One of the benefits of using an extremely popular blogging platform, such as WordPress is the diverse range of plugins available. This allows for the easy addition of new features to a blog, and the latest versions of WordPress provide excellent tools to make it easy to install plugins and keep them updated. In this post I will mention some of my favourite WordPress plugins, and describe what they do and why I like them.
Akismet is one of the most popular anti-spam plugins, and has replaced spam karma 2 as my plugin of choice after the latter was discontinued. Akismet is incredibly simple to use and configure, requiring just a WordPress API code. It then sits quietly by, monitoring all comments and trackbacks and filtering out the spam. At the moment it is working overdrive, thanks to an overzealous spambot operating form a small set of IP addresses.
Unlike some anti-spam solutions, akismet uses a centralised server which serves as a filter for thousands of different blogs. This allows the service to take advantage of the repetitive nature of a lot of comments spam, and to rapidly isolate dodgy IP addresses. Of course, it also adds a central point of failure, but I haven’t noticed any issues in this respect.
Obviously the most important stats with respect to a spam filter is accuracy, and while Akismet has a low rate of misses, I haven’t been able to assess false positives as this blog doesn’t get enough traffic.
Not Spam: 13
Missed Spam: 2
False Positives: 0
A recent addition to my blog, Backtype Connect is the offspring of the excellent Backtype website. Backtype initially began as a comments aggregator, bringing together a users comments across the entire blogosphere, all under one page. This move helped to solve one of my major problems with the blogosphere, a dispersed identity which can lack cohesion. A user visiting my blog would be completely isolated from comments I’ve made elsewhere, despite these comments being as important as those made on home turf.
From this beginning Backtype went on to consider another issue of the social web, namely that a lot of conversation remained divorced from the article being discussed. If someone were to tweet a comment about this blog post, I’d have little idea, and systems such as bit.ly and tinyurl.com obfuscate the connection even further. Backtype worked to index these references, extending pingback to places such as twitter and comments threads.
It is this latter service that the Backtype Connect plugin integrates directly into the blog. For example, a look at the comments of this entry will show the tweet I made to advertise this post, as well as any other conversations about it that may arise on other places, such as Digg or Reddit. (God forbid this blog should ever get dugg, it would be dead before it hit the front page.)
Given my fear of getting dugg, it was possibly a mistake to add this plugin. There are many plugins which add share-this links to the bottom of blog entries, making it easier for users to share the content over different websites. I was already familiar with the author of iBegin Share after having used the fantastic lifestream plugin, discussed below.
iBegin share is particularly appealing, as it adds a compact link which opens up an in-stream list of possible options. The plugin is free and open-source, and thus is easily extensible with further options. It also offers the option of sharing the article via E-mail, and provides statistics regarding exactly which articles are being shared, and via what services.
You can see it in operation at the bottom of this post.
Lifestream is absolutely amazing. Just as backtype unifies comments made across different blogs, lifestream unifies activities across the social web. It does this my making use of RSS feeds and API’s for a diverse range of services, and combines this into a timeline for your activity across the web. Developer David Cramer is still adding to an already impressive list of services which can be monitored by the plugin. As it currently stands my lifestream tracks my activity on:
- GfW Live
- Backtype (obviously)
It also supports many more websites which I don’t use, as well as any generic RSS feed. As well as generating a dynamic stream, the plugin is also able to generate regular digests, much like my summaries of weekly tweets.
Twitter tools is probably THE tool for intergration between your blog and twitter. Not only does it allow one to make tweets from within WordPress (admittedly a fairly useless feature), but also allows one to generate automatic tweets when new blog posts are made. This blog also makes use of its API for retrieving recent tweets, both for the status bar at the bottom, and for the widget in the sidebar. The option for weekly tweet summaries is also useful, although the ability to make a blogpost for every tweet is somewhat more questionable.