Ep # 15  – The Transcript – Anatomy of a WordPress Blog for eLearning Developers

You can listen to the podcast here…

So lets talk about the anatomy of a WordPress blog and the first thing that I would like to do is just define the term blog – in general.

Definition of a Blog

It originated from the term weblog and then was shortened to blog many years ago. It’s designed for short articles that are posted in chronological format, kind of like a journal. When new content is created it’s automatically fed to people that read the blog through a subscription service and most modern blogs store information in an underlying content management system

Why WordPress?

So first of all why am I choosing to use WordPress as the subject for the anatomy of a blog?

WordPress is best-of-breed and by that I mean that it’s by far the most widely used blogging software on the planet and there are a number of reasons for that…

  • It’s free
  • It has a huge open source development community
  • It’s easy to get set up and started on a website and finally
  • It has countless add-on’s or plugins that you can use in your blog to add functionality

The Structure of a WordPress Blog

So let’s move on to a little bit of the structure of a blog and I am going to cover a number of different things:

  • I am going to a cover of the content management systems as I briefly mentioned a moment ago moment.
  • I am going to cover the RSS feed or syndication capability.
  • The concept of a theme.
  • I am going to move on to the major user side components of a WordPress blog and then…
  • A little bit about what’s under the hood of a WordPress blog
  • And then we’ll go into a little summary so…

Blog Structure

Content Management System

First of all,  the content management system or CMS was covered in a in eLearning Radio post in even more detailed than I am going to do here so definitely go back and check out that post…

A content management system allows you to easily add and modify, delete, store and share content and it does so by way of an underlying database that is in the case of a WordPress blog a MySQL database.

MySQL is also open source so WordPress is open source as well as MySQL. So that’s just a brief overview of a content management system.

RSS…

Then the other a very powerful feature of a blog and somewhat unique is the RSS capability or Really Simple Syndication capability that allows your reader to subscribe to your content and that content is delivered to the reader automatically through that subscription.  So very, very handy and hassle free for somebody that wants to stay up on what you’re doing.

Theme…

And then is the concept of a theme and theme is essentially the look and feel or the skin of your blog site and some themes are free and some are not, some really pretty, some really ugly…

Particular themes can add all kinds of navigational functionality and different things like that but primarily the theme is the look and feel of your blog.

Major User Side Components

And then moving on in the structure discussion, are two major user side components to a blog site:

The Post

Are the posts which are really what makes a blog, a blog and those posts are displayed by default in reverse chronological order on your blog, so the latest post is going to be on top.  So the most current information is there for the reader and, so that’s the post and like I said that’s really at the heart of a blog

The Page

And then is a the concept of a page, and a page is more of a static page like you would normally see on the Internet. The page really has no chronology and we are going to discuss pages and posts in a lot more detail, so no worries there but I just wanted to give you that summary of posts and pages

Under the Hood

Then under the hood; WordPress in order to function requires a number of things:

  • First of all it has to reside on an Apache server and an Apache server is a Web server and it again is open source.
  • We already talked about MySQL and then
  • There is a scripting language that is integral to the whole WordPress thing and that is referred to as PHP.

PHP

PHP is a server-side scripting language that allows you to connect and interact with your MySQL database in your WordPress blog. So you can kind of see that’s the glue that that puts the theme and the overall skin and all of that together with the database and gets things talking together.

So that’s really all you need to know about that – another one of my inner geek moments but it’s good that you know that.

All you need to know is that a programmer to create a WordPress blog has to have a working knowledge of PHP, well, they don’t even need to have a working knowledge of PHP and my SQL because most of that is already there.

What they need to have our working knowledge of if you’re going to hire somebody is HTML and CSS they really need to understand HTML- a scripting language of the Web and most of you probably heard that.

An then CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and its it’s a way for you to create a uniform formatting theme for your site so you can like take the theme that you buy or you download for free and you can apply further HTML and CSS to your WordPress site and you could make it that much more unique to you and in your website and your look, an that’s all there is to that

In Summary…

So in summary WordPress is a content management system that automatically publishes and posts to subscribers via RSS.

The WordPress site look and feel is generated by

  • A theme with content either presented via
  • Dynamic posts or
  • More static pages so that’s the overall structure of a WordPress blog

And like I mentioned earlier, I am going to be posting and at least an outline of this discussion on my site so you can come back and refer to it at a later time.

Pages in More Detail…

So let’s talk about pages first and these are features that are specific to WordPress page and we’re just in a cover the general aspects of a page first and will [then] go through each one of them in just a little bit of detail.

  • First of all you can have parent and child pages so you can arrange your pages in a hierarchy and more effectively present your reader content in the form of a page if you choose to do that.
  • You can have page templates and those are layouts for particular purposes so you could have one for a specific type of article or maybe a review, who knows,  you can have anything you want on a template and that does require some programming if your theme doesn’t come with that specific template – somebody would have to create that

And then like I said, the order of your pages can be moved in any sequence you like so if you have five pages you can say these three pages are underneath this parent page and then these two pages are underneath this parent page so pretty handy that way

Now, the thing you need to understand is that pages are not files. Unlike conventional HTML websites and web pages, blog pages are included in the blogs MySQL database. So when you go to eLearning Radio/Blog,  it’s going to present a page but it’s not a page liken a .html, it’s just /blog… and it’s embedded in the database as part of the database

In Summary

  • A WordPress page has the capability to have parent and child pages and you can put them in any order
  • You can have templates that can allow you to have formats for different purposes and
  • Pages are not files so unlike conventional HTML web pages – I can have a .html.

So that’s all there is to pages at least for the sake of this discussion. There is a lot more to do know, but that will get you going

Posts in More Detail

So let’s move on to posts. Now the post as I said really lies at the heart of a blog and it’s what makes a blog, a blog. A post has a number of different attributes.

We will cover these quickly and will go back over my little bit of detail

  • First of all, posts can have categories and tags and we are going to talk little bit about the differences [between] a tag and a category
  • Secondly, you have comments, or a place for discussion between you and your readers and …
  • Then you have a place where you can put your name as the author or somebody else’s, so you can have multiple authors on the blog and
  • Then finally you can also “stick” posts to a front page and what I mean by that, remember that I said that posts are in reverse chronological order. Well there might be a particular post that you want to be up front and keep it that way. So it’s the ability to make that post sticky

So let’s go back to categories…

  • First of all a category provide you with the capability to categorize your posts and to display them where and when appropriate.
  • And then a tag allows you to tag your posts and enables search engine spiders like Google and Yahoo and so forth to specifically categorize your content during search…

So the category is more for the users convenience to find posts on particular topics and the tags are more on the backend for search engines to find you where and when appropriate.

So the difference between a tag and a category

A tag is more search engine optimization

A category is more for ease of use, blog navigation, on menus and things like that so you can actually use them that way, so comes in very handy

Comments and Discussion

Now the comments and discussion capability of a post… this is something if you’ve ever used a blog, you’re familiar with reading comments, posting comments and that’s really a very powerful feature.

  • Comments are the ability to stay connected and establish a relationship with your readers.
  • You can grant or restrict comments on a blog post by blog post basis…
  • And further you can moderate reader comments before they appear on your blog.

So that’s just in a nutshell the ability to create comments, or to allow your readers to create comments and you can comment back.

Then the ability to have authors post particular blog posts so you can appropriately identify the author of each specific post and you can have multiple authors…

So I am going to provide you with a “best practices for posting” and this is from WordPress.org and I think it’s a very informative article So I am going to put that up on the show notes for this podcast so be sure to check.

What Pages and Posts Have In Common

Now let’s move on to those things that pages and posts have in common…

  • First of all you can have a title for a page or a post and each of those, either a page or a post, allows you to create a permalink, which is essentially the name of the post or the link …So as I mentioned earlier if you had eLearningRadio.com/rick, rick would be the permalink… so that’s the type of link that you have in WordPress.

Publishing Options

  • Next are the publishing options and again similar for both pages and posts…You can post when you want,
  • You can make your post occur or seem to be posted in the past, or you can post in the future.
  • You can post public so it’s available to everyone on the web or you can post it privately so that only certain people have access to it,
  • And you can post with a password protection in place so that’s pretty nice. You have quite a bit of flexibility in the publishing options

The Editing Area

And then as far as the main editing area in both pages and posts,

  • You can create pages in straight up HTML so if you’re an HTML coder you can do that,
  • Or you can post in a visual format so you have a kind of a what you see is what you get [ WYSWIG ] environment, and they have a series menuing options in the visual mode that’s called the kitchen sink and if nothing else the people that that create and maintain WordPress have a sense of humor – so kind of fun that way.
  • But the kitchen sink allows you a bunch of different features of bolding and underlining and doing a lot of different things that that really add a lot of options when you’re creating a webpage. One of them is full screen option so you can click in the full screen option you can work on your post in a more of at a convenient way for me anyway I like doing that…

Differences Between and Post and a Page

Let’s move on to the main differences between a post and a page and it is important to know what they are:

  • First one is that on a post you can post in chronological order or reverse chronological order and you can’t with pages they really don’t have a date sensitivity.
  • Pages are included in your blog’s RSS feed for your subscribers – I’m sorry let me correct myself POSTS are included in the blog’s RSS feed and pages are not.
  • And posts have tags in categories and pages do not and
  • Pages have a hierarchy and again I mentioned this but it’s really good to know this stuff because…
  • The pages can allow you to create an order for your pages and you can add those to a menuing system and so on, so it allows you some pretty good flexibility that way and…
  • Pages are static and that they’re not technically part of your blog and you could theoretically create a WordPress site that would be pages only but you really would not have a blog would you?

WordPress User Levels

And then let’s move onto to the WordPress user levels and there are quite a few of them there actually, let’s see, there are actually five of them. So WordPress provides you with a multitude of different roles and it gives you again flexibility in this respect:

  • The first one is the Admin role which is full rights over the entire blog site.
  • Next is the Author role where you can publish and manage, a user can publish and manage their own posts.
  • An Editor can publish and manage their own posts and pages as well as the posts of others.
  • A Contributor can write their own posts, but they can’t publish, so you as an editor could review what contributors post and then approve them or disprove them or whatever.
  • And finally is the Subscriber where [a] subscriber can only manage their [own] profile.

So the roles are Admin, Author, Editor, Contributor and Subscriber so there are five of them, again pretty handy.

Plug-Ins

And then let’s [look at]  some functionality that you can add to your blog posts and your blog site that that is really just a limited by your imagination and this is through plugins. Plugins are available, some of them cost money some of them are for free and they allow you to do about anything on your blog, on your WordPress blog.

  • For instance, there is a plug-in called aMember and aMember allows you to turn your blog website into a membership site. I don’t know how much it costs, I’ve never used it but aMember is very well respected on the web and allows you to create different areas of your website that are available at different levels of membership and so on; that’s just one plug-in.
  • There’s a Google Analytics code plug-in so you can put in your Google analytics code [so] that Google can track your traffic and let you know what’s popular and what’s not.
  • There is an audio player plug-in like the one that I use on eLearning Radio so you can play my podcasts.
  • There are a number of YouTube plug-ins so visitors can play YouTube videos directly on your website.
  • There are a number of review plugins that allow you to properly format and tag product reviews so that Google sees them as such, as valid reviews.

So that’s just a few of them to give you an idea, but again it’s really just open your imagination. If there is an option out there for WordPress, well, either somebody’s thought of it, or maybe you should think of it and create your own plugIn.

Widgets

And then let’s move on to widgets, so you have these plug-ins that add functionality to your blog site and in some cases as a whole, and then you have widgets that allow you to display specific types of content in particular areas of your blog.

So examples of widgets are like:

  • Sidebar text, you could add a sidebar of categories – You can display all your categories
  • You could display all your tags if you want.
  • There are widgets for displaying a calendar of your posts and when they were published so you could see like the December, January, February, March posts and would tell you how many of them there are and you could click on that and it would take you to that list of posts so pretty cool feature.
  • There are widgets for footer text so you can add copyright information, things along those lines

So this gives you an idea of what a widget is. Widget content can be saved and used at a later time and it can actually be used across multiple themes provided that there aren’t any conflicts between one theme or another – that can happen. But as a rule, widgets are supposed to be usable across multiple themes.

A Blog Structured for eLearning

Let’s talk for a minute about a blog structured for eLearning and again this is open to your imagination. I going to approach this from the standpoint of:

  • More formal and
  • Less formal

More Formal

  • A more formal blog used for eLearning can be structured in pages and posts like we’ve talked about where you could have a page that is a course title and a table of contents.
  • And then you could use the hierarchy feature of pages to provide your users with a guide about the steps, the lessons and so on. So you can put it on a menu so that your users would know 1,2,3,4 that type of thing.
  • You can access course content driven by menu structure, categories as well.
  • You can also password protect content so maybe in lesson three there would be a link to a page that’s not available in lesson one or two. So it can be, from a course flow standpoint available – or you could maybe have a password in lessons two or three, additional content or maybe an “explore”, right you can have those kind of posts

You could have FAQ’s or a glossary in this series of posts and have them categorized that way.

So you see how these parts of the WordPress anatomy for the standpoint of: Categories and Pages and Posts and so forth, how they can be fit together here.

I hope this makes little sense to you.

And given that this is an audio podcast and I’m not showing you physically it’s something that hopefully it’s clear enough where you can go explore on your own.

Another [application] is a glossary so you could have and a series of terms that you could look up.

Deliver in Byte Size Chunks

And then it [course content] could be delivered over a period of time, where you could deliver your posts in byte sized chunks.

In other words you have posts that are delivered by publish dates, like I mentioned earlier where you can say a post is delivered in week one, week two, week three and week four and they will automatically be posted that way.

And as I said, access to additional information can then be delivered not only by menuing and so on but also by date, special pages etc.

Less Formal

And you [could] get into less formal, ongoing, series of posts and comments on a topic where you can have a discussion with people. And obviously you can do that in any of these different ways, whether more formal or less formal, and just utilizing the power of a blog to have a conversation about a particular issue.

And then a series of FAQ posts, that are tagged and categorized so that it’s less formal and more formal and that is the extent of this episode on the anatomy of a blog…

In Summary

And just to recap:

  • We talked about the structure of a blog and what a blog is and the fact that there is it’s a content management system and it uses RSS to subscribe.
  • That you have themes and pages and posts.
  • That a WordPress blog has some under the hood capabilities and attributes between MySQL and PHP – But you usually don’t have to mess with that…
  • And then your programmer or if you’re a programmer could work with HTML and CSS a little bit higher in the hierarchy of development –  a little but less technical basis but that’s what most people do is to use HTML and CSS and they don’t get into the PHP stuff
  • Then pages and we talked about…
  • The attributes of pages
  • The attributes of posts
  • The things that are common between pages and posts.
  • The things that are different between pages and posts.
  • Then we talked about the WordPress user levels and the flexibility that that provides you.
  • The power of plugins that allow functionality to your blog site and just countless ways and finally…
  • The concept of a widget and – then actually not finally we talked about the concept of a widget and then to…
  • The application of an eLearning strategies to a WordPress blog and again, about every blog that’s out there on the web is to some degree or another a learning opportunity.

But when you take it from the standpoint of an instructional designer and you understand the components associated with, the parts associated with a blog you really start to realize the power and the potential of it, so I hope this does provide you with some information and some food for thought.