Web Stuff

FitBloggin 12: Better Blog Design on a Budget

Saturday, I went back to the Hyatt in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore and spoke on blog design [slides] at FitBloggin – how to find/hire someone if you need help or how to do it yourself.

I love seeing how FitBloggin has evolved, and seeing my new old friends from around the country. It was a great conference, as always.




Skate & Create

Fitbloggin Ignite: Derby Little Secrets

I gave an Ignite talk Friday night at Fitbloggin called Derby Little Secrets [slides]. I was surprised at how emotional it was. I think some new derby boys and girls were born that night – I hope so, anyway.

I talked about my girls discovered roller derby. We reached out to several local leagues seeking junior league information. My big girl got sick and Chesapeake Roller Derby visited us. Leezle and I attended a few games and I wondered, secretly, if I could learn to play roller derby. I bought some gear, figured out who my alter ego is and jumped in. I learned the rules, some basic workouts and key derby skills. It’s the most fun I’ve had in years – even for a guy with a trick knee. I’ve learned that moms, dads, PhDs, teachers, retail clerks, dental hygienists, florists, gay people, straight people, transgender people, black people, white people, atheists,  believers – everyone can do this. It’s open to all who want to be involved.


Web Stuff

FitBloggin’ 11

I haven’t posted anything in weeks because I’ve been reworking this site and writing a talk for the FitBloggin’ 2011 conference in Baltimore.

I still have a pretty good list of things to clean up here, especially on the WordPress side of the site.  I experimented with Custom Post Types and multisite functionality, and finally decided it was overkill. I decided to let ‘er rip, because I need to get back to posting stuff. So, please pardon the site hiccups as they happen. I’m still working on it.

FitBloggin’ 2011

FitBloggin’ was amazing, yet again. Seeing friends from last year, and finally meeting guys I’ve been talking with on Twitter was fantastic. As before, I’m honored to have been a part of this. Roni Noone has created something truly special that changes people’s lives. That’s amazing. This is my favorite conference, even more than the WordCamps.

Jennette Fulda gave a comprehensive talk on design. Monica Olivas answered questions about privacy and getting started to newer bloggers. Katy was everywhere I looked. The hookers from Shrinking Jeans are always fun! It was great to catch up with Scott Stawarz and wife, Paolo, Matt Dustin, Jen “in real life,” Jack Sh*t (even more charming in real life) and especially Ryan “No More Bacon” Sullivan and his wife, Mrs. Bacon. And everyone else I met, too. It’s all overwhelming. Check the #fitbloggin hash tag on twitter and you can see what I mean.

Regarding my presence there, someone asked me “are you a vendor of sorts?” I am not. Nor am I a fitness blogger, although I did just join a gym for the first time ever and I like it, obsessively so. To date, I haven’t tried to “monetize” my site(s). I haven’t run adwords campaigns, as easy as that would be to do. I am not a “social media guru” with “the answers for driving the conversation in the community to maximize value in the douche-bag space.” I have a lot of knowledge to share, though – WordPress, Blogger, analytics, SEO, code, design, writing, being part of something positive. It’s fun to help and I answered as many WordPress and blogging questions as I could.

This time, my talk focused on photography for blogs. I decided to address “the art of seeing” and how to get better shots. It was a fun talk to research. I recommended doing a 365 – a photoblog where you post a picture a day – as a way to change the way we see the world around us. It trains our eye and forces us to find interesting ways to tell stories in a new way. I thought I’d try it, too – I’ve created a new section on this site for daily snaps (was at Hence to mad rush to rework my dusty old theme.

My slides are here. Thanks to everyone who listened and asked questions!

Joie de Vivre

Create Baltimore

I woke up feeling a little wobbly but I set out for Create Baltimore with the hopes that it was just left over pizza from Refresh Baltimore disagreeing with me.

I checked in and caught up with a few friends and then settled into the short keynote address by Ellen Lupton. She talked about “design thinking,” that is, stating a problem and looking at it from as many different vantage points as possible.

I also learned there is a real church of craft with ministers and everything. Knitting on Sunday. Coming to Baltimore soon.

And then, my body sent me home. And that’s what I got out of Create Baltimore. I hope there’s another one. So sad I missed it.

Web Stuff

WordCamp Philly

I’m speaking at WordCamp Philly on October 30, 2010 at Temple University. I’m giving a newbie talk this time – “Twenty Things the New WordPress User Should Know.” I plan to cover the basics of WordPress, including hosting,, new stuff in 3.0, themes, plugins, using WP as a content management system and more. It’ll be great!

Registration is open. And, time permitting, I’ll be sneaking into the local Barnes & Noble stores and signing their Head First WordPress books.

Web Stuff

Maryland Writers’ Conference

This has been a really busy week for me. I am  looking into  developing an iPad application for work – exciting stuff. I’ve been prototyping iPad behavior on the web using JavaScript and exploring HTML5. Also, I pulled an all-nighter last night to complete proposals for ArtsScape in July – I have four in so far. I’ll post them later.

Tonight, I’m speaking at the Maryland Writer’s Conference in Hunt Valley. I’ll be talking about how writers can and should use blogging as a tool to develop a platform.  I’ll explain why WordPress is ideal for this purpose, and explore options available for new and experienced bloggers. I’m excited to be there, and interested in sharing some of the things I learned from the writers at FitBloggin’. If you are an attendee, please say hi, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or need some help.


This being a somewhat literary post, I’d like to share that I’ve been working as a technical editor for O’Reilly Media, and working on a new WordPress book. I’m super excited to be helping out with this.

Joie de Vivre

Notes on FitBloggin’

I’ve been to a lot of conferences. Some were organized on shoe string budgets, like a WordCamp for Education held in the back room of a community college, and some were expensive, fancy gatherings, like An Event Apart.  When a conference succeeds, it energizes, educates and unites its participants.

FitBloggin’ was every bit as as nice as An Event Apart, and more intimate. Held at the Marriott in Fells Point, Baltimore,  everything felt just right. Baltimore was lovely and on its best behavior, which let the attendees and sponsors focus on the work at hand.

Photo by Carriedphotography

A lot of other people are discussing the amazing amount of swag given out (new running shoes from New Balance, the Gruve, the Weight Watchers Pedometers, etc), the wonderful food and the collegial atmosphere. Follow the #fitbloggin hash tag on twitter and check on the fitbloggin’ Web site.

Here’s my take on things…

My WordPress Talk

Thank you to  EVERYONE for their questions. I had hoped for a discussion more than a lecture type talk – it was good.

One of the ideas I focused on is developing one’s own Web presence. For a long time, I’ve thought about using Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, etc to draw people to my Web site.

My experience has been mostly the opposite. The people who use these services tend to stay within these communities, for the most part. Which isn’t really a bad thing – but hosting my content there doesn’t always convert into traffic to THIS site.

In the early days of the Web, when AOL was a  main service provider, it acted very much like a shopping mall. You would enter their doors and be bombarded with news, chat rooms, advertising and “You’ve got mail!”. If you were lucky, you could make it out through the back door, across the parking lot and onto the Web. Facebook, Blogger and even are similar in that, when you use their services, you are in THEIR box. They are primarily self contained ecosystems. By placing content within their walls, we contribute to those communities – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but something important for bloggers to consider. Where do you really want your content to be?

New Faces

I want to mention a few of the people I met and things I learned.

I spent some time talking with Jeff at POM Wonderful and learned that their Web site and social network run on WordPress (BuddyPress, in particular). His presentation on Saturday had some interesting statistics about blogging – the “Hobbyist” blogger gets about 10k visits a year, and typically blogs for just under two years. He suggested, in the fitness context of the conference, finding a “wolf pack” to support ones goals as a blogger/athlete/healthy person. I hope he posts his slides somewhere. The statistics were interesting. I liked POM, too.

Next, I hung out with Scott Stawarz (and his wife) – It was good to have someone from my own demographic present ;) .  He’s a good presenter and covered the basics of Search Engine Optimization. I hope to bump into him again.

I attended a fascinating panel called Beyond the Blog: Getting Published (with Charlie Hills, Linda Konner, Jennette Fulda, Caitlin Boyle and  Brett Blumenthal). Brett Blumenthal self published her book and generously offered advice on this experience, and it was interesting to contrast her approach against getting the many rejected book proposals that Caitlin had before getting her book out there.  There’s something about a DIY approach (whether it be for music, art or book publishing) that I find appealing. It’s certainly a lot of work – but the gap between the amount of work a self-published author and a traditional agent-to-publishing-house-author have to do is closing. Linda stressed that, in the current book market, publishers are looking for authors that have a “platform,” which is to say, have a following of some sort. They need to be willing to support the book with signings, interviews, tours and whatnot. Finally,  Jennette Fulda is delightful. I’m looking forward to reading her book(s). She’s a savvy technologist, too.

The keynote address was given by David Grotto, RD, LDN – author of 101 Optimal Life Foods. He posed the question – “If you were stranded on a  island, what 10 foods would you want to have with you?” People called out some healthy and not-so-healthy things. He made the point that we don’t need to abandon our favorite foods to be healthy – we need to ADD foods that are good for us. Simple, brilliant, easy to remember.

Finally, I attended a talk on Using Social Media to Reach Goals: The Power of an Online Community. Someone asked “How do you handle the occasional disruptive person who may infiltrate your community?”

Panelist Benjamin Teal responded this way: “There are what, 5 or 6 billion people on the planet, right? Block a couple of them.” Good point.

Fitbloggin’ 2011?

So, as I said, when a conference succeeds, it energizes, educates and unites its participants. Fitbloggin’ was a smashing, grand-slam of a success. It’s evident that there’s a need for this conference – I hope Roni will continue.

Web Stuff

Fitbloggin’ 2010

I’ve been looking forward to speaking at FitBloggin’ since last year. This conference is organized by my friend Roni Noone, the hardest working Mom in blogging. It was Roni who actually introduced ME to WordPress a few years ago. I’m excited for her, and proud to be a part of this event.

I’m also glad to have a chance to talk about WordPress – not as a developer-designer-JavaScript nerd – but as a blogger.

When I first started blogging, if you can call it that, it was a simple list of things that I was enjoying at the time. I called it Joie de Vivre, and as you can see, I updated it just over a dozen times. That saying “the cobbler’s children have no shoes” applied here – I was so busy making Web sites for other people that I didn’t really update or work on this. So, I installed WordPress.

My favorite quote by Colon Wilson that “pessimism robs ordinary people of their power” turned into the mission statement of my blog. I decided NOT to blog about technology/web design because a gazillion other people do this and technology posts are often irrelevant before they are even published. It seemed to me that writing about the fun-good-happy-doubleplusgood things in my life would reinforce an optimistic attitude, and spin even more good vibes into my life.

I was right. By focusing on the positive things in my life, more good things have happened BECAUSE of this. Good shit happens when you blog. The Road to Hell is NOT paved with good intentions – it’s paved with NON-intentional behavior.

Now, that might sound goofy, but it’s completely true. This Web site is a record label, printing press and art gallery and it’s potentially available to millions of people. I work hard at Art, in part, because I have an opportunity to publish Art – and I don’t mind publishing my mistakes and drafts and experiments. I don’t wait for anything to be perfect (admittedly, this may not be the best practice). I’m just so happy to have a place to put things that I can keep going-learning-growing.

Anyway, dear friends – here’s my presentation. Leave me a comment. Subscribe. Say hello. Keep in touch.

Web Stuff

jQuery at WordCamp Boston 2010

Man, Boston sure feels cold! My talk went well, considering that:

  • jQuery 1.4 just came out and I had a ton to cover
  • My talk was a 45 minute talk, and I did it in 30
  • I used a NetBook running Linux to present slides authored in PPT, which seemed a little risky at a MicroSoft compound ;)

To everyone who attended my talk, thanks. My slides are here no longer relevant.

My good pal Roni Noone was there, and we got to play with Microsoft’s tabletop touch computing device.

Table top computing


Web Stuff

WordCamp NYC jQuery Slides

jQuery Wordcamp NYC slides

This weekend,  @zgordon and I decended on Baruch College in New York City with 740+ other WordPress peeps for two very full days of WordPress. I gave an introductory jQuery talk to a receptive crowd on Saturday afternoon.

I covered:

  • A look at the current state of jQuery
  • A look at DOM manipulation and some popular aspects of jQuery
  • An overview of some handy plugins, including browser fixes, gallery tools, AJAX/JSON, etc.
  • Adding jQuery to WordPress themes

At long last…

My slides are here. Enjoy. If you were there, please let me know what you thought!




I was asked to give an ignite style 5 minute talk the next day. I was really tired and I don’t think it worked very well as a short talk. Five minutes just wasn’t enough!

I came away with a lot, more of which will appear here in the future. It was great to catch up with Jeremy Clarke and Rebekah (I’ve downloaded net beans), hang out with Jim Groom and to meet Baltimore’s own John Bintz of Comic PressAndrea_r and Ron, pillars of the MU community, we even nicer in person.  I loved Noel Jackson’s talk on P2/Monotone. I had a great conversation with Dan Milward as we walked to Baruch on Day 2.

Thank you to everyone who attended my talk! What a great weekend!

P.S. Thank Zac for the photos and helping me out so much!

Joie de Vivre



There’s a story about a guy paying for coffee at a Starbucks drive-though. He fumbles with his money and drops it on the ground.  The person in the car just behind him angrily honks their horn and yells.

The guy at the window pays for the rude guy’s coffee, humbling him. Mr. Humbled, in turn, does the same for the car behind him, and so it goes for the rest of the day. A random act of kindness spreads and makes a lot of people’s day a little better.

Last week,  I joined 450 of my new best friends at MICA to attend the TEDxMidAtlantic conference.

I feel a lot like the person in the car behind the angry guy who gets a cup of coffee – I’m inspired to pass on some good things, as they were passed to me during this amazing day.


TED is a free event to share “ideas worth spreading”  in Technology, Entertainment and Design.  I had to fill out a rather intense application – and I’m so glad I did. I’m still slightly stunned by the quality and breadth of this event. Scott Simon from NPR spoke, as did the Chief Technology Officer for Obama’s administration. You can even learn about that cool sandcrawler looking building at MICA that hangs over Mt. Royal from the guys who designed it. The entire conference was recorded for the world to see.

Below are my top five favorite talks, in no particular order. Please, watch them.

Joel Salatin explained the Essence of Chicken, and the Essence of Egg. He’s proof that by practicing sacredness is every simple act of our daily lives and professions, the world will rise to meet us. I still have “chill bumps.”

Joel Salatin

Dr.  Will Noel, curator of rare books and manuscripts at the  Walter’s Art Museum talks about the restoration of Archimedes Codex C. This is an astonishing tale.

Dr. Will Noel

Dr. Roland Griffiths conducts mind boggling research comparing spiritual phenomena with that of the chemical reactions caused by mushrooms (Psilocybin).

roland griffiths

Tony Geraci is a force to be reckoned with in the public school system. His mission is to feed kids local, fresh, REAL food and to teach  them about eating well. When you hear his story, you’ll see why he’s going to succeed. He’s making a model for the rest of the county to follow and he’s doing it right here in Baltimore.


Rebecca Hoffburger talked about the American Visionary Art Museum – one of my favorite places in the city. I had a few words with her before her talk, and she’s absolutely lovely.  She explains why museums (muse-ums) are not called thingatoriums or objectigons.

rebecca hoffberger

“Sell your cleverness, and purchase wonder.” ~ Rumi

I love Baltimore, I love that we are blessed to have events like this and I can’t wait to see all the good things that are coming. ;)

Web Stuff

The Future of Web Standards

I’m having a sleepover in the Philadelphia airport, as I write this. It’s  somewhere between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.  Why? Well, Twitter, of course! See, there was a tweet that said:

We’re giving away 5 free student tickets to  the first 5 students or faculty who include #aeaedu in a Tweet. Hurry!

I did. And so did a lot of other people, and I figured I missed the boat.  Then:

Jim, Did you get my message?

BINGO! I went to gray, rainy Boston on Monday. It was, as before, a really good conference. Friendly, like-minded people, excellent food and a sense that we are all working toward a common cause.  And I’ll never pass up the chance to talk with Mr. Zeldman while he’s trying to use the bathroom.

The “standardistas” emphasized:

  • Web sites do not need to look the same in all browsers.
  • Having a “content strategy” is important, because content is king.
  • Design with CSS in the browser and not Photoshop
  • Use a Grid
  • Flash, particularly sIFR, can solve typographic issues
  • User testing is vital

This is standard issue stuff (pun intended), and was highly emphasized at last year’s conference. And the one before that.

Which made me wonder – what’s actually NEW? The web is moving quickly. A lot has happened since the last conference I attended (last August).  Why aren’t we, as designers,  talking about it?

We have jQuery, which is so easy to use, it feels like cheating. It handily repairs shortcomings of IE6 issues, allows us to easily implement AJAX and JSON solutions and gives us ways to enhance our designs with expedient virtuosity previously unthinkable  for most front-end designers.

And, what about Chrome? How does enter into the SEO conversation? How is touch computing affecting web design and mobile devices? How does Flash fit into our conversation, aside from solving typographic issues and video streaming? And Flex?  It does some pretty amazing stuff. What the hell is the W3 actually doing? And, let’s talk about HTML5.

Another observation – every other person I talked with had something to do with Higher Education. Is there a curriculum for Web Standards?  I think it’s time to expand the discussions at Standards based conferences –  the world knows that we strive to keep content separate from formatting and behavior. As a teacher, I see things shift in 5 to 6 month cycles – each new class entering my room knows more than the one that just left. Our conferences should keep up, too.

I’m really glad I got to go – the design portions of the conference were inspiring, as always.  And it’s refreshing to get out of the office (hospital)  and be with other designers, to inspire each other and connect with a community.

So, as I sit here in this empty, quiet airport during the middle of the night, I wonder…what’s next?

Web Stuff

Truer Words were Never Spoken


Uttered at WordCamp Mid-Atlantic last weekend.

Thanks to the encouragement of Roni, Zac, Lisa and Jaye, it’s now a fashion statement. Any money from the sale of this shirt will be donated to Autism research, on behalf of my friend, Sarcastro, who doesn’t yet have a blog.

Web Stuff

Wordcamp for Education

The first ever WordCampED took place today on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. WordPress users love WordPress – and when you mix that with a passionate cause (like learning/teaching/education), lively discussion ensues.

Jeff McClurken talked about how he uses blogs to manage his classes (instead of, say, Blackboard). For anyone who hasn’t used the Blackboard LMS, it’s ugly, expensive, difficult, proprietary and it values data more than learning and usability. There are open source LMSs (like the really great Moodle) – and WordPress actually fits well into this category (see below).


What are the options for hosting WP blogs? A public school teacher may not have access to server space within the school system and could easily set up a blog on For those who do have access to in-house hosting, there’s – the latest version can be downloaded and installed in  5 minutes or less. And it’s possible to host many blogs with one installation using WordPress MU (multi-user – it’s what runs on).

There’s discussion as to whether having a single blog with many student logins is best, or individual blogs linked via RSS (syndication) to a single parent blog. I like the latter because:

  • Students have control over their entire blog instance
  • Students may be inclined to continue blogging after the course ends
  • New bloggers may feel slightly less self conscious blogging on their own blog and more inclined to blog regularly

However, having a single course blog can make sense because:

  • It might be slightly  easier to maintain from an instructor’s perspective, and key students can be tapped to help maintain the blog
  • Content may be retrieved faster (all the comments are in one place)
  • This could potentially be more collaborative than individual blogs (although the individual blogs can be linked to the parent blog).

Selling the administration on WordPress

OK, so you are sold on WordPress like I am – how does one bring it to their organization? There are predictable questions that regularly have to be addressed.

“We’ve already allocated $150,000.00 for Blackboard.”

Hmm. And we are looking at shrinking the faculty/educational budgets because the economy isn’t sure it wants to live in the United States anymore.  Wouldn’t $150,000 dollars help? WordPress is a mature platform – and it’s free.

“There isn’t a budget to hire programmers.”

We don’t need to hire programmers. The people who make WordPress keep it like a shiny new pin, security issues are resolved often before they are issues, and given that there are MILLIONS of WordPress installations all over the world, it’s extremely well tended by its own community. There are virtually plug-ins for every possible feature/configuration request/idea.

“WordPress is a blog. Why would we use a blog in a course?”

There are plug-ins that can transform WordPress into courseware – like ScholarPress.

And, we DO need blogs in the classroom. Having blogs hosted in education helps shepherd our student’s digital identities, and teaches valuable skills in communication, fosters digital literacy in the course/classroom AND promotes creativity and collaboration.

“What about FERPA issues? And how to we manage the institution’s image when students have blogs?”

Privacy can be managed at the application level, and through policy as well. Hopefully, there are already policies in place to govern Internet usage and digital materials within the institution. We could start here.

And here’s the thing – this is already happening in institutions all over the world. We can approach this though a fearful, risk based approach (inspired in a big way by the RIAA and like minded organizations). Or, we can be A PART of the bigger conversation about education, and contribute to it – we can propel education and e-learning forward and NOT be left behind.  Communities often behave in the spirit they are created – so, let’s create a positive, powerful collaborative learning environment. What could be better?

“Blogging takes time.”

What doesn’t? Sure, you can manage course documents via e-mail and worse, printed Word documents. And, when the class is over, projects once toiled over whither and fade. Blogging, however, can ensure that research projects endure. Which may lead to future opportunities for bloggers (employment, grants, fame, etc). Check out the Historical State Markers blog, which is actually linked as reference material from the State site – it’s a fantastic use of research.

What’s next

There are challenges to introducing blogging into our courses – how do grade a “blog?” How do I encourage real  participation from students and not just “I agree with the article” comments.

There are endless possibilities and many amazing success stories. As educators – we can and should share our thoughts, approaches, code, ideas and help each other to succeed. As students, we can shape the course with our participation. We can build relationships with our peers and create lasting works that actually help others. We can foster amazing educational experiences, develop life long skills and partnerships and help define the next wave of educational technologies.