Making scheduled posts in WordPress public so they can be scheduled / scraped on social media

The basics of scheduling in WordPress are quite simple: If you give a WordPress post a published date set in the future, it’ll remain “hidden” on your website until that date and time arrives. It’ll then appear, right on time, at the top of your list of public posts.

But here’s an interesting problem: Social media is now a major driver (maybe the driver) of traffic to digital media websites. When you schedule your post in WordPress, you’ll also naturally want to schedule that post to appear on Facebook and Twitter – but that would require the WordPress post to be public, which in its “future” post status isn’t yet.

// Allow site visitors to view posts in the "future" post status.
function show_future_posts( $posts ) {
   global $wp_query, $wpdb;

   if ( is_single() && $wp_query->post_count == 0 ) {
      $posts = $wpdb->get_results($wp_query->request);
   }
 
   return $posts;
}
add_filter('the_posts', 'show_future_posts');

Reference:

What makes a great product manager?

There’s a terrific post by Brandon Chu on Medium titled MVPM: Minimum Viable Product Manager that does a great job at explaining that while it’s impossible to have in-depth knowledge of the technical, business and user experience legs of the product tripod, knowing key elements in each area makes you so much more able to handle the decision making that you’ll be doing every minute of the day.

How to drop a MS SQL Server database

Dropping a database in MS SQL Server is not a one-step process; you’ll need to do the following:

USE master;
ALTER DATABASE [databasename] SET SINGLE_USER WITH ROLLBACK IMMEDIATE;
DROP DATABASE [databasename];

Reference:

How are Canadians using their mobile devices? What kind of devices do they own?

The folks at Yahoo! / Flurry Analytics regularly post Flurry Insights, gleaned from data accumulated from their analytics SDK that’s embedded in hundreds of thousands of mobile devices. Back in 2015, they posted data they’d accumulated about mobile device usage in the Canadian market:

time-spent-canada

Some quick notes from the above:

  • 86% of time on a mobile device is spent in an app; only 14% of the time are users in a web browser
  • Social media apps (Facebook, Twitter and various others) gobble up 37% of time – roughly a third of the time someone is using their phone/tablet – all on their own
  • Playing music, reading an e-book or watching a video is how 9% of time is spent by Canadians on their mobile device

Of course, that’s not to say that you can’t create an app that takes up 50% of someone’s time on their devices, even over the long haul. But it’s clear that for the average Canadian, there’s only a small slice of time that they’re likely to spend using the new app you’ve created for them.

Next up: What kind of devices are in use out there? Flurry Analytics has a second post (from 2016 this time) with a global form factor breakdown:

mobile-device-form-factors-2016

References:

How to get WordPress post permalinks directly from the MySQL database

While generating a CSV of old-and-new URLs for a site I’ve been busy migrating to WordPress, I ran into this brilliant bit of semi-working code to get the permalink for Posts using a pure SQL query (for MySQL):

SELECT wpp.post_title, wpp.guid, wpp.post_date,
       REPLACE( REPLACE( REPLACE( REPLACE( wpo.option_value, '%year%', DATE_FORMAT(wpp.post_date,'%Y') ), '%monthnum%', DATE_FORMAT(wpp.post_date, '%m') ), '%day%', DATE_FORMAT(wpp.post_date, '%d') ), '%postname%', wpp.post_name ) AS permalink
  FROM wp_posts wpp
  JOIN wp_options wpo
    ON wpo.option_name = <a hreflang="en" href="http://www.jolietta.com/" id="otuezw">cadana casino</a> 'permalink_structure'
 WHERE wpp.post_type = 'post'
   AND wpp.post_status = 'publish'
 ORDER BY wpp.post_date DESC;

References:

How to disable WordPress’s internal search system (while still using its search page templates)

On websites like Sportsnet.ca ( http://www.sportsnet.ca/ ) and Maclean’s ( http://www.macleans.ca/ ), the amount of content on those WordPress websites long ago exceeded the level that the built-in WordPress search system can capably handle.

Third-party search solutions such as Google CSE (Custom Search Engine) are being utilized instead, but there is a momentary slowdown before the page loads that is caused by the WordPress site executing its own internal search query before it displays the search results page. In order to remove this delay (and the unnecessary database request), add the following code to the theme’s functions.php file:

// Disable WordPress's internal search query (as much as we can), letting Google CSE handle that.
function internal_search_disable( $query ) {
    if ( !is_admin() && $query->is_main_query() ) {
        if ( $query->is_search ) {
            // Add a filter that effectively returns no results ever.
            add_filter('posts_where', 'internal_search_filter_where');
        }
    }
    return $query;
}
add_action('pre_get_posts', 'internal_search_disable');
 
// The WHERE search filter for disabling the internal search system.
function internal_search_filter_where( $where = '' ) {
    $where = " AND 0 = 1";
 
    // Once added, remove the filter to stop affecting other queries on the page.
    remove_filter('posts_where', 'internal_search_filter_where');
    return $where;
}

How to add an AJAX function / URL to WordPress

Put this function in your theme’s functions.php (or even better, in an ajax.php file in the theme that is require’d in):

/* The function ajax_read_more() will be called when the following URL is requested
 * from WordPress:
 *
 * http://www.yoursite.com/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php?action=read_more&limit=5
 */
function ajax_read_more() {
    // Take in a few input parameters from $_GET or $_POST (depending on how you're passing the values) about
    // what data to retrieve and display.
    $num_limit = (int) $_POST['limit'];
    $str_category_name = filter_var($_POST['category_name'], FILTER_SANITIZE_STRING);
  
    // Call some built-in WordPress functions just to demonstrate that we can.
    $user_id = get_current_user_id();
  
    // Now let's return some JSON data to whatever called this URL (we can return HTML, XML or whatever else too,
    // just make sure to set the appropriate Content-Type header).
    $arr_sample_data = array('key' => 'value');
    echo json_encode($arr_sample_data);
    exit; // You must use exit to end an AJAX function in WordPress, or it'll append a 0 to the output.
}
add_action( 'wp_ajax_read_more', 'ajax_read_more' ); // This action exposes the AJAX action "read_more" to logged-in WordPress users.
add_action( 'wp_ajax_nopriv_read_more', 'ajax_read_more' ); // This action exposes the AJAX action "read_more" to anonymous (not logged in) WordPress users.

Then all you need to do is write a jQuery or even just a regular HTML form that submits a request to your new AJAX URL:

jQuery.ajax({
    type: 'get',
    url: '/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php?action=read_more&limit=5',
    dataType: 'json'
})
.done( function( response ) {
    console.log(response);
});

One last thing – visit your WordPress site’s Permalinks page in order to rebuild the list of URLs WordPress will respond to. This will make your new URL (for the AJAX function) active.

Forcing images to conform to a 16:9 aspect ratio

In the Bootstrap front-end framework, you can add the classes embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9 or embed-responsive embed-responsive-4by3 on a DIV that wraps an IFRAME, EMBED or OBJECT element to ensure that video players always conform to a 16:9 aspect ratio on your responsive website (more info).

But what about images? In cases where content has been migrated onto a WordPress site, re-creating all thumbnails in the proper aspect ratio may just not be doable – or you may simply not have the controls in place to ensure that all images are of the correct aspect ratio. Luckily there appears to be a trick in CSS that can force aspect ratios. To get it to work, you’ll need to write CSS for a DIV that wraps the actual IMG tag like so:

.img-responsive-16by9 {
    display: block;
    height: 0;
    padding-bottom: 56.25%;
    overflow: hidden;
}

That’ll force the image output with the HTML illustrated below to respect a 16:9 aspect ratio:

<div class="img-responsive-16by9">
    <img src="http://www.570news.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/sites/3/2015/04/1429827607_NSD502266764_low.jpg">
</div>

Why I mostly hire generalists

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to build the in-house web development team at Rogers Media for a few years now up from just myself and one other developer to a staff of fifteen. I’m of the school of thought that software development teams are best kept small: It requires a smaller web of communication, individual team members maintain a high level of impact on the product they’re building (avoiding a loss of motivation due to the Ringelmann effect), and team stability (that is, people constantly joining or leaving the team) is usually greatly improved.

But there’s a potential downside that has to be addressed: Software is complex, and the requirements of web development often extremely so. How does a small team come through with everything that’s needed to make a project work? My answer has been to build the core of the team around generalists – people who tend to be very good in one area of development, but also knowledgeable and capable in most others as well.

Here’s an excerpt from the Pragmatic Programmer series titled Be A Generalist that speaks to why generalists are the answer to meeting a modern business product’s software needs:

For at least a couple of decades, desperate managers and business owners have been pretending that software development is a manufacturing process at heart. Requirements specifications are created, and architects turn these specifications into a high-level technical vision. Designers fill out the architecture with detailed design documentation, which is handed to robot-like coders, who hold pulp-fiction novels in one hand while sleepily typing in the design’s implementation with the other. Finally, Inspector 12 receives the completed code, which doesn’t receive her stamp of approval unless it meets the original specifications.

It’s no surprise that managers want software development to be like manufacturing. Managers understand how to make manufacturing work. We have decades of experience in how to build physical objects efficiently and accurately. So, applying what we’ve learned from manufacturing, we should be able to optimize the software development process into the well-tuned engine that our manufacturing plants have become.

In the so-called software factory, the employees are specialists. They sit at their place in the assembly line, fastening Java components together or rounding the rough edges of a Visual Basic application on their software lathes. Inspector 12 is a tester by trade. Software components move down the line, and she tests and stamps them in the same way each day. J2EE designers design J2EE applications. C++ coders code in C++. The world is very clean and compartmentalized.

Unfortunately, the manufacturing analogy doesn’t work. Software is at least as malleable as software requirements. Things change in business, and businesspeople know that software is soft and can be changed to meet those requirements. This means architecture, designs, code, and tests must all be created and revised in a fashion more agile than the leanest manufacturing processes can provide.

In this kind of rapidly changing environment, the flexible will survive. When the pressure is on, a smart businessperson will turn to a software professional can solve the problem at hand. So, how do you become that person whose name comes up when they’re looking for a superhero to save the day? The key is to be able to solve the problems that may arise.

What are those problems? That’s right: you don’t know. Neither do I. What I do know is that those problems are as diverse as deployment issues, critical design flaws that need to be solved and quickly reimplemented, heterogenous system integration, and rapid, ad hoc report generation. Faced with a problem set as diverse as this, poor Inspector 12 would be passed over pretty quickly.

The label jack-of-all-trades—master of none is normally meant to be derogatory, implying that the labelee lacks the focus to really dive into a subject and master it. But, when your online shopping application is on the fritz, and you’re losing orders by the hundreds as each hour passes, it’s the jackof-all-trades who not only knows how the application’s code works but can also do low-level UNIX debugging of your web server processes, analyze your RDBM’s configuration for potential performance bottlenecks, and check your network’s router configuration for hard-to-find problems.

And, more important, after finding the problem, the jack-of-all-trades can quickly make architecture and design decisions, implement code fixes, and deploy a new fixed system to production. In this scenario, the manufacturing scenario seems quaint at best and critically flawed at worst.

Another way in which the software factory breaks down is in that, although in an assembly line the work keeps coming in a steady flow, software projects are usually very cyclical. Not only is the actual flow of projects cyclical, but the work inside a project is cyclical. A coder sits on the bench while requirements are being specified, architected, and designed, or the coder multitasks across many projects. The problem with multitasking coders is that, despite the software factory’s intentions, when the rubber meets the road, the coders rely a great deal on context and experience to get their jobs done. Requirements, architecture, and design documents can be a great head start, but ultimately if the programmers don’t understand what the system is supposed to do, they won’t be able to create a good implementation of the system.

Of course, I’m not just picking on coders here. The same is true at nearly every spot on the software assembly line. Context matters, and multitasking doesn’t quite work. As a result, we have an inefficient manufacturing system. There have been various attempts to solve this problem of inefficiency without departing from the manufacturing-inspired system, but we have not yet figured out how to optimize our software factories to an acceptable level.

If you are just a coder or a tester or a designer or an architect, you’re going to find yourself sitting idle or doing busywork during the ebbs of your business’s project flow. If you are just a J2EE programmer or a .NET programmer or a UNIX systems programmer, you’re not going to have much to contribute when the focus of a project or a company shifts, even temporarily, out of your focus area. It’s not about where you sit on the perceived value chain of project work (where the architect holds the highest spot of royalty). It’s about how generally useful you make yourself.

References:

 

Time_Spent_Mobile_Desktop_May_2013-2014_reference

The growth of mobile device usage for the Web isn’t at the expense of desktop usage

From ComScore – Is Mobile Bringing About the Death of the PC? Not Exactly, some interesting data:

Here we can see that mobile consumption has clearly exploded, with a 44% gain in mobile app usage and a 38% gain in mobile web usage. This has contributed to mobile growing its share of digital media time spent from 50% to 60% in the past year and owning a clear majority of time spent.

But importantly, desktop usage has held up in the face of increased competition from mobile for consumers’ attention, with a negligible overall decline in total time spent from 477 billion minutes to 466 billion minutes. The net result of is that we’ve seen a 20% overall increase in time spent on digital in the past year, which means a lot more opportunity to reach consumers and monetize content.

As a web developer, this tells me that websites with analytics that tell me that desktop users are predominant aren’t to be forgotten; mobile Web usage is growing, but native app usage is where people’s attention is.