Tag Archives: WordPress

Minimalistic Design Requests

Ok, folks, if you’re going request a WordPress design, your posting needs to be longer than, “Design and some coding and app application.” Seriously, could you be any less specific? Add to that a budget that’s $100 at maximum, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to have your request ignored by any designer with any kind of sense. This is one of those times where going minimalistic works to your disadvantage.

Back To Native WP Comments

disqus-logo I think I’m done with third-party commenting systems. They haven’t served me particularly well over the last couple of years. First it was IntenseDebate, acquired a few years by Automattic. I had high hopes for IntenseDebate, since they’d been acquired by the developers of WordPress itself — and for a while it was a really great system that integrated almost seamlessly with WordPress. Then it fell out of development and seems now to have been all but forgotten.

So I switched to Disqus and have used their system for the last year or so. It never has integrated quite as seamlessly into WordPress, and I’ve had issues in the past with comments not syncing back to WordPress properly. Where IntenseDebate synced almost instantly, there is usually something of a delay before Disqus syncs with your database. Sometimes, it doesn’t do it at all, and you run the risk of losing comments.

disqus-thread

Both systems have a number of social features I really appreciate, like being able to rate comments and see similar topics in the community. I’ve decided none of those things are enticing enough to keep using them. WordPress’ commenting system has improved quite a bit over the last several iterations, and with the inclusion of Jetpack adds the ability to comment using your WordPress.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Google credentials. Akismet is still the single best spam filter available anywhere.

At some point I may investigate some additional plugins and roll up my own custom commenting system, but in the meantime, it’s back to native WordPress comments for me.

WordPress, Facebook, Open Graph, and SEO Plugins

One of the plugins I use on all my WordPress-powered sites is Jetpack. It’s chock full of features that provide a richer experience on both the front and back ends. One of my favorite features is Publicize, which allows you to automatically notify the various social networks when you put up new content. I’ve used it religiously since it launched and had almost no problems.

Until recently. Over the last week or two, I’ve noticed that any new posts I put up here haven’t been showing up on Facebook. I initially thought it might be because I’d added Google+ to my profile, since it was a relatively new feature to Publicize. Except that when I removed the G+ authorization, new content still wouldn’t post to Facebook.

A handful of Google searches later indicated that the problem might have something to do with the presence (or lack thereof) of Open Graph tags in my site header information. Another Google search, and I learn that Open Graph is apparently the new(-ish) protocol that social media sites use to convert your content into objects that can be placed in your social media streams. Facebook in particular seems to favor this, and apparently the problem I was running into is that they have started to more strictly enforce the use of Open Graph. If the tags are missing, your content gets blocked and never appears in your feed.

I thought it odd that Jetpack wouldn’t include ‘og:’ tags, considering their importance to the function of Publicize. Another search, and sure enough, Jetpack does include those tags. Only they weren’t showing up for my sites. One thread over on the WordPress support forums suggested that another plugin could be causing problems, so I reviewed my lists and came across one plugin type that could very well be causing the issues.

SEO plugins. On one site, I use Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin. On another I use the All-In-One SEO plugin. Both have options for social media, but neither one had been enabled. I suspect what happened is that these were new options added in recent plugin updates that had to manually enabled. I hadn’t been aware of them and so hadn’t turned them on. A simple oversight on my part that caused issues with the communication between my site and Facebook, in particular.

I’ve got the social media options enabled in both places now, and so far the problem seems to be fixed. I actually like the way WordPress SEO handles it a little better than All-In-One. It’s more intuitive and seems to be more flexible, particularly in identifying the image associated with the content.

If you’re having similar problems, I recommend checking your SEO plugins first. Jetpack won’t insert ‘og:’ tags if you have SEO enabled, and that seems to be the problem.

Server Changes

I finally retired my first domain name this past weekend. It was part of a necessary server change, and since open-dialogue.com hasn’t seen use in three or four years, I decided it was time to mothball it. I’m actually not too sorry to see it go. The focus of my web presence has changed significantly over the past decade.

When I set up my (dv) server with MediaTemple a couple of years ago, I had hoped that I had found my final home for web hosting. I’ve loved having my own server to run and to set up exactly the way I wanted. Unfortunately, the monthly hosting fees ($100/mo.) just got to be too much, especially in this economy, so I’ve ended up having to move everything to shared hosting again. This has made me understandably nervous since the reason why I moved to MediaTemple’s (dv) server in the first place was because my previous host, Bluehost, was unable to handle the periodic traffic spikes my Reclaimer site gets. So a little research and experimentation was warranted.

I started by setting up one of MediaTemple’s (ve) servers which, at the outset, seemed like it would be a highly enjoyable way to go. Everything, including installing the actual web server, has to be set up by the user, so you can customize all the settings to your heart’s content. Unfortunately, it also requires a rather advanced skillset to make everything work smoothly, and there were just one or two little things I couldn’t figure out. (It doesn’t help that nearly every tutorial I could find also requires an advanced degree to translate.) Ultimately, I gave it up as a failed experiment. I played around with Dreamhost’s free trial for a day, but service there was spotty just in that brief time, so I finally decided to give MediaTemple’s own grid-service a try. All my domains were pointed there anyway, and MediaTemple has always been very good to me.

So far, everything has run exceptionally smoothly. As always, the actual transfer was a major headache — backing up databases and files, reuploading databases and files, adjusting zone files, etc. I also took the time to clean up my databases by removing tables no longer in use, getting rid of the default prefix (wp_), and otherwise hardening all of my WordPress installs. The whole process from start to finish took me about a week, but now that the dust is settled, I’m pretty happy with the way things are sitting. I think MediaTemple will continue to be an excellent host.

Thesis vs. WordPress

There’s a lot of buzz right now in the WordPress community about the fact that Chris Pearson’s does not distribute his Thesis theme for WordPress under the same GPL license under which WordPress is distributed. There was a large discussion yesterday over Twitter between Chris and Matt Mullenweg, the owner of Automattic, the company that builds and distributes WordPress. Andrew Warner got these two gentlemen together for a discussion and the video below is the result of that debate.

Business Tips via Mixergy, home of the ambitious upstart!

I didn’t have an opinion on the topic before listening to the discussion, but after having done so, I find Chris’ argument to be specious and arrogant, and I side with Matt’s interpretation of the application of the GPL. It’s pretty clear to me that Chris is flat-out wrong on this issue. I appreciate Matt’s graciousness and patience in a difficult and confrontational situation. The cooler head prevailed.

If you’ve got an hour or so to listen to the audio, I recommend doing so, and I’d be interested to hear your take on the issue.

[via Matt]

Closing Comments to Control Spam

About a week ago, I set WordPress to automatically close comments on posts over 90 days old on my Reclaimer website. Spam comments over there have become completely unreasonable lately, with Akismet catching and filtering out upwards of 300 spam a day. The vast majority ended up going into the Pending queue rather than the Spam queue for whatever reason. No big deal, mind you; it was only one additional step to filter them into the Spam buffer and then out of the system completely, but it was becoming a tad annoying. That was when I decided to try closing comments to see what effect it would have on spam. Very few of my readers, even new ones, ever comment on the old archives anyway, so cutting that section out of dialogue was no huge loss.

I also use the IntenseDebate commenting system on all my WordPress installations. I was puzzled to discover that setting WordPress to automatically close comments had no effect on IntenseDebate. I spent a little while trying to figure out why before finally giving up and just accepting that something somewhere was broken.

Today, it clicked in my head – IntenseDebate doesn’t replace the native WordPress commenting system; it simply overlays it. By changing the auto-close setting for comments, WordPress closed the native commenting system without affecting the IntenseDebate commenting system (which seems to be a little more robust about handling spam). Spammers appear to target the native WordPress commenting system while ignoring the IntenseDebate system – possibly because IntenseDebate loads via javascript – and since the native system is closed on the posts they target, they don’t have a way to infiltrate. In the last week, I’ve watched the number of spam that slip through go from 300+ a day to just one or two a day. The difference is remarkable, and I’ve heard zero complaints from readers about not being able to comment on older posts.

Probably I should have realized how this worked sooner, but sometimes I’m just a little slower on the uptake.

IntenseDebate

IntenseDebate: A commenting system that rocks!

IntenseDebate: A commenting system that rocks!

A little while back, I heard the news that Automattic, the folks who develop WordPress, acquired a couple of new services. One of these is called “IntenseDebate”:http://intensedebate.com, a dynamic commenting system that’s compatible with several different blogging platforms. Initially, I’d installed it on “Reclaimer”:http://reclaimercomic.com as a test drive but pretty quickly removed it again. At that point I didn’t feel it was ready, and my readers confirmed my opinion (rather vocally, I might add).

Continue reading IntenseDebate