Posts Tagged ‘technology’

WordPress: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

For quite some time, I have been telling myself that I need to get out there and do volunteering in the (minimal) free time that I have. And this past Friday I found a way to do that in such a way that it coincided with my workday and allowed me to not only use my techinical skills to help those in need to…help others in need–but also it served as a professional development tool for myself. I’ve posted on my company’s Full Spectrum Blog but wanted to cross-post here as well:

If you know a thing or two about the Internet, chances are you’ve heard of WordPress. As of August 2011, it was estimated that 22 percent of all new websites in the world were powered by WordPress. It continues to win awards for being the best open source CMS (content management system) out there. I’m blogging on a WordPress-powered blog right now, hosted on a WordPress site. You could even call us WordPress super fans here at Spectrum. Put simply, I often feel that within this scary tangled web we weave, there is true solace to be found in WordPress…

Anyhow–last Friday I had the pleasure of working alongside Anthony Braddy to lead a group of small nonprofits through some of the in’s and out’s of building a WordPress website. The workshop was just one session within a larger Pro Bono Consulting Lounge held at Artisphere, hosted and made possible by DC Week.

In my opinion, this event is a highlight of DC Week, because it allows local organizations to get their hands dirty learning these practical skills, and provides them with free consulting, which they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Sitting through a panel or a keynote speech can be inspirational, but it can also be overwhelming and may not get into the step-by-step people need to make things happen. When building a website, the problem isn’t just that a professional site can cost anywhere from $500 to $10,ooo to build out–it’s that once it is built, it’s left in the hands of an organization that may not know how to update it. This consulting lounge was built to empower these groups on a personal level.

I was able to work one-on-one with the D.C. Jobs Council to begin transitioning them to a WordPress-based site within the next few months. They’re starting from square one, so we spent a good deal of time talking about what the purpose(s) of the site would be and what the priorities were in terms of content on the site, and then explored theme options that would best work within this and began working through how to customize them.

One of the best parts about teaching others about the kind of thing you work with on a daily basis is that you begin to learn exactly what you don’t know yourself. I’m admittedly not a web developer in the vaguest sense of the word. But given the task of thinking like one, I made connections about how things work that I hadn’t made before; reverse-engineering your thinking really helps you become a better teacher. I also realized I might need to pick up this bad boy, the WordPress Bible (I suggest this as a great resource for anyone interested, beginner or otherwise) for more complicated projects.

While it’s arguably the simplest CMS out there to work with, you can never really stop learning new ways to use WordPress. Which is good, because then you can always pay it forward to the next guy who needs help.

I’ll check back in soon with my version of a “handy guide” you might find helpful for getting on your feet with WordPress.

Health 2.0 DC/VA/MD Meet-Up & on being a responsible health blogger

Last night I attended the Health 2.0 DC/VA/MD Meet-Up over in Bethesda (at The Barking Dog), which ended up being a really interesting event. I’m basically brand new to the whole adult world of networking events that fall outside of American University, which is now technically my “alma mater,” and I found it to be not at all intimidating and overall very informative. The event was hosted by Aquilent. They picked a pretty perfect venue for an meet-up with six rapid-fire 5-minute presentations from innovators and leaders in the area of health solutions that use Web 2.0 technology. The moderator had a whistle but I think he laid off it when one of the speakers announced he had “mean soccer coach days” issues.

One of my favorite speakers was Nancy Shute, contributing editor for U.S. News & World Report and writer of the OnParenting blog, which for some reason I sometimes read even though I’m not a parent. She talked about the struggles that journalism has faced with regard to a lack of fact-checking and how, when it comes to issues of health and medical care, those sorts of mistakes can be, well, deadly. One thing she pointed out that I found interesting is that for a while it was clear that people wanted to hear from others like themselves when it came to making decisions about their health care, but now the balance between trusting people like you and trusting medical doctors is beginning to level out.

What this presentation really said to me, especially as someone who blogs and potentially puts myself in a place where my advice about health and eating and wellness can be taken seriously, is that, like a journalist, I need to fact-check my sources and trust only reliable sites. I have struggled with this in the past in my personal life when I have turned into what you might call a “cyberchondriac.” (CDC? An acceptable place to find health information; random message boards? Not so much.) While the Web 2.0 age has afforded us the ability to share information and get help quickly and be in touch with sources online that are legitimate, it has also given a voice to a bunch of people that don’t know what the heck they are talking about. And our job, as the writers and re-purposers of that information, is to do so with utmost scrutiny and with an unbiased voice which isn’t swayed by sponsors or advertisers or celebrities (see Jennifer McCarthy and the autism/vaccine connection debate). We, as “citizen journalists” have to be able to discern when information isn’t accurate or useful so that we know not to trust it for ourselves and not to share it with our readers.

Update: See below for the slideshow from Nancy’s presentation. It’s definitely worth a look through.

Anthony LaFauce at Spectrum Science (who took some video at the event and has it posted on his Qik page) posted a great recap of one of the speakers from Infield. They provided interesting information about recent innovations that have allowed doctors to diagnose patients from afar, just based on pictures they take and send with their cell phones in developing nations where doctors are scarce. They’ve also developed ways of reuniting loved ones who are separated during natural disasters. They talked about how the person locator system was set up following the earthquake in Haiti, but that it took three weeks for this first program to start running, and then when the Chile earthquake happened, they were able to get everything set up in just 4 days. So from trial one to trial two, they cut the time it took to get the system up and running by 80 percent. Just think what that could mean for the unfortunate but inevitable next natural disaster.

This segues well into what I really am looking forward to doing with this blog down the line. As you can tell by my last couple posts, I am already moving away from the strictly food topics. But I will wait to get into that in a future post.

Easter Egg Dying Isn’t Just for Kids

I have a problem lately with school work. I can’t concentrate on it.  Call it me having ‘too much on my plate,’ call it senioritis. Call it whatever, but it’s bad. So I think from now on, or until I catch up with stuff, if I post entries about my “personal life” I am going to just keep it to mostly photos and cut all the back story out. I will still post about what I learn–food system related, etc–but there has to be a way to streamline things.

By the way, are you aware that I write really funny photo captions? You can only see them if you hover the mouse over photos and they are only funny if you think I am funny regularly though. That’s the catch.

These are pictures from the weekend, which I spent at my sister’s in Virginia.




Don’t they look great, though? Very modern and bold and original. Or, as Katie says, “They are really graphic…”

“It’s just so amazing how they all come out different!” – Me, caught up in the magic of egg dying apparently, speaking hyperbolically, genuinely

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter. We spent ours at John’s (Katie’s boyfriend) brother’s and sister-in-law’s in York, Pennsylvania. They have two little girls so that was cute. And if you don’t celebrate Easter I hope you had a wonderful Passover. Or whatever it is you celebrate…

PS! Has anyone seen these scanner things at the Giant supermarket? Apparently they have them in Virginia. I have yet to see them in D.C. Talk about taking the personal-ness out of shopping! :-/