Introducing the Working with WordPress Online Workshop Series

Sometimes, when you’re using WordPress, you’re just trying to get one thing done.

Build that one thing.

And then, you find yourself googling for hours, cobbling tutorials together to achieve your goal.

You don’t have time for all this, but you also don’t have the time for a full-length WordPress course that’s going to teach you everything except how to build what you’re building.

Introducing the Working with WordPress online workshop series

what if there were short courses that focused on a topic, did so in-depth, and didn’t break the bank in the process? Enter this series.

The Working with WordPress workshop series are four-hour mini courses that cover a specific topic with hands-on demonstrations you can use to build a specific type of site. They feature instruction, question and answer time, notes that walk you step-by-step through how what we’re covering happens and how you can put into immediate practice what you’ve learned. They also feature a copy of the recorded workshop once it’s done so you can replay it if you’d like and follow along with the notes.

Something for Everybody

These workshops range from the technical and not-so-technical, so there’s something for everybody. They’ll take place on Friday afternoons from 1PM to 5PM Eastern U.S. time. The first in the series is Podcasting with WordPress, which will teach you what a podcast is, and how to use the PowerPress plugin to add your own podcast to your WordPress website. It will also teach you how to create a separate feed for it, and how to get your podcast listed on various networks such as iTunes.

This workshop will take place this Friday at 1PM Eastern. Other workshops will run on a weekly basis, and all of these will be available for purchase after the workshop has ended in case you want one you missed.

The great thing about these workshops is that they can be flexible. I’ve got a few planned, like Content Marketing with WordPress, Storing Recipes with WordPress, and Building an Accessible Shop with WordPress, but if there’s demand for a particular topic, there’ll be room for that too.

Normally, these workshops will run for $97. But as an introduction, the first three will run for $47. There’s no lower limit, so whether there are two or ten attendees, it doesn’t matter.

Podcasting with WordPress takes place this Friday at 1PM Eastern. Once you register, you’ll be sent instructions on how to attend. We’ll use the TeamTalk voicechat client so both blind and sighted can participate. After registration, you’ll be sent a setup guide and, should you need assistance with setup, I’ll be more than happy to schedule a time to help you get TeamTalk up and running.

I’m looking forward to teaching you how to use WordPress to meet your needs. If you’re interested in running your own podcast from your own site, join us for Podcasting with WordPress.

How to Post to WordPress using Windows Live Writer and a Screen Reader

There’s been some discussion happening on Twitter about different ways to post to WordPress powered sites. one of the recommendations that came in was to use Windows Live Writer to do this. So I thought I’d post a tutorial on the basics of using Windows Live Writer with a screen reader in the hope that it will make writing and posting easier for those who are blind and who don’t necessarily want to use the standard WordPress add new post screen.

 

What’s wrong with the editor that comes with WordPress?

 

There’s nothing wrong with the standard editor, but sometimes it’s easier to write in a truly distraction-free space, which is something that can’t be offered by the WordPress content editor due to the fact that you have to enter forms/browse mode if you’re using a screen reader. This means that you’re stuck writing in what is normally viewed as an input field, which has the effect of limiting your writing, even if it is just psychological.

 

Having a distraction-free writing space means you can focus on your writing and not on the unintended distraction of an input field. So in this tutorial, I’m going to show you the basics of Windows Live Writer, and how to get around it with a screen reader. I’m using Jaws in this case, but it will work reasonably well with NVDA as well. I haven’t tested with Window Eyes or System Access. It also goes without saying that this is a Windows-specific application. For the Mack, there’s MarsEdit.

 

Getting Started with Windows Live Writer

 

The first thing you’ll need to do, if you haven’t done so already, is download Windows Live Writer and install it. Next, you’ll need to set up your blog. This screen is useable with Jaws, although if you want to read the whole dialog you’ll need to do some cursoring. You’ll enter in your blog/site’s address, without the we-admin, and then the username and password for the site.

 

Next, Windows Live Writer will ask you if you want to download your blog’s theme so that you can preview what your post is going to look like. You can try this, but I didn’t have any luck, and the preview doesn’t appear to be accessible at all.

 

Once you’ve gone through all the setup, you’re ready to start writing. There are a couple of things to note. First, the title and body fields aren’t labeled, but you’ll be able to arrow up and down to get in and out of them. Yeah, this is weird. At first I assumed I could tab between the two, and you actually can’t. So first, you’ll type your title, and if you want to change that at any point, you can arrow up from the body section and change that, which will then reflect in the title bar of the window. The next thing to note is that you have ribbons, just like you would in any other modern Microsoft application. These are completely navigable with the keyboard, and you can insert hyperlinks, images and everything else, as well as interact with everything else in the ribbons.

 

To deal with categories, tags, and scheduling, you’ll need to use your screen reader’s specific cursor to navigate above the title field, and find the “categories”, or “tags” or whichever field you want to modify and then left-click on it. Once you’re in the field, everything is tabbable and you can edit away.

 

After you’ve done all your writing/editing, you can either save as draft or publish from the ribbons. If you’re using WordPress SEO by Yoast, you’ll probably want to save as draft so you can go back and enter your keywords and further optimize the post. But for the writing aspect, Windows Live Writer does the trick, and it’s not as heavy as Microsoft Word when it comes to the system resources it consumes. I haven’t tested this on Windows 8 yet, but it works at least up to Windows 7.

 

So far, the only thing I don’t like is that there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to see the word count of the post. But I suppose this isn’t a deal-breaker.

 

This tutorial should get you started on using something other than the standard WordPress post editor to write, and hopefully, it will encourage you to write more and write/post more often.

You Need a Yay File

The obverse of an Olympic gold medal from the 1920 Olympic games
The obverse of an Olympic gold medal from the 1920 Olympic games
By: Naval History & Heritage CommandCC BY 2.0

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves, either in our business or personal lives, is to create a “yay” file. It doesn’t matter how this file takes shape, but what it contains. Our “yay” files should contain any positive comments from clients or friends or coworkers, summaries of goals we’ve achieved, or anything else that makes us feel good about ourselves.

We need to keep a “yay” file around not so we can enlarge our egos, but for rainy days when it seems like life is spinning out of control, or when things just suck, and especially when things seem to be going horribly for a very long time.

Our “yay” file serves as a pick me up when we’re in the midst of trouble or bad days and we feel like giving up. It’s not meant to solve any problem other than the one we have with ourselves. We’re still responsible for doing what we can in the present to fix the messes we make. But even while we’re fixing the messes, we still can’t fall into the trap of beating ourselves up continuously, even for mistakes or screw-ups we make.

I’m including myself in this advice, which is why I’m saying “we” instead of just “you.” I have a hard time recognizing my accomplishments, and I know I need to remind myself more of them. So to create my “yay” file, I’m going to open up a text file, start copying the positive things I can find from social media and email and all the other places they show up, and make it a point to add some time to my daiy schedule to take a look at the file, because I need to constantly remind myself.

Now it’s your turn. Do you plan on creating a “yay” file, and if so, how will you do it? Is adding time to your schedule to look it over something you’ll consider doing? Let me know in the comments.

And thank you, Curtis McHale, for a totally awesome tip that’s applicable in multiple situations.

What If a Prospective Client Needs Something Outside Your Skillset?

Hang around the WordPress community long enough, and you’ll eventually run into a prospective client who needs something you can’t offer. For instance, in my case, if a prospective client is looking just for design work, or graphic design, I know that’s completely outside of my territory and not something I can legitimately offer and call myself honest. But in cases like that, there’s still something I can do to help that prospective client. I can help that prospective client by giving them a referral to someone who’s better suited to handle those tasks.

By giving that referral, I provide value for the client, strengthen my relationships within the community, and create the likelihood that someone else will refer work to me that either they don’t have the time to handle, or don’t have the requisite skills for. Everybody wins.

Whether you’re an implementer, (someone who knows just the right plugin and theme combination to build what your client needs), a developer, or a designer, the referral technique applies. And regardless of where you fit in the WordPress community, it can be a winning strategy for both you and your clients.

How to Add Free Images to your Content Straight from WordPress

Picture frame
Picture frame
By: Max StanworthCC BY 2.0

I’ve written before about how important it is to add images to your content, even if you’re totally blind. In that post, I recommended Flicker as a great source for free images, and also cautioned that attribution has to be given when someone’s image is used. Those tips still apply, but there’s an easier way to find those free images and make sure they have proper attribution.

The Flickr – Pick a Picture plugin will allow you to search for free images to use from within WordPress itself, so you can avoid the mess that is the Flickr website if you’re using assistive technology.

Once you’ve installed and activated the plugin, you’ll see a new settings screen under the “settings” section of your WordPress administration panel, and you’ll also see a “Flickr – pick a pic” bchoice in the toolbar above the content area of your WordPress post/page editor. When you want to add an image, select that and a new window will open. If you’re using a screen reader, the window will appear at the bottom of the page.

Search for the kind of picture you want, and the plugin will return search results with your search term either in the caption, description, or name of the image. The plugin will also make sure that only Creative Commons images are searched so you don’t accidentally use someone’s copyrighted work. Each image will have a “choose” button near it. For screen reader users, it will appear underneath the link labeled “graphic” with a whole bunch of numbers. If you’re sighted, and you want to see a larger version of the image, click on the thumbnail to see a larger version. If you’re blind, this isn’t going to matter.

Once you press “choose,” you’ll see some options to edit the filename, alternative text, (and we all know how important the alt attribute is), the caption and the description. The caption already contains the attribution for the image, and you can leave this be or add to it. Don’t remove it though. The description is there so that in regard to the WordPress media editor, you have descriptions you can see for each image that gets uploaded.

The plugin will upload the image you choose to your own media library, so you’re not stuck if the image gets deleted. Its screens are also much easier to deal with than the standard WordPress media editor.

Hopefully, by installing this plugin, you’ll find it easier to add images to your content. They’re a great way to enrich your site, and they can make or break the content you’ve put all that hard work into. So next time you’re writing, or next time you pan to write, install Flicker — Pick a Picture and add some free images.