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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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Blog Exercises: 5,127 Tries

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.

In his native UK, Sir James Dyson is known as much for his quirky looking, superior-functioning vacuum cleaners as for his long embattled path to commercial success. He gave Brits their first bagless vacuum in 1993 after 13 tough years tinkering in the tool shed. He slogged through 5,127 prototypes, a couple of lawsuits and dozens of rejections, and came within a whisker of bankruptcy. His hard work paid off, however, when the humbly named CD01 became the best-selling cleaner in the country within 18 months of its introduction

This quote is from an article in Costco Magazine featuring an interview with James Dyson, founder of Dyson vacuum cleaners and other innovative products. This humble beginning, supported by his wife’s income as an art teacher, and his determination to succeed made Dyson not just a globally recognized name, but worth more than £3 billion (USD$4.6 billion).

Thomas Edison was called “addled” and unteachable, trying a variety of jobs as he struggled to survive, struggles that helped him become a bit of a ruthless businessman as well as an inventor. He is quoted as having said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

His other famous success quotes include:

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

“Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”

“Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

“If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.”

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

“What you are will show in what you do.”

Recently, a participant in these Blog Exercises told me that they were too hard. “You should have warned us that these exercises involved work.”

Actually I did, but that’s not the point.
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Blog Exercises: Start Here Guides

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Training for educators using online learning management systems for high schools and college recommend creating a “Start Here” page to guide the student through the process. If the process is complicated, this makes sense. The question I wanted to know from trainers is why don’t they provide training upon entrance to the school so each instructor doesn’t have to start from scratch and explain how the system works for every class they teach? Let one well-formed tool on the site teach them how to use it. Let the teachers put their energy into developing the curriculum instead.

The same thing applies to websites and blogs.

My policy with clients and students is that if you have to explain how to use the site, there is something wrong with the site. This is a sweeping generalization, but in over twenty years of web design and development experience, I’ve yet to need a Start Here page except for the following conditions.

  • If the site’s navigation is necessarily complicated.
  • If there is a chronological order, a sequence to navigating the site and content consumption.
  • If the site’s organization breaks with web standards.
  • The site is a game site offering guidance or instruction on playing a game.

A site that complies with web standards, the standards defined by a generation of web page design, development, usage, and user expectations, should be easy for anyone to use. Natural. The key navigation should be in familiar spots such as within the header area, sidebar, and footer. Content should be structured in familiar ways, divided up by “static” content and posts or articles that are categorized and possibly tagged to increase navigation options.
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Blog Exercises: The Domino Effect

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.I recently created a domino effect on one of my sites.

The Domino Effect is based upon the traditional game of domino pieces stacked standing upright in rows, typically in a straight or curved path carefully spaced close together. Knock over the first one and it falls against the second, and third, knocking down each one in turn in a giant wave.

My domino effect, or cascade effect, came when I changed categories around on one of my sites. It was a tedious process. When a distraction arrived, I grabbed it, forgetting the domino effect.

Within a short time, emails, text, and phone calls started arriving. Seems that all the links I’d used in my posts to categories didn’t work. Nor did the main navigation featuring categories, my categories subscription links, and every place I’d put a category link. When my fans landed on 404 page not found errors, they rushed to rescue me from myself.

A single change on your site has the potential to create the domino effect if you aren’t paying attention to the details.

Your blog exercise today is to practice domino effect prevention.

There are many ways your site can be affected by the domino effect. If you change your blog title, tagline, author name, design, topics, or the way you blog, a domino effect is initiated, impacting everything you’ve done before on your site as well as what you will do in the future.
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Blog Exercises: Editorial Calendar Check-in for September

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.It’s time to check in on your editorial calendar for September. This means not just checking in on the holidays and events for September but also for October, November, and December.

For those living in the “Western Civilization” and tied to the Christian Calendar, as well as those tied to Jewish and Muslim calendars, we’re heading into the time of year for some of the most popular religious holidays from Christmas to Hanukkah. Don’t forget the modern, made-up American holiday, Kwanzaa. Your site may have no direct ties to any of these, but consider them if you haven’t already. Find a way of connecting into the spirit and energy around these holiday events.

You need to blog about these as they apply to yourself and your blog, and take into consideration that these events tend to get in the way of work, life, and blogging. It’s time to use your editorial calendar not just for holiday topics, but to keep yourself on track.

Begin with September. September is back-to-school and back-to-work for many people who took time off over the summer. It’s time to find and buckle up your overcoat (or take it off if you live down under) as the weather shifts, and people shift gears. from fun, travel, and escapism back to the real working world.

For gardeners, this is the time to slow down and clean up from two seasons full of activity. The last dregs of plants need removal and the ground prepared for next year’s crop.

For crafters, this is the time to speed up as you prepare for holiday gift giving and decorating.

For business professionals, the season of the conference is upon us. Look at the conferences you have scheduled to attend or have a vested interest in. Is it time to get on the promotional and marketing band wagon to help these events get the bodies in the seats they need?

September is a time of change. Write an article about the changes you are feeling about your work and blog focus. What’s next? What’s past? What needs cleaning up and putting away? What needs preparing for the next phase?

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise is to check up on your editorial calendar and plan out the rest of the year’s posts.

We’ve done many blog exercises exploring the concept of organizing, managing, and scheduling your blog posts throughout the year. These keep you on track for timely subjects and helps you time the release of your content over the year so you control what and when you have your say. It also helps you plan ahead, keeping your site active with pre-published posts, allowing your site to release these automatically over time so you may turn your attention elsewhere while your site is still working for you.

The editorial calendar posts so far in these Blog Exercises include:

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: August Summary

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.August is done, and so is the summer for most of the world north of the equator. Summer is on its way down under.

This is the end of eight months of celebrating the 10th Anniversary of WordPress with a year of non-stop blogging about blogging, focused on using WordPress as your publishing platform.

In August, the blog exercises included some regularly scheduled monthly tasks such as editing your previously published content, writing about current events, and fixing your site. Together, we worked on your site goals, improving your site’s interactivity and fan-base, and hopefully improved your blog writing.

Highlights for many following these blog exercises included:

I need to highlight the amazing post that inspired The Outsider blog exercise this month. Janet of Janet’s Notebook’s post on being born an outsider touched all of us with its forthcoming honestly and sincerity. It is this openness and willing to stretch and grow personally that continues to inspire these blog exercises.

The Secret Sauce blog exercise was inspired by Laurali Star on her diary site. She wrote a response to a fan on how to improve their blogging and it inspired me to expand upon her answer. I love finding great content that not only compels me to comment, it inspires me to write more on the subject. Thanks, Laurali, for that inspiration.

Here is a full listing of all the blog exercises this month. Remember, you do not have to start at the beginning, though it may help. You may start these blog exercises today.

Previous months of blog exercises:

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: The Secret Sauce

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In “Letters to Laurali” on Laurali Star Diaries, author Larauli responded to her first “letter to the editor” on her site. The request was from a fellow blogger asking for help blogging. Blogging has changed her, she admits. Laurali has soared, stretching her wings with glory and radiating in the new connections she is building online. The tips she shares in response to the email are for all of us.

In summary they are:

  • Follow and be followed.
  • Publishing consistently on a schedule.
  • Make mistakes. Blogging is an art form.
  • Comment well for the conversation.
  • Blog about at least three topics and spice things up once in a while.
  • Pictures are like magnets.
  • Enjoy the journey.

These are excellent tips. I’d like to add one more before I hand out today’s blog exercise.

The Secret Sauce

When I traveled around the world as a keynote speaker and workshop leader for the new world of WordPress, blogging, and social media, I asked my audiences to answer the question “What makes you not trust a website?” The consensus was “You know it when you see it.” It’s a gut reaction. An instinct. While there were characteristics most spammy sites had in common, if the same elements were presented differently, more professionally, the visitor still knew in their heart that this was a site that couldn’t be trusted.

The secret sauce in the recipe for a successful blog is the same. You know it when you see it.
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