Dougal Campbell's geek ramblings

WordPress, web development, and world domination.

Socializing a WordPress site

For this week’s WordPress Wednesday installment, let’s look at a few changes I’ve made here on this site in the past few weeks. As mentioned previously, there were several areas that I knew I wanted to go ahead and improve in the short term, as interim measures until I put a whole new theme in place. One of my primary goals here is gain and retain readers. I want to make the site “sticky” by providing several ways for visitors to keep up with my updates, and to spread my links to other potential readers.

Of course, the first part of gaining readership is to provide quality content. I hope that people already think I’m doing that. Beyond that, I need to highlight the various ways that readers can subscribe to my updates, and ways for them to spread the word. Let’s take a look at my first-cut efforts.

The biggest change I’ve made recently was to upgrade my site to WordPress 2.7, which is nearing release as I write this article. How does this help improve the site for my readers? Because doing so allowed me to enable threaded comments. You can now reply to individual comments left by other visitors. This should make it easier to keep track of conversation threads that follow a particular train of thought, and I hope encourage more participation in general.

Right now, my implementation is still crude. I haven’t had time to style the links and such, and it’s not displaying the link text I specified. But I will continue to make improvements as time allows.

I followed Otto’s notes on WordPress 2.7 Comments Enhancements. I took advantage of the new enhanced child theme templates at the same time by making my changes in a local copy of the comments.php template. I also enabled comment pagination and AJAX features, as mentioned in Otto’s article.

Another change I made was to move my feed subscription links closer to the top of my sidebar, and added standard feed icons to help them stand out. I plan to also add a form there for email notifications, but I’ll need to write some custom widget code for that.

A new addition is the Social Homes widget. This sidebar widget displays icons for various other services that I use. Things like my Delicious bookmarks, Twitter updates, Flickr photos, etc. These services help give a wider view of my activities, and ways to see other possible common interests that might not be evident in my blog.

Another new feature is the “Stumble It” button on single post views. StumbleUpon is a pretty good way to discover and share popular web sites and articles. The last few times I’ve posted items here that were more popular than usual, I’ve noticed spikes in visitors referred by StumbleUpon, so giving those users an easy reminder to share my links can’t hurt.

I’m also using a FeedBurner feature to insert links to Digg, StumbleUpon, Technorati, and Delicious at the end of each post. The StumbleUpon link is redundant, so I might take that one out. Again, I haven’t added any styling to these, but I probably will at some point, so that they stand out from the other content.

Lastly, I also have the Increase Sociability plugin installed. This plugin displays a custom greeting to visitors who arrive via links from either Digg or StumbleUpon. Again, this is a good way to encourage those visitors to vote up your links, so that they can gain more exposure.

So, those are some of the changes I’ve made in the last few weeks. Obviously, I’m still not done, but what do you think so far? What would you change?

About Dougal Campbell

Dougal is a web developer, and a "Developer Emeritus" for the WordPress platform. When he's not coding PHP, Perl, CSS, JavaScript, or whatnot, he spends time with his wife, three children, a dog, and a cat in their Atlanta area home.
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29 Responses to Socializing a WordPress site

  1. Bill Petro says:

    Very insightful, you’ve mentioned a number of WP plugins I was unaware of, but I’m curious: you have the Feedburner feature enabled… does it automatically “auto tag” the end of each article?

    There is some duplication of function with ShareThis, right?

    I also notice that your “buttons” on the left sidebar also duplicate some of the Subscribe buttons higher up. I find that on my site, I tend toward some cluttered sidebars, myself.


    • Dougal says:

      The Feedburner links at the end of each post were not automatic. I had to modify my theme template files to insert a bit of javascript.

      And yes, there is some duplicatation between some of these new links and the ShareThis plugin.

      And also yes, I haven’t gotten around to trimming down the ‘Buttons’ section of my sidebar. I have, however, greatly trimmed down the sidebar, in general. I removed four link categories which contained a lot of old external links. I will probably bring some of those back as a separate ‘sites of interest’ page, eventually.

  2. Web Talk says:

    Every time a new WordPress version comes out i start shaking with excitement and terror. my first thought is: will all my plugins be compatible with the new version. In the end i overcome the fear and i just update. let’s hope everything will go smoothly again!

  3. I worry less about the plugins and more about the changes needed to make the theme compatible (much as I rejoiced when image captions were introduced, there was still CSS fiddling to do to make them work). The notes by Otto, above, look horrendous frankly! (Not his fault). How many people are going to be able to do all that ..?

    • creativeherb says:

      malcolm coles:
      I am a designer and I hate math. I stayed away from playing with wordpress code for the longest time, sticking with plugins and widgets. At one point I was forced to learn though and I haven’t looked back. Didn’t take more than 1-2 weeks of playing around with wordpress CSS/PHP codes, and now I understand enough to know how to implement or combine codes together.

  4. creativeherb says:

    I’ve always wanted to add thread based comments to my sites, but I’ve always put it off on the secondary wish-list. It’s great that it’s fully integrated now without having to duct-tape it onto wordpress.

  5. Creativeherb: I’ve also happily taught myself to play around with PHP and CSS. But unravelling other people’s CSS to implement new features can be tricky. And not everyone (ie not 99% of people) won’t be doing it!

  6. Pingback: Advanced comment systems are bad for SEO: IntenseDebate, Sezwho and Disqus » &#9734 malcolm coles &#9734

  7. Iula says:

    Its nice i like it

  8. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for the great post, I have been looking for more ways to socialize my blog and although I have covered many of those bases, it appears I left a few stones unturned


  9. Thanks for the info and the plugin references.

    Starting blogging recently, and am scared to do an update! Guess
    there always has to be a first time though….

    Going to try out the social homes and increase sociability widgets today,
    definitely need to promote that on my blog.


  10. AGD says:

    In the end i overcome the fear and i just update

  11. porno says:

    Going to try out the social homes and increase sociability widgets today,
    definitely need to promote that on my blog.

  12. Hi. I really like all of the good information you porvide in your blog! I’m actually new to WordPress and I’m trying to learn as much as I can about it. In particular, I’m wanting to know more about how to set it up and configure it for use as a CMS for sites other than blogs. Can you please give me more info on this? Or please point me in the right direction. Thanks!

  13. Red says:

    The Increase Sociability plugin is a great idea for those people coming from social sites. It might not only get them to vote but to subscribe to your RSS.

  14. istanbul says:

    Thanks a lot very good

  15. Hardest Game says:

    Awesome article and a great read.

  16. I am also sharing the same feeling whenever I upgrade my wordpress. Thanks for the post – just learnt that socializing my wordpress is also possible. I will take a closer look on it.

  17. Bob J says:

    is it safe to upgrade to wordpress 2.7 without loosing any original info?

    Thanks Bob

  18. Hardest Game says:

    awesome work, looks great (Y)

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  20. Busby SEO says:

    What I like in your blog is that you spare a wide space for your article post with a proportionate font size. It makes me comfortable reading your insightful article posts. And there are many useful wordpress tutorials here. Great work, really!

  21. net reklam says:

    What I like in your blog is that you spare a wide space for your article post with a proportionate font size. It makes me comfortable reading your insightful article posts. And there are many useful wordpress tutorials here. Great work, really!

  22. Wow.  Great information!  I’ll definitely use some of the tips in this article to my advantage.

  23. I am new to WordPress and have recently setup a blog site. I like WordPress but I don’t like how it displays the home page.  It has the latest blog displayed first and then you scroll down to see other blogs in the order they were written newest to oldest.  I would like my WordPress home page to look more like a regular website home page.  Are you aware of any plug-ins to accomplish this?ThanksDave

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