in the last year, I am liking the structural things I can do in pages that previously called for plugins and theme specific interfaces. I have accepted the Block Way (but am free to cuss at it any time).
I’m Not Giving Up My Classic Editor (Bugs Bunny)
Copy these options under Settings — Writing
Even if the user is just you, set Default editor for all users to Classic editor and set Allow users to switch editors to No. You will keep on using the editor you love and cherish. We will try to make this available to you as long as we can.
I am on the Fence and Prefer to bounce Back and Forth (Bugs Duck? Daffy Bunny?)
Copy these options under Settings — Writing
Set Default editor for all users to whichever one you prefer set Allow users to switch editors to Yes. This means that any author on your site can use whichever editor they want on a post by post basis. With this setting, when you look at the lists of posts in your site, it indicates which one it will use by default. If you hover your cursor over any title, the quick links provide the tools you can use to edit in either one! You choose.
To me, this makes it a bit more complex, but might be preferable as you are learning to adjust to the new editor, but or important work, yo might want to use Classic if it is more productive for you.
To someone reading your site, it makes no difference which editor you use; both editors generate good old HTML. It’s more of an issue on finding a way to continue writing and publishing while learning to ride a new editor.