cc licensed flickr photo shared by FatMandy

The other half of this week’s ds106 assignment is to experiment with amping up the Campbellian locker decor of your blog– this is fitting for the participants new to blogging, and probably something others revisit every now and them (unless some mad tyrant tries to tell you what template to use on your blog).

There are only about 12,749 plugins to check out ;-) Add to that the almost infinite number of widget codes you can slap into your sidenbar widgets (just use the Text widget, it can accomodate javascript and other goodies).

While this is a good thing for blog crafters to explore; I’d add a bit of caution not to go zany nuts (like installing 12, 749 plugins). There is a performance overhead on plugins and sidebar cruft- especially anything that has to connect to a third party site. Each plugin adds processing steps to render a page. So after playing around with one, two, three, 12, 749 of these, go back and critically ask yourself- is that just shiny neat, or is it essential? Take a shave with Occam’s Blog, and shave off stuff not really critical.

I’ve not blinged in a while, but here are a few assorted tips (wordpress specific, sorry, it is what I love).

I have 17 active plugins, most of them are more in the back end vein of things, database tools, system monitoring ones, plus others for code formatting. One thing worth doing, is creating a static page in your blog as a “behind the scenes” overview of the blog; its kind fo like an “About” page, but more on the details that power your site. It has one of those fancy names like Colo— Colo– oh heck. Mine is at http://cogdogblog.com/bits/.

Jim mentioned google analytics, which is hard to bit, but for some reason I know forget, I began using Clicky which works the same-you put some javascript in your blog footer’s template, and it records data about each visitor.

I used to have a manul list of plugins I use on the site, and it was never up to date. But like apps, there is a plugin for that! Plugins List is a plugin that lists all the other plugins on your site. All i had to do to get a dynamic list is in my page, add this code:

That thing in brackets is a shortcode, a wordpress construct that tells it to render something when the page is displayed.

And I am never without the indispensable Hello Dolly plugin, which like a moth, no matter how often you swat it, it returns.

If you would like to have your blog translated on the fly into 50+ languages, you can easily add that by either using a widghet to add this code, or insert it into your sidebar.php template:

I use this on our NMC main web site (http://www.nmc.org/) and all of our Horizon Project wikis, e.g. http://museum.wiki.nmc.org/ (neither of these are wordpress sites just to show you it works in any web page). It’s not perfect, but isn’t it cool to see your blog in Icelandic, Serbian, or Yiddish? You can offer this to your readers in Reyjkavik to generate on the fly:

Lastly, I just learned last week (via D’Arcy in twitter I think) that WordPress has built in tools to embed media easily w/o mucking around with embed code- all you need to do is put the URL of a Youtube video or flickr photo page on a blank line, and WP does the rest. I cannot believe I missed this memo!

It’s like magic- learn more at http://codex.wordpress.org/Embeds

Hey it’s your space, bling it all ya like!


cc licensed flickr photo shared by mistercorn

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. I am a fan of having the list of plugins on a blog. Especially a tech blog. I found the Plugins Used Plugin – Widget (http://www.saltando.net) which works well and doesn’t require editing the template code so my students (who cannot edit the templates on our installation) can get the benefits of the listing a bit more easily.

    The newly improved embed magic is great but some sites still don’t work well. I have found EmbedIt to be really great for that. Takes a bit of training to explain but is really pretty easy for all of my folks to use as well. Another bling to consider! http://www.masternewmedia.org/news/2008/02/22/embed_any_video_or_html.htm

    1. Thanks Audrey- that is a good point about the widgets- I was going from the case where one has a self hosted WP site that lets you tinker with everything. A widget is a good way to go in that case, though I’d wonder if I really want that info on every blog sidebar.

      And for embeds, thanks too for the embed tool; the lovely thing about all this stuff is that there are multiple solutions and approaches, and its worth sharing as many as possible.

  2. Good points about not going plugin crazy. At Passiontask I use quite a few plugins, but many of them don’t effect general viewing but instead do things like: modify the dashboard and editing interface, handle categories and “sections” and make my site more amenable to Google…

    Native embeds must be relatively new, but I’m glad to learn about them… perhaps one more plugin I can get rid of!

  3. Just a note that students can use the plugins-list plugin, which I also use, without template changes if they just use the shortcode on a page (which is what I do) or (I think, but am not sure) in a text/html widget.

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