Why Go Back to WordPress?

About 2 years ago I took my WordPress blog and converted it to a middleman based site and I thought I would never look back. Well today things have changed and I am moving back to WordPress.

So you might think, there must be something bad about Middleman or static sites in general for me to move back.

To quite the contrary, there are many use cases where Middleman and static sites just shine. For what I want to do with my site and my current direction it just isn’t a great fit.

Why WordPress? It’s all about serving business goals

The number one reason that I am switching is to better serve my business goals. There are many things that I have been wanting to do, or to experiment with, and I get bogged down with two things.

First everything I want to play around with on my site using Middleman, requires me for the most part to write code to do even very simple things. Secondly I tend to be a perfectionist with my own work, which means instead of spending say an hour working on things, I spend 8 or more.

So what types of things can I do easily with WordPress that were not possible with Middleman. Here is a short list.

  1. Easily identify and set SEO page names and descriptions via Yoast SEO
  2. Quickly build a landing page via Thrive Content Builder. And then mark it noindex and nofollow via Yoast
  3. Quickly create content download, video landing pages, or other sequenced landing pages via Thrive Content Builder
  4. Quickly experiment with different offers by placing relevant advertisements on specific pages or topics via Thrive Leads
  5. Quickly build advertising sequences and AB Test variations of copy, design and placement via Thrive Leads
  6. Easily set and forget AB Headline testing via Thrive Headline Optimizer
  7. Easily build a number of forms that can be used for surveys, contact forms, or other purposes via Ninja Forms
  8. Create and change content in an easy way so someone else could do it (NOTE: Netlify’s CMS is getting very close to this).
  9. Easily add images, structure and formatting to existing popular articles via Thrive Content Builder
  10. Promote and build products in a way that is largely hidden from search engines, quickly and be able to iterate via Thrive Content Builder and Yoast SEO
  11. Have other people in my team work on the website.
  12. Be able to easily split content off into different properties in the future.
  13. Be able to quickly change the visual look of the site.
  14. Identify hard to read articles via Yoast SEO
  15. Search functionality (there is a way to do this via Middleman but it is a pain to set up)

This list really can go on and on. The basics that I was looking for is to have a simple system that people other than myself can use, be able to quickly and easily iterate, to build products and product launch sequences without much effort, to be able to test and analyze what is working well and what’s not.

The Process

When I first decided to go through this process I though about using a script by someone else who went through a similar process. After taking a look at it and looking at my hacked markdown files full of html and other weirdness, I decided to migrate all of my articles by hand.

The fastest way I found to accomplish this was with the use of Ulysses III and its newly available WordPress publishing feature.

This was my basic process.

  1. open article in sublime text 3, select all and copy
  2. create new file in Ulysses III, paste using option – command – v (paste as markdown)
  3. publish to WordPress

Of course I did this is a batch, copying and pasting everything into ulysesses, and then I published each file in succession to WordPress.

Then in each article (from my new article page) I went through one by one.

  1. updating the date published
  2. adding the featured image
  3. embedding the YouTube video if shown
  4. deleting the YML front matter
  5. deleting the marker for MORE

Why WordPress provides you a better experience

If you have been following my blog or videos on YouTube this change, with a few hiccups, should result in a much better experience. First I will now be able to write and publish content easily from my favorite writing program Ulysses III and more importantly, from any device and even out on the road. I am hoping this will result in an uptick in my content schedule and more great content to read and consume.

Additionally, I am quickly developing products to build upon what I have created on the blog. Some of these will be free products and some will be paid. But you will quickly see more ways to dive deeper into the same subjects that you were interested in.

Finally, since my goal is to have a good user experience on this site, you will find much more relevant content as you read and watch my videos. If you are watching my grids video you will find out about my ZURB Foundation Crash Course and if you are reading about ZURB Ink (or ZURB Foundation for Sites) you will be pointed towards my ZURB Foundation for Sites Workshop.

I am not a big fan of having marketing messages pushed on me from every direction. I mean, I go to some sites lately and get not just one pop up but a pop up for every paragraph. (Does this even sell more, is anyone even listening?) But I digress, my goal here is to provide tony quality content in a variety of ways to consume it. Most of my content will be provided to the community at zero cost and my goal is to make it as relevant to your interests as possible.

Why I removed the comments from this site

If you are a long time user of my site, or you have been reading an article that has this awkward asking for comments, and then nowhere to put them, you might have noticed that I have removed comments from my site.

So the question is, why have comments in the first place? And then, why go through the trouble to remove them later?

Many people will advocate that having comments available and encouraging readers to comment creates a 2 way engagement for a blog, and here I completely agree.

However, for the content that I am producing, I have found that often the comments are:

  1. Under utilized
  2. They can go way off topic and be awkward
  3. Sometimes add something but often add an out of content conversation to the end of an article
  4. Some people are just commenting to promote their own content (I can be found guilty of that myself).
  5. Full of ads and a terrible interface. Yes I am looking at you WordPress and Disqus.

Furthermore, I have found that this type of interaction has been more engaging and lively for both parties on YouTube, which is where I will continue to answer questions and respond to comments.

Here they are always in context with the video and they have a very good system that promotes useful or active comments and places them at the top.

Now, if you have enjoyed engaging with me via comments and want to continue, I would recommend the following. Subscribe to my channel on YouTube and if you have a question or want to just say you enjoyed watching it use a YouTube comment.

If you have a quick question or just want to say hi, follow me and send me a tweet on Twitter.

I promise I won’t bite.

And finally if you have something that can’t be said in a tweet, or you are interested in learning more about how we might work together, head on over to my contact page.

Sublime Text Snippets for Foundation

If you love Sublime Text and you love ZURB Foundation then if you are like me, you are going to really love the Sublime Text Snippets for ZURB Foundation.

I have been using ZURB Foundation for quite some time and I can tell you one of the major time wasters is going back and forth to the docs to copy and paste the more complex structures. Sure, you can memorize exactly how the topbar and accordion work, but I am pretty lazy. I am only memorizing things that I use a lot, meaning at least 40 – 50 times per day.

Thats why I am glad that I came across the ZURB Foundation snippets. They are a huge time saver, because I know what components I want, I just need quick access to that boilerplate. And, whats great is that they all come up in the Command Pallet. I just hit Command+Shift+P and type zurb, then I have a list of all the components that I can add. Huge time saver and I don't even have to memorize the zf-whatever syntax if I don't want to.

I am not sure if these are official or not because they are not in the package manager yet, but I came across them in the official ZURB GitHub. So, if you know how to install Sublime Text plugins manually, jump over to the repo and go crazy. For those that want a short demo with step-by-step instructions on how to get started, check out the screencast above.

So are you a daily ZURB Foundation user? Do you love Sublime Text? Have you used or plan on using these snippets in your workflow? If so I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Using Sass with ZURB Foundation 5

Learn how to use Sass and Scss with ZURB Foundation 5. In this video I show you how easy it is to get started, how the different Scss files work and how to experiment with changes.

Video description from YouTube:

In this screencast I will show you how to get started with Sass using ZURB Foundation 5. In this video you will learn what the different scss files are and what they are used for. You will learn how to modify your _settings.scss file to radically change the look and feel of ZURB Foundation 5 and I will even cover some of my best practices. I am using the new libsass in this video but you can use compass as well. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.

So what did you think of this video? Do you use app.scss and _settings.scss in your ZURB Foundation Workflow? Do you have any ideas for future screencasts? If so, I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Why I Quit Apple and Moved to Paris”

date: 2013/11/27

time: 03:22 PM CET

tags: opinion

featured_image: /blog/featured-images/james-chateau.jpg

Okay, officially I was a grey badge or a contractor but working at Apple was nice. I mean, very, very nice. The campus is beautiful, I worked on top of the line hardware, I had an office with a view for a while. They even have Starbucks machines. If you have never used one, I can't begin to tell you how wonderful they are.

Well, all good things come to an end. I had a serious dilemma. I had an opportunity to move to Paris.


It wasn't a glamourous all expenses paid rendition as you might see in the movies. With some tycoon hiring me and whisking my family and I off to Paris by private plane or any of that nonsense. It was more of the slow, planning, preparing and hard working to take advantage of an opportunity that landed me in one of the most culturally rich cites in the world.

So some people think I am crazy, irresponsible even. Some people think I am lucky. As if the scene described was granted to me by some genie or something. If you ask me, I am both lucky and hard working.

If you find yourself being placed between the two worlds of the responsible adult and of uncertain adventure I urge you to take the latter. Here's why:

There is really no certainty in life and there are no guarantees. We live in a world with next to zero job security and with our health (at least in the US) can be hanging on by just as thin of a thread. Jobs will come and go but opportunities, especially those of the exciting and adventurous type tend not to reappear. Seize the moment, even if it appears that it may not be a rational choice.

Living abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. Before 2007, I had never traveled outside of the US (with the exception of Canada and Mexico). But since I have spent 9 months total in France, 3 months in Armenia, 1 month in the Republic of Georgia, 3 weeks in Turkey and have also traveled to the UK and Belgium. I have learned to speak basic things in three languages and have experienced amazing things that have altered my perspective on life in profound ways.

I snuck out of a village to avoid having three goats slaughtered in my honor only to witness a sheep meet its demise at a church the next week. I got kicked off a train at gun point, bought a visa at a control point for cars and raced through the mountains and ran through a dark train yard to reboard it 74km later. I have traveled to the castles of kings and through sewers of Paris and many other strange and beautiful things.

This all started from taking some risk.

Risk in doing something where I believed that I might fail.

I applied to a study abroad program run by professor John Clapp. He told me, "You won't get in, but you are welcome to apply."

I thought it was a lost cause, mostly from the fact of having zero money. My father encouraged me, "Just apply. If you get in, everything else will fall into place."

Well, I applied, got in and somehow managed to scrape together the money to pay for it. I don't mean to say that it was not supported by hard work, desperation sometimes manifesting as depression at times, but it was making that decision to apply and taking a chance that started everything.

So just go for it. Take a risk. Even if you fail, you will have at least pursued your passion, even if for a small moment. And that, can be a life altering thing.

Have you ever taken a risk when people thought you were crazy or irresponsible? Are you facing such a decision today? If so, I would love to hear from you in the comments.

10 Things I Love About Ruby

date: 2013/11/07

featured_image: /blog/featured-images/ruby-love.jpg

I have been using Ruby and RoR (Ruby on Rails) for the past couple of years and here are some of the things that I really appreciate about the language coming from a Java background.

Oh BTW, don't tell Java.


1. Culture

Ruby culture is fun and quirky. What other language has a comic book complete with soundtrack as a basis for learning the language and is full of obscure cultural references.

2. Simplicity

The syntax that ruby provides is very elegant and succinct. Java is anything but simple, it is incredibly verbose and there is a lot of boilerplate code. Now when I am writing something in Java I feel like I am running extra laps. Even the simplified syntax of the processing core api seems verbose next to ruby.

3. Rails

I have used PHP and CakePHP in the past and CakePHP is a great MVC framework but is as great of an experience in my opinion as rails. Add Devise, Zurb Foundation, Sass, Compass and others and you have a very tightly integrated environment to get started. rails db:migrate is just magical.

4. Pry

I might have put IRB here but Pry really solves a lot of the problems with IRB. But really, being about to experiment and run code on the fly, amazing. Pry lets you also do autocompletion, press . and get a list of all methods available, or an easy view of the ruby docs.

5. Gem

Although I think there is some validity in knowing how to build a unix app from scratch, I don't really want to do that all the time. Gem is an easy to use package manager that even lets you install specific versions of a package. Just gem update then gem install somegem and you are ready to go. If you can think it up, there is probally a gem for that.

6. RVC

A one line installer that does so much more. Want to run Ruby 1.9 and ruby 1.8 and switch between them. No problem, Rvc lets you do that with ease.

7. Conditionals

Its amazing how much more readable Ruby code can be and I think a great part of that is the conditional structures that are available.

  • do this unless that
  • do this if that
  • unless that do this
  • if that do this

How come Java doesn't have these structures. if (that != true) { //do this} seems so 1992.

8. No semicolons, parens (), or blocks {}

The indentation takes some getting used to, but I can't tell you how many times I am missing a semicolon from a Java program. It can be inferurating. Also, getting unmatched parens and braces seems to just extraneous once you get used to ruby. I think a way to think about it is like how in English we drop all the words that can be assumed in a statement. Another benefit is white space and readability.

9. erb + rails server

The way that .erb works and with rails server is a very elegant solution for development. Basically a one line solution to run your server. I have worked with .jsp and tomcat in the past and lets just say, the ruby solution is much simpler for most development solutions.

Once you learn erb slim can be an even more elegant solution. Especially coupled with Zurb Foundation or Twitter Bootstrap.

10. Community

The ruby community is one of the most extensive around. If you have an idea of something you want to do that is web related, it is likely there is a ruby gem for that. There are meetups in most major cities, podcasts, and pretty much anything else you can think of. If you are die hard Java and have never given Ruby a change, I urge you. Check it out. Use it for a small project. You won't be sorry that you did.

Do you use ruby? What are some the parts about the language or ecosystem that you love. Let me know in the comments.

Photo Credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net