WordPress Plugin: Feed Anonymizer

A shout-out to a local developer who put together a simple WordPress plugin in between finishing his breakfast and getting his kids to the bus.

Feed Anonymizer plugin

As a co-founder and co-editor of chickenmonkeydog, I have a story to share with you. I want to share this story because it demonstrates a certain business savvy, a dedication to community and a professionalism that stands out from the ordinary.

On chickenmonkeydog.com, we publish anonymously. We think it’s part of our appeal. Our readers don’t know which of the writers shared which quirky observation. However, WordPress adds author information to the RSS feeds by default. Then Google Reader comes along (and perhaps others will in its wake) and picks that up, highlighting which author wrote a specific piece.

Historically, I’ve just hacked the WordPress core to override that functionality. Admittedly, that’s not an ideal approach, but it was for my own site and it was a single, simple hack.

Over time, my impromptu approach meant that I always had to remember to hack the core every time we update WordPress on the site. On at least a few occasions, I forgot to do so in a timely fashion, allowing our readers to circumvent our attempt at quirky anonymity.

This past spring, I emailed a web developer that I knew, asking if he’d be up for coding a plugin or an addition to the functions.php for me. I believe that my initial email made it clear that I was more than willing to pay for the help — I was not seeking a freebie or favor.

In looking at my sent items, I see that I sent the first email at 5:08 am. At 7:18 pm, I received an email from the developer with a link to a plugin on the WordPress.org repository:

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/feed-anonymizer/

My initial reaction was ‘How did I miss this plugin earlier?’ Then, after some gentle prodding from the web developer, I saw that the plugin has just been posted that same day and it was written by the developer. Whoah! I later learned that the plugin was actually written in between the time that the developer finished breakfast and saw his children onto the morning school bus. Double whoah!

In thinking about the story, I think we can draw a number of interesting conclusions:

  1. Good web developers are doers. They see a problem, they quickly assess a reasonable solution and they write the code.
  2. A quick favor is a solid business move. Since this plugin was created, I’ve involved this web developer on a number of small projects, and I continue to look for ways to involve him in others.
  3. The WordPress community is a giving one. As I mentioned above, I was prepared to pay for code. Although chickenmonkeydog.com does not generate income, I thought it fair to pay for web development to improve the quality of experience for our readers. That this web developer not only wrote the code for free, but did so in a single day, shows just how generous and giving those within the WordPress community can be.

By now, you’re probably asking yourself “Who is this famed web developer?” He is Owen Winkler, @ringmaster on Twitter and a regular contributor to the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup. In fact, you can watch Owen develop and launch a custom WordPress site in 30 minutes at the July 2013 meetup.

10 Things I Learned in the First Year of Running a WordPress Meetup

A look back at 10 things I learned in the first year of running the meetup.

Philly 'burbs WordPress Meetup

When I first started thinking about organizing the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup, I really had no idea what I might be getting myself into. Since those early days, first talking to Doug Stewart and Brad Williams, planning with Coreen Tossona, it’s been an amazing ride. I’ve met so many new and interesting people. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve certainly learned a ton about WordPress. It’s been a fantastic ride!

1. Be Prepared to Be Surprised

After 12 great WordPress meetups, I’ve learned to expect surprises at all times. Some wonderful surprises. Some less than desirable surprises. But always something. The best surprise has been the level of interest in the meetup and the support that the established WordPress community has lent in our first year. Many experienced WordPress designers and developers have spoken to our group, generously giving of their time and skills. On the downside, the difficulties of relying on volunteers and the vagaries of hosting free events has thrown the most challenges in my way.

2. Focus on Community is its Own Reward

In Philly, there is a shining light of how to build a successful and productive community: Alex Hillman. Although I’ve never met the Fearless Leader of Indy Hall, I follow him on Twitter and learn from him every day. His focus on community as a goal in and of itself has shown me the light. Giving to a community always brings return to those who give. It’s a wonderful dynamic. I know that I have reaped more than I have sown with this great group.

3. WordPress: Build It and They Will Come

WordPress is a hugely popular content management system – and deservedly so. As word of its flexibility and scalability has grown, more and more people have become eager to join WordPress meet-ups. All I needed to to do was announce the new Philly ‘burbs WordPress meetup, and people started showing up. There is no need for any special event planning skills — just issue the call and people will join in.

4. Involve Others and Others Will be Involved

Speaking in front of a crowd is not something a lot of people do regularly. By providing a welcoming and pleasant audience, our meetup group has encouraged a wide range of people to speak about WordPress, plugins, fonts and more. The friendliness of the group has made it easy (well, easier anyway) for me as an organizer to find new speakers. Whenever I asked a member to speak about a topic — any WordPress topic — unfailingly I received a ‘yes’ reply. We’ve had so many different people — men, women, older, younger, developer, designer, blogger and marketer — deliver great presentations. To see the community volunteering to share the load has been very cool.

5. Nothing is Free

While attending our meetup has been free to all comers, I’ve come to understand more thoroughly the phrase that “nothing is free”. I have a new found respect for those who expended their own energy and time to organize the many free events that I’ve attended over the years. Organizing a free monthly meeting that offers value to attendees takes a lot of work. I now understand that better than I ever have before.

6. The WordPress Community is AWESOME

I’ve talked about the special and generous nature of the WordPress community. My experiences at WordCamp Philly 2012 really cemented my deep appreciation of the WordPress community. That Matt Mullenweg would take time on his Sunday to travel to another city to hang out with a bunch of people who like the software he started speaks volumes. Closer to home, the Philadelphia WordPress Meetup Group, and its organizers, have offered much insight, support and friendship in helping us get off the ground.

7. Hidden Gems Are Everywhere

Never judge a book by its cover, and never, ever, judge a meetup attendee by their appearance. I like to think I keep an open mind, but running this meetup has pushed me further. Knowledge and generosity is hidden behind the faces and smiles of many a person. I’ve been surprised time and time again by what I have been able to learn from the most unlikely of sources. It really has been a case of “treat every stone as a diamond”.

8. Get Ready to Push Yourself

Organizing a monthly meetup about any topic is not easy. Delivering a consistently valuable, enjoyable and dynamic experience takes a lot of time and energy. Paying attention to the little details requires a committed focus. And that’s just the start. I’ve been forced to learn more about WordPress. To make sure that each meetup is as good as it can be, I’ve been forced to work harder and longer than I expected. That’s not a complaint; I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. (Well, almost every minute …)

9. It’s Not About Money

Open source software and GPL aside, WordPress meetups should not be about the money. At our meetup, we deliberately avoid the sales approach: speakers are allowed only a minute or two to introduce themselves and their work. Yet, we meet to discuss WordPress and to create a network that many of our group use for business. By focusing on community, sharing of knowledge and experience and building a strong network, our meetup grow has generated financial value for some members. Although I don’t have any firm numbers, I know anecdotally that a number of people in our group have worked together as a result of coming together through our group.

10. Consistency is Key

Anyone who knows me fully appreciates that I am by no measure an event planner. Getting it right takes a lot of focus from me. I struggle with it. Yet, I’ve learned that delivering consistency is key to a successful community building effort. Not boring repetitiveness but a level of predictably that allows members of our meetup group to develop a comfort level in our surroundings.

Advanced Custom Fields: A Designer’s Approach

Slides and thoughts from my presentation about the Advanced Custom Fields plugin for WordPress.

Liam speaking to the Philadelphia WordPress Meetup

On Thursday, 07 February, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak to the Philadelphia WordPress Meetup about Advanced Custom Fields: A Designer’s Approach. I walked the group through the process of using the Advanced Custom Fields plugin on a WordPress install.

My slides from the presentation are below.

That WordPress Community

Although it won’t be a surprise to anyone within the WordPress community, I have to say that I was blown away by the receptiveness of the audience. It was my first attempt at delivering a technically-minded “how to” presentation. Rather than pour disdain on my trepid steps to improve my code-knowledge, the audience was supportive and respectful of “a designer’s approach”. In retrospect, I should have expected nothing less from the WordPress community.

Yet I think it says a lot about the community when it is so welcoming and supportive of different professional approaches and backgrounds.

Photo credit: Andy Christian. Used with permission.

10 People I Met or Got to Know Better at WordCamp Philly 2012

Highlighting just a few of the wonderful people I encountered at WordCamp Philly 2012.

Liam dressed in costume for WordCamp Philly 2012

For the second year in a row, WordCamp Philly has blown me away with the insightful presentations, the dynamic and friendly people and the shared knowledge of the WordPress community. From Friday evening to Sunday evening, I spent the weekend meeting, chatting and hanging out with some wonderful people from around Philadelphia and across the USA. I met new faces and learned more about others whom I had previously met.

For me, WordCamp Philly is about people. If I just wanted knowledge about how to create a Custom Post Type or which app is best for coding, I would have sat at home and Googled those topics. I wanted to meet and enjoy the company of people who make WordPress what it is today … and WordCamp Philly 2012 did not disappoint.

What follows is a list of ten (or slightly more than 10) people whom I met or got to know a bit better over the weekend. The list is presented in chronological order as I encountered or spent time with them. Of course, I met many more people than I could list here, so if I left someone off, I do apologize!

1. Brad Williams, Doug Stewart, Anthony Bubel and April Williams

While the names above are for four people, they acted as one in bringing together a fantastic WordCamp yet again. Brad, Doug Anthony and April put in a tremendous amount of energy, time and passion into creating a fantastic weekend-long WordPress-focused event that was exciting, engaging, educational and more. Brad is online at strangework.com, Doug calls literalbarrage.org home, Anthony posts photos at anthonybubel.com and April blogs at twoandthezoo.com.

2. John Kleinschmidt

The Director of Technology Development at CURE International, John and I met while traipsing our way around Old City, Philadelphia, hearing scary ghost stories about the haunting of historic places. Although I didn’t get to hear his presentation, I understand that it was outstanding. What he is doing with WordPress is very cool and worth learning about. John blogs at http://resplendentdev.com.

3. Christina Strommer

I met Christina through a number of Meetups, but it was only at WordCamp Philly that I got to spend real time with her. She’s a friendly and delightfully knowledgeable designer from greater Philadelphia. Hanging out with and chatting with her on the dev day was really fun. You can follow Christina at @jamminpsu.

4. Tracy Levesque

A designer and co-owner of Yikes, Inc., Tracy delivered a top notch presentation about WordPress’ Custom Post Types. Her presentational style was perfect: knowledgeable, laid-back, easy going. I learned a lot from Tracy at WordCamp Philly.

5. Tin Pham

Hitting WordCamp Philly to represent WP Engine, Tin Pham was yet another example of why WP Engine continues to get my vote for outstanding web host. Articulate and genuinely interested in learning my thoughts on what WP Engine could to do improve, Tin spoke with me at length about the company, its history and its plans for continued growth. His shared insight encouraged me to put even greater faith in WP Engine. Tin Pham blogs at http://www.hostblanket.com. He’s on Twitter at @tinner10tin.

6. Dre Armeda

The CEO and Co-Founder of Sucuri, Dre Armeda is nothing if not an expert in website security. His know-how for keeping WordPress websites, and other CMS-driven sites, safe and secure is second to none. On top of that, he is a very kind, gregarious and funny guy. I was glad to have had the chance to meet and get to know him a bit over the weekend. Check out Sucuri online at www.sucuri.net.

7. Krystal Knapp

When Krystal popped into the Happiness Bar at WordCamp Philly, I was lucky enough to be able to help her out. Then we spoke about her news site, Planet Princeton. It was really interesting to hear of an individual journalist working hard to progress a sustainable business model for covering local news, which in Krystal’s case is Princeton, NJ.

8. Clarissa Peterson

A gifted business card recycler, Clarissa was a real hoot. She’s intelligent, free-spirited, analytical and just good fun! I enjoyed hanging out with her at Dev Day. She really is everyone you ever need to know. Only the highway authorities might know where she is now, but you can find Clarissa online at clarissapeterson.com.

9. Justin Sternberg

I was lucky to grab a seat next to Justin on a bench in the beer garden outside Barcade. We got to talking about being designers who code. We had a great conversation about how we progressed from being just designers to being designers who code for WordPress. It was a short but wonderful exchange of creative philosophies. Learn more about Justin at http://about.me/jtsternberg.

10. Matt Mullenweg

When I arrived at the dev day session, I was delighted to hear the news that Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress, would join us for the session. He’s a real inspiration for me — hugely successful, but still so down-to-earth, so committed to giving to and supporting the community and so interested in the greater good. It was a real pleasure to meet him and to hear his thoughts on the future of WordPress and other web technologies. You can find Matt online practically everywhere, but he has a blog at ma.tt.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to Matt from Downingtown, PA, and his friend, Cameron. I bumped into these guys at Barcade and we got to talking about WordPress, design and all points web. They were great fun — and Matt had a great mustache in the making. (You can see Matt in the bottom right corner of this photo.)

Lastly, if you’re wondering about the photo at the top of this point, I delivered my own presentation in costume as directed by the organizers of WordCamp Philly. I was dressed as the impeccable Dr. Watson, Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation.

Speaking at WordCamp Philly 2012

A preview of my presentation for WordCamp Philly 2012, which runs on 20th-21st October 2012 … in Philadelphia (Duh!)

WordCamp Philly 2012

In a very exciting turn of events, I am going to be presenting at WordCamp Philly 2012 later this month. In a presentation entitled Designing for WordPress, I’ll be speaking about what designers need to know about how WordPress works as they encounter the content management system for the first time.

Here’s the presentation description, as listed on the WordCamp Philly 2012 website:

As web designers and print designers encounter WordPress for the first time, it can be a challenge to understand how WordPress works. Yet, it is so important for designers to know the system for which they are designing. This presentation will address key points for helping designers understand the basic functionality and structure of WordPress — so that they can design truly beautiful and functional sites that run well on WordPress. This presentation will aim to help designers understand what developers do to get their designs live on a WordPress site.

As I clicked the “publish” button for this post, there were still tickets available for Saturday’s sessions.

Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup is off and running

Detailing the successful launch of the new Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup.

Philly 'burbs WordPress Meetup

On Wednesday night, the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup held its Kick-Off Meetup in the friendly settings of the Sly Fox in Phoenixville. With more than 20 group members attending, the first session was a vibrant and exciting evening of shared ideas on how the group wanted the meetup sessions organized and formatted. The mix of designers, developers, bloggers, writers, marketing consultants and self-acclaimed “WordPress pre-novices” made for an interesting discussion about what WordPress topics really mattered to them.

The Amazing WordPress Community

Although I’ve been working with WordPress since 2007, it was not until 2011 that I attended my first WordCamp. Since heading to Philly WordCamp, my eyes have been opened to the wonderfully supportive and open community that is WordPress. An open source powerhouse, WordPress has a refreshing following of people who are eager to help out fellow WordPress-o-philes in any way that is needed. Maybe it’s the leadership that Matt Mullenweg provides; maybe it’s the fact that WordPress is open source. I am not sure. What I am sure about is the sense of commitment and involvement that so many people within the WordPress community offer to fellow WordPress designers, developers, themers, bloggers and more.

That sense of community was certainly prevalent at Wednesday’s Kick-Off Meetup. There was a real vibe to the conversation — a desire to put together something amazing that would be as beneficial to as many people as possible. I certainly felt the mood and was really pleased to be a part of it.

Next Steps

As my co-organizer, Coreen Tossona, and I gather our notes and work quickly to get the next Meetup scheduled, we were both heartened by the willingness of the group to engage in and support dynamic and flowing conversations about WordPress.

At this point, we are working to get the next meetup organized for first half July. Keep an eye on the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup site for further details.