Over the past couple days I’ve been doing a little housekeeping around this site and, along the way, I’ve learned a few things.
In my spare time, when I’m not trying to be a web developer, I enjoy whitewater kayaking. Here’s a photo of me kayaking a river out in West Virginia a few years ago. It’s great fun.
One question every kayaker asks before heading out for the next adventure is: “Is the river up?” IOW, is the level of the water high enough for a good day of boating?
Luckily, that question is easy to answer in today’s modern, digitally-connected world. You see, there are 100’s, if not 1000’s, of realtime water level gauges on the rivers across the U.S. and a few government agencies, like the National Weather Service, provide those realtime data for public use.
This post is about the web service I created to pull water level data from the NWS. In a future post, I’ll write about the WordPress widget and Amazon Alexa skill I created to use this service.
So, I haven’t yet started my new project – my shared Alexa and WordPress programming project where I plan to create a web service that provides data to a WordPress plugin and Alexa Skill. No, I have instead been working on a side project.
A week or so ago, one of my work colleagues, Joe McGill, turned me on to the open source analytics-reporter that was developed by 18F and the Washington State University’s fork of 18F’s analytics dashboard.
Given we both work on the team that builds many of the front-facing websites for Washington University in St. Louis, a new analytics dashboard has obvious appeal, and what intrigued me most about this solution was that it offered something that I’ve wanted for a long time: a single, comparative view of web traffic for multiple websites.
I recently purchased an Amazon Echo and ever since I’ve been enthralled by Alexa – the voice service that powers the device.
I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ve never used Siri all that much. Maybe it’s because I’m often in public places, around people I know or don’t, when I need to use it and it just feels odd to hold my phone up and ask it questions. It’s probably a generational thing, but I just don’t use Siri.
The Echo is entirely different. My Echo is in my home, waiting for me on my mantel. Only my family and friends are around me. And… I don’t have to hold it. I just say, from almost any room, “Alexa…” and then whatever I want and she responds with incredible accuracy.
I say Alexa, play some music and she starts up a playlist from Amazon Prime.
Alexa, what’s my commute look like? She tells me the fastest route to work.
Alexa, tell me the news. She streams NPR, BBC or whatever list of news stations I like.
Alexa, what’s the weather this weekend? Alexa, tell me a joke. Alexa, do you know Sky Net? And on, and on, and on. I think my current favorite is: Alexa, Tea, Earl Grey, Hot.
But this is a developer’s blog and this post is about more than just new tech.
I’ve made a few changes and enhancements to my theme since my last blog post. Nothing terribly significant, but I do think the overall codebase is now more solid. Please feel free to check it out and let me know if you see any obvious improvements. I’ve posted the code to BitBucket, which is available at https://bitbucket.org/amelungc/my-blog-theme.
And now to address where I’ve been lately…
As one of my coworkers recently reminded me, I’ve been absent from this site. My last post was on July 7th – by far the longest period of time I’ve had between posts.
Well, I have been busy and, yes, I have been working on code. I will be posting an update on my work soon. The only thing I’ll say right now is that this new project is just a little different from what I’ve been working on so far.
That’s all for now.
So, I started thinking, and doing a little, mobile-first today.
As I described in my previous post, and as you can see by looking at this site, I’ve begun working on a simple theme for this site. But I didn’t start with mobile-first. I wasn’t ready. And, if you happened to visit this site on a mobile device over the last 24 hours or so, you would have experienced first-hand how little I had thought about your device.
But today was a new day.
As you can tell by this new theme – I’m NOT a designer – and, as a result, on my journey to learn WordPress theme development, I went simple. I like to call it minimalism-reduced. You know … just a little, with a bit of good taste taken away. Anyway, here’s a screenshot in case I decide to abandon it before you read this post.
WARNING: This theme is not yet mobile friendly.
Yes, I realize that means I’m already breaking the golden rule of modern web design (i.e., thinking mobile first), but I needed to start with the basics. And with that, I mean: Do I use px, % or ems?
Well, it’s been about 40 days – almost 6 weeks – since I began this quest to rediscover web development.
During that time, I’ve learned a fair amount about WordPress theme and plugin development and I’m about to venture into CSS and front-end dev.
Not bad, but 40 days feels like a lot and I had expected, for this amount of time, I’d be farther along this quest, so I have mixed feelings about my progress so far.
I completed the Ian Stewart part of The ThemeShaper WordPress Theme Tutorial: 2nd Edition tutorial the other day. It was really helpful, but what I learned most clearly was – I still have a lot to learn.
I’ve seen so many API calls and little WordPress nuances over the past couple days, I realize it’s going to take me a long while to gain fluency in theme development.
I mean, I can now stumble my way awkwardly through building a template, but I don’t yet know theme development. I don’t feel it.
I’ll be honest. I haven’t been on the computer much over the last 4-5 days.
I’m in the process of selling my old house – a house I’ve owned for almost a full year after buying my new house – so I’ve been more than a little distracted.
Nevertheless, I have accomplished a little with my WordPress theme development efforts.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far.