As I write this I’m struggling to get the new Facebook plugin for WordPress configured and working on two different sites. Here on QAQN, it seems to work well except that the comments box isn’t showing up on all the posts, just some. On my other site (more about that in a forthcoming announcement), the Facebook plugin is refusing to post to my Facebook timeline – everything else about the plugin works.
Any worthwhile WordPress plugins are, for the most part, complicated and therefore prone to bugs… but that’s software. We expect that. The best plugins have dedicated developers who work to make things as painless as possible. One of the things that a really good dev team will constantly try to improve is the load time and execution time of the plugin. Speed matters when it comes to your Google rankings, and plodding plugins can hurt you. Likewise, having too many plugins, even if each one is fairly quick on its own, can be detrimental. Every little bit adds up!
After attending the Optimizing WordPress for Speed and Conversions session at Affiliate Summit Central, I deactivated 20(!) plugins that I wasn’t using or didn’t need. My site’s load time dropped by half. Yesterday, I deactivated three more. I’m down to seven plugins, and each one of them is required to make my site function or to make my job significantly easier. These are the seven:
I run very few ads here, but those I do are managed by AdRotate. It’s lightweight and makes it dead simple to swap out banners and buttons. It has link tracking built-in and a fair amount of features that any small to medium sized site can make good use of.
No podcaster should be working without PowerPress. No other plugin makes podcasting quite so easy. Create your categories, enter your iTunes information and PowerPress takes care of creating your RSS feed and all the rest. You can roll your own solution using Feedburner or some such thing, but Blubrry is a leader in the space. PowerPress is solid and I’ll give it up when you pry it from my cold, dead… well, server, I guess. The “cold, dead fingers” cliché doesn’t really work here.
This is a new one, like I said, and I’m still evaluating it. Should I decide not to keep it, I will replace it with another commenting system. Like buttons, Send buttons… or even Twitter buttons or other sharing sites… you don’t need a plugin to manage those. When you’re using a framework like Thesis, it’s very simple to roll your own sharing links (which is actually coming up soon on my To-Do List, if you don’t see it yet, you will). This Facebook plugin looks good (preliminary API bugs aside), but we’ll see how it performs over the next few weeks.
This is one of those “it makes my job so much easier I don’t want to go without it even though I could” plugins. Insights—odd name for what it does—sits under your post box in WordPress as you’re writing. When you want to link to a site, simply highlight the text you want to make a link. Then, in the Insights panel, enter a bit of text, choose your search method, and press the Search button. If you see a result you want to use, click the icon and a link is automatically inserted into the post where you have your highlighted text. No need to open a new window or tab to search Google, Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube or other sources.
Pretty Link Pro
My favorite link shortener! Not only does PLP handle the shortening, it auto-tweets new posts to Twitter, can do a search/replace on keywords in your posts (for inserting links in old posts without having to edit them) and lots more. This an exceptional tool that I wouldn’t want to replace. Every plugin listed here is free except this one. Luckily, they have you covered with a Lite version of Pretty Link.
As much as I love Thesis, I’m not sure I’d use it if not for OpenHook. Thesis is extremely powerful, but is not as easy to use as I’d like. I can write my own functions and use the built-in hooks, but I don’t really want to. I want what OpenHook provides: an easy way to customize my site and insert HTML and PHP code wherever I need it to be. There’s a big HOWEVER for this one, though. Do not install any version of OpenHook higher than 2.3.2, and if you’re using OpenHook now, do not upgrade. The difference between 2.3.2 and what came after is like the difference between Windows 3.1 and Windows 95, except in this case, the lower version is exceptionally easier to use, more robust, and just plain better. Upgrade at your own risk.
WordPress Database Backup
A true set-and-forget plugin. This will automatically back up your WordPress databases on a schedule of your choosing and can even email you the file. I get my backups sent to my email daily, and I have a mail script that will automatically archive the file attachment then delete the email. I never even see the email come in, but looking at the folder the backups are stored in, there’s not a day missing. Backup bliss.