Web-based forums/boards have had comment formatting buttons (quote, italic, bold, link, etc.) for years. I have no theories as to why this feature is not present on any major blogging platforms I know of. Even weirder, it’s really hard to find a plugin to implement what would seemingly be a much-requested feature. But went searching for one tonight and eventually found LMBBox.


Not listed in the major plugin repo’s. Doesn’t claim support for anything over WP 2.0, but I’ve got it working in WP 2.3. Required some mods to comments.php in my theme (probably one reason why it’s not a common plugin), but seems to be working nicely (Safari of course insists on showing its usual elegant but un-styled form buttons; not yet tested in IE).

Music: Vicki Anderson :: The Message From The Soul Sister

Future Post

One of WordPress’ little-used features is its ability to set a “drip date” – to set a post’s timestamp in the future so that it doesn’t go live on the site until that time comes around. Recently I was working on a site for a client who needed an Events section. For various reasons, I didn’t want to use any of the existing events plugins for WP – I just wanted to override the behavior for future-dated posts so that they’d go live on the site immediately, without waiting.

For the past year or so, I’ve virtually never found a case where anything I wanted to do with WP hadn’t already been solved by an existing plugin or tweak to template logic. But amazingly, I couldn’t find anything to override the default future post behavior. Posted on WP-Hackers about the problem and got a few solutions volunteered within a few hours (there’s nothing like a vibrant open source community). By far the most elegant was this one from the magical Ryan Boren (same guy who planted the semi-secret WordPress t-shirt geocache):

Stick this in a php document in your plugins folder (remember not to include any whitespace after the closing php tag!), activate it, and create a post with a future timestamp. The post’s status field in wp_posts will be set to “publish” rather than “future” and it’ll go live on the site immediately.

You can also download this as a ready-to-go plugin.

Ryan’s too busy to host this trivial but super-useful plugin himself, but invited me to. I’ve submitted it to WP-Plugins and am awaiting a response – should be available there as well before long.

Music: Daniel Mille :: Les Minots

Suite Matthew

The Red Hot Chachkas are an eclectic Bay Area klezmer group who, once upon a time, played at Matthew and Stacia’s wedding (Matthew is our dearly departed friend whose life was cut short by an inattentive driver in 2003). Soon after the wedding, Matthew joined the Chachkas as a basisst, and played with the group until his death. The Chachkas have written a song for Matthew: Suite Matthew.

I’ve spent the past few nights converting Matthew’s memorial site from Movable Type to WordPress, getting comments going again, fixing old links, re-embedding media, and just sprucing up the place in general. Working on it has made me miss Matthew all over again. He used to send the most hilarious links by day, then make the most intense music by night. He used to give the best hugs. He used to cook the best chicken. I miss you, Matthew.

Hermenautic Circle

Hermenaut In the beginning, there was Hermenaut, an excellent ‘zine out of the Boston area from the mid-90s. Hermenaut hit it pretty big, as zines go, because it was packed with excellent writing and funky topics (issues had themes like “False Authenticity” and “Vertigo”). My old Liberace piece was originally written for Hermenaut’s “camp” issue. Fast forward a decade. Some of the original Hermenenaut authors, including Boston Globe writer Josh Glenn (who was one of Hermenaut’s founders) participate in a free-form (but closed) mailing list for around a hundred writers and gadflies.

Eventually, the “Hermeneutic Circle” realized that many of its subscribers maintained their own blogs, which gave rise to the idea of a “planet” web site that could be used to aggregate new posts from all of the individual blogs (without requiring writers to post in two places). Glenn signed up with Birdhouse Hosting, we registered hermenaut.org, and went looking for a solution.

The rub was that Glenn wanted more than simple RSS aggregation. He wanted posts from scattered blogs made into actual posts on the Hermeneutic Circle, so people could comment directly on the site. Somehow we needed to consume RSS feeds and produce new entries on the new blog, rather than just links. Eventually I stumbled on FeedWordPress – one of the coolest WordPress plugins I’ve tried in a while. Hand it a URL and it will discover all embedded feeds and ask you which one to subscribe. Each new author found in the feeds is made into a genuine author in the local WP system. Each category found in a feed becomes a genuine category in the local WP system. A nice API gives you a new set of template tags you can use to control whether commenting happens on the original author’s site or on the local site. And so on. Really nicely done (and yes, we tipped the plugin developer).

Hermenautic Circle went live today in starter mode; we’re off and running. And once again, I’m just amazed at the amount of work saved by the rich plugin landscape surrounding WordPress (I really thought I was going to have code this by hand).

Music: Angels Of Light :: Black River Song


If you’re subscribed to Birdhouse Updates and haven’t received a digest in a while, way sorry! Looks like two things were in play: A PHP upgrade sensitized WP-Digest to use of a reserved keyword. On top of that, during debugging one day I lamely left my own email address in place of the list address. Since I was seeing the weekly digests over the past month, assumed everyone else was too. D’oh! I’ll send out a make-up digest now.

Use the Subscribe box on the right to get weekly updates from Birdhouse in your inbox.

Music: Lei Qiang :: The Ballad Of Blue Flower

Upgrading WordPress with Subversion

Hey, cool – the cats at wordpress.org have posted a set of suggestions for people preparing for the upgrade to version 2.3 – due out in a couple of days – and they’ve linked to the documentation I wrote on maintaining WordPress with Subversion.

This kind of upgrade has become a fairly big deal for me, as I now maintain more than 40 WordPress installations on Birdhouse and more than 30 at the J-School. Over the past few months I’ve converted all of them to Subversion checkouts, wrapped in a mass-upgrade shell script I wrote, which steps through the array of all installations and upgrades each in sequence. Takes about three minutes to upgrade 30 blogs – a far cry from the manual work I used to put into this process.

The downside is that upgrades inevitably break a few plugins and/or API calls, which means there’s usually a bit of fallout (always fixable). But there’s more benefit in keeping all installations up-to-date than there is downside in risking having some features break temporarily.

Plugin compatibility for 2.3 looks great so far; don’t see anything on the short list that will cause problems for any of my peeps.

Music: Mavis Staples :: Turn Me Around

The Other WP-Cache

Miles WP shirt WP-Cache easily ranks among the top five of my most-used (and most critical!) WordPress plugins (static site performance with dynamic site behavior, and all that jazz). But last week, heard about another kind of WP-Cache — developer Ryan Boren planted a couple of ammo cans full of WordPress t-shirts in the middle of Almaden Quicksilver Park — and didn’t list them on geocaching.com. In other words, a little insider training :)

Don’t generally like to drive much for a geocache (it kind of taints the enviro aspect), but made an exception today – this just sounded like too much fun. A huge and beautiful park, and plenty of traditional caches in the area too. Made the trip with Miles this morning and ended up spending almost the entire day hiking.

Tracked down the shirts mid-day and there’s still a ton of ’em. No extra-smalls, so had to drape him in a small. The find was extra special because this was, coincidentally, our 100th find! Happy birthday to us, or something.

Stopped to eat Bunny Grahams and drink the last of the water (when will I learn?). Splashed each other in a creek. Found an entire deer skeleton (and brought the skull home in the bag my WP shirt came in). Dropped off some of the travel bugs we picked up in Minnesota. Ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches in the middle of the woods. Hiked our butts off (Miles did five full miles today!) Amazing views, very few people, great father-son day. Life is good.

Flickr set

Links or Bookmarks?

Ignore this post if you’re not a WordPress user :)

There’s an interminable discussion going down on the WP-Hackers mailing list about one of those little semantic issues that snowballs perniciously into a major debate. WordPress’ back-end lets users manage URLs for inclusion in the sidebar. This area is usually used for the site’s blogroll, but many people use WordPress for non-bloggy purposes. The debate is over whether to title the administrative interface for this external URL manager “Links,” “Bookmarks,” or “Blogroll” (though “Blogroll” isn’t really on the table – that’s what it’s called now, and no one likes it).

There are a dozen good arguments on either side, but we’re trying to take the temperature of the WordPress user community. Helping out a bit by posting a poll here. Which term seems more intuitive / palatable / sensible to you?

Should WP's list of URLs be titled "Links" or "Bookmarks?"

View Results


Birdhouse Hosting welcomes katovichlaw.com:

Katovich Law Group assists clients in integrating sustainable, socially and environmentally responsible practices into their businesses at every level.

Katovich Law came to Birdhouse as a Plone site. The Plone CMS embeds its own server, and is therefore incompatible with Apache (without doing fancy port re-routing). Rather than go down that road (and because circumstances were going to make it very difficult to get a raw data dump or even a Plone backup from the old host), I offered to port the site to a more common/compatible CMS (Katovich had no particular attraction to any particular CMS – they were on Plone by circumstance).

Since the site had a pretty straightforward structure, decided to see if I could pull it off in WordPress (it’s what’s for breakfast). There were a few rough edges where WordPress’ blog orientation made things a bit tricky, but overall, the experience underscored my confidence in WP’s flexibility. Had never had cause to dig into the parent/child relationship of WordPress pages, but found them an incredibly easy way to organize hierarchical material and get logically nested URLs and nav sub-menus with zero effort.

Actually wanting to start mastering messing with Drupal, but this was a useful experiment.

Music: Spaceways Incorporated :: Future

Hosting FAQs on WordPress

Overdue for a thorough going-over of the Hosting FAQs, but before I dove in, wanted a clean publishing back-end for them (I’ve been maintaining them through phpMyAdmin out of laziness — the thought of building yet another CRUD back-end fills me with dread). Also wanted to build in a search engine for users. Flirted with the thought of making the FAQs a Movable Type site, but decided to try something new and employ WordPress as a CMS instead.
Continue reading “Hosting FAQs on WordPress”