Category Archives: WordPress

Using WordPress as a Book-Writing Platform

I’ve had a few people ask about the writing environment I’m using for The Ivory Tower and the Open Web (introduction posted a couple of days ago). I’m writing the book entirely in WordPress, which really has matured into a terrific authoring platform. Some notes:

1) The addition of the TinyMCE WYSIWYG text-editing tools made WordPress today’s version of the beloved Word 5.1, the lean, mean, writing machine that Word used to be before Microsoft bloated it beyond recognition.

2) WordPress 3.2 joined the distraction-free trend mainstreamed by apps like Scrivener and Instapaper, where computer administrative debris (as Edward Tufte once called the layers of eye-catching controls that frame most application windows) fades away. If you go into full-screen mode in the editor everything disappears but your text. WordPress devs even thoughtfully added a zen “Just write” prompt to get you going. Go full-screen in your browser for extra zen.

3) For footnotes, I’m using the excellent WP-Footnotes plugin, which is not only easy to use but (perhaps critically for the future) degrades gracefully into parenthetical embedded citations outside of WordPress.

4) I’m of course using Zotero to insert and format those footnotes, using one of the features that makes Zotero better (IMHO) than other research managers: the ability to drag and drop formatted citations right from the Zotero interface into a textarea in the browser. (WP-Footnotes handles the automatic numbering.)

5) I’ve done a few tweaks to WordPress’s wp-admin CSS to customize the writing environment (there’s an “editorcontainer” that styles the textarea). In particular, I found the default width too wide for comfortable writing or reading. So I resized it to 500 pixels, which is roughly the line width of a standard book.

Video: The Ivory Tower and the Open Web

Here’s the video of my plenary talk “The Ivory Tower and the Open Web,” given at the Coalition for Networked Information meeting in Washington in December, 2010. A general description of the talk:

The web is now over twenty years old, and there is no doubt that the academy has taken advantage of its tremendous potential for disseminating resources and scholarship. But a full accounting of the academic approach to the web shows that compared to the innovative vernacular forms that have flourished over the past two decades, we have been relatively meek in our use of the medium, often preferring to impose traditional ivory tower genres on the web rather than import the open web’s most successful models. For instance, we would rather digitize the journal we know than explore how blogs and social media might supplement or change our scholarly research and communication. What might happen if we reversed that flow and more wholeheartedly embraced the genres of the open web?

I hope the audience for this blog finds it worthy viewing. I enjoyed talking about burrito websites, Layer Tennis, aggregation and curation services, blog networks, Aaron Sorkin’s touchiness, scholarly uses of Twitter, and many other high- and low-brow topics all in one hour. (For some details in the images I put up on the screen, you might want to follow along with this PDF of the slides.) I’ll be expanding on the ideas in this talk in an upcoming book with the same title.

WordCamp Ed: Conference on WordPress for Education

From CHNM‘s Dave Lester, one of founders of THATCamp: The Humanities and Technology Camp, comes WordCamp Ed:

WordCamp conferences are taking the blogging community by storm as one-day events to meet fellow WordPress users in regional communities. WordCamp Ed has been organized to specifically focus on WordPress and Education. The day-long event to take place November 22, 2008, and will bring together a wide-range of institutions of higher-ed, professors, high school teachers, and students.

WordCamp Ed will be hosted at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, and is co-sponsored by the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship at Georgetown University.

Dave and many others, including CHNM’s Jeremy Boggs, have been hacking and creating plugins for the open-source WordPress blogging platform for some time now. This seems like a great opportunity to see what others are doing and to exchange knowledge and ideas.

ScholarPress: WordPress Plugins for Education

ScholarPress logoAs if CHNM Creative Lead Jeremy Boggs and web developer Dave Lester don’t have enough to do during the day building fantastic web applications like Omeka, they have somehow managed to create a couple of incredibly useful and highly polished WordPress plugins for academia, and have launched the ScholarPress site as a hub for CHNM work in this fertile area. (Another recent WordPress plugin that academics should take note of is the Institute for the Future of the Book‘s CommentPress.)

ScholarPress’s inaugural plugins are Courseware and WPBook. Courseware (co-developed by New York Public Library’s Josh Greenberg), turns WordPress, normally a blogging platform, into a full-fledged course management system, including easy syllabus creation, assignments, bibliographies, and scheduling. (And yes, you can have a class blog too.) WPBook creates your very own Facebook application out of your WordPress blog, allowing it to be embedded in Facebook.

Want to bring your class right into Facebook, where your students spend most of their time online? Simply combine the two plugins and create a class Facebook app that your students can install. Brilliant.