Eoin Ó Conchúir

Declan O’Rourke is an Artist

He’s an Artist (not just an artist).

We went to see Declan O’Rourke, a singer/song writer, at a Christmastime concert. I was expecting a mix of old songs and possibly new songs. An “intimate” show without a theme.

It turned out to be very different: the concert was a storytelling of the Famine. He mixed songs about the Famine, with stories in between the performances. He was obviously engrossed in the subject, had deep opinions on it and was moved by it. He was accompanied by a good handful of renowned musicians.

He could have done yet another tour, but instead he created something new, different. As Seth Godin would say, it was something that could have failed, and that gives an indication that it’s something possibly worthwhile doing. He chose to continue to be an Artist, not just an artist.

Declan has an LP that I also heartily recommend. We bought it after that same gig. It’s called “In Full Colour”, and had what looked like a best-of list of his songs. It turned out that the album was something different again: a two-record collection of his songs, backed by an orchestra. (To be honest, this doesn’t always work for all of his songs, but again it’s a sign of exploring something different.)

I’ll leave you with one of his recordings:

Look around
Take a good look around

Someday this will all be gone
You and I’ll be gone
Everything we’ve ever known
Long gone
But how unique this moment is
How rare and precious all this is
It seems we only have just this
So why hang on?

Let’s you and I
Not waste one breath
Not wait around
For old age and death
Let’s do this thing
Let’s take a swing
Let’s make big love

Declan O’Rourke (feat. John Prine & The Milk Spots) – Let’s Make Big Love

Story of writing a custom VueJS audio button for WordPress Gutenberg

It may not seem like it, but this audio button (screenshot below) took quite a bit of time to get working:

VueJS audio button
Audio button developed for Bitesize Irish. Written in Vue. Test it out.

The button is a custom Gutenberg editor “block” I wrote. That means we can feature any of the thousands of audio recordings we have on Bitesize by specifying it ID when writing a post (or lesson).

Gutenberg is the default editor for WordPress. You build your page up through “blocks”. A block can be a heading, a paragraph, or something a little more complex like an image with a caption.

Gutenberg allows developers to create custom blocks. So between your paragraphs you can have your own block (let’s say you’re a property listing site, then you might invest into developing a block that features a specific property).

The editing view

The view of the audio button when writing a post in WordPress.

Let’s say I’m writing a blog post. I write a paragraph, but then I insert our custom audio button block. It asks me for a “Sound ID” (which I have to get manually from another page). That’s all that’s being stored in WordPress: the Sound ID I want the audio button to play when someone views the page.

The mechanism I used for this custom block was the Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) plugin for WordPress, which allows you to create custom Gutenberg blocks.

That’s the storage of an ID field, but how do you get it to load the audio info and show a play button?

The VueJS audio button

I had already separately developed the audio button for Bitesize Irish quizzes. It was a real treat to develop it in Vue (I love the simplicity of Vue).

With the ACF custom block (see above), you get to define what the block outputs to the browser. So each audio button is its own little instance of VueJS. The ACF block outputs a custom element <bitesize-audio-button> and creates a Vue instance on that element.

The Bitesize audio button written in VueJS is responsible for:

  • Defining the HTML template of the audio button itself
  • Making a request to the sounds API, given the sound ID, to get the Irish language, English translation, and phonetic pronunciation of this phrase
  • Making an “new Audio()” instance, loading in the MP3
  • Playing/stopping the audio for the user

I had to also edit the theme, so that the audio button’s script file and CSS file are loaded once per page.

Back to the learner

This is all in the goal of helping people learn and speak the Irish language. With this audio button, we’ll be able to develop rich lessons right in WordPress, with the ultimate goal of having a full program covering lessons and a community.

Principle of fixing the leak first

There was a software bug tracking system I found that was based on the principle of “fix the leak first”.

Their thesis was this: if your building is flooded, it makes sense to first fix the leak, and only then go about solving how to recover your building.

In software, your system software has many bugs, possibly hundreds of known bugs. First fix the new incoming bugs (fix any new bugs before moving on with other work). When this is stable, you can go about fixing existing bugs.

The approach would seem to work when you’re not being overwhelmed with a deluge of new incoming bugs/problems/issues.

I’ve attacked several inboxes on this approach lately, and it seems to work alright (it’s better than having no approach at all).

You can do the same with a full sink of dishes: first start by not introducing any new dirty dishes, clean them as you go.