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Blog Exercises: Make a List of Everything on Your Site

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Today’s blog exercise will require a little time, magnifier, and a score card.

Well, maybe not one of those items.

I want you to grab a piece of paper and load up the front page of your site in a browser. Zoom in so you can really see it up close and personal.

Start counting.

Title the first list “Front Page” and start counting every design element, navigation block, text blog, every widget, call to action, and graphic you can see on the front page of the site. Inside and around the content.

Don’t count words. Count visuals. What catches your eye. For multiple post pageviews, count each post. Add it to the list.

If your site has a static front page, when you are done, move to the blog page and title a column “Blog” and start counting.

Example of counting all the design elements on a pageview on your site - graphic by Lorelle VanFossen.Go to a single post pageview, a single article on your site. Title a list column (or column on the paper) “Single Post.” Start counting.

If you feel creative, instead of making a list, print out each pageview and number each visual element. Note that not all graphic design elements on a web page will print, so your print version may look different from the browser view.

One you have your list, group like items together. You may have one element in multiple groups.

For example, in my article, “Blog Exercises: To Comment or Not to Comment,” I came up with the following totals.

  • Logos: 4
  • Badges: 14
  • Social Icons: 13
  • Navigation blocks/lists: 11
  • Calls to Action: 22
  • Graphic Design Elements: 30
  • Lists: 10
  • Posts: 1
  • Headings: 11

Here is a breakdown of how I counted all the pieces.
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Blog Exercises: To Comment or Not to Comment

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In the September 20, 2013, issue of the New York Times, an article caught my eye called “No Comments.” It is also available on Umano via mobile app or desktop for a listen.

The article by Michael Erard discusses comments on the web, including a long look back at the history of interactivity on the site.

When we complain about comments, I’ve noticed, we do so as if we’re dealing with some emanation of human nature or the lusty democratic energies of the American soul. But when I went digging into the history of the Web to find out where online comments really came from, it’s clear that they’re the consequences of what was technically feasible at a certain point and how that feasibility was subsequently implemented. We tend to think that comments represent the culture, but in fact the distinct culture of commenting grew out of digital constraints. Given what Web users had to work with, comments were bound to get weedy.

Most fascinating are the perceptions about web interactivity over the years. Here are some examples from the article:
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Blog Exercises: Site Models

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In “WordPress Site Models” I describe the three main formats for a site layout. They are static, blog, and hybrid.

Each site model works for a variety of content and presentation of that content, though some work better for specific types of sites.

A static site model, even in WordPress, uses Pages and not posts to organize its content. This is ideal for a small business, portfolio, or resume site with fewer than 20 pages with content that rarely changes.

A blog model features posts on the front page of the site in reverse chronological order. This is one of the most common site models, putting the most recent information at the top of the front page. Posts are organized by categories and tags, expanding navigation options.

A hybrid site model, sometimes called integrated, comes in two styles. Both feature a static front page with a blog Page displaying the posts in reverse chronological order.

The first style, known as the static front page model, features static content on the front page of the site. This is style is often used for existing sites integrating a WordPress site into it.
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Blog Exercises: The Welcome Page

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.One of the many things I’d like to see gone on the web is the Welcome front page.

Think about it this way. You invite friends over for a party. You greet everyone at the door with a full self-introduction, welcoming them to your place, instructing them on how to visit your home, telling them all about you, your history, the reasons you exist in this world, your passions, and offer them tips on how best to work with you as you know you will be working with them in the future.

The friends you have known for a year to thirty years will look at you as if you are insane. Way over the top. New people to your home might welcome the information but it is too much information too soon and too fast. They might not be ready for all that arrogance. Friends gather at the VanFossens and are entertained by friend, John Doan, on the harp guitar - photography by Lorelle VanFossen.Some of them might like to explore your home, identify the objects that define your personality, listen in on a few conversations, and just hang out and absorb the real you before they commit.

When you create a static front page with such a welcome, or a sticky post stuck to the top of your front page stuffed with your CV and life history, you may have the same impact on visitors.

You have two types of visitors to your site. First time visitors, usually seeking information and a like-mind, and second time visitors, those who found something to cling on the first time visit and they want more. You’ve become a resource, a community, a friend.

If the majority of your visitors are first time visitors, and your site is your portfolio, resume, or virtual business card on the web, stacking all this information on the front page might be welcome.

If the majority of your visitors are repeat offenders, back for more of the good stuff, you are telling them things they already know, taking up space on the front page by standing in front of them and reciting your life story again and again, and getting in their way of what they really want.
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Blog Exercises: Choose an Appropriate Gravatar for Your Readers

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.All WordPress sites have Gravatars integrated into the core. Gravatars are Globally Recognized Avatars, images that represent you in blog posts comments, featured author images (integrated with Gravatars), author images, BuddyPress, and other Gravatar-enabled features.

Near the beginning of this year of blog exercises, you were asked to add or update your Gravatar to represent yourself well on your site and across all WordPress and Gravatar-enabled sites. The avatar image is associated with your email address. When you comment using that email address, the image will be automatically used.

But what about those without Gravatars?

In addition to feeling pity for them, and encouraging them to set up their own free Gravatar profile, you may select a Gravatar image to display within your blog comments for them.

WordPress Gravatar avatars for non-Gravatar members on WordPress sites.
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Blog Exercises: Current Events September

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.It’s time to blog the news and current events for September in our Blog Exercises.

This month, I want you to dig deeper into the news, targeting your specific industry and niche. With several months of blogging the news once a month under your belt, you should have set up some good resources in your feed reader and bookmarks, sources where you can keep up with what’s going on, changing, or newsworthy.

Dive deeper.

Are there sources you haven’t tapped yet? Dig deeper and spread your net wider.

As a professional blogger, I have collected over 1000 resources for news, tips, techniques, and resources to report on and help me blog better. The list tends to grow rather than shrink as I constantly add new rising blogging stars blogging about blogging and WordPress, and I love being surprised with new sources that I’ve missed along the way.

There is nothing more boring than reblogging the news from the same sources. Expand your list. Expand your world.

As I gather up all these resources over time, it helps me to create resource and reference articles featuring many of my best sources. Readers love it when you share your sources with them, letting them in on your secret stash, so to speak.

Examples of such resource and reference posts include:
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Blog Exercises: Volunteer

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.I’ve spent years contributing in many ways to WordPress including on the , WordPress.com Forums, and . The other day I was cleaning out tabs in my browser and stumbled upon an open WordPress.com forum post. I wondered if the user’s question was answered. It was, but not well. I added a better answer.

Four hours later, I’m still on the forums answering questions, going back hours and hours into the past to answer the posts with no reply yet. I looked at the clock and screamed at myself. I have work, real work, paying work. I have deadlines. Commitments!

But is it so much FUN! Seriously. I love it. I could spend days and weeks doing nothing but helping these poor people out having trouble with their sites, desperate for help. It’s so rewarding. It’s also a joy to play detective, digging through the help and support files, reading through the source code of their websites, and searching the web for answers to their problems. I love it. Totally addicting.

There is a time and place for volunteering, and clearly, a balance must be kept between income producing and pro bono work, but today, it’s all about the giving.
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Blog Exercises: Top X Tips – The Numbered Post

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.One of the traditions in blogging is the numbered list post.

You’ve seen them. “The Top Ten Software Programs.” “9 Things to Do with Clay.” “The Best 99 WordPress Tips of All Time.” “Top 13 Cities to Attend a WordCamp.” “Seven Ways to Find Love.”

Numbered post titles and topics work. Want proof?

Examples of numbered post titles and topics on Mashable.

I did a check when writing this post and Mashable, famous for numbered post titles, featured so many, I stopped counting after 24. I’ve put a collage of them in the graphic above as examples.

The rule of thumb for numbered post titles are to use odd numbers with even numbers divided by 5. The sequence is 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, and so on. Big numbers are 25, 30, 50, 75, 99, 100, 101 and so on.

There are always exceptions such as “12 Reasons Why You Need Lorelle’s Blog Exercises for Your Blog.” Maybe you could only come up with twelve.
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Blog Exercises: Mashups

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.One of my favorite odd-ball mashups is the movie Moulin Rouge! Released in 2001, the movie features Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, and an outstanding cast of top notch actors singing their way through a Bollywood-style production set in a 1899 France cabaret. There are few original songs in the film. Instead they used pop songs and mixed and mashed them up into new versions to fit the storyline. It took director Baz Luhrmann over two years to gain rights to all the popular music from the past 30 years.

The Elephant Love Medley incorporates more than 12 songs into a single piece, a love duet between the two lovers in the form of a dialog suing classic lines from “Love is Like Oxygen” by Sweet, “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” by Sammy Fain, “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles, “Pride (In the Name of Love)” by U2, and “Silly Love Songs” by Wings and Paul McCartney. I love it when lyrics from “Heroes” by David Bowie, “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton, and “Your Song” by Elton John slip in.

In a fun alternative mashup, “Good Old FshnLoverBoy” put together a YouTube mashup using a few of the lyrics from the film’s version of that song along with the actual originals of the popular songs – as if they were written by all those performers and composers.

[Please note that YouTube has made some of these videos not directly playable from this site. I've used images wrapped in links for those. Click through to watch the video on YouTube. Sorry for the inconvenience.]

Moulin Rouge Mashup Video of original songs from the Elephant Medley.

A mashup is an article, video, audio file, or other web app that uses content from more than one source to recreate a new production. Medleys are often considered a form of mashup. Consider a mashup a collage of words, sights, and sounds. YouTube is filled with examples of mashups, and the television show “Glee” features music mashups on a regular basis, often as homework assignments for the kids, mixing opposite concepts together as a challenge.

In 2010, a colorful flash mob was organized on behalf of the City of Seattle to bring awareness to traffic and pedestrian accidents performed the Glee show mashup with the original choreography featuring umbrellas, Singing in the Rain/Umbrella. A fun mashup of city government education and social phenomena.
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Blog Exercises: If I Were to Teach a Class

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.If you were to teach a class, what would you teach?

Today’s blog exercise is to teach a class online through your site.

This blog exercise does not have to be complicated. Do you have a favorite recipe? Share it with your readers with the techniques involved in preparing and serving. Do you have a favorite hobby? Share tips for that hobby or a technique involved in the process.

Are you an expert on a subject? Create a list of the things someone should know about that subject in a tutorial. Or reminisce in an educational format on what someone needs to know about this industry in order to succeed.

Whatever your subject matter on your site, there is an opportunity to teach, to become the instructor, the expert on the subject eager to share lessons with the readers.

You may write the educational exercise out, create a video or audio file, incorporate a slide show, gallery, or whatever tools you enjoy working with online.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to become a teacher and teach your readers something.

Be creative. There are so many ways to teach today. Explore the possibilities on your site.

If you are familiar with Google+ Hangouts or other live chat programs, consider combing a social sharing event with your blog lesson or tutorial.

When you’ve published your tutorial, remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task. We’d love to learn from you.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Update to WordPress 3.6.1 Now

WordPress NewsIt is upgrade time again. Time to upgrade your WordPress.

WordPress 3.6.1 Maintenance and Security Release was announced today. It includes fixes to WordPress 3.6 and some security issues, so this is a mandatory update.

WordPress.com users are automatically updated, as are all those on managed WordPress hosting like WP Engine. This update applies to self-hosted versions of .

There are critical security issues that this update fixes, one reported by Dave Cummon, a Northrup Grumman subcontractor for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an intriguing story there, I’m sure, and proof that there are WordPress fans and contributors everywhere doing everything imaginable.

You may read a list of changes to WordPress in the WordPress Trac or check out the release notes on the WordPress Codex for more information.

Do not be foolish and delay this update. While it may not happen, in the past some evil doers took advantage of those who did not update, bringing heartbreak and frustration to many. These updates have been applied to WordPress.com so they have been tested and vetted.

Update now.

Issues with Updates

A very small percentage of WordPress users are having issues with the new update. For the past few years, very few issues were reported if you keep your site regularly updated when new versions are released, and updated your WordPress Theme and Plugins when updates are available.

If you update and find your site and the Administration Panels go to a blank white screen, it is most likely an issue with a WordPress Plugin. This is quite rare and this is the traditional method for resolving the issue.

  1. Log onto your server with FTP.
  2. Go to the Plugins directory under wp-content.
  3. Rename the directory to pluginsback. This will automatically deactivate all of your WordPress Plugins.
  4. Attempt to login. If the login is successful, there is a conflict with one or more of the WordPress Plugins.
    • If the login is not successful and you still see a white browser page, rename the wp-content/themes directory to themesback. This will disable your WordPress Themes where a conflict may reside.
  5. Once logged in, go to Plugins and check for updates. Update any Plugins that need updating, even if they are deactivated.
  6. Go through the Plugins one by one, check the front of your site, to determine which one maybe causing the problem.
  7. If you find a Plugin causing issues, with FTP you may rename the Plugin folder to deactivate it if your site goes white again. Contact the Plugin author for help and an update.
    • If the issue was with Themes, go through the same process with your WordPress Themes.

If the issues persist, search the for similar support requests to find an answer, and if you find none, report it for more assistance.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: Blog Your Favorite Song

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.

It all began the day I found
That from my window I could only see
A piece of sky.

I stepped outside and looked around.
I never dreamed it was so wide
Or even half as high.

The time had come to try my wings
And even though it seemed at any moment I could fall,
I felt the most, amazing things,
The things you can’t imagine if you’ve never flown at all.

…The more I live the more I learn.
The more I learn the more I realize
The less I know.

Each step I take, each page I turn,
Each mile I travel only means
The more I have to go.

What’s wrong with wanting more?
If you can fly – then soar!
With all there is -
Why settle for just a piece of sky?

Lyric excerpt from “A Piece of Sky” by Michel LeGrand, Alan Bergman, and Marilyn Bergman from the movie “Yentl” directed by Barbra Streisand

If I were to choose a single song to be my theme song, this would be it. Since the first time I heard this song, it has defined my life. While the song is powerful, it is the lyrics that influence my lifestyle, my way of thinking, even my decision-making.

Even today, 30 years later, I stand before my students in my college classes and sing it in my head, a song for all students eager to learn. “The more I live the more I learn, the more I learn the more I realize the less I know…”

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to blog about your favorite song and its influence upon your life.

Take care not to violate copyright, using proper citation methods. If using the lyrics as I have done, do not quote the entire song, just the sections that help make your point.

Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: What I Did This Summer

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.It’s September and many schools have started classes all over the world. Two weeks ago, I moved boxes from long-term storage out into my studio to start sorting through them, then deadlines and distracts won my attention, and there they sit, staring at me. Guilting me.

With five minutes to wait for a program to compile, I stared at them and wondered what treasures lay inside. Into my mind popped a memory of old school papers, specifically a story I wrote in elementary school about what I did this summer, a common project for school children returning to the classroom in the fall. I can’t remember the story, but I see the scribbled handwriting on lined paper in my imagination. Is it still in there? Among the few surviving papers of my childhood?

With the web, boxes of papers are becoming rare, our stories shared through digital bits and bytes, inspiring this blog exercise: Write about what you did this summer.

It’s your turn to return back to your own school days. It’s time to share your story of your summer fun.
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Blog Exercises: September Random Editing Day

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.It is September and the number is now up to 9 posts to edit on our monthly Random Editing Day exercises.

Each month in the Blog Exercises series, I challenge you to edit random published posts on your blog, adding one for every month of the year. This month is nine posts. You can do it.

Over the past nine months of blogging exercises and random editing exercises, I’ve been thinking about ways to inspire you to find different content across your site to edit. Facing nine posts to edit today, a day in September when many people are returning to school or helping their children return, I thought I’d offer you the option to randomly edit web pages with jargon.

We all use jargon when we write about a subject. Since this is the start of the school year for many, learning the jargon and terminology is critical to education. If you can’t name it, it’s hard to talk about it.

As we blog, we begin to assume the audience understands what you are talking about. Of course they know. They wouldn’t read our site if they didn’t know what were were talking about, right?

Thinking I’m talking to “my people,” I casually refer to trackbacks, pings, posts, Pages, podcasts, podios (podcast audio books), blogosphere, vlog, and mblog, all terms I live with daily that you may rarely hear in your world. Unless I stop to educate my readers about what these words are, how can I include them in the conversation?
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Blog Exercises: Debate Ethics

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.A premie baby is causing debates and controversy about medical research projects. A debate on plant ethics questions over the humane treatment of plants opposes yet is related to the debate on ethical treatment of animals as food sources. Advanced research on stem cells and human cloning is debatable on all sides, especially when news of animals being brought back from extinction brings hope to many. Another current debate hovers around food stamps as the US Congress argues over cuts to the program and whether or not to continue supporting the program as millions of Americans live in “food insecure” households. With the debates ongoing over military intervention in Syria, Noam Chomsky’s debates with Stanley Hoffmann titled “The Ethics of Intervention” in 1969 seem appropriate even today.

Ethics are tough often brutal points of contention for and against those on one side, those on the other, and the ones caught in the middle of the tug-of-war.

Today’s blog exercise is to tackle an ethics issue and blog about it on your site.

First interrancial kiss on television - Star Trek screencap of Uhura and Kirk in Platos Stepchildren.Part of the magic that made the television show, Star Trek, and its sequels popular were those ethical debates as plots. Current events and moral arguments thrashed out in a futuristic, science fiction world. Black verses white, roles of males and females, war, peace, good verses evil, in the book, The Ethics of Star Trek,authors Judith Barad and Ed Robertson debated those ethics. I’ll use an excerpt from the introduction of their book to outline your blog exercise.

One reason why Star Trek has endured from one generation to the next is that most of the stories themselves are indeed moral fables. Though episodes are obviously self-contained, when taken as a whole they constitute a harmonious philosophy filled with hope. While our Star Trek heroes are far from perfect, they are nonetheless essentially decent beings whose interaction with “new life and new civilizations” is always guided by nobility and morality. This morality is based on a fundamental ethics that was inherent when the franchise was initially conceived.

From portraying television’s first interracial kiss to dramatizing the issues of homelessness, homosexuality, and religious intolerance, the ethics of Star Trek has generated a world that strives to be free of the racists, sexist, and xenophobic attitudes that are, unfortunately, still all too common today. By raising these issues, each series challenges us to examine our own values and ask ourselves whether they are defensible, let alone reasonable.

It’s time to raise some ethical issues on your blog, examine your values, and ask yourself whether or not these are defensible and reasonable, and share it with your readers.
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