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WordCamp Portsmouth UK 2011

Just back from this year’s WordCamp in Portsmouth. Had a great time—met some interesting people, learned loads of new stuff, and verily soaked up the ongoing good vibes in the WordPress community.

I did my first WordCamp talk, ‘Beyond the 5-minute Install’, which was aimed at beginners who wanted to know the non-standard but nigh essential things to do when installing WordPress to make things secure and hunky dory. There were also tips to make things easier for developers. It went down pretty well—thanks to everyone who bothered to say hi and give me feedback! I’ve posted the slides here on SlideShare. There’s not much text there, and I don’t think the talk was recorded. I might get round to writing an accompanying tutorial, but don’t hold your breath! Hopefully it’ll be of some use for people who weren’t there, as well as a good reminder for those who were. To grab the code snippets, copy from the SlideShare transcription, but beware of the syntax and any funny characters—grab the code from there, but check against the slides. Let me know if you’ve any problems with the code.

There were a bunch of great talks, though the really good stuff was in the panel discussions, the “site doctor” session, and down the pub. Rather than do a run-through of the actual talks, I’m just going to rattle through the highlights of what I learned:

  • Responsive web design. I really need to get my shit together and learn this stuff properly! I suspect how soon this happens will be dictated by how soon I work on a project that has a significant mobile audience. Let’s see.
  • SEO is dead. Well, of course it’s not dead. We still need to do the basics. But those basics, which have served people who know them so well so far, are pretty much common knowledge now. The edge is in generating organic conversations about your stuff. My guess is this makes it harder for this stuff to be “forced”—but those giving it a go will be more and more insidious.
  • LinkedIn. Apparently this is a hot place for business networking. I’ve always just had a profile there because I may as well. If I was looking for business contacts, given what people in the know were saying, I would definitely be working my profile more.
  • schema.org is big news. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! have put differences aside for this specification for structured data for search engines. Bearing in mind some caveats, this is really interesting.
  • WordPress menus have a description field! Who knew? Robert O’Rourke did. All you have to do is fold out the Screen Options when you’re on the menus page, and switch on the description. Great!

I guess the large amount of non-WordPress-specific stuff in the above list reflects my growing knowledge of all things WordPress. But I also think it’s to do with WordPress’s growing maturity. There’s always things to discover about it; but the platform is settling down a bit, with much core “full CMS” functionality now in place, and people are thinking more about what they are doing with the platform, rather than the platform itself.

But hey, there’s always space at a WordCamp to find out about some juicy plugins you’ve not heard of before! Here’s my discoveries:

  • Jigoshop: “A WordPress eCommerce plugin that works.” Not tried it, but it looks interesting.
  • EG Attachments: I’ve got a bit of code that does this—lists files attached to a post. But this looks good, I might use it.
  • Front End Editor: Wow. Crikey. This is interesting. It’s a front end editor. Lets you edit, WYSIWYG style, on the front end. I’d be wary of something like this, but it’s written by some guys who know their WordPress stuff. One to watch.
  • Very Simple Post Images: Only on github for now, this was being developed at WordCamp, and is a very promising improvement to the WordPress images / gallery management interface.
  • WP Document Revisions: Also still in development, also very promising.

Many thanks to all the organisers for pulling of another brilliant weekend, and thanks to Richard Boakes for getting it all sorted in Portsmouth. See you next year!

Coming up, there’s more WordPress London Meetups a one day WordPress & business event in Brighton on 23rd September. Hopefully see you there, too.

Force Strong Passwords plugin

I’ve just released a new little plugin: Force Strong Passwords.

The code has been part of my custom themes for a while, and I realized it should be a plugin as I’ve been preparing my talk for this weekend’s WordCamp (eek!). Anyway, the basic idea is that it enforces the password strength indicated by the little meter on the WordPress user edit screen. It only forces strong passwords for users who can do stuff, i.e. change the live site in some way.

There’s all sorts of scope for options, etc., but this has been serving me well for a while. All in good time. For now, it’s an easy way to combat one of the largest vulnerabilities in client sites: people who use weak passwords.

Leaving MediaTemple

I’m finally moving my hosting away from MediaTemple.

They been a pretty good host in all, with a bunch of niggles of course. I think hosting is probably like FTP clients—you’re lucky if you find something half-decent, and you’ll never be satisfied.

The main reason for my dissatisfaction has been the slow server response times, which may be to do with the much-criticized Grid Service I’ve been on, but is probably also a lot to do with them being on the other side of the world. I’d been hankering to make the move closer to home (London) for a while. The straw that broke the camel’s back recently is a bit of blatantly terrible service that’s worth shouting about.

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Lock Pages 2.0

I’ve just released a new version of my Lock Pages plugin for WordPress. I think it’s long overdue, and the plugin feels much more satisfactory to me now. Of course, any major revision brings the potential for new bugs, so do let me know about any glitches!

Improvements include:

  • Updated check for page edit screen for WP 3
  • Improved removal of Quick Edit functionality
  • Removed edit permalink elements, slug meta box, parent drop-down, status and password fields for locked pages
  • Added locking for page status and password protection
  • Created POT file for translations
  • Added Spanish translations (thanks to Javier G√≥mez Pose!)

You can install / upgrade via the WP plugins admin screen, or head over to the wordpress.org plugin repository.

A new breed of spam

In the past few weeks, this site has seen a drastic increase of comment spam.

Well, there’s always a lot of spam, most of which gets filtered well by Akismet. However, this recent round is insidious. In fact, it successfully blurs the line between spam and legitimate comments.

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File Select plugin

My Custom Fields WordPress plugin recently added the ability to select files from the Media Library into custom fields. To provide this functionality, I created a separate plugin, which can also be used in other contexts, e.g. a theme settings page.

File Select is available download. Let me know how it works for you!

Disabling WordPress plugin deactivation and theme changing

Someone asked in a comment here recently whether a WordPress plugin I’d posted could be adapted to work as theme code. The reasoning was that a client might deactivate a plugin, breaking some of the site’s functionality.

Careless clients clicking around in the admin interface can be a concern for a responsible developer. Of course, the primary way of limiting this kind of risk is to assign clients to appropriate roles. If the pre-defined roles don’t quite fit, Justin Tadlock’s excellent Members plugin can help you get it right.

But say you have a client to whom you want to give plugin activation / deactivation capabilities (so they can add new plugins themselves), but the site you’ve built includes certain plugins that really shouldn’t be deactivated. What then?

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Intercept WordPress 404s

So, I’ve got a WordPress site with a bunch of custom post types. On the archive pages for those posts, I have a taxonomy drop-down for a custom taxonomy called “theme” (I know, a slightly confusing label to use in WordPress, but that’s what it has to be). The idea is that you select the theme and the archive listing is filtered accordingly.

Now, for creating the drop-down I use get_terms. This has a hide_empty argument, which will omit terms that aren’t being used. The problem is, my “theme” taxonomy applies to all custom post types. So if a term is applied to any post anywhere, it is included, even if it’s not used at all for the post type being viewed, it appears in the drop-down. When you select it, you get a 404, because the request returns no posts.

How can I stay on the archive template and return a polite “There are no posts here for this theme”?

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