We’ve been hard at work here at Arrow Root Media, the last few months hiring new staff and producing awesome experiences for our clients. I’m really excited by the direction we’ve been going, and people are noticing.
Personally, I’m particularly excited about the reviews we’ve been getting on Yelp. We’ve received so much positive feedback on our Yelp, I decided to do a video that would live on our Yelp page – you can watch it below. Though you’ll need to make sure to watch on a desktop. We’re working on a mobile friendly video, and will update that post as soon as that happens.
A little over a year ago, we launched a New Responsive Website for Coppersea Distilling (http://coppersea.com), a craft distillery based in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Today, they announced their partnership with Wilson Daniels, a premium wine importer & marketing agency based in Napa Valley.
From the press release :
Coppersea Distilling is a Heritage-Methods farm distillery located in the burgeoning distilling hub of New York’s Hudson Valley. Coppersea, recently named one of “America’s Coolest Distilleries” by Travel and Leisure magazine, creates spirits of distinction and character from hyper-locally sourced ingredients and employs Heritage-Methods distillation techniques, this means using on-site well water, mashing in open wood fermentation tanks, and distilling in direct-fired alembic copper pot stills. The resulting Coppersea New York Raw Rye is an unaged whisky of unusual creaminess, with notes of black pepper and honey.
This past June, we participated at the TV of Tomorrow Conference by showing a few of our interactive sculptures. Eleas Kostis, the sculptor and lead artist, worked on the form while I handled the interactive bits.
The pieces were previously shown at Maker Faire and Freespace. We’re honored to have participated with all the other artists – including the great folks at Cool Neon – check out some of their work (and ours) below.
TV of Tomorrow also put together a wrap up video for the conference – to see what the conference was all about, check out their recap here.
This past June, I gave a presentation at the San Francisco WordPress Meetup on the topic of WordPress Security. When I started, I posted a question to the room.
1. Who has had their WordPress site hacked?
2. Who has “unhacked” someone else’s WordPress site?
Everyone in the room raised their hand.
This is why Arrow Root Media started offering ongoing, proactive security and maintenance services last year. We prevent hacks before they happen. Since we started offering this service, our clients haven’t had a single issue.
My point of the presentation was simply this : even though many WordPress sites have been hacked, WordPress is actually very secure. I listed out some things you can do to keep your site and server secure.
You can watch the video below for some key tips.
If you’d like a copy of the actual presentation we used, simply leave a comment below. And if you’re looking for help to keep your sites online, secure, and running quickly, get in touch! We can help.
We recently had a client come to us and say “Our WordPress site is slow. Can you help?” The answer, of course was “Yes!”
In fact, we improved the site’s performance by a factor of 7.5.
In other words, the sites is 7.5 times faster than it was before we started working on it.
The Client : Solaire Generation
After digging around, we noticed a few things :
It was running on cheap, shared hosting
It was running an old version of WordPress, and had outdated plugins.
This situation is actually pretty typical, and we see it quite a bit. Running an old version of WordPress is bad. Really bad. But that’s a whole different topic. Let’s just focus on the speed for this post.
I’m assuming you already know why it’s important for your site to be fast and secure. But – if you need convincing, here are a few links :
The above tools were very helpful in diagnosing, monitoring, and improving the site’s performance. Migrating the site to a better host (WP Engine) also made a HUGE difference. Without a doubt. But it was just one part of the bigger puzzle. Caching, CDN’s, plugins, and other optimizations are all key. The real secret, though, includes tweaking, ongoing maintenance, and general persistence.
Want to see how we can make your site faster, more secure, and generally more stable? Get in touch and we’ll give you a free, personalized analysis of your site. We love doing this stuff and would be happy to take a look at your site!
Questions? Tips? Leave a comment below!
PS – a big mighty thanks to the folks over at WP Engine for helping us out so much!
Once I had the latest versions running on my computer, I was able to get hacking and coding. I pulled down some test code just to try getting code from my computer to by Arduino board. For the Arduino side of things, I’m using the Arduino Duemilanove.
Initially, I had some issues getting the very basic step of getting code onto my Arduino going. I typed in the error message I got when I compiled code into Google and came across many resources. This particular resource was the best : http://www.arduino.cc/en/Guide/Troubleshooting#upload
It turns out that I had an old version of Processing and Arduino already running. So I had to make some changes.
From the page :
Make sure you have the right item selected in the Tools > Board menu. If you have an Arduino Uno, you’ll need to choose it. Also, newer Arduino Duemilanove boards come with an ATmega328, while older ones have an ATmega168. To check, read the text on the microcontroller (the larger chip) on your Arduino board.
Once I updated my software, and made the changes above, I was able to get coding.
This past March, I taught a WordPress Intensive at The Hub in San Francisco, as part of their ongoing educational series, Hub Workbench.
The intensive was geared towards people getting started with WordPress Resources. At the end of the course, most of the students were left with more questions than they had come in with.
Personally, I see this as a testament to the learning process – the more we learn, the more we realize how little we actually know.
Regardless, it’s helpful to have some resources to help along the way. So – I’ve gathered some resources resources that I often turn to when I need help or am looking for what’s new in WordPress land. Enjoy!
WP Mail – simply put, if you work with WordPress at all, subscribe to this email list and get smarter. Not convinced by my endorsement? Check out their archive.
From their site: “A free WordPress Newsletter, once a week, with a round-up of WordPress news and articles.” Simply put – this is a one-stop shop for great resources all around. For the curious types, I’ve linked to a nice article about “the making of” WP Mail.me, featured on WP Candy, another resource featured below.
WP Candypublishes all kinds of articles about WordPress. In my eyes, the site is geared towards WordPress designers and developers but often includes theme and plugin roundups. It was founded by Michael Castilla in 2007. In 2010, Ryan Imel acquired and re-launched the blog.
From their about page : “At WPCandy, we wrangle all the important stuff together so you can enjoy it with a cup of coffee. Let us do the work, you keep blogging, creating, and developing awesome things. Oh, but let us know when you’re done so we can tell everyone.”
Sucuri Blog – If your site has been hacked, Sucuri can help. They help remove malware, and get your site secure. Given they’re an internet security company, they’ve also got a nice blog on how to keep the internet a safe place. It doesn’t hurt that the founders, Dre Armeda and Tony Perez, are also great chaps.
Learn WordPress – geared towards beginners, this online handbook was launched by Automattic (the folks who make WordPress.com) to help folks get going and publishing. They’ve even made the online guide printable!
WPMU Dev – WPMU.org will often have fantastic posts on great plugins to use. They make their own set of plugins and fully support them. A great go-to resource. For an example of their usefulness – check out their recently featured WordPres.com v WordPress.org.
WP Daily– provides great articles about the world of WordPress – from their manifesto page : “We are a group of connected and passionate individuals called to create economies of creativity, innovation, and value. We are designers, developers, online publishers, bloggers, small business owners, corporate employees, leaders, followers, and everything in between.”
Smashing Magazine was one of the first blogs I would constantly visit when I first started WordPress development – and I still do. They feature extensive interviews, great theme roundups, and lots of tutorials. In my eyes, they’ve set the bar for all of the sites I’ve mentioned above. Check out Smashing Magazine’s WordPress articles <- here.
Chris Lema – Chris is the only individual in this list, so he doesn’t get a logo. After I attend WordCamp Miami (April 7th), I’ll create a new post of individual bloggers I’d recommend checking out. So this is a “preview” of that post.
Chris writes articles for people making things with WordPress (developers, designers, consultants, and business-types). Not only does he have some useful code, but he goes over the business of WordPress as well. And he recently organized a “business track” for a WordCamp (WordPress conference) in San Diego.
There are many people who make WordPress great. In addition to the developers who build WordPress, and the designers who make WordPress beautiful and usable, there are the many folks who are sharing resources.
Big thanks to all the bloggers, writers, publishers, designers, strategists, developers, and other people that make WordPress great!
Finally – if you’ve found a great WordPress resource that I haven’t included (or would like to add your own) – leave a comment!
We’re proud supporters of the Dance on Camera Festival happening February 1st. We’ll be at the Festival the whole way through – come visit us and say hello!
Last year, we helped Dance Films Association (DFA) revamp their whole site. DFA has been putting together their annual Dance on Camera film festival for over 40 years (since 1971) and is “the mother” of all Dance Film Fests. During the initial build, we worked on the information architecture first, which resulted in cleaning up the navigation. We also added a calendar, and redid the whole design. When we noticed they were getting a healthy amount of traffic, we moved them to our managed hosting system.
This year, we wanted to improve upon the work we did. So we helped Dance Films Association (DFA) launch several new features. One of the primary goals of their site is to help promote their Film Festivals, past and present. DFA also provides many services to their members, so we worked to setup a new online membership system.
Below is a little documentation on what we did, and how did it.
First – I know my mom and other folks who are not as tech savvy as others will probably read this – so I’ll answer their question first – what’s a CMS? Well, CMS stands for Content Management System – basically – it’s software to help people manage their content for their websites. I imagine many people reading this will already know that though.
So – now that we’ve gotten that question out of the way…there are many (MANY) Content Management Systems out there. I’m wondering – what are the most popular systems currently on the market?
There are folks in the WordPress community that claim we power >16% of the web. We first heard this stat in 2011. We’re avid fans of both WordPress and Drupal – so we are wondering – is this really true? It turns out – yes – it’s pretty true.
But is this the case for arts organizations and nonprofits? We decided to do some research for ourselves. We took a random sampling of 500 museums and worked to find out what CMS they were using to power their home site.
Here’s what we’ve found so far
More than 10% (55) of the 508 sites we sampled are running WordPress, and 46 (just less than 10%) are running Drupal. All in all, over 20% of museum sites are running open source code. And it looks like WordPress is indeed the most popular open source CMS currently around. While I have not (yet) surveyed every museum and nonprofit out there, this is a good start and I guess is indicative of what we’re looking at.
We love teaching. And we’re no strangers to teaching WordPress around these parts. In fact, we’ve spent over 500 hours teaching and training folks on WordPress alone. So we’re really excited to announce these new WordPress classes. In partnership with The Hub (an incubator for “where change happens”), we’ll be teaching a new WordPress in their San Francisco space.
HUB Workbench helps changemakers develop the skills they need to succeed. Our teachers are activists, artists, and social entrepreneurs who envision a new kind of economy and a new definition of success in business. Our community will help you learn skills, build your project, and change the world.
HUB Workbench is a HUB Bay Area program.
The HUB Bay Area is part of a global community taking collaborative action for a better world. The HUB is an inspiring space, meaningful content and a vibrant global community of people.
[button link=”http://hubworkbenchwordpress-eorg.eventbrite.com/”]Register for The Class[/button]
We were recently asked by Dancers Group in San Francisco to write a Top Ten Tips for building out a well performing website. We’ve worked with many arts organizations (including Dancers Group as of 2012), so this was quite fun to do. Especially because we were writing for artists. Below is the full article, as published in the “In Dance” publication. To learn more about Dancers Group, visit http://dancersgroup.org.
Think back to the last dance performance you saw:
How did it inspire you?
What feelings did you have after you left the performance?
How did you hear about it?
If it was truly amazing, did you share it with others?
Perhaps you posted about the experience on Facebook or Twitter?
What did it take to make those projects happen? Grants. Rehearsals. Years of training. A dedicated group of people. And, of course, an audience.
Now, think about the last website you saw:
Did it inspire you?
Did you like it (or hate it)?
How did you hear about it?
If it was truly amazing, did you share it with others?
Perhaps you posted the site on Facebook or Twitter?
Great performances are thoughtful, well-rehearsed, elegant, and help build community. Websites do the same thing. When I started producing websites for dance companies, I was still in grad school at NYU. I applied all the skills I learned in theater school to the online projects I worked on. Because of my theater experience, I thought about all my projects with a target audience in mind. And all those projects went on to be successful because of it.
It didn’t take me very long to realize that great websites contain many of the same components as great stage productions :
solid technical team
consideration for the audience
a planned outcome
So as you plan for your next web project, try approaching it like you would a stage production. And think about how you can incorporate the following items into your process :
1. Develop Passion and Vision – Without passion and vision, a great project simply can’t happen. Once you are able to communicate this passion and vision, the rest of the process will flow much easier. When starting a project from scratch, we often start with a creative brief. This brief works like a blueprint, enabling us to specify what we’re building and why.
2. Create a Production and Rehearsal Schedule – A solid schedule in place leads to accountability. Before diving into a project you must plan milestones, as well as outline the deliverables. While things are subject to change throughout a project, you will always have the initial plan to fall back on.
3. Designate a Stage Manager – A reliable point-person keeps everything running in an orderly fashion. Good productions need a point person to call the shots. Likewise, a good website requires a project owner on both sides; organized people who can move the project forward. While the artistic process can stay flexible, dedicated project managers keep things in order.
4. Assign a Producer – a solid producer will help with the budget, finances, and managing the overall team. While day-to-day operations are handled by a project manager, a good producer can help manage finances and the scope of work. By having someone regularly checking in on the budget and overall resource allocation, the project can easily stay on course financially.
5. Assemble a Talented Team and Supporting Cast – ultimately, great shows come together with fantastic performers and a great collaborative team. A solid front-line of people doing the work will help the product shine. Work with talented people that you connect with.
6. Get Your Tech Team in Place – surround yourself with a knowledgeable tech team that can bring your vision to fruition. Like a great lighting designer, a great web development team can make your basic pas de deux look like a pas de deux grand.
7. Think About Your Audience – know your audience. Survey them. Talk to them. Learn what they want. Take time to observe how they use your site. Do user-testing. You wouldn’t open a show without a dress rehearsal. Why would you launch a site without previewing it to others?
8. Make it Beautiful – without great design and solid visuals, your project can very easily blend in with others. And good design comes from understanding your audiences. Dance translates very well to the web. Invest in good photography. It matters.
9. Communicate – your project should contain different kinds of media. Text, visuals, video, audio, and photos appeal to different people in various ways. Communicating through multiple media will help you reach a broader audience.
10. Find a Secure Venue – without good infrastructure in place, the project you just completed can very easily stall. Invest in solid web hosting, not a cheap alternative (a $5 GoDaddy account just won’t cut it).
Now that you’ve got all your pieces in place, don’t forget to Plan for the Future. Consider how the site will be maintained after launch.
What grants are needed to keep things moving? Who will keep the site running in the future and manage the show going forward? We can write a whole article on support and maintenance, suffice to say, make sure to have this conversation with your web developer before you start the project. Don’t worry if your tech to goes wrong. It usually does. The key here is to have a good team in place when it does go awry. With the right people and a solid plan, your next website project (and dance performance) will be fantastic!
Exciting news! We started working with Fractured Atlas this past Summer on a new WordPress plugin for Artful.ly. And now – the WordPress plugin we’ve been working has just been released and ready for downloads. Why is this exciting? What does it do? And what is Artful.ly?
We just posted this on our Status Blog, but thought we’d post it here as well. Our Status Blog is mainly for clients that are hosted with us. More on that later. For now, here’s the WordPress 3.5 announcement :
There’s a new version of WordPress due out today. WordPress 3.5 includes many new features. We’re excited to roll this out to our clients and will be automatically updating their sites across our network. If you need help upgrading your WordPress site to 3.5, send us a support ticket via our helpdesk.
On October 19th, I was hit by a car while riding my bike.
5 months later, I did my first ever triathlon with my sister. Below is my story of how and why.
First – a little bit about my injury.
When I was hit by the car, I was launched off my bike and did about 2 ½ turns in mid-air. I track some of my bike rides through Runkeeper, an iPhone app, and was able to see my speed at the point of impact: http://runkeeper.com/user/jakilevy/activity/56798303.
When I was hit, I was going approximately 2 miles per hour. I landed right on my hip. Ouch.
The driver was nice enough to stop and call an ambulance. I was immediately taken to the hospital. They had to leave my bike behind at the scene of the incident. The cops on the scene locked up my bike. They were nice enough to secure the front wheel to the body of the bike so nobody would steal it while I made way to the ER.
At the hospital, I had X-Rays taken of both my hip and back. They didn’t find any fractures or broken bones. So they let me “walk” out of the hospital. Unfortunately, I was in a sh#t ton of pain, and couldn’t put any weight on my right leg or hip. I hopped out of the hospital and was on my way.
Fortunately, I already had a scheduled acupuncture session with Garden Acupuncture, my regular acupuncture folks in Brooklyn for the very next day. I had been going there before my accident to treat my stress and general health, but never thought I would be going to them to treat trauma. When I arrived at the office on October 20th, I was soon introduced to the crazy world of New York State’s No-Fault insurance laws. To put it simply, New York State No Fault law states the driver’s insurance must pay for any legitimate injuries sustained in accident, regardless of whose fault the accident was. You can read a bit more about No Fault here.
After filling out a sh#t ton of paperwork, I started receiving treatment within 24 hours of my accident, and it helped ease some of the pain. But because of those crazy no fault insurance laws, I wasn’t able to get an MRI scheduled until 7 days after the accident. 7 days. That’s 7 days of now knowing what happened to my body. And even longer to get my MRI results back. I didn’t actually find out that I fractured my hip, herniated the lower disc on my lower back, and tore my meniscus until 2 weeks into my treatment. Nevertheless, I was receiving treatment the entire time.
The Healing Process
About 4 times / week, I would go in for acupuncture with the folks at Garden Acupuncture, and an adjustment with my chiropractor. Rehab was (and continues to be) like another part-time job. But I knew how necessary it was to give my body the time it needed to heal and to go through the treatment. And it took time for me to start seeing any results. Well into my treatment, I was still worried I would need surgery, or that I wouldn’t be able to ride a bike again.
The acupuncture, though, helped tremendously. In addition to the physical pain I was experiencing, I was beginning to get very anxious and worried about missing so much time from work, dealing with the physical adjustments, while also absorbing the shock of trauma. I was also due to move out of my apartment on November 1st (12 days after my accident), and was going through a break up with my live-in girlfriend at the same time. The timing of this accident couldn’t have been any better.
This also happened to be the first time I had dealt with a major injury – I didn’t realize how the pain would morph and develop over time. For example, it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I started feeling a coldness across my right thigh and knee. I had never experienced that before, so I knew it was a result of some nerve damage that didn’t manifest itself until now.
I also had lots of trouble getting around. I like to think that I lived an active life in New York, but now I couldn’t even do regular day-to-day things like cooking for myself, doing my laundry, folding my clothes, or shower standing up. I spent ALOT of time lying in bed, icing my hip, and eating greens, and drinking tea.
The good news finally came in 7 weeks later – I didn’t need a hip replacement, but I did require knee surgery. And I also learned what a CPM (continuous passive motion) machine was.
So how did I go from almost needing a hip replacement to becoming a triathlete?
#1 : Support
I had tremendous support from all of my friends – particularly, my best friend Sam. He helped me move out of my place, was there to help me cook meals, provided me a kick in the pants when I needed it, and kept the business running while I was spending time in treatment.
The team I have here at Arrow Root Media is incredibly talented. Though there were definitely real impacts on our project timelines, it was because of them that things were still getting done, albeit late.
I also had incredible support from my family, my life coach, and of course, my medical team.
#2 : Inspiration and Vision
2 weeks after my accident, my mom and sister came up to visit me and help me out. It turns out that they arrived the day of the NYC Marathon – my sister had never seen it before and we watched the whole thing go down from the window of my temporary apartment.
I was truly inspired and impressed. But inspiration only gets you so far in life.
#3 : Commitment
During the procession of marathon runners, my sister and I noticed a blind man running the marathon. He was holding a stick, and was guided by someone running in front of him, holding that same stick.
We were both inspired. She decided to do something about it and committed to signing up to run her first ever half marathon (13.1 miles). She had about 12 weeks to train for the Miami Marathon. Given that she had never run a race before in her life, she had a challenge ahead of her. I knew I couldn’t be there to run with her, but I could be there to support her at the finish line.
On January 27th, we attended the marathon expo together to pick up her marathon gear and registration materials. At the expo, we saw an ad for an upcoming triathlon in South Beach.
While I was still injured and had not been active for months, I had made significant progress and wanted to get active again. I knew doing this triathlon would be a good goal for me, but I needed a partner in the race. If my sister could train for a half marathon in 3 months, I had confidence I could get in good enough shape to swim and bike. Knowing my sister would be there to finish the run gave me the support I needed to sign on. So we registered as a relay team. Our first ever triathlon. Neither one of us could have done it alone, but we could definitely do the tri together.
For training and exercise, I focused on swimming. I started slow with 30 minute workouts, and worked my way up over time. It was critical for me to keep going to acupuncture on a regular basis. When I started excercising again, I had already been to over 60 prickly sessions. I was seeing incredible results and didn’t want to take any steps back. Given my leg was still getting that weird cold feeling, and I was still having pain, I didn’t want to spend another Winter in New York City. I was lucky enough to have family in Florida, so I spent part of the Winter down south – training, working, and healing.
Race day was soon approaching. In addition to all the physical therapy, there was a whole host of other things to prep for the triathlon. I joined a swim team in Florida and practiced in the open ocean water. The race organizers also held a few clinics the day before the race to help with things like transitioning from a swim to cycling. One of the best tips I received was to simply have fun.
Another really good tip I heard was to do some visualizations. I visualized the start of the race. I visualized getting out the water. I visualized taking off my goggles and hopping on my bike. And I visualized taking the relay bracelet off and giving it to my sister to do the run. This kind of vision really helped me prepare mentally and keep me relaxed for the race.
When race day finally came, I made sure to just enjoy the experience. I focused on the task ahead, kept an easy yet challenging pace in the water, and worked through the race to simply keep going.
We received the complete race results the next day. My sister and I swam a 1/2 mile, biked 19 miles, and ran 4 miles in 2 hours 17 minutes and 33 seconds.
I was amazed. And I know I couldn’t have achieved these amazing results without the incredible support network I had around me. My sister kept me going and kept me inspired. And the swim teams and coaches I’ve been working with have been simply awesome. It’s just so nice to exercise with a group of people.
1. You can’t achieve great things alone. It takes team effort.
2. Inspiration can only get you so far. Vision can get you further. But Commitment is the lynchpin.
3. Acupuncture heals all 🙂
I still experience a sharp pain in my hip and lower back, and there is still coldness in my right leg. I feel these sensations after I exercise, and when I wake up, probably because I’m most in tune with my body at these times. But I’m still regularly going to acupuncture. And I am definitely still feeling all kinds of new sensations of tightness and pain.
Nonetheless, I’m so grateful for the support I received during my recovery. I am much better than I was in October, and know I would not have had such amazing and inspiring results without the care and support I received from Lisa and Alex at Garden Acupuncture.
It feels great to have a vision and reach a goal. It feels even better when you know you did it with an amazing team of people. To all who have been with me during this time – thank you. We’re just getting started…
For those of you who’ve worked with us, you know we regularly use Basecamp to manage all of our client (and internal) projects. It’s been a great place to manage todo’s, milestones, and store those important project files. But many of our clients have said that it’s simply, well…old. And we’ve agreed with them. There are so many bug tracking tools out there that could do the job better. And there are many more systems to track milestones, todo’s client communications (like Pivotal Tracker, and Action Method). But we’re sticking with Basecamp.
We know that innovating a product with so many users can be a tough thing – just think back to when Facebook users would constantly complain every time Facebook would make a minor change to their layout. We think that along with the shiny new features that the Basecamp team has developed, the new layout and ease of use will help us streamline everything across the board including :
reviewing feedback on design revisions
working on contract negotiations
creating contract addendums
processing change requests
generating project overviews
Basecamp has also moved all of the project assets to one page, meaning less clicks and more visibility on project items.
All of these improvements will help projects that much easier to work on (and complete), and improve transparency on projects across the board.
Below is a quick overview of some of the new features on Basecamp :
And here’s a video of the folks over at Happy Cog (a major web shop) talking about why they use Basecamp.