New Plugin and Theme nominations for blogs.law.harvard.edu. . .

We’re looking to expand our selection of plugins and themes in our WordPress install, and would love your help figuring out what would be most useful to the blogs.law community.

Here’s the official WordPress plugin directory. Keep in mind that not all plugins can be run in a WordPress Mu environment, and that we reserve the right to reject plugins of dubious quality, security, or function.

Here’s the official WordPress theme directory. We don’t have a budget to pay for any premium themes (so only nominate free ones, please) and the same caveats apply around quality, security, and function.

Please comment below with your nominations, including the full URL to the item of concern. Happy blogging, and thanks for your help.

This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

22 Comments

  1. mmccabe

    December 11, 2009 @ 2:36 pm

    1

    I’ve heard some talk about a plugin that creates Google XML sitemaps to allow your blog to be better indexed. This plugin is in fact the most popular on the WordPress site. (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-sitemap-generator/) From talking to you guys I know the SEO on blogs.law is pretty good, so I don’t know that this plugin would have much effect.

    There are plugins out there that allow blogs to be viewed on mobile devices. (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/mobilepress/) I have a feeling that a fair amount of our visitors at the Corporate Governance blog are using Blackberrys and other devices to view our blog, so this might be worthwhile.

    Finally, we had a commenter recently who asked for a way to print blog posts without all the extra theme stuff. There seems to plugins that are designed to do this (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-print/)

    Also, we’re always looking to get a better search and better analytics data

  2. mmccabe

    December 11, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

    2

    … with our blog, but I know from talking with you guys that this is difficult.

    Thanks for all your hard work,

    Matt McCabe
    Program on Corporate Governance
    mmccabe@law.harvard.edu

  3. jeffgoldenson

    December 11, 2009 @ 4:28 pm

    3

    (I’m a new hire, working in the digital lab at the HLS library)

    I like this one…:
    http://midmodesign.com/news/general/our-special-wordpress-theme/

    But I also like to tweak them. Is access to the css files for the themes available?

    I would love a way to make changes, update by ftp, and check on them to see how they’re rendering (without having to trouble anybody).

    Thanks much,

    Jeff Goldenson
    jgoldenson@law.harvard.edu
     blogs.law.harvard.edu

  4. djcp

    December 11, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

    4

    @jeffgoldenson – Unfortunately, we can’t allow edit access to our themes because WordPress *does not* have a way to safely edit themes separate from raw PHP code. If you can access a wordpress theme, you can write arbitrary PHP and compromise the entire wordpress install. A sad situation, but one we have to function under.

    That said, many of the themes we’ve installed offer some customizations. I’ll check out the midmodesign one.

    @mmccabe – I’ll look at both of those. I know I had to customize wp-print pretty heavily for another blog, but maybe it’d be OK defaultly for us.

    Thanks for the suggestions! Keep ‘em coming.

  5. Aeneas

    December 11, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

    5

    This probably plays off of the same problem that jeffgoldenson’s does, but it would be wonderful to be able to edit the php for our sites, and to be able to write custom scripts. If that screws up the install, then I understand why that can’t be done, but in a perfect world…

  6. djcp

    December 12, 2009 @ 10:54 am

    6

    @mmcabe – To finish a thought: google sitemaps help less search engine friendly sites get google to fully spider them, and generate reports on problems google has crawling your site. Google LOVES us, and is constantly spidering our content. As of now, we have ~ 49,600 blogs.law pages in their index, 1500 of which are your site alone (just search for “site:blogs.law.harvard.edu/corpgov”). I’m sure the plugin wouldn’t hurt, but I can’t imagine google spidering us more than it already does. The “problem report” would be interesting to see, I suppose.

    @aeneas – Yes, it’s the same lack of “sandboxing” in WordPress theme development that keeps us from being able to allow users to edit and upload arbitrary PHP. I guarantee if we opened up our server we’d be pwned in a week (or less).

    We do a lot behind the scenes to identify and ban malicious users, of which there are at least a couple a week, despite all the gateways we have in place. We’re a fairly high-value wordpress target – spammers want in.

    WordPress Mu runs all its code under a single user account, there are simply no gateways between users being able to stomp on each others blogs once you’re able to write arbitrary PHP.

    We’d have to set up individual wordpress blogs for each of our users, and update them all individually. Not fun.

    To end on a positive note: please keep the plugin and theme nominations coming! Hopefully you can find some that can mitigate any lost flexibility you’ve experienced by not being able to edit WordPress Mu directly.

  7. Yule

    December 14, 2009 @ 12:44 am

    7

    I see Intense Debate is listed as a possible plug-in – I vote for that one! (I’d prefer Disqus, but if I can’t have Disqus, I’ll take Intense Debate).

    The themes look pretty – hard to choose. I prefer the cleaner/ uncluttered ones, but also like Mystique and Skinbu, fwiw.

  8. Brandon Haynes

    December 14, 2009 @ 10:28 am

    8

    1) Any plugin that allows me to leverage Google Analytics for visitor statistics would be wonderful. There are plenty of these plugins available, but I don’t have direct experience with any of them.

    2) Although I understand that modifying anything that might allow malicious PHP injection is a no-go, it sure would be nice to be able to include some ad-hoc CSS across all pages. I see that there are some plugins in this area (e.g. http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/simpler-css/), but again I do not have any direct experience with these.

    Thanks for considering our input in improving the platform! It is much appreciated.

    Brandon

  9. djcp

    December 15, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

    9

    @Brandon Haynes – I’ll check out that CSS plugin. . . I’ll need to think through it. You might not be able to use it to inject javascript, but you could certainly do annoying / odd things with overlays and css link visit disclosure attacks ( http://seclists.org/bugtraq/2002/Feb/271 ). I’m not sure how much we should care about this, but it should be thought through.

    And on google analytics : we need to experiment. My understanding is that it’s more difficult than it should be to get GA working with many sites hosted on subdirectories – but maybe there’s a plugin out there that “just works.”

  10. Danny

    December 27, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

    10

    The “Admin Drop Down Menu” plugins would be very useful to have. I also agree that the google-analytics functions plugin should be added. Lastly, the Search Hilite plugin would be nice to have, but is certainly less important than the menu and analytics functions.

  11. Danny

    December 27, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

    11

    One more plugin that would be very useful: the ability for users to add a contact form to their blogs. There are a variety of plugs for Word Press that allow this, I have no recommendation as to which is the best choice, although probably the simplest one would be most useful.

  12. Stuart Shieber

    January 4, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

    12

    I’m noticing recently that there are more spam messages getting past akismet. There’s a reCaptcha plugin that requires people to get past a captcha before posting a comment, which should cut down on spam. Would this be useful to install?

    While I’m at it, please add my vote for a solution that allows adjusting theme CSS (if not actual theme editing), and some kind of Google Analytics that “just works”.

    – Stuart

  13. philg

    January 11, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

    13

    Video is the modern way to communicate. Maybe we already have it and I haven’t noticed, but it should be as easy to upload and then publish an embedded video as it is to upload and publish text.

  14. djcp

    January 11, 2010 @ 4:16 pm

    14

    @philg – we have Anarchy Media Player installed, which simplifies the integration of video from youtube and a few other video hosting services.

    It also allows you to paste in a full URL to an mp3 or mov (and a few other files) – it’ll emit a player for you. You could upload an mov file to the wordpress media library and then dump a link to that file into a post. Anarchy will pick up the link and make it playable. Feel free to ask for a larger quota if you’d like to host multimedia on our servers.

    If you want conversion and a slick flash player, I’d go with Youtube.

  15. djcp

    January 11, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

    15

    @Danny – It would seem that the “Admin Drop Down Menu” plugin is mostly obviated with the backend redesign in the 2.7 branch – you can get to any admin page from any other admin page with the menu(s) on the left- no?

    I’ll look into it for you- if it offers a better workflow, why not?

    Feedback form plugin: I’ll need to carefully audit anything that gateways a webform to email to ensure we don’t become a spam engine. Hopefully I can find something sufficient.

  16. philg

    January 13, 2010 @ 10:55 am

    16

    @djcp: Thanks for the pointer to Anarchy. I think that the most common way to originate a video these days is with a Flip camera (incredible user experience) and those produce .mp4 as a native format. Some of the digital still cameras with a video feature produce .mov. Whatever the format, I think that all of them are at too high a bit rate for comfortable storage and streaming. So some kind of transcoding/compression is required to do this on a large scale. I’m not sure that hosting on Youtube, et al., is a good long-term solution because they will eventually stick 15- and 30-second ads into all of their videos (as soon as they can find enough to sell).

  17. philg

    January 16, 2010 @ 11:38 pm

    17

    @djcp: I decided to test out videos from my Google Android phone. They come with a “.3gp” extension. Quicktime on Windows plays them just fine. I uploading them using the “add video” feature of WordPress and it said that the file did not meet security guidelines. This file format seems to be a standard for video from mobile phones. Shouldn’t people be able to publish it?

  18. jrshort

    February 4, 2010 @ 9:33 pm

    18

    Thanks for receiving input!

    I’m happy to read in the comments above that you’re looking into Google Analytics. That’s my top request at the moment.

    I’d also be interested in a theme or plugin that nicely displays Twitter updates.

    @djcp I’m sure you’ve seen it happen many times, but here’s a good example of Google’s love for us here. On Jan 23, I put up a website in Japan on a new study abroad program. By Feb 3, Google still hadn’t picked it up (judging from my search using the program and university name in quotation marks). I wrote about it and linked to it from my blog here, and when I checked 3 or 4 minutes later, Google had me at the top. Even more impressive, though, I checked again about 20 minutes after the blog post, and the Japanese site had skyrocketed to the top in Google even in searches without the quotation marks. I was impressed.

  19. djcp

    February 5, 2010 @ 10:39 am

    19

    @jrshort – you can bring in twitter updates via the RSS widget. Maybe that doesn’t fit your definition of “nicely” – but it does work, and because it’s not client side (like the twitter copy-and-paste embed code), your tweets get spidered by search engines.

    And on google juice: it’s complicated. The reason we have such strong love from google is partly because we haven’t let this service become a haven for spam bloggers / link farms / all sorts of other undesirables. But our high page rank means we’re that much more of an attractive target.

    It takes a lot of work to keep this service clean, and the spammers are getting more clever and better at making longer-term plans. We’re seeing an uptick in blogs that – at first glance – aren’t clearly spam. It only becomes apparent that the blog is spam when it’s viewed in the context of the internet at large – the owner has other blogs similar to it, the blog URL has been used in pointless, auto-generated comments on other blogs, etc. I don’t have a clear point here – just letting you know that it can be a double-edged sword.

  20. lianaleahy

    July 30, 2010 @ 9:44 am

    20

    I need a better code syntax highlighter plugin! Thanks!

  21. lianaleahy

    July 30, 2010 @ 9:45 am

    21

    Ooooh, and there’s also a plugin that will push your twitter updates to you blog. Very cool.

  22. djcp

    July 30, 2010 @ 10:16 am

    22

    Liana,

    The core syntax highlighting is pretty nice – see:

    http://en.support.wordpress.com/code/posting-source-code/

    and then fix the language parameter to be “ruby”, or any of the other languages. It seems to work well for ruby, but not for languages / markup that mixes code and HTML, like erb. You might be able to work around that via the visual editor.

    Also, we have the “syntax highlighter plus” plugin installed – have you enabled it for your blog?