Ritual, Manners, Branding, Identity

As I cast around for how I want this blog to develop, I’m constantly revisiting what impresses me about other individual blogger’s values. “Values” is not exactly the right term. What I’m talking about is more of an atmosphere that says “this is who I am.”

Even people who don’t talk about their private lives will behave in a way that reflects personal values. This builds an expectation of the personal version of what we’ve come to call corporate culture.

The scent trail of culture can incorporate signals of any number of qualities. Spam has a scent. So do creativity, integrity, really good sales, loves, hates, competitiveness, ruthlessness, generosity, reverence, obsession — you name it.

If all self promotion was as self centered as spam, the Internet would be one stinky place. Fortunately, a marketing promotion, with the right atmosphere, can be both magnanimous and encouraging.

Here’s one, simple example of how promotion can ripple.

Last month, I posted excerpts from my new book. I also wrote a glowing post about Garr’s new book on presentations. Guess what? My stats show that I sold more copies of Garr’s book than mine.

The truism of the web: people talking about you is far more effective than talking about yourself.

Seth Godin – That doesn’t make sense

I have a strong suspicion that self promotion on the web is more like self promotion in face to face relationships. Think about it. You’re at a dinner party and the person next door leans in and begins discussing their magnificence. Not cool. No matter how magnificent they are, not cool at all. In my mind’s eye I can already “see” bad breath end ego oozing from their vicinity like viagra stanking up a spam filter.

Getting in someone’s face about how great you are is ugly in any interaction. In print media the recipient can put the leaflet down or throw it away. On TV a really bad commercial means the channel gets changed. In forums and blogs, spammers get banned.

Really good forum-style netiquette plays pretty well in person.

To skip straight to the point, ya make like a friendly resource, behave like a trusted (bathed, fact-checked and spell checked) resource and show who you are, patiently, reliably and prolifically. And you follow through like you care about who is listening more than you care about your own “rank.”

Self promotion on the web has a scent of social ritual.

Ritual is one aspect of culture that I hadn’t considered in relationship to marketing until after reading about beer, ritual and branding in posts inspired by a Wall Street Journal article. They were writing about an un-promoted, un-labeled beer produced by Belgian monks. Though the beer articles passed my eyes before Thanksgiving, they haunted my Christmas and were still in the back of my mind when considering New Year’s resolutions. Ritual is a big deal this time of the year.

Besides being what people describe as an excellent beer, Westvleteren has developed into a cult brand based on its rituals. All of the items mentioned above are ritualistic. Make an appointment. Call the Beer Phone. Two-case limit. No label. A regular release schedule. A unifying belief system. However they’re defined and practiced, rituals embody culture. They are symbolic expressions of a company’s values.

Ben McConnell – A religious donation to an unlabeled beer

Symbolic expressions of values: what are they and where do they come from?

Here, I could postulate. I could make knowledgeable-sounding lists and generalizations. I’m not going to do that because what I really want to know is what the process of exploring meaning is like, for me, blogging and in my flesh and blood life. After exploring I’d feel more genuine about defining, though getting to finite definitions wouldn’t be the point: I want the broadening experience of a journey.

Anything less than that kind of intimate depth would, well, bore me. It would feel too plastic, not meaningful enough to mean I’ve really really done good. And because I haven’t dug in and explored meaning for myself, as a blogger, I don’t really know what it would look like as I evolve, I dig in, stretch out and take a look.

I have a slightly crazy idea.

What if I committed to making 100 meaning-of life posts?

I’d base it loosely around how Elizabeth stuff bisects Internet, to keep some semblance of relevance and because the Internet is mucho hot stuff.

The Internet is the hottest thing to happen to communication since movable type – the printing press, not the blogging software. The way it connects us across cultures and experiences is nothing short of revolutionary. Seven generations ago my ancestors were getting out of Virginia after the Civil War. Seven generations from now our descendants will be learning about the communication revolution of the early days of the Internet. The world will be a different place for them because of what we figure out today about the power of the link.

My hope is to arrive at how the thing called Internet bisects my values and things I enjoy that I’d like to do more of in everyday life. If I don’t find a destination, per se, that’s OK. The goal is to explore, joyfully and with dedication.

Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.

Mark Twain

Seeing With Your Spirit: Supporting Nonprofits

Here in the Northern hemisphere we’ve had the harvest and giving thanks season, and we’re winding up the shop for somebody else until you drop season.

This hustle bustle holly jolly season is also the darkest time of the year. Winter officially begins after solstice, the longest night with the shortest day. Culture, history and human nature have conjoined to make this dark, cold and sometimes miserable time about giving and reverence: about light on the eve of new beginnings.

Sharing the Light

Christmas is touted as being about many things, along with a potentially myopic idealization of family gatherings and encouragement to spend money on material goods. Idealization sucks. God forbid being alone or poor or sick at Christmas. God save us from darkness and lack of hope.

Hype and concrete reality don’t live well in the same universe, which can make the holiday season seem like there’s not room for the real lives and needs of real people.

Wherever hype doesn’t sync well with real life there is unease, insecurity.

Humans don’t do well with insecurity. Even when we are insecure we’ll deny it, trying to triangulate our positions based on a silver lining, as if we are wired for a cross-cultural multi-denominational qibla-like focal point for hope.

That silver lining’s stubborn and sometimes secret hope is where the commerce, the spiritual and the ritual of “Christmas” giving can meet up to make a real difference, a real celebration with real depth.

Reverence and Relationships

I believe that everyone needs extended family, in some way, probably in many ways. In a cooperative society we contribute to something beyond ourselves as a matter of course. We pay taxes. We keep each other safe by following traffic rules.

Paying taxes isn’t enough to spark up the light of giving in most people’s souls. Crusading for or against them, for a cause, maybe. What makes the difference is a sense of connection or contribution to a value, for one’s self or others or both.

Contributions accumulate. Value is passed.

Personal values, personal causes, personal networks are part of how we live. An interpersonal network or a cause-based contribution can build into becoming extended family.

Accumulating the Goods

Marketing is about getting the word out by connecting to the end user’s needs and wants. To push without sharing light in some way is something like evangelizing for taxes: not enough gist in “taxes” alone to spark up the target audience.

There’s got to be a light.

Maybe it’s light from the expectation of feeling smart for buying a particular car, or of having better cell phone service, or maybe it’s the light of hoping Grandma will like her new Christmas slippers. Really successful advertising cues in on this and connects in some way to the fact that part of the ROI of having a need met comes from ripples not directly connected to commerce. Part of the decision to purchase is a visualization of how life could be.

Giving goes farther than any budget.

Consider: anyone who involved in a publicly available media is sharing light in some way.

Sharing the Light: Taking Note of Nonprofits

I’m winding up this musing with an encouragement to get involved, up close and personal.

Start where you are. Use what you know to make a little joyful noise. Opportunities large and small are out there. Food bloggers all over the world just banded together with Chez Pim’s Menu For Hope to raise over $90,000 for the United Nations World Food Program. On a smaller scale, try simply blogging about someone you admire, or why you love what you do… or you could tag yourself for my tips for nonprofits meme.

Find a food bank. They’re everywhere, all the time, and their needs don’t slow down after Christmas dinner. Besides food and money, they may need time and drivers. While you’re on the phone with the food bank, ask where to take donations of pet food.

Extend your family. Make friends with someone who lives in an extended care center. Though nothing can replace a missing parent or grandparent, there are ways to bring delight into the lives of new aunties and uncles. Go for walks. Go out for coffee. Listen to stories. Learn to knit. Teach someone how to blog.

Adopt a school. Call one up and find out what they need. Guidance counselors sometimes keep a stash of books and whatnot that can be gifts for kids whose parents need some help. In my case (shameless plug) I have a special bond with a school, because my mom is the founder of Louis Braille School. If you want to relive a little Santa magic, have a listen to what happened when local radio came to call.

Spread light. Spread joy.

Bullet Point Challenge

Today I’d like to propose a little game of pin the bullet point on the blog.

Each of the lines at left below appeared in one of the lists that are so popular this time of year. Some are from full blown articles with much substance for thought and inspiration. Others are less serious.

If you read Search Marketing related feeds you’ll see some that have been much blogged about. All are from articles published within about a month, most from the last few days.

All made me smile or nod in agreement, or both.

How many of these points do you recognize? Can you match them up with their origin?

1. Topical Linking vs Strategic Linking

a. Ladies Who Launch

2. Be clear with errors

b. SEM Clubhouse

3. How to read minds

c. Stoney deGeyter

4. Follow Your Followers

d. Jessica Hupp

5. Always wear pants.

e. Seth Godin’s Blog

6. Choose your best you!

f. SEOmoz

7. Good for spiders, good for people

g. Collective Thoughts

8. This is just the beginning.

h. Lip Sticking

No peeking!

Scroll down for the answers.


1. Topical Linking vs Strategic Linking

g. 10 Reasons Why Social Media Marketing Sucks…
by Andy Beard for Collective Thoughts.

2. Be clear with errors
d. Holiday Cash: 50+ Ways to Optimize Your Website for Christmas Conversions
by Jessica Hupp

3. How to read minds
f. SEOmoz’s Unusual SearchTerms from the Month of November

a bit of fun from the SEOmoz blog

4. Follow Your Followers
b. 5 Quick Ways To Utilize Twitter in Your Online Marketing Strategies
from SEM Clubhouse

5. Always wear pants.
Let them focus on business – not your legs.

h. Jade Raymond is My Hero

on Lip-Sticking, by Guest Blogger Lena West

6. Choose your best you!
a. Have your best holiday yet!:Your 5 step plan to “go for the joy” and lose the stress this holiday season.
on Ladies Who Launch, by Coach Joelle

7. Good for spiders, good for people
c. 9 Paths of SEO Enlightenment, Part III
on Search Engine Guide, By Stoney deGeyter

8. This is just the beginning.
e. Learning From Flirting
from Seth Godin’s Blog

I Have a Crush On…

…my online friends and neighbors, with whom I’ve been blessed to share linky coolness.

When Kim Krause Berg tagged me for a round of blog tag I saw her link first in my WordPress dashboard. Such fun: my new blog’s first new incoming link.

I passed the torch to Miriam, Lee and Yura, all of whom decided to play along. Miriam’s post reminded me of something bird related, of course, which took me back ten years to when I was living in Indianola, a tiny and beautiful town on Puget Sound. I’d call “kitty kitty kitty,” from my back porch at the edge of woodsy paradise, and an owl would call “whohoo whohoo whohoo,” right back at me, night after night. If I called “kitty” once, the owl called “whohoo” once. Sweetness. It went on that way for weeks. Eventually he (she?) made friends with another owl and quit flirting with me. I loved hearing them whohoo to each other.

This week I spotted my first appearance in a blogroll. Bill Slawski has added me to his blogroll at the marvy and authoritative SEO by the Sea. I love knowing that Bill’s blog started off by announcing a gathering. Now that’s my kind of blogville.

And, I stumbled into where Kim had Sphunn my Tips for Nonprotits Meme. Note to self: get Sphinn into my feed reader or go there more often. So far, the meme has been picked up by Kim Krause Berg, Joe Dolson and Mike Cherim. I’ll be writing more about supporting nonprofits.

Another linky niceness came in yesterday, when Andrey Milyan posted Search Marketing Standard’s People of Wisdom. Aw shucks.

Food Blogs

Food can be and do so much. If I do more of these “I Have a Crush” posts you’ll see food here again. This week I’m crushing on the macaroons at Cuisine Campagne. Last months banana chocolate macaroons made me want to take a bite, but last year’s apple caramel macaroons are beauoooootiful, like poetry for eating. If I only read French!

My other favorite food blog of the moment is Indian Food Rocks, which happens to be the creation of a fellow Cre8asite Forums member. This month she’s contributed two prizes to Menu For Hope, an annual fundraiser hosted by Pim Techamuanvivit, on her food blog Chez Pim.

Five years ago, the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia inspired me to find a way to help, and the very first Menu for Hope was born. The campaign has since become a yearly affair, raising funds to support worthy causes worldwide. In 2006, Menu for Hope raised US$62,925.12 to help the UN World Food Programme feed the hungry.
Menu For Hope 4

Here’s how it works:

  1. Food bloggers donate food related prizes.
  2. Supporters get virtual raffle tickets from the donation site at Firstgiving, where they select their first choices from the prizes, one choice per $10 raffle ticket.
  3. As this works like a raffle, winning is not guaranteed. Check Chez Pim for raffle results on Wednesday, January 9
  4. Winners contact the bloggers who sponsored the gifts so that shipping can be arranged.

Getting bogged down by how to make things happen can be so very easy. I admire the way web2.0 functionality is helping to power Menu For Hope. Viva la ping!

WordPress Themes

I like WordPress. Part of why I like it so much is how easy it is to theme. And then there’s the interconnectedness of blogging, which leads me to the community-connecting power of the Internet.

Once in a while my fascination for the nuts and bolts of online communities bubbles up against some specific aspect of WordPress. This week I’m doing the WordPress cheer for a theme called Structure, by Justin Adlock. Though it is described as a magazine style theme, I could easily see Structure or something very like it as the home of an online community.

Check out the sidebar tabs. Nice use of sidebar real estate, and oh so configurable.


I know, I know, it’s only a widget, but I do so get a thrill out of seeing the faces of people who come through my site, and some of them have even joined my community.

And a Quote

Paraphrased from an X-Files episode about a member of the baseball team Roswell Grays.

…do you believe that love can make a man shape-shift?”
I’m not talking about women. I’m talking about love. Passion.
…do you believe that that passion can change your very nature?

WordPress Post Category Icons

When I started my blog last month I had planned to fairly quickly add three custom graphic elements. Category avatars were at the top of my list.

Category avatars are a nice way to automatically add visual interest to a blog that is mostly text. Author avatars help, but are not practical for a single-author blog where you’d see the same image over and over again.

These are from the graphics part last month’s wish list:

  • A nice feed icon
  • An avatar for each WordPress category
  • Think about holiday graphics

Looking back over my list, it occurred to me that I could do a quick temporary fix for all three with one operation. I can add code that associates an image with each category, and use holiday themed RSS feed icons for my images. The code part will be finished, and in a week or two I can make images to use long-term. All I need are some holiday themed feed icons that are large enough to work in an avatar-like space.

In my wanderings I found 12 free Christmas RSS feed icons that go with the dark red that I like. At about 100px square they’re the perfect size.

Adding the Category Icons

Because the_category_ID is depreciated, I don’t want to follow the same plan as in my post about adding WordPress post author avatars, where I used the author ID to select an image name.

According to WordPress, the_category_ID was replaced when posts gained the capacity for multiple categories.

Their example of how to replace the_category_ID will return the ID number of whichever category applies to the post you are viewing. If the post is in two categories, two ID numbers will be returned.

foreach((get_the_category()) as $category) {

    echo $category->cat_ID . ' ';
} ?>

Getting a list of categories associated with a post is not hard. What I wanted was one image associated with the specific category of the post. With the help of the WordPress Codex, these are the two solutions I came up with.

Category Images Using get_the_category

This one uses get_the_category and cat_name to show one image for posts that are associated with more than one category.

<?php $cat = get_the_category(); $cat = $cat[0];
 { echo '<img src="http://domain.com/wp-content/cat-img/' . $cat->cat_ID . '.png"
alt="' . $cat->cat_name . '" />'; } ?>


How does WordPress decide which category to use for the image, when there is more than one category associated with a post? In this case, the choice depends on what category name comes first in the alphabet. Check the list of category names in your WordPress post edit window and you’ll see that they are in alphabetical order, too.

This can be a little confusing, because permalinks don’t use the same method to name the directory associated with a category. When faced with a choice of more than one category, permalinks use the slug of the category with the lowest cat_ID number.

I want the image to match the directory.

Category Images Using elseif and in_category

Using in_category() and specifying which category goes with which image will give more control. Here I am manually choosing which image to display for the first two categories. In all other cases the image “3.png” will be used.

WordPress uses the category ID with the lowest number for both the category’s permalink directory and the image selected to associate with the post.


<?php if ( in_category(1) ) {
echo '<img src="http://domain.com/wp-content/cat-img/1.png" />';

} elseif ( in_category(2) ) {
echo '<img src="http://domain.com/wp-content/cat-img/2.png" />';

} else {
echo '<img src="http://domain.com/wp-content/cat-img/3.png" />';

There may be a more elegant way. I am at the beginning of my journey into php. If anyone would like to offer feedback, please comment. Note — actual php is not allowed by the comment form.

Next Steps

Because a feed icon feels like it should be a clickable path to a feed, the images should be linked to my RSS feed. I chose to wrap each image tag in a link to http://ablereach.com/feed/ instead of an individual category feed, because there may be significant gaps between posts in any given category: this is a single person blog.

Next, I edited my style sheet to add some styling to float my images to the left, add a little space around them and eliminates any border.

.icons {display:inline;
        float: left;
        border: none;
        margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;}


Then, all that remained was to add an alt to the images, a title to the anchors and paste the finished code into my theme. Happy, festive and finished.

Soooo, would anyone like to lay bets on my chances of finishing new category avatars before the jolly holly theme is hopelessly out of date?

One step at a time!


Real content posted regularly on a blog can get good exposure through feed readers, because in a feed reader the most recent posts move right to the head of the class. Are you a new site that bites badly at the heels of search result 101? That doesn’t matter to RSS readers like Google Reader, because their world is sorted in reverse chronological order. Once you’re in there, all it takes to get the top spot is fresh content.

Of course it’s not that simple. I’m not talking about search traffic, and I am convinced that over 90% of the world does not use feed readers or even know what they are. However, the 10% that does subscribe to feeds is potentially a very dedicated audience, the kind of people who would consider reading fresh material from something they like every single day. Think about that. Every single day. Every single day at spot numero uno, and all you need is good, fresh content for willing eyes.

Those willing eyeballs are the same kind of audience that won’t consider subscribing to a blog lacking some sort of original content, especially if it is not updated regularly. Without something good to read it doesn’t matter how on top of the Google/Yahoo/Ask heap you are. No results. Nada.

This is completely upside down from the old school SEO ideal of search ranking leading to return on investment, or even that ROI comes from search ranking plus a site that has the usability to convert. Once you make contact with real people via your feeds, for those people search engine rankings are virtually out of the loop.

Communication is personal. Day in, day out, the relationship-building and audience-considering that builds feed subscriptions is personal. Down the line, statistics may show big numbers, but no matter how big they are those numbers reflect one person at a time tuning in.

Seven Things Scraped Spamblogs Can’t Do

  • Get subscribers
  • Build trust
  • Inspire loyalty
  • Hold interest
  • Make friends
  • Hold a real conversation
  • Succeed at Value Blogging

Seven of the Reasons Real People Rock

Real people behind quality blogs, that is!

  • Smiling at 2am when seeing a repeat hit from Rimouski (you know who you are)
  • Their blogs can stir cravings for roasted mushrooms and improving the web in one fell swoop
  • A 14 word post can become a 47 comment conversation
  • You can tell that they think
  • And they make you think, about everything from getting return visits (from Rimouski) to ritual and beer
  • “They” becomes “we” as people come together around causes
  • They do the work, over and over again, to offer readers something good to dive into

Tips for Nonprofits Meme

I’m starting a round of blog tag in support of nonprofits that have an online presence. The idea is to write up one tip for how nonprofits can benefit from an online presence, and challenge others to do the same. Don’t worry about having the same tip as someone else, as long as your take on the tip adds something to the original idea.

This meme comes with four guidelines:

  1. Offer one tip
  2. Tag three people. Bonus points for including blogs that support or represent nonprofits.
  3. Please link back to this page. If you link, I will contact you about including your tip in a compilation of tips generated by this meme.
  4. Remember to pass on the guidelines

Here’s my tip:

Actions are Local, Content is Global

Let’s say your nonprofit weather proofs housing for low income people in Ruralville County, and only in Ruralville County. Your clients are primarily the elderly, single moms with newborns and disabled people who are living independently. Your locally focused content creation strategy may be very specific to your clients, your nonprofit and your county, but don’t stop there.

Weather proofing for low income groups is an international issue, and weather proofing in general has financial and environmental benefits world wide. Your nonprofit may be a small local enterprise, but it has expertise in weather proofing: why not try to rank for terms related to weather proofing?

Develop a resource, and use that resource to bring in traffic. Traffic can lead to donations and other kinds of support.

Be Creative

A section about weather proofing windows could feature a comprehensive guide that is offered as a for-donation download. The download could be co-branded between your nonprofit and a sponsor that markets windows.

Multiply by however many ideas you can come up with and repeat.

Here are my tags:

My first tag goes to Skitzzo of SEO Refuge, in honor of the nonprofits meme he started at the Refuge last April.

I’m also tagging Joe Dolson, accessibility ace, with a salute to our mothers, both of whom work in the nonprofit sector.

My last tag goes to Nancy Schwartz’s Nonprofit Marketing: Getting Attention. Nancy’s blog was a find via my own mom, a brand new blogger, and her quest to learn about using the Internet to help the Louis Braille School.

My last, last tag goes to the ever-generous Kim Krause Berg. I know, I know, that makes four tags, but I couldn’t start my first meme without tagging my friend and role model Miz Cre8pc.

Powerful Taglines

Why are you and why should I care?
Will I remember you tomorrow?

Strong branding can help on both counts, and brand is all about identity. Business name and tagline are a powerful pair that can help to plant an entity’s identity into the memories and imaginations of readers.

From Nancy Schwartz’s Getting Attention blog:

Does your organization’s tagline complement your org’s name, convey the unique value you deliver your community, and differentiate you from the competition?

Some Favorite Blog Taglines

Getting Attention
Helping nonprofits succeed through effective marketing

Getting Attention’s tagline says in a very straight forward way what the blog aims to do.

Google Blogoscoped
Contains 80% Google

The tagline says what the blog is about, conveying focus, while adding 20% wiggle room for the rumors and hints that abound in our industry. The “scope” in “Blogoscoped” is an inspired play on words: to scope out, put under a microscope, to examine trends on the horizon with a telescope…

Making sense of contextual advertising

This one just makes sense, pun intended. It says what the blog is about, while repeating Jennifer Slegg’s personal name and the blog title.

putting the rarin back in librarian since 1999

Librarian.net’s tagline tells you that the author’s personality is wrapped up in how she lives her librarianship. Plus, you know there’s commitment behind the rarin: 1999 is an eon in Internet years. For more on Jessamyn West, check out her Wired profile: Don’t Mess With Librarians.

A new chapter every day

“A new chapter every day” infers that there is a book, while telling you it is constantly updated, growing, and current. Notice how he doesn’t say “there will be” a new chapter, use or any sort of fuzzy future promise words. The SEObook tagline is a statement of fact.


Never Mess With a Woman Who Can Pull Rank
I like Sugarrae’s tagline because it uses spice and humor to flaunt a little girl power.

Hat tip to Nancy Schwartz. If you are a nonprofit you may participate in her Nonprofit Tagline Survey. She’ll share guidance on best practices, and tips for improving your tagline when the Getting Attention Tagline Report is published in early 2008.

I am a Person of Wisdom

It’s official, and SMS is sending me the t-shirt to prove it.

Congratulations! You are one of 10 lucky winners of the Search Marketing Standard Crossword Challenge. Please provide us with the URL of the website you would like us to link to and we’ll add you to the People of Wisdom list.

Your SMS t-shirt will be shipped within 2 weeks.

Thank you for your participation and I hope you enjoy the magazine.

Andrey Milyan

Search Marketing Standard

Yup, dear reader(s), I completed the crossword in the back of the Winter 07/08 Search Marketing Standard, sent in the secret keyword, and now my brandspankingnew blog is going to be on a List of Wisdom.

What fun! It’s not every day you get to be officially declared wise. Since I have a wise-crown at this moment, here are some wise-reasons why subscribing to a print magazine about a digital media is smRt.

  • Digital media is bubble bath 2.0 compatible. C’mon now, you know you want to unplug the phone, light a few candles, pour a glass of wine and experience reading out of the reach of incoming emails.
  • Spambots need not apply
  • The current issue is going to be current. No following a search result to find outdated information on a desserted site.
  • Print can help to make us online folk real, and real life has more built in reality checks for a deeper level of accountability than the purely digital. The kind of dweeb who launched death threats at Kathy Sierra would never be able to use a reputable print publication for the same means.
  • The focus is on the pull of the material, not the rock star or link bait of the moment. This is more true of magazines published less frequently than People or The National Enquirer. Quarterly publication can be a good thing.

Care to add more reasons? Comments are open!

Hat tip to SEO Scoop. Check out Dazzlin Donna’s tribute the SMS magazine crossword puzzle.

Adding Post Author Avatars

One of the neat things about WordPress is that a non-programmer can add personalized tweaks fairly easily, with a basic understanding of nesting. The trick is to find what something is called and simplify goals. Simplification is often a matter of not requiring special treatment for specific situations, unless that is something you already know how to do. Of course, once you know a thing it becomes infinitely simpler to accomplish.

In this case, I wanted avatar images to appear automatically at the top left of a multi-authored Kubrick-based theme. I wanted the “Pages” content to be associated with the site as a whole, not with any individual writer. Guest blog authors have their own WordPress user accounts. Some posts are attributed to site staff and can be represented by a logo. Already, that gives me a few places to start.

WHAT: an image

<img src="filename.jpg" />

When doodling about how to accomplish something, I like to start on familiar territory, as simply as possible.

To make it easier to keep track of my images, I created a folder called avatars, and placed it in the wp-content folder. Using <?php echo get_option('home');?> to define the root domain of the blog makes this bit of code reusable, should I want to use it for another site. The result is an as-yet undefined file name with a URL that looks like this:

<?php echo get_option('home');?>

WHO: post authors

Next I decided how to tell WordPress to display a specific image for each author. Because all authors have a user ID, which image to display can be taken care of by associating the image with the user ID of the current post’s author. I looked in the file “/wp-includes/author-template.php” to see how WordPress defines things author. This is also how I found the code I used to define my alt descriptions.

The result is a file name that looks like this:

<?php the_author_ID(); ?>.jpg

For this to work, the avatars folder I made in the last step needs to contain an image for each author ID that is named to correspond to that ID. The file name “1.jpg” would be inserted by WordPress when the person with ID number “1” is the author. You can find author ID numbers listed by user names, under the Users tab.

ALT: describe the image

Following the same logic, I chose to use the following to automatically create my alt descriptions:

<?php the_author(display_name); ?>

Easy peasy.

HOW: control image styling

Elizabeth AbleAdd a class to your stylesheet that will control and enhance image styling.

I like to float author avatars to the left and give them a little padding and a border. Below is the css I used for the image at left.

.avatar {display: inline;
         float: left;
         padding: 4px;
         border: 4px solid #efefe7;
         margin: 5px 10px 7px 0px;}


WHERE: choose placement in template files

The following will work in Kubrick-based themes, as well as many others. Your own theme may have design elements that require a little tinkering, or even have different template files.

To place an author avatar only in blog posts, add the code below into index.php. Do the same in page.php if you also want avatars on static Pages.

Add these lines just before <?php the_content.

<img src="<?php echo get_option('home'); ?>
/wp-content/avatars/<?php the_author_ID(); ?>.jpg"

class="avatar" alt="<?php the_author(display_name); ?>" />

And that’s it.

Hat tip to CodeHighlighter plugin by Wongoo Lee.