Oldham used to make a lot of things. We were at one time famous as a global leader in cotton manufacture, there were mills everywhere, and the whole town still shows it’s roots as the industrial powerhouse it once was. We were the home of the tubular bandage, the process was invented right here. Parts for some of the first ever computers were made in this town. The British aerospace industry was a major player in the towns economy. We did engineering on a massive scale and we were damn good at it too.

It would be wrong to say that things haven’t changed over the years.

Heavy engineering in this country isn’t what it once was, nor is large scale manufacturing, but we still produce things. We build things still.

So, onto my idea.

If the companies of Oldham who still build things get together and promote themselves and each other I think we could all do well out of it. Raise the profile. Twitter is a good way to do this. The hashtag #OldhamHour reaches 100’s of thousands of people a week, every week between 9pm and 10pm on a Monday. It’s a great idea and many businesses benefit from it. I suggest another hashtag. #BuiltInOldham.

I suggest we use it to show off what we make now. The architects, product designers, web designers, makers, manufacturers could all use the tag to promote their work. Share it round and who knows how far it could reach. Use it to find companies who are based in the town that provide a service you need and consider giving your work to them. It’s just an idea. Let me know what you think in the comments. So far I’ve started the hashtag (via @vintageboffin) and I’ll be starting a list to go with it of all the companies that use it. Lets see how it goes.

How to do stuff in WordPress when you don’t know how to do stuff in WordPress.

It’s a common thing. Many people want to set up a website of their own for a blog or a small business and can’t afford to hire a freelancer or agency to do it for them, so they read up a bit and ask around their friends and land with WordPress.

It’s fair enough, it powers (currently) 25% of all new sites on the internet, including this one, and 30% of ALL online eCommerce sites run WooCommerce on WordPress. And as the BBC would point out, other eCommerce systems are available. Which means that WordPress powers MORE than 30% of all the eCommerce sites online. Shopping is a long way from blogging.

It’s pretty simple to get to grips with. If you have used a word processor to write a document before you are already half way to being able to use a basic WP install. It’s all about the writing after all. But there are other things you can do. Millions of them. This is where it all falls down. WordPress as a tool is both simple and complex at the same time. Like a Swiss army knife with a million attachments that only shows you the first six until you need to get something out of a horses foot.

Want to run a blog? Simple. Run it out of the box with the default theme of the year. There you go, done.

Want to put your shop online? Refer to paragraph 2.

But what do you do when you get stuck?

There are plenty of tutorial sites on the internet and as usual Google is your frenemy. Type your problem and watch a thousand answers to your question appear. You, of course, being new to the whole game have no idea which if any are right so stick with me and I’ll tell you.

Number one choice is any link that leads to Stack Overflow. All of life’s programming questions are answered there.

Number two is any link that leads to CSS Tricks. If the problem you have is in the way your chosen theme looks or behaves then here is where to start. It has a WP specific section full of helpful snippets of code too.

Number three, which before anyone starts I agree could easily be number one is http://codex.wordpress.org/. This is aimed more at the technically minded user I think, and in my experience isn’t always the easiest explanation of a thing. On the other hand it will teach you everything you could ever need to know if you just look hard enough.

Smashing Magazine, Lynda.com and Sitepoint are also good places to look to help you get started with tutorials.

Anyway… The point.

As part of my ongoing and yet, usually, failing mission to write more I’ve decided to write some simple tutorials myself. And believe me they will be simple. I get asked regularly by beginners how to do what I may think, and I’m not an expert by far, are the simplest things. They’re only simple if you know how to do it though. So instead of answering the same questions over again I’m going to answer them here in their own special section of a site nobody visits. If this site is basically my shed, I’ll leave the tutorials on the WordPress shelf over there on the left. If you want to ask me a question tweet me with the hashtag #WPshelf and we’ll see what happens.

Vintage Boffin HQ

It’s taken a while but Vintage Boffin HQ is ready. Which basically means I did up my office so I can work again. We had a few plumbing issues over the summer and my home office was ruined. Damp everywhere, needed totally redecorating, basically a mess. I’ve done not one stitch of work that didn’t involve a pen and a notebook since about May. The upside of this is that now I have a plan of how to build Vintage Boffin that hopefully should be far reaching enough to make the act of actually building it simple.

The Plan

Vintage Boffin is going to be built on WordPress using the WooCommerce framework. Some people have suggested to me that this isn’t the best idea I ever had but http://www.woothemes.com/2014/02/monitoring-woocommerce-growth/ says different. WooCommerce now powers over 10% of all online shopping. That’s impressive.

I’m using a few of their plugins too. One to turn it into the multi store marketplace it needs to be and another Paypal integration that allows me to automatically deal with taking commissions and dishing out the right amounts of money.

Social media is in place with @vintageboffin existing on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and even Ello. In another post I will rant about the reasons Facebook don’t make that list. Most of this is powered by Buffer with some stuff posted through Klout as part of my ongoing quest to find out what the point of it is. Email is of course handled by Mailchimp.

Communication will mainly be done through Slack with Asana handling project management duty and Mailbird handling the much hated email. A new program I found for distraction free word processing called Write is also being much used at the moment too. So far it’s good enough that I haven’t installed Office on my new laptop. I’ll be writing product reviews of most of these things later. You don’t have to read them, I’m just trying to get into the habit of writing more since it’s been a while.

Next week I’ll be sending the first email out to the subscribers I have on the mailing list so far. I think we’re up to about 80 interested parties at this point which although that’s a small number in the grand scheme of things is a number I can deal with right now. I want to make the early stages a personal experience with the users. One of the first things will be a survey to find out what features can be considered to constitute Minimum Viable Product since I don’t want to be spending a year building Amazon for eleven users. That is on the cards for Wednesday next week. I tell you this so you can call me out when it doesn’t happen.

Anyhow… Back to it.

So… this happened.

Now I admit I was in the process of rebuilding, fixing and generally messing around with my site but still, carelessness costs. Anyway, an hour or so later I’m back but the whole thing is now in bits.

Now I’ve been having a rethink recently about what I’ve been doing with this site. The portfolio was never presented the way I wanted it to be, it wasn’t doing it’s job of getting me work, and I’m not much of a blogger (writer in general) so that wasn’t really serving a purpose either.

So I decided to get rid of the portfolio, not use the site to get clients, and write more. I’ve got a big list of projects on the go and a bigger list of things I’ve been meaning to rant write about so it’s about time I did.

I’m going to try to be less lazy I suppose. In my next post I’ll explain why I was installing analytics and whether I ever get them working. Otherwise It’s all just such a waste.