WordPress Community – ThemeLab http://www.themelab.com We build High Quality, Good Looking Premium WordPress Themes that are Easy to Use and ready for just about anything. Wed, 29 Jun 2016 18:16:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 “Just Writing” Isn’t Enough http://www.themelab.com/just-writing-not-enough/ http://www.themelab.com/just-writing-not-enough/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.themelab.com/?p=3480 New blogging platforms and services are popping up all over the place to simplify the process of writing and publishing on the web, as if it wasn’t simple enough already. One of these services is called Medium, self-described as “a better place to read and write things that matter.” The design is minimalistic, the typography

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New blogging platforms and services are popping up all over the place to simplify the process of writing and publishing on the web, as if it wasn’t simple enough already.

One of these services is called Medium, self-described as “a better place to read and write things that matter.” The design is minimalistic, the typography is great, and most importantly, the content is high-quality.

It also encourages collaboration with a pretty unique commenting system, called “Notes” on Medium, that allow other users to laser-target a certain bit of content in an article and leave feedback on it.

But what is it actually like to write for Medium? An insightful article I read recently was Why I Left Medium by Kenneth Reitz.

The Draw

Reitz cited the following reasons for switching his blog over to Medium.

  • Great typography
  • Encourages collaboration
  • Forces photos for every post
  • Responsive design

Yep, it certainly does have great typography. Just look at a post on Medium. It’s so easy to read, on any device (this is where the responsive design part comes in).

I’m not sure why forcing photos on every post would be considered something positive. It sounds more like a burden to track down a relevant, copyright-friendly photo to attach to every single one of your posts.

I thought we were putting the focus on writing?

The Downsides

Reitz ultimately left Medium in favor of a self-hosted WordPress blog because of some of Medium’s limitations.

  • No content embedding
  • No analytics or referral data
  • No custom domains
  • No custom post URLs or “slugs”

All you can do is keep writing, and have your articles hosted on Medium.com. And repeat. And that’s it

You Do More Than Just Writing

The problem with Medium is, chances are, you do more than “just writing” on your blog.

  • You embed stuff. Tweets, YouTube videos, Instagram photos, SlideShare presentations. WordPress makes it really easy to do that.
  • You check your stats. You see what content is popular, what isn’t, and tailor your future content strategy using that data. Whether it be through Google Analytics, Woopra, Jetpack (if you use WordPress) or literally any other analytics service.
  • You have an identity. You have a domain name that represents your name, your business, and/or your organization. When your URLs are structured like https://medium.com/about/9e53ca408c48, it’s kind of hard to stand out.

Speaking of URLs, does “9e53ca408c48” accurately reflect the content of that URL? Unlikely. WordPress makes it easy to design your URLs in a meaningful (and SEO-friendly) way.

My point is, when you self-host a WordPress site, you can do pretty much whatever you want with it.

Conclusion

The only really unique/innovative feature I see in Medium is its notes feature (as opposed to traditional blog commenting) which is supposed to encourage “collaboration” among other writers. Time will tell how well that actually works.

Everything else design-wise, all the way from the smooth responsive design and the super-clean typography, can be replicated with a solid, responsive WordPress blogging theme.

I like minimalism and simplicity just as much as the next person, but I think “restrictivism” would be a more appropriate word when it comes to Medium and all of its limitations.

I’m not trashing Medium. On the contrary, I think it’s a pretty cool service with cool people behind it. I’d personally never use it, but I’m pretty gung-ho on self-hosting your own websites for (what I hope are) obvious reasons.

Sure, if all you want to do is write, and not worry about absolutely anything else, Medium would be perfect for you. But chances are, “just writing” isn’t enough.

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Do We Really Need More “Coming Soon” Themes and Plugins? http://www.themelab.com/more-coming-soon-themes/ http://www.themelab.com/more-coming-soon-themes/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.themelab.com/?p=3317 It seems like there’s a new “coming soon” or “maintenance mode” theme or plugin coming out every day. Haven’t we seen enough of them?

This post discusses their limited shelf life, and limited room for innovation.

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It seems like there’s a new “coming soon” or “maintenance mode” theme or plugin coming out every day. Haven’t we seen enough of them?

Note: I use “theme” and “plugin” interchangeably a lot in this post. Depending on your site, it may make sense to get your “coming soon” type page up with either a theme or a plugin.

I also may use “coming soon” and “maintenance mode” interchangeably a lot, as the functionality used to accomplish these tasks are pretty similar.

Anyway, this is what I think about them.

Limited Innovation

Seriously, what else are you going to put in a “coming soon” theme besides the following?

  • A short description or intro video of what’s coming soon
  • A fancy JavaScript countdown of some sort
  • Social media links
  • Newsletter subscription
  • Feed subscription

Any other ideas? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Limited Shelf Life

The point of a “coming soon” or “maintenance mode” theme/plugin is to be, well, a placeholder for something else a lot more useful in the future.

I realize pre-launch marketing and lead generation is a big deal. It can really make or break a product. There are some really crucial things you can do with “coming soon” themes:

  • Lead generation
  • Email list building
  • Social media traction

Basically, you can utilize “coming soon” themes to build your brand before anything substantial has really launched.

With that said, I still don’t think a lot of that time, money, or thought should be invested in the web template you use as a placeholder for your future site/product launch.

That time, money, and thought, could be better spent on: social media campaigns, developing content strategy, and most importantly, the launch of the actual site you are announcing.

And remember, you can always do all that lead generation, list building, social media and brand building stuff after you launch your site.

Do We Really Need More [Insert Any Type of Theme Here] Themes?

That’s a good point. The market is pretty saturated with pretty much any type of WordPress theme as it is. We already have a ridiculous amount of:

  • News/magazine themes
  • Corporate/business themes
  • Gallery/portfolio themes
  • Good ol’ blog themes
  • And everything in between

The difference is, those types of themes are an actual end product. “Coming soon” themes are merely a temporary transition point.

We can discuss overall WordPress theme market saturation in a future post, if you’d like. But that’s not really the point of this particular post.

But, but… you made a coming soon theme!

Yes, you’re right, I did release a “coming soon” style theme earlier this year called IceChimp.

IceChimp

Although it does integrate pretty well with the MailChimp WordPress plugin, chances are there’s some other similar product that does the same thing. I didn’t really look though.

Overall, to be honest, it introduced hardly any new and innovative stuff to the WordPress community. I never expected it to.

Mostly, I considered it personal practice developing with WordPress’ Theme Customization API, which I used to handle a bunch of options in the theme, including a color style changer.

Maybe a developer downloaded the code, checked out how I did stuff, and used it to develop their own “customized Theme Customizer” (say that three times fast) for their own project. That would’ve been cool.

But still, I never intended or expected IceChimp to become any kind of “game changer” in the world of “coming soon” themes, if there even is a such thing.

Why Do People Still Make “Coming Soon” Themes?

In short, they’re (relatively) easy to develop. Take a look at WordPress.org’s Theme Review page. A huge chunk of that stuff would not apply to a one-page template like a “Coming Soon” theme.

  • There’s no Theme Unit Test to worry about
  • No WordPress generated CSS classes to style for
  • No extensive documentation needed (hopefully)

Basically, it’s an easy way to get your foot in the door of the WordPress community. Even though it will probably go largely unnoticed (see market saturation note above), everyone has to start somewhere.

That’s fine, but a new developer would probably be better off developing something designed to actually display a wide variety of content in a fully-featured WordPress theme, rather than a one page “coming soon” template.

Also, if you’re a commercial theme club, aiming to be a one-stop shop for all of your customers WordPress theme needs, it might be helpful to have one or two “coming soon” themes/plugins in your WordPress product portfolio.

That way, a customer wouldn’t have to look elsewhere for a “coming soon” template if they’re just looking to get a quick site up really quickly. That makes sense.

Conclusion

Yep, this post is a bit ranty, but I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject.

  • What do you think about “coming soon” themes?
  • Do you think there’s any room for innovation? If so, how?
  • Are “coming soon” pages in general that particularly useful anyway?

Sound off in the comments.

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WordPress DC Presentation – CSS Tricks and Wizardry http://www.themelab.com/wordpress-dc-css-wizardry/ http://www.themelab.com/wordpress-dc-css-wizardry/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.themelab.com/?p=2791 Guess what? I'm speaking at another WordPress DC meetup! It will be on Tuesday, August 9th at 7 PM located at Fathom Creative‘s office in DC.

Check out the slides in this post.

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If you’re still not following me on Facebook or Twitter, you probably haven’t heard that I’m speaking at another WordPress DC meetup.

It will be on Tuesday, August 9th at 7 PM located at Fathom Creative‘s office in DC. More details on location, parking, etc. can be found on the meetup page (linked previously).

What I’ll Be Talking About

Similar to my last presentation at WordPress DC, I will be discussing CSS. Unlike last time, however, the CSS tips I’ll be going over aren’t necessarily WordPress-specific, and can apply to nearly any type of site. The official description:

You’ll learn some useful and practical CSS tips and tricks. These could include tips on speeding up development time, general optimizations, and other cool things. Also, these aren’t necessarily limited to WordPress, but could apply to nearly any HTML/CSS based site. Beginner to intermediate CSS knowledge would be nice but not absolutely required.

Slides

These are in the same format as my previous slides (but less crammed so it’s easier to see on the TV).

Theme Lab T-Shirts

This will be the premiere of the limited edition Theme Lab t-shirts! Okay, they’re not really limited editions, I can print more if needed. I’ll be bringing various shirts in S/M/L sizes. A picture of them is below.

I’ll figure out some way to give them away at the meetup.

Andy Stratton’s Presentation

Also speaking at the same WordPress DC meetup is Andy Stratton, who I got to know pretty well at WordCamp Raleigh earlier this year. I saw his presentation there called Diet Pills, SEO and Theme Frameworks, which he’ll also be presenting here. Trust me, it’s one you won’t want to miss.

Conclusion

Looking at the meetup page, it looks like spots are filling up pretty quickly. If you want in, you should RVSP ASAP.

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I’m Going to WordCamp Raleigh (Again) http://www.themelab.com/wordcamp-raleigh-again/ http://www.themelab.com/wordcamp-raleigh-again/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.themelab.com/?p=2684 It’s that time of the year again.

As some of you might remember, I attended WordCamp Raleigh last year as well and had a great time (and even got video interviewed!).

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It’s that time of the year again. As some of you might remember, I attended WordCamp Raleigh last year as well and had a great time (and even got video interviewed!).

This year looks like it’ll be a great follow-up with a great lineup of speakers. If you’re going to be there, let me know. I’d love to meet you and/or see you again. I should be arriving Friday and will stay until Sunday.

If you haven’t registered yet, and would like to, there are still tickets available as of publishing this post at $45 each. Below is a link to register.

wcreg

P.S. If you don’t know what I look like, see the video interview linked to above. My appearance hasn’t changed that much since a year ago.

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Dear Theme Devs, Stop Pasting Random Snippets of Code in functions.php http://www.themelab.com/theme-devs-random-snippets/ http://www.themelab.com/theme-devs-random-snippets/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.themelab.com/?p=2613 Imagine this scenario, you find a really cool snippet of code on one of the many WordPress tutorial sites out there and paste it in your theme’s functions.php file. The code snippet works as advertised, and you then release your theme for sale on a well-known theme marketplace. Let’s pick a random one out of

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Imagine this scenario, you find a really cool snippet of code on one of the many WordPress tutorial sites out there and paste it in your theme’s functions.php file.

The code snippet works as advertised, and you then release your theme for sale on a well-known theme marketplace. Let’s pick a random one out of a hat and go with… ThemeForest.

Suddenly your theme becomes really popular, may be because of the massive list of apparently useful “features” you have listed on your theme’s sales page. With your theme’s success, also comes a number of support queries, mostly to do with plugins breaking while using your theme.

How did this happen, you wonder? Maybe it’s because you blindly pasted random globs of WordPress code into your functions.php file without actually thinking about or anticipating any potential compatibility issues.

A Real Life Example

So, I was trying to find a snippet of code that would pull all the attached images from a post and then display them on that post automatically. I eventually found a piece of code on Stack Overflow, pasted it in my functions file, and it appeared to solve the problem.

The first line of code was the following:

add_filter('the_content', 'strip_shortcodes');

Oh well, it worked, I didn’t think anything of it. I later tried to embed a contact form with a shortcode. Surprise, it didn’t work and I spent about an hour trying to figure out why. If I actually read through the code I was pasting, I would’ve known.

This was for a client site, not a released theme, so luckily I didn’t have to deal with a deluge of support queries due to my stupid mistake.

What Commercial Plugin Developers Think

Here’s a quote from Carl Hancock (developer of Gravity Forms) on this very topic:

Supporting the popular Gravity Forms plugin means we see more than our fair share of poorly coded themes. One of the primary support related issues we run into are themes that aren’t developed using best practices, which results in Gravity Forms styling issues and in some cases conflicts that result in Gravity Forms not functioning properly.

The biggest culprit in these situations are themes that include code snippets copy-n-pasted from tutorial sites. Theme developers seem to think that just because the code snippet was on a tutorial site, it must be good. Unfortunately that isn’t always the case and these poor decisions result in headaches and support issues for users.

Want to limit the potential for running into issues with plugins caused by a poorly developed theme? Stick to reputable theme developers such as Press75, iThemes, Headway Themes, Organic Themes, WooThemes, and StudioPress to name a few. Be weary of theme marketplaces where the experience and skill set of the author may be lacking. In most cases you get what you pay for.

Coding Best Practices

A lot of these issues can likely be avoided by following WordPress coding standards. For example, you should be prefixing your function names to avoid any potential conflicts.

In the case of styling issues with Gravity Forms, you may want to avoid certain blanket styles on form and input elements, and instead use WordPress default ID selectors for the bulk of your form stylings.

These includes #searchform, #s, #searchsubmit in the search box. Also #commentform #author, #url, #email, #comment, #submit for the comment form.

Conclusion

If you’re a theme developer, and not too well-versed at PHP, be careful when copying and pasting these code snippets into your theme. Even if you’re not that great at PHP, you can at least read through the code and try to make some sense of it before using it.

Like if you find that your shortcodes aren’t functioning properly, a line of code that mentions “strip_shortcodes” might have something to do with that.

Sometimes I get the feeling that WordPress theme developers just paste random snippets in their functions.php file, just so they can list another “feature” on their theme’s sales pages.

While I’m not a big fan of this sort of idea, it gets into a whole other argument on the role of themes and plugins on WordPress sites, which I’ll save for a future post.

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WordPress DC Presentation – Leveraging CSS to Change Your Theme http://www.themelab.com/wordpress-dc-themes-css/ http://www.themelab.com/wordpress-dc-themes-css/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.themelab.com/?p=2563 If you’re not following me on Facebook or Twitter, you may not have heard yet, but I am presenting at an upcoming WordPress DC meetup! It will be on Tuesday, January 11th at 7 PM located at Fathom Creative‘s office in DC. More details on location, parking, etc. can be found on the meetup page

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If you’re not following me on Facebook or Twitter, you may not have heard yet, but I am presenting at an upcoming WordPress DC meetup!

It will be on Tuesday, January 11th at 7 PM located at Fathom Creative‘s office in DC. More details on location, parking, etc. can be found on the meetup page (linked previously).

What I’ll be talking about

I’ll be talking about how to edit your themes through just CSS. More specifically, how to edit them through the classes output by WordPress functions such as body_class, comment_class, and post_class. Each will come with a practical example.

Slides

Click the image below to launch the slide presentation.

WordPress DC Slides

Sample Child Theme

Can be downloaded here.

Conclusion

These slides are pretty much finished but I may edit them between now and the presentation. I also might update this post in the future with additional information and presentation materials.

If you happen to be in the DC area, I’d love it if you could make it! All you have to do is sign up with the WordPress DC meetup group and RVSP to the event.

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WPCandy iPhone App Review – Must-Have for WordPress Lovers http://www.themelab.com/wpcandy-iphone-app-review/ http://www.themelab.com/wpcandy-iphone-app-review/#respond Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.themelab.com/?p=2509 Ever since WPCandy was brought back to life around four months ago it has been, easily, one of the best places to find constantly updated WordPress news. For a while I used it almost solely to keep track of all the happenings in the community, not having time to dig through all the noise on

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wpcandy app latest postsEver since WPCandy was brought back to life around four months ago it has been, easily, one of the best places to find constantly updated WordPress news.

For a while I used it almost solely to keep track of all the happenings in the community, not having time to dig through all the noise on Twitter on a daily basis.

Being an iPhone owner, I was especially excited to hear that they released an app for it. I recently had the chance to try it out and my findings are below.

Buying the App

The app currently costs $0.99 in the App Store. Just search for “wpcandy” and it’ll pop up.

The Home Screen

wpcandy app latest postsBy default, the WPCandy app shows the latest posts on the home screen.

It utilizes scrolling to navigate through all of the latest posts, which are separated by day.

At the top right, there is a refresh button which checks if there are any new posts available (which is also visible on every other tabbed page except “More”).

On the bottom are tabs to navigate between other categories from the WPCandy website. By default, they are:

  • Popular
  • Interviews
  • Reviews
  • More

If you aren’t happy with these, not to worry, they can be customized later (which I’ll get to later in the review).

Normal Single Post

WPCandy App Single PostThe single post is about what you would expect. The top menu changes around a bit with:

  • A button to return to the previous category screen
  • A button to open in Safari or share via email
  • Buttons for previous/next post navigation

…in that order.

The bottom menu is also removed in favor of more space for content.

There are no comments displayed, although if you really want to see the comments on a specific post, you can always use the “Open in Safari” feature to read them.

Interview Posts

WPCandy App Interview PostAs of now, all of the posts included on the “Interviews” tab are videos.

When selecting an interview, you will be taken to an alternate version of a single post view which is basically a link to the corresponding YouTube video.

After tapping the video thumbnail, you’ll automatically be taken to the YouTube app which then plays the video.

After you’re done with the video, you can leave the YouTube app and end up right back where you started in the WPCandy app.

Configuring the Tabs

WPCandy App ConfigureAs I mentioned above, you can also configure the featured tabs that are displayed at the bottom of category pages. Besides the default ones, you also have the following available on the “More” tab:

  • News
  • Tutorials
  • Editorials
  • Features

To configure them, select the “Edit” button on the top right of the “More” page.

Simply drag the corresponding icon to the tab area below you want replaced. In the picture I’m dragging the “Tutorials” icon.

Some Limitations

The biggest limitation seems to be not being able to dig past 25 posts in any given category. There is also not a search feature as far as I can tell, so if you’re looking up an older post or want to search for specific keywords and such, that option is not available at the moment.

According to the most recent post about the WPCandy app, Ryan says that, “We have a few enhancements coming to the iPhone app very soon.” So maybe these search features are already in the pipeline.

Conclusion

Currently priced at $0.99, this app is definitely a great deal to stay up-to-date with all the news in the WordPress community. Yes, I know you can get all the same information just by visiting their website in Safari, but the app does make it a lot easier and more convenient to browse.

Also if you don’t have an iPhone, you can also build a WPCandy news feed directly into your WordPress dashboard with this plugin.

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Child Themes, Coming to a WordPress.org Theme Directory Near You http://www.themelab.com/child-themes-official-wordpress-directory/ http://www.themelab.com/child-themes-official-wordpress-directory/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.themelab.com/?p=2387 Late last year, I asked whether child themes should be listed on WordPress.org. Today at WordCamp Savannah, Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress) announced that he would be releasing a couple of his old blog designs as free WordPress themes in the WordPress.org theme directory. One of the sentences in Matt’s announcement post caught my eye.

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Late last year, I asked whether child themes should be listed on WordPress.org. Today at WordCamp Savannah, Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress) announced that he would be releasing a couple of his old blog designs as free WordPress themes in the WordPress.org theme directory.

One of the sentences in Matt’s announcement post caught my eye.

The second theme, Mazeld, is actually the last from-scratch original design I did here on Ma.tt (then photomatt.net) and is built as a 2010 child theme.

I downloaded the Mazeld theme from WordPress.org and confirmed it was indeed a Twenty Ten child theme (as the stylesheet has the line “Template: twentyten” present) and tweeted Matt for further clarification.

Themelab child theme question

Photomatt Child Theme Admission

Conclusion

So in conclusion, there has been a child theme sighting on WordPress.org theme directory although judging from Matt’s response, it doesn’t seem to be currently possible to submit them until the installer and UI are fixed.

Hopefully child theme inclusion in the WordPress.org directory will be a reality for theme developers very soon, this is definitely a big step in the right direction.

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How To Spell WordPress http://www.themelab.com/how-to-spell-wordpress/ http://www.themelab.com/how-to-spell-wordpress/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.themelab.com/?p=2250 UPDATE: The domain “wpcamelcase.com” is no longer mine. It is now some weird “casino” blog site. I’ll leave this post here for posterity purposes. I launched a site called WPCamelCase to help people learn how to spell WordPress. This is something I’ve tried to passively promote on this site by spelling every instance of “WordPress”

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UPDATE: The domain “wpcamelcase.com” is no longer mine. It is now some weird “casino” blog site. I’ll leave this post here for posterity purposes.

I launched a site called WPCamelCase to help people learn how to spell WordPress. This is something I’ve tried to passively promote on this site by spelling every instance of “WordPress” with a capital P.

The Spelling

WordPress is spelled in a CamelCase form. If you notice on any official WordPress websites, it is always spelled with a capital P, although as far as I know there is no real explanation as to . The most common misspellings are “WordPress” or “Word Press.”

Being in the community for a while, I personally cringe if I see it misspelled, and I’m sure the creators of WordPress do too, which is why a patch was introduced in WordPress 3.0 to automatically correct the lowercase P misspelling to an uppecase one, much to the opposition of certain members of the WordPress community.

The Problem

Unfortunately with the way it filters your content to convert WordPress to WordPress, it is possible to break links such as images or other URLs. For example:

  • An image with the URL of http://example.com/wp-content/uploads/Wordpress-image.jpg would be renamed to http://example.com/wp-content/uploads/WordPress-image.jpg and a broken image would show up
  • Your blog is installed in a directory called http://example.com/Wordpress, any of your internal links would be renamed to http://example.com/WordPress and you’d have a bunch of broken links

To “correct” this behavior, you can install the Remove WordPress to WordPress filter plugin.

Conclusion

Instead of forcing users to spell it correctly, I think it’s better to educate users on how to spell it, which is exactly why I made WPCamelCase.com along with my GPL-licensed haiku.

Adding this sort of code to the WordPress core doesn’t help the software at all, and probably makes it worse with the broken link issues people are reporting so far over something that is relatively inconsequential.

I usually don’t talk about these sort of semi-controversial, community-oriented issues here on my blog, because frankly, I think the majority of my audience, along with the vast majority of WordPress users, couldn’t care less about these things.

I thought it was worth mentioning due to the fact this addition to WordPress core has the possibility to break things.

Further Reading

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Video Interview at WordCamp Raleigh http://www.themelab.com/wordcamp-raleigh-video-interview/ http://www.themelab.com/wordcamp-raleigh-video-interview/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.themelab.com/?p=2084 To those of you who don’t know, this past weekend I was at WordCamp Raleigh. It was my first WordCamp, and overall I found it to be a great experience. I met a bunch of people in the WordPress community, and everyone I encountered was very friendly and welcoming. While I was there, I met

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To those of you who don’t know, this past weekend I was at WordCamp Raleigh. It was my first WordCamp, and overall I found it to be a great experience. I met a bunch of people in the WordPress community, and everyone I encountered was very friendly and welcoming.

While I was there, I met Jeffro of WP Tavern and he pulled me aside to do a video interview. In the interview I talk about:

  • My experiences at WordCamp so far, including the quality of the cookies
  • Anything new I’ve learned from the sessions, including what I can apply to theming
  • Whether or not I will attend future WordCamps wearing a lab coat
  • Future plans for Theme Lab, including the Underground

I’ve embedded it after the jump, check it out.

Let me know what you think of the interview in the comments. And now that WordCamp Raleigh is over, as well as the Page.ly contest, I’ll get back to the regularly scheduled content including themes, tutorials, and CSS tips galore.

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