This is the words written as my brow is furrowing. This birdspace thread I was tagged into started with a question from Robin Derosa

If my recent blabbed post cast some shade on “promptism” does this draw me into a spiral down on what appears to me like educators focused on platformism? There is nothing about creating open educational resources that necessitates a platfom.

To me it’s a call more for whatever platform you use, to aim to get to its workings so you can make it do more than what the buttons and menus provides. To do this well, you need to have a conceptual and applied understanding on its workings. It does not mean you have to be an auto mechanic to know how to top off your oil or jump a battery (here is a weak metaphor warning).

This rings back to a gem of a message (among many) in Tom Woodward’s zinging post on Ed Tech Boxes.

Of course you can use technology for larger goals, and I’d argue you should, but if you don’t understand the tools and the ramifications of different technological choices then you’re missing the foundation. How deep do you need to go into the tech side? There’s no answer but I find that the more I know about everything (tech, pedagogy, media production, design, etc.), the more things I can actively make choices about. To stick with the chef analogy, you want to very your cooking styles. Try some French cuisine. Make some sushi. Do some chocolate sculpting. Master some things. Experiment in others. Keep on keeping on.

Does this get overwhelming? Yeah. There is an endless amount of stuff to know. Each layer of understanding just reveals more layers. It’s like if Alice just kept falling through additional mirrors for forever. The Wonderlands never cease. That kind of thing doesn’t fit well in today’s society where people want easy answers and crisp lines. This isn’t a recipe for happiness.6

To further parse the quote, I don’t know if people are shaping edtech to their own ends. Maybe that’s happening. It’s certainly not happening with corporate EdTech and it’s not happening if they don’t have an interest and understanding of technology. To shape a thing, you need to understand it.

(my emphasis added) https://bionicteaching.com/ed-tech-boxes/

Shaping tech, ed or not, so describes the space I want to operate in! I’m working my chocolate sculpting blade while all around me I hear people bemoaning the lack of Ring Dings from the vending machine.

WordPress logo added to Hammer Head flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

WordPress is My Hammer (but not the only one)

I would not say all your nails look like they need my hammer, but in 17+ years of using WordPress I have a moderate sense of what I can do with it. But I hardly expect most others to get as excited as me on finding a new action or hook in the codex I can put to use.

One need not know one bit of how all that code stuff works to make good use of it. That’s the versatility of my hammer, and once time I tried to make a case that it bore the traits of one my early edtech hammers, Hypercard, in that the same tool can be used creatively purely from the graphic interface and at the same time, allowed for much more sophisticated boards hammered by the scripting environment.

But I divert myself for the sheer joy of that remix image I made copying he HyperCard Home stack.

Do not worry, my dear readers, the numbers of which I might tally with a few finders. A point and something useful may be just in sight.

So I was recently in a back slack (or maybe email) conversation with my MYFest colleagues and something came up related to a WordPress site I had helped with. Shaping WordPress came into play.

We were bouncing ideas on organizing content being contributed to the site (yes, just by coincidence it was a TRU Writer SPLOT powered site, but I am not talking about SPLOTs here) (yet)m when it was suggested we could ask participants to use tags or categories to signify content created this year or in future years.

And yes, that’s possible, and certainly doable, though adding categories for years means potential sloppiness of participants to do not check the right box or use the right tag. But more than that, because I know the shaping of URLs in WordPress, it’s not even necessary as hidden within the WordPress pile of information about posts (or pages) is that it always carries with it the date when it was published, so it’s built in, you do not need to ask participants to even let you know.

You can shape WordPress functionality without needing to touch code, add plugins, just from knowing how it makes its URLs.

Reading and Making WordPress URLs

This goes back to a PressEd Conference session I did (where again I might have invested too much time in the Clue game metaphor)

Part 1: Dial into any Slice of Time in a WordPress Site

So you likely know that your WordPress site keeps track of when it’s published. That’s built in. It comes with fries too. But you know what it means?

Do you want to link to all blog posts published in 2021?Just tack that onto your main blog URL. Here’s mine

https://cogdogblog.com/2021

Want more specific? I can peek myself, or share everything I was writing about n April of 2021, tack on a month number.

https://cogdogblog.com/2021/04

Woah! How much would you pay for this? But wait, there’s more. I can zero in on any specific day, by again, simply changing the URL to include a date, say April 14, 2021. I got a URL right here

https://cogdogblog.com/2021/04/14/

Three posts in one day! What was I doing?

Part 2. Adding to the URL Frenzy

That was easy! This next bit takes some more shaping. You do necessarily need to know this, but the URLs you see in WordPress are not the actual URLs, they are hiding the ugliness from you. If you want more detail, leave it to my Clue team:

Whether you grok this or not does not matter as long as you are aware of the possibility- and like sous chef Tom advises, you can easily experiment with breaking a dish.

Hopefully with some basic WordPress experience, you know you have options to organize posts by categories or tags. Explanations of the differences is almost as old as WordPress dirt.

Everyone has a preference, mine is to think of categories as ig buckets that you want to be well organized with, so when editing a post, you just need to check the desired box or boxes. Tags to me are more loose, like adjectives, and allow you or contributors to a site to not be limited by your choice of categories.

And you ought to know that you can create links that show all post filed in the same category, like the handful of ones I have organized under WordPress

https://cogdogblog.com/category/wp/

My own blogs organization is less clearly organized, as I use a tag of SPLOT for those few posts about such oddities:

https://cogdogblog.com/tag/splot/

You can find those links easily from published posts or rummaging around your WordPress dashboard. But now for something completely different (no not that). What if I wanted a way to share or make a menu link for all my posts in the category WordPress and also tagged splot? There is no feature in the WordPress interface. Does that mean I am done? Finis? What can I do?

I can shape WordPress. Check this out.

https://cogdogblog.com/category/wp/?tag=splot

You not only get the details on this, you get a candy flavored metaphor. Now this might have little relevance for you, but what I’d like to crack open is the awareness that you can get all kinds of fancy bonus link functionality from WordPress merely from typing in the URL bar.

The actual URL that WordPress is getting for the link above is

https://cogdogblog.com/index.php?category_name=wp&tag=splot

and actually all WordPress URLs look like that. All that stuff that comes after the question mark are things you can send WordPress to return content in more specific ways than stuff out of the box. And as you can see in the category + tag link above, we can use this to modify a typical WordPress URL to do this magic.

Now, back to the original task. We never have to ask users of our sites (or ourselves) to remember to check a tag or enter a tag to represent when something was published because WordPress already knows that.

Links for WordPress Posts in a Category or a Tag filtered by Date

Now we walk through some possibilities- as listed above we can use this kind of URL to limit results to posts on my blog from 2021

http://cogdogblog.com/2021

I can add my magic by finding all posts in my WordPress category published in 2021

http://cogdogblog.com/2021/?category_name=wp

Get where we are going? I can go the other route and link to all 2021 posts tagged splot

http://cogdogblog.com/2021/?tag=splot

But why stop there, let’s go for the whole enchilada- I want a link to all posts from September 2021 tagged splot and in the WordPress category!

https://cogdogblog.com/2021/08/?tag=splot&category_name=wp

Now… that’s all find for my blog, what can you do for yours? Can you try some link hacking to generate archives that you cannot do easily out of the box?

One More for the Feed Machines in the Back

I stumbled into another link shaping idea once recently… this was in the back of my mind for another one of those posts the live as drafts solely in my brain. The kind of links I have been demonstrating say a lot about this.

Compare:

Without spilling too many beans (like anyone is harvesting my beans) I was dabbling with setting up some RSS feeds from my colleagues blogging about H5P. And I absolutely wanted to include posts by JR Dingwall.

But in browsing his blog, I noted that his posts are in various categories but he has no tag or category specifically about H5P. Sure if I messaged him, he would most certainly have gone and retagged his posts. But I had an inkling wordpress would provide a way.

And with a bit of web search the answer was clear- it’s just another URL trick. I found it in a post from WP Launcher Creating WordPress RSS Feeds for Search Results

In my PressEdConf talk I had a few examples of seeding a search of any WordPress site with a URL format like

https://somewordpresssite.blah/?s=searchterm

which you can see easily on any search result.

So if I want a link to all of JR’s posts mentioning h5p I just use

https://jrdingwall.ca/blogwall/?s=h5p

but my new RSS trick tells me I can make this into an RSS feed just by tacking on more stuff

https://jrdingwall.ca/blogwall/?s=h5p&feed=rss2

And heck we can mix all this together and do things like make RSS feeds for all my blog posts in the WordPress category and tagged splot

https://cogdogblog.com/category/wp/?tag=splot&feed=rss2

Shaping the Shaping

On one hand I wanted to post this just as another bit of my appreciation for how much WordPress does/can do that is invisible from 98% of its users. And if you get the links right, may be able to find a link that will rope in this post from my WordPress category and tagged “techshaping” (a new tag).

And I can think of ways this can be achieved maybe easier in doing some custom functions in WordPress I more love how these “tricks” small as they are can be done without touching any code. But more than that, working through this on your own blog is much like doing a small maintenance task on your car that previously you would have taken in for service.

Wither the tech shapers? Are they out there or is it platfortism or naught?

I’ll be here, still shaping as long as I breathe.


Featured Image:

Tool in Waiting
Tool in Waiting flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. OMG. Genius. I had no idea how to do this. Do you know how long it took me to find articles I had written in my blog over the years?! Thank YOU. You saved me a whole heap of time.

  2. Hi Alan,
    Lovely stuff, I knew about some of this, but not the combinations of dates with taxonomies. And then you add RSS for search. That sounds useful for both taking a nuanced view of a blog in you RSS reader and gathering & displaying these on a WordPress post or page.

  3. Like most others, I knew about dates in the URL and feeds for tags and categories, but the search term tag is genius. Definitely rolling that into some of my subscriptions.

  4. It’s stuff like this where I feel like WordPress really shines. The fact that you can run these kind of queries without doing any programming is so nice and it feels like it’s the computational thinking/digital fluency people are always talking about. It’s that knowledge of the URL that you’ve posted about many times. There’s information lurking, advantages to be gained, worlds to explore . . . all in the browser address bar (at least until the jerks hide it).

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