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Archive for January, 2009

WordPress Weekly Episode 40: Live Tonight at 8pm EST

For those of you that can’t get enough of WordPress, I suggest you check out WordPress Weekly, a great podcast hosted by Jeff Chandler and currently co-hosted by Canadian, Keith Murray as they talk about all things WordPress.

Tonight, at 8pm EST, if you head on over to Talkshoe, you can listen live and actually interact with the podcast. Have a WordPress question, you can ask it in the live chat, or call in and have your say. It is a very cool system. Jeff and I use it for PerfCast each week as well, and when people interact with us, it makes the show and experience a thousand times better.

WordPress Weekly is a weekly oriented podcast that takes place every Friday evening at 8PM EST on Talkshoe.com. The format of the show will remain close to what it has been in the past. The co-host and I will discuss the WordPress news of the week. This could be plugin updates, releases, themes, version releases, development updates, a tutorial written by someone in the community, could be anything as long as it relates to WordPress. At the end of each show, Keith and I will give out our plugin of the week. This plugin is picked individually by us and is tested prior to the show.

I am aiming for a relaxing atmosphere where WordPress Users can gather around for 1 hour every Friday evening and discuss the latest happenings with everything WordPress. You could almost consider the show a virtual WordCamp.

So, if you have the time, please check out WordPress Weekly and celebrate their 40th episode tonight.

Categories: Podcasting News, WordPress News

Which Applications Do You Use?

Recently, the subject of applications relating to blogging, development, and more have come across my desk more than once.

The first was my own attempt at writing a free college software guide on College Crunch which then was noticed by Online College which built upon the list, adding more things that students (but really anyone) could and should use.

Then, I found another great post, on noupe, one of the blogs I frequent, relating to Mac Applications for Web Designers, and so the question then is, what do you all use as a blogger? I don’t just mean blogging software, but Twitter applications, day to day software. What is installed on your computer that you rarely go a day without launching? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to mention which operating system you use, and please no OS snobs.

Categories: Blog Software, Interesting

Lacking StumbleUpon Traffic? Here’s Why

Over on Website Host Reviews Firewall blog, they’ve written out a great little article relating to StumbleUpon, and why you might not being seeing any traffic from the traffic pushing community.

It covers voting practices and trends, being banned, and how to avoid being banned. With each section broken down into the basic ideas, it sounds simple enough, but remember, attempting to “game” or influence traffic and voting patterns can almost always lead to having your account negatively effected. That might not mean banning, but instead, just a lack of power when it comes to voting.

Here is one of the reasons why you might not be getting traffic:

Self-serving. If you’re submitting your own articles and nothing else, then you’re over promoting yourself, which SU frowns on. It’s not very sociable.

If you enjoy StumbleUpon and the traffic it provides, your best bet is to write great articles, and learn the demographic of the users within the site. Check out Why Isn’t Stumbleupon Sending My Site Any Web Traffic? on Website Host Reviews.

And as always, feel free to submit any of the posts from Blogging Pro to StumbleUpon. I won’t mind.

Categories: Blogging Tips

Redesign Blogging Pro?

I am thinking about getting a redesign of Blogging Pro done. We’ve been using this theme for over a year now, and I think it is starting to show its age, especially since we’ve given the theme out for free for nearly a year as well.

I was trying to think about the pro’s and con’s of redesigning this blog, and stumbled upon a great article relating to blog redesigns on Blog Design Blog from October, 2008, entitled, The Secret to a Great Blog Redesign.

Making visual changes just for the sake of change itself will result in a prettier blog, but that does not necessarily mean a better blog. You can actually make it worst if your redesign is not built with your goals in mind. You can’t hit a target you cannot see.

Just like social media and SEO, your blog design is a tool, a means to an end and not the end in itself. Reassess your goals and allow them to guide your decisions when redesigning your blog.

I definitely think that Blogging Pro needs a redesign for both making functionality and form better. Either way, the future of this blog requires at least a strong refinement in goals and direction. In fact, as we go forward, we have a fork in the road to figure out with the site: do we focus purely on WordPress or try to bring real diversity in regards to platforms at Blogging Pro?

The audience here is very WordPress-centric, and this has made exploring outside subjects, frustrating at best. When you have a captive audience, you’d rather not frustrate them for fear of loosing it, but this site isn’t WordPress Pro, it is Blogging Pro. Of course I don’t see myself taking on the role of telling you how to format your words, gain links, and whatnot, but instead, I enjoy pointing out tips, tricks, and giving the occasional advice on blogging from the more technical side. I love talking about the themes, plugins, and growth of an industry surrounding bloggers and catering to their needs.

Anyways, with all of that being said I’d love to know if you think Blogging Pro needs a redesign, and if so, should it focus more around delivering great WordPress content, or would you like to see it talk about many platforms? Your comments will help decide the fate of this site, and I don’t take the time and energy you spend letting me know your thoughts lightly.

Categories: BloggingPro News

Secure Your WordPress Admin

I don’t know how much credence I give to the idea that WordPress is inherently insecure by default, but I do understand that people want to take steps to further protect their blogs. Smashing Magazine has put up an article relating to securing your WordPress admin, and while this won’t make your blog secure if you are making other security mistakes, it can be a great last step in a comprehensive security audit.

Here is one of their ten tips:

Choose strong passwords
Our recommendation for a secure WordPress password is that it be at least seven characters long and include uppercase and lowercase characters, numbers and symbols such as ! ” ? $ % ^ & ).

If you are worried about your blog, and want to take as many precautions as possible to maximize your protection from intruders, I’d suggest enacting at least five out of the ten items on this list and look for more security related posts to help control every entry point into your WordPress blog.

Categories: WordPress Plugins, WordPress Tips, WordPress Tutorials

Speed Up Your WordPress Theme

NetTUTS have put up a great post on speeding up a website, but you could easily translate that into speeding up your WordPress blog. While these might not increase your speed like caching or anything else like that, it is still a very useful guide for compressing images, CSS, and finding errors.

If perfomance is paramount for your website, I strongly suggest that you consider compressing your CSS and Javascript files just before deployment. Don’t bother doing it at the beginning of your development. It’ll only cause more frustration than help. However, once the bow has been tied, compress those babies up.

We’ve talked about compressing CSS before on Blogging Pro in a post entitled, CSS Optimization: Make Your Sites Load Faster for Free.

I am really interested in the the section on using libraries and frameworks as I’ve been hearing more and more about people using them to speed up their development time, or require less code, through use of libraries written by other people.

If you are interested in speeding up your blog, or the theme you are going to release, I’d recommend checking out the post on NetTuts.

Categories: Blog Design, WordPress Themes

College Crunch: WordPress as a CMS

For the last few months, I have been working on College Crunch, a site devoted to online colleges, college life, and more.

When we started the project, I knew it was going to be large in the number of pages and whatnot it used, but we decided to go with WordPress because it was a platform we knew well. Installing the blog, getting some plugins set up, and having a designer make it all look pretty was easy, actually using WordPress on a day to day basis has had some drawbacks.

Managing Pages

When you have hundreds of pages and posts, set up in WordPress it can become annoying to manage. Slowly wading through the pages, or trying to search out what you want can be frustrating. The page management feels incomplete. Also, moving many pages from being a sub-page set in one area to being a sub-page set in another area feels awkward.

I have tried out numerous page management plugins, but they have either caused errors, or left something to be desired.

Listing out Sub Pages

As I created more and more pages, I needed to list them out, and doing the xhtml link for each page I added was a pain. I had to install Exec-PHP to allow me to add some PHP to the pages, and using built-in WordPress functions, I was able to automate the process.

The code I used to list out child pages:

    < ?php
    global $id;
    wp_list_pages("title_li=&child_of=$id&show_date=modified
    &date_format=$date_format&sort_column=post_title"); ?>

Blog Posts are Less Important

Blog posts are only a small piece of the site. We knew we wanted to have a blog section, and that it was really going to be used to drive traffic and links, more than comments and community, but we left comments open and moved the blog section to the College Crunch Gazette. This left us able to use the front page for a variety of things.

We highlighted the blog posts pretty heavily on the front page, though only a percentage of our visitors come from the front page anyways.

Post Images

Each one of our blog posts have an image attached to them so that on the front page we can use the Post Image plugin to highlight posts in an effective way. The posts that don’t have an image automatically show a graduation cap image on the front page. This has been great at drawing attention, but looks bad if the trend is to not include an image, as I am bad for not doing.

Search

I am not a fan of WordPress’ built-in search, and even after taking some ideas from Joost de Valk’s make search suck less post, I am still not happy with the type of results it gives. I might push for us to switch to Google’s Custom Search, and integrate it as best as we can into the design of the site.

Conclusion

WordPress is very malleable, which is great, but it doesn’t come with very many, or very well thought out CMS features and that has been more than a little frustrating.

Sure, we could have gone with another platform to run the site, but that would have meant a learning curve, and learning curves slow down site development and launching. I really hope that more people take the time and energy to develop plugins for WordPress that will allow it to act more like a CMS, and that College Crunch will be able to continue without too much frustration until they exist.

Categories: WordPress Tips, WordPress Tools

CSS Sticky Footer – Design Helper

If you have had issues creating a footer that hangs at the bottom of the page, no matter how short or long the content above it is, then check out this new CSS Sticky Footer method.

The advantage of this method over previous methods is that it doesn’t require an extra “push” div to get it down there, and it also works with most major web browsers.

This sticky footer solution is working in all major browsers, including Google Chrome!. It works with floated 2-column layouts and we don’t get overlap in resized browser windows unlike older solutions you find when you Google sticky footer. And you don’t need an empty push div.

If your visitors are browsing your blog using IE 4 through 8, or older versions of Firefox, they’ll still see the proper effect. Being able to support almost all of the major web browsers today, while needing fairly semantic code, makes CSS Sticky Footer an interesting piece of code to use on any project necessary.

I expect to see some WordPress themes taking advantage of this code soon.

Categories: Blog Design

WordPress’ Conception – It’s Now 6 Years Old!

WordPress was conceived six years and two days ago on Matt Mullenweg’s blog. Many celebrate its first release which was in May, but Matt and Mike Little recently posted about the creation of WordPress, and called the May date its birthday, and January 25th its conception date.

Sure, there are many jokes that can be made about that, but WordPress has come a long way since its first version. I started using it when version 0.72 came out, and it was already a very well thought out, feature filled, easy to use piece of blogging software.

Of course, people must also take time to remember that WordPress really is just a fork of b2, which means it has a longer lineage than just the six years that have been put into it under the WordPress name and code base.

Kudos to anyone and everyone that has added code, time, or energy to WordPress or its community.

Categories: WordPress News

WordPress Plugins and jQuery

One of my favourite blogs, noupe, has a great resource post up about various plugins that use jQuery, and the cool things that they can do.

jQuery is ideal because it can create impressive animations and interactions while being simple to understand and easy to use. WordPress awesomeness lies in its fact that it can be customized to power any type of site you like! But what happens when you combine the power of jQuery with WordPress, the possibilities are infinite.

The list is comprised of twenty-six items ranging from simple Lightbox effects to cool endless scrolling and image sliders.

While I hope people don’t go too crazy adding in all of these effects, using one or two to highlight certain things, or provide a better use experience is always a nice idea.

One that I am very interested in implementing on some of my sites is the SimpleModal Contact Form which does a modal window (like Lightbox) over top of the blog, allowing people to contact you without going to a separate contact form page.

Categories: WordPress Plugins

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