Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Thoughts on transients.info's creation & an update on the upgrade project

A long time ago when starting this website I made the choice to put my time and energy into helping others for free. Six years on I am still doing this. I have grown since then and while my original intention is the same, on other levels it has evolved with not just an increase in the broader list of reasons behind why I do what I do, but also my understanding of them.
On occasion I tell people I play many roles in life. Those who come across all of us for the first time will perceive us based upon their state of being in addition to whatever role we are acting out in that moment. While I am limited to my life circumstances, I would prefer to be in a position where I had less responsibility without the requirement of thinking up ways of bringing in an income to survive.

I think to myself now about living simply, perhaps at the foothills of some mountain range with a few animals and a small cabin or cottage, with a garden out back, where I could focus more on my spiritual pursuits in a peaceful setting. Perhaps that may come when I am a lot older, but I have a path to travel which requires me to step up, and out into the world, even further than where I have been up until now, and I have already done a lot and traveled afar on many occasions. 
I will quickly and briefly explain what is important to me right now, as I do go through major changes as years pass, and that is the role of a spiritual guide and teacher. I approach the situation of reaching people from many different angles. I know that if I went in a specific direction, on a purer path to who I have become in terms of my spiritual side, I would be unable to reach a wider range of people as they would be put off by all the love and light.
One of those angles of reaching people is by honouring the fact that not everyone resonates with me, but I have a platform here, and therefore the opportunity to support others who they may just resonate with. I bring people together for a reason. It’s important to me to not only share the truth as I see and sense it — after all, each of us creates our own truths from observing our own version of reality — but to support those that can help others on their path. That path may be finding a purpose, or the stages leading up to and beyond, where spiritual, mental, emotional and physical healing takes place. While spiritual development can be focused on directly, we still have a soul contract to play out based on the conditions and circumstances we are in as individuals on this planet.
While I have had a lot of support through people making donations over the years, practically speaking it is not enough for the time and energy I have to invest with everything tied into maintaining the transients website and community. So to try and combat this, to allow me to continue on doing what I do, I am upgrading the site to a more professional platform and look, and will also include advertisements on the site. This may not be a big deal to the visitor, as ads are what drive the internet and most media outlets, but it is a big deal to me as I can’t stand them! To have them on here is just not something I ever wanted to do. If I had the financial means to support myself without them, they wouldn’t be coming.
This article was meant to be focused on the complications of migrating and setting up a new website! — I just went with the flow. I once had a career in I.T. for over a decade and got to a high level in terms of my abilities with many areas of the infrastructure and management, as I was a bit of an all-rounder. Those skills I bring forward enable me to be able to do pretty much everything I need to do on my own in terms of looking after the upgrade here, as I know how to solve any issue that comes up, which can include finding the answer if I personally don’t know it. The only real weak area I have is graphic design, so perhaps after everything is up and running, eventually I may have someone come in and make it a bit prettier, but that is not in the transients budget right now.
Since about a week ago most days of mine have been spent on setting up a new wordpress installation on transients.info’s new webserver, which I am paying for on a month to month basis now. Currently the website runs for free on the blogger platform, but blogger is very basic in terms of functionality. Wordpress may look basic for those just briefly scanning around its admin screens, but it is powerful and there are a lot of themes out there that can be used, but not only that, there are many plugins that can be installed. The plugins are what I see as driving wordpress in terms of its functionality, so the wordpress culture is really supported by the plugins and themes, from what I can see at this point.
I have probably spent at least 30 hours on the upgrade so far. How much have I done? Well, it is hard to tell, but I am likely not even half way there yet.
This is going to become very technical, so don’t worry and just ignore anything that doesn’t make sense to you. I recently had to log a support ticket with the themes developer as I could not find a solution to what I thought was a simple modification. On the current transients.info site, I have the latest posts for easy navigation above all the posts listed, as well as editors’ picks. On the theme I am using you can’t do that, and that is something I really wanted to keep, but just on the front page, for the new site. I may not keep the editors picks there though.
So, I tried so many things. Widgets are like little windows that you do stuff in. Normally you can place widgets around a wordpress website, but you can’t place them above the front page under the header. (the header usually contains menu related stuff and a logo) So I tried changing the front page to a static page, but, I couldn’t find any solution to displaying the posts like I had them setup, on the default front page loop. The next thing I tried was creating a sticky post that would sit above all the new posts, and which would hold the most recent posts, but I couldn’t do this as the post had the author, subject, date, etc, and I didn’t want that shown. I searched and searched, but couldn’t find a solution to hide them.
The developer got back to me about the problem I logged and wasn’t very helpful. One of my questions was ignored, about hiding the fields with the sticky post. I decided the best way to go was to use the sticky post method and code it myself from scratch. So instead of searching for the answer, I worked on the problem myself. I jumped into the themes php files and found the exact name of the fields which needed to be hidden, and then hid them with CSS code.

I must have spent about… eight hours at least on that one problem as it was real time consuming to search for answers and implement what the people suggested, but to fail every time. By doing it myself I had it sorted in about 15 minutes. But I ran into a new problem. I realised that you can’t include php code on posts, so my sticky post had suddenly become obsolete. Since pages are not actually contained as files on the server, but in the SQL database, I could not edit the file and put the code in that way. I did however resolve the problem in the end. I found a plugin that someone had created, which I installed in wordpress and it allowed me to put php code in a page.
Now I had to find the code that would display the recent posts. This was not too hard but I did have to modify it a bit to suit what I wanted. With my I.T. education before I started working in the field, I specialised in programming and learnt around five different languages, so had the knowledge to understand what I was doing enough to do it.

From using this sticky method I actually created some problems for my self. This sticky post now appeared in places I didn’t want it to appear. So I had to stick in some more php code to hide it.
I have ran into other issues so far with setting the theme up, but all that stuff is not really exciting. What is exciting is some of these plugins. Not so much this one I am about to mention, which I had to actually purchase to resolve a image thumbnail issue. With the new site thumbnails are used in quite a few places. I had a problem where the thumbnails would not be displayed at all. I tried everything and couldn’t work it out. Then I realised it related to a function that wordpress has, where you need to select a featured image. So if you did not select this featured image, manually, on every single post you made, every single time, you would have a missing thumbnail picture because that is just how this theme works. I found a plugin that automatically selects the first image in a post and makes it the featured image, but not only that, it goes through past posts and does the same thing. It has a lot of functionality as well, things you would not even consider.
I have to make a decision around importing all the old posts from the current site, or leaving them behind, and a plugin like this will help me if I do import them. There are around four thousand posts on transient.info currently) The import process is complicated and there are lots of things I have to plan for, including re-directs, changing links, storing images and so on. It’s something I am going to leave until later on.
Back to these exciting plugins. Let’s take a look at a better one (I currently have 21 active plugins). ‘Edit Flow’ allows me to manage authors and collaborate with them. Here are a few of the features below.

  • Custom Statuses - Define the key stages to your workflow.
  • Editorial Comments - Threaded commenting in the admin for private discussion between writers and editors.
  • Editorial Metadata - Keep track of the important details.
  • Notifications - Receive timely updates on the content you're following.
  • Story Budget - View your upcoming content budget.
  • User Groups - Keep your users organized by department or function.

What this one basically does is provide some management functions around me looking after contributing authors for transients.info. It will be really handy in the future when I have more active authors alongside me writing original articles.
‘Yoast SEO’ is a plugin that helps you write better content, and assists with optimising technical areas of the wordpress setup.  There is a snippet option so you can see what your article will look like in a search engine, if the title is too long or too short, and if the meta description (brief summary) is appropriate. There is a page analysis which checks the actual page to see if you have included alt tags with images, as well as so many other things.
So you can see how involved all this is and how time consuming it can be to do this sort of work. This might also provide you a look into those who get paid to do this, as in website developers and designers — this is the sort of thing they would be used to.
My future aim is to get more people involved with the site, get more original content and build upon the foundation I have laid, all while adjusting to the consciousness changes as the world moves ahead.

About the Author 
Editor of transients.info, Laron is a writer, healing facilitator, poet and spiritual teacher from New Zealand. A strong passion of his is to expand the consciousness of others through sharing information. Science tells us that we are all creating what we see as the observer — we are all creating our own truths within every moment. While being a bit of a bookworm, Laron also has a Diploma in Energetic Healing, is a Dolores Cannon trained QHHT Practitioner, Reiki Master, trained Crystal Healer and Tarot reader. You can find Laron on Facebook.

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