Posted by & filed under WordPress.

Last September I release a WordPress plugin that allows an administrator to approve new users after they register for your site. I built the plugin for a private blog that I have and I wanted control over each member of the site. Since I thought others would be interested in using the plugin I decided to release it.

I didn’t realize the amount of work it would create to maintain it.

The thing is, there are many plugin developers donating their time for plugins that I am using. So I don’t mind doing it.

In fact, releasing the plugin was actually the best thing I could do. A few users found bugs and even sent a patch to fix the bug. That’s how it should be.

Anyway, the first update to the New User Approve Plugin was released last night. No new features. Just some bug fixes and code cleanup. Here are the details.

  • correctly display error message if registration is empty
  • clean up code
  • style updates
  • if a user is created through the admin interface, set the status as approved instead of pending
  • add avatars to user management admin page
  • improvements to SQL
  • verify the user does not already exist before the process is started
  • add nonces to approve and deny actions
  • temporary fix for pagination bug if more the 50 users are present in the WP database

If you are a user of the plugin, please let me know if you find any more issues or your thoughts in general on the plugin. And don’t forget to donate if you find this plugin useful.

Update: No more comments will be allowed. If you are having issues with the New User Approve plugin, please post in the New User Approve forums on WordPress.org.

Posted by & filed under Search, WordPress.

For a while I’ve been wanting to create a specialized search engine for a project I have been working on. Given the limited amount of time I have, I clearly had to piggyback on current technologies. Search engines today do an awesome job of indexing the web to find what you need when you need it. I wanted a specialized search engine to limit the results to relevant web content given a specific subject.

Here were my requirements going into this:

  1. Limit the search to the sites I want. I give them a list and it only searches those sites. The list would need to be updated dynamically or via an API.
  2. Allows me to modify the search results in any order I want or mixing it with other data.
  3. Allows me to format the search results how I please.
  4. I want the results in a multiple formats to allow for flexibility when and where the results are displayed.
  5. I would love to try to monetize the search engine however I want.

Searching for what I needed led me to discover many cool technologies.

I first looked at possibly the most obvious: Google Custom Search Engine. Google CSE is a cool product but it didn’t suit my needs at all. The terms of service don’t allow you to modify the results. I also looked at Google AJAX Search API. Again, doesn’t fit the requirements. I may find a need for the AJAX Search API in the near future though.

Other technologies deserved some attention as well. Products such as CouchDB and Lucene required too much so I didn’t spend much time looking into these.

I had looked at Yahoo BOSS (build your own search service). Initially, it didn’t look like it would suit my needs. After revisiting BOSS, looking at code samples and the API, it was exactly what I was looking for. Easy, fast, reliable. Fits exactly my requirements. Awesome.

Since the site I am building was based on WordPress (like all my sites), I decided to put my work it into a WordPress plugin to allow a WordPress site to easily add a real search engine to the site just by defining some simple options. The first version will be very limited in what can be done but I have a lot of features that I will be adding to it very soon.

I just need to get it ready to release. Soon I hope.

Posted by & filed under WordPress.

I have finally discovered the best/easiest way to upgrade your WordPress install, especially if you have multiple installations of the blogging software.

You must use SVN to make this happen. To upgrade all you have to do is change the version number. If you want to run trunk, all you have to do is update the library by running a simple command. You can also add your plugins and themes to update using SVN.

I actually had been trying to do this for a few months. The part I was missing was putting the WordPress software in it’s own directory. The detailed instructions can be found on Joseph Scott’s blog.

Posted by & filed under Twitter.

For those of you who are subscribed to my blog or visit it on occasion, you have more than likely noticed that I have my Twitter updates posting to my blog. This is being done automatically using the Twitter Tools plugin by Alex King. He has created some great plugins and Twitter Tools is no exception.

I decided to add the Twitter archive posts as a way to archive what I put on Twitter. And to make it searchable by me or whoever else cares what I have to say.

I was also thinking about having my Tweets go to my Facebook account. But I don’t want all that information to go to Facebook. I don’t like Facebook very much. I disagree with a lot of what they do. But I do like connecting with people on Facebook. So I am compromising by having this blog update my Facebook feed when posts are published.

Despite the popularity of Facebook, I still think I should be able to control my social circle from my own blog. We are getting closer and closer every day.

Posted by & filed under Business Models, cloud computing, Web Services.

One thing I have grown to dislike as a user of the Internet, software, and computers in general is how many sites and software think they are great enough to be alone in their own walled garden. Or silo.

What do I mean by silo or walled garden? It basically means that users are inputing data and the site provides no way to get that data out. For example, I use web based email where all my contacts are stored. Am I able to use that contact list outside of my webmail? Why would I want the contacts? An example would be to use the addresses of some of my contacts to send Christmas cards to. Or using the contacts to find friends on any given social network.

One of the jobs I had in the past, this was a common theme. A huge enterprise with many applications. The employees had to login to each app separately. This is a pain for both the users and from an administration standpoint.

Is this a big deal? Probably not for most people. But for me, it’s a huge deal.

Over the past few years, many apps have given access to data through means of an API (application programming interface). With the API, you can use your data stored in one app in a totally different app. This is a mashup. Cool applications come from mashups. Your customers’ data is being used in ways you never would have thought of. The customer should be allowed to do whatever they want with their data.

Even export it into a rivals app. This is a big deciding factor for me. Many of my friends who aren’t technical have blogs hosted on blogger. Google has provided ways to export a user’s data to other blogging engines such as wordpress. Not that Google is going out of business anytime soon, but what if they decided to get rid of blogger all of a sudden, much like they decided to get rid of Notebook. Apparently, not many people used Google Notebook. But I did. The important thing is is that they have provided me with a way to get that data out. They always have.

When times are tough, employees get laid off. Companies big and small consolidate and possibly go under. Make sure you have access to your data. Especially, if you have invested a lot of time compiling the data.

Just something to think about.

Posted by & filed under Politics.

I’ve never seen so many people so excited for a new president. In years past, when a president was inaugurated, I can’t remember people even wanting to take time to watch or listen to the inauguration speech.

In November, I think I was one of the few in Washington that voted against Barack Obama. I disagree with some of his policies. I will say though, that during the campaign, President Obama gained my respect doing things like never bringing up the race issue. At times things could have gotten nasty, but he never allowed them to.

Now that Barack Obama is President, he has my support. I hope he does an awesome job. After all, he is my President. I have been impressed with what he has done up to this point. Hopefully he can continue. But there are some tough times that, as a nation, we are facing. The president alone cannot solve these problems.

There is something that I think we need to watch out for. It seems that many people think that things will get better because we havea new president. Guess what? Many things will not change. I believe each and every person in this nation is responsible for their own success. Not Barack Obama. Not George Bush. The expectations are enormously high for President Obama.

We all have a part to play. Good luck to everybody.

Posted by & filed under General, WordPress.

I have bene very happy with the progress WordPress is making with its releases. They are adding a lot of good features fairly quickly. With all of the changes on the backend, the theming changes added to 2.7 haven’t received a lot of attention.

The changes that have been added:

  • Threaded Comments
  • Post Classes
  • Sticky Posts

I also fixed a few minor bugs. Also, if your blog is using 2.7, you will automatically have your comments upgraded to use threaded comments. Otherwise, your blog will continue to have regular comments. I have seen some themes have an option to turn on threaded comments. If this is a wanted feature, I would be happy to add it.

Currently, I am working on a few projects and have been looking at a lot of themes. Not very many themes have added 2.7 support yet. I was surprised. Hopefully, theme developers can find time to add these features so that WordPress users can enjoy the new functionality.

Posted by & filed under Online Presence.

Many websites require that you create a profile to take advantage of their services. Some of those sites give you the option to upload a picture of yourself. Depending on the norms of the that particular site, the image you upload can either be a real picture or an avatar (an avatar is a graphical representation of something).

Twitter lets you upload an image representing yourself. LinkedIn does it. Automattic has created the Gravatar service to let you leave your avatar wherever you leave comments on a wordpress.com blog or a wordpress.org blog that supports avatars. It’s a great service that’s very simple to use.

My good friend, Shane Lewis, is an awesome illustrator. I asked him a few months ago if he would take some time out of his busy schedule to draw me an avatar. I think he did a great job.

Shane says that whenever he draws somebody, that person usually complains because there is something wrong with the drawing. For example, you’ll notice that my avatar has more hair than the real me. I’ll take it. It’s a cartoon. Aren’t obvious things like baldness and big noses supposed to be accentuated in cartoons, avatars, etc. It’s not a portrait.

I’m using my avatar in lots of places. I can’t decide if I should replace the picture on my home page with my avatar. What do you think? I even took the liberty to make it my favicon (look at the url in the browser).

Everybody let me know what you think. And, Shane, thanks for your help. I might be coming to you soon for another drawing.

Posted by & filed under Career, cloud computing, Etelos.

It’s been exactly one month since ended my tenure at Etelos. I loved working for them. In the year I worked there, I learned a lot and I worked on some cool projects. The people I worked with were great. They have some awesome talent there.

The Etelos platform is totally unique. The fact that a company or developer can use them to deploy an app to each user so they can have their own separate instance is something that I think should be a standard. I think it is perfect for either a proprietary app or open source. I have some ideas of apps that I would love to build – if I ever get time – and I hope that I will be able to use them.

If Etelos can monetize their platform quickly, they will be a force to be reckoned with. There is a lot of competition in the cloud computing space. All of the big guys are all fighting for application builders to use their platform. And they each provide something unique.

Maybe in the future I’ll write a post on what is so great about the Etelos platform compared to the other guys and why I like it and believe in it so much. But for now, I just want to tell them good luck.

Posted by & filed under General.

A long time ago, I signed up for Twitter but have used it very little since. I used it privately in the past, mostly when we had our last child. I used it as a log of the night’s events.

Since then, I have tried to avoid Twitter and thought of some good excuses to do so. I wanted to use it on my own domain to do updates on family life. I can use laconi.ca for that. I didn’t want it to be just another thing I had to use to connect with people. I can barely update my blog. Then it was always offline. Since it has gotten better.

Enough with the excuses. Lately I have been thinking of how I can use Twitter together with the blog. I just have to do it now. I think it will be fun. My profile can be found at twitter.com/joshh.

In the future, I would like to add my feed to this blog. When I get time it will happen.

Still I see big value in getting a service such as laconi.ca working on your own domain. But this is not one of those cases. I am going to take advantage of the large user base on Twitter.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Twitter, here is a quick video on YouTube. Sign up for it and follow me and I’ll follow you.