Timed Display of Content: the rsvpmaker_timed Shortcode

Part of the point of using a calendar plugin on your blog is to have content displayed for upcoming events, but not past ones, or at least give the upcoming events people can sign up for or attend greater emphasis and display them in chronological order (rather than the reverse chronological order of a blog listing).

I always think it looks stupid for a website to be promoting an event that is already past. Computers can tell time, and we should let them do so on our behalf rather than waiting for the webmaster to get around to removing the outdated content.

Events aren’t the only example of time-sensitive content, however. We may have limited time offers or other content that has a start date, an end date, or both. WordPress lets you schedule posts to go live at a given time in the future, but what if you want to embed a bit of limited time content on your home page or somewhere else on your site?

That’s the purpose of the rsvpmaker_timed shortcode, which can be wrapped around any bit of content in a page or a post that should only be displayed after a given time, until a given time, or between a start time and an end time. For those not familiar, a shortcode is a code you enter into the WordPress editor that achieves a special effect. Here is an example:

rsvpmaker_timed coding wrapped around a paragraph for conditional display.

rsvpmaker_timed coding wrapped around a paragraph for conditional display.

This shows the shortcode open and close tags wrapped around a paragraph, but it could just as easily be a longer block of content including images or video.

The shortcode attributes are start, end, too_early, and too_late. Put a plain language date like ‘January 1, 2016 7 pm’ in the start and/or end fields, or use a database style date like ‘2016-01-20 19:00′ and RSVPMaker will test the current time against those rules.

If a visitor is coming too the site too early or too late, according to those rules, the shortcode will return either an empty string or the contents of the too_early / too_late parameters, if set. Otherwise, the content will be returned as it normally would be.

Note that if a time is not specified, in addition to the date, the time is considered to be “00:00:00″ — first thing in the very early morning of that date. So if what you really want is to specify a cutoff at midnight, you should either put in ’11:59 pm’ or ’23:59:59′ as the end time. Alternatively, if you want content to stop being shown after January 29 is over, you could set end=”January 30, 2016”

In the context of my recent projects using Google Hangouts on Air as a webinar platform, one of the ways I am using this is to put a promotion on a website home page until the event occurs. I can provide another block of content to be displayed after the event, directing people to the replay.

Support for this shortcode was added in release 3.6.2.

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New Calendar Editor, RSVP Form Generator

RSVPMaker now includes visual editors that simplify the setup of a calendar listing and the RSVP form for individual events. This should make a lot of RSVPMaker setup easier for people who don’t like to mess with code. Frankly, it’s also easier for me because I kept forgetting some of the shortcode options.

When editing any page or post, you should see a new calendar button has appeared in the WordPress visual editor.

calendar-button

Clicking that button will give you a popup editor for setting the parameters for an events listing, including whether the calendar should be displayed at the top of the listing.

Popup Calendar editor

Popup Calendar editor

Most site owners will tweak one or two of these fields and leave the rest at their default values. However, it is possible to create a listing targeted to a specific post type (just the events tagged as webinars, for example).

One other special case is inserting a single post. For example, you create a blog post advertising an upcoming event and want to embed the related RSVPMaker post inside that blog post, so people can click on RSVP Now and be taken straight to the signup form. In that case, you would toggle off the display of the calendar and select that one event from “Target One Post” (not to self: change the label to “Target One Event”).

When you insert the event, it’s now displayed as a placeholder image (switch the editor from Visual to Text mode if you want to see the underlying shortcode coding). You can double-click on the placeholder image to open up the editor and make changes.

RSVPMaker placeholder

RSVPMaker placeholder

Customizing the RSVP Form

Up until now, altering the RSVP Form has required working with a mix of HTML and shortcodes, which are documented here. I’ve added a popup code generators that addresses a bunch of common tweaks you might want to make, like deciding whether or not to ask for a phone number, adding an additional text field or two, and deciding whether or not to include the “guest” fields.

rsvp-form-generator

You can use the form generator and still tweak the HTML or add additional fields as necessary. This is a simple form generator and does not cover all the shortcodes for adding things like radio buttons.

If you use this in combination with my Chimpblast plugin for MailChimp, and include the “Add me to your email list” checkbox on your form, the software will attempt to subscribe the event attendee to the default mailing list you have specified in Chimpblast. (Okay, almost nobody other than me uses Chimpblast, but this was a handy feature for me to add and one someone else might find useful).

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Improved Confirmation and Reminder Messages for RSVPMaker

This month’s updates to RSVPMaker have substantially improved its system of confirmation and reminder email messages. These changes come in part to support my approach to organizing Hangouts on Air online events.

An RSVPMaker reminder message in GMail.

An RSVPMaker reminder message in GMail.

For example, here is the series of confirmation and reminder messages I prepared for a January 27 webinar. The confirmation message goes out immediately when someone registers, and the reminders are set for 24 hours and 2 hours before the start of the event. A follow-up message with a link to the replay then goes out the following morning to everyone who registered (whether or not they actually attended).

The messages are shown as you would see them on the administrator’s dashboard (edit and delete links have been disabled).

Confirmation Message: Low-Budget/No Budget Webinars with Google Hangouts on Air Wednesday January 27th 7:00 PM EST

Thank you for registering!

This event will be conducted using Google’s Hangouts On Air free video broadcast service. Some features such as the interactive Q&A require a Google+ account. The web address for the live event is:

Hangout: https://plus.google.com/events/curufn84bj465orhu44vah5it68

If you use GMail or other Google services that require a password, you may already have a Google+ account or be able to create one with a couple of clicks. If possible, try to visit the link above prior to showtime so you will know you’re ready. I will start the video feed about 5 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the event, and you will be able to start to enter questions using the Hangouts Q&A app.

You can also view this event on YouTube and it will be archived for replay:

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hDbFz2RIf4

Edit

Previously Set Reminders

Set for 2 hours before the start of the event

Subject: TONIGHT: Low-Budget/No Budget Webinars with Google Hangouts on Air – 7:00 PM EST

I look forward to welcoming you to tonight’s webinar.

This event will be conducted using Google’s Hangouts On Air free video broadcast service. Some features such as the interactive Q&A require a Google+ account. The web address for the live event is:

Hangout: https://plus.google.com/events/curufn84bj465orhu44vah5it68

If you use GMail or other Google services that require a password, you may already have a Google+ account or be able to create one with a couple of clicks. If possible, try to visit the link above prior to showtime so you will know you’re ready. I will start the video feed about 5 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the event, and you will be able to start to enter questions using the Hangouts Q&A app.

You can also view this event on YouTube and it will be archived for replay:

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hDbFz2RIf4

Edit | Delete

Previously Set Reminders

Set for 24 hours before the start of the event

Subject: REMINDER: Low-Budget/No Budget Webinars with Google Hangouts on Air Wednesday January 27th 7:00 PM EST

I am looking forward to welcoming you to Wednesday night’s hangout.

This event will be conducted using Google’s Hangouts On Air free video broadcast service. Some features such as the interactive Q&A require a Google+ account. The web address for the live event is:

Hangout: https://plus.google.com/events/curufn84bj465orhu44vah5it68

If you use GMail or other Google services that require a password, you may already have a Google+ account or be able to create one with a couple of clicks. If possible, try to visit the link above prior to showtime so you will know you’re ready. I will start the video feed about 5 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the event, and you will be able to start to enter questions using the Hangouts Q&A app.

You can also view this event on YouTube and it will be archived for replay:

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hDbFz2RIf4

Edit | Delete

Previously Set Reminders

Set for 16 hours after the start of the event

Subject: Webinar Replay: Low-Budget/No Budget Webinars with Google Hangouts on Air

Thanks for your interest in this RSVPMaker webinar.

A replay is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hDbFz2RIf4

I encourage you to forward this email to a friend, or share the video on social media. If you have questions I didn’t answer during the event, please follow up with me.

Edit | Delete

A Note on More Reliable Scheduling and Message Delivery

For this to work properly, make sure to set the correct timezone on the Settings -> General screen in WordPress. I also recommend creating an email account to be used for notifications and registering it in the SMTP mail section of Settings -> RSVPMaker. This is to ensure accurate timing and reliable delivery of these messages.

RSVPMaker takes advantage of WP Cron, a standard WordPress scheduling mechanism. Because it only checks for scheduled tasks to be run when someone vistis your website, WP Cron can be imprecise — which could be a problem if you want to make sure a reminder will go out an hour before your event, if that happens to be a low traffic site. Caching plugins can also get in the way of regular WP Cron execution. Consider following these directions to make sure your server checks for scheduled tasks to run on a more regular schedule, like once every 5 or 15 minutes.

Using Unix cron, the command you would set to execute would be:

wget https://yoursiteURLhere.com/wp-cron.php?doing_wp_cron=1 > /dev/null 2>&1

Posted in Announcement | 4 Comments

Adding, Then Editing Out, a Hangouts on Air Pre-Show Greeting

A good webinar ought to feature a warm welcome for the audience, including early people who arrive early. However, that material may not be appropriate to include in the replay people see later — you want them to be able to get right into the content of your broadcast.

Trimming a section from a YouTube video, such as a Hangouts replay.

Trimming a section from a YouTube video, such as a Hangouts replay.

I’m learning a few things as the result of a current series of webinars about RSVPMaker’s support for Google Hangouts on Air, as well as my WordPress for Toastmasters project. One of the virtues of the Hangouts on Air platform is it automatically captures everything you broadcast to YouTube, which is a great way of building your library of YouTube content and reaching many more people than were able to tune in live.

Fortunately, YouTube also provides a way for you to edit out anything you do not want included in the replay.

For a session where Q&A will be encouraged, I am finding that it makes sense to open up the live session a few minutes early and display some information about how to use the Hangouts Q&A app. One possibility would be to show a PowerPoint slide. However, to keep things simple in a context where I’ll be giving a web app demo, I cooked up something where I can show a web page with a countdown timer and some imagery.

I toggle full screen viewing of that countdown/welcome page in a separate browser window. When starting my broadcast, I screen share that specific browser window.

Here is an example of what that looks like for an event starting at 7 pm EST (opens in a new browser tab).

I created a utility, which you can access at rsvpmaker.com/countdown, that lets you specify the star time and the welcome image you want to use. Or download the source code, in case you’d like to tweak it. While showing this, I keep my microphone muted so people don’t hear me shuffling papers or whatever.

You could just as easily use this time to make small talk with the early arrivals. In any case, at the appointed time, you should switch from preliminaries to the live show starting. One tip is to allow a moment of silence before you start speaking to make it easier to edit out everything prior to that first spoken word that signals the start of the show.

Trimming the YouTube Replay

Here is how you can clean up the recording after the show. The example I show is trimming off the beginning of the video, but it’s also possible to cut out a section in the middle. That’s the great thing about video: you can edit out your mistakes.

Note that your edits do not appear instantly. The delay appears to be proportional to the length of the entire video.

If you really want people to see the cleaned up version of the replay, you may want to avoid sending out emails and social media messages driving people to the replay until you can confirm that YouTube is done processing your changes.

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Replay of Jan. 8 Webinar: Budget Webinars with Hangouts on Air and WordPress

The tutorial I recommend on how to run your own Hangouts Q&A session is here:

http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/how-to-run-a-qa-session-using-google-hangouts-on-air/

Thanks to Jim and Chris Guld of Geeks on Tour for joining me at the end of the show. Look up their next event or watch one of the replays here:

http://geeksontour.com/weeklyshow/

Posted in Announcement | 1 Comment

Updated List of Event Display Shortcodes

RSVPMaker provides the following shortcodes for listing events, listing event headlines, and displaying a calendar with links to events. WordPress shortcodes are placeholders you can add to a post or a page that cause dynamic content to be added when the page is displayed — in this case, an event listing or a calendar with links to individual events.

Since the last time I updated this documentation, several new shortcodes such as rsvpmaker_calendar have been added. Also, some of the attributes used to modify the display have not been well documented before now.

[rsvpmaker_upcoming] displays the index of upcoming events. If an RSVP is requested, the event includes the RSVP button link to the single post view, which will include your RSVP form.

[rsvpmaker_upcoming calendar=”1″] displays the calendar, followed by the index of upcoming events.

Other shortcode attributes can be added in the format attribute_name=”attribute_value”

  • type=”type_name” displays only the events with the matching event type, as set in the editor (example: type=”featured”)
  • no_event=”message” message to display if no events are in the database (example=”We are workin on scheduling new events. Check back soon”)
  • one=”ID|slug|next” embed a single message, identified by either post ID number, slug, or “next” to display the next upcoming event. (examples one=”123″ or one=”special-event” or one=”next”)
  • limit=”posts_per_page” limits the number of posts to display. If not specified, this will be the same as the number of posts displayed on your blog index page. (example: limit=”30″)
  • add_to_query=”querystring” adds an arbitrary command to the WordPress query (example: add_to_query=”posts_per_page=30&post_status=draft” would retrieve 30 draft posts)
  • hideauthor=”1″ set this to prevent the author displayname from being shown at the bottom of an event post.

[rsvpmaker_calendar] displays the calendar by itself.

[rsvpmaker_calendar nav=”top”] displays the calendar with the next / previous month navigation on the top rather than the bottom. By default, navigation is displayed on the bottom.

Other attributes: type=”type_name” and add_to_query=”querystring” also work with rsvpmaker_calendar.

[event_listing format=”headlines”] displays a list of headlines

[event_listing format=”calendar”] OR [event_listing calendar=”1″] displays the calendar (recommend using [rsvpmaker_calendar] instead)

Other attributes:

  • limit=”posts_per_page” limits the number of posts to display. If not specified, this will be the same as the number of posts displayed on your blog index page. (example: limit=”30″)
  • past=”1″ will show a listing of past events, most recent first, rather than upcoming events.
  • title=”Title Goes Here” Specifies a title to be displayed in bold at the top of the listing.

Contents for an events page.

There is also another family of shortcodes used as the basis for RSVP form templates, documented here.

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$99 Event Website Hosting Offer – WordPress + RSVPMaker

speechcraft

Because some people want the benefits of WordPress + RSVPMaker without the burden of setting up their own site, Carr Communications now offers the option of hosting an events website at a subdomain address like seminar.rsvpmaker.com. We handle the web hosting and technical details, but you get access to all the standard WordPress features. The result is something like the WordPress.com experience, with of the addition the event management capabilities of RSVPMaker.

In addition to posting your events, you can promote them through the blog and build out other pages for details like speaker bios and your event agenda.

Sign Up Now

Web address
.rsvpmaker.com
Administrator’s email address

One trade-off is that you only get access to themes and plugins we have pre-approved. However, free plugins and themes from the wordpress.org repository will be made available, on request, contingent on the approval of our site administrator (meaning a review of code quality and web security concerns).

This offer does not include editorial, design, or technical services beyond provisioning a sudbomain website that you can manage yourself at rsvpmaker.com and keeping the software current. Write to david@carrcommunications.com if you would like to request additional consulting services.

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Building on RSVPMaker for WordPress: Add-ons for Volunteer Roles and Toastmasters Clubs

Over the years, I have found many ways of building on the basic event management functionality in the RSVPMaker WordPress plugin, both for my own projects and for consulting clients.

roles

Volunteer Signups

The latest edition to the family, RSVPMaker Volunteer Roles, is for signing up registered members of a website to fulfill specific duties. RSVPMaker for Toastmasters (part of the WordPress for Toastmasters project) does something similar for chapters of that public speaking and professional development organization.

The Volunteer Roles plugin is more generic and was designed to meet the needs of a client who needed to sign up members of a rifle range to fill roles such as range safety officer for a given shift.

Any active event oriented site that wants to get the most out of RSVPMaker should also understand its event templates functionality for creating and managing recurring events. Take a look at the video tutorial I’ve linked to below to understand how you can create and manage recurring events in RSVPMaker. The latest release supports more flexible scheduling to support scenarios like meetings scheduled on the first and third Monday, or every Monday and Wednesday.

I’m sharing this partly because I’m looking for a few new projects as a web developer, as well as a writer, editor, digital marketing consultant, and freelance technology evangelist. See more about my services at the Carr Communications website or connect with me on LinkedIn (mention RSVPMaker in your introduction). Do you have a project for me or an introduction to someone who would?

Meanwhile, here is the latest on RSVPMaker.

— David F. Carr, david@carrcommunications.com

RSVPMaker Volunteer Roles Plugin

The RSVPMaker Volunteer Roles plugin is an extension to RSVPmaker for organizations that have a regular list of members whom they need to sign up for roles. By giving those members at least subscriber-level login credentials on … Continue reading

Video: Creating and Editing Recurring Event Templates

Here is how you manage events that occur monthly, weekly, or several times a week.

Extending RSVPMaker – WordPress for Toastmasters

One of my recent side projects has been updating a series of customizations I made to RSVPMaker for use by my Toastmasters club. Toastmasters International is a nonprofit organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills, and I’m a past … Continue reading

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RSVPMaker Volunteer Roles Plugin

The RSVPMaker Volunteer Roles plugin is an extension to RSVPmaker for organizations that have a regular list of members whom they need to sign up for roles. By giving those members at least subscriber-level login credentials on the website, we can allow them to sign up for a role with one click — the software retrieves their name from their user profile.

Previously, I had created something very similar with RSVPMaker for Toastmasters (which you can learn much more about at the WordPress for Toastmasters website), except that version is very specific to the needs of those public speaking and professional development clubs. At Toastmasters, the need is to sign up people as speakers and for supporting roles such as timer and evaluator.

RSVPMaker Volunteer Roles is a general-purpose version of the same thing, which you might use to sign up representatives for to man a booth at a festival, for example. A consulting client who hired me to do some RSVPMaker customizations is using it to sign up members of a rifle range for roles such as range safety officer and also to track the hours that members contribute. Used in combination with RSVPMaker’s event templates feature, the volunteer signups plugin allows this group to recruit volunteers for a regular weekly schedule of events and track the hours that they contribute.

Instead of presenting members with the standard RSVPMaker form, we give them a series of buttons to click if they want to sign up for different roles. Using JQuery/Ajax techniques, I allow them to sign up with one click — no form submission / page refresh required — making it easier for people to sign up for multiple roles quickly.

roles

Behind the scenes, the button labels and parameters are specified with a series of WordPress shortcodes (placeholder codes that are interpreted by the plugin when the page is displayed).

[rsvpvolunteer role=”Set up” hours=”1″]

[rsvpvolunteer role=”Booth volunteer” count=”2″ hours=”3″]

[rsvpvolunteer role=”Clean up” hours=”1″]

The count and hours parameters are optional. Count allows us to specify that multiple volunteer opportunities should be presented for a given role. The hours parameter lets us say how many hours of credit the volunteer should get for filling the role.

When this plugin is active, you can retrieve statistics on volunteer activities through the Volunteer Report and Volunteer History items under the RSVP Events on the administrator’s dashboard.

volunteer_report

Volunteer opportunities can also be represented on a specialized version of the RSVPMaker Calendar, where a member can add himself to the volunteer roster for a given role by clicking the plus sign or withdraw by clicking the minus sign.

calendar_roles

The shortcode for displaying this calendar is shown below.

[volunteer_calendar type=”optional-type-slug” ]

You can see a live demo of this example on the Volunteer Roles Demo page — use the credentials user: rsvpdemo, password: rsvpdemo to log in.

On the demo page, the calendar has set up to use an RSVPMaker event type to only display events for which there are volunteer opportunities, and the rsvpmaker_upcoming shortcode is also used to display a listing of those events below the calendar.

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Video: Creating and Editing Recurring Event Templates

Here is how you manage events that occur monthly, weekly, or several times a week.

Posted in Announcement | Leave a comment