This is part 2 of The Passion of Change. Last time I talked about some theory and decision to make about why to do this with WordPress. Now let’s talk about how it’s done.
There’s no way around this. To collect data that’s … well … never been collected in one place before, you have to sit down and do the work. And it’s hard. This is why companies hire interns, but really you need a researcher who is an expert in the field. And you have to guess and what data is going to be important. Do you just want names and shows, or do you want death days, actors, and cliches and tropes? Decide on your datapoints, but collect more than you need. Trust me on that one. Backfilling dates for 1000 posts wasn’t fun.
The trick with WordPress is understanding how to organize your data. With Hugo, there’s the basic concept of “everything is a post” and really that’s what WordPress does too. Everything is a post TYPE. By making a custom post type for your data, you can have it listed and organized how you want. We opted for a type for shows and characters, with post meta to store the complex and unique data and taxonomies for the common and shared.
Display The Data
Part of displaying your data properly is to do so in a way that is conducive to your SEO. Yeah I said a dirty word. CMB2 lets you add in post meta easily. Yoast SEO lets you add that information to your meta data. AMP makes it better to read on mobile, and FacetWP makes it dynamically sortable. And the Rest API? Well that makes it easily consumable. Anywhere.
To make it easy to enter and maintain the data, we use CMB2. You can also use PODS or ACF to do this, and really it’s its own post. But the point here is you need to go back to that data you collected and figure out how it needs to be presented. While you could code it all by hand, I strongly recommend a plugin that will let you add in these fields more easily. You need to make sure you data can repeat what needs to be repeated.
And the best part here is that if you have good data and you’ve entered it in a smart way, it will lead to good SEO by doing things like this:
%%title%% is a %%ct_lez_gender%% %%ct_lez_sexuality%% %cf_lezchars_type%% character played by %%actors%% on %%shows%% %%sep%% Clichés: %%ct_lez_cliches%%
With Yoast SEO in conjunction with CMB2 I was able to auto-populate a unique and yet repeated description for my meta desc in all my posts. The goal here is to optimize smartly. You want your research to be found, so you need to make it easily finable for the right search queries.
I use Automattic’s AMP plugin combined with Yoast’s AMP Glue plugin for mobile optimizations. By default it only adds posts as AMP data. I built out custom templates for my CPTs to allow those to show up as AMP pages as well. I did this because I wanted the data to be accessible in more ways than just normal WP pages. Democratizing consumability means being flexible about your displays. Get the data out there clearly.
Don’t Predict Paths
Putting the data out there in easy to find ways is step one. When you have lists of data, you also need to make them sortable. FacetWP is a tool for advanced filtering. It lets you sort and resort your data, so if you wanted a list of blue eyed, left handed, centipede groomers, and you had all that data stored, you could find it. It’s a little tricky sometimes to build out your facets the way you want, but they let you refine searches and drill down so you can find everything in the way the users want. The goal, and FacetWP meets it, is to make finding the data people want easier.
But… There’s another path to consider. The REST API.
This is hands down my favorite part of the whole thing. It’s great we have all this data we collected, and we can show it in myriad ways. We can get stats to show you trendlines and averages and percentages. But… How do we get the data back out there so other people can consume it? What if you wanted to take the data to make stats we didn’t? This is all done via the Rest API.
JSON: It Gets The Job Done
The Rest API made it EASY for me to export all this data into a format anyone could take and expand on. I made them simple, with just names and dates, and complex with everything I could think of. And by doing so, other people DID start to grab the data and use it to construct their own narratives and find their own answers.
It also let me make a plugin!
The irony of using a Rest API to power a plugin that lists dead female queers is not lost on me, by the way. I built out a JSON powered plugin that calls the data and uses it to output the data in widgets or shortcodes. It’s possibly the most simple and basic way you can do anything with this, but it demonstrates the extendability. It’s fast, it’s low load for my site which is always good, and it’s easy for me to update.
All that work that went into the plugin, with the JSON API, was transformed into an Amazon Alexa skill, where you can ask it “Hey Alexa, ask Bury Your Queers who died on March 3rd” and your Echo or Dot will reply. At it’s heart, it seems silly and trivial. The more I worked on the code, though, the more I realized how you could extend this to share more data. Trivia and minutia are small beans, but they’re the beans we REMEMBER. And what we remember is what changes the world.
Open Data – Sharing Passion Enhances Everything
Hopefully the story you got from all this is that with WordPress you can share your passion for … well. Anything. And you can use it to fuel change. In the last 18 months, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people world wide about how just seeing the representation and the statistics have helped them. Including TV producers. And yeah, that was weird. But more over, I’ve helped get data out there and used it to change one thing. And that is the passion that causes change.