Proof of Concept: Choose Your Own Adventure Dashboard Widget

Ultimately, WordPress is a tool for publishing stories, right? I’m trying to explore how to use WordPress to tell stories. WordPress backend interfaces and dashboards are extremely personal and intimate spaces, and as far as I can tell, largely unexplored as a medium.

I’ve created this plugin to test a “choose your own adventure” story in a dashboard widget using a simple switch statement and query strings. I borrowed the story from a Kingdom of Loathing PDF, which can be found here.

Click here to download Kingdom of Loathing: The Home Game: Pirate WordPress Dashboard Widget Edition


Did you know that there was such a thing as corporate chaplains? Before I took this job, I didn’t. For this project, I teamed up with The Eastco Group* to do something I’d honestly never even considered before: build a WordPress site and turn it into a phone app. And then also a database app.

This is one of those projects that’s full of really awesome stuff that you just can’t see. On the face of it, it’s a little reference tool that displays the contact information of assigned chaplains by code number, and it remembers your code for the next time you need to reference it. This site also automatically updates it’s listings from a remote database and writes it’s own reports. It also features a heavily-modified backend so that a user can make updates by hand and context-appropriate database information and it’s just one of those sites where just about everything got touched. The front end is kind of ridiculously simple, but to make that go required crazy complex stuff.

*:  They got the client, came up with the crazy idea, implemented the design, and ported the whole thing to mobile. Basically they got to do all the sexy stuff and I got to write code.


SmartBlogs, the bloggy little brother of the venerable newsletter company SmartBrief, ran their sites on an absolutely enormous WordPress Multisite install. Being that SmartBlogs is essentially a very successful experiment, they’ve been working slightly seat-of-the-pantsy for the last few years. When Editor Doris Nhan contacted me, she needed a geek to go in and address the handful of bugs that had crept into the site that, on their own, were relatively minor, but had managed to scale in size with the rest of the site. Fixes for this site ran the gamut from finding unclosed tags in the loop to hacking core to introduce novel, if subtle, new features in WordPress thumbnail processing.

That was fun, but the real excitement came when they wanted to completely restructure the entire site, and go backwards from a Multisite to a single WordPress install. This required a bunch of things: several weeks of building an entirely new database by hand so as to preserve all of the data, meta-data relationships, and authors, building a location-aware theme to deliver different branding based on subject, exhaustively reprogramming all of their advertising code, and building a fleet of custom widget plugins to display all the new data we liberated for them.

“A great weight was lifted off my shoulders since I started working with Meredith. She is incredibly flexible, reliable and professional — I couldn’t have asked for better. Mer goes above and beyond what I would have expected from a freelance developer to make sure that I’m happy and comfortable with any changes. What would have been an otherwise difficult and stressful redesign process has been a dreamy breeze.” — Doris Nhan