Archive for the ‘plugins’ Category

Media Megan On the Map

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Last month, a person from my hometown of Warsaw, Indiana, a place where I haven’t had any contact with someone in the past 11 years, Googled me and ended up clicking around my blog for a few minutes.

How would I ever know this?

Google Analytics.

While I sometimes feel it’s kind of creepy to pinpoint exactly how someone is researching my online presence, where they’re doing it from and what keywords they’re using, it’s also extremely cool to have all this data available about my site’s visitors.

How else would I know there is a Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania?

Or a West Bromwich, England that seems to have a habitant visiting my site oddly often:

In all seriousness, as I mentioned in my post about plugins, Google Analytics has loads of information organized much more efficiently than cPanel’s analog stats or any other plugin I’ve seen that tracks visitors. I learned about Google Analytics in Zach Whalen’s Writing Through Media class, which I would definitely suggest taking if you’re enjoying Digital Storytelling. The classes seem to compliment each other very well with their content and goals.

To get started with Google Analytics, install the plugin to your blog and sign up for an account. You’ll see the screen below and will click on “Add Website Profile.”

Enter your website information and you’ll receive a code within a yellow box. Return to the plugin page and enter the code.

Wait a day or two for everything to start working, and then you’ll be able to learn about your site’s visitors: How are they getting there? Where are they from? How long are they staying on a page?

One of the Google Analytics features I always check out is Map Overlay. It presents information through text and images. It lists the countries/states/cities your visitors view your site from, and it also maps these out:

Google Analytics also gives users a visitors overview, traffic sources overview and content overview that you can explore more with a click of the mouse:

There are other features of Google Analytics I haven’t explored yet, but plan to in the future to get the most out of the service.

Finally, thanks to my Digital Storytelling classmate Sadie, whose comment on a previous entry inspired this post.

Adventures with Lightbox 2

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Tonight, I decided to tackle how photos are displayed on my blog. I did not like the way clicking on an image led to another page on my site, where visitors had to click on the image again to view a larger version of the photo.

I discovered Lightbox 2 after doing some extensive Google searches for the best WordPress image plugins. Once again, this might be the “long” way (I’ll expand more on this below), but here’s the short version of how my very time-consuming process with installing it on my site went:

First, here is why I think I might have gone the “long” route with this plugin. I searched for Lightbox and activated it through the Plugins link on my blog. However, I didn’t know how to get it working at this point, so I resorted to following the directions on the WordPress page, which tells users to download the zipped plugin, load it to the file manager, and then activate the plugin. When I opened my file manager, a Lightbox 2 file already existed. I still uploaded the zipped file. So, perhaps searching for the plugin through your blog and activating it will let you skip the cPanel/File Manager steps? Either way, here’s how my process went:

Locate Lightbox 2 in the plugin directory at WordPress.org and click “Download Version 2.9.2.”

Locate the Lightbox-2 file on your computer.

Unless it is already saved there, move the Lightbox file to your desktop. Right click it and select “Compress lightbox-2″ into a zip file.

Login to cPanel and click File Manager.

When the File Manager Directory Selection box appears, select Web Root (public_html/www) and click Go.

Once in your File Manager:

Expand public.html.

Expand blog.

Expand wp-content.

Expand plugins.

Make sure the box at the top of the screen says /public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins.

Click Upload and load your Lightbox zip file. Return to your blog and Activate the plugin (*this is where I’m wondering if you can immediately do this upon installing it through your blog and avoid cPanel/File Manager).

At this point, I got confused. I didn’t know how to get the plugin to overlay images on the same page, so I turned to Google. I found a lot of forums that mentioned CSS and HTML, so I switched from Visual to HTML in an earlier post and began to play around. This was a mistake, because I ended up with this (so glad WordPress lets you switch back to an earlier revision!):

I restored that page to an earlier draft and ditched it to experiment on a different post. On a whim, I clicked “Link to Image,” saved my new draft, and clicked on my test image to discover…Lightbox was working!

I went through each of my posts and selected “Link to Image” for each photograph. Now, instead of being transferred to another page to see a larger image, the screen darkens to display a highlighted image:

Of course, the feature isn’t without its flukes. Here’s what happened when I was double-checking each photo to make sure it was Lightbox activated.

A simple page refresh erased my panic:

Lastly, be sure to visit your Lightbox 2 settings page and check “Shrink large images to fit smaller screens” so the images don’t take up your whole screen!

This took me a long time to figure out, but I think it is actually very simple. If one of the forums I visited about installing the plugin had simply instructed bloggers to upload an image and select “Link to Image,” this process would have been much faster. I like this feature, so the time was well worth it!

More Time with cPanel and WordPress

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

I spent more time exploring what is possible with cPanel and WordPress plugins this morning. Here is a run down of what I discovered:

cPanel

Change Style

cPanel gives you the option to customize the appearance of your account. There are twelve styles to select from, including a bright blue-sky theme and beach background. I chose this seasonal fall theme:

RV Skin Changer

I would stay away from this! I switched to rvskin to see how the appearance of cPanel looked and discovered it was just an outdated version of x3. I returned to the RV Skin Changer page to switch back to x3, but the x3 option was gone!

I logged out of cPanel and tried to log back in to see if that made any difference, only I got an error message instead. It told me I couldn’t be logged back in and to contact my web host. Instead, I went to my history and was able to get back to my cPanel by clicking on a history item. I returned to the Skin Changer page, and x3 still hadn’t reappeared. This is where I learned, as Jim Groom said in class, that Google is my friend.

I typed “The server was not able to find the document (./frontend/rvskin/index.html) you requested” into Google and found a forum where someone posted about the same problem. A responder said to contact the web host or to quickly copy the URL after switching themes and replace the “old” theme (rvskin) with the “new” theme in the URL.

Success!

Webmail

I picked horde as my webmail application and established Megan@MediaMegan.com as my e-mail address. Hours later, I received my first piece of junk mail! The system is not attractive, which is partially why I immediately set my new account to forward any mail to my Gmail account.

Analog Stats

Like Google Analytics, which I mentioned in my previous post about themes and plugins, Analog gives site owners data about their visitors.

This is one way they present information:

Here is a version from Google. It is depicting different data, which is okay since I’m just focusing on appearance:

Any guesses why I would rather use Google Analytics to study my site’s traffic? It looks so much better and is more user friendly. With Analog, users have to scroll up and down a single page, while Google breaks off information into categories with their own pages. It’s easier to navigate and explore. It might be interesting to compare the two sets of statistics, though.

WordPress

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

When I tried to install the plugin, I got this dreaded message:

Please move the YARPP template files into your theme to complete installation. Simply move the sample template files (currently in wp-content/plugins/yet-another-related-posts-plugin/yarpp-templates/) to the /home/mediameg/public_html/blog/wp-content/themes/whitehouse directory.

I frustratingly clicked around WordPress for a few minutes and thought about abandoning the plugin before remembering how Groom showed us in class how to upload a theme through cPanel and started to explore there.

Here’s how I finially got the plugin to work through cPanel

(This might be the “long” way. I haven’t tried it yet, but perhaps you can click “Move” at the top of the screen and simply type the path you wish to move and where you want the files moved):

Click File Manager

When the File Manager Directory Selection box appears, select Web Root (public_html/www) and click Go.

Expand public.html

Expand blog

Expand wp-content

Expand plugins

Check the files you need to move, in this case everything located in wp-content/plugins/yet-another-related-posts-plugin/yarpp-templates/:

Click move at the top of the screen.

In the move box, type the location to where you want your files moved (in this case, /home/mediameg/public_html/blog/wp-content/themes/whitehouse).

Success!

WP-Cumulus

While I don’t like how they typically look on a site, I often use tag clouds to find posts on a select topic when I visit a website. So, WP-Cumulus is a good compromise for me. The plugin displays tags in a 3D rotating sphere, something I’ve never seen before. Still not my favorite plugin, but it is kind of cool!

Exploring Themes and Plugins

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

Domain Name

I came up with my domain name last year for a different class that required us to purchase our domains. I knew I wanted to continue using this site for Digital Storytelling, so I stored all of my content from my previous class on one of my UMW blogs and am keeping it there until I figure out what role I want it to have here as I reshape this domain throughout this semester.

I chose MediaMegan because I wanted the name to reflect the content on my site, which eventually became clips and examples from my experience with journalism. I didn’t want to limit myself to one type of media, which is why I chose to use that term combined with my first name.

Theme

I chose the WhiteHouse 2.0 theme because of its clean, professional appearance. It’s simple. I didn’t want a theme with more than two columns. Two column themes work well for me because I don’t necessarily like to use a lot of  unnecessary Widgets. For example, I’m the only person who will be posting to my site, so I don’t see a need for a Meta sidebar when I know how to login differently. I also don’t care for a calendar-when I’m reading someone’s blog and there is a calendar in the sidebar, I don’t use it. I search for posts/content based on tags or categories. I felt like if I went with a theme with more than two columns, I’d just be adding Widgets to take up that space. The two-column WhiteHouse theme works well with the plugins I’ve selected so far.

To find my theme, I used the Features Filter on the Install Themes page and browsed through featured/newest/recently updated theme sections. I read the blurbs of the ones I liked and performed searches for keywords and tags based on words from the blurb. I also explored WordPress.org for themes, which is where I found the WhiteHouse theme.

I love magazine style themes, but at this point don’t have enough content to effectively use one. I’ll probably switch to one as I continue to build my site.

Plugins

My first comment…spam!

Akismet: Within an hour of posting my Gardner Campbell reflection, I got my first spam comment urging me to purchases craft supplies. At first I thought Akismet charged for accounts, but they offer a free API key for personal or hobby sites. You have to register and select 1 Free API key at the top of the registration screen. Then you’ll get your API key, which you paste into the Akismet Configuration page textbox on your blog after you’ve installed the plugin.

Google Analytics: I’ve used Google Analytics for sites I had a role in developing in past classes, so I knew I wanted to use it on this site. It tracks visitors to your site and has loads of data. One of the sites I installed it on was for Professor Mike McCarthy’s Fall 2009 Principles of Newspaper Writing course. From March 11 to September 4, 2010, Google Analytics tells me there have been 249 total visits via 134 search keywords to the UMW Power Structure web site.

It’s interesting to look at what those keywords are. As our site was about the University of Mary Washington power structure, many of the search terms were the names of institution leaders or some variations of their names (for example, Judy Hample, Judith Hample and even “What is the scuttlebutt on Judy Hample” all lead to visitors to the site).

Google Analytics even offers a Map Overlay so you can see where your visitors are located. Here’s a look during that same time period:

Google Analytics shows our site received 290 visits from 15 countries.

143 visits came from Virginia; 84 of those from Fredericksburg (the largest circle).

Google Analytics offers much more information than this; it’s definitely worth considering installing if you’re interested in learning about your website traffic.

Sharethis: Another plugin I installed is ShareThis. I’ll admit I’ve never used this as a visitor to someone else’s web site to share their content, so I’m not sure how useful this will be.

Social Slider: I like having all my social networking/media accounts displayed on my site. Right now, they appear as a side bar that extends from the left side of the screen when you hover your mouse over it. This was very easy to set up; all it required was the URL addresses to your accounts.

Gravatar Widget: I chose to install a plugin for Gravatar Widget, which allows user to fill out a sidebar that displays your Gravatar image and the text you chose to go along with it (I chose to insert text under an “About Me” heading).

Setting up a Gravator.com account was slightly confusing for me for a very simple reason. I set up my UMWblogs.org account years ago using my @mail.umw.edu address, but I never set up a Gravatar image for my umwblogs.org account.

I used the same e-mail address to register my personal accounts for this class. When I tried to set up a Gravatar.com account, it told me I already had an account. I knew I had never been to Gravatar.com before, so I kept trying to login with the password I use to login to my domain’s WordPress account. Then, it dawned on me to try my UMWblogs password-which finally worked and I was able to upload my image.

Other: I tried out a few standalone plugins for Twitter widgets, but decided to use the PageLines-Welcome Widget instead, which displays a welcome message followed by your latest Tweet. For now, I like how this looks more.

I found plugins by googling phrases like “Most Useful WordPress Plugins” and “Coolest WordPress Plugins” and “Best WordPress PlugIns.” I also clicked on the popular tags in the Plugin Directory and made my selections from there.

I know I’ll continue exploring my theme and plugin options as I add more content to my site, and I am excited about this! I could probably spend hours playing around with plugin and theme options as I build my site and not get bored.