Author Archives: Jane Hubbard

A Functional Future

Looking Ahead

Now that class is over, I’ve been thinking about what’s next for my travel site and beyond, and I have come to the conclusion that “functionality” is where it’s at. I certainly need to strengthen and expand my understanding of, as well as continue practicing, HTML and CSS. But I shied away from JavaScript because I found it difficult — where in truth, once mastered, it may be the most useful language we learned.

I was playing around with my new site, A Life Surfeited, this weekend and it came to my attention that there are a few functionalities I want to add to enhance my plugins. This of course will require that I modify the JS (or find new plugins!) For example, in my World Map plugin there is the option to link a specific pin to a post. This is super great and helpful, but I want to take it further to have the post title, location, and date pop up when the user hovers over the pin. This will require some JS magic!

Beyond my site and JS, I am thinking about venturing into the land of Python or Ruby on Rails. I took intro classes on both languages about a year ago from General Assembly here in DC and will try either Codecademy or Learn to Code the Hard Way this go around. I think they will make more sense now that I grasp the larger concept of programming and know some basic skills.

As far as what I’d use them for, I am unsure. I have yet to find a language I am super pumped about, so I’m going to keep at it. I hear Apple’s Swift is pretty intuitive and easy to learn also. For me, I think my adventures in coding will serve me personally as I delve deeper into the blogging world, and anytime I need to communicate with the web developers in my office or any future career. Who knows though — maybe I’ll end up following a path towards working in code. I’m old enough now to know that the choices we make (aka. taking this class) have meaning and drive the direction of our life in some way. I’m not running away from programming, so that’s a good sign!

If nothing else, this class opened my eyes to a world I was always curious about and knew so little of. As a connoisseur of any/all knowledge, it was very satisfying and is what kept me going even at my wits end; “Maybe this challenge will teach me something I didn’t know before.” Including teaching me a little more about myself;)

Best of luck in all your future endeavors classmates! And thanks for a great, mind-expanding semester, Greg!



Class Reflection

In theory, I am excited about and happy with everything I’ve learned this summer in our Web Development class — in practice, however, it has been challenging ad very time consuming for a full-time working professional. That said, I knew what I signed up for, and I’ve said this before, it’s like learning a new language that is supposed to be challenging and time-consuming!

What I am most excited about is coming away from this class with a useful product: my new website. I am already eager to begin building it out more. I want to totally change the theme and add more to the menu, more custom pages, and eventually add content to my blog posts. I will challenge myself to do some coding, but for the most part, I see myself using available plugins.

To that point, I am happy with the amount of intro knowledge about web development that I have gained since day 1 of the class. I do want to pursue learning more about HTML and CSS, and perhaps teach myself Ruby on Rails or Swift (more on this next week). I feel like at this point I have a much better understanding of what programming is and isn’t, and could communicate asks better with any developer.

Another thing I found helpful was some of the early readings about the history of computers, how we talk to them, what the internet, a server, or URL is, and why all of this is important to know as a daily user of these technologies. I’m also now more freaked out by the inter-connectiveness and seeming vulnerability of it all and my online footprint — but that’s for a whole other discussion.

A couple of considerations for future webdev classes:

  • While Codecademy was a great online tool to learn how to code, I recommend doing some more in-class lessons as well. Walk through examples from beginning to end like Codecademy does. It’s like a math class in high school — homework includes reading and learning about a technique or formula, as well as doing some example problems, then in class, the teacher would go through them and some additional problem exercises to really drive the lesson home.
  • I might begin the lessons about WordPress very early on (before Codecademy) and get test sites up and running. Next, learn about HTML and CSS, then go into WP and explore how in the real world you can make changes to themes or plugins. That would give people a lot more time to think about website and make changes they want. Also, I think for a good chunk of the class I was having trouble understanding how, in the real world, I would use any of the programming languages I was learning.
  • Help everyone get their site up and live instead of making it a “learning process” Unnecessary waste of many, many… many hours. ;P
  • Recommend Python or Ruby on Rails over JavaScript or JQuery. But that could just be personal preference for languages? I found JS and JQ super confusing, hard, time-consuming, and then never used again.

In conclusion, I would recommend this class to anyone interested in this field of learning or who works with web developers in their job. For me, I fall into both those categories — but was mainly just curious about the word of computer programming. I said in my first blog post that I am more of an analytical thinker, so for me, learning and applying the languages were relatively easy. But getting into abstraction and wrapping my head around some of the more conceptual ideas of development were tricky, yet fun.

Thanks for a great semester!



A Life Surfeited

A Life Surfeited

I chose the name of my blog with the intent to showcase the activity that fills my life with joy: travel. The past few weeks, however, it has applied more (unforgivingly) to the massive amount of work, homework, and just plain ole life on my plate. Juggling it all, but especially the creation of my final project, has been a lesson in patience and prioritizing. But like with most challenges, I have made it through and am now ready to start planning my next reprieve… a trip to SoCal!

I finally got my website up and running after way too many hours of googling fixes, installing, uninstalling, uploading, compressing, downloading, deleting, transferring, renaming, plugging in, unplugging, signing in, signing out, caching… you get the idea. I ended up having to add a plugin to my local WP site that copied everything and duplicated it on my live WP site (and somehow/somewhere saved it to a database.) I’m still unclear how to maintain the site, which I plan to do, but like everything else, will figure it out. I know we aren’t supposed to make changes to the live site, but just seems SO much easier for a personal blog (not a client site.) But I do want to follow best practices if I can figure out a relatively easy way to copy and duplicate going forward.

There are still many modifications I would like to make to my site, as well as content to be added – again, I plan to actually use and update my site going forward. But for now, I am happy with what I was able to accomplish.

I made quite a few style changes to the parent theme using a child theme, but also through the WP customization tool. A few things I want to do but was unable, after several searches and failed attempts, include:

  • Making the header menu background color (black) run the full length of the page. Right now it is cut up with a gray background. It has something to do with the layers on the page… a site container under another site container, with a row and a banner and a menu in between or over. So if I change one that may fix the header problem, if affects other parts of the page.
  • Make the text in the site container in the banner image more opaque without making the entire page (site container) opaque. Same issue with layering above.

I also modified three plugins to suit my needs: a Google calendar, a world map, and custom comment fields.

  • I am still working on the Google calendar – I have done every step the plugin says, i.e. created the cal, linked to my public Google cal, accessed an API key, but it still won’t display the “events.”
  • I am happy with the world map, as it links to associated posts, but I would like to continue playing with it’s styling.
  • As for the comment fields, I was able to create 2 new fields. One thing I still can’t figure out though is how to remove the WP default field for “Website.” It only shows for users not signed in, but still… I don’t want or need it.

Another thing I’d like to do in the future is make the information/links I have on my Day Dreams page, under the calendar, look like a Pinterest page. I think I will be able to do this, just need to find the right plugin.

Two last thoughts: I didn’t utilize widgets for my final project but would be interested in learning more about them and how I could. Also, I may decide to make a custom post type for my travel posts that include dates of the trip and location (instead of me having to remember to write that in each time.)

So yea, I think that’s it! Way to go everyone! We did it! I look forward to seeing everyone’s blogs this week in class:)



The Finish Line

I spent the weekend making some minor modifications to the styling of my blog’s homepage, and got better at committing them to Github. I have also been tracking my progress and adding to do’s in the Projects section.

Today,  I dove in to my interactive map. I found a widget I like and activated it, and now need to figure out the right changes for the final look, feel, and functionality. I’d really like to like pins on the map to specific posts.

Once that is complete, I am going to focus on modifying the Comment box to add some additional input boxes and, if I have time, I want to customize a post for my travel posts – to include “Stops,” “Days,” and “A Short Memory” (or something like that).

And finally, the class has been posting about FileZilla and how to get our sites up and running live. I plan to test this a few times before next Sunday. Fingers crossed time permits!

On an unrelated note, but to Greg’s shoutout a couple week’s back, I came across this article today about Basecamp. For someone like myself who is very much into taking multiple/as many as possible vacations each year, this company is sounding more and more appealing to me! Their software uses Ruby on Rails, so perhaps my next adventure in computer programming needs to start there! 😉

Cheers and may the force be with you all! The finish line awaits!


APIs and Customizations

This week we learned about APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces. I got the simple and straightforward analogy from this video, “What is an API?,” comparing APIs to waiters, but I am missing the big picture. APIs connect requests to data outputs, but what is the nature of the request and what is the data used for? Essentially, what is their purpose? In this video, “REST API concepts and examples,” we see how we can request data from YouTubes’s Facebook page and see how many likes it has, but you can see that simply by viewing the Facebook page… I know there is a lot more data that can be requested though, so is that the main point of APIs? Also, why would someone send a request to my website, “A Life Surfeited,” and should I concern myself with this? How can I use API to serve my customers?

I have spent most of today customizing my website and making Project notes in GitHub of things I want to do, change, add, etc. I also have many questions so am looking forward to our workshop class on Wednesday. The biggest thing I’m stuck on right now if finding the correct files to alter. I know I need to copy my theme files and put them in a child theme folder, but I’ve opened every file and am not sure where to begin. For example, I want to alter the padding around my website title/header, but I can’t find the right code in the theme header file. Or, I want to remove “author” as a column on my posts, but I can’t find the code for it anywhere in the post file. I’m sure I am going about it incorrectly:/ And google isn’t helping with this one – I keep reading that I should be adding my own CSS files (who knows, that might be right!).

I think once I get past this hurdle, I will be in a good place to knock out all the modifications I want to make. Then it will be on to testing on the live site and eventually posting live! In the interim, however, I plan to spend each day adding content to the site because mine is a travel blog, my goal is to have 6 total posts with images from places I have been recently. I also need to focus on adding and modifying a widget for my interactive map. I have narrowed it down to 3 options and will have to choose which is best based on the code (once I figure out how to find it!).

Wednesday night can’t come soon enough! 😛


And POOF, a New Website is Born

A Life Surfeited

I am super excited to have my website, “A Life Surfeited,” up and running! I must admit, however, that all the steps we took to get there are only slowly beginning to make sense to me. What is, what is Google 360, and why do I need them? I get that we bought our domain and hosting privileges through the GoDaddy site, but why do I need login information and a new email address? And now that I have my own live domain and WP account, do we still need the local server and WP site? I’m confused as to which we should be working in. But overall the  process was seamless and to me seemed like magic — a few simple steps and POOF I have my own website!

I have enjoyed playing around with themes and looking through the associated code. It’s given me some ideas of other modules I can manipulate for my final project, like altering the metadata for a comment box to ask commentators to tell me where they live and their favorite place they have traveled to. The “Shh! Don’t Tell Them There’s No Magic In Design Thinking” article was a good piece to read before really jumping in because it gave me pause about trying to “pretty” things up first. The concept of “design thinking” is one I’ve had in my mind before but didn’t know how to verbalize. It makes sense that design should be strategic and part of the brainstorm early on in project development. And I’ve always felt that designing with the user in mind is key. It’s so frustrating to visit a website and nothing is where is intuitively should be, or in fact is hidden. The user experience should be the priority, even if we are talking about a personal blog. I will look to my classmates to give me this type of feedback on my blog and will strive to provide productive and useful commentary about my experience of their site.

This week’s reading on GitHub Features, as well as last week’s in class lessons around project management, really helped me get a better grasp on how the features and tool in GitHub flow together. And how they are there to help guide me and my project to fruition. I’ve already set up my Notes to track my progress and am looking forward in a couple weeks to going in and offering feedback on my classmates work via Commits. Also, with GitHub’s powerful ability to host code, I now better understand why the developer I interviewed, Jamie, said he browses GitHub code repos to stay up-to-date on new and fresh things happening in the programming world.

I am out of town for work this week and haven’t had as much time as I hoped to get my project going. But I plan to spend all weekend next weekend making some real good progress.

Until next week, cheers and laissez les bon temps roulez (as they say here in New Orleans!),


Entering the World of WordPress

All Coming Together

Through a series of unfortunate events, I was unable to call into our class this past week. I did, however, listen to a recording of the class which was helpful, but it was pretty difficult to follow along with the more technical “setup” things we were working through. By some miracle (a.k.a. Google search), I was able to fill in gaps by googling how to do certain things. I am almost positive I am now caught up and successfully created my local development stage in MAMP and phpMyAdmin. AND, I was able to launch my site and play around with all the offerings. WOOT!

*As a side note, I am unclear as to what the phpMyAdmin database is for exactly, but will be sure to ask Greg in class this week.

Setting up my server, signing into my WordPress site, and seeing everything we have talked about in class allowed this week’s readings, and really a lot of what we have done so far this semester, to all come together. I searched through the theme, widget, and plugin directories, and took a look at the different post formats and types. A few questions come to mind:

  1. Can a meta box be anything or is there a directory?
  2. What is the benefit of using a child theme vs. just creating a new plug-in?
  3. If I wanted to add an About section or Menu, is that a widget or am I just adding it to the HTML or JavaScript file for the theme?
  4. I’m still a little confused on the difference between a post and a page. Is a post an individual post, and a page would have many posts and pictures and other functionality?

This exercise also really got me excited to dive deeper into our final project. Just selecting a theme is going to be hard for me, so I am going to spend more time this week looking through what is available. And I have a feeling that as I get more familiar with, new ideas for my final project will present themselves.

And finally, I found adding PHP to my homepage to be trickier than expected. Mostly because I’m not sure if it works or that I uploaded the right files to GitHub. I added a new repository and included what I think are all relevant files, including my index.php file which now echos “The time in my current timezone is ___.” GitHub wouldn’t let me upload my entire WP_content file or the file I created when I downloaded WP — said it was too large? Hopefully what I did works though.



Jane’s Final Pitch

Pitch for Final Project

I have been traveling more and more frequently in the past few years, and keep telling myself that I should blog about it. Well… what a perfect opportunity! So for my final project, I plan on creating a personal travel blog for my final project. It will include pictures of places I’ve been as well as stories, reflections, and reviews or recommendations.


  • Create a unique and personalized travel blog that is responsive and dynamic
  • Program an interactive world map with pins of places I have been and plan to go
  • Link to my Google calendar, “Upcoming Trips”
  • Gather info from visitors on where they live and ask them to share their favorite place ever traveled to
While I would love anyone interested in learning more about the places I go to read my blog, I’m realistic and assume it will mostly serve as a memory journal for myself and a “what’s Jane up to these days” resource for close friends and family. But I will develop the site for all world explorers.
How I’ll achieve my goals:
  • I will select a theme within WordPress and manipulate the HTML and CSS to develop my blog, including creating a child theme.
  • I will upload photos I have taken during my trips and write stories about my adventures.
  • In searching Google and WP plugins, I have seen a few interactive maps that are similar to what I have in mind. I am hoping I will be able to play around with PHP to get something to my liking.
  • I’ll need to find a calendar plugin that links to iCal.
Theme: Writee
Track: Front-end and a little back-end;)
Planned modifications:
  • I plan to play around a lot with the style of my site, including changing font colors and sizes, adjusting opacity of overlays, and changing background colors. I will also likely need to fix spacing.
  • Find and manipulate a plugin for an interactive world map that allows me to select a city, drop a pin, and link the pin to one of my posts. I want the pin to look like a colorful sewing pin, not the Google bubble, so wish me luck!
  • Alter a comment box plugin to include fields for where the person lives and their favorite place ever traveled to.
  • Find and activate a plugin that links to my Google calendar and make some modifications for look and feel.




Learning How to Communicate with a Server

Like many of the other posts this week, this week’s lessons on PHP in Codecademy were pretty simple and straightforward. I’m guessing that has more to do with familiarity than with ease. I really am amazed at how much I know or understand about programming in such a short amount of time. It’s starting to feel like learning a new romance language — once you have a grasp on one, the next is somewhat intuitive albeit particular.

I don’t really have too much to reflect on this week. I haven’t had a chance to read the WordPress articles yet, but an eager to. And eager to start playing around with PHP and WP more in class on Wednesday night. And get a good sense of how WP works, what it can do, etc. Then from there, to begin building out my final project.

I am (probably too) excited to start working on my final project. I know I have some more practice and learning to do, but I really think a lot of what we have learned so far will begin to make even more sense and all come together. I am planning on creating a travel blog which I have been thinking about doing for years now. And I can already see al the interactive and style possibilities that I would have never even considered before taking this class.

Anyway, happy 4th everyone. Enjoy and be safe.



Practice, Practice, Practice

Web Developer Profile – Jamie Newell

For my midterm, I profiled a coworker’s husband, Jamie Newell, who works for Discovery Communications, or as many know it, The Discovery Channel a.k.a. SHARK WEEK! But Discovery also owns TLC and Animal Planet, among many other popular T.V. channels. Jamie has been a web developer there for 3 years at the headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Prior to joining Discovery, Jamie was the Director of Web Development at Amplify Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. for 3 years, and before that, spent around 11 years doing freelance web development in the area. I asked Jamie to tell us about his journey to becoming a full stack developer.
//* What is your current job/title and what do you do for Discovery? 
My title is Web Developer and I primarily develop websites and interactive learning modules. Our website is very interactive by design, which was one of the reasons I chose Discovery! *//
//* What programming language(s) and CMS do you use for work?
Well, of course JavaScript as I just said, but at Discovery I also use HTML, CSS, and PHP languages, and work a lot with Drupal and the React JavaScript library. *//
//* How did you get into web development? What drew you to it? 
I messed around with programming growing up and enjoyed the challenge of solving technical problems, along with the satisfaction that came from creating something. In my early 20s I volunteered to create a website for a recording studio that I was working for at the time and decided then that I would pursue web development as a career. *//
//* Is that still the same reason you enjoy it today? Or has it changed with time? 
Yes, the challenge of solving technical problems is still what I enjoy about web development. It’s true — even someone with years and years of experience still encounters new and tough challenges when programming (more often than you’d think!). The problems are just often more highly technical.  *//
 //* If possible, can you recall some early struggles you had learning languages/programming and offer any advise to us newbies? (Anything you can think of that helped you succeed.)
My biggest struggle in the beginning was not being able to find answers to my questions. At the time, there were very few online resources to go to for help, so I spent a lot of time experimenting. While finding answers, tutorials, and examples is much easier nowadays, I would still advise experimenting. *//
//* If you had to pick, what would you say is of your favorite language and why?
At the moment I am enjoying working with the recent versions (ES6 and later) of JavaScript. There is always something new to learn and to manipulate. *//
//* Can you describe a favorite development project and detail (high level) how you built it? 
While working at Amplify, I designed and developed a collection of highly interactive advocacy tools that I integrated into our clients’ WordPress and Drupal sites in order to engage users and encourage them take action in support of a cause. The tools were built with PHP and JavaScript, and would push and pull data from the APIs of social media platforms, geolocation and mapping platforms, third-party advocacy platforms, and the Sunlight Foundation, to name a few. *//
//* How do you stay up to date on the latest in the programming world? Blogs? Websites? Programs? 
By spending time reviewing projects on GitHub! It is a great resources once you figure out how to navigate and utilize it. *//
//* Any other insights you’d like to share with the class? 
The industry advances very quickly and it can be overwhelming trying to keep up. Many of the shiny new languages and frameworks do not stay popular for very long so stay focused and don’t jump from one hot framework to the next. Experiment a lot with the language you are already learning and build from there. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (and jQuery) will outlast us all. I’d say to all those learning the ropes to just practice, practice, practice! *//
A huge thanks to Jamie for taking the time to provide us all with some words of wisdom. It was encouraging to hear him say he uses the same languages we are learning now in his daily work. I know I have a long way to go, but this made me feel like I could talk about his work with him — I now have the basic tools/words — and maybe, one day, work alongside him. We are only halfway through the semester and I’m already seeing results!
I can only imagine how difficult it must of been for Jamie to teach himself how to code… And it made me think about how much I have been relying on Google. I know Greg encourages us to search for answers to our problems, and it makes sense since the resources are so readily available, but perhaps going forward I need to experiment and fail a couple times to really learn. I will say that Codecademy gives us the opportunity to experiment a couple times in each lesson, and I have found that by try 3 tries, often, I will finally get it correct. The failure forces me to really scan the code I’ve written looking for errors.
The project Jamie worked on for Amplify really struck me. I work in cause consulting so I was able to really connect some dots and see how a tool like that would have a huge impact for a non-profit or advocacy group. His example got me excited to learn PHP next week and got my brain cogs churning in thinking about a possible final project.
I laughed when Jamie said he uses Github as a resources to stay up to date on all things web development and to learn new techniques and tricks from colleagues. I think I found it funny because Github seems so abstract and mechanical. But in understanding how it works to some extent, I can see how reviewing others projects could be quite helpful. Sounds sort of similar to inspecting webpages to see how certain things were coded.
The insight Jamie left for us is poignant I thought. It was the first or second class when I asked Greg why everyone isn’t using Apple’s programming language, Swift, because like all things Apple, (I’ve read) that it is super user-friendly and clean. I think I even asked if there may be a future where there is one universal, open-source language… but that is for another time. I appreciate how Jamie warns of the “shiny new languages” and says to instead keep practicing the “oldies.” That is just what I plan to do!
I really enjoyed this exercise and hearing from a web developer in the field. I can’t wait to read everyone else’s profiles or project descriptions this week — and see what advice or take-away they provide.