Do you check out our website, follow us on Twitter, on Facebook, via an RSS feed, or do you just wait for the emails to come out? Do you think there’s a team of people behind the scenes executing all these functions for you, the reader, trying to reach you on whatever social media venue you may be?
No, virtually all these functions are 100% automated. CatholicTechTalk is constructed of building blocks that are almost all completely free. There’s quite a few components, but there’s an elegant complexity to how its constructed and I’m pleased to say its been working rather flawlessly since I’ve been given the opportunity to take it over from its creator, Craig Berry. In this post, I’ll take a little dive under the hood of CatholicTechTalk and describe the components that create this blog and connects it to the Social Media venues.
WordPress – Our Blogging Platform of Choice
At its technological heart, CatholicTechTalk is a WordPress blog which is one of the more popular blogging platforms around. A free hosted version is available at WordPress.com. This site is hosted on a server at my company, Liturgical Publications, but is still using the free, open source WordPress platform downloadable at wordpress.org. The WordPress software will get you started blogging, but you need a themes, plugins, and widgets to do to the rest. I’m very glad Craig started with WordPress. We’ve been using WordPress at LPi for years. Its has a rich user community, a plethora of themes, and a large library of plugins to build off of. It may have started out as blogging platform, but its really becoming a Content Management Systems (CMS) in its own right.
CTT’s User Interface Design
The only cost component (except probably a considerable amount of time!) was the purchase of the theme used for the UI design. CatholicTechTalk uses the Delicious Magazine Theme created by WooThemes. This provides our blog with its magazine look and feel all for a whopping $70. The blog post appearance, ad placements, twitter feed panel, and summarized popular and latest posts on the sidebar are all courtesy of WooThemes. Wanna know why some people who comment have their pictures appear and others don’t? The pictures are thanks to the JetPack Gravatar plugin. If your picture doesn’t appear, just go to Gravatar.com and upload a picture. Your picture will then appear on all wordpress.com hosted blogs and any other site like ours using this plugin that you may comment on.
Speaking of comments, we use the Disqus comment platform. Its fast, has a great selection of widgets, good comment moderation capabilities (haven’t really needed that here though!), and allows a user to connect in via their Google, Twitter, FB, or Yahoo account.
Have you tried to access CatholicTechTalk on your iPad, iPhone, or Android? Well, there’s not yet an app for that, but there is a theme. We use the WPTouchPro Theme for mobile devices. Upon detecting a mobile device, this theme is automatically served up instead of the standard Delicious Magazine theme.
Spreading the Word on Our Next Post
The moment I publish this post, it will automagically be posted to Facebook and Twitter. This is thanks first to redirecting the default RSS field to Google’s FeedBurner feed and then the two apps Twitterfeed and the NetworkedBlogs Facebook App. Both of these apps, monitor our FeedBurner feed and post updates as they detect them. This works so well you have to remember the reverse. The posts are now out there and someone might respond. For that I use HootSuite to monitor Twitter and Facebook activity. HootSuite enables you to monitor multiple Twitter Feeds and Facebook Pages simultaneously and hopefully soon Google+ as well. If you want to share the administration task of your feeds with more than one person within HootSuite there is a monthly cost, but for just one person you can get started for free. If you’re just getting started with Facebook and Twitter I would strongly recommend taking a look at HootSuite.
Email – Still the staple of Electronic Communication
As popular as Facebook and Twitter are, email is still the staple of electronic communication. We send out two emails: a day delayed email promoting our latest post for those who subscribed via our Feedburner Feed and a weekly blog post summary for those who subscribed to our e-mail list. The daily emails comes again courtesy of Feedburner whereas the weekly email uses MailChimp, an email marketing platform similar to Constant Contact. MailChimp has some great integration and widgets for WordPress. It too is free, at least until we get 2000 subscribers. As much as I like to save money, you’re welcome to help me spend a little by joining our mailing list! The weekly email newsletter that goes out is actually a little more complex. It gets its feed from Yahoo Pipes which is an aggregator of other feeds. This was done to aggregate the Feedburner feed together with the feed from Tumblr. We haven’t been that active on Tumblr lately, but its there if we pick it up again.
And Last but Not Least a Few Foundational Components
To keep the system running smooth and fast (we love you our readers and are hoping for 1000s more like you!), we use WP Super Cache. WP Super Cache is a fantastic WordPress tool that cache’s your content automatically as html significantly reducing the number of times PHP scripts needs to be called. Its light and fast and a definite must for WordPress blogs that get good amounts of traffic. We also use BackupBuddy to keep our data safe. Daily backups occur in the evening and then are automatically rsync’d to LPi’s backup disk storage system. A nightly email at 10pm tells our administrator that everything is safe and sound.
I hope you found this peak under the hood of CatholicTechTalk informative. If you’re looking to build or grow your own WordPress site, this is a nice recipe to follow. As I said at the beginning there’s a elegant complexity to it. Kudos to Craig Berry for what he originally created!
If you have any further questions on how this works, just let us know!