When you find yourself doing any kind of webwork with an NGO there is a phenomenon that happens. Suddenly you become an authority. People may refer to you as the ‘tech guru’. This is something to avoid. Your job is not to horde knowledge and know-how. It is to set something up and teach others how to sustain it. This lesson will combine technical information about site maintenance with best practices for teaching said information to workers at your NGO.

Outcomes for this lesson:

  • Learn to not be a tech bully
  • Create a tech teaching plan
  • Practice teaching
  • Site Maintenance

There are some softer aspects of ICT that we haven’t gone over that much yet. You may have noticed how much you had to learn to get to the point you’re at right now. You can make a website from scratch and do all this amazing stuff, but can you impart that knowledge to others effectively? And even more important, without being a jerk?

Don’t Be a Jerk

There is a thing that happens in organizations when technical skills are involved. It’s easy for some people to lord their knowledge over others and use it as a tool to gain power within a given setting. If you’ve ever been to a mechanic, you may have encountered this. People with technical knowledge have an advantage over those who do not. This can cause a lot of problems in a non-profit.

One of the reasons we push you so hard and insist on starting our web classes with coding is because we want you to understand something about the interpersonal digital divide: it’s an illusion. Think back to before you started with Everett; did you ever think that you’d be able to make a website? Use Photoshop? Create mobile apps? Odds are you were somewhat intimidated or thought that it was beyond your reach. You’re here so you’re proof that that’s poppycock. This notion that technology can only be understood and utilized by an elite few is a tool of those who have those skills. We want you to keep that in mind when you go out into the wilds. You learned it; so can they.

As Paul always says, “Don’t take the missionary position.” i.e. don’t come in with all the answers, implement some project and then not show anyone else how things work, thus making yourself indispensable. We want to build capacity in organizations and that does not include hoarding knowledge and know-how. Worst of all, the dark side of ICT can lead to condescending jerks who belittle others for not knowing the same things as them. Watch the below video for an example of what not to do when helping others.

Make Yourself Obsolete

None of your projects should involve you becoming the “resident tech guru”. That wouldn’t benefit your org. If your project involves setting up a website, or building a tech lab, or whatever, you need to have a plan, before you implement on how you are going to train others to maintain what you have done.

What Should I Be Teaching?

You built the site and that takes a particular skill set, but do you need to show someone else how to build a site? Probably not. You probably only need to show them how to maintain the website. So what parts of maintaining should they know? What exactly does “maintain” mean? Are they adding content? Can they use plugins? Add their own plugins? Should they be able to change themes? All these questions need to be answered. And you need to answer them before you go out into the field.

Thinking About How To Teach

Whenever you endeavor to teach something something you need to ask yourself some questions

  • What am I trying to teach?
  • What do they know already?
  • What are the exact things in between what they know and what I want to teach?

You need to ask yourself these questions all the time. If you don’t, then you are making an assumption about your subject and if your assumption is wrong, it may make a lesson useless.

Contingents of a Lesson

Let’s say you want to teach someone to add a tag to a post. What do they need to know before hand? They must know:

  • What a tag is for
  • What a post is and how it’s different from a page
  • How to create a post
  • How to login

If you forget that your lesson is contingent on other bits of knowledge, then you risk them not understanding what you’re teaching.

A Perfect Lesson

I found this a while back and was amazed at its simple brilliance. It is a video explaining how a differential gear works. Just watch and we’ll discuss why this is such a great video and what you can learn from it (other than how a differential gear works).

Break It Down

The film starts by giving you several examples that demonstrate how two wheels spin at different speeds and why that’s important. It then shows us the apparatus and begins working through how to solve the problem.

At no point does the film ever assume that the viewer knows something. Every bit of information that is required to understand what’s going on is supplied as it becomes important. This is a teaching method that you would do well to emulate. Try and keep this video in mind when you are writing a walkthrough or explaining a concept to somebody in person.

Essential Site Maintenance

So all that talk had a point. The point is that you need to train people to use the site you create for them. They also need to maintain the site after you’ve departed. Hopefully this lesson will teach you not only what you need to perform site maintenance, but also how to go about imparting that knowledge to others.

Updates

Periodically check for updates for WordPress, your Themes, and your Plugins/Widgets. WordPress is quickly growing and expanding as more features and functions are included and perfected. New releases often include new and improved features and fixes. You don’t have to install a new release the very day it comes out. You can wait. It is recommended to check in with WordPress for updates and upgrades at least every three months, six months at the most.

Be sure to have a current backup before updating anything. Updating can sometimes break your site because of errors or incompatibilities of older plugins and themes

Broken Link Checker

This plugin (found here) is extremely straight forward and helpful. As a site gets older and has more and more content, the likelihood of some of the sites and pages that you link to may be dead. It’s far to much labor to go through your whole site and check to see if all the links are still good, so we delegate this thankless task to a robot.

Broken Link Checker will go through your site and find all the broken links and bring them to your attention so that you can delete or edit them.

Documentation: WP Help

This is a great plugin (download here) that we’re really happy to have found. When you activate WP Help it creates a new post type that’s only accessible from the backend. You use these posts to create ‘help topics’. It’s an amazing tool for building documentation, walkthroughs, and how to’s directly into the site administration. Let’s see how it works:

Once it’s activated, it will create a new tab on the sidebar in your backend called “Publishing Help” right below the “Dashboard” tab. You can change both the name and location in its settings.

Publishing Help ‹ Lab Dummy — WordPress

Clicking “Add New” will pull up the post editor. This is totally straight forward as it is the same way you would draft any page or post in WordPress. A common thing in WordPress is to create a new post type for specific tasks and purposes. Think back to the first lesson screen cast, “Why Hack?“. We showed how on the Everett website we use a special post type called “Portfolio” to display student projects. The idea here is the same, but the plugin author made it so that the posts will only be available to someone with access to the WordPress backend.

We like to use WP Help as a repository of tutorials, how to’s, and other such information that helps you run a site. Here you can see that we made a help topic out of a post we previously made for this class that walks you through installing WordPress manually.

Edit Help Document ‹ Lab Dummy — WordPress

Once you publish the topic it shows up in the manager. When you select a topic, it will display next to the topics list. There are a lot of things you can do with this.

Help Me! ‹ Lab Dummy — WordPress

Let’s say you’re creating a website for your NGO. While doing this you should be training the people there so that they’ll actually know how to use this things you’ve created after you leave. No doubt somethings will come easy to them and other things will be a continuing source of confusion. You can make note of the things that cause problems and write help topics for them. That way, they’ll always have the answers they seek! You can also add some general troubleshooting steps. You should also compile these things and print them out to give to them, but in case they lose it they’ll have a digital copy.

Homework Assignment

Creating Documentation

Install the WP Help plugin. It does not matter which WP instance you install this on. You will be creating 2 help topics on it. These are going to be walkthroughs or explanations of how to deal with common functions and issues relating to WordPress. The two help topics are:

Plugins

Walk us through:

  • What plugins are and what they’re for
  • How to evaluate whether or not a plugin is safe to use
  • How to download them from the WordPress Plugin Repository (not the plugins search in your WordPress backend) and install them in the WordPress backend

Posts

Discuss and explain:

  • What is a post and how is it different from a page?
  • What are Categories and Tags for and how are they different from one another?
  • How do you make a post

Part 2: Create a Maintenance Calendar

Create a maintenance schedule for your organization to keep up with. Create a new help topic titled: Maintenance Schedule. In a list, put the following maintenance schedule:

  • Every Monday: Check for theme and plugin updates.
  • Every Tuesday: Backup the database using UpdraftPlus
  • Once a month (Select one day out of the month): Backup the WP files using UpdraftPlus
  • Every month (select one day out of the month, different than the one above this): Check for WordPress Core updates

Part 3: Find your WP Help Sync Source URL

In the WP Help plugin, go to Settings. Your sync source URL will be under Sync Source. This URL allows you to pull Help documents from this WP instance to another WP website with the WP Help plugin.

sync_source_1

Submission

Email wordpress@labs.everettprogram.org the following:

  • Email subject line in the following format: HW #8 Firstname Lastname
  • The Sync Source URL for your WP Help plugin.