Connect the dots: bridging silos of information

Notes from the livestream of WPCAMPUS 2019

Elaine Shannon | Session

Elaine is a web developer for St. Mary’s University who loves to look at the whole picture. She specializes in designing and building solutions that work well for both end users and the people who maintain the web.

Who in the audience is an introvert

  • Who is afraid of public speaking?
    • Encourage others to speak and share their knowledge

What we’re talking about today

Background, Examples, Tips


St Mary TX uses a WP site and focuses on prospective students other audiences such as Alumni and Students use all sorts of other services and sites to meet the needs of their communities.

Early on their website was PHP and eventually moved to WP, the functionality didn’t change much until they moved to a managed webhost.

Challenge: Silos

Faculty and Staff directories were disconnected. used JSON to export information from “Banner” system so it can be structured and parsed to another server.

How the directory works

Cron job checks for new information periodically every hour and refreshes the JSON feed to the live website.

Uses REST API to grab faculty blog posts.

Uses arrays to merge banner and faculty data that they want on the new website. They plan to strip out email addresses in the future to limit phishing attempts.

WordPress to WordPress integration

RSS integrations was used before REST API and could be customized to fetch information. RSS feeds didn’t offer the featured image so they parsed the first image in the page.

REST API offers more tools within the publishing process. Images, fallbacks, text and tweaks.

Silos of information can get ugly, the process will go through iteration. Analytics are helpful in researching change. Look for a high rate to prioritize change.

APIs helped build a logical calendar that users would be comfortable using.

Better markup SEO display events in a friendly list in Google results.

Parsing data helped organize it and pull up schedule information for visitors to the website.


  1. Focus on users, journeys and search terms to identify trouble spots.
  2. Don’t duplicate content… Seriously, don’t.
  3. Find keys to connect silos reliably.
  4. Look for APIs they tend to be well structured.
  5. Make friends, offer help, ask for help

Keeping your content accessible

Notes from the WPCAMPUS live stream

Kelli Wise
Session information

Accessible content is good for your institution and everyone who uses it.

Creating and editing the content

  • web copy
    • Make the copy readable
    • write content for a lower reading level than people on campus
    • short paragraphs and proper headings
    • use reading level tools from Yoast MS Word, Gammerly etc.
    • Flesch reading score should be 70% or higher and avoid passive voice
    • People do not read the internet, they scan.
    • Proper headlines help people scan the content.
    • Make links understandable.
    • WAVE Firefox Browser Extension
    • WAVE tool
      • Flags potential errors to check
    • Capitalize the first letter in all your hashtags
    • Tables
      • Layout vs Data
      • Don’t use layout tables use CSS layouts
      • use role=”presentation” in layout tables if you must use them
      • Don’t leave data table headers empty

Headings are not for formatting they have semantic purpose

Kelli Wise


Use ALT text in your images, if that image is decorative leave alt blank but still include it. Include relevant data in the alt text so if it doesn’t load you’ll understand what the image represents.

Question: Should we include alt text on all images such as yet another image of the building.

Answer: Treat it as a decorative image

Color Contrast

Don’t be afraid to make things big and in high contrast. People will be reading this on phones under direct sunlight.

Use safe colors that can be converted to black and white and still be understood. An example would be a subway map.


Submit vs “Submit the form” or something descriptive.

Videos, Podcasts, Audio

Don’t autoplay videos, provide captions and audio descriptions and transcripts.

Speaker’s website


Lightening Talks

Five People to meet on Campus

  • Brand Manager
  • Disability / Academic Support Person
  • Faculty Development Person
  • IT Training Coordinator
  • Help Desk Coordinator

You should know what all these people do. They may be a collaborative resource

Content Mistakes

  • Wordiness
    • Simplify long running sentences to fewer words
  • Words that end in ING
  • Lame adjectives – use better words
  • Passive voice
    • “Fun was had” vs “We had fun”
  • Point of View
    • You or We
  • It’s not “actually” web content.
    • PDFs, Word Docs etc.
  • So what?
    • You* care. Obviously
    • Does your audience care?
  • Are we there yet?
  • No next step
    • What’s the goal of the page
  • Haste
    • Writing too quickly, no time to edit.
    • Slow down a little bit
  • Inconsistent web content
    • Distributed voice, tone, spelling
    • Process – Create a checklist to improve the content
    • Joke about oxford comma πŸ™‚
    • Does anyone have veto power for poor content?

Information Security

  • Paul Gilzow U of Missouri
  • Assets you need to protect
  • Threats
    • Anything that represents a danger
  • Vulnerability
    • Weakness that can be exploited
    • You don’t want to get wet but you have holes in your umbrella πŸ™‚
      • Rain is a pretty big risk
  • Risk
    • lower threats to minimize risk
    • Why does this matter?
    • We have a lot of valuable assets
      • Internet access
      • Computing power
      • SEO reputation of .edu domains
        • spam can threaten that advantage
      • Band and reputation has value
      • Social media has value
      • Sensitive information (lots of information)
    • Know your Assets
      • Catalog what you have
    • Defense in depth
      • Every layer has a hole but by stacking them you can slow an attack. If one fails the next layer will fall into place.
      • Minimize attack surfaces
        • add layers to protect various layers (two factor etc.)
        • Get rid of stuff you’re not using (old themes, plugins etc.)
        • Principle of least privilege
          • Provide limited access for limited time… Don’t make everyone an admin.
        • Be paranoid
          • You are actively being attacked and probes
          • treat all third party code as hostile
          • Evaluate plugins, users etc.