Making Vacations

Each weekend a new “Brunch” post will feature thoughts about balancing family and self care with working in an always-on Internet environment. This edition is by Elizabeth Able, owner of AbleReach.


Elizabeth AbleWhat can you do after your Broadband goes on the fritz, hosting is wonky, a hard drive takes a final bow and the neighborhood’s electricity goes out just before saving a nice, long article? Playing catch-up is a given, but what about the headaches, the sleepless nights and that quicksand dread when the next set of hassles hits?

For one thing, I’ve been more purposeful lately about planting good things where I will naturally experience them on a regular basis. Relief is sometimes active, sometimes passive, and I can help with both.

Beauty can Bring Peace

I have fuchsia baskets hanging outside my bathroom window, by which I inevitably need to sit, and where I will inevitably look. Humming birds like the fuchsias – aren’t humming birds magical?

Bird Watching with Otter

My cat has figured out that a trip to the bathroom is an opportunity to bird-watch with Mom. Now he chases me into the bathroom and perches on the window ledge, having his cat fantasies about the birds. A happy cat is fun to watch. I like that I don’t need to make my little birdwatching moments happen. I stacked the cards in my favor and now I just need to remember to be happy.

Stretching is Healthy

The Mayo Clinic has an illustrated series of sensible stretches you can do in your office. I like to get up and turn around before stretching – a little odd, but it seems to make my muscles be more willing to stretch.

Walking Time is Good Thinking Time

I like to go for walks in between tasks. Tip: tuck a small notebook in your pocket, because a change of pace can help turn problems into a flow of ideas.

Dance Makes You Breathe and Feel

Do you work alone at home? What a great opportunity for dancing like a fool! Disclaimer – these examples look more foolish when I do them.

Sometimes I unwind the stress by sort of vogue-ing while I stretch, or by flat out pretending I can dance up a storm. (And my daughter thought that living with my singing was a challenge!)

Singing is Good Medicine

Breathing deeply changes your chemistry by getting more oxygen in the blood… and there’s nothing like a sing-along with dangerous Nan McGrew to change one’s perspective.

Why, I pull a train right off the tracks
And for perfume, I use shellac
When mad dogs bite, I bite ’em back
Grrrr! ‘Cause I’m dangerous Nan McGrew!

Mini Vacations Freshen Outlook

Everything I’ve described above can be a mini-vacation, but to get some of the same benefits you don’t need to stretch, dance, sing, garden or take the time for a walk. Relaxing takes the edge off, and doesn’t have to take long.

Have you ever had one of those days where “a moment’s peace” seems to be too much to ask, and the logical truth is that problems won’t be resolved quickly or easily? A mini vacation may hit the spot. Close your eyes and relax, breathing slowly and deeply, and visualize… nothing. Or visualize a meadow or a beach, whatever will give you a moment’s peace. A few moments of peace can change your outlook, maybe not 100%, but certainly enough to sidestep a head-on collision with full-on frustration.

A few minutes later, take another mini-vacation. Practice will shorten your inner commute to a delicious pocket of no-strings calm.

Wait Just a Minute!

Don’t even tell me you skimmed to the end without checking out the song and dance links. Back up and click on some joi de vie. Verve is good for you.


When I’m not writing or experimenting with WordPress I like to help to moderate at Cre8asite Forums, admire my plants and Stumble like a fiend.

Posted in Brunch | Comments Off on Making Vacations

Hard Drive Crash

On Monday I had an emphatic series of visitations from the Blue Screen of Death. The hard drive is toast and I’m not so sure about the future of the computer.  Talk about expensive and irritating!

Needless to say, this is a great time to toss me a $10 tip via my scratchback widget, or share any creative moola-getting ideas. I’m always up for a little marketing fun. :-)

On the bright side, Mom Necessity has given me some nifty ideas for this weekend’s brunch post.

I need a few more days to sort things out, and then I will be back to blogging like a (happy) madwoman.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Hard Drive Crash

Hello May 31st!

I thought I’d better let everyone know that I’m putting my twice-a-week WordPress project on vacation until Thursday.

You see, I’m busy moving to a new host – yipeee!

I’ll be back in a few days, reloaded with promised humor. In honor of brunchy balance, I may also give myself a couple days off – what a concept.

I feel like I did not give enough this this week, because I had plans I didn’t finish. Looking back, I have to give myself credit. I had more server outages, after all.

Even so, I did the big stuff. I feel just great about WordPress Wireframes, and my Big List of Green Web Hosts is a resource I am satisfied with and can build on.

I am eager to get to the next steps.

I can’t stop from thinking thinking thinking, and there are some ideas I’m excited about and have been working on, and, goodness me, I have to stop myself, or I’ll enthuse myself straight past that break I wanted. Must… resist… temptation.

Heh. The temptation passed.

Was that a tease, or self-preservation?

Whatever you say, dears. :-)

Life is good.

Posted in The Meaning of Life | Comments Off on Hello May 31st!

Drive, Balance and Business at Home

Each weekend a new “Brunch” post will feature thoughts about balancing family and self care with working in an always-on Internet environment. This edition is by Rachel Goldstein.


Rachel's StumbleUpon AvatarAs a parent who runs a successful Internet business, you probably assume that I have no free time to spend quality moments with my 4 young children. I have to admit that sometimes it is a struggle to place my priorities with my children, as I really enjoy the work that I do. As the bread-winner and the caretaker of my family, I am being pulled in both directions. When my priorities are out of place, I snap out of it by simply reminding myself that I started this business 10 years ago so that I could stay home with my kids. My solution to balancing my career-life with my family-life is a bit unorthodox, but it works very well for me and my family.

Four Happy Kids

In order to be able to work full time for my business and be there emotionally and physically for my kids, I changed my schedule drastically to fit my family’s demands. Two of my kids are in school and two of my kids are still at home with me during the day. Every morning, after I get my older kids off to school and my younger kids dressed and fed, then I set 30 minutes to an hour aside for myself to answer morning emails (sometimes there are 100s). I put off writing back to emails that don’t seem urgent. After that beginning block of time, I dedicate 45 minutes out of every hour to spend time with my kids (for every hour they are awake). The other 15 minutes of every hour is put towards answering emails or getting smaller business tasks completed.

When I spend time with my kids, I make the most of this special time together. We sing songs, read books, tell stories, and play games with each other. During the kids’ afternoon nap and after bedtime at night, I get the bulk of my work done. I normally don’t get to sleep until 2 or 3 AM, depending on how much work I need to get completed. And if I can’t get what I want done, I have to just relax and try to get it done tomorrow. I have to remember that there isn’t a boss breathing down my throat to get the work done, it is only my inner drive that is pushing me so hard. I know that I need more sleep than I am currently getting, but this is my way of balancing work and motherhood at the same time.

My kids know that they are much more important than my work and that they will always come before the business. However, the older kids are also starting to understand that I have to work in order to pay the bills. I try to make every bit of time with my children special, and every chance I get I try to turn every day trivialities into a silly joke to make them laugh. People are always mentioning to me that they have never seen kids who smile as much as mine, and even though this is partly genetics to blame (I smile a lot too), I would like to think that it is also because I am doing something right.


Thank you, Rachel!

Rachel Goldstein is a graphic designer, web designer and muralist whose hard work created a business that allows her to stay home with her kids. After a few years, her husband Josh was able to quit his full-time job and work on the family business from home as well. Together, they run more sites than you can shake a stick at, including these familiar resources:

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Big List of Green Web Hosts

Welcome to the first edition of my Big List of Green Web Hosts. There are 22 here, and I am sure there are more out in the world that can be added later. I only included hosts with English language pages and specific information about what they are doing to be “green.”

I will be updating and fine tuning this list as I get more information. As some point I’ll be putting together definitions for some terms like carbon neutral, carbon credit, green credit, carbon offset, off-grid, carbon fixing and possibly more – doesn’t seem fair to feed nonspecific information to a nerdly audience. Also in the works are interviews with some of the providers.

Here they are, 21 green web hosts in alphabetical order:

  1. Athenaeum Ecological Hosting offers 100% green hosting by using energy credits to buy wind generated power. Hosting is accomplished through a solar powered data center in California. Their offices are in West Yorkshire, in the UK.
  2. A2 Hosting buys carbon credits from Carbonfund.org to offset their server emissions. Headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  3. Acorn Host is a reseller, which means that they buy their hosting from a larger organization. They also buy carbon credits and give discounts to nonprofits. Headquarters in Portland, Oregon.
  4. AISO offers 100% solar powered hosting, from energy that they produce themselves. Uses energy efficient servers. In 2006 AISO was featured in Inc. Magazine’s Top 50 Green Companies. Located in Romoland, California, East of Los Angeles
  5. CWH, Canada Web Hosting, saves 90% on electricity costs by using Lake Ontario for a Deep Water Cooling system., with the help of the Toronto-based energy corporation Enwave. Facilities in Toronto, Canada
  6. Dreamhost calculates all possible environmental impact and then buys Renewable Energy Credits from ecologically sound power sources such as wind, solar, biogas or geothermal, as well as Emission Reduction Credits. Located in Claremont, California.
  7. EcoSky is a solar energy producer. Their offices are partially powered by renewable energy, through their own solar power as well as purchased renewable energy credits. In case of shortfall they purchase wind-powered energy credits. Uses energy efficient equipment. Located in Portland, Oregon.
  8. Go Green Hosting uses green certificates and “other renewable energy technologies,” such as wind power. Located in north eastern Oklahoma, USA.
  9. Green WebHost offers a solar powered option. They operate a virtually paperless office and are also an ISP. Aims to be better than carbon neutral. Plants a tree for each new broadband and web hosting customer. Located in the UK, though the solar-powered data centers are in the US near Los Angeles.
  10. Greenest Host uses 100% solar power, with propane and conventional on-the-grid energy to power their backup systems. “Our servers are located at a state-of-the-art data center just 90 miles northeast of San Diego in Romoland, California.” Greenest Host is located in San Diego, CA.
  11. Host Papa purchases enough wind and solar green energy certificates to completely offset greenhouse gas produced by their electricity providers. Located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  12. Ilisys is provides 100% carbon neutral hosting through solar and wind energy credits. Also plants trees to offset unavoidable pollution such as commuting by staff. Recently bought by MYOB. Offices and datacenter in Perth, Australia.
  13. Iron Mountain produces their own solar power, though I’ve read elsewhere that they also purchase energy credits. Located in Ponoma, California.
  14. Lightbeing Creations uses 100% renewable energy. They use a 100% solar powered datacenter in California, and have wind-powered offices in Trowbridge, between Bristol and London.
  15. pair Networks is carbon-neutral through green a carbon credit program. They also operate an energy efficient office that is an exceptional-sounding healthy working environment. Offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  16. Planet Mind uses solar and wind power, “provided by a grid-intertied solar array.” Office located in Nederland, Colorado.
  17. Rackspace buys green energy credits and is investing in building green dataservers. Rackspace in London is carbon neutral through tree planting, and has green plans for a campus in San Antonio and a datacenter in England. Rackspace’s datacenters are located in San Antonio and Dallas in Texas, Herndon Virginia, and London, with offices in San Antonio and London.
  18. Solar Energy Host is off-grid and 100% solar powered – no carbon credits. They use a data center located in Romoland, California. Offices are in British Columbia, Canada.
  19. SustainableWebsites is 100% carbon neutral through purchased RECs (Renewable Energy Credits) from the Mountain View Wind facility in San Gorgonio Pass, California. Profits from web hosting services are re-invested in SustainableMarketing, a unique community giving green entrepreneurs advice and tools needed to bring their marketing to a professional level, in an ethical and sustainable manner. Uses a datacenter in Dallas, Texas, and another in New Jersey. Offices in San Francisco, California.
  20. WebCtel is a small solar energy producer. They use their energy to power two services: web hosting and an ISP. Located in Cambridge, MA.
  21. WebHostingBuzz is carbon neutral, through tree plantation projects, in partnership with the International Tree Foundation. Headquartered in Delaware, USA

Got suggestions and additions? Please leave a comment here or contact me.

Posted in Green | Comments Off on Big List of Green Web Hosts

Developing a WordPress Wireframe

The WordPress Default theme can provide a jump start for developing a WordPress wireframe. Because it has a good selection of template tags already worked into the theme, a quickie clickable prototype blog theme is only a few simplifications away. After the first WordPress wireframe, creating alternative wireframes from the original is a simple process.

What is a Wireframe?

A web site wireframe is the simplest possible map of a new site design. At the most basic level, a set of napkin drawings can be enough of a wireframe to get you started. For more complex sites, a clickable wireframe can become a proving ground for how to integrate a flow chart of user interaction goals into a web design.

The more fine tuning you can do in a wireframe, the less repetitive reworking will be needed down the line. Wireframes can:

  • Save time – wireframes can save hours, days, weeks, of frustrating re-working. Some web developers credit wireframes with a 30-80% time savings.
  • Provide a spatial orientation – without preconceived limitations, ideas may flow more freely.
  • Focus on functionality – avoiding distractions such as color choice, until surface-level branding ideas are finalized.
  • Help prioritize work flow by leaving underlying technical complexities until establishing a solid foundation
  • Separate different kinds of tasks – prevent the development of graphics, programming and guiding user traffic patterns from competing with each other

Exactly is how all of this possible? Imagine wanting to reduce the height of WordPress Default’s header image, putting in the time to edit functions.php, style.css, and kubrickheader.jpg. A few days later someone has a brilliant idea that requires small though time consuming adjustments to everything you just did. A day after that everything needs to be changed again, because the sidebar will be a different shape. If those decisions had been made at a wireframe level, reworking functions.php and kubrickheader.jpg could have been done only once or twice.

Some First Steps For Wireframe Design

  • Doodle
    Make simple drawings of web site plans, before changing anything that seems like it will be time consuming or complicated. Your perception of what that means will vary. Sometimes I’m more comfortable doing my visual thinking with CSS, and sometimes there is nothing like a set of “napkin drawings” to show me the potentials of a design idea or the errors of my ways.

  • Flow chart it
    Map out at least two possible user paths – one from a visitor’s perspective, and one that encompasses the site owner’s goals. What will users need, and what do a site’s owners hope they want?

  • Share or step back
    Seek fresh eyes, yours or a team member’s. Implementation after input is less painful than re-tooling ideas that are already developed.

  • Back up existing work
    Save potentially reusable code and de-stress mistakes. Back up any pre-existing theme as well as incremental changes as the wireframe develops.

  • Plan to comment liberally
    Oftentimes starting from scratch is more efficient. However, if I am starting with an existing theme that is not chaos incarnate, I like to comment my additions to any given line of a stylesheet with this:
    /* added */.

My Method: first steps for a wireframe based on WordPress Default

I want to free the eye from pre-concieved ideas and free myself from anything that would add work to making simple changes in a page’s structure. I also want to remove distractions. Any tendency for the eye to land on an area should be determined by where the strength of the design and the content meets predictable user behavior – consider eyetracking.

To accomplish this, I’m removing images, outlining areas with a defined width, and then adding a pale background to any content-defining areas that aren’t already outlined. Most of this can be done in style.css, but because of the way WordPress Default is set up there are a few special touches.

Wherever I wanted to change a line, I commented out the entire line. Where needed I added a second line with the comment “added.” I’m commenting out instead of removing, because I may want to backtrack or re-use what was originally there.

Removing Images

Taking out background images instantly frees me from needing to re-size them while futzing with resizing content blocks.

The WordPress Default theme includes six images, controlled with three methods:

  • Controlled with style.css:

    • kubrickheader.jpg – the header image space, found in #header
    • kubrickbgcolor.jpg – a 60px square tile of background color, controlled by the body tag
    • kubrickfooter.jpg – the footer background, controlled #footer
  • Enhanced by functions.php:

    • kubrickheader.jpg – functions.php builds custom coloring for Default’s header image
  • Inserted by header.php:

    • kubrickwide.jpg – background for centered single post pages without a shaded sidebar
    • kubrickbg-ltr.jpg or kubrickbg-rtl.jpg – background for left-to-right or right-to-left text, with sidebar.

Step-by-step

  1. Go to Design > Theme Editor, then choose style.css and comment out the lines of style.css that mention kubrickheader.jpg, kubrickbgcolor.jpg and kubrickfooter.jpg.
  2. Remove custom coloring by going to Design > Header Image and Color, then choose Select Advanced > Select Default Colors, and Update Header.
  3. From Design > Theme Editor, choose header.php, then look for and comment out the following code. I used both html and php comments.
     
    <!--
    <style type="text/css" media="screen">
    
    /*
    <?php
    // Checks to see whether it needs a sidebar or not
    if ( !empty($withcomments) && !is_single() ) {
    ?>
    	#page { background: url("<?php bloginfo('stylesheet_directory'); ?>/images/kubrickbg-<?php bloginfo('text_direction'); ?>.jpg") repeat-y top; border: none; }
    <?php } else { // No sidebar ?>
    	#page { background: url("<?php bloginfo('stylesheet_directory'); ?>/images/kubrickbgwide.jpg") repeat-y top; border: none; }
    
    <?php } ?>
    */
    </style>
     
    -->
     

Adding Borders

Adding borders keeps me sane – I sometimes wish the rest of life was that simple! Once I knock in some borders I know at a glance where one item bumps up against another, and when switching between browsers I can see differences in display instantly. Borders do add to the width of a box, making for a slightly tighter space that can bump around the contents, but at the wireframe stage seeing that kind of thing is an advantage in itself.

Going back to style.css, I added borders to anything with an absolute width. Every border is a slightly different color. I like using pastel borders because they encourage my eye to wander. A mixture of dashed and solid borders helps me sort out where one box ends and another begins.

Here’s an example:

 
#footer {padding: 0;
	margin: 0 auto;
	width: 760px;

/* added */ border: 2px dashed #ffc06d;
	clear: both;}
 

Background Colors

I like to start with all white backgrounds, with an exception of a pale background color to indicate content chunks that are not defined by width. Whatever color I make an area in a preliminary mockup should not look like it will have an impact on user behavior. Having specific places for specific goods comes later.

After making the header background white, text that appears in that area will need to be something besides white.

Next Steps

Now that you have a fresh, blank slate, make a backup copy and think of three things:

  • Width – The displayed width of a site, from a user’s point of view, determined by a user’s screen resolution and whatever else they may like to have open alongside your site.
  • Height – The distance between the top of the user’s view and how far down they can see into your site before scrolling. Users should have a sense of what each individual page is about, before scrolling. Scrolling is not bad. Leaving users at loose ends is bad. Web design layouts should set up the presentation of web content in a way that orients users before scrolling.
  • Hooks – In the first fifteen seconds of looking at a page, what will make the reader want to stick around?
Posted in Theme Remodel, WordPress | 1 Comment

My May 27th Coming Soon List

I have a busy week coming up here!

WordPress Wireframes

After taking a break from posting for Memorial Day yesterday, I’ll have the first-of-week WordPress post ready for you later on today. I’m writing about wireframes. There are two basic ways to remodel an existing WordPress theme. You can apply bandaids, one fix at a time, re-doing previous work to fit new changes, or you can make a wireframe and save likely reworkables for after a foundation structure is in place. Pardon me, but re-doing the same thing over and over again is boring as hell. I choose wisely: I choose wireframe.

Green Hosting

My quest for green web hosting continues! This week I’ll be sharing a Really Big List of about twenty “green” web hosts. At first, it seemed wrong to apply the same “green” label to two hosts if one plants a tree for every new server, and another uses solar energy to meet all of its own power needs. Eventually, hey, I relaxed a smidge. It’s all good, and change is a process. They get to define themselves, and I’m throwing them into one big list.

Also in the works is more on green hosting, and a list of special offers, though that may take me until next week. Gathering information from the hosts is turning into a drawn out process, both because of my schedule and my tendency for insane attention to detail. I’ve got a bee in my bonnet over this so I’ll try, try, try. I want to know how they feel about their level of green. And, after my recent experiences with my current host, I cherish the opportunity to do a little grilling about uptime guarantees, English-speaking tech support and other lovelies. Muahaha.

Humor

So, I have this post that I thought was funny, and then I got into this serious mood and decided not to post it. Now, hmmm… I’m giving its chances for showing up this week a 50/50 maybe probably.

To Escape or or Not to Escape?

My local Farmer’s Market opens on Wednesday, with a small and festive community parade. Librarians will dress up as fruits, and human-sized vegetables will do the samba. I promised myself that I’d get a lot more done before taking a day to play. Should I go play anyway, if I can’t get caught up today? Would it help if I promised y’all pictures?

More Balance

Each weekend a new “Brunch” post will feature thoughts about balancing family and self care with working in an always-on Internet environment. Sound familiar? You’ve seen it here three times.

I came up with the idea of a brunch series about a month ago, and introduced it on Mother’s Day. My own family is spread out and living large though separate lives. We rarely see each other. The giving back that I envisioned for my “matronly” (ha!) years is not happening, and I’m still here with the same goals and V.A.S.T. ideals. My Internet community is always “on,” alpha geek neck pain and all, so I’m brunching y’all. Scones anyone?

So far I’ve had two guest brunchers, Donna D. Fontenot and Paul Steven. Yaay Donna and Paul! This Saturday’s brunch will be from Rachael Goldstein, a graphic design resource queen and hard-working mother of four who I met on StumbleUpon. Here’s Rachel’s SU profile.

And one more thing!

A certain Kim (usability turns her on) Krause Berg is celebrating a birthday today. Drop on by the Cre8asite Forums pub and wish a happy birthday to our founder. While you’re there, check out SEO Newslets and revisit cross browser compatibility.

Posted in Blogging | Comments Off on My May 27th Coming Soon List

Exploring Questions, or Changing the World?

Yesterday I started a thread at Cre8asite Forums – Invisible Words: When Buzzwords Don’t. It was easy, a lot easier than writing a blog post. A forum post is part of a conversation, living with the support of a thread’s contextual structure. The whole community is invited to the party, becoming part of that context. Though a handful of people may be the ones to carry the conversation, the possibility of being an equal part of that conversation belongs to us all. A forum post doesn’t have to stand on its own.

While a blog post can be a part of a conversation, it also needs to stand on its own, normally, anyway. Anything that can be conceived of becomes possible – some of Jeffrey Zeldman’s “posts” are two lines of “post” followed by pages of very readable mini-conversation comments.

I find the stand-alone aspect of blog posts to be a little intimidating. There is a built-in expectation hope that the post should will be both a mini-manifesto and a conversation starter. And, I’ve also got to admit that writing through that pregnant hesitation is a bit of a thrill.

I love starting conversations, which may be why I find marketing to be so interesting. I couldn’t give a rat’s hat for influencing people, but the psychology of what interests us fascinates me to no end. There’s a sensation that I get when something clicks, and it could happen with anything. I see no boundaries between the “wow” feeling I get from a beautiful swoosh of paint on canvas, and the “wow” I get from reading a neat article about Dove’s highly successful Campaign for Real Beauty.

The Conversation: Wonderings And Manifestos From Others

Here are a few posts that have a germ of how I feel about conversations.

…this disruption of media is eroding the traditional command and control branding that has become such common place for marketers.

Well, I say hallelujah and good riddance!

I believe that there is a very compelling argument that media doesn’t have to be fragmented while at the same time the message need not be command and control anymore. It is only a matter of knowing how to orchestrate it.

Paul Dunay – The End of Command & Control Branding

The tide has turned. Brands teams that have allowed their brands to be touched by consumers have won and have upped the marketing ante.

Joanna Peña-Bickley – ON: Our Business Has Changed – Have You?

…perhaps we were guilty of over estimating the impact of the internet before the arrival of ubiquitous social networking.

David Cushman – Social networks and the broadcast conversation starter

I love asking questions that get people talking. I love to throw a pebble in the pool, and watch.

Questions From Me

Here’s a quick set of questions that rolled around in my brain this morning.

  • When you write a blog post, are you envisioning a conversation, or do you construct a post to stand on its own?
  • How is the set-up for a conversation different than that for a stand-alone post?
  • Do you blog to get your own ideas out there, or are you more interested in the intersection between your ideas and the great long tail of how those ideas live in the world?
  • Which is easier: exploring a question, or stating a position?
  • Which is better: stating your case or inspiring others to state theirs?

Your Turn

If you are so moved, tell me what you think.

Posted in Blogging | Comments Off on Exploring Questions, or Changing the World?

Working at home takes ‘Team’ to a new meaning

Each weekend a new “Brunch” post will feature thoughts about balancing family and self care with working in an always-on Internet environment. This “Brunch” post is by Paul Steven.


Paul StevensThey say an Englishman’s home is his castle. We’ll, here’s a Scotsman whose home is his office. My water cooler is the kitchen sink where half the time you’ll find me sticking my head out the kitchen window sucking on a cigarette (I’m not allowed to smoke in the house) and drinking black coffee while thinking about world domination and what to make the kids for their supper. Yep, working from home sure has its benefits.

I mind once when I was chatting on the phone to a big jewelers from London. The on-line marketing contract was going to be huge and the person on the other side of the phone was warming to what I was offering as a service. Then the voices started. Muffled at first because I have my own room set aside for my business. But the voices began to disturb my train of thought. Lapses in concentration were affecting my business mode as my fatherly ear trained in on the argument happening right outside my domain.

Skye (1), Robyn (15), Jay (5), and Brooke (5) my wee niece who is never far away
Skye (1), Robyn (15), Jay (5), and Brooke (5) my wee niece who is never far away

My thoughts of bling bling marketing were soon overwhelmed by cries of “its mine” which were rebuffed by “no, its mine.” Then, the yank of a handle and the cry of “Dad, tell her!” as my 5 year old son appeared before me with a look of devastation on his face only a 5 year old can muster. I never called them back after I hurriedly made my apologies and hung up. A door latch now bridges my office space and domestic bliss.

However, working from home has been the best move I have ever made. Witnessing for the first time my youngest daughter take her first steps in life was heaven-sent. I make time to take and pick-up my son from school no matter what me schedule says. I could never dream of doing that before.

My thoughts are that you take the rough with the smooth when working from home. Sure they’ll be moments when you wish you were tucked up in some office environment and they’ll happen frequently, daily. However, most business related memories I have shared over these last few months have been instantaneous with the ones I love most, my family. Its a feeling that takes the term ‘Team’ to a whole new meaning.


Thank you, Paul!

Paul owns NorthSouthMedia, an independent Online Marketing company specialising in Search Marketing and organic SEO.

He would like me to say that he is contactable there, except on Sundays when he sleeps a lot, but I happen to know that he has slept during the week at least twice.

Posted in Brunch | Comments Off on Working at home takes ‘Team’ to a new meaning

WordPress Default Single Post View With Sidebar

The WordPress Default theme doesn’t include a sidebar in single post views. I don’t like the way Default does this, for three reasons.

  1. Any page can be a landing page. A site should provide new users with whatever they may need in order to feel oriented. A few sidebar landmark links can do wonders for a bounce rate.
  2. All or nothing is not much of a choice. Suppose you want a sidebar that shows subcategories for the parent category of that post, or featured links for a category that is also the topic of some non-blog content “Pages,” or any number of other possibilities.
  3. Convenience. A centralized location for sidebar customization may provide better management. Some of this could be set up in functions.php and sidebar.php, instead of requiring separate edits on however many separate template files might have different kinds of sidebar situations. Which method is really more convenient will depend on what the blog is expected to do, and the person managing the customizations.

The following tutorial shows how to include a sidebar on the single post view of a site that uses the WordPress Default theme. The same method can be used for other sorts of single column views.

  1. Step One: Find “widecolumn” template files
  2. Step Two: Change body text placement
  3. Step Three: Add the sidebar

Step One: Find “widecolumn” template files

In the unedited Default theme, four kinds of views have the single column, sidebar-free presentation style. Each is created by a separate template file. I’ve chosen to add sidebars to three, but leave image.php as is. WordPress 2.5x’s image gallery is generated by image.php, and I want to get to know it before editing it.

From the WordPress dashboard, go to Design > Theme Editor and open these three files of the WordPress Default theme:

  • single.php
  • archives.php
  • links.php

On each of those template files you’ll need to change two, short, simple bits of code – one near the top of each, and one at the bottom.

Step Two: Change body text placement

Find references to the “widecolumn” class, and change them to “narrowcolumn.” “Widecolumn” arranges content in the single, wider column of WordPress Default’s sidebar-free pages. Narrowcolumn allows room for a 190 pixel sidebar with 15 pixel margins, and a 15 pixel buffer between content and sidebar.

Look for this near the top of each of the three files listed above:

 
<div id="content" class="widecolumn">

 

After changing “widecolumn” to “narrowcolumn,” it should look like this:

 
<div id="content" class="narrowcolumn">
 

Remember to click “Update File” to save your work.

Step Three: Add the sidebar

Add a sidebar. A call to a sidebar can be added just above the call to the footer.

Look for this near the bottom of each of the same three files:

 
     <?php get_footer(); ?>
 

After adding a call to the sidebar, it should look like this:

 

     <?php get_sidebar(); ?>
 
     <?php get_footer(); ?>

 

Remember to click “Update File” to save your work.

Check your work.

Open a post and click refresh.

without sidebar
Before: without sidebar
with sidebar
After: with sidebar

At this point, everything should be working as expected. If not, check your work and try again.

Posted in Theme Remodel, WordPress | Comments Off on WordPress Default Single Post View With Sidebar