In class today we’re going to talk about getting started with analytics. Analytics and data can’t write your posts for you, but it can give you some clues as to what your readers are interested in and where they are coming from.
Jetpack, a suite of plug-ins from Automattic, the main developers of WordPress, includes a simple analytics (“Stats”) page. You can install the plug-in through the built-in Plugins > Add New page. You’ll need a WordPress.com login to activate Jetpack, but it’s worth the effort because having that login will also let you get an API key to enable Akismet, which fights comment spam on your blog.
Google Analytics are a lot more powerful (and also more complex) and there are a number of ways to install it into your WordPress. I use the simple plug-in Insert Headers and Footers to insert the Google Analytics code into my site.
Once you’ve set up a Google Analytics account and added your site to it, you can go to the Admin page and click on Tracking Info:
That will open up the Tracking Info section and reveal Tracking Code:
Clicking that will show you your tracking code:
Copy that to the clipboard and return to your blog dashboard. Under Settings you’ll find Insert Headers and Footers (once you’ve installed it, of course) and you can paste the code into the Header section. That will insert it into the Header section of every page on your blog.
Click Save to save your changes.
Here are some links I want to be able to reference in class tomorrow and this is an easy place to stick them:
Our class hashtag: #bbbf14
WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platforms these days, which has pros and cons (as with everything). On the plus side, there’s tons of themes and plug-ins available, many of them free. On the downside, WordPress is a popular target for hackers and malware. So you’ll want to keep your WordPress installation and your plugins up-to-date.
As some of you have already discovered, there’s a built-in updater and installation mechanism in WordPress that uses FTP or FTP-SSL to transfer the needed files to your WordPress installation. But, as those same people have found, FTP and FTP-SSL are blocked on our IAM server, for security reasons. If you were paying for commercial hosting, this would be the point where you’d be contacting the support for your service.
The IAM server does support SFTP, a secure form of FTP. And some quick Googling reveals a WordPress plug-in that adds SFTP support to WordPress. Which would be a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem of installing a plug-in when you can’t install plug-ins, but I’ve gone ahead and added the plugin to everyone’s installation in B:BTB. You’ll just need to activate it.
In your WordPress dashboard, click on the Plugins section of the sidebar, find the SSH SFTP Updater Support plugin and click on Activate to enable it.
Now that it’s activated, when you go to any of the functions where you can update a theme, a plugin, WordPress itself, or when you can install a new theme or plugin (for example, the Add New button in Themes):
You’ll have a new option in the Connection Info. At the bottom of the panel, you’ll need to select SSH2. You’ll then need to fill-in some values:
FTP/SSH Username: firstname.lastname (your IAM account name)
FTP/SSH Password: [your IAM password]
You don’t need a Private Key for our IAM server.
WordPress will remember the first two values for future updates, but you’ll need to put in your password every time.
In class today we discussed the documentary The Internet’s Own Boy, about the life and death of Aaron Swartz. I mentioned that I found it interesting that we could dive deeper into the subject by reading the words of the subjects of the documentary themselves. Some examples:
Fittingly, the documentary itself has been released under a Creative Commons license. There’s nothing in a CC license that prevents the creator from charging for it as well, so the link at the top of this post takes you to several video-on-demand services where you can pay for the documentary. But you can also watch the whole thing on YouTube or download it from the Internet Archive.
And an interesting review I found: Ken White has an interesting perspective on the subject, being both a former federal prosecutor and someone who has suffered from depression.
The good news is that it’s not just me. The bad news is that it’s still pedantic prescriptivism and the language is probably just moving on without me. See also, literally.
Most everything in life is a trade-off and our choice of blogging platform is no exception. For this class we’re going to use the popular WordPress platform, hosted by the IAM Department server. This is going to give us a lot of options for themes and plug-ins and a lot of control over many aspects of our blog. But it also means we’re going to have to exercise a lot of that control, especially just to get the blog going.
You can copy and paste most the commands on this page into the command line, but watch out for things like “your.name” and change them to, you know, your name.
The first thing we’re going to do is to open up Terminal on a Mac or Putty on a Windows computer and connect using our IAM accounts and passwords (the same account we use to log into the Macs in the classroom).
On a Mac, type this into the Terminal command line. (On a Windows machine, open up Putty and put students.iam.colum.edu as the server to connect to, then login with your.name and your IAM password.)
The first time you log in on any particular machine you’ll need to accept a warning about authenticity. Please do so and then use your IAM password to log in. First we’re going to run a command to set our permissions correctly, and then we’re going to edit the default configuration file with the ‘nano’ text editor:
Use the down-arrow key to scroll down and find the line that reads:
$table_prefix = 'wp_BBBFA2014_';
Use the arrow keys to position the cursor after the last underscore and add your name so that it reads:
$table_prefix = 'wp_BBBFA2014_your_name';
Press control-X to exit nano and press Y and then return to confirm saving your changes without changing the file name.
Now we need to make a directory for uploads and then run a script that fixes various permissions.
Now open up any browser and navigate to: http://students.iam.colum.edu/~your.name/wordpress/
You’ll be prompted to choose:
Fill those in as appropriate and then click Install WordPress.