This week most of my time was spent in revamping this blog. Actually, my blog has been running on WordPress 2.2.3 for a long time; I should probably thank my stars that it was not hacked during that timeframe, and I should probably also be grateful to the WordPress secure plugin which was running all this while on my blog in order to protect the admin area (a newer version of the software still runs on the blog).
I would always promise myself to find time to upgrade the blog (actually "blogs", since there was another blog running under the same old version of WordPress) but I kept procrastinating because I had too much stuff to do. And time passed by and nothing seemed to be happing until…
I happened to stumble upon a special offer by Nathan Briggs on the E1kad forum (just in case you are not a member you may join here) where he offered to upgrade WordPress blogs for just peanuts! Yep, $8 for upgrading a "heavy" blog like this one is surely peanuts.
Anyway, fortunately I happened to know Nathan (he is my customer) so I had no problems in assigning him the task. Now here are the steps I followed to upgrade the blog:
1. I backed up the database as well as the home directory of the domain on which my blog is hosted. Yes, Nathan did mention in his offer that he would take backups of the blog before upgrading it but I still took a backup as a precautionary measure. If you use Cpanel™ and don’t know how to do backups, just go to the "Backup" link after logging in Cpanel and click on the two links marked by red circles in this screenshot:
The home directory would backup your home directory files, including files residing in the public_html directory (which is the directory the public is able to view). The database backup would backup the sql database for you, which contains all your WordPress posts, plugin data, settings, etc.
Remember that you should NOT click on the "Full Backup" link unless you have been granted administrator access to that account. Full backups can only be restored by a UNIX administrator, and you would usually be granted that privilege only if you own an 'unmanaged' VPS or dedicated server.
I also took time to backup data from WordPress's admin area as well. Okay, I am just a bit too freaky about backups and this is not a necessary step if you have done your job well above! But if you want to do this then here is one cool plugin to help you with just that (it even comes with the option of setting up 'scheduled backups').
2. Next I assigned the task of upgrading the blog to Nathan, who did a fine job!
3. After he finished his job, it was my time to customize my blog. To understand my predicament, just imagine that I have been wearing tattered clothes like a beggar all those years, and now that I am trying to fit myself into new clothes, it would surely take some time and headache before I get accustomed to them! ;)
Anyways, I made some sweeping changes-
Note: I am next going to mention some of the plugins I installed on my blog. Plugins generally tend to be resource hogs, thus you shouldn’t use anything that is not needed. I also recommend that you backup your blog database again before installing any new plugin (even if you have backed it up before); that way, it would be easier for you to perform a "rollback" just in case any problem happens.
Please also note that my server is running on PHP 5 and MY SQL 5. If this is not you, you should ask your host to upgrade your server as PHP 4 is no longer supported by the PHP community!
4. I was having a hard time understanding the new navigational menus in WordPress, so I downloaded this cool plugin to ease my frustration. With this plugin, I guess even a 4-year old would have no problems navigating through the blog with ease ;) This really made the admin menus much clearer to me! This is a "must-have" plugin for sure!
I actually got to know about this plugin from this site, which lists 4 other plugins, but I don’t think you need all of them; in any case, feel free to play around! :D
Just to let you know, in order to save you time as well as keep this article from developing into an ebook, I would list only the most useful plugins I have installed, but this is obviously in no way a comprehensive list of all the plugins I have.
5. After reading the following posts regarding Feedburner Pingshot service (in case you are not already familiar with it, it is a free remote pinging service offered by FeedBurner, now owned by Google):
I realized that Feedburner was hurting me more than helping; plus there is really no need of any third party "pinging plugin" anymore because WordPress's default pinging settings are now fairly stable. The only remaining complaint (which again seems to be nothing more than myth, as you could confirm from here) is that it still sends a new ping every time you update a post.
After deactivating Feedburner, I added only the following pinging service in WordPress (just go to Settings=>Writing):
If yours is a brand new blog, this service should be enabled by default; in my case, I had to remove Pingomatic during the time I was using Pingshot, so as to avoid duplicate pings!
Actually Pingomatic is enough to keep your blog going, but if you also want to send pings to other non-English blogs for extra exposure, then you may add the following four services to your ping list as well. Be sure to confirm if these services are still working:
One reason you would want to keep your ping list as short as possible is that sending too many pings to the same server might get your blog banned; but more importantly, these services are major resource hogs.
If you are on a shared server you should be particularly careful about your CPU usage, that is, if you don’t want to get an email from your host asking you upgrade! :)
Never mind but I am a bit of a plugin junkie ;)
7. If you are a big fan of Google Analytics™ like me, here is some food for thought: the old analytics plugin no longer works with the new Google tracking code, and if you want to use the enhanced tracking and reporting features of Google Analytics (both present and upcoming) then you MUST use the new tracking code.
Fortunately, there is an easy way out: you simply need to delete the old analytics plugin (in case you have it) and install this new one: http://cavemonkey50.com/code/google-analyticator/
I have also installed Statcounter plugin on my site (I am a paid subscriber there, by the way):
Actually, there is a little story behind it. At first I installed the Jquery Lightbox plugin but for some reason it didn’t work on my blog. So I had to switch to the other one!
Anyway, in case of either plugin, you will need to add the rel=”lightbox” attribute to a link tag to activate the lightbox. So let's say that I have created two versions of a screenshot:
http://flexiblewriter.com/images/namecheap-sm.png (smaller version)
http://flexiblewriter.com/images/namecheap.png (bigger version)
So, the entire code would look like this:
<a href="http://flexiblewriter.com/images/namecheap.png" target="_blank" rel="lightbox"><img src="http://flexiblewriter.com/images/namecheap-sm.png" border="0" width="295" height="195" /></a>
Got it? ;)
I had a hard time getting it working in WordPress though, as I use a WYSWYG editor (Tinymce) and it often messes up with the code.
9. CaSe Insensitive plugin: My login username for this blog is "arindam" (without quotes, and CaSe sensitive), and thanks to Roboform, I don’t even need to remember it. But let's imagine that one day Roboform doesn’t work for some reason and I had to manually login to my blog, and instead of typing "arindam" I end up typing "Arindam"! Would WordPress let me log in? Not if I'm not using this plugin! ;)
Yes, I have tested that the plugin works! ;)
11.PHP Code widget: If you are like me, you don’t want to mess with PHP code. Still there are some plugins which require you to add some snippets of PHP code in your blog theme in order for them to function properly. It used to be messy but not any more! With this plugin even WordPress newbies would be able to insert or remove any number of php code snippets in any part of the template they want, without having to "read through chunks of codes".
12. The Site Maintenance plugin: Don't want Google or other sites to access your blog because you are upgrading it or making certain tweaks? This plugin is for you! While the public would still be able to view your blog even when it is in "maintenance" mode, any external server which tries to access your blog would get a "503" error, which means that your blog is currently "unavailable".
Warning: Activating this plugin would immediately take your blog into the "maintenance" mode; thus please DO NOT activate it unless you need to, and be sure to deactivate it as soon as your maintenance job is over, so that your blog becomes available to other websites and servers!
13. The Video Embedder plugin: Self-explanatory; it lets you embed remotely hosted videos on your blog, but unlike the SmartYoutube plugin, it supports a wide range of video sites apart from Youtube! :) I have already used it here!
14. The Related Posts plugin: There are actually two more similar plugins which offer the same function: that of linking to relevant articles under blog posts. One is the classic one which is pretty old and I am not sure if it works on the new WordPress anymore!
And another one is Yet Another Related Posts plugin. It is quite feature-rich and easy to install no doubt, but on my blog it didn't display a single relevant article, even though I reduced the threshold to as low as 0.1! I didn’t even find the "show admins the match scores" option which the plugin author speaks about in the FAQs. To top it all, it even slowed down my blog!
EDIT: Mysteriously enough, it seems to work now, lol. Maybe it was a bit p**sed off by the fact that I was using its competitors in its place… ;) Anyway, if it doesn't work on your blog, you know you have options (read below)!
So I ended up with this one!
While this plugin too has trouble in displaying related posts on my blog, at least it offers the option of showing random entries instead of the rather dumb "no related posts found"!
The plugin download page says that it is compatible up to WordPress 2.6; however, it works fine on my blog which is running on 2.7.
15. PluginHogDetector: Its name is a bit misleading! Going by its name, one would think that it pinpoints the exact plugins which are consuming an excess of server resources, but that is simply not the case. It would just tell you if your blog is loading too slowly or not!.
If you know how to read server-generated "queries" it would prove useful to you. When you activate it and load your blog, it generates an ugly table full of stats, but that table would disappear as soon as you deactivate it! In fact, I deactivated it as soon as I was done with it! IMO, well worth installing!
16. And then there are some minor plugins which don’t need much explanation, so I would simply list them all here:
And then the WP-CommentNavi, WP-Ban, WP-PageNavi, WP-PostRatings, WP-PostViews, all of can be downloaded from: http://www.lesterchan.net/portfolio/programming.php
17. While I installed several new plugins, I also had to deactivate several ones, mainly because they proved to be resource hogs and made my blog slower (but maybe this problem is unique to me).
a) The Twitter Widgets Plugin: This plugin displays a certain number of tweets from your Twitter account on your blog's sidebar. Works as described, but proved to be a major CPU hog for me!
b) Next, there is the WP Super Cache plugin: It is supposed to speed up a blog but for me it worked just the opposite; it slowed it down to a snail's pace! Its configuration options are not easy if you are a WordPress newbie! But if you want you may still check it out; maybe you would have a different or better experience than me!
c) And then there are plugins which simply didn’t work for me! Like the WP super edit plugin! It is supposed to enhance the default tinymce editor of WordPress (btw, did anyone notice that Tinymce of WP 2.7 doesn't load well in some browsers?).
I was already using the Mudbomb plugin but I was a bit worried that it wouldn't work with my new blog since it has not been updated for a while. Moreover, the features of WP Super edit looked more attractive to me. But here is what happened:
The WP Super edit requires you to turn on the visual editor of WordPress (it is turned on by default by the way), and after some easy and not-so-easy configuration options, I was set. But the real trouble started when I could no longer see the WYSWYG editor in WordPress when writing a new post.
A quick search on Google revealed that actually the tinymce editor supplied with WordPress 2.7 is not working for everyone. So I don’t think it is the plugin's fault, as its functionality is solely dependant on the functionality of Wordress's visual editor. For now I am sticking to Mudbomb (crazy enough, this one requires you to turn off the visual editor before you activate it).
The lesson: don’t fix something if it ain't broke! :P
Be sure to read Jess's comment (author of WP super edit) below!
d) Two other plugins I had to deactivate after the upgrade are: WpCandy and Safe title. Why? They have not only become ineffective after the upgrade, but are also slowing down by blog. I could get it straight from the error log which was generated with every new visit to the blog. Once I deactivated these two, my blog got faster and the error log also vanished!
Safe title can be downloaded here, but just as the owner himself acknowledged, you really don’t need it anymore! And just in case anyone is having trouble with wp candy here is a help topic on that: http://wpcandy.com/plugins/wpcandy-plugin.html
18. Next I made a few minor adjustments to the blog. First I arranged the page order as well as removed two of the five pages. If your theme supports widgets, you can do this simply by going to Appearance=>Widgets section, and then click to see the widgets on the right side bar of the blog. Next, click on the "Pages" widget. You may order the topics by post IDs if you want, as I have done:
You can also exclude certain pages from showing up in that portion by excluding the post IDs of those pages. Here is a short tutorial as well as a plugin for finding the post ID of your post/page; to be honest though, you really don’t need that plugin!
Another way you could range the pages is by sorting them by page order number. If you select this option, you need to put a number for each page so as to order it. For example, if you order your pages in the following way:
1. Page1: Has an Order of 2
2. Page2: Has an Order of 1
then obviously page2 would appear on top of page1!
19. One other thing I did was to clean up the dashboard. The dashboard was loading pretty slowly, and it was only yesterday that I figured the remedy for it! I found out that the useless news and stuff were cluttering the admin area, thereby making it heavier. So I simply clicked on the "Screen Options" menu button at the top:
Next, I simply unchecked the items shown in this screenshot, and then just clicked the mouse again, and the useless stuff disappeared!
So this is a summary of the changes I made to my blog. Like I said, I have listed only the most useful plugins in this article and as such, this list is not comprehensive. I do plan to update my list of recommended WordPress plugins soon, and NuttieZine subscribers would get the first dig! Stay tuned! :)
Oh, and feel free to comment, as always!