Tag Archives: WordPress

My Idea for Canonical WordPress Plugins

There has been no shortage of debate over the plans to include canonical (or “core”) plugins in WordPress. While I haven’t fully decided what my stance on the matter is, I do have an idea for what the concept should become.

Core plugins shouldn’t be about “let’s have an official plugin for x.” They should instead be frameworks of additional classes and hooks that can be extended by plugins and themes. Instead of having, say, a canonical plugin to integrate Facebook into WordPress, you could have a “Microblogging” core plugin that doesn’t do much aside from add a bunch of new microblogging-related hooks (along with classes for interacting with the Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. APIs.). Plugins and themes could then hook into the microblogging core plugin, using it’s generic methods to update one social network or many simultaneously.

Does that make sense? :)

CommentBits: WordPress Comment Templates for Cheap

Styling comments isn’t exactly the most fun part of building a new WordPress theme for your blog. That’s the reason for CommentBits. For $7 you can get a pre-made comment template, complete with PSD files. Or you can get a lifetime membership, with access to all of the templates, for a one-time fee of $50.

It’s not for everyone, but it’s a nice niche business. They only need to roll-out a new template once in awhile, which is considerably easier than a whole WordPress theme, and process sales. The price point is low enough to be an impulse buy, too.

I wonder if we might start seeing more sellers of small theme components in the future?

One of the Better New WordPress Theme Roundups

InstantShift has published a roundup of 60 new free WordPress themes. It’s one of the better roundup posts I’ve seen lately. The themes are split into categories, making it easy to find the type of design you’re looking for. Clean, “Artistic and Fancey,” magazine-style, portfolio, news portal, e-commerce, and domain parking are a few of the theme types covered.

The templates selected are high-quality, and each item has visible links to preview and download the theme, as well as visit the original source.

Mostly people talk about premium themes these days, but I think the commercial theme market has helped improve the quality of the freebie options.

60+ Latest High-Quality Free WordPress Themes [InstantShift]

Automatic Amazon S3 Backups on Ubuntu/Debian

If you manage your own web server, as you do with a VPS, one thing you need to look into is a backup strategy. It wouldn’t be pleasant for your files to vanish into the ether in the event of some sort of catastrophic server meltdown, would it? Optimally you want to, on a daily basis, offload a copy of everything important to a separate geographical location. One excellent way to do that is to follow Pro Blog Design’s new tutorial on how to automatically back up your files and databases to Amazon S3.

S3, or Simple Storage Service, is Amazon’s cheap cloud data storage system. Michael Martin, the author of the tutorial, says that his bill from last month was $2.60. ($0.15 per month per GB for stored, $0.15 per GB transferred.) Using a backup script on your server, you can automatically archive and encrypt your files and MySQL dumps, then send them off to Amazon’s servers for safekeeping.

I should start by saying that while s3 is not a free service, it’s incredibly inexpensive! My bill for the last month was $2.60, and that was with backing up a lot more than just this site! It’s the cheapest peace-of-mind ever.

Automatic Amazon S3 Backups on Ubuntu/Debian [Pro Blog Design]

Google hreview Rich Snippets in WordPress

Have you ever noticed that some product review results in Google display a little 5-star rating under the title? What you’re seeing is something that Google calls a “Rich Snippet” — some metadata pulled from a microformat embedded on the page the result links to.

Google supports a few microformats in their search results. vCard data can be displayed in some cases, upcoming events can be shown for theaters and event centers, star ratings can be displayed for reviews, etc..

Joost de Valk has put together a tutorial on how to add the hreview microformat to your WordPress site, giving Google the option to show your editorial ratings on SERPs for any products you may review. I’ve implemented it over at Fantasy Folder, as I often write book reviews there, and I had been planning on adding editorial star ratings anyway.

In his previous post here on Yoast, Frederick explained why you should use Microformats to increase the CTR from Google. In the comments of that post, people were asking if there are plugins to easily implement this in your theme. While those are probably a bit hard to do, I though it would be good to explain how I implemented hreview in my theme.

Implementing hreview in your WordPress theme [Yoast]

The GPL Doesn’t Apply to Premium Themes or Plugins

Mike Wasylik of Perpetual Beta has an interesting argument in the legendary GPL debate surrounding premium WordPress themes and plugins. He thinks that themes and plugins shouldn’t be required to be licensed under the GPL for the simple reason that they’re not derivative. U.S. copyright law defines a derivative work as one that physically includes a portion of the copyrighted work, which plugins and themes do not.

…even a theme or plugin that entirely dependens on WordPress to run at all, or simply improves WordPress in some way, would not be a derivative work and the GPL would not apply. For the vast majority of themes I’ve seen, the GPL would not apply because the theme is not, in my opinion, a derivative work. (In fact, if any one thing “incorporates” another, it’s most likely WordPress incorporating the theme, by use of the PHP include() call, rather than the other way around.)

According to the article, the copy of the GPL included in every download of WordPress even states that a derivative work is “a work containing the Program or a portion of it, either verbatim or with modifications.” I’ve been making a similar argument for awhile now. I have yet to see a theme or plugin that actually incorporates WordPress into the plugin code itself, rather than being included by WordPress. It sounds to me like WordPress, if anyone, is the one doing the deriving…

Most WordPress themes and plugins are unique code for the most part, with a few hooks or function calls. I must have missed the memo that utilizing a third-party API makes your application a subset of the other software. (That would mean any desktop application would be a derivative of the operating system.)

A follow-up article from the same author makes the additional case that, whether the GPL applies or not, the Fair Use Doctrine can protect developers from the licensing terms of the original creator. The same laws that ensure you can quote part of an article without having to pay whatever licensing fee the publisher can cook up apply to software. As little, if any, WordPress code is used in a theme, it would likely be considered fair use.

I like some of the ideology behind the GPL, and quite a few software packages licensed under it. However, it seems that in this case one party is misusing (or misinterpreting) it to prevent small developers from earning a living while further enriching the WordPress community. For what reason, good intentioned or no, I cannot guess.

Custom Post CSS Styles in WordPress

I’ve always thought it was a neat idea to be able to apply custom CSS stylings to different posts on a blog, allowing you to make subtle tweaks to the overall design on a case-by-case basis. A post about an upcoming movie could have a large poster as the page’s background image, the colors could be changed to match, etc..

Digging into WordPress has a post with two methods that achieve just that effect. One adds a meta box to your Write Post screen, where you can input CSS that will be echoed out on single post pages. The other allows you to drop a numerically-named CSS file into your theme folder, which is called upon when appropriate.

Custom CSS Per Post [Digging into WordPress]

“WooNav” to be Integrated in WordPress 3.0

A few weeks ago, WooThemes introduced their WooNav widget-based navigation manager. In an unexpected turn of events, the theme developer has allowed it to be incorporated into the next major WordPress release, version 3.0.

We are excited that we can give something substantial back to the core after a somewhat hesitant decision to GPL license our themes a few months ago. This proves to us, and hopefully others, how the GPL license should be correctly utilized to benefit others.

It’s certainly an interesting move. Judging by the screenshots, it will be a feature that will be appreciated by much of the WordPress user base. It sounds as if the decision was made because the WordPress team was planning a similar feature for 3.0, and it made more sense to use something that had already been developed than to have two competing ways to handle the same thing, with one being “official.”

YOURLS: Your Own URL Shortener

I have been noticing an interesting trend on Twitter and other social media sites. Larger online publications are starting to set up their own private URL shorteners for their content. Ars Technica has arst.ch, TechCrunch has tcrn.ch, and Oneforty has 14t.me, for example. Oh, and The Onion has their own short URLs under their onion.com domain.

Why are they doing this? To solve two problems that URL shorteners often introduce: The first being that they prevent you from seeing what URL you’re going to land on, which could contain malware of some other undesirable content. Having a private, branded shortener domain adds a level of trust. The second issue is that a few URL shorteners have closed their doors, or announced that they were going to. Handling them internally helps to mitigate that risk, since everything is under the publishers’ control.

How do you set up your own URL shortener? The first step is to get a short domain to use. Domai.nr is a great tool to provide inspiration. Once you have a domain, however, you have to make a decision. Do you want to use something like Bit.ly Pro, or do you want to host everything yourself? If you fall into the latter camp, you may want to give YOURLS a try.

YOURLS, or Your Own URL Shortener, is a PHP script by WordPress plugin developers Lester “Gamerz” Chan and Ozh Richard. It lets you setup a nearly-instant URL shortener. All you have to do is download and configure it on your web server. It even collects statistics.

Continue reading →

WooThemes Introduces “Canvas,” a Thesis Competitor?

WooThemes has released a new theme called Canvas, a theme that looks like it might be a competitor to the ever-popular Thesis.

Canvas is a “blank slate” theme, with minimal styling, that you customize by either creating a child theme and using hooks, or by  editing colors, background images, etc. through an admin menu. So it’s kind of a blend of Thesis and frameworks like Thematic, Hybrid, and Carrington.

I think it has a good chance at competing with Thesis. The default design is better, and the pricing scheme is much more attractive. $70 and you can use the them on as many sites as you want, and it’s even GPL. Thesis, on the other hand, costs $87 for a single-site license that requires a credit link in the footer. Oh, and when you buy Canvas you get two more free WooThemes with the purchase…