Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wild Waters of Wordpress

Asleep on the Shore
I dove into the ocean and am now laying on the shore.  I think I survived, but time will tell as I am still waiting on some things to activate.

Here is what I did today.

Break My Site
Yes, I broke my site.  Not on purpose but broke it nonetheless.  I decided I wanted a url that did not say "blog," so I did what I have done with when I have wanted the url changed -- go to the Settings/General page and change it.  Bad idea with  My site accepted the change, but my host had no such url ... therefore my site became totally inaccessible.  Result: broken site. 

To make a long narrative only slightly shorter, here is what I did in bullet form:
  • Email my friend Danielle Roach to see if she can help me ... at 6:00 AM ... as if she is actually up then.
  • Look to see if ODU tech support is available. Find out that they open at 8:00 AM.
  • Google the problem and come up with a helpful site ... for experienced coders ... take deep breath and decide I can do this.
  • Download FileZilla and wing it to login into the DigitalODU site. Discover I cannot just click on the URL in my registration email, so find the FileZilla login screen then find myself looking at my site in an FTP uploader!  Cool.
  • Try to find the "functions.php" file in my site.  Try 5 different files that have function in their name. Code, upload, test, see no result, and uncode all of them.
  • Decide to resort to the ugly coding option they give first and succeed immediately.  Until I discover this only fixes my homepage.  Still cannot access any other page.
  • Get what I think is a brilliant idea and try to change the urls of each of my sub-pages, but they actually have the right url but do not work.
  • Brilliant idea #2: Make new sub-pages because really I have little to nothing on the existing but broken sub-pages.  New sub-page also does not work.
  • Brilliant idea #3: Make a custom menu that links new page only to working homepage to avoid the broken sub-page routes. Does not work.
  • Decide to call in outside help -- GChat Danielle and find out that she is not available, so call ODU tech support.  A super-nice guy tries to help me only to tell me (and I quote from the follow-up email), "Unfortunately, is not affiliated with ODU in any way. Therefore, we are unable to provide support for your issue." Turns out the ODU tech support department does not even know about DigitalODU and can only suggest I call the host in CA.
  • Look up the host only to find out that they do not offer technical support via phone, and I do not want to wait for an email response in 24 hours and lose my only work time today.
  • Decide that I have to be able to fix this on my own so return to FileZilla and comb through all of the files on my site.  Try 3 more before bingo!  I hit on the theme functions.php file that actually works for me!  Cheering myself out loud in an empty house.
  • Oooof ... for some reason this is still only fixing the homepage.  Search the folders again on FileZilla but get nothing.  Google an answer, get nothing except a response to a tangential issue that reminds me that I can edit code in Wordpress. org itself.
  • Go to the edit tab of my homepage and see something called "index.php."  Decide that maybe the index needs to know I have fixed my url since the error message for my sub-pages relates to the index.  Paste in same code I used to fix my homepage, and BAM!  My sub-pages are working!  I am doing a happy dance, and my cats are watching.
Select a Timeline Plugin
One of my goals for this site is to have an interactive timeline on which my students can put the texts we are reading.  I have used XTimeline for the past few years, but I have had two major problems with it.
  • The site is SLOW ... SO SLOW.
  • The timeline is totally separate from any site we use in class, so the students never refer to it unless I take them there. 
I want a timeline as part of my new site so my students can build on it readily and see it all of the time.  After trying out and not liking SIMILE Timeline (and realizing that it seems to be a timeline to show activity on your site), I find the Verite timeline, which has a Wordpress plugin.  This site makes it super easy to set it up.  So, now I have my timeline page ready to go ... I think.  It showed the example timeline right away, but when I deleted that and made my own entry, it has said "parsing data" ever since.  Gonna keep watching this.

Explore BuddyPress
I had installed BuddyPress already but had not yet done anything with it.  Today, I learned that before I can start a forum, I need to make a group.  So, I made a group that will be for all of my AP students, joined it, made my profile, and put on my first forum.  I think I am going to like Buddy Press even better than ning because you can make forums for specific groups.  In the free educational ning, there are no groups, so all forums are open to all.  This is a little confusing if you want only some people in a forum, as they have to scroll through all forums.  But with BuddyPress, you can assign forums to certain groups, so they show up on a user's page.  That is neat.  I got an idea from a classmate at DMAC about how to help make online discussions less overwhelming and more participatory ( I learned with my own online discussion experience for SDI last summer that it is very hard -- really impossible-- to read everything posted by everybody).  She has her students form small groups across sections -- say 3 or 4 students -- and these groups change periodically throughout the year.  That way, they can really read what everyone writes and integrate what they read into their own thinking.  I had decided I wanted to try this, and BuddyPress seems tailor made for it!

Test ThingLink's Collaborative Possibilities
My partner in play, Shelley Rodrigo, said she would try out adding links on my headers using ThingLink, and it worked!  There are so many possibilities now for me to build on this collaboration with my students.  Parsing this out is for another day ...

(Image Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)


  1. I take back what I said. You are totally capable of managing the entire site:) Having fun yet???

  2. Not only did I laugh out loud, I snorted. And please know it was in total sympathy. I always get funky looks from my husband who as at a desk across from me when I start making "woot" noises and pumping my fist/s in the air with success. I wish I could say it gets better; but, in reality, we just set ourselves high goals. Our various loved ones (two legged and four) learn to laugh at our various victory dances.
    Timelines: Here is a list of timelines that I've played with (some more than others). Right now I'm liking Timerime, Dipity (however, it appears the link isn't working right now), and Timetoast. Please note XTimeline is not even on my list anymore (I agree, it got VERY cranky). Thanks for sharing the other two, I'll add them to my list.
    Yes, yes, yes...that specific grouping ability is one of the reasons I like BuddyPress; glad you are digging it. And THANKS for inviting me to play with the header; VERY cool. It was actually similar to something I was teaching myself through Linda.
    You are rocking!!!!