Working The Web » Archive of 'Jul, 2009'

The Quick Brown Fox and the Crazy Jumping Blog

Plugins I had some problems
writing my last post.

Nothing to do with the subject matter, or with running out of coffee,
or the sporadically but disconcertingly tropical English weather.

No, it was the actual typing of the post into the WordPress editing text box that was proving to be frustratingly difficult – almost impossible, in fact.

Try as I might, it was very difficult to have the text cursor anywhere but at the very bottom of the box. If I moved my keyboard focus nearer the centre of the edit box, it would jump back down again almost as soon as I resumed writing.

Now, although I don’t like typing along the bottom line with no space beneath, I could live with it if necessary. But that wasn’t the main problem.

Every time I moved the mouse cursor, to highlight a word, or use an edit function like ‘Bold’, or whatever, the text would scroll itself completely out of view; and I’d have to go looking for it. Sometimes it would even jump out of the way while I was actually typing, seeming to have a mind of its own.

I managed, but it was a grim struggle, the process requiring more patience and determination than any writing I’ve done since the time I tried to use a home-made quill pen.

So, in an attempt to avoid having to repeat the experience, I did a bit of research to find out where the problem lay.

I assumed it wasn’t my editing technique – I’d never had the problem before.
Was it my home-built computer playing up?
Was it a glitch in the WordPress interface? After all, I’d only recently updated to a newer version – perhaps there ws a bug somewhere?

Well, to cut a long story short, the problem turned out to be with my browser.
I know a lot of people are going to say it serves me right, but I was using – Internet Explorer!

Well, OK, I know it’s thought to be a bit infra-dig these days, not to say asking for trouble. It’s often said that Firefox is faster, more secure, and has other advantages over IE.

I myself have always harboured a suspicion that many people’s preference for Firefox is based primarily upon the fact that it doesn’t come from Microsoft. But,of course,there are some genuine issues with IE; and this was one of them.

My problem turned out to be due to my having ‘upgraded’ from IE7 to IE8. I was apparently suffering the indirect consequences of one of the improvements (which one, I’m afraid I can’t imagine).

To be fair to Microsoft, I should explain that the problem is not insurmountable.
OK, I don’t mean that you can use Firefox instead – no point in stating the obvious! No, I mean that if you’re having difficulties like I was, you can eliminate them by making one simple adjustment in IE8.

If you click on the ‘Page’ menu at the top right of the browser window, you will notice a ‘Compatibility View’ option.
Selecting it will make the problem go away with a single click.
Wish I’d known that before.

Microsoft explains that some websites aren’t fully compatible with their new browser because they were designed before it was released. The ‘Compatibility View’ effectively reverts IE to an earlier version when it’s selected, thereby restoring normal service.

Some critics might question the wisdom of introducing changes to browser software which render it incompatible with existing websites; but surely that’s just churlish criticism…

Anyway, that’s it: my story, my problem, the cause – and at least two solutions!

Now I can blog with a curse-free cursor.

Posted in Uncategorized

Five Useful WordPress Plugins

Plugins   In my last post, I was writing about adding plugins to WordPress blogs, and I said that I had recently installed five which were generally held to be well worth having.
Two are to do with helping search-engines introduce visitors to your blog; two are to help your visitors, and the last one is to keep unsullied your blog’s electronic reputation.

The first one is the ‘All-in-One-SEO-Pack’.
SEO stands for “Search-Engine Optimisation”. This is a process by which the coding of web pages is tailored to suit the way search-engines such as Google examine and index them, to make them easier to find.
So if someone’s using a search-engine to look for information about a subject, they’re more likely to come across a page which has been optimised than one which hasn’t. Obviously you want as many visitors as possible, which is why SEO is a good idea.
SEO can be done manually if you know what you’re doing, but this plugin does it automatically for your blog pages. It has customisable options, but it’s designed to work effectively ‘out of the box’, so you don’t have to worry about the options if you don’t want to. Find out more here.

While we’re talking about Search-Engines, there’s another plugin on my list which is designed to make their indexing job easier as they work their way around your site. This is the ‘Google XML Sitemaps’ plugin, which does what it says on the tin; i.e. it generates a ‘sitemap’ compliant with Google’s requirements. Sitemaps are just web documents (in this case XML files) which list all the site’s links hierarchically. They can be useful for visitors, too: you may have used them yourself on some websites. You can read about the Google XML Sitemaps plugin here.

Next up is ‘CommentLuv‘, which is a plugin designed to encourage visitors to comment on your posts. If they leave a comment, the plugin will automatically append to it a link to their own recent blog posts, tweets, etc. – they even get a choice of which one they want shown! The plugin is configurable, and you can read more about it here.

ShareThis‘ is a plugin which allows users to show your post to to their friends and associates via social bookmarking sites, or to send it to them via email, Facebook etc. You can configure the way it looks on your blog if you like, and you can also track the referrals if you register. Go here to find out more.

The last plugin for now is the ‘Maxblogpress-Ping-Optimizer’.
Whenever you create a new post, your blog sends an electronic signal (a ‘ping’) out across the web to notify search engines and blog directorieetc. that it has been updated. However, because this ultimately results in traffic (more visitors), this process has often been abused by ‘ping-spammers’ sending multiple pings around the web just to get attention; and they usually end up being automatically banned by the services concerned.
The trouble is that your WordPress blog pings too, every time you edit even the smallest thing; so that if you make a number of progressive alterations in publishing a post the way you want it, you run the risk of being banned too.
Unless, that is, you install this plugin, which ensures that your blog pings, not with reckless abandon, but appropriately, and with decorum. You can find out more about it here.

So that’s the list, then; five useful plugins to add to a blog:

All-in-One-SEO-Pack
Google XML Sitemaps
CommentLuv
ShareThis
Maxblogpress-Ping-Optimizer

You can explore plugins further at these WordPress links:

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/
http://codex.wordpress.org/Plugins

However, there are many other useful sources of information on this subject, such as this guide to plugin installation from UrbanGiraffe.com.
Don’t be afraid to explore and experiment.
See what works for you, and – without going overboard and making things unnecessarily complex – have fun!

Posted in Uncategorized

Adding Functionality to a WordPress Blog

Swiss Army Knife

I’ve been going over the blog itself during the last few days, and looking at the way I’ve set it up. Being new to it when I started, I didn’t make
it very sophisticated, and left many aspects unchanged from the default settings.

As Alex Jeffreys reminded us in his Coaching Course, perfectionism can be the enemy of productivity: “You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going”. After all, there’s a daunting amount to learn, and you can’t do it all at once.

But, at some stage, it’s worth tweaking and improving things to produce better results; and that’s what I’ve begun to do here with the blog setup. If you’re new to blogging, I hope it’ll help you with yours.

In particular, I’ve been looking at Plugins, the software tools which can be added to the core of WordPress to extend its functionality. There are over five and a half thousand at the official WordPress repository for them; but a quick web search will show many more, from a number of sources. You just download them to your computer, unzip them (they’re usually compressed) and then use ftp to upload the folders into the Plugins directory on your blog server. Once they’re there, you activate them (by clicking ‘Activate’!) using the WordPress Admin facility, and configure them, if necessary, by filling in web forms on-screen.

You can get plugins to do all sorts of things, but there are a few basic functions that most people seem to recommend. Ever since I began this blog, for instance, I have used an an almost universally-prescribed plugin to stop spammy invasions of my blog, usually masquerading as comments. These are mostly added automatically by robot programs roaming the net. You’d think they’d all be adverts, but the majority of the ones I’ve had have been large blocks of seemingly random phrases. Anyway, the anti-spam plugin I’ve been using is called Akismet, and it’s listed on the “Manage Plugins” page of the WordPress Admin section which you see when you log in to your blog to edit it. Akismet has automatically weeded out hundreds of pages of roborubbish from the blog since I installed it.

I’ve also used the Google Analyticator plugin, to help keep track of the numbers of visitors I get to the blog. In his Coaching Course, Alex Jeffreys emphasised the wisdom of using Google Analytics on your web pages, and this plugin makes it convenient to do it for your WordPress blog pages.

However, there are some other things which it’s useful to add, and I’ve just added five.

I’ll explain what they are in my next post.

Posted in Uncategorized
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