Clark Wimberly released an e-book called Meta Valuables earlier this month, and as the name might suggest it is an introduction to WordPress meta data. At 45 pages and a $2-or-what-you-wish price point, it really feels a bit like buying a chapter out of a larger book introducing WordPress development methods.
And if a chapter introducing WordPress meta data functions sounds like fun to you, you’re in pretty good hands with Meta Valuables.
Wimberly developed the book for a class on meta data he taught, and as such it reads like you might expect: brief bits of instruction followed by examples and suggestions for how to use the functions. The book expects a bit more of a 201 developer than a 101, which is probably perfect given the number of learning WordPress developers out there that are comfortable editing template files and assembling their own functions.
Wimberly jumps in right away with code examples and practical use cases for meta data. You only have to bear a single Hello world! example before you’re into the good and more practical stuff.
There are three great examples in Wimberly’s book that, if you’re anything like me, will get you excited thinking about other possibilities.
One such example shows how to use user meta to track and display a user’s favorite posts. Wimberly doesn’t go further than giving the basics on updating the favorites and then displaying them, but for the learning developer interested in building a favorite posts plugin that’s just so, it’s a killer start.
I also enjoyed his example of using meta data within a shortcode to track the use of said shortcode and make each post query-able without the need for extra taxonomies. I’d say it’s a clever way to avoid using an additional taxonomy — and that’s coming from someone who loves using custom taxonomies.
Another example shows how to use post meta to track and query posts with more than a certain number of comments, which Wimberly says he prefers to looking up post comment counts every time he wants to display “popular posts”.
As someone who falls somewhere between “familiar” and “a master” on the meta data knowledge scale (of course that’s a thing!) each of these examples were interesting and gave me my own ideas to try out.
Keep in mind, though: Wimberly’s intent in Meta Valuables isn’t to walk you through creating a complete meta data driven app using WordPress. It’s just meant to get you excited and show you where to go and play next.
One thing not really covered in the book is the relative baggage that too many meta data inputs and options can add to the user experience and whether to consider that when adding meta data. User experience is a bit outside the scope of this book, though Wimberly does recommend using the custom meta box library by Jared Atchison, Bill Erickson, and Andrew Norcross, which is probably the best way to go for those with heavy meta data needs.[ref]I can get pretty hung up on UI/UX stuff, for better or worse, so I couldn’t help but think of that stuff when reading through the book.[/ref]
Instead of exhausting all the possibilities you could explore with meta data, this book will whet your appetite for more. When you finish you’ll likely have a couple of very actionable ideas that you can put to work immediately, with a curious mind for more.
And really, what more can you ask from any book?
I completed this review using a copy provided by Mr. Wimberly, though I plan on heading over and sending him $5 for the pleasure of reading it as soon I publish this review. I suggest you do the same.