At LexBlog, we manage a lot of sites with a small (but mighty!) team. While we carefully introduce new features on a regular basis through a combination of automated and functional tests, it’s much easier to trust the process (any Philadelphia 76ers fans out there?) when your team is responsible for writing that functionality. However, as LexBlog’s platform is built on WordPress and includes a variety of third-party plugins not written by LexBlog’s product team, we’re often put in a position to introduce new code to the platform without having the luxury of reading each line. In fact right now, we’re preparing for a core update now that WordPress 4.9 has been out long enough to see a security release added to the initial point release.

In our line of business, this is fraught with peril as not all sites are created equally (meaning they often run different bodies of code) and the standard at LexBlog is high where a few pixels of change is cause for concern. So how do we do it?

Continue Reading How We Update WordPress (and Third-Party Plugins) at LexBlog

Nowadays marketing professionals have countless tools to communicate with their audience. Everything from YouTube videos to podcasts to Facebook Live interviews and the list keeps growing. The ability to leverage this content into written form is quite valuable but historically has been a painfully slow and expensive process.

First, you send your files in. Then, you wait for a quote. After approving the price, you wait. Again. And after a few more days of waiting, your transcription finally arrives. This timeline is not always compatible with the need to share information quickly after an event. I’ve been waiting for a better solution.

Today, I heard about Temi. Temi claimed to take a high quality, low background noise audio files and transcribe them for you in less than 5 minutes… for $.10/minute. I couldn’t believe it. Any other tool I explored online was at least 10x the price of Temi and 144x slower on the turnaround. But they offered a free trial, so I gave it a spin.

And… wow!

In less than 2 minutes my 4-minute long audio clip was delivered to me with accuracy that was spot on. In the case that it wasn’t, they offer a simple tool to clean up any issues before exporting your files. Once again, technology is helping us to achieve things we once thought were not possible. Sure, this is a rather small achievement in the grand scheme of things. But to me, it makes all the difference in the world.

One of the things that I’m proudest of at LexBlog is our commitment to using WordPress for everything we deliver to our clients. The WordPress open source project’s mission statement – to democratize publishing – aligns with LexBlog’s goals to democratize legal publishing, and aligns with my personal philosophies to make the web accessible to those that can add value to the world’s largest conversation (the internet).

The past two years of the State of the Word have been largely the same. In 2015, Matt Mullenweg called upon a community of PHP developers to learn JavaScript deeply while pushing RESTful APIs as the future of WordPress development. In 2016 this focus was carried over as JavaScript continued to eat the web and major components of WordPress’s REST API were folded into core.

Continue Reading WordPress Marches on with 2017’s State of the Word

I was looking forward to writing about an intriguing bug in the new FireFox Quantum browser. I was looking forward to depicting the obscure CSS syntax that it bungles, and I was looking forward to explaining just what I plan to do about that. Given the rash of workplace abuses in the news lately, I’m not going to write about technology this week. Instead I’m going to write about the best advice I’ve ever heard:

Be absolutely professional in everything you do.Larry Ullman

Larry Ullman is the biggest influence on my career as a programmer. I’ve devoured all of his books many times. It is no exaggeration to say that the reason I have a family is because of the words this man has written in many, many books. And from all of his sage wisdom, that right there is the pearl. This advice was originally in reference to something quaint, like code or clients or invoices. It still works for that stuff.

Honestly, I struggle with this advice every single day. I often re-read myself in tickets or emails and wish that I had found a way to be more patient, more thorough, more researched. But what I can’t fathom is a workplace where this struggle includes the desire to harm a coworker physically or mentally.

It’s been a while Larry, but there are many of us out here who still read your books and still take your advice. And many more who should.

In 2008 I switched to the Chrome web browser. I was a very early adopter. As a person who made their living as a web professional, it was not convenient. No one was using Chrome at the time, so I still needed to keep other browsers around for testing. That was okay, for the previous 6 years, I had been a Firefox user, and was used to checking projects on various browsers.

Chrome has had a good run. Not only has it dominated MY web browsing life for nearly a decade, but it has come to dominate the majority of websites. Depending on who you listen to, it has at least 50% of the browser market and as high as 70%. Not bad.

Sadly over the years, Chrome has become bloated. Sites crawl and lockup on my 3 year old work laptop. Since nearly everything I do is in the browser, this is kind of a big deal.

At onetime IE felt safe at the top of browser mountain.

On November 14th, Firefox’s new browser “Quantum,” finally came out of Beta and was made available to the general public. I decided to give it a spin and I was hooked. It easily handled dozens of tabs and importing everything from Chrome was a breeze.

It felt to me like Chrome was the pinnacle of browser technology and that no browser would ever make me feel a difference in my browser experience again. I was wrong. After the long slog of dwindling returns on Chrome, the new Firefox is noticeably better and I am not the only one who thinks so.

I even started using their Pocket service, which I had largely ignored up until now and I love that as well. With its recommendation system, I find myself not opening Feedly as much anymore.

The online world is full of surprises. It is easy to get complacent as a consumer and a company. Mozilla is showing that they can reinvent their flagship product and wow people.

I am not sure if it is too late for Firefox to make a comeback in a browser war that Chrome has come to dominate, but you never know. At onetime IE felt safe at the top of browser mountain. I for one am now a loud and proud member of team Firefox and will be telling everyone I know.

That being said, I will also keep a copy of Chrome around to continue to see the online world the way the rest of world sees it.

Hmm, I feel like I have been in this exact same place before.

I often work with exactly one plugin active, other than the plugin I’m working on and its dependencies. That plugin is Query Monitor. QM adds a button to the admin bar that turns red when I make mistake, and reveals a treasure land of begun info when I click on it.

We go live to me making a mistake.

QM is completely free and has inspired a vibrant community of side-plugins, that hook in and provide even deeper debug info about specific topics. It’s updated frequently and is active on over 30,000 websites. The author, John Blackbourne, actively engages feedback on Twitter. We use it a lot here at LexBlog. It’s not a hard policy per se, but I strongly recommend to my teammates that they never work without it.

John Steinbeck once said to write for an audience of one:

In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

Similarly, I think many of the best plugins come about when, as developers, we code for our own needs — our own audience of one. I’ve also heard this called “dogfooding” and I like it.

Query Monitor has taught me about my own mistakes and failings thousands of times. On this day of giving thanks, I give thanks to you, Query Monitor!

I try not to get overly technical in this space, but when I get a chance to implement one of my very favorite programming techniques, I have a hard time keeping it to myself.  I want to tell you about recursion.  Per wikipedia:

A common method of simplification is to divide a problem into subproblems of the same type […] where problems are solved by solving smaller and smaller instances.

Here’s the example.  Earlier this week I was dealing with a problem where I needed to turn the english words “true” and “false” into the boolean values true and false.  This would be easy enough to do if it were simply one instance of the words:

Continue Reading Recursion

If you host a great event but fail to post about it on social media, did the event actually happen?

Our CEO, Kevin, has written at-length about the importance of a social media presence for bloggers, specifically when it comes to Twitter.

Without a Twitter handle the person cannot see the recognition I gave them nor the recognition others gave them by retweeting or favoriting my tweet. With a Twitter account, the subject receives notice of the shoutout via an email and a Twitter notification.

The same is true when it comes to conferences and other events. You’ve expended time and financial resources to secure good speakers, but when you fail to post about the event on social media, you fail to fully capitalize on your investment.

Clio does a spectacular job with this, with their annual Clio Cloud Conference. They have a hashtag that they use on all posts that pertain to the event, and share quotes, pictures, and videos throughout the duration of the conference. Attendees join in, using that hashtag to talk about everything from an inspirational keynote speaker to the colorful socks they’re sporting that day. Through social media Clio is able to create a huge buzz around the conference- #ClioCloud9, their hashtag, was even trending on Twitter for the two days of the event this year!

But Clio’s a huge company, you may be thinking to yourself, there’s no way we could make things happen on that scale. But you don’t need to have a large company, world-renowned speakers, or hundreds of attendees to successfully share your event on social media. Here are a few easy-to-implement tips, regardless of the size of your event:

  • Create a hashtag, and be sure to use it whenever you post about the event. Attendees will see it, and use it in their posts too.
  • Post on social media throughout the event. This could be quotes from various speakers, a picture of the crowd at a panel, an interview with a high-profile attendee, etc. Tag them in the posts, and they’re likely to share it as well.
  • If possible, record your keynote speakers, and stream their speeches via Facebook Live. This allows others, who were unable to attend your event, to hear what your speaker has to say and increases the reach of your event.

These are simple steps, but social media coverage goes a long way towards expanding the reach of your event, and your organization itself.

If there’s one strong takeaway from Patrick Fuller‘s presentation today, it’s that Artificial Intelligence is already disrupting the legal world. It’s up to legal marketers to make AI an opportunity. The most startling number Fuller shared was 360,000— that’s the number of hours of annual lawyer work saved by JP Morgan Chase’s software, “COIN.”

Fuller, Sr. Director of Legal Intelligence at ALM Intelligence, presented how AI is shaking things up during his west coast speaking tour with the Legal Marketing Association. However, rather than looking at AI as a threat, he showed how it could improve the quality of services provided to clients:

  • Use software to match up clients with the best-suited attorneys.
  • Understand what your clients want. From there, identify software that can automate certain production and deliver greater value to the client.
  • Find solutions that will free up lawyers from drudgery and allow them to focus on the work that matters most— solving complex problems and creating solutions for their clients.
  • Use software that will identify potential clients who will bring the most value to the firm. Hint: It’s not always the “obvious” choice.

It’s always an eye-opening experience to see things from our customers perspective. To understand what challenges they are facing and what opportunities we can help create for them. More than ever, that is through technology.

There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes, in fact I highly recommend it. However, if I make a mistake and I have no plan for preventing it from happening again, that feels pretty lame. One mistake I have made before, is forgetting if I am on a live installation or a staging installation. When I say live and staging, I’m referring to WP-Engine’s excellent system.

I made this mistake recently while working on a site for a friend, and it was embarrassing. I decided that a good way to prevent it, would be to add an obvious visual cue to alert the user when they are on a staging site. I found some time this week to write a small plugin that does exactly that:

See the yellow “hazard” tape at the bottom? If you click it, it fades out so it’s not in the way. It’s my way of saying, “Hey! You are on staging.”

Instead of hosting this plugin in our normal repository, I decided to host it on WordPress.org. That way I can use it on my friend’s site, in addition to our LexBlog sites. And so can you:

LXB Staging Reminder