Ideas Begatting Ideas

Frog spawn
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Anthony Masi

Do you remember in the Old Testament all that begat action?

And Arphaxad begat Shelah; which himself engendered Eber. (And Arphaxad begat Shelah; and Shelah begat Eber.)

Really, you remember? You were there?

In terms of ideas or bits of unexpected information, I see them begatting all over the place (or is it engendering?). Or are they federating?

I love these moments where one curiosity to answer a question leads to something unexpected that pays off elsewhere. They can be small, and lost in the rush of moving to the next thing or issue.

But let me sit on the pad here and linger a bit over such a moment.

Today, I spent 30 minutes in a session with Rob, one of our You Show participants. He’s an interesting character. Has good travel stories. Fishing stories. Growing up stories. His passion is creative writing, he is a writer. He does not have a computer at home, and does all of his writing on paper. Rob was somewhat reluctant but showed up to most of our sessions, but did not do much with his blog until our first one on one session.

I suggested he try on the Radcliffe theme the one we use or the TRU Writer. The layout is clean, nice spaced text, wide columns, and nice big header images. That worked. He did not like the all caps style on the headings, so I opened up the Custom CSS tool and added a few statements to wipe out the all caps (Simple Custom CSS is one plugin I have network activated because only some themes build this in).

We got him set up with some categories, set up menus, and some simple widgets. Since he described his process, I put on my talk about considering narrating his process, write about the way he writes.


He explained his rationale, I cannot really recall it all, but it made sense to me that there’s no need to push this on people, once they consider it. He did not want to do audio, he just wanted to write.

And he has. Check out Mrs Slater’s Parrot:


We joke because for some reason, we created his user name as Mr Slater. I told him I can change it, but he laughs it off. I keep suggesting to Rob that he write something about gender confused parrot owners.

But he’s off and writing. And he is enjoying the process of putting it in the blog. And that matters much much more than what I might do were I writing his blog.

Today we fixed a link issue (the category links were coming up 404). I took a wild guess, whet to ToolsPermalinks, and resaved them. Bingo, they now worked. Wild guess.

Rob then talked about a desire to use more font styles in his writing. He described how he’d like to have the story he wrote in 6th grade have a bit more of a visual look of a sixth graders writing.

I described how the display in the web corresponded to the way MS word works with styles, and the piles of doo doo that can happen when formatting is applied at the word level. He got it. But what I did hear is that for his stories there was usually a different character’s voice in the writing.

I was not sure in the moment what options were to add fonts or more editing tools to the WordPress editor. After Rob left, it took me maybe 10 minutes to find the TinyMCE Advanced plugin (TinyMCE is the editor tool you see when writing), install, and run a quick test.

It’s pretty slick, once activated, you can then configure the WordPress editor to have more tools than the default comes with. For Rob, I was able to add a Font menu (it only has about 190 standard ones, including Comic Sans, but oh well), Font size, and background text color.

facncy editor

That was a win for him.

But then I got curious and activated the plugin for the TRU Writer. I have done some posting though the interface, and dealing with Tables was a pain, and the only way I could do super script / subscript was via manual HTML.

No more, I can add these extra things to the TinyMCE interface, and because I call it on the writing tool page, it becomes available in the form I use outside of the wordpress dashboard:


and when published, it looks rather gorgeous:


I would not have gotten it here, were it not for Rob’s questions.


Good stuff.

Totally a Gumpian Box of Chocolates.

About cogdog

I bark about and play with technology and web stuff. Harmless. I have my shots.

2 thoughts on “Ideas Begatting Ideas

  1. Hi Alan and thanks for the ping back…if that’s the correct terminology. Thanks, too, for all the help with setting up my blog and sussing out the fixes. You’re very good at what you do, mister, and I see that you get immense enjoyment from helping other people tell their stories. Great good stuff, and it’s a real pleasure to be mentored by you.

    A quick note about explicating what I write on my blog: I’m not averse to describing the creative process that’s particular to me, but at this point I’m much more interested in driving the car rather than explaining what’s under the hood and how it works. It’s taken me a long while just to get comfortable putting my stuff out there, and while I’ve cleared that hurdle I’m just not ready to get all meta about it.

    It’s also kind of like the line about having to explain why a joke is funny; once you do that it’s not really a joke any more. Personally, I think the world needs lots more jokes and lots less explaining. But who knows, maybe one day…

    Thanks again for all the help. And safe travels, my friend. We’ll stay in touch.

    1. This makes total sense to me, Rob, I’d rather see you driving the car your way. This was a great experience seeing how you could find your own level in the system. Here’s to great stories, even when your hockey hero takes you down a notch.

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