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.

Troubleshooting a WordPress Site: Where Is My Sub-Menu?

How our members worked together to resolve an issue on a WordPress website

At our September 2016 meetup, we held a Q & A workshop where our Metro Detroit WordPress members can get answers about their WordPress site from other members. Or they can ask specific questions about WordPress features and functionality.

Because it’s community-focused, the Q & A workshop is one of my favorite meetup formats. It’s where we learn about each other sites and what members do.

Our Q & A workshops are casual, with people moving from table to table to help each other. Or just listen in to hear what other people are doing on their site.

What’s the Issue?

One of our members was having issues with her self-hosted WordPress website, where the sub-menu wasn’t displaying.

She was using the Divi theme on her site, one of the drag-and-drop premium WordPress themes, which has a lot of built-in functionality that’s usually provided through plugins.

Divi recently released version 3.0, which none of our Metro Detroit WordPress members had worked with.

Nevertheless, several people stepped up to the challenge to try to find a solution. Which they did!

Troubleshooting

Knowing others go through similar situations, trying to figure out why some feature isn’t working as expected on their site, we wanted to document the steps.

1. Backup the Site

Before making any changes, backup your site. That means backing up both the files and the database.

You can find lots of free backup plugins in the WordPress repository. Additionally, there are many premium backup solutions.

WP Beginner recently published a review of several WordPress backup plugins.

Luckily our member already had a backup plugin installed on her site, so a backup was quickly completed.

2. Update WordPress

You always want to have the most current version of WordPress installed on your site.

WordPress releases major updates and security updates regularly, it’s important that your site has the latest version to stay secure.

One of our members helped to get the latest WordPress version updated on the site. Still, the problem persisted.

3. Update Themes and Plugins

As with WordPress, you want to make sure you have the latest versions of the themes and plugins installed.

Developers update themes and plugins to incorporate new features from the latest WordPress version, to fix bugs, and to add new plugin functionality.

If you’re having an issue that is theme- or plugin-related, it’s possible the latest version will fix your problem. Why waste time searching for a solution when an update will resolve the problem?

Her site themes and plugins were updated, but the sub-menu still wouldn’t display.

4. Activate the Latest Twenty XXX Theme

This is a tried-and-true solution to many issues.

The latest Twenty XXX theme is the default theme installed with every new WordPress installation (at the time of this post, the latest is the Twenty Sixteen theme).

These themes are used to rule out any issues that might be theme-related.

Review in Other Browsers and Devices

At times, a browser or device might be the culprit.

Checking the site in different browsers or on different devices (tablets, smartphones, etc.) can help narrow down the cause of the issue.

This wasn’t the case for our member’s site.

Unfortunately, the sub-menu wouldn’t display in other browsers, nor in other devices.

Theme Options

Many free and premium themes have Theme Options that control fonts, CSS, menus, and other features in the theme.

Voilà!

That was where the issue was, a custom CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) setting was the reason the sub-menu wasn’t displaying.

The existing CSS code in her site was copied to a text file for safe keeping. The CSS was updated, saved, and the sub-menu displayed.

In Conclusion

Troubleshooting the WordPress theme on our member’s site only took a few steps. We were lucky it wasn’t a more involved issue, with conflicting plugins or an issue with the web host.

If you find yourself needing to troubleshoot your site, always start by:

  1. Backing up the site, both database and files
  2. Updating to the latest WordPress version
  3. Updating to the latest theme and plugins

Shoutout to our members Angela Samuels, Randy Wright, Andy Melichar, and Eric Malcolm for their help in troubleshooting the issue!

Photo credit: Randy Wright

Takeaways from Fixing a Hacked Site

Seth Alling

At last month’s Metro Detroit WordPress meetup, Seth Alling presented on hacked sites, discussing the causes and what you can do to prevent your site from being hacked.

Members shared some of their own stories of hacks as well as useful resources. It was a great discussion at the end of the talk; thanks to Seth for his presentation!

And thanks to new member Christine Zheng, we have a recap of Seth’s presentation. Here are Christine’s notes:

Fixing a Hacked Site

Hack Types

There are three common hacks:

  • WordPress plugin hack
  • Malware hack
  • Themes hack

There are many causes of hacked sites, including:

  • Poor hosting
  • Bad or poorly coded plugin
  • Out of date software, which can be targeted by malware
  • Improper file permissions

To find the cause:

Step 1: Use Shell commands

List file with improper file permissions
find .–perm 777

List php files modified within last day
find .-name”.php” –mtime 1 -print

List general-template.php files with base64
Find.-name “general-template.php” – exec grep –H”base64”{}\;

List general-template.php files with base64 in text file
find.-name “general-template.php” –exec grep-H”base64{}\;”>hacked.txt

Step 2: Establish Your Game Plan

Don’t just dive in, figure out the best solution. For example, if your host doesn’t provide shell access, contact your web host customer support.

Step 3: Remove Hack and Change Passwords

Find out what is really causing the problem.

Manually fix:

  • Take full back up if possible, of all files and the database
  • Delete unwanted corrupted files and replace hacked files
  • Search through pages and/or database for additional corruptions and remove
  • Change password of admin users(and possibly users with other role as well)
  • Test, test, test
  • Take full backup when complete

Use the Force Plugin Updates plugin when you reactivate plugins.

Fix in bulk:

  • Manually remove hack on 1 site
  • Write script to do what you need
  • Run script on one single site
  • Test, test, test
  • Run script across multiple sites
  • Example scripts from Seth you can use on a host with cPanel (you’ll need root access to your server)

Step 3: Increase Security

  • Make sure everything is upgraded
  • Make sure backups are working; run a test first to insure
  • Have a security plugin
  • Use a password manager, LastPass, Dashlane
  • Send passwords/logins with Onetime Secret, or keep info in a notebook or offline
  • Do not sent the passwords via email – but message
  • Use Two-factor authentication (2FA), Clef, Duo, Google Authenticator
  • Remove unused sites
  • Check file permissions-don’t set it to 777 permission
  • Use strong passwords
  • Consider changing WordPress structure, because most hackers are trying to hack in bulk
  • Depending on your time, or if all else fails, hire security company (such as, Sucuri Security)

Summary

Be prepared for hack. Consider using the iThemes Security plugin. Another option is to set up Cloudflare security.

You may want to consider not turning on all the features, IP login. Whitelist log in IP.
When you’re adding a new plugin to a site, validate the plugin. Read reviews and check star rankings.

Check out the slides from Seth’s presentation.

Thanks to Larisa for taking and sharing photos from the meetup.

Additional Resources

February 2016 Developer Code Share / Show and Tell

Attendees seated waiting for meetup to begin

For our February 2016 developer code share/show and tell, four Metro Detroit WordPress Meetup members shared their tips and insights on WordPress development. Continue reading “February 2016 Developer Code Share / Show and Tell”

January 2016 WordPress Q & A Workshop Recap

At last night’s Q & A workshop, we had lots of great questions about WordPress, how to use it, set it up, configure plugins, style, and troubleshoot issues.

Glad to see so many new faces interested in learning about WordPress! Continue reading “January 2016 WordPress Q & A Workshop Recap”

Recap: How an Author Uses WordPress to Grow Readership and Sell Books

Sylvia Hubbard

Detroit author and Metro Detroit WordPress member Sylvia Hubbard was our guest for the November meetup. Here are notes from her presentation.

Step 1: Have a website that’s easily found
Step 2: Provide all your contact information, website, physical address, email, phone number, social networks, evaluation forms
Step 3: Include a book page
Step 4: Include your biography
Step 5: Add a blog
Step 6: Use feeds
Step 7: Use easy to remember URLs

Tips from Sylvia

  • The closer you get to the money, the closer you get to the sale.
  • My social networks serve as breadcrumbs to my website.
  • Intertwine other characters from other stories.
  • Password protected stories: passwords are embedded in books they have to buy.

Attendees at November 2013 meetup

Rules for Writers

  1. Post regular updates
  2. Add pics/videos/audio
  3. Don’t always sell book

Love that WordPress allows Sylvia to post feeds. Google Calendar feeds right into the sidebar. Press This to post reviews on your own author site.

What WordPress Has Done Over the Past Year for Sylvia

  1. Increased my SEO
  2. Can easily add subscription services and forms I control (readers with most comments are rewarded with $25 gift card)
  3. Use Google Alerts to track mentions
  4. Increased stats, searches and stays
  5. Organized my literary world
  6. Understand what my readers want from me

Marketing Efforts

Can’t find out marketing effort for three months, when the royalty check comes in.

Resources for Self-Publishing

  • Use Amazon for publishing your works. Their resource center provides info you need to publish to Kindle, print or audio.
  • Smashwords loads your book to all the ebook distributors. Smashwords takes a cut off the purchase price. They upload your book every two months to Apple Books.
  • Dan Pointer – godfather of self-publishing. Great resource for all things related to writing your book, publishing, promoting, and running your book business.
  • PayLoadz: Sylvia uses it for exclusive books. There’s no cost if you don’t sell over $100 in one month. Will charge client and send the book.
  • E-Junkie: Another option for selling your books.

Every fall Sylvia organizes Annual Essence of Motown Literary Jam & Conference, a literary conference for writers in the metro Detroit area. This year she was able to get support from 360 Digital, a Michigan based publisher/printer that produced the conference program book, Awesome Detroit and the National Writers Union, which helped to pay for the conference.

New URL & Site Title: Now Metro Detroit WordPress Meetup Group

I launched this as a support site for a local WordPress user meetup group in Ferndale, MI in 2009. Over 3.5 years and 34 meetups (and 3 successful WordCamps!) later, the group is going strong thanks to current organizers.

Metro Detroit WordPress Meetup

The group has outgrown its name, and the name has been changed to Metro Detroit WordPress Meetup group. To match that, the URL of this site is now changed to metrodetroitwp.wordpress.com with the site title change.

I want to thank Deborah, TJ, Anthony, and Debra for running the community and growing it so much after my leaving of the area in 2011. You guys are awesome!

Now, you can expect some news updates and more change on this site. Meanwhile,

And of course, make sure to join the meetup group’s next event!

Although I’ve moved quite far (Tokyo, Japan), I am looking forward to joining the local meetup or WordCamp someday in the future.

Russell Fair Presentation at November Meetup

Today at our November meetup, we were delighted to have Russell Fair from Atlanta WordPress Developers & Designers Meetup Group and Atlanta WordPress Users Group. He covered a wide range of relatively new WordPress features with great examples from his past and current work.

Russell Fair at Ferndale WordPress Meetup

Some useful sites/links that were mentioned during his presentation:

Video recording for his presentation will be published here soon & Russell will be sharing his notes later on.

You can subscribe to this blog from the sidebar “Email Subscription”, or follow us on Twitter @ferndalewp for updates!

October WordPress Meetup at Paper Street Motors

The topic for Ferndale WordPress Meetup in October was e-Commerce (shopping cart) options for WordPress. Tim Aten presented on his experience with 2 major plugins, WP e-Commerce (also known as GetShopped) and Shopp.

October WordPress Meetup

Below is my quick notes from the presentation.

WP e-Commerce

  • One of the oldest WordPress e-Commerce plugins
  • The plugin is free; paid upgrades and community plugins are also available for additional functionalities
  • Paid upgrades: “Gold Cart”, affiliate management, CSV feed generator, enhanced store animation effect, FedEx shipping option, members only site, downloadable products, product gallery, etc.
  • There are some third-party themes
  • PayPal (incl. Pro), Google Checkout, Chronopay gateway and manual payment options for free version. Authorize.net and other gateways are available with the paid version (more info)
  • Experienced slower and less frequent tech support compared to Shopp
  • Very easy to setup
  • Flash uploader does not always work 100%

Shopp

  • Paid plugin ($55 for single site or $299 for unlimited # of sites)
  • Additional gateways: $25 for authorize.net, manual payment, PayPal Pro, etc.
  • Very fast (1-2 hours) and better support overall
  • Set up only takes 1-2 hours; professional looking out-of-the-box
  • Some issues with download packaged item (hard to group them together)
  • You can view receipts in the admin dashboard
  • Shopping cart widget available
  • Shipping address capture is required (not ideal for download product)
  • Product editor = similar to WordPress post edit page
  • Theme integration is relatively easy

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