Research and Programming

Right now my research and programming go hand in hand. Saving all sources and notes in a database proved to be a very good idea. Adding new sources to the database is easy in Adminer.

Whenever new additions are made to the database, it’s a matter of seconds to compile a new bibliography file via my Python script.

Now I write, and write. Texts, notes, ideas, chapters, structures … poor out. The database is a major tool in the creative work. Quotations are made via the ID in the database. Since the value is unique there are no conflicts in the bibtex file.

In the actual texts its a matter of adding @wp_81 – or whatever the id of the relevant source may be.

All my texts are written in markdown. I can compile the texts to .pdf, .epub, .docx etc. via a Pandoc script i bash.

With this “toolbox” it’s easy to write the academic dissertation.

Right now the writing process is in a phase of “write-out”. I don’t care to finish anything. It’s like drawing a sketch on paper. But when the chapters are compiled – it turns into a report, with all the academic features: lists of content, notes, and a very precise academic bibliography.

I never thought, that writing and programming were related in this way. But it’s a fact: programming and (academic) creative writing are related.

Working on the Interview Guide

During the next weeks I’ll begin interviewing WordPress professionals and users. In general the idea is to explore the knowledge levels needed for WordPress professionals.

The title of this research project is: “What You Should Know About WordPress”. Below the statement you’ll find a question:

– What should you know about WordPress?

Many students have to work with WordPress during internships. The students are connected to supervisors from the business academy. They are also connected to different mentors in the business.

So each interview with a student could perhaps spawn into two or three new interviews.

Visual Destillation of Ideas

Wordcloud 1: Destillation of Ideas

Destillation of Ideas
Destillation of Ideas

The word-clouds are alchemic destillations of my literature review so far. I saved 500+ quotes from student reports and academic papers about WordPress in a MySQL database. I printed out all the quotes in one long string from the database.

The actual word-clouds are made by a Chrome plugin. The clouds are a data visualizations. They will show the frequency of the words that WordPress professionals or scholars use. Size matters here. Big words are words that occur often in my notes.

The first cloud is made by my sum up of the notes from the reports. After reading the text I summed up the basic ideas. The first cloud is a visualization of my interpretation of the research texts.

At this point of the literature review the works of students dominate. The words come from my hermeneutic coding or sum up of internship reports, final reports, BA thesises and around 10 scientific articles on WordPress.

A cloud like this is an answer to my research question:

What should you know about WordPress?

Here the answer is:

  • Plugins
  • SEO
  • Theme
  • Child theme
  • Code (= da. kode)
  • WooCommerce
  • Responsive Web Design

Wordcloud 2: Quotations and notes

The next word-cloud is the result of all the notes and quotations from these texts.

WordCloud based on all my notes so far.
WordCloud based on all my notes so far.

Since most of the reports are in danish the clouds will have many danish words. However most words about the WordPress craft are in english.

The second wordcloud is very similar to the first one. However we get options like:

  • CMS
  • PHP
  • Customer
  • Content
  • Google SEO, AdWords etc.
  • CSS

So these clouds are visual answers to my research question.

If I remove the academic papers, the word-cloud looks like the one below. I have removed a long string of common words in order to get a WordPress-specific cloud. Else I’d get a cloud with tons on and, or, when and what not. Below is the cloud.

Word-cloud from student papers.
Word-cloud from student papers.

The cloud does not add much new stuff. However there is more emphasis on the customers (da. “kunden”). The prominent words are:

  • Google
  • Customer (da. = kunden)
  • Plugin(s)
  • CMS
  • SEO
  • Content
  • theme
  • code (da. = kode)

It’s strange to see that PHP, CSS and Jquery does not play a prominent role here. Here I think that the data visualization gives a wrong impression.

Strange findings

During the initial phases of my research project I asumed that a WordPress professional would be nerdy. Stuff like advanced CSS, Jquery, MySQL, SQL, ER-diagrams, preprocessors, Gulp, Nodejs and so on should dominate the picture.

These word clouds demonstrate, that my initial hypothesis was not precise.

In fact many WordPress professionals build custom made solutions without much code at all. Some professionals use one theme for all. What you can achieve with WordPress without code is important.

On the other hand there is a huge difference between haute couture and pret a porter.

Perhaps the real secret behind the success of WordPress is the ease of use. Using WordPress is not that different from the feeling of using a word processor such as Libre Office or MS Word.

Literature Review

The word-clouds are a kind of sum up of my literature review so far. During the next phase I will focus on interviews with WordPress practitioners and professionals. Can they recognize the vision in the clouds?

That’s what I’ll investigate during the next spin of the hermeneutic circle.

The word-clouds visualize the hermeneutic codes as stored in my database with notes and quotes. What they say is interesting – but we should not forget, that the clouds only gives a fragment of the picture.

Perhaps important methods are only mentioned once. Or even not at all. In that case such topics will not be visible in the word-clouds. As the book of wisdom Tao Teh King states: we get usefullness from what is not there.

Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore benefit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there. (Translated by Gia Fu Feng)

Tao Teh King “Eleven”.

Source: Drive WordCloud by Google (Plugin for Chrome).

Research Progress: Cases and Twentyseventeen

Cases and Twentyseventeen
Cases and Twentyseventeen

Now I have read all the available WordPress cases on the BAAA server. I have followed the development of the Twentyseventeen core theme. In both cases the reading should be followed by interviews.

And then the next logical step is to select the most relevant cases. Each case is surrounded by a small group of stakeholders, such as:

  • The business
  • Contact persons in the business
  • Students
  • Teachers at the BAAA

Twentyseventeen is perhaps the most important case. Because here you can see the interaction between Automattic and the open source community. Twentyseventeen is integrated in the WordPress-core, therefore it is not a trivial matter.

By now I can see, that the Multimedia studens work hard with tweaking themes and child themes. Some of them even write their responsive themes from scratch.

In the end I hope, that the research will show:

  • How WordPress is created.
  • How WordPress solutions are used in danish and international businesses.

In the end these answers will form the answer to my initial quest: “What You Should Know About WordPress”.

Cases

Getting the cases via the central hand in WF is not as easy as presumed. The system is more or less manual. Getting cases or conducting searches is not an option.

Plan B: source = lecturers.

The general research will continue. Here the sources are:

  • WP debates: participation.
    • Focus I: Core.
    • Focus II: Training.

The project description had to change. A stakeholder thought that “there are enough books about WP”. I agree – also because my involvement in WordPress is research as opposed to evangelism.