WordPress Meetup – West Wales – Haverfordwest July 14th 2015

http://www.meetup.com/Haverfordwest-WordPress-Meetup/

On the evening of the 14th July – I drove  down to my first meetup with the Haverfordwest WordPress Meetup Group…

This was the first real meetup so that we could introduce ourselves and form a rough outline of what the purpose of the group and the direction that it could take and what areas would be covered….I had been in communication with Ken Mahoney via the meetup web site and app – but this was the first time we met face to face… and I must say he did the group proud… He is doing a sterling job of setting this up and arranging things all at his own expense of time and money – and I for one have every intention of supporting the initiative and providing as much help as I can at this venue and any possible future branches at Carmarthen and Llanelli (which is much nearer home for me)… We shall see….

This group of people came from a wide background with widely differing experience of digital techniques and website development –

The common goal was to provide a means of sharing experience and for all to be in turn teachers and learners – mentor and share facilities… I suspect also that this will also be a platform to get people out of their comfort zone – and to start presenting their work and experience as ‘guest’ speakers in the following weeks –

I think I realised a long time ago – that the fastest way to develop detailed understanding of a subject area or technique is to have to explain it to others… and to provide illustrations and case studies to back up this understanding.

I believe that this group will prove to be productive and interesting for all concerned – especially after we get over the initial period and start to develop and understanding of each others needs and knowledge… It was obvious that there was a great danger of launching into things like marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, Video marketing, Google, Social Media Campaigns before many have even got to grips with the basics of blogging or creating sites using WordPress as a framework…

I think however that what was perhaps evident was that this is NOT the vehicle to try and sell others services and skills – it is to share knowledge, expertise, experiences or lack of – and for us to help each other…. I think that one of the lessons learned is that we need to formulate ground rules and etiquette – regarding conduct and  behaviors…

We are there to learn and help – and that is the purpose and intent – and I for one appreciate that we are doing this for no fees or expenses and it is for the benefit of others – and as a mean of developing our own skills and expertise…. after all we are all there because we want to learn how to do things ourselves – and not pay for other peoples services or advice…..

I think we could have a very full agenda over the coming months and I will continue to document progress, lessons learned and mistakes made during these sessions…

Unfortunately the time passed so quickly during this session – which hopefully means that it was enjoyable for all present and We can work on what we want to discuss and what facilities we can share and who will be guest speakers in future sessions.

If anyone is interested in joining us and contributing please download the Meetup app for iPhone or Android (or open the meetup.com website and search for WordPress within 100 miles of Haverfordwest, Wales, UK…

http://www.meetup.com/Haverfordwest-WordPress-Meetup/

Apologies We have been absent from these pages for quite some time – July 2015 update.

Both My wife and myself – along with our sons have had a pretty trying time since the end of February 2015 and it has taken its toll on our lives, businesses, work and health.

Unfortunately that dreaded disease Cancer has taken my father – who despite giving all the appearance of being independent,extremely fit and strong up till the start of 2015 – started exhibiting unexplained aches, pains and numbness in legs. It ended with him being hospitalized and despite the best efforts of our health service – he was only to return home for a few days at the start of March – only to lose the use of his legs.

Despite the great efforts of our health professionals and care workers – we were unable to fulfill his wishes of returning to home to be nursed – it seems we were within two days of arranging the facilities and so on… when he took a turn for the worse and his care needs became too intensive for us to cope at home.

What is so sad is that my mother – his wife of over 56 years also succumbed to the same disease only 2 years previously but hers was an extremely short illness compared to the drawn out battle my father had… He was obviously very strong and stubborn and despite saying he wanted to go – if his mobility was compromised – his body obviously was not willing to let go…. but eventually his body was no longer able to fight and he lost his battle 5 days after his 84th Birthday… I know that 84 is a good age – but we had expectations that he was going to outlive us all – as he was so active and independent … he was cycling up till Christmas 2014 and had a pretty active party life until he was struck down… He will be missed.

We seem to have lost a number of friends and family to cancer in the last few years and its cruel and leads you to re-evaluate your lives in detail because it seems to show no respect to how well you appear or how fit you keep yourself or how active… It only re-enforces the old sayings that you only have one life… life is too short…  Life is for living and you should ensure what you do is valid, worthwhile and fulfilling.

What I do know is that despite our best endeavors to care for him and protect him  – it is obvious that there were a great deal of unscrupulous characters out there who seemingly search the obituary or recent death pages that are readily available and then start a campaign of lets rip off a vulnerable person. We managed to prevent him getting solar panels but only just – he wouldn’t have benefited from the claimed savings and income from the scheme in his lifetime… but he certainly in quick succession without us knowing in advance – had replacement triple glazing (well perhaps that was sort of a good idea) – replacement doors, all new cladding and fascia boards – and to top it all I suspect an external paint job from a company who possibly claimed it was NASA space shuttle derived pain (It sounded like that when he told us) – I do know that some firms have been exposed for using ordinary paint and claiming super powers – I can’t say in all honesty that this was one of those… His place does look good though… but unfortunately he was not really able to appreciate the fruits of his money being spent… we also discovered that we had other people trying to sell shares in things like oil fields in America, coloured diamonds and other dodgy – risky schemes and he seemed glad that they were cold calling him on the phone… and we were powerless to prevent this happening – in fact he stopped us from registering his telephone number with the telephone preferential service with the aim of preventing such calls… It turns out that while we were working he must have felt so alone without his wife – that he welcomed any one phoning. Unfortunately this has only come to light as we are sorting out his affairs.

I just wish there was something that we could do to prevent this from happening to other vulnerable people out there as it seems the authorities are losing the battle and are largely unable to chase these people down.

What we didn’t realise at the time was just how much we were running on emotion and adrenaline – It seemed straight after he passed that we thought – he is at peace now – now to get our lives back on track and then we then started feeling pretty ill ourselves and the drive just wasn’t there – there was still things to sort our regarding my fathers estate and still is… plus our employment, interests, side projects and other plans still were suffering greatly… and emotionally we are spent – the enthusiasm is taking its time to return… but returning it is…..

I have a couple of side projects that I have been asked to help people with and Annette (My wife) is now embarking on the next stage of the family enterprise – so I am helping her with the websites, marketing, processes and tools… Its for that reason I am undertaking the mentoring with John Thornhill (P2S) as well as the other challenges that I have set myself.

I am undertaking some of the activities as a case study just to prove how powerful a tool the internet is for local business ventures and documenting what approaches and techniques help my friends business regain a secure footing again – after years of working via referrals – word of mouth and newspaper adverts – to a internet driven marketing and business plan – hopefully involving an aspect of passive selling of products to ensure income is available without having to rely on physical customers to her services. The other side jobs are in conjunction with my wife to help in the running of our sons businesses – in quite different niche areas and in different geographic locations – and I expect this to also involve my other interests in business processes, mobile application development and application/system development.

My eldest so is in the Health industry – Chiropractor and Sports Fitness and Care – the whole body – while my youngest is in whole life legal and financial planning.

So in conjunction with my sons – I think you are likely to find this blog expanding to cover things like keeping healthy and fit while working in offices and computers – and linking to various other sources of information and guidance for financial and whole life planning – we will just have to see how things progress but expect sections to address these aspects shortly. Annette of course will be contributing as and when she is able.

Hopefully this is the start of a new beginning

Learning At Work Week 18th – 24th May 2015 (UK)

Banners2015-06

Learning at Work Week

 

This week is learning at work week – employers in the UK should be promoting all kinds of opportunities for their employees.

Use the above link to get more information and register your interest.

Of course many of you out there believe its the employers responsibility to provide training – and where possible this should be the case – but usually this means it is training that is targeting where the management think is of benefit to the company and not the employee… Unfortunately in my experience this is not always the most interesting or useful skills for the employee.

I am a great believer in forging my own opportunities and getting employers to show an interest in funding these interests is not an easy task – It is for this reason I search the internet for offers and opportunities to enroll in free or cut price offers on web based training.

I think you will be pleasantly surprised on the quality of training that is out there and I have to be honest I have been on quite a number of organised training courses as part of my employment over the years – and a great many disappoint and do not live up to the anticipation – the cost of accommodation, travel and the course itself – plus the loss of productive work time has been a huge issue – Yes the networking at the events can be great but I am largely not a huge fan…. Often web based tuition afforded by employers are also not the most exiting and riveting…

 

Don’t get me wrong I think it is getting better and I have been on many courses that did enthuse me and have made lasting friendships due to the networking… So I am no trying to put a damper on these facilities at all… but there is a great need for the ability to read reviews regarding courses and their effectiveness.

I will be adding to this blog entry links to many of the web based training facilities out there and identifying many of the courses and instructors who have impressed me along the way…

I must also say that as I am producing information products and adding training and explainer videos to this site in the following weeks – many of these sources of tuition have inspired me and I only hope I can match the quality out there.

We all need to cover costs – so there are chances that many of these links will provide me with affiliate income but I hate sites that push items just to earn funding to run the referral sites – So course reviews presented here are ones that I believe are good – of course your preferences may not match mine…

Please feel free to comment and add your own favorites and recommendations.

To be continued …….

 

Code, Crime, Complexity: Analyzing software with forensic psychology

Adam Tornhill at TEDxTrondheim

Published on Oct 22, 2014

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Code city is corrupt with and hunting down the criminals can be a tough job. Adam Tornhill investigates the code with forensic psychology to find programming bugs.

 

 

WordPress 4.2.1 fixes a critial security vulnerability

Received a notification from WordPress that following on from WordPress 4.1.4  releases earlier in week . We were in receipt of many requests to update this week for WordPress, Plugins and Themes that were vulnerable to XSS.

WordPress 4.2.1 is now available. This is a critical security release for all previous versions and WordPress strongly advise that all sites are updated immediately to this version.

This is to address a cross-site scripting vulnerability , which could provide people commenting on a post with the ability to compromise a site. The vulnerability was discovered by Jouko Pynnönen.

WordPress 4.2.1 has begun to roll out as an automatic background update, for sites that support automatic update.

 

It is essential that you arrange to update WordPress on site as a high priority.

Urgent Security Updates – WordPress Plugin and Theme Updates

Urgent Security Updates.

For details follow this link…

Security Fix related to ‘add_query_arg and remove_query_arg_usage

As many of you will know there has been a frantic urgency regarding WordPress sites over the last few days – where many plugin creators and Theme creators have been urging site owners and webmasters to update their plugins, themes etc. It has been a pretty intense period with a number of updates being released to WordPress.

 

This issue is related to potential Cross Site Scripting XSS vulnerability and the linked article explains it in some detail.

This is an excerpt from that post.

Background: Due to a now-fixed ambiguity in the documentation for the add_query_arg() andremove_query_arg() functions, many plugins were using them incorrectly, allowing for potential XSS attack vectors in their code.

Many sites are having auto updates of WordPress and this can also cause issues due to the way that some updates have caused issues with customization of  themes – So please be vigilant.

I make sure on any sites I work with that steps are put in place to ensure that there are full offsite backups as part of a service agreement – To place trust that it will never happen to me is absurd – when there is so much valuable and hard to replace information and assets stored in your wordpress sites. I know people think why do I need to do this and pay for the updates to be done at regular intervals but I have been involved in the after effects of system crashes or even customer ‘accidents’ on sites to know that it is well worth the expense and it is essential you have a backup and storage strategy.

My favourite is iThemes BackupBuddy – which I also use to quickly setup sites by migrating baseline builds that are then restored or migrated by this great tool.. It is also handy to provide students with ready built sites and assets for training purposes.

 

RUCK Workshops – Really Useful Computer Knowledge – Wales 2014/2105

For two days last summer I attended my first real conference workshop for some time.

Really Useful Computer Knowledge: RUCK workshops to upskill UK’s software development industry

25th and 26th June 2014 at Aberystwyth University United Kingdom

I was reminded of this as there is a new one publicised on EventBrite and Software Alliance Wales

RUCK Workshops 2015

RUCK Workshops

 Aberystwyth University
Penglais Campus
SY23 3DB Aberystwyth
United Kingdom

 

I arrived early in the morning on a beautiful hot sunny Wednesday at Aberystwyth university… Somewhere I visited last in 1977 to attend a physics day obviously as an attempt to lure young a level students to study at that place

There was to be no fluidics and abnormal fluids this day.

It was to be a packed two days of networking. Snacking on biscuits and buffet meals a great meal out on the. First night and two days of design advice, html5 graphics JavaScript and android development. Plus discovering that the skills I had attained over the years still stacked up well against some of the youngsters at the beginnings of their careers… Also great to mix with some older entrepreneurial types… There was quite a bit of do you need more help on that stuff as I discovered stuff that I took for granted as should be known by everybody.. Just wasn’t true and it was a huge boost to confidence levels….it’s so gratifying mixing and networking with others after perhaps feeling isolated and within your own bubble…

And Yes I would advise you guys to get out of your current bubble – spend some time with other like (and unlike) minded people… You can learn a lot and you do need to meet others to realise you are not alone out there… maybe even pick up some tips regarding your elevator pitch and also in a few cases learn to modify your own behaviour – yeah how many times have you started speaking with some other delegates that you realise wow – is there any chance that I come over like that? What do I have to do  to make sure I don’t end up doing same mistake! Then again you do often meet the most charismatic person on the circuit and you think – that is someone I would do well to emulate… Yes first time impressions unfortunately do last…

What I also found very enjoyable is the social event at the end of the first evening – this time it was a really great Indian meal and really great company…

Conversations were far reaching and interesting – and one in particular was regarding the emphasis that was being put on changing how government contracts had to change and how there was some considerable evangelising regarding Agile ‘with a big A’ and things like hackathon events that were being undertaken as part of the brave new world… I will no doubt have a post indicating some of the discussions that are out there regarding the use of Agile methods in small and large enterprises and the difficulties encountered with application development with large companies where the processes that were traditionally encumbered by extreme waterfall like processes – and huge project management overheads and controls… So a meeting of minds as well as technical business learning was the order of the two days.

I certainly hope that I can find time to fit in the iOS boot camp in 2015…. and I also intend to repeat the experience by attending RUCK 2015.

 

Trello – The Online Kanban Board – Part One

This is what I used to be renowned for …. The Comments  I commonly used by others were ‘I can see that Ashley is deeply into something as out come the post it notes…Looks like trouble or something deeply interesting’  –

Yes and the  Highlighter Pens, Cork Board and Sticky plastic tabs….

I must say that there is still something really satisfying in the use of such physical items – something that electronic tools just didn’t seem to hit the spot.

Yes I have been known to routinely use – Index Cards (or CRC cards) , Hole Punches, Whiteboards, Sketch Books, Scanners, Cameras, Evernote, Mind Mapping Tools – Such as Buzans iMindMap, Oh yes Livescribe recording Pen – which records audio as well as drawings and Inkling… I may cover these and latest developments in this area in follow up posts. I also regularly use Sparx – Enterprise Architect – but only where it is appropriate and then only use the useful aspects.

Care must be taken as I can see its a bit like people who were into CB radio –

The conversations you hear are all about the equipment they have instead of real conversations or Camera Buffs who wax lyrically about their kit

but rarely do you see the photos they produce –

It is tools to do a job a means of getting the job done and documenting what has been done (and what has been rejected – and why)  – not to be confused with the tool that become the job… Where the process is so tool bound that you think that its getting the work done – but all you are doing is creating documentation and no product.

Yes I have got bogged down with the tool and what it can do – and have lost site of the fact that it has to be useful and not hinder developments.


Lean, Agile and Other influences.

I still use those tools and have used many of these in one form or another right from the start of my career – and have used them for Electronic Design and Software Design, Brainstorming Project Ideas and Strategies… as well as planning my Kitchen and House renovations…..

I have to say that I am not a huge fan of using Spreadsheets and things like that… Particularly as there is always an issue in comparing previous version and new versions etc….

However this issue can also be raised when you use pure physical items such as post it notes and paper etc. (Yes I know you can scan them in and get them translated by OCR into text and diagrams)… I digress perhaps!

So since the mid 80’s where many of the tools we use today (maybe in different forms and names) were in development – techniques have changed (or perhaps their Brand has changed – maybe more comparisons in later posts) – We have been through Booch,  Flow Charting , OMT,CRC Cards, Use Cases, UML and so on.

Its now 2015 and you can’t get involved in anything without the words Agile and Lean coming up…. and these words can and will lead to many many posts and articles – which I have no intention of covering in this post… some of the techniques related to this appear to me as not so much new or the latest Magic Bullet – but an adoption of older methods in a different guise… I must stop now before I start waxing lyrically about this here and presenting comparisons and advantages/disadvantages and drawbacks etc.

I am however keen on any methods that get people out of their isolated bubbles – their own world of assumptions, prejudices and misunderstanding and starting to collaborate, learn from each other, be accountable, communicate and leave a legacy of information for those that follow to pick up. Wow that was a long sentence – but I feel that it is assumptions, misconceptions, obfuscation (wow another long word) and poor communication are a major cause of problems…. Just talk and explain – stop pretending its rocket science and share – and man up to reviews and critique…..

Stop I can see you starting to go off on a possible rant again…. There is room for that elsewhere Ash!

I am always open to new ideas and will try my best to adopt the ones that I feel are useful… A bit fed up that new Evangelists always feel their ways are revolutionary and the ‘old’ methods are wrong and have no place in the brave new world – but I feel that there is too much emphasis on the next best thing (you do get jaded and cynical after another repeat of these cycles of stop using the old methods – you must adopt these new methods and disrupt your process – only to find Uh this is oh so much the same as say RAD/JAD or iterative design and what is missing here is a bit of Waterfall like – lets think about what we are going to do first before assuming that the new Agile methods will cope)…. Oh Ash stop it you are getting into rant mode again.

As a result I have attended physical and on-line courses in Agile, Lean, Scrum and obtained accreditation in those methods, became such a thing as a LEAN champion…

This post however is not about these techniques but to discuss a tool that forms part of my old way of working and is a digital collaborative tool that can be used in Agile and Lean Methodologies..

trello-logo-blue

 

 

trello_screen_dump

I will go into a great more detail in the follow up blog post – but as you can see from their development board – There is no attempt here in pretending that the boxes are post-it notes (I have seen other tools that try and replicate that).

They have allowed users and groups to have free reign on the headings – for example an Agile Kanban Board from Mike Cohn, Task Boards has the titles

Story, To Do, In Process, To Verify and Done

Others have Backlog, In-Progress and Done

It can be used for Definition of Done brainstorming, Can be used for Assigning Stories, Story Cards, Estimations (I’ll add references to this later).

You can move items from one column to another.. you can move items easily with drag and drop vertically etc.

What is really good is that you can assign users to the board and they can have the Trello application open on their iPhone, iPad, Android or on web browser and as people add items add comments update or manipulate – you get notifications and your views updated immediately.

It seems these days that you can’t turn a corner at any development or design organisation – without finding walls, glass panels, rooms covered with Post-It notes – and its fair share of yellow bits of papers littering the floor where the adhesive just seems to have failed.

One great advantage of this is that you can perform these tasks remotely instead of in same location and you no longer need to be in same place – you can also get away from the issue of space for the physical boards, sticky notes falling on floor being able to move location without losing your board details etc.

Please read more in follow up blog posts….

April 21 “Mobilegeddon” Is Coming – Are You Ready?

Google recently announced “Starting April 21 (2015) , we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”

This means that from April 21st 2015 Sites that previously gained ranking from existing SEO tactics could lose that hard earned ranking due to the new rules that will be introduced.

This follows on from other changes such as those nicknamed  hummingbirds, pandas, and penguins that caused high ranking sites to plummet in the rankings. Twitter feeds were full of news regarding this change and the world of SEO was set into turmoil in anticipation of these major ranking algorithm updates.

Usually these algorithm updates are announced with very laid back or no warning – but this one looks destined to be a ‘biggie’ and Google have been pushing the stories and guidance on this update.

This once again shows that SEO is really not something that you can undertake once and then wait for results to take you (after a time – patience and effort needed) to the top – SEO Experts and WebMasters need to keep an eye on these things constantly and make sure that steps are taken to continue to rank on Google.

 

These changes can cause your rating to plummet overnight despite months of effort gaining that placing… So its time to up our game! Oh yes this one goes by the nickname “Mobilegeddon” as it relates to Mobile friendly ranking requirements.

We have been warned that we must offer your users a full mobile experience for quite some time now.

 Preparing for the Update

This does mean that the website software must be customised  and mobile SEO best practices must be adopted…  Google does have a site that can help as well as tools to test your site for mobile friendliness.

ashleyeatlycom mobile friendly

 

 

 

Simple Task – It will take a minute – Thursday 1st April 2015

Today –

I had a ‘quick’ request from Son to visit his website and add in some google analytics code – a simple enough job or so I thought.

As I was extremely busy with other work over the last few months..

He instead used someone from eLance or oDesk or Fiverr to undertake a site makeover…. I don’t normally like others doing stuff on my hosting platform but it was needs must at this time.

But today this guy had completed his work – and My son had already been applying some changes himself…

Anyway I went to the site and discovered that the directories where the site was hosted was full of copies of the various versions of WordPress sites – old – new – and intermediate ones.

I did see however that he was using an OptimumPress plug in and thought ah I know that one – its like Optimum Press Theme but is designed to work with any other theme. I can use that facility to add the google analytics code although there are some pretty awesome alternative plugins that can help you with Google.

I did see that there were warnings that there were updates needed on the themes etc. However as it wasn’t really my site design or setup and we were in a hurry – I applied the google analytics code to the optimum press tool-set and off we went.

Then on further inspection I thought that some of the basic safeguards regarding safe practices and ensuring changes are recoverable were not present on this site…

My process always requires facilities like

  1. iThemes BackupBuddy – allowing full backups of site and database etc. Remotely and locally – its one of the must have facilities and I’d add that as a Service to any customer.
  2. iThemes Sync – although not essential it does allow you to keep an eye on updates, security, site performance and failures etc. Allowing remote updates to that site.. Again I would recommend this as a service to customers.

Anyway when we viewed the site – it looked absolutely terrible and looked like it does when you change the theme expecting the site to magically look as great as it does in the demo illustrations.

Of course we are all experienced enough to know that this magic is only a feature of these site builder packages on the market – and that is only by virtue of the fact that they are ‘cookie cutter’ sites…Yeah those ones that give people unrealistic opinions on the efforts required to get a good web site to bring you business.

I realised then that the way the site had been created was bespoke of course but using a standard free WordPress theme but not using the changes as a child theme… and the ‘infrastructure’ had somehow invoked a theme update – its often automatic these days with new versions of WordPress – and updates are usually recommended due to security and other considerations.

Anyway I embarked on a backup of the site by adding these great plugins and backing up to my stash etc. but as I didn’t realise at the time how the site had been structured and which of the directories and zip files were representative of the proper upgrade – I decided to do a clone site and experiment in such a way as to not to risk further damage.

In the end the developer did respond to my sons chase for information and the site was quickly restored to its former (almost) glory and thankfully did not charge for doing so.

Yes the updates that had been performed were lost… Well I say lost – they are there in the backup – but I now need to do a full comparison using something like Beyond Compare (excellent tool) and that is a task for the next week.

But let that be a lesson to you all – make sure you keep a clean site – do not leave any garbage hanging around in directories as its inefficient, downright confusing and will add to your backup costs (if you have a backup strategy) as there is so much bloat and repeated artifacts through the site. And actually the hosting company look on it as quite suspicions if there appears to be lots of files not immediately associated with the actual web site operation  – they will start complaining of misuse of facilities and using the site for illegal storage of data items….

Anyway this activity is now going to lead on to an article and explainer covering best practices to ensure that a customer site is safeguarded against updates, mistakes and covering yourselves in the event of any unforeseen events (accident or malicious intent),

Bottom line is that my son is now happy that he can use google analytics and we will be getting together soon to plan the way ahead and ensure this can never happen again.