Portland Oregon-Based Digital Media

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a fan of WordPress. I can’t really understand why anyone wouldn’t be. Wait, yes I can. Because they are a flash designer who WordPress is putting out of business. But for editorial/blogs sites like the ones I am either running or building, WordPress is a dream come true. After spending years using Frontpage before eventually switching to hand writing HTML in a text editor, the ease of WordPress for updating has made my life a million times easier. One of the best things about WordPress though, is the plugins. Basically, if you want your site to do any web 2.0 function, there is a plugin for it. But weeding through the bad plugins, dealing with plugin conflicts, and generally finding the plugin you want can be one of the biggest challenges with WordPress. Since I often get asked about plugins for certain tasks, I figured I’d make a list of my top 10.

1. NextGEN Gallery If you want to show more than a couple images per post, NextGEN is awesome. It enables you display images in posts in three formats: thumbnails, image browser and slide show. I also like it because it’s fairly simple to modify the appearance of any of of those modes, although I have had trouble with getting the image browser mode to stay stagnant on the page on YoBeat, which is super annoying. However, on Alliance, where we are using the same plug in, the mode works fine, leading me to believe it’s a possible conflict with one of the other 10 plugins I am using.

2. WordPress.com Stats I am a hard core Google Analytics nerd. I’d say at least 10% of each day is spent monitoring stats, tracking our link-ins, etc on. So initially I was resistant to installing this plug in, which posts stats right on your WordPress dashboard, as I figured it would waste even more of my time. I finally installed in on Lunch on Hawthorne, and other than needing a stupid API key to activate it, it was super easy. And here’s why it’s amazing: It shows you which outgoing links on your site people click on, as well as providing direct links to the actual posts that are linking into you (great for not having to sift through the message boards to see what people are saying.) Not to mention, it’s right there on your dashboard, and updates in real time.

3. BDP RSS Aggregator I have used this plugin extensively. Basically you put in rss feeds and it creates a feed you can format and then output onto a page on your site. It is the magic behind the YoBeat friends page, as well as this site. Alas, when I went to find the link for this, it seems the creator’s site is no longer live. So I am posting it here to download. However if you have tech support questions or complaints, you are on your own. DOWNLOAD

4. Wordtube This plug in is only useful if you are also using the JW player, like we are on Yobeat. Basically, it’s an add on that allows you to make the videos embeddable, track views and also host Youtube videos through your sites player, complete with branding.

5. Simple Press: Forum A while back I was talking with some other web people, and they were telling me about what a huge traffic source the forums were on their site. While I personally feel like forums are the root of all evil on the internet sort of pointless, I like traffic. So I searched around for a good plug in to put a forum on YoBeat. I came up with this one and have been happy with its customization and ease of use. And if you have a problem, not surprisingly they have a great forum for asking questions. Now if we can just get the 5-10 people who seem to sign up a day to actually post stuff, it will be amazing!

6. WP-Polls Polls are a fun, interactive addition to any website. This plugin is super simple to use and works either in posts, or with an available widget.

7. Blogger Image Import This isn’t a plug in you’d necessarily need that often, but when you do it’s a huge time saver. Basically, WordPress makes for one click importing of posts from a Blogger blog to the WordPress platform. But only the text, titles and comments. As for the images, you are on your own. This plugin, however, does it for you. It was super helpful when I built signaturewakeskates.com and imported his old blog to the new site.

8. Video Sidebar Widgets/ Random Image Widgets These are two separate plugins, but the basic concept is the same. They enable you to either have a random image in your side bar (pulled from any posts or a specified gallery) and embed videos from Youtube, Vimeo, and about 10 other hosts to your widgetized sidebar.

9. Event Calendar I discovered this plug in when I was building Laneshellhorse.com. They wanted to be able to post a list of his upcoming events and initially I had it done just with a text widget. Upon realizing I was even having trouble formatting it well, I searched around and found this plugin. It gives you the option to add dates to a traditional post and then list on a calendar in the widgets.

10. Exec PHP I am by no means a full-time developer, and my PHP knowledge is limited at best. But sometimes even I want to use strings of php within post or widgets. This plugin makes it possible.

It’s become pretty clear that if you want to know anything, there is only one place to turn in this day and age: Google! Well ok, Yahoo, Ask.com and any of the other search engines also work, but I like Google because their name has become a verb and it sounds cool when you say is.

For the past three days I have been asking my trusty friend Google a lot of questions as I tried to take a crash course on PHP and WordPress plugins. The goal was to set up a YoBeat store and a better way to display our links section. The store was actually pretty easy, and now the world can buy YoBeat Tshirts and stickers. Please note I am not getting any Tshirts made until someone orders one, so get on that.

The links page proved to be much more involved. What I wanted to do was basically set up an RSS Feed of sites that I feel are worthwhile. I am pretty much obsessed with RSS feeds these days as they are much easier than typing in web addresses to sites which may or may not have been updated. Basically, they keep you in touch without having to try, and being somewhat lazy, I like that. So I figured, why not make an RSS page on YoBeat so that people can use it to read blogs I like as well as YoBeat. I mean, if I like it it must be good, right?

Of course doing so proved to be much more difficult than I would have thought. First I had to find a plugin to do it. Since there are about a million designed to aggregate content, and most of them don’t work, I went through several before finding one that actually functioned. I finally settled on the BDP RSS Aggregator which is totally customizable and fairly simple to set up. Simple, that is, if you want to put it in your side bar.

In order to get the output on a stagnant page, I had to figure out how to get PHP into a page, which required two things I didn’t have: the correct plugin and any knowledge of PHP.  I figured out I needed a plugin via Google, but the first one I tried had no instructions and wasn’t working. It only took me a day to figure out the PHP plugin was the problem, not the aggregator plugin. Luckily, Google knew of another PHP plugin, Exec PHP, with much better documentation. Since this one actually had instructions, it told me I needed one more plugin, Role Manager  to set the appropriate permissions. A few setting changes and voila! The Yobeat friends page was born. Hopefully all my hard work pays off and people realize what a good resource it is, blah blah blah, but if not, at least I feel like I accomplished something!