Killer Plugin: LinkWithin

We’ve played around with a few different related posts plugins but all of them seemed a bit boring visually. Then, I stumbled across LinkWithin.

The way LinkWithin works is the company crawls your site to capture categories, keywords and the like and then posts a thumbnail image & title beneath each post. You can add however many columns you like below the post. Because they are involved and the plugin is custom tailored to your site, the plugin isn’t available on the WordPress codex. You must visit their site, ask a few simple questions and voila, your plugin is ready to be installed.

I’ve installed it here in BumpyStick and at Foodies so far. I know that it takes a while for the crawlers to take in the whole site, so I’m being patient. It looks great, but it has been active on Foodies for a couple of days now and there is very little rotation of related posts.

Also, I’m a little bit concerned about their crawlers. How much info do they crawl? Do they somehow store the info? Who are they? The LinkWithin site has no actual human information. I’ve sent them an e-mail to ask these questions and nobody has responded. I know that most plugins are developed by individuals or small teams and people take days off. That said, given that I’m in front of the computer constantly and most of us who work online carry a smart phone of some sort, I tend to get a little pissy when I get ignored.

I’ll wait until I hear from them before I install LW on either of our automotive blogs, but I’m really liking the way it looks at Foodies. It looks pretty cool here too so far. I think we’ll have to change the html to have it appear at the end of a post though, as I don’t like the related posts showing up on the front page.

Testing, testing!

Testing out a few twitter plugins for our live coverage of this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. If you see some funky stuff, you understand why!

And the winner, for our purposes is…..ThinkTwit

It is the only Twitter plugin I was able to find that A. allows the use of multiple Twitter feeds and B. uses php4 on their server. We needed to use php4 as that is the way our server is set up for now.

Anyway, like most modern plugins, setup is easy and you can have it up and running in a matter of moments. Of course the standard text settings suck, but they can be adjusted. It would be easier if you didn’t have to go into .css to make the changes though.

You can see it at work at the top of the right sidebar of The Garage where we’re hosting live tweets from the only all Canadian team at the 2010 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

WordPress 2.9 and a switch to Thesis 1.6 theme

If there are actually any readers out there (I know we have some) you might have noticed that BS had a bit of a bumpy road over the past week. What happened? To put it bluntly, I blew the shit up!

To be more technical, I upgraded from WP 2.8.6 to 2.9. While trying out the new update all plugins function, the whole deal froze up. After about 4 hours, I pulled the plug. Actually, I closed the tab, but you get the idea.

I spoke with WordPress Matt, who took the time to look into my concern from the WP side of things. The absolutely awesome support team at Bluefur, the Canadian server that BS is hosted on, finally figured things out and showed me the error of my ways.

I have a bunch of projects on the go these days and have been thinking about switching them all to DIY themes, Thesis theme. There are a bunch of reasons, ranging from a solid reputation within the WP world to user friendly design features, SEO framework and plugin friendliness. All of these things combine to make a theme that is more than just a skin that I can manage myself, eliminating some of my reliance on my IT guru. This will give me the flexibility to test different advertising models on my own time frame, rather than waiting until someone else has the time to get to it.

For now, I have loaded the Thesis theme and activated it. Right now, things look pretty plain but I’m just killing time on Christmas Eve afternoon as we are actually ready for a change. Over the coming days, I’ll report on the ease with which I turn BS into something a bit more attractive. First up, I’ll have to do something with those stock images at top right. The basic layout seems to be a 3 into 4 column view. It looks a bit messy to me right now, but has given me some ideas. I’m not sure if I like the Fidgetr plugin stuck in the middle like that, but it does add a splash of colour.

See you in a few days as I start fiddling!

Testing: WordPress e-commerce plugin

e-commerce-large

Since I’ve begun publishing full time, I’ve had all sorts of unusual requests for my time. Usually they revolve around some sort of marketing or PR type need the person or their company have. I guess now that I’ve built a bit of a reputation as an online publisher, folks have come to the conclusion that I know everything about the web. Some even seem to think that I miraculously became a developer.

Right!

Most of these inquiries actually tend to be fairly simple stuff and I do have the answer. Thanks to the more recent changes to WordPress, I actually am able to do a bunch of stuff myself and even make it look pretty good. I’m about to upgrade all of my blogs to the Thesis template so I really can do some groovy stuff on my own and maybe even for the odd client here & there.

Most recently I was approached by a friend whose company won a fairly important award at the SEMA show this year. They have the North American rights to an incredible new automotive product and are looking for some help with their web presence and on PR. They thought I was a natural choice to augment their team. It occurred to me that I could probably fulfill their needs by creating a WP site with the e-commerce plugin so I started playing around with the free version.

The freebie plugin is actually a teaser unit. Easy to install, one can be up and running quite literally in 5 minutes. If you have a peek down the right sidebar, you’ll see the heading Test Cart. Below it is a link to Visit The Shop which will take you to a simple page of fictitious products, complete with photos, prices, sale prices and complete descriptions. You will notice the ads are arranged vertically. This is part of the catch of the teaser. The Gold Cart version is needed to create a more visually pleasing grid format or I gather pretty much any other format you can dream up. Even the freebie is so easy to use that it stands to reason that the Gold Cart version would be awesome.

The individual blogger version is only $40 and they have a number of other plugin options to make your store more Web 2.0 friendly. If you need to create more than 1 site, the developer version is $195. Really a good value when you consider that when combined with a template like Thesis or Atahualpa (the one currently in use here) an educated WP user like me can look like a pro.

So here lies my conundrum.

Once these auto industry leaders have discovered that I actually want to be paid for my time, they admit that they actually have a site that has been almost completed by a developer. They were actually looking for a full time IT guy but thought I might have the solutions to some of their web marketing problems.

As Curt Cobain said: Rape me!!!!

Oh look – an e-mail from them asking if I would be interested in guiding their web presence.

More Plugin stuff

Well, I couldn’t seem to get the FlickrRSS plugin to work so I went hunting for another way to bring my Flickr photostream into the sidebar. I came across Fidgetr. The install went smoothly but I couldn’t figure out how to get it working. A comment on the plugin page brought a quick response from developer Paul Kehrer who said: Look in the widgets section in your WP admin pages. You can add it to the sidebar and configure the options there. It was as simple as he said and now we have images!

Great plugin and Paul pays attention to his peeps!

The joy of plugins

One of the best things about WordPress is the incredible network of users who happily develop cool new tools to enhance other users WP experience. As I’ve only just learned how to upload new plugins myself, I’m not going to attempt a tutorial as I might mislead someone through my own errors. That said, I have just installed a whole host of plugins here in BS which give it the basic functionality that I have come to expect.

Akismet: comes pre loaded in WP these days, you just need to turn it on. Akismet is a wicked spam filter that is an absolute must have, especially if you intend to have any sort of traffic on your blog. With traffic comes spam and you can’t spend your whole day reading & deleting it. Well, maybe you can, but I can’t.

All In One SEO pack: This seems to be one of the basic SEO tools for WP, yet we haven’t used it in TG yet. I’m interested to see what it does for BS.

Lightbox Plus: a pretty photo viewer. I have never learned how to use it properly, but it works simply with WP 2.6 and up and shows off your photos nicely. It also works well in tandem with NextGEN.

NextGEN Gallery: I have a love hate relationship with NextGEN. It creates way cool galleries, but it is a giant pain in the ass to create galleries and upload photos. It is pretty much the only plugin that I’ve actually had to write a tutorial so my guys can figure out how to post a bunch of pics without my help. It is certainly a must have if you love to share photos.

Sociable: A social networking tool. We didn’t have much luck with this one when we had it on TG, but I’m going to give it another shot here on BS.

WordPress.com stats: We need to know who is visiting and how they are finding us. As we aren’t installing Google Analytics on BS I thought this would be a good solution.

FlickrRSS: I’ve never tried this one, so I thought I’d give it a go. FlickrRSS allows you to import images from your Flickr account into your sidebar. Apparently it works quite well. I’ll let you know as I fiddle around with it.

So that’s about it for me and plugins for now. As I begin to tweak BS more, I’ll be trying out lots of plugins and I’ll report on my findings. You can be sure that I’ll keep the ones that work and ditch the ones that just don’t get me feeling all warm and fuzzy.