Favorite Plugins Shared at June 2017 Meeting

The June 2017 meeting was all about members sharing their favorite WordPress plugins. ManageWP, Duo for WordPress, iThemes Security, Zip Recipes, and Showcase IDX were discussed.

The June 2017 meeting was all about members sharing their favorite WordPress plugins.

Deborah (@redcrew) shared ManageWP (ManageWP Worker plugin directory listing), a plugin that automatically creates monthly backups of your WordPress installation. For $2 per month, you can get daily and on-demand backups. VaultPress is an alternative plugin with similar features.

Andy (@andymelichar) shared Duo for WordPress (Duo for WordPress plugin directory listing), which adds two-factor authentication to your site’s login. After you enter your valid username and password, you’ll need to prove your identity via SMS or push notification to your mobile device.

Andy also shared iThemes Security (iThemes Security plugin directory listing). This plugin guides you through securing your WordPress site, thwarts malicious attacks against your site, and notifies you of files that have changed on your site. An alternative plugin is WordFence.

Randy (@randywalker) told users about Zip Recipes (Zip Recipes plugin directory listing). If you frequently share recipes on your website, Zip Recipes makes it easy to format those recipes. Just type in your ingredients, directions, and other information, and this plugin will embed a gorgeous, printable recipe card in your post.

Jason (@jbigelow1) gave a demonstration of Showcase IDX (Showcase IX plugin directory listing), a powerful Real Estate listing tool. If you sell homes, this plugin is an inexpensive ($60 per month) way to present listings and saved searches on your website. Visitors can share these listings via social media. The agent can export contact information of potential leads. iHomefinder Optima is an alternative tool.

Takeaways from May 2017 WordPress Q & A Workshop

At our May 2017 Q & A workshop, our WordPress experts answered questions about website performance, web hosting, styling content, setup and configuration, child themes, and plugins.

I joined Eric Malcolm, Andy Melichar, and Randy Walker in helping our members with their WordPress questions.

Before we broke out into small groups, we had a good discussion among our Metro Detroit WordPress members about performance, themes, and identifying the goal for your site.

Here are the top takeaways from the workshop: Continue reading “Takeaways from May 2017 WordPress Q & A Workshop”

Recap of March 2017 Meetup: Distributed, Working Remotely at Automattic

Our thanks to Howard Dodd for taking notes from our March 2017 meetup.

Two Things About WordPress

  • WordPress 4.7.3 was released last week. Get updated quickly if you’re not on automatic updates. It includes important security & maintenance upgrades.
  • Two-factor authentication service Clef is closing down. If you are using it, you must seek an alternative before June 6, 2017.

Distributed, Working Remotely at Automattic

Our presentation was given by member George Hotelling, JavaScript Wrangler at Automattic, the company behind hosted WordPress.com, Jetpack, WooCommerce, Akismet, and other online services.

George spoke about remote work at Autommatic, how employees around the world communicate with each other, and work together in teams. Here are highlights from his talk:

Why work remotely?

  • There is a much wider job market
  • Quality focus time becomes available for deep thought work.
  • Structured flexible time can be very beneficial to the family.
  • The forgone commute has huge benefits in studied measures of happiness. The equivalent of a 67% raise for a $60,000 per year employee.
  • Automattic’s corporate culture is that all of the employees are fully remote.

Disadvantages of Working Remotely

  • Discipline can be difficult. Many potential distractions exist.
  • You must be diligent and thorough with communication. Document processes and write out thoughts so that details can be communicated.
  • Social isolation – you need to take the initiative to be social and make it a priority.

attendees listening to George Hotelling

Types of Remote Companies

  • Fully Remote – Employees are all over the world. The different time zones need to be considered. Space, autonomy, and authority needs to be distributed to keep things moving.
  • Partially Remote – Usually involves an office where colleagues have occasional meetings. In this scenario it is important to take the initiative to attend the meetings that are relevant.

Where is Remote Work Done?

  • Home
  • Coworking space. This was discussed at length, with many members recommending coworking spaces throughout metro Detroit. Randy Walker graciously published a post with coworking spaces in and around metro Detroit.
  • Wherever!
  • Traveling, out of town, hotel rooms.
  • Even on the road (as a passenger)

Communication is Oxygen!

  • Slack – This is a chat program for office and day to day work. Communication is generally asynchronous.
  • Screenhero (owned by Slack): Collaborative screen sharing tool. An invitation is needed to obtain it. It is highly functional and recommended, with high screen resolution.
  • Google Hangouts / Skype / Zoom – Video chats. It’s very important to understand text vs. video vs. audio. Text is easy to misinterpret. It lacks tone and nuance that could be essential to making a point.
  • IRL – In Real Life! Two or three company meetups are planned each year. Distributed companies travel a lot to encourage bonding and team building
  • P2 Theme: that is much like a Twitter feed. It is generally left open all day and serves as Automattic’s watercooler conversation point. Hashtags can be used to start a conversation thread and it is searchable!
  • Note that emails are minimized. – P2’s are the focus. All of the conversations are dropped into a searchable database and becomes a warehouse of accumulated knowledge.

Everyone who starts at Automattic does frontline support. It is part of the corporate culture and a lot is learned from this exercise.

Thank you to Grand Circus and A2 Hosting for their sponsorship of our meetups!

snowy view of Woodward and Grand Circus Park, Central United Methodist Church in the background
Our view from our meetup venue, snowy view of downtown Detroit

February 2017 Q & A Workshop Notes

At our February 2017 Q & A Workshop, several of our experienced WordPress users, developers, and designers helped answer questions from other members about their sites, configuration, and setup.

Before we started the workshop, I shared three recent news updates about WordPress.

Three things to know about WordPress

  1. If you haven’t updated to version 4.7.2 already, do it ASAP. Over 1 million sites WordPress sites have been defaced
  2. Starting in March 2017, the ads on the commenting plugin Disqus will no longer be free to disable.
  3. Have you seen it? Gutenberg, the first prototype of the new WordPress editor, has been released. Check it out and give your feedback.

Takeaways from Q & A Workshop

Discussion of custom post types & forms to publish a post.

  • Gravity forms is a powerful forms plugin. Can be used to “submit & publish” a post to a website. Note: would require a username/password field. Best for sites where your users get a basic membership/role.
  • https://wp-types.com/ Tool Set as a way to create, re-edit, delete blog posts that a user publishes. More edit features after publish than Gravity forms?

Consider a plugin audit on your site. Review your plugins to determine:

  1. Are you still using the plugin? If no, uninstall it. Any plugin you’re not using on your site can be a liability.
  2. Does the plugin offer functionality that’s available in WordPress core? Consider uninstalling the plugin and using built-in functionality.
  3. Is the plugin updated to the latest version?
  4. Has the plugin been updated in the past two years? Plugins that haven’t been updated in two years can be a security risk. Consider another plugin that is being maintained. Or consider whether you want to adopt the plugin and take on the development

Thanks to Laura Eagin for contributing to the notes.

How to create a post with Gravity Forms, then use the REST API to pull those posts into a third party site

During our Quarterly Q&A Meetup a question was asked on how a site could be setup using Gravity Forms form to collect posts that then have those posts become available on a different WordPress installation.

For example, students could write an article about a topic that then publishes on site specific to that topic.  There maybe other ways to solve this problem, but for the sake of this article, here’s how you can use Gravity Forms to collect posts, then have those articles published on separate WordPress sites.

IMPORTANT: This is technical and requires the ability to write PHP for WordPress.

To start, you’ll need the Gravity Forms plugin (full disclosure, it is a paid plugin).  You can download it here: http://www.gravityforms.com

Next you’ll want to create a new Gravity Form form using the Post Fields.  See screenshot below:screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-1-59-50-pm

When setting this form up, let’s configure the new post options.  Expand the Post Title and make sure the Post Status is Draft.

Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 2.03.53 PM.png

Let’s publish a page on our site with this form.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-2-05-44-pm

Now here’s the form where users can submit their posts.  Don’t worry, these posts won’t go live.  If you recall, we configured the form to only set the status of each post as a draft.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-2-05-58-pm

Now that we have the form to collect the posts, let’s use the WordPress REST API to grab the posts on a different WordPress site.

These next steps will be done on the third-party site reading the information from the site collecting the data above.

To do this, it will require some development.  In short, here’s what you need to do on the third-party website to import these posts using the REST API.

Create a wp_cron() job to look for new posts to import on a periodic basis.

When the cron job executes you’ll want to fetch the posts using wp_remote_request() with authentication.  With authentication means you pass along headers on the request.  Use this template below.  Replace YOUR_USERNAME and YOUR_PASSWORD with the credentials of the site where you’re collecting the posts (the site using the Gravity Forms we setup above). You will not be able to retrieve posts that are set as “draft” without authentication.

$args = array(
  'headers' => array(
    'Authorization' => 'Basic ' . base64_encode( YOUR_USERNAME . ':' . YOUR_PASSWORD )
  )
);
$post_results = wp_remote_request( $url, $args );

For the URL you’ll want to query posts by specific category and status.  Here’s an example:

http://YOUR-WEBSITE.COM/wp-json/wp/v2/posts?categories=6&status=draft

The request will return the post data.  Iterate over the results and use wp_insert_post() to add this post into the new site.

That’s it!

Couple things to note:

  • I choose to have the site that collects the posts set the post status as “draft” so that these posts are not public (or ever public on that site).
  • You may want to use the WP REST API to update the status or delete the post on the site where it was submitted.  You can learn more about modifying content using the REST API here: https://developer.wordpress.org/rest-api/
  • My suggestion would be to write a plugin that can be installed on third party sites that would be configurable (such as category) to import these posts.