Tag: wordpress (page 1 of 7)

Moving Hosts

I’ve hosted my websites via DreamHost for years. Good price, excellent uptime and ok performance. Recently though I’d been starting to see the shared hosting plan I was on creak at the seams. My needs were pretty minimal but it looked like I would need to move to one of their VPS plans. It’s at this point all the podcast adverts rang in my head…so I tried Linode.

Linode’s front page says ‘hosting for developers’ which as Shak keeps saying isn’t me! However the plans looked appealing and I took advantage of an offer to try it for a month for free and so far it’s been really good.

Linode is a bit different to the hosting I’m used to. You pick a Linux distribution, tell Linode where in the world you want it deployed and boom – you have a Linux server that’s all yours. That means root access and ability to install whatever you like…but also means you are responsible for security and keeping the server updated.

Linode supports many distributions and also has an excellent set of tutorials and guides. Within a day I’d migrated a domain and WordPress website over to Linode from DreamHost. Performance was superb compared to what I was used to. I actually enjoyed controlling Apache directly, setting up redirects and getting to grips with installing security certificates.

Last weekend I migrated this blog. I’ve stuck with WordPress for now but starting to look at static site options so I’m more in control and rely less on plugins. Again the performance of WordPress on Linode is excellent and the website migration was pretty trivial. Next up is the podcast which will be a little more involved but hopefully not too bad.

If you are using shared hosting and thinking of moving to something more beefy then consider Linode. Requires more effort but being this in control of my sites is something I wish I’d done years ago.

New Clothes

The change in season’s has prompted me to give the blog a fresh look. Nothing fancy and quite simple like most of the other blog templates I’ve picked up. I plumped for Modicus Remix which I’ve been tweaking today. Quite pleased with the look although I do want to edit the CSS slightly as some things look a bit iffy.

I also took the opportunity to remove Intense Debate and switch to Disqus. We use Disqus on DigitalOutbox and I’ve been impressed with the better options and faster performance than I saw here with Intense Debate. One big advantage of Intense Debate was the plugin support but they haven’t really taken off yet, certainly not to the level I expected.

I also tweaked the Google advert locations. I finally put on some ad’s back around April/May and they’ve earned enough to pay for the blog hosting so that’s not too shabby. The theme change also allows for a nice DigitalOutbox link in the sidebar. Nothing like a bit of self promotion from time to time. So that’s the theme change for another year although I do have some thoughts around adding a more colourful theme next time that I want to hand crank myself. Just need a bit more time and motivation.

Improving WordPress Search

One thing that’s always niggled me about WordPress is the search capability. While other area’s within the platform have improved over the years, especially in the back end, search has always felt a bit unloved. I’ve used plugin’s like the excellent Search Everything to allow for wider and deeper searching of my blog but I still wanted more, especially as content like my images are hosted elsewhere on Flickr. I’m now trying a new search solution, Viewzi Site Search, which in my opinion delivers a far better search tool than default WordPress. To see Viewzi in action type a word into the search box at the top of this page (if you visit the site that is RSS fans) and press return or click on Search.

Viewzi blog search

The search results will be returned in a far more visually rich style as seen in the screenshot above. Extracts for each post are shown with your search term highlighted. Comments and posts are also easily distinguished and you can easily turn off comment searching if you only want pages and posts to be searched. The results appear in a modal window above your blog page – click on a post title to jump to that page in the blog. So far I’m really pleased with the testing I’ve done and the accuracy of the search results.

There are four blog ‘views’ currently available. The standard blog search works against your blog but you can also set up views for Video, Photo and Timeline. Video currently supports YouTube and Viddler accounts with more coming soon. Photo supports Flickr, SmugMug or Picassa.

Viewzi flickr search

Clicking on Blog Photo will run a search against my Flickr photo’s, returning popular images in the modal window. Mouse over the image to display a higher resolution picture and click on the picture to go directly to the Flickr page for the image. Really pleased with how this works and beats having a local gallery installed on the blog.

As a side note, the picture highlighted was taken in Aug 2007, the day the Apple store opened in Glasgow and also the day that Roy picked up his first Apple computer. It’s also one of the last images of me before I started losing some weight. What a difference! I look really fat in that picture compared to now. Anyway, enough about me.

The Blog Timeline displays a nice scrolling timeline view of the search. This is really a nice to have compared to the other two views but it’s a view that I’ve looked at having before on the blog via a couple of plugin’s so it’s good to see it incorporated in Viewzi. Within the plugin settings you have some search stats available – number of searches per day, topics searched for etc. Standard fare really.

One issue that may put people off is that adverts are displayed amongst the search results. These are adverts placed by Viewzi. i don’t have an issue and they are working on ways of incorporating your own adverts into the search results. Once in place your adverts will be displayed 50% of the time and theirs 50% of the time. Sounds fair and if your desperate to set that up now you can contact them for more info and help.

Some features that I’d like to see added through time:

  • Search results return tags and categories associated to posts that can be clicked on for more deeper browsing.
  • Support of additional search views – my comments from other sites through Intense Debate, del.icio.us links, Google Reader shares etc.
  • Ability to search across all views via one search, returning results based on priority and relevance.
  • Greater control over the modal form – CSS styling to allow alignment with blog design.

As a package I’m really impressed so far. Easy to set-up, no styling required and search results delivered quickly with hopefully more sources covered soon. I did also look at Lijit which offers much the same promise as Viewzi with many more supported sources but the results returned weren’t as well styled as with Viewzi or as well integrated. Overall Viewzi is a plug-in that is well worth trying if the default WordPress search isn’t quite doing it for you.

Blog Updates

With work finished for the year (and by that I mean I’m not dialling in to work again as I would end up doing ‘stuff’) it’s given me time to make a few tweaks to the blog. So, in no particular order:

  • On the hosting side moved from PHP 4 to PHP 5. No noticeable improvements or issues except that I can now run a few extra plugins that were PHP 5 only.
  • New WordPress, new theme. I’ve moved to using Depo Clean which I’ve always liked. Hardly any tweaks – made it slightly wider and gave the sidebar slightly more room and that’s it. Still need to think of a catchy tagline.
  • Dropped the number of plugins I was using which has speeded things up a bit.
  • Added Lifestream plugin which I really like. Seems to work quickly and so far without errors.
  • WordPress 2.7 back end is very different. I actually like this over 2.6 except it still feels sluggish. So I’ve removed some dashboard entries which has helped and also moved to turbo mode using Google Gears. This install, for me, was really messy and I constantly had to enable/disable gears and refresh the install page. Now that it’s complete there is a small but worthwhile performance increase.

That’s about it really. Now onto the important matter – content. I’ve got a handful of draft posts that I either need to finish, but they might not exactly be relevant now, or ditch and move on. Finding time to blog has been difficult. Even knowing what to blog has been difficult, especially as Twitter works so well for firing off quick one liners and links. Still, I’ve a few posts that I do need to get completed over the next couple of weeks so we’ll see how it goes after that. I can never see me shutting the site down but I would like to post more so it doesn’t feel so stale. Ahh, so fuck- who cares if it’s stale. It’s my site, I’ll blog when i want to! Mmmm – there’s a tagline in there methinks.

Intense Debate

IntenseDebate is a service for improving and managing your blog comments, not only on your own blog but across any blog supporting their service. I’ve always been frustrated that the comments on the blog are:

  • Basic with no threading support
  • Ask for a lot of details when people visit
  • No way of keeping track of my comments in one central place – i.e. posting elsewhere – you can’t see when those posts are updated

I tried CoComment a couple of years ago but was never satisfied with the service. Disqus and IntenseDebate looked to be better options but I never liked that the comments were stored elsewhere and not on my site. For me to commit to a service I wanted to be more in control of comments and be in a position to move them to where I wanted at and time. However there’s been a couple of changes recently which has made me move to installing IntenseDebate on the site.

Firstly IntenseDebate have been bought by Automattic, the people behind WordPress and a few other services. This gives me a lot more reassurance that the service will be around to stay and that it will be enabled on a lot more blogs in the near future. This should make it easier to track conversations across the many sites I read. Secondly, both Disqus and IntenseDebate now support syncing of comments so that the comment exists not only on a remote server but on your local blog installation.

There are many features within the IntenseDebate pluging – threading, comment moderation, commenter profiles including reputation points and many more that are covered on their website. There is also an excellent dashboard that pulls together comments on your own posts and comments you have made elsewhere, but only on those sites that have also signed up to IntenseDebate.

I’m hoping that with WordPress 2.7 coming out soon which starts to include some of the functionality of IntenseDebate and also the availability of the new plugin will lead to an increase in the services support across many more sites. However please do let me know if you hit any snags when commenting – at the slightest wiff on any problems I’ll move back to the old system. However there are no issues so far for me so here’s hoping for plain sailing.

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