Making WordPress work for me

WordpressThe wide variety of plugins available for WordPress is what sold me on the application. If WordPress doesn’t do something you’d expect it to do, there’s probably a plugin available to fill the void. On my site, I use several plugins to keep things running smoothly or to add functionality not present in a core-install of WordPress.

(I’m hoping that all of the links below work. If you happen to come across one that doesn’t resolve, please let me know!)

  • Akismet 2.0.2 – This plugin checks comments against the Akismet web service to see whether it’s spam or not. This plugin alone has stopped over 24,000 spam comments from appearing on my site. It’s worth it’s weight in gold. If not for Akismet, I probably would have turned comments off a long time ago.
  • Bannage 0.2 – This plugin lets me ban commenters by IP address, username, email address or by the URI they use in comments. I don’t use it often, but it’s come in handy a couple of times.
  • Download Counter 1.2 – I recently added this plugin to keep track of how many folks were downloading the WordPress theme I posted. You can use it to keep track of any file on your site that you’re offering for download.
  • Google Sitemaps 2.7.1 – This plugin automatically generates a Google-compliant sitemap of your site. You can even specify pages that exist outside of your WordPress install. (The sitemap.xml file it generates is also compatible with MSN Search and Yahoo, but doesn’t currently notify either of those services when the sitemap file is updated.)
  • Gravatar 1.1 – If commenters have a Gravatar account, their globally-recognized avatar is displayed next to comments they make here on my site (and on others that support gravatar).
  • HP Blog Printing 1.0.8 – This plugin gives users the option to print multiple posts into a convenient, easy-to-read PDF. (To be honest, I don’t know if it’s used much on the site but I’ve kept it activated regardless.)
  • Live Comment Preview 1.7 – This plugin lets commenters see what their comment will look like as they are typing. I’ve found this feature useful on other sites, and thought it would make commenting more user-friendly.
  • Ma.gnolia 1.0 – This plugin outputs a list of my most recent Ma.gnolia bookmarks. You can view these on my links page.
  • Official Comments 1.1 – This plugin let’s me stylize comments that I make differently than regular comments posted on the site.
  • Related Posts 2.04 – Returns a list of posts and pages relevant to the current post you’re on. I’ve found this plugin works great and directing traffic to other articles on my site that are similar to posts people have found via search engines.
  • Spam Karma 2.3 rc1-2 – Coupled with Akismet, spam is a thing of the past for me. I’ve only had a few problems with false positives, but it otherwise works great!
  • Subscribe to Comments 2.1.1 – Lets commenters subscribe to a discussion thread, so that if new comments are made, they have a visual cue (email) that invites them back into the discussion. If you want return visitors, I think this plugin is a quick and easy way to ensure people come back to your site.
  • WordPress Database Backup 1.8 – Invaluable plugin. I use it before I upgrade to the latest and greatest version of WordPress.
  • WP Audioscrobbler 0.35 Beta – This plugin lists my most recently scrobbled tracks from Last.fm.
  • WP Movie Ratings 1.4 – Powers my movie page, where I keep track of movies I’ve watched recently. (The list is far from complete.)

Other plugins that I have used in the past (or an ad hoc basis) include:

  • Admin Theme Preview 2.0 – This allows administrators to test out new themes without effecting what front-end users see in their browser. I usually leave this disabled unless I am testing out a new design.
  • Anti-Leech 1.6 – This plugin helps prevent scrapers from stealing content and bandwidth. I’ve used this plugin off and for a while now. It works well, but I tend to deal with scraping on an individual basis. Many of the other plugins I use on a day-to-day basis make using this one redundant.
  • Bad Behavior 2.0.10 – Denies spambot attempts at accessing your site. I love this plugin, but currently have it disabled, because it causes connection problems with the new Windows Live Writer beta.
  • Tiger Style Administration 3.0 – Steve Smith’s Tiger Style Admin puts a beautiful, app-like face on the WordPress backend. The only reason I don’t use it is because it’s not fully compatible with WordPress 2.2+, and Steve has no plans to updated the plugin any longer.

If you’re looking to add additional functionality to your WordPress site, definitely check out the WordPress Plugin Directory. The plugins I use only scratch the surface of what’s currently available. Because of the extensibility of WordPress, developers are creating new ways to use this powerful blogging platform in different and creative ways.

But enough about my plugins. What sort of plugins are you using on your site?

Open Social Web

Open Social Web: A Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web. (ht: StevenRay) Seems like common sense to me, but many of the social networks succeed because they are closed systems. I agree with data portability, but doubt many – if any – of the social networks would acquiesce with any of these demands. Companies like Facebook are social networks, yes, but we have to remember that they’re primarily in it for the marketing/advertising opportunities the data in their network presents.

Tags in WordPress 2.3

WordPress 2.3 introduces a new feature to the popular blog platform: tagging. Sure, you’ve been able to do it with plugins like Ultimate Tag Warrior in the past, but WordPress’ built-in tag system is simple, unobtrusive, and easy to use.

In order to get tags to display on individual posts, we’ll use the_tags.

<?php the_tags('before', 'separator', 'after'); ?>

Here’s how I currently have things setup:

<?php the_tags( 'Tags: ', ', ', ''); ?>

This gives me something like this at the bottom of each post that has tags:

Tags: Tag 1, Tag 2, Tag 3

Another new tagging feature in WordPress 2.3 is the introduction of wp_tag_cloud. The tag cloud takes all of your tags and displays them based on how much you use them on your site. You can see a live example of it on my archives page. To get the tag cloud on your site, you’ll use the following syntax in one of your templates:

<?php wp_tag_cloud(??); ?>

Where might you display the tag cloud? Well, you could put it in your sidebar, but I am not sure how system-intensive generating it is… I’d recommend creating a stand-alone page for it, or limiting the use of it on key pages only.

Nanideska

This coming weekend I’ll be releasing my second WordPress theme: Nanideska. Nanideska is a two-column theme based on the design I previously had here at cdharrison.com. I was thinking I had a screen capture of it somewhere, but searches through my archives on flickr didn’t yield any results. The following capture/Photoshop image should give you a general idea as to what to expect:

nanideska

Look for Nanideska to drop sometime soon.