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WordPress plugins I use

By on Jun 15, 2009 in Tech Takes | 20 comments

(Pre-article) post-script: A lot of people have asked me whether I sit down to write blog posts every day. I don’t. I prefer to write when I feel like on a particular day in a sort of ‘writing session’ where I write multiple posts. Then I set them for scheduled publication on future dates. Mystery solved. Akshay asked me recently what WordPress plugins I use, so I thought making a blog post about it because other might be interested too. This is obviously for people who are running self-hosted WordPress. Here’s my list (in alphabetical order): ĀµAudio Player: Lightweight Flash player for playing MP3 files inline. First installed for VoiceTAP posts, but I plan to do more podcasts / vlogcasts in the near future. Akismet: Blog spam can be quite irritating and I stick to the popular Akismet plugin. I’m not very happy with it though. Oftentimes it flags legitimate comments as spam, which means every once in a while I need to sift through spam, which can be quite a lot. I’ve been meaning to switch to Mollom for a long time. It’s a system similar to Akismet made by Dries Buytart, the creator of Drupal – but it’s a bit more advanced. It allows more filtering on the basis of low-quality / profanity. What I find to be the killer feature is that normally, it uses an Akismet-like silent evaluation system, but if it thinks a comment is spam then it presents a CAPTCHA for the user to solve. That way, bot spam can be blocked, but if it’s a legit human comment then the user can solve the CAPTCHA and go through. I haven’t gone ahead with this since I haven’t come across a demo of how the CAPTCHA thing works – the kind of CAPTCHA shown, how it’s presented to the user etc. I’d like to see that before using this. Anyone know of a site currently using Mollom? AntiVirus: It’s a deceptive name because this plugin is actually searching things like hidden iframes, Javascript eval expressions etc which are often used to infect sites. It’s good to have this installed because you never know when this might happen and you get blocked by Google for being a malware distributor. NM-Delete-Revision: I wouldn’t want to turn revisions in WordPress off completely, but I occasionally want to purge my database of revisions I don’t need any more. You’ll die a miserable death due to excessive laughing if you ever dare to use the original plugin. FD FeedBurner Plugin: Although FeedBurner itself suggests FeedSmith, that plugin hasn’t been updated for a while. Granted there isn’t much to update, but FD FeedBurner adds a few extra options such as ‘Don’t redirect category / tag feeds’ (I suggest you enable this) and the option to redirect your comment feed too. Google XML Sitemaps: Creates a sitemap which can then be used by search engines for indexing your site. Despite the name, it goes beyond Google and supports other search engines too. You can assign priorities to different sections of your blog – which you should definitely set. Don’t make the stupid mistake of assigning a high priority to all pages. Grunion Contact Form: Simplest contact form you’ll get. It’s made by Matt Mullenweg. Mails are first checked by Akismet then sent to the email ID of the person who created the page where it’s put. If you want something with a bit more features use Enhanced WP Contact Form. MobilePress: Creates a version of your blog for mobile devices. It makes life so much easier for those browsing through a phone, and a lot of people do! Official StatCounter Plugin: I use StatCounter instead of Google Analytics because I find that Analytics gives reports completely out of line with StatCounter, WordPress.com Stats, and IzeaRanks. Not necessarily need because you can insert the tracking code manually, but having this plugin ensures that if you change a theme and forget to re-insert tracking code then you won’t lose data. (It happened to me. I’ve been using this plugin after that incident.) If you use Google Analytics then you’ve many plugins to choose from. One Click Plugin Updater: WordPress (since v2.7) has plugin update functionality, but it requires multiple steps with first needing to fill FTP password. This plugin not only makes upgrades a one-click affair, but also provides an easy way to install plugins / themes. Optimize DB: Run this occassionally to optimize the size of your WordPress database. Photo Dropper: I mentioned this on my blog earlier. Allows you to search Creative Commons licensed images on Flickr and insert them in your posts. Good for giving a bit more visual appeal to your posts. Share+: I don’t like ShareThis / AddToAny / Sociable kind of plugins because unless you have lots and lots of visitors, you aren’t going to get Dugg / Reddit’d regularly. However, adding these (excluding Sociable) slows down your blog as it makes a request to an external server for the files needed for the button. If might even bring your blog to a standstill if the external site is not reachable. While this is true for Share+ by Grouptivity too, it offers the option of easy emailing which none of the others offer. Bookmarking site options are available in another tab and the whole thing is configurable. Subscribe To Comments: Essential! When people leave a comment,...

Komli ad network review

By on May 19, 2009 in Personal, Reviews | 25 comments

Regular visitors to my blog might have noticed that I have been tinkering a lot with ad placements / formats on my blog lately. The reason for this is that over the past few weeks I’ve been getting a large number of visitors on the posts I made on VIT and SRM. Traffic stats have turned into a frikkin’ vertical line. Monetization of this traffic is important to me for the future survival of my blog. While my hosting is done and paid for for the next three years, I do need to build a war-chest to pay for hosting beyond that. If traffic continues to grow at this rate – thank you, dear readers! – I would prefer to move to virtual dedicated / dedicated servers to provide a faster, better browsing experience when on my site for everyone. Simple page loads do not make a big dent on the amount of data transferred. On my blog though, a significant – rather, major – chunk of data transfer is taken up by a) question paper / quiz archives; b) images. I can understand that a lot of people are giving entrance exams and thus the rush for exam papers, but I’m extremely delighted to note the enthusiastic response that my quiz archives generate. I never thought they would be so popular! Also, a lot of the images put up on my blog drive traffic through image search queries; I believe that is because each image I put up is meticulously named, alt-tagged and captioned – I suggest fellow bloggers to do the same and see the difference. I’m happy with this success that has been made possible by you, my readers. :) But the truth is that I need to think long term about the survival of this blog and to make this operation self-sustaining, ads are a necessity. Personally, I despise advertisements. It might sound ironic, but I don’t like ads. I suggest you guys to use AdBlock Plus to block out advertisments while browsing; use the EasyList filter when prompted to choose a filtering list after first install. But I’m also aware that my returning visitors – and possibly the tech-savvier ones – will be those who are using such plugins. I am 100% behind you guys when you take such a step, but if you don’t choose to use such plugins it’s OK. It’s the first-timer traffic mostly coming from search engines that I intend to monetize with ads. See, visitors referred to by search engines are searching for some information – which may or may not be available on my blog post. Many times they might be looking for commercial products / services, which an ad can direct them to. So it is this first-time traffic which is looking for something – or, let’s just admit it – dumb people using IE6 that I intend to monetize. (I’m not saying all IE users are dumb, but referring to the market segment which knows about nothing other than IE, and hi5 and scrap each other on Orkut in SMS lingo – and it’s a large market segment.) I have been using Google AdSense for a long time and it has been highly successful, especially over the last few weeks. The drawback is that Google limits the number of ad units you can put on one page. This results in a lot of unutilized space, particularly in my sidebar. To fill up this real estate, I decide to hunt for a secondary ad network for my blog. AdSense does not allow any context-sensitive ad network to be used alongside it, so this has to be a non-targeted ad network, and preferably one which pays for impressions (CPM). Since a majority of my traffic is from India, I started hunting for an Indian ad network. Most suck and / or don’t inspire the confidence in you that they have a good ad inventory (going by reviews other have put up). I narrowed down to three networks – Tyroo, AdChakra, and Komli. All three have manual approval process for new publishers, so you need to apply to them and then wait to be accepted in their ad network. AdChakra sent me a PDF form to sign and send to them – with no indication of which address to send to. In one fell swoop, that was three strikes for them and I deleted their PDF form. Tyroo rejected my application. Dunno why. Yahoo! India is has a significant stake in Tyroo. Komli Ad Network review My rating of Komli: 1.4 / 10 That left Komli. At first glance, Komli seem to be everything you ever wanted if you’re an Indian publisher. Komli is mainly targetted towards Indian users – but it also pays you for international traffic. You get paid for impressions, then extra if a user clicks on the ads you serve. My application was approved and I decided to put Komli ads in the unutilized space. They support standard ad formats which AdSense has which allows you to integrate them easily into spots previously filled by AdSense. At first, it seemed that signing up for Komli was a good idea. Ads seemed to be somewhat interesting, considering that it was non-targetted – soft drink ads, IPL teams ads et al. Then I noticed that many times, Komli’s ads failed to load completely. Komli uses iframes to...

Contest: Get free Dreamhost web-hosting for two years!

By on Apr 28, 2009 in Personal, Tech Takes | 27 comments

Realin and Shantanu Goel pointed out that Dreamhost is giving away free full hosting accounts for a duration of two years because Yahoo! GeoCities is shutting down. Dreamhost will be giving away 1000 free accounts for those who are currently on GeoCities. These free accounts aren’t the crippled Dreamhost Apps accounts which they’re giving away free in beta period – they’re full-fledged accounts worth approximately $215! Only existing Yahoo! GeoCities users can participate since they aren’t accepting new users. If you do have a GeoCities account, I suggest you sign up ASAP before the promotion runs out. (Details available in the above links.) I signed up for one. But if you aren’t a current GeoCities customer or the promotion end before you can sign up for an account, don’t worry! Since I don’t really need a new hosting account right now, I thought of coming up with a contest for giving it away. This contest is for Twitter users so if you don’t have an account there already, sign up for Twitter! Here’s what you need to do to win free Dreamhost webhosting for two years: Follow me on Twitter (if you aren’t already). Tweet the following message from your account, exactly as it’s given here: Tweet and win free web hosting! Visit http://tr.im/ankurbcontest for more details. Leave a comment on this blog post. Your comment should have the following bits Link to the tweet from your account containing the message I mentioned above. This will be used to verify whether you’re following me, and have tweeted the message. You can get this direct link to your tweet by clicking on the ‘about X minutes / X hours ago’ text beneath your tweet. This is the important bit – a pun or a PJ. Yes, you need to leave a pun or a PJ after your Twitter status update link. It could be on anything at all. Please ensure that whatever PJ / pun you’re leaving shouldn’t be one which has been left in a comment by some other person already. Any joke won’t do. It has to be a PJ or a pun. The person whose pun / PJ makes me laugh out loudest and / or longest, wins. The winner will be handed over the account details in grand ceremony that nobody – including the winner – will be able to attend. Note that hosting account does not come with a domain name – you’ll need to get one on your own (existing / new). Contest closes at 2359 hours on 16th May 2009. Some people might claim that the selection process for deciding the winner is ‘not random’ – and those would probably be people who don’t know me at all. I can – literally – be ROFLing at ‘jokes’ sane people wouldn’t even consider jokes, so rest assured that my selection process is more random than a game of Russian roulette. Thou shalt respect my authoritah. It’s my contest, so I have the authoritah to do whateva I waunt. Decision on who the winners rests on me and will be final and binding on all participants. Contest can be cancelled at any point in time for any reason whatsoever by me – and you can’t do anything about it. Let’s get started with this contest then! PS – Goodbye, Yahoo! GeoCities. [sniff sniff] You were the first home for so many of us early-adopters’ websites. Comes close on the heels of Google Pages shutting down. Google Pages shutting down is sure to cause a lot of heartburn to those on Blogger, as many Blogger templates host their CSS files on Google Pages accounts. Google allows shifting to Google Sites, but custom CSS files aren’t among the stuff which they’re allowing people to shift. PPS – You can enter the contest multiple times if you want. Just tweet again, and leave a new...

Making your web hosting choice

By on Apr 14, 2009 in Tech Takes | 3 comments

More and more bloggers every day want to ‘graduate’ from using free blog hosting provided by Blogger.com / WordPress.com and other similar blog hosting providers. Making a jump from a ‘managed’ environment to full-featured web hosting can be a daunting prospect for newbies. Web Hosting Choice makes this decision easier for such users. It provides comprehensive listing of web hosting providers as ‘Top 10’ and in further drill-downs in different specific categories of hostings depending on the type of technology you won’t or the usage you envision. ‘Learning Center’ on the same site provides basic information about the things that you need to keep in mind when choosing your provider. Especially worth noting is the ‘Scams‘ article in its learning center which lists common pitfalls of hosts who are not that reliable. (Of course, even a lot of the bigger web hosting companies sometimes go in for such marketing hyperbole.) You can even carry out advanced search to find web hosts matching the criteria you desire – such as price, bandwidth, payment methods accepted (important for some who prefer to pay via PayPal instead of credit card or cheque), technologies supported by the web host, etc. For regular updates, you can even sign up for their monthly newsletter on web...

Downloading made easy at G2P.org

By on Mar 27, 2009 in Reviews, Tech Takes | 0 comments

Disclaimer: The information given below is intended for informational purposes only and not to encourage piracy of copyrighted material. In the world of BitTorrent networks, P2P networks and music download sites are almost dead. IMO though nothing beats the speed of transferring files directly from a server. You don’t have to bother about share ratios, finding seeders, uploading yourself, etc. Especially for those one off downloads. BitTorrent is extremely efficient at transferring large files but not so much at small files. Maybe not due to technical reasons but because of the fact that torrent trackers mostly list large files. G2P.org (a take on P2P – stands for Google-to-peer) allows you to search the web (via Google) for files you want. The concept behind it is simplicity itself – it uses special search operators to search Google for files you want in openly listed directories on Apache servers. (On Apache, if you don’t disable directory listing everyone can browse the directory structure – including Googlebot.) G2P offers predefined categories (see its sidebar) to narrow down your search. Once you hit search it opens Google results in a frame. If the results don’t match what you want, you can modify the search expression yourself (although you’ll need to be fairly well acquainted with the syntax used). G2P is not a search engine but simply a frontend to one which makes searching for ‘stuff’ easier. The data is hosted on by others listed in open directories; you may or may not find what you’re looking for. But for one off cases where you need to download something quickly without bothering about finding seeds it’s a great idea. For webmasters: If you are a webmaster and own a site, it’s generally not a good idea to keep open directory listings (where directories / folders are shown when the ‘default’ files as specified in your Apache config are not present). Sure, if you’re in a philanthrophic mood and want Google to index ‘stuff’ you put up it’s OK but in other cases it’s quite often a no-no for privacy / security. Rectifying this issue is trivial. Open your .htaccess file and this one line to it: Options -Indexes ..and that’s it. This will turn off directory listing for all folders and child subfolders. Trying to access a directory root should return a ‘403 Forbidden’ error. Using this option does not prevent you in using any files yourself listed under any of those directories – if you enter the full path to a file it will still be accessible. The other option is to use a robots.txt exclusion, but I’ll drop that for the moment because although it will prevent compliant (this is important) search engines from indexing that directory it will not actually prevent the listing in case a user tries to browse using a web...