April 2016 WordPress meetup group in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Gravity Forms course at Cedar Rapids WordPress meetup group

I co-organize the Creative Corridor (Cedar Rapids & Iowa City) WordPress Meetup group in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. At this month’s event on Apr 19, 2016, I was able to get (kinda guilt tripped) Andrew Miller the owner of https://www.84em.com/ into giving us a detailed overview of what the plugin Gravity Forms can do for a WordPress admins. Tonight he covered topics like credit card integration, adding posts automatically to your website, integrating into the mySQL database, collecting emails/names/etc and many other powerful features that lots of people didn’t even know could be achieved via this plugin. The developer version expands this plugin’s abilities with multiple add ons plus advanced email routing features. One of Andrew’s most favorite add ons is Zapier (see video at 16:00). Zapier currently offers integration of 400+ apps. Integrate/connect apps you use on the web and easily move data between them is now easy with Zapier & Gravity Forms!  A full list of additional Gravity Forms add ons are listed here.

slack-Add-On

dropbox-Add-On

trello-Add-On

mailchimp-Add-On

 

coupon-Add-On

twilio-Add-On

zapier-Add-On

paypal-Add-On

Other topics discussed at WP event

BuiltWith logo I also shared with the group a website called BuiltWith technology lookup site. It’s design to find out what websites are built with! Use it to find what technologies are used in the creating of any website. The accuracy is quite astonishing!

WordPress Tavern logo

WP-Tavern logo with no textIf you aren’t a member of WordPress Tavern and the multiple discussions that are taking place about new features added to WordPress you are doing something wrong. Simply join using your own WordPress.com credentials. They will keep you abreast of new APIs, WordPress releases, WordCamps and much more!

Freemius logo Monetization Platform for WordPress Plugin Developers

We talked about Freemius for the WordPress plugin developers. They have created a way to start making revenues from your plugin in minutes, about ten to be exact. I’m not sure this is all that great for the WordPress ecosystem with a potential new flood of “freemium” plugins flooding the market. Most of the website designers I know tend to buy the full license upfront, but we all know how well the rental model has treated Adobe.

WP-Filebase Download ManagerAlso I recently was working on The Bluebird Dinner’s website, see my blog post about it, and I saw the WP-filebase plugin being used. It is shaping up to be quite powerful but a little bit on the convoluted side of things when you are new to it. It’s about the same as items in WooCommerce’s plugin where you create one item and select it using the WP-Filebase plugin to show it in a specified area. Over all (if there is continued support) it’s quite a viable plugin!

Let's Encrypt logoLet’s Encrypt is a new SSL Certificate Authority: It’s free, automated, and open. And it’s now out of beta as of April 12th, 2016. Special note:  wordpress.com and all of the subdomains that people are blogging on are now all under this Let’s Encrypt umbrella. So website security just got a bit better for the 22.6 billion pages that wordpress.com hosts for bloggers.

Monster Insights logoNo WP Admins, you were NOT hacked! Yes, your Yoast Google Analytics plugins just changed hands to Monster Insights (see Twitter). This plugin is being developed and managed by Syed Balkhi & Chris Christoff. They admit they didn’t give enough warning to Admins before the drastic change with the addition of the bright green monster in the admin panel. Since then the icon in the WordPress Admin panel has changed and now just reads “Insights” with the monster to the left of it. Read the full write up on WP-Tavern logo with no text.

Information about REST API in Des Moines, Iowa

The WordPress Des Moines meetup group is having a talk about REST APIs, how they work and how you can use them with your website. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, Jordan Julson, Arthur M. Smith (Art) and Andy Brudtkuhl will break down how to get started at our next WPDSM Meeting on April 25th. BBQ and beverages provided. Meeting taking place at Gravitate (206 6th Avenue, Des Moines, IA). I’m hoping to get several people together from our Creative Corridor WordPress Meetup group to carpool to this event! 

WordPress Meetup Des Moines, Iowa

WordPress Meetup Des Moines, Iowa

The after party at Tanners Bar and Grill (CR,IA)

People in attendance at the ALT (Art + Life + Tech) event in Iowa City, IA

Art + Life + Tech (ALT) Community Lightning Talks in Iowa City, IA

TechCorridor.io logoAnyone can sign up for a 5 minute lightning talk at the A.L.T. (Art + Life + Tech) event held in the creative corridor area. Tonight’s ALT community lighting talks had a wide range of topics: From game development by Eric Neuhaus using Construct 2 which is an app produced by Scirra, to a presentation by Thomas Hansen creating web applications with background processing using backgroundworkers, to hacking an Amazon Echo presented by Wesley Beary.

Download Benjamin Oakes slide presentation about TechCorridor.io

Game Development by Eric Neuhaus:

Background notifications by Thomas Hansen:

Hacking an Amazon Echo by Wesley Beary:

Wesley Beary goes over techcorridor.io upcoming events:

Play or download the game made by Eric Neuhaus during ALT talk:

Play flappy game designed at this event

Download zip’d file of Flappy Bird Demo.capx

Participants of the CRIneta Cedar Rapids .NET User Group

CRIneta: Cedar Rapids .NET User Group meeting April 4, 2016

CRIneta - Cedar Rapids .NET User Group logoI went to the April CRIneta meeting at the Catalyst Cafe at the Geonetric Building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. At this CRIneta .NET meeting we watched the pre-recorded video of Scott Hanselman and Scott Hunter speak at the Microsoft Build 2016 event that took place in San Francisco, CA, from March 30 – April 1, 2016. Then we discussed the major changes to .NET!

The Scott Hanselman and Scott Hunter talk we watched:

Discussion Section of the night:

The power is now all in the .NET Standard Library, as they put it “one library to rule them all.” The reason is writing PCL (portable class library) has a hard reference to each base library. So now with the .NET Standard Library, this one BCL (base class library) works across : .NET framework (with WPF, Windows Forms & ASP.NET), .NET CORE (UWF & ASP.NET Core) and XAMARIN (with iOS, OS X and Android). This offers Microsoft much lower maintenance with no zero conflicts!

My personal thoughts: I’m not big into .NET as others in attendance. I do believe that it’s a smart move to have the .NET Standard Library but one that should have taken place YEARS ago! I feel like Microsoft is trying to not alienate any more programmers with this move of still supporting multiple programming languages. I’m still not sure why C#(began in 2000), Visual Basic (began in 1991) and F# (began in 2005) will continue to be supported. Apple introduced Swift and gave programmers a clear cut answer of what is to come. The C#, VB & F# programmers still have options… but programming overhead by Microsoft doesn’t make sense to me, at least not in the long run!

Group at A11y UX event in Cedar Rapids

Web Development Skills Help Disabled Children: Iowa Web Accessibility, UX & Inclusive Design

Iowa Web Accessibility UX and Inclusive Design LOGO (#A11y)This month’s A11y UX Inclusive Design meeting was held at the Geonetric building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Our guest presenter was a graduate student from The University of Iowa, Rochelle Honey-Arcement. She ended up creating her own major Health and Disability Advocate to truly suit her needs. She presented tonight for our Web Dev Group (see the video below). Her thesis is about immigrant parents with children who have disabilities and the perception of the quality of service that their children are receiving. She has found that support systems are much needed for this demographic. She would like to see greater online support along with real world support systems as well.

Second Half of tonight’s presentation by Andrea Skeries:

Andrea Skeries's 2016 CSUN Conference exhibit hall experience

Andrea Skeries’s 2016 CSUN Conference exhibit hall experience

Our fearless UX leader Andrea Skeries talks about her experience at this year’s CSUN Conference. Lots of hot new toys and gadgets for both visually and hearing impaired. My favorite was the smart watch for the blind with an active Braille readout known as DOT. It pairs with a smartphone and gives you information at your fingertips, literally. I can see this to be quite a viable product for anyone who is blind! Next month’s meeting we will be delving into how to make our websites friendly for all of this new tech gadgetry hitting the stores.

People at Startup Weekend In Cedar Rapids, Iowa

My Experience at Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids March 4th 2016 #swcr16

StartUp Weekend Cedar Rapids logoThis will be my second Startup Weekend that I’ve attended, but my first Startup Weekend in Cedar Rapids (my very first was Startup Weekend Iowa City). I’ve decided to pitch my app idea this time. My mentor David Oliver told me to pitch my idea at the Iowa City startup, but I was worried that someone would take my idea. However, I’ve been so busy and have never had the chance to get working on this project. So this time I’ll be taking his advice and giving my pitch (a total of 1 min) to say in a concise manner what my idea is.

My 1 minute “pitch fire” speech (60 seconds goes FAST):

So what is my pitch? Well, here it is from beginning to end.

Hello my name is Aaron Van Noy. I’m a full-time website designer and marketer with a passion for pinball and tech. My idea is to create an app that plays nicely with preexisting social media sites using their APIs. The photo based app is called Crowd Zoo (subject to pivot at any time). This app will allow people to check-in to an event like a wedding, a sporting stadium or even an event like this, Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids. When groups use our Crowd Zoo app, small photos will automatically stream from right to left on everyone’s device. Simply flick up to auto post on the user’s predetermined favorite social media. Someone is always taking a picture from a better angle than I and I’d love to post it on my stream. All photos in this app will be geotagged with precise location of the picture. Stage 2: The event coordinator can prompt all users to participate in a “group photo” in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 CLICK! Images can then be stitched together on the server to create a matrix style fly around effect or a crowd walk through. These photos may give enough information to even create a 3D world walk through at a later time. So who is with me to start this Crowd Trainer App (Looks like I’ve already pivoted)?!

Last minute change. Told to SCRAP above & focus on the solution:

I was advised by multiple people from the Startup Iowa’s Slack Channel (Becky Smith, Trevor Carlson, Riley Eynon-Lynch, Mark Hadley, Tim McDougall and others) to NOT focus on the solution, but focus on the problem. Because people understand it from that perspective better. People have the same issues that they can fully grasp and relate to! So here I am hours away from my first pitch… and I’m changing how I’m going to pitch it. I honestly don’t think I would have enough time to pitch everything about anyway.

New redesigned “pitch fire” speech will be passionate and mostly off the cuff:

So I will be focusing on the problem and who is feeling the pain of the problem. Not the solution.

  • Problem of retweeting/reposting live event pictures cross platform
  • I know that person over there got a better picture from that angle than I.
  • Scour social media to find the image
  • Live icon preview of all pictures
  • Simple flick uploading
  • Use geotagged images for Matrix affect.
  • Wedding walk though
  • Get everyone to take a picture at the same time
People at Startup Weekend In Cedar Rapids, Iowa

People at Startup Weekend In Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Start with a game called “Half Baked”:

Start of Half Baked game at Cedar Rapids Startup Weekend

Start of Half Baked game at Cedar Rapids Startup Weekend

Grab random words during Half Baked game in Cedar Rapids

Grab random words during Half Baked game in Cedar Rapids

During the game Half Baked

During the game Half Baked

A game called Half Baked with the words Tasty Hippo

A game called Half Baked with the words Tasty Hippo

Video of the accepted pitches at Startup Weekend:

Team Collab Music:

I joined Collab Music and quickly ran into problems with the basic idea. The word Pivot come out of my mouth Friday night. It was a dominant word as we discovered more about our potential clients… Musicians.

Customer discovery and interviews:

Customer discovery and interviews at Guitar Center

Customer discovery and interviews at Guitar Center

Closeup of walls of guitars of Guitar Center in Cedar Rapids, IA

Closeup of walls of guitars of Guitar Center in Cedar Rapids, IA


Watch it live on Twitter! Use the hashtag #swcr16:



Startup Weekend (powered by Google for Entrepreneurs) icon
Up Global logo

Assistive Technology Helping Web Accessibility and User experience

Assistive Technology Helping Web Accessibility & User Experience

Iowa Web Accessibility UX and Inclusive Design LOGO (#A11y)
We went to the Iowa Web Accessibility, UX & Inclusive Design meetup. This time it was held at the Iowa Center for Assistive Technology Education and Research. The evening started off with Amanda Lewis (Graduate Assistant) & Patricia (Patti) Bahr (MSE, ATP, RET) Director, stepping us though what it may feel like to be learning disabled, blind or hard of hearing. For me (being dyslexic) this was an interesting experience in realizing all of the obstacles I’ve had to deal with in my life. Once the group had a chance to experience empathy toward disabled members in our society, we proceeded to learn about some of the tools that modern technology gives people in need: From standalone apps like BeeLine Reader, Snap&Read Universal to Nuance’s Dragon®.‎ We also went over an extensive library of Google Chrome™ plugins like Voice Note II and Read&Write (my two favorites). To keep them all organized I recommend using Extensity!

So why learn about all of the tools available to people who are blind, hearing impaired, learning disabled, etc? Because programming a website that is user friendly across the board is just that important. We had lots of fun at this event at the University of Iowa.

Learning disability simulation of drawing within the lines:

This little mirror trick isn’t as easy as it looks. Cover your drawing hand and use a mirror at the top of the paper to draw within the lines while the “teacher” goes around praising some for doing such a wonderful job (yet no one really was) and says perceived negative things to others that are quickly internalized by the students who are having a hard time just following this simple star. It makes me truly sympathetic to people with disabilities who know what to do… but their bodies simply won’t let them do it.

Amanda Lewis, U of I Graduate Assistant talks about dyslexia and how teachers teach

Amanda Lewis, U of I Graduate Assistant talks about dyslexia and how teachers teach

Mirror Activity simulates having dyslexia or learning disability

Mirror Activity simulates having dyslexia or learning disability

Reading simulation: What it may feel like to be Dyslexic or Learning Disabled:

In the beginning you are given several words that were translated for you into this made up “dyslexic” language. As soon as you turn the page, it becomes more complex. Learning new “words” and remembering old fictional letter combinations turns out to not be as easy as the reader thinks. Before you know it the story is over and the “teacher” begins to ask you questions. The realization is that you struggled so much to read the text you didn’t have time to comprehend what you just read.



Reading a story as a Dyslexic student may read it

Reading a story as a dyslexic student may see or read it. Not so easy after all.

Learning to use modern tools that should be accessible to the websites we produce:

VoiceNote II was a little funky, but for the free price tag you can’t go wrong. It was able to read just about anything that was viewable on the computer, from websites to .PDFs and more.

Comparing Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking to VoiceNote II and other apps

Comparing Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking to VoiceNote II and other apps


WordPress meetup dinner Cedar Rapids, Iowa

WordPress meetup group in Cedar Rapids, Iowa | Creative Corridor

wordpress logoTuesday night at the Creative Corridor Meetup. I love these meetups! You get such a unique mashup of professionals and amateurs who all have the same common root of learning WordPress even better. At a glanceWordPress is pitched as “blogging software” but the advanced users know the extreme power that can be released! I was personally able to help out Clayton Gill a self-proclaimed “rookie” who uses WordPress for blogging and for a nonprofit website. He was having an “odd thing happen” each time he tried to back up his site to do an upgrade to the most recent version of WordPress. It would progress to about 60% each time on GoDaddy’s cPanel hosted servers then fail. It looks like Big Ten Web Design has had the most clients that still like GoDaddy’s legacy hosting and who haven’t made the switch to managed WordPress (2018 update: GoDaddy is still using slow PHP 5.6 for managed WP hosting, and is not recommended overall, most of our clients websites now use PHP 7.1 or better). I run into this very same problem myself years ago and also from time to time if I forget to increase the max_input_vars in the .user.ini file.  See references on linked pages:

We also discussed alternatives to GoDaddy hosting and it is the overwhelming decision that there are a bunch of better hosting companies out there.
digitalocean.com, siteground.com, kinsta.com (Runs on Google Cloud Platform)

Alternative DNS options:

Learn more about Premium DNS and why it’s so important to have one to mitigate distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Then somehow I hijacked the entire meeting with a long discussion about the best methods of moving multiple websites to a new hosting company. I’ve been eyeing a migration over to Digital Ocean with its strong community of support.

Entrance to Linn Area Community Credit Union - Business Center

Entrance to Linn Area Community Credit Union – Business Center

WordPress geeks around the table at Linn Area Community Credit Union - Business Center

WordPress geeks around the table at Linn Area Community Credit Union – Business Center

WordPress meetup dinner Cedar Rapids, Iowa

WordPress meetup dinner Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Wordpress geeks having dinner after Linn Area Community Credit Union - Business Center

WordPress geeks having dinner after Linn Area Community Credit Union – Business Center

February TechBrew in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at the NewBo Ale House

TechBrew Cedar Rapids, Iowa at the NewBo Ale House

Tech Brew logoWent to the Cedar Rapids TechBrew event at the NewBo Ale House tonight. I was able to mingle with a diverse group of people who are in the technology community. Doug Savey & Dan from Enseva, an amazing company that specializes in custom cloud-based solutions with their amazing servers and maybe the highest speed internet in all of Iowa! Mingled with Jeri Frank from Asset Rover. Asset Rover is currently in Beta and offered as a free tool to analyze your real estate investments, so you can LIVE! Plus had dinner with the owner of Evil Twin Software, Mr. Eric Chrisman. He creates custom built apps for businesses.

From left to right: Mike Irvine, Don White, Nate Houstman, Aaron Van Noy and Andrew Miller

Cedar Rapids WordPress Continuing Education meetup group

wordpress logoFantastic evening of sharing, learning and hanging out with fellow friends at the January 20th 2015 WordPress Meetup at Creative Corridor in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Tracking billable hours:

https://toggl.com

~50 pages worth of plugin recommendations:
http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/298401/Documents_for_download/Ultimate_guide_to_plugins_07.pdf

Great web firewall service: Sucuri.net

Concatenate JS and files:
https://wordpress.org/plugins/autoptimize/

SEO blueprint that I use:
https://bigtenwebdesign.com/our-program/seo-process/

Scrum boards:
https://trello.com
https://www.atlassian.com/software/jira
https://www.17hats.com
Video Blog at:
http://www.wpwatercooler.com
http://wordpress.tv

All in one events calendar:
https://wordpress.org/plugins/all-in-one-event-calendar/
Here’s a list of some theme creators that have good support. These themes are built on the Genesis Framework. You would need the base Genesis Framework from StudioPress to use these themes. ($60)
http://www.studiopress.com/
https://www.web-savvy-marketing.com/
https://prettydarncute.com/

Our favorite forms:
http://www.gravityforms.com

Business directory form:
https://wordpress.org/plugins/geodirectory/
https://wordpress.org/plugins/business-directory-plugin/

eCommerce:
https://www.woothemes.com/woocommerce/

Themes:
http://my.studiopress.com/themes/genesis/
http://themeforest.net/item/avada-responsive-multipurpose-theme/2833226

 

From left to right: Mike Irvine, Don White, Nate Houstman, Aaron Van Noy and Andrew Miller

From left to right: Mike Irvine, Don White, Nate Houstman, Aaron Van Noy and Andrew Miller

Tech and Freelancers lunch in Iowa City

Tech, Web & Freelancers Lunch in Iowa City, IA

Startup Iowa logo startup Iowa City logoWe joined 8 other tech industry members in the Iowa City area for a Freelancers lunch and discuss how to better interact with clients. From using videos to show clients what we worked on that day to digital scrum boards to just email. We were all in agreement that dealing with clients, that email maybe one of the worst things to use. Phone calling using a google voice number was far above just sending end of day emails. But in short is what is manageable for you and the client. Its not always an easy thing to balance or find.

Tech and Freelancers lunch in Iowa City

Tech and Freelancers lunch in Iowa City