Tag Archives: Plugins

Building a powerful social network with WordPress

WordPress is many things.  A blogging tool, a business tool, a constituent relationship manager (CRM), a community gathering place, even a social networking platform.  With the right plugins and powerful theme, WordPress can be given the tools to create a social networking platform that rivals the big boys.

Why build a social networking platform on WordPress?  There are lots of good answers to this question.  Not the least of which is the WordPress platform is one of the simplest, fastest and most secure platforms on which to build.  Additionally, WordPress comes to you lean and clean, without unnecessary add-ons.  (This is why I switched away from Joomla! years ago).  With WordPress, you can pick and choose the features you need, and leave the rest.  But I’m preaching to the choir here, aren’t I?

When building a social network on WordPress, you have several choices.

The all-in-one solution: BuddyPress

buddypress

BuddyPress is a ready made collection of plugins that were built to work together.  The BuddyPress core enables the individual plugins and thus, is required.  Every other option is up to you.  The latest version is 1.7, released April 8th, 2013.  Known as “Totonno”, BuddyPress 1.7 brings some cool new features to the old BuddyPress.  The full feature list is available on the official Codex, but here are some of my favorite new and old features:

  • BuddyPress can now work seamlessly with almost any WordPress theme.  Previously, a WordPress admin would have to find a BuddyPress compatible theme, that problem is no more.
  • Rich group administration makes it easier to manage subgroups within your WordPress social network.
  • Installation is now much easier.  Previous versions of BuddyPress required quite a few steps for the admin, now the whole thing is automatic.  Suh-weet.

The options

BuddyPress has the capability to offer the following features for a social networking site:

  • Rich user registration
  • Customizable user profiles
  • Messages between users
  • Connectability between users (think Facebook friend function)
  • Full integration with bbPress, the forum designed by the creators of WordPress
  • User blogs, each user can write their own blog
  • And lots more with plugins for BuddyPress

Themes

BuddyPress also comes with a small collection of theme designers that are striving to make WordPress themes specifically for BuddyPress sites.  I’ve found the free stuff to not be worth it, but the premium BuddyPress themes at ThemeForest are really nice.  With Totonno, you can also use any other WordPress theme you love.

The analysis

BuddyPress seems to be the oldest project that adds social networking functionality to WordPress.  Age doesn’t guarantee the top choice, but it does lend itself to a more comprehensive solution.  But there are others you should consider before making a choice.

The minimalist solution: WP Mingle

wpmingle

The options

Mingle is newer and smaller, but has real promise.  It offers many of the core features of BuddyPress, with a vibrant community as well.  Features include:

  • User profiles
  • Friending between users
  • Profile posting and commenting
  • Member directory
  • Email notifications

WPMingle is very simple with a smaller but vibrant community of developers building plugins to support it.  It seems to be mainly supported by the primary developer, Blair Williams.  Blair is the genious behind Pretty Link, a heavily used WordPress link redirect and cloaking plugin.

Plugins developed for WPMingle include integration with AWeber, a forum, donation button and friend request widget.

Themes

Blair recommends Thesis Theme, because WPMingle has not been tested or developed to work with everything.  A serious drawback, but the theme shouldn’t be your only parameter when choosing a WordPress social networking option.

The Analysis

WP Mingle would be better if you just need the features listed above.  If you are looking to build a truly powerful social network, consider going with BuddyPress.  With any larger, more comprehensive plugin, you may loose some flexibility with customizations.

What did I miss?  Please comment below to make this article even better!

Must Have WordPress Plugins for 2011

I build a lot of WordPress sites and these are, in my opinion, the must-have WordPress plugins for 2011.  I start almost every new WordPress install with these plugins, even if I don’t have a specific intention for them all at the time of development.  If for no other reason, these WordPress plugins will make your websites function at a top-notch level in 2011.

Jetpack WordPress plugin for 2011

Jetpack is a compilation of handy features for any WordPress installation.  It includes Gravatar Hovercards, WordPress stats (available as a standalone plugin), Twitter Widget, wp.me shortlinks, Sharedaddy social sharing plugin, and Shortcode Embeds.

jetpack wordpress plugin for 2011

Usernoise Contact Form WordPress plugin for 2011

Usernoise is an absolute must.  It is the easiest, smallest and best-looking contact form plugin available for WordPress.  It is super-simple to setup, but that means there’s not a lot of customization options.  Usernoise Plugin ads a floating “feedback” image on the side of your site, that when clicked, created a slick AJAX powered overlay contact form.

usernoise wordpress plugin for 2011

Donation Can WordPress plugin for 2011

Donation Can creates a widget that accepts both set and custom donations via Paypal.  It works magically, letting you choose fundraising goals like “Pay for our server costs” or whatever you’d like.  Set weekly, monthly goals, anything really.  Perfect for kickstarting your WordPress website development.

donation can wordpress plugin for 2011

Password Protect WordPress Plugin for 2011

Password Protect plugin is essential for development, especially if you’ve got a great idea that you don’t want stolen.  Make sure your WordPress install is not indexable by search engines, then install this plugin.  It will only show the front end to logged in users, ie: you.  You can even set a custom message to users who try and view your site.

password protect wordpress plugin

Facebook Traffic Pop WordPress Plugin

This plugin creates a floating Facebook like box that utilizes jQuery overlay to catch visitors for a set period of time.  They can either “like” you or wait for it to fade away.  This is a great, albeit pushy technique to increase your social networking presence.

facebook traffic pop plugin

Foobar Announcement Bar WordPress Plugin for 2011

This plugin expertly mimics the HelloBar which is a free but branded dropdown bar at the top of your page.  HelloBar limits what you can place in their bar, and asks for $25/monthly to unlock the best features.  That’s pretty steep, especially when this plugin only costs $9 once at CodeCanyon.

foobar wordpress plugin 2011

Google +1 WordPress Plugin for 2011

Despite how you feel about Google’s foray into social networking, savvy webmasters will need to adopt Google +1 as the next wave of content sharing.  This plugin is free, in the WordPress plugin directory and gives you tons of flexibility to choose how the button is displayed next to your content.

google plus 1 wordpress plugin

10 Obscure But Handy WordPress Plugins

Where do you go to find helpful plugins?  I click “Plugins > Add New” from the dashboard.  That’s great for ease-of-use.  However, that database is limited to GNU/GPL licensed plugins accepted into the WordPress database.

These plugins are all not in the WordPress Plugin database and therefore, are not easily found.  Despite their obscurity, they offer some great services to the WordPress admin.

White Label WordPress Branding Plugin

Replace the WP logo from the login screen and dashboard to rebrand WordPress for your clients.

Like/Unlike Posts

Powered by WizyLike, this plugin adds a like/unlike functionality to each post.  Perfect for a community news site.

Font Replacement

Substitutes standard fonts with one of over 30 Cufon and Google Fonts.  Cufon is all the rage, take advantage of it with this killer plugin.

WP Geo Tagger

Integrate Google Maps by adding location information to posts.  This is an excellent option for community or event blogs.

Paypal File Download

Allows you to easily set up pay-per-download files.  I’ve tried to set this up before and this plugin would have been really nice to have back then.

Sliding Contact Form

Creates a slick, sliding contact form on any WordPress page.

Word and Phrase Spinner

Generates new content from existing stuff to prevent duplicate content issues with search engines.

Font Uploader

For those without HTML or CSS knowledge, this plugin allows you to upload your own fonts and apply them to any section of your site.

Social Pop

Allows for the easy insertion of 26 social bookmarking and sharing links below the content area of WordPress.

Search and Replace

This handy plugin lets you search for text and automatically replace with something else.  Can be used for text or links (read: automatic affiliate link conversion)

Click the image to check out any of these plugins.

jQuery Powered Sticky Footer Plugin

In a recent post, we hinted at the development of an exclusive jQuery powered WordPress Plugin. Today is the day! We have released the brand new, completely unique WordPress Constant Footer Plugin.

It uses a jQuery plugin combined with the simplicity of a WordPress plugin to create a super-simple sticky footer. The footer sticks to the bottom of the browser window regardless of how/where the user scrolls.

Complete with an easy-to-use dashboard settings page, the WP admin can change the opacity, color and height of the footer. Utilizing a slick fade-in effect, the plugin allows any HTML to be entered by the admin and displayed to the public.

Use the plugin to:

  • Showcase new content
  • Display site news
  • Encourage Twitter, RSS or other social media following
  • Offer premium, unique advertising space
  • Flag user attention for breaking news
  • And anything else you come up with!
  • (Tell us how you’re using the plugin in the comments belows)

The plugin is completely free, although donations are much appreciated.  Here are some helpful links:

Plugin Homepage | Demo | Documentation

Inclusion in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory is pending.  Until then, you can download the plugin from the homepage or by clicking here.

This plugin was developed by Pingable.org and released to our community of readers first.  We like you that much!  As with any new plugin, be patient as we work out any bugs.

Here are some screenshots:

Sticky Constant Footer PluginSticky Constant Footer Plugin

31 Great WordPress jQuery Resources

I have been spending a lot of time recently looking into WordPress and jQuery.  jQuery is a Javascript library built to create some amazing user experiences.  I found some amazing information in my searches so I decided to share them with the Pingable community.  (pssst. Stay tuned for a cool jQuery/WordPress related announcement from Pingable)

Simply put, jQuery is a Javascript library that allows web designers to create some neat effects.  For some cool examples of what jQuery can do, check out this site.

Mostly, jQuery is used to overlay elements in a manner that had never previously been possible.  When you see a nice Lightbox effect when viewing an image, it is most likely a jQuery effect.

However, jQuery and WordPress don’t always play nicely together.  Although you can load the jQuery library with one simple line of code in the header.php file:

<?php wp_enqueue_script("jquery"); ?>

Make sure this tag goes before the wp_head tag.  You can load the jQuery library using the wp_enqeue tag.  Read the Codex documentation on this before moving forward.  Also read digwp’s opinion on the matter.

it can sometimes conflict with other plugins or themes.

Without further delay, here are some excellent resources, tutorials and plugins for incorporating jQuery into WordPress.

WordPress jQuery Plugins

  1. jQuery Lightbox
  2. WP Wall
  3. jQuery Comment PreviewComment Preview jQuery Plugin
  4. Simple Modal Contact FormSimple Modal Contact Form jQuery
  5. Shockingly Big IE6 Warning
  6. WordPress Tabs using jQuery
  7. Reply to comment feature
  8. Featured post slideshow
  9. jQuery Form Validation
  10. Overlayed Login Form
  11. Tweet Blender
  12. Tweet Blender

  13. OpenID Commenting
  14. Infinite Scrolling (no pagination)
  15. Image Drop Shadows
  16. Advanced Search (live AJAX results)
  17. Highlight Search Terms
  18. News Ticker of Posts
  19. Social Bookmarks with jQuery
  20. jQuery Shoutbox
  21. Smooth Tooltips
  22. Create slick data tables
  23. Small, overlay messages
  24. Polaroid Picture Overlay
  25. Content Slider
  26. jQuery Rotating Image Widget

Resources and Tutorials

  1. jQuery Crash Course
  2. jQuery in 15 minutes
  3. Getting Started with jQuery
  4. Including WordPress and jQuery (the right way)
  5. Using Google (jQuery) libraries
  6. Turning a jQuery plugin into a WordPress plugin

Stay tuned for a cool jQuery related WordPress announcement from Pingable!

20 Great WordPress AJAX Plugins

WordPress is without question, the #1 blogging platform and content management system (CMS) available.  For obvious reasons like simplicity, speed, flexibility.  But what about all those subtle differences that you notice, but can’t quite put your finger on?  It has a lot to do with AJAX or asynchronous JavaScript and XML.  From saving changes to editing content and post tags, AJAX makes it all easier and faster.

In addition to making the admin’s life easier, there are a number of WordPress AJAX Plugins that will help the user experience as well.  Here are 20 of our favorites.

  1. Google AJAX Search – A live search plugin
  2. Tagboard Widget
  3. Gregarious – Social bookmarking plugin
  4. AJAX Shoutbox
  5. Google Pagerank
  6. AJAX Comments No longer available.
  7. Inline AJAX Page Very Cool! – No longer available.
  8. WP-Post Ratings
  9. Google AJAX Translation
  10. AJAX’d WordPress – AJAX site navigation
  11. AJAXed Twitter for WordPress
  12. Formidable – A drag and drop form builder
  13. Contact Form 7 – Super easy contact/other form builder
  14. FAQ Builder
  15. Business Directory – A link directory plugin
  16. Link Library – Another link directory plugin
  17. Comment Rating
  18. Mingle – a complete social networking plugin (profile pages, profile activities, etc.)
  19. AJAX Comment Posting
  20. Pretty Link – Convert affiliate or advertising links to links of your choosing.

Additional Resources

Mini-tutorial: How to add noindex to category pages

This question was asked in the WordPress forum here.  Since nobody had answered Michael at press time, I thought it might be helpful to find the answer and publish it here.

Solution:

Option 1) Use robots.txt to prohibit search engines form indexing a page.  Simply add this to your robots.txt file.  If you don’t have a robots.txt file, simply create one in your go-to text editor.

User-agent: *
Disallow: /category/page-title

These two lines will a) let search engines know this rule applies to all robots and b) tell them they cannot index the page located at “category/page-title”.

Option 2) Use this handy plugin.  The Ultimate Noindex Nofollow Plugin by Jonathan Kemp.  With this plugin you can choose pages that the plugin will identifying as non-indexable in the robots.txt file.  There are many other options with this plugin including adding the rel=”nofollow” tag to various places in your WordPress code.

Option 3) Use a meta tag to order search engines to not index a particular page. The meta tag looks like this:

<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW”>

10 Must Have WordPress Plugins

We have built a ton of WordPress sites. Seriously, hundreds. Maybe thousands. Over time, we have developed a short list of go-to plugins. No matter what kind of WordPress site we’re making (a blog, a community, etc.) we start by downloading the latest version of these plugins. In our humble opinion, their features should be built into the WordPress Core.

Here is our list of must-have WordPress plugins:

  1. Alex King’s 404 Notifier. Ever wonder how many visitors are lost to a 404 page?  Let’s face it, your site URL’s change from time to time, and people incorrectly link to you.  Have the chance to fix that by being notified when a 404 error is received.
  2. Fix Database Plugin. Database errors happen, and they slow down your website’s load time.  This plugin identifies errors and attempts to fix them.
  3. Auto-Hyperlink URLs. This can be a real time saver.  This plugin automatically generates hyperlinks of the URL’s you place in posts.
  4. Google (XML) Sitemaps. What good is your exceptionally informative blog if nobody finds it?  Step one to SEO is making sure the search engines are indexing your content regularly.  Just make sure your robots.txt file is updated accordingly, this plugin does not address this.
  5. Sexy Bookmarks. This is the same plugin we use below our posts. (And they happen to be using the same theme as us).  Super easy to setup with a handy AJAX settings page.
  6. Advanced Exerpt. This is the simplest way to modify what the “get_the_excerpt” template tag generates.  You can change word count and even what html tags are dropped from the excerpt.
  7. Contact Form 7. The most versatile and easy to setup contact form plugin.  It’s a little tricky to figure out the first few times, but once that time has passed, it is super easy to use.
  8. Akismet. Comes pre-installed in WordPress – but you have to set it up before it works.  Saves loads of time by auto-identifying SPAM comments.
  9. Twitter Tools.  The easiest (and most comprehensive) way to integrate your Twitter account and your WordPress blog.
  10. Wibiya.  Read this post about why we love the Wibiya plugin/toolbar.

How To Beat WordPress Spam

In the dark ages, when pigeons delivered the mail or smoke signals were the most efficient form of communication, spam wasn’t a problem. It all started with junk mail in our letter boxes. Piles of advertising that took up space, time and energy. When electronic mail was invented it seemed like maybe we’d beaten the junk mail issue…until even our email inboxes starting filling up with rubbish. In fact, it turned out that it was even easier to spam someone on the net…you didn’t even have to move from your comfy spam-financed office chair. These days they spam you to within a inch of your patience. You get spam on your mobile phone, on your website, and even your WordPress blog.

Why Is WordPress Spam a Problem?

Spam is ugly, and it wastes your time and for a serious blogger, time is at a premium. When you could be creating knew content, reading other blogs, or researching a new article, you are wasting your time, moderating comments, and deleting rubbish. This article will show you how to sort out spam for WordPress.

Default WordPress Spam Fighting Features

WordPress has some built in features which help you deal with spam. These include:

  1. Comment Moderation

    Links are a common feature of spam messages, as most spammers are looking for backlinks to their page. Most legitimate comments will not contain links, so it is a good tactic to set comment moderation to hold all messages that contain links. Even when a legit comment is held because of a link, it is always good to check the links that people are leaving, as legit commenter’s can place uncalled for links to their own sites, especially in do follow blogs.

    Go to the Options > Discussion panel.
    Scroll down to Comment Moderation. Change the value to 1.

    Comment Moderation

  2. Spam Words

    You can add words to be added to the blacklist so comments containing them are pushed into moderation.

  3. Moderate All Comments

    If you have a smaller blog with very few comments you could consider moderating all comments. I have a problem with this as I feel it discourages involvement. A reader makes a comment, then nothing shows up. For all that person knows it’s gone to never be seen again, and unless they check back, they won’t know whether the blog owner approved the comment at all. So in almost all cases, this isn’t a good option.

  4. Disabling comments completely

    If you want to use WordPress as a publishing platform and not a blog, you can easily completely disable comments, which will remove the possibility of comment spam.

  5. Other WordPress Spam Options

    “Pre-approve comments from old commenters” means what is says, people who you have already approved comments for are allowed to leave comments even if you have moderation enabled. “Restrict comments to registered users” is also an option. Although it will help you combat spam, and build a community around your blog, it does discourage comments from those who don’t want to sign up.

WordPress Plug-ins

  • Akismet is the must have spam protection plug-in for WordPress. If you are not using it, you probably should be. It’s a requirement to register at WordPress.org to get an API key used in the system, but for the few seconds it takes you to fill out a form, it is well worth it.

  • reCaptcha is a WordPress plug-in to prevent comment spam using a word verification system.

  • Bad Behavior is a set of PHP scripts which prevents spambots from accessing your site by analyzing their actual HTTP requests and comparing them to profiles from known spambots.

  • Spam Karma is a system that grades comments based on information that it collects. It considers things such as who left the comment, are they a known commenter, does the comment have links, and other factors. If the comment scores well it is published immediately. If the comment scores poorly, it is held for moderation.

Akismet Auntie Script

Akismet Auntie is a Firefox script that makes it easier to browse and sort your Akismet spam box. If you are getting 100’s of spam comments a day, and are a Firefox user then this script will help you out. Basically it makes it easier for you to quickly browse through your spam comments to find any legit comments.

Other Forms of WordPress Spam

Contact Form Spam

The contact form on your WordPress blog can also be a target for spammers. If you find that you constantly getting spam from your contact form consider using one that has verification or challenge question on it.

Referral Spam

Bloggers tend to check their statistics to see which sites are referring traffic to them. Referral spam creates an entry in your statistics that shows the spammer’s site as the refer. The idea is that the blogger will then visit the spammers site to see what has been referring traffic.

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Launching a New Blog

As this blog is very new, I would like to share some of the start up knowledge that I have learnt, or wish that I had thought before I began. 21 Surefire Tips for a Successful Blog Launch is also a very good article if you are thinking of starting a new blog and are looking for some advice.

Before launch

Get at least 5 posts ready

You really don’t want to launch a new blog with less than 5 posts. So you really need to get writing and and get some good content ready. If you have another blog, that has the odd post that relates to the topic of your new blog you could export those into the new blog.

Familiarize yourself with your blogging platform

Make sure you are comfortable with how things work, for example: how you send a track back, what your RSS feed is and how it works, how commenting is set up and how to write posts etc.

Make sure RSS is available

As a new blogger your main target for readers will be other bloggers. Bloggers use RSS readers to track other blogs. You need an RSS feed set up before you begin. Setting up a feed burner feed is the best option as it adds all sorts of extras which allow you to promote your feed, and all sorts of statistics which enable you to track the progress of your feed.

Select a theme

First impressions last, you want your blog theme to be appropriate for your intended target audience, and you also want to consider usability. Pick a theme that suits your needs then stick with it. You want people to remember your blog, and you don’t want returning visitor to be confused about whether they have visited before. The odd tweak is fine, I know I like to play with presentation, but don’t change the overall look.

Plug-ins and extras

Install all the necessary plug-ins. For a good list of some options you should consider looking at: Top 30 WordPress plugins

Everything else

For a complete check list to look through after you have installed WordPress check out: WordPress – Complete post install guide. For other blogging platforms there are similar tasks which need to be worked through, however I won’t go into detail as I highly suggest that you use WordPress as your blogging platform.

After Launch

Share your best posts

Share your best posts on social media and bookmarking sites like Digg, Reddit and Netscape. If your post is a hit, it will bring your blog some much needed traffic.

Leave comments on other blogs

Remembering that other bloggers are your main target audience when you are starting out, and you need to let them know you exist. Leaving a comment on their blog that is intelligent and adds to the topic is a good way to get started.

Include tons of outbound links

Although lots of outbound links aren’t good for your page rank, when your starting out you won’t have a page rank anyway, so it’s not like you have anything to lose. Also, you want to send out lots of links to other bloggers to let them know you like their work, and also, to get track back links back to your site.

Start real relationships with bloggers in your niche

Start communicating with bloggers with-in your niche in ways other than via your blogs. Send them an email, IM them. You need all the friends that you can get in this game. It’s probably a good idea if you look for people that are on a similar level to you. Darren from Problogger probably doesn’t have time to chat with you via MSN about ways to boost your blog traffic, so focus on other bloggers with blogs that are about the same size as yours.

Build incoming links

Most people with a blog or Web site know the value of incoming links. You need to work out tactful strategies to get links to your site.

Ask a friend to give you feedback

When you spend a lot of time working on a project you can lose perspective about what is good. Get a friend to have a look at your blog. They don’t need to know anything about blogging, just get them to have a look and see what they say. Also watch what they do. Maybe they will point out things that you hadn’t thought of. Maybe they will have problems figuring out what the purpose of the site is. Maybe they will find it hard to get around the site. This is a great tip for improving any blog, and it is better to get that sort of feedback earlier rather than later.

Summary

I hope this article has given you some ideas about paths to success when starting a new blog, there is no sure fire set of instructions that will work for every blog. At the end of the day, you are going to need to keep producing good content day in day out to be a success. But there is always the odd exception to the rule, and the odd case that changes the rules for everyone else. Good luck with your blogging.

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