How to Produce a High Quality Screencast

video

No one likes reading, right? I mean, why are you even reading this sentence instead of surfing YouTube looking at cat videos? As a culture, we often to gravitate toward passive entertainment–information flung at us without us having to do a whole lot of work in the process. More active entertainment, which can describe actual physical activity but can also apply to activities that require you to actually think, is harder. Reading long blog posts is hard, playing soccer is hard, learning to ride a bike is hard. Listening to some talking head on the radio is easy, but actually discussing what they were talking about with a colleague might require you to consider not only what was said, but how you feel about it, which is harder.

These “hard” activities are ultimately more rewarding than any kind of passive activity. Talking about things with other people (or writing about them) is an active activity that reinforces your own ideas on the subject (or helps you to consider new ideas). You might learn a lot about tactics and formations and how soccer is played by sitting in front of your XBox and playing FIFA, but it doesn’t make you a better soccer player until you actually go out and use your body. You learn some interesting new fact or information that you can use in the future, you develop muscles or skills you didn’t have, you engage with a compelling story, all are results of active activities.

One of the things that I do when I’m not writing code is produce training videos for a company called Pluralsight. Pluralsight specializes in online IT pro and developer training and has a library of thousands of videos. I’ve been doing this for about three years, so everything I’m going to talk about here comes out of things I’ve learned along the way through trial and error, user feedback, and conversations with other Pluralsight authors.

Generally speaking, screencasts (and many other educational video formats) are a form of active entertainment disguising itself as passive entertainment. You’re sucked in because they are often short (faster than reading the source material, anyway) and presented in a compelling way meaning that completely by accident you end up learning something. Studies have proven that when you’re engaged or particularly interested in the content, you end up learning more, for example Minecraft leading to better literacy skills in kids. If you’re writing a lot of documentation or content, using video might be a way to make that content more digestible to a larger audience.

Video is also extremely searchable. It’s been known for quite a while among those in the SEO and SEM fields that videos on YouTube are indexed by Google almost instantaneously, making them show up in search results much faster than blog content. When you upload a video to YouTube, you’re entering it directly into Google’s infrastructure, so of course it’s going to be able to add that content to search results faster than it would take one of their crawlers to find your site, even if you’re pinging Google when you publish new content.

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The Custom Post Type UI Million Download Celebration

Custom Post Types UI, WebDevStudios, WebDevStudios plugins, WordPress plugins,

In the spring of 2013, I was moved into a “Plugin Czar” position within WebDevStudios. This meant that I was now in charge of the support, maintenance, and development of many of our free plugins available on our WordPress.org account.

Custom Post Type UI is one of our many plugins, and undoubtedly our most popular one. So popular, that it is the first WebDevStudio plugin that has reached one million downloads with an active install count above 200,000. Not only that, but it maintains a 4.6 out of 5 stars rating with an impressive 87 5-stars at the time of this writing. This is quite an impressive feat to achieve since Brad Williams first tagged version 0.1.0 five years ago.

Lord of the Rings Meme.

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WordCamp Milwaukee 2015! We see you rounding the bend!

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Oh snap! It’s summer and some of our rad WDS-ers are prepping for WordCamp Milwaukee 2015, which is July 24th-26th! Several of our rockstar folks will be speaking, and you won’t want to miss it!

Although I find it hard to believe that any of our regular readers are unfamiliar with WordCamp (come on, now!), for those of you that are completely green: WordCamps are events held all over the world where WordPress nerds unite to share their skills, insights, and learn a whole lot from a bunch of other smarties.

Parbs, Dusty, and one of our newest, Zach S, will be not only attending, but speaking!

Here are the details for their awesome sessions–don’t miss ‘em!

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Staging Websites for Safe Development

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Imagine you have been evaluating your web presence and have determined that there are tasks you need to work on to improve your website. After careful deliberation, your team has identified points A, B, and C are all either not working, or not working as effectively as they could be, and need to be removed or revised. However, you know these are big changes, with a lot of potential to break your existing website, wrecking the user experience for visitors. What do you do?

Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ddohler/ Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: DDohler on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Not a literal stage!

The answer is to set up what is known as a staging, or development site. What is that you ask? It’s a duplicate copy of your existing site that is located in a place that visitors are not going to know about, and not be able to access. This will allow you and others to develop and revise the website safely without risk of real visitors knowing anything is going on.

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A Few Friday Announcements!

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HAPPY FRIDAY, FRIENDS!

Zach Stepek, Maintainn, WebDevStudios, WordPress developer, hire a developer, hire a web designer, hire a graphic designerFirst of all, please join us in welcoming yet ANOTHER DEVELOPER to WebDevStudios, and, more specifically, the Maintainn team!

Zach Stepek is the newest member of our goofy and talented group! Pop over to the Maintainn blog to find out more about him and make sure you follow him over @zstepek!

Second of all, if you’re looking for a smart and informative way to keep yourself entertained on Friday afternoon (are you ready for the weekend? We sure are!), listen to Brian on the Conscious Millionaire podcast! He talks about how to create a big brand with WordPress–wise words from a wise man, so listen up!

Third of all, have a fantastic weekend!

Comic courtesy of xkcd

Create a Simple JSON Endpoint in WordPress

WordPress tutorial, JSON, WP-API, JSON tutorial, WebDevStudios,

As you may or may not know, the WordPress JSON REST API is on the horizon for a future version of WordPress. This will be one of the most important and influential additions to WordPress core we may see, especially for those using WordPress as a framework to create web and mobile applications. The inclusion of a standard, easy to use and extendable API for WordPress opens up a myriad of new possibilities on how we build applications with WordPress in the future

But what if you don’t want to wait for inclusion of the WP-API or use the official plugin version of the WP-API, where do you go? Maybe you just have a small bit of information that you would like to access in a JSON format. This could be needed for an AJAX call within your site or to allow a third-party to access some of your data. I will show you a quick way to set up your own endpoint and return your data in JSON format.

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Another Developer? Heck yes! Meet Cameron!

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And another one aboard! Meet our newest developer Cameron Campbell!

Here’s a little bit about him:

Cameron comes from a traditional design background but fell in love with code somewhere along the way after learning HTML and CSS. Not long after that, a developer friend encouraged him to check out WordPress and he was overwhelmed by the helpful community and passionate developers working on core.

Cameron has worked at design agencies and most recently been a successful freelancer but was drawn to WebDevStudios by the immense talent and friendly people. He has a passion for learning and is currently exploring every resource he can to further his design and development knowledge.

When he’s not working, Cameron enjoys spending time with his wonderful wife, Charity and their dog, Frothy. Cameron and Charity are expecting their first child and couldn’t be happier!

You can follow Cameron @bezierer and find more ways to stay in touch here. As we said last week, if you want to join our amazing team, we’re still accepting applications! Check out our jobs page for more details.

Oh, and happy Fourth of July to our US-ians! Have a great weekend everyone!

 

The Future of JavaScript: ECMAScript 6 and You

ES6 Sample

Today, JavaScript fills every aspect of our online lives: it checks your e-mail in the background, it guides your online shopping cart, and it even autosaves your blog post as you write. From the client to the server, JavaScript is everywhere. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that this wasn’t always the case.

When I started writing basic web pages in the late 90’s, “DHTML” was the acronym describing the use of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS; the “D” stood for “Dynamic.” DHTML sites were heavy and sluggish, yet they showcased the power of JavaScript (or JScript, depending on who you asked). They also served as a reminder of why many developers shied away from JavaScript at the time: it was resource-intensive, and implementations varied from browser to browser. At the time, I only knew a handful of people who did any kind of web development–we were, after all, more concerned with the issues of how much AP courses “sucked” and whether or not we could get tickets to see Blink 182. For us, the consensus was that JavaScript was for show, and any website could do what it needed to do without it.

JavaScript has now made a name for itself as the go-to for interactive sites. Gone are the days of full-page Flash applications, Shockwave Player, and Java as a general “necessity” for the web. JavaScript has even found it’s way onto the server with projects such as Node.js. Automation of screenshots, converting web pages to PDF, or headless testing can all be achieved from the command link using PhantomJS, a headless implementation of the WebKit engine. On the wider web, JavaScript gives us the little spinner that eventually leads to a table of search results populating without a page reload, or dragging-and-dropping an image to upload it to Imgur. Even some of the apps on the smartphones in pockets around the world use JavaScript. It’s no longer just for hobbyists or experimentation – knowing JavaScript is a part of the job.

Which brings us to ECMAScript 6, or ES6. JavaScript is an implementation of ECMAScript, which also covers languages such as ActionScript, JScript, QtScript, and many others. ES6, codenamed “Harmony,” has been in the works since 2008 and periodic drafts have been published since 2011. This month, June 2015, ECMAScript 6 was formally announced and released and includes a lot of new and interesting tidbits for developers of the modern web.

Below I hope to cover some of the new features, but by no means all of them, as that would be far beyond the scope of this post. For more information, you can check out the full specification PDF to get a look at all of the stuff coming to a browser near you.

Author’s note: the following will include some code examples – some modern browsers may still not recognize certain keywords or agree with their use. For instance, Chrome requires “use strict” to make use of the “let” keyword.

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Welcome to the team, Jeremy!

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Whew. Yes, it’s that time again–meet another developer who has joined the WebDevStudios family!

This is Jeremy Pry, and here’s a little more about him:

Jeremy started building websites in 2009 with a simple XHTML and CSS brochure site. In 2010, he discovered WordPress and fell in love with its simplicity and flexibility. He delved further into WordPress to create websites for local clients ranging from churches to state representatives.

Until 2012 he worked with WordPress mostly as a self-taught hobby but he found that he enjoyed it so much that he wanted to pursue a career as a WordPress developer. He is always looking to learn more and use what he learns to help others, so he found working in the WordPress community to be both fun and fulfilling.

As a professional developer he has continued learning about WordPress and good development practices. He continues to be involved in the WordPress community both inside and outside of work, regularly attending Meetups and WordCamps in and around the Philadelphia area.

When he’s not behind a computer, Jeremy loves to spend time with his wife, Elisa, and his daughter, Katherine. He and his wife will soon be welcoming their second child into their family (due July 2015). He enjoys participating in his Church and plays Ultimate Frisbee each week. He also has a passion for cooking, baking, and grilling, as well as photography, and nature. In his spare time he likes to build furniture and make projects with a Raspberry Pi. He has also been known to build websites for friends and family.

You can follow him on Twitter @JPry and find more ways to connect with him on his team page. We continue to grow and we’re still accepting applications for a variety of positions, so if you’d like to join the raddest team in town, check out what other roles we’re looking to fill.