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Blog Design Solutions

Written by Colin Devroe on January 27, 2006

I can’t say how happy I am to be reporting this on our official blog. Two of the 9rules Network Members, whom we also consider close friends; Michael Heilemann and Chris J. Davis have recently finished co-authoring a book called Blog Design Solutions.

To see the talents of our members, documented and published for the entire world to enjoy is extremely rewarding for them, and us. We know how good our members are, and we’re extremely happy to see this recognized globally.

Congratulations on the efforts Mike and Chris, and to all the other people involved with this publication. We look forward to seeing the book in late-February.

Pre-order yours today!

9rules Members Up For Bloggies

Written by Mike Rundle on January 23, 2006

After being a few days late to post the finalists, the 2006 Bloggies are finally up and ready to be voted on. 9rules members up for an award:

  • Drawn! for Best New Weblog, written by 9ruler John Martz.
  • 456 Berea Street for Best Web Development Weblog, written by Roger Johansson.
  • Particle Tree for Best Web Development Weblog, written by Kevin Hale, Ryan Campbell, and Chris Campbell.
  • Girlspoke for Best Podcast of a Weblog, written by <lots of female names here> It looks like the Girlspoke girls are having some server troubles right now, so hopefully they make it back up to pick up some votes.

So get to votin’!

Building the 9rules Network: Episode 2

Written by Colin Devroe on January 18, 2006

The response from the last episode was overwhelming. Thanks to everyone that commented, emailed, instant messaged me, and linked back to that post from your own sites.

Last time we discussed how I used mostly smoke and mirrors to build our data structure using WordPress. Things didn’t change much for quite sometime, but I thought I’d jot down how we used custom fields to store the meta-data we needed for each member, rather than hacking WordPress’ fields in order to store our data.

Custom fields to the rescue

WordPress allows for unlimited and even duplicate custom fields per post. For every project I’ve used WordPress for, custom fields are probably the feature I use most. For more information on using WordPress’ custom fields, I suggest reading the Codex page of “Using Custom Fields“.

At this point in our story, still late-Spring or early Summer 2005, we only stored 3 custom fields per member. We needed a place to store the member’s URL, feed URL, and Author name(s). Instead of utilizing one of WordPress’ existing fields, and using it improperly, we opted to use custom fields which makes it easy to keep this data up-to-date per member.

Getting the data I need out of each custom field is not only easy, but convenient at any given time in my code. Typically when Mike Rundle turns over a comp to me, he will ask “Hey homie, is there a way to stick the Author’s name in there? Not sure how hard that would be.”. I left in his misspelling of homey, for authenticity purposes. He stopped asking that question rather quickly when I replied: “At any point, on any page, at any time, I can put any members data wherever I’d like, without even thinking of ‘how to do it'”. That was all he needed to hear. But how do I pull it off? We’re working with WordPress created data, am I in THE_LOOP? Am I using a plugin for the_post()? None of the above, here is a simple function that allows me to snatch the then existent custom fields we were using.

function siteInfo($id='') {
global $wpdb;

if ($id && $id != '') {

// Per site info
$member_author = get_post_meta($id, 'Site owner', true);
$member_rss = get_post_meta($id, 'RSS', true);
$member_url = get_post_meta($id, 'URL', true);

$siteInfo = array(
			'id'=>$id,
			'url'=>$member_url,
			'rss'=>$member_rss,
			'author'=>$member_author);

} else {

// There was an error
$siteInfo = array(
			'error_number'=>1,
			'error_text'=>'No site_id was given');

} // end if $id
					
return $siteInfo;
}

At any point in my code, I can run this function and retrieve the data I need for any of our members, and should I accidently not give it an $id it will end up giving me a definitive error that will be immediately recognizable.

As a side note, whenever I’m building datasets based on any number of variables, I typically return them as multidimensional associative arrays. This makes it much easier to check for validity, for referencing later in your code, and just making the data generally available at anytime you need it.

You might be asking where we stored the title, or name, of each member’s Web site. We stored this in the title field, so I typically had the $id and $post_title at any point when I would need to use siteInfo(). That is why that particular function does not need to fetch the title, or name, of the Web site – because I already have them in memory at that point.

The possibilities are endless

For those of you that feel limited using WordPress, and feel that just about any other CMS will work for you better, remember custom fields. It really makes the possibilities endless, per post, for what you’re able to accomplish. Over at TheUberGeeks.net, we use several custom fields to create our featured posts. We have custom fields such as; featured_art, featured_caption, album_art, cover_art, and a few others that allows us to display more than the typical content that WordPress would allow out of the box. Om Malik of GigaOm.com uses custom fields, by the assistance of a few plugins, to control his “Featured Post” of the day. Most of these examples are non-complex and generally easy to duplicate, should you use WordPress for your site and you’d like to extend your capabilities.

In our next episode, which I call Revenge of the Server, we’ll get into how I used our page views to build our cache of member data (it was my only choice at the time), and how Media Temple came to our rescue. The smoke and the mirrors had to be replaced with viable solutions at some point, right?!

Godbit

Written by Scrivs on January 17, 2006

I must say that I am really proud to see Godbit join the Network because I can remember when Nathan came up to me a couple of months ago with the idea for it and I told him to run with it (or something like that ;-). Now it’s one of the best educational resources for web development on the web whether you are involved in the church or not. Nice to see someone follow through with their ideas and watch them succeed.

The purpose of Godbit.com is to help the Church catch up with the rest of the world in adherence to standards given by the World Wide Web Consortium, the governing body of best-practices on the Internet. The majority of Christian web design agencies are using outmoded methods of coding to create websites that the rest of the world would scoff at. Basically, they are stuck in the 1990’s. This is so common in fact, that the term “Christian” when associated with the Internet has become synonymous with “sub-par.” We realize that if anything is going to change, we need to stop simply poking fun at these people, and start educating them.

Welcome Godbit gang (oooooo, the GGs in da house!).

Community feeds are now available

Written by Colin Devroe on January 17, 2006

By far one of the most frequently requested features that our members, and our readers, have asked for were feeds per Community. I’m happy to announce that I’m finally ready to release our Community feeds for your consumption. A little explanation is needed first though.

What are feeds?

For those of you reading this, that have no idea what a “feed” is, we’ve jotted down a fairly simple explanation of what feeds are. We’ve also pointed to a few of the more popular applications, and Web services, that are used to consume the feeds. In addition to these services we’ve linked to a couple of great articles that will help to explain in even greater detail how you can utilize feeds to keep up with the 9rules Network and its members.

How do you get them?

There are a few ways to find the Community feeds. If you are using a modern browser ( meaning that it has feed-detection built-in ) you can visit any of our Communities and your browser will alert you of the existence of a feed. If you’d like to view a complete list of our Community feeds, we’ve built one for you. It keeps itself up-to-date, so you can use that page as your point of reference to make sure you have the latest and greatest Community feeds.

A note about the feed contents

Each of our Community feeds are “digest only”. Slightly better than “headlines only”, but we’re only including a very small amount of our member’s posts within these digest only feeds. If you prefer full-content feeds, we suggest subscribing to our Member’s feeds directly.

Also of note, all content found within the 9rules Community feeds are copyright of their respective authors. Any unauthorized use of the content within these feeds will be responded to by our members, and the 9rules Network. Content syndication does not include the right to pirate the content, and we’re seeing this becoming more and more prevalent on the Internet – and we’re willing to stand behind our members content and act in their behalf if need be.

I’d like to thank our members, and all of our Community readers, for your patience while we made sure we got this setup correctly. We hope you enjoy keeping up-to-date with your favorite Communities.