Identifying a Good WordPress Plugin

Earlier in the week, we talked about how understanding plugins can be the key to success as a developer/designer; here’s some tips for deciding which plugins are worth yours and your clients’ time (before you consider how well they’ll integrate with the client’s chosen theme and business strategy/functions).

plugin directory

Check reviews – and remember that more doesn’t always mean better.

See what people have to say about the plugin, any tips, any complaints. At a glance, it might seem like plugins with only a handful of reviews are less successful – but that’s not always true. If the reviews all rave about the plugin and appear to be genuine, chances are you’re uncovering a lesser-known gem or something completely new.

Check when it was last updated

WordPress is always changing, and plugins need to change with it. Unfortunately for those creating plugins, it’s a very rare (non-existent!) scenario where you can create a plugin and then just never touch it again. Bugs will need to be patched, the plugin will need to be adjusted to work with updates to the WordPress core. The plugin’s page will tell you what version of WordPress it’s been tested with, and when it was last updated.

Check how good their customer service/support is

Find out where their support services “live” (some of them will house their support forums on their own website, others will stick with the “official” WordPress support forums), and see how responsive they are to questions. If you run into a problem or notice that something isn’t quite working, you want someone who’s going to help you out as soon as possible (for your sanity, and your client’s satisfaction).

Check the code

You may need some help with this if you aren’t a code wizard, but: if you go to the plugin directory, there’s a page for developers where you can have a look at the plugin’s source code. If you’re not able to identify some of the hallmarks of well-written software, it’s well worth getting someone else to check it out for you – particularly if it’s a paid plugin.

Have a play

Obviously this is something you’d only do for free plugins, but: you can always test out plugins on your own website before you recommend them to a client. Really get a handle on how they work, as a user. Some plugins (like PeepSo) will offer a demo on their own website, others will put up videos that show you exactly how it works (OptimisePress is a good example of this). Ask friends what plugins they’re using, and ask whether they’re willing to let you have a look and a play (as long as you erase your footprints later).

WordPress News: a Rise in Brute Force Password Attacks

Malware removal company Sucuri noticed a massive spike in WordPress malware “visitorTracker_isMob” in the last two weeks. The purpose of the malware is to gain access to as many computers as possible via infected websites. At the same time, they’ve noticed a spike in brute force attacks; a particularly insidious kind, where the people attacking your site aren’t restricted by a limited number of login attempts before being locked out. As described by Sucuri, this is how they work:

Instead of going against wp-login.php (which can be easily blocked or protected via .htaccess) or doing a single attempt against xmlrpc, attackers are leveraging thesystem.multicall method to attempt to guess hundreds of passwords within just one HTTP request.

Sucuri-VisitorTracker-Malware-Campaign-II

In other words – rather than getting three guesses before being locked out, they’re getting a hundred times three. This particular type of attack is called Brute Force Amplification.

So how can you protect yourself against brute force amplification attacks, and in turn, from increasingly common malware?

Sucuri suggests that you block all access to xmlrpc.php – this does break some applications’ functionality, primarily JetPack. They also suggest blocking system.multicall requests. They’re hardly ever used and this will protect you against these amplification methods.

Plugins Could Be The Key to Boosting Your WordPress Client List

When people commission a WordPress site, they’re looking for something unique; something that is as visually appealing as it is functional. They want a website that will give them an edge over their competition. They want people to think their site is as “cool” as it is useful. As a WordPress developer, there’s a number of tools you need in your professional toolbox to create sites that are so visually appealing, functional and interesting that you don’t need to fish for clients (instead, they come to you).

The ability to write good child themes is important; this is what sets a website apart visually, lets you choose colours and fonts that really celebrate someone’s personality and underlying business philosophy. What’s perhaps even more important is taking the time to test out a range of different plugins, with a range of different functions so you can turn your clients’ dreams into reality, whatever they might be.

plugins

There’s a lot of plugins that do similar things, but not all plugins are created equal. For example: BuddyPress is the best known social networking WordPress plugin (for a while, it was the only option), but support can be lacking and it doesn’t mimic the social networking experience people are now accustomed to (ie, Facebook). There’s a wide variety of plugins and services for people wanting to run online courses, from OptimiseMember to Moodle; which one you choose will depend on their content, and how they want to deliver the course. On top of that, not all plugins work well together; other plugins are an unintentional match made in heaven. What will make you really stand out as a developer is being able to give reasoned, individualised advice that will help your clients choose a set of plugins that’s really going to fit their needs and make their website shine.

If you’d like to see what PeepSo can offer your clients, join our community to see how it works. Once you’ve got a handle on the practical, it’s up to you and your client to dream big about what’s possible.

When you’re looking to improve engagement on your community, you need your members to share videos.

Video content is vital to the success of your private social network

“In five years, most of Facebook will be video.”

That was Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s first community town hall meeting in 2014. He’s since gone further. In a Facebook-based Q&A a year later, he predicted that future content would be immersive. The picture that accompanied the interview showed a pair of the company’s Oculus Rift virtual reality glasses on his desk.

Video is currently the most immersive and the most engaging form of content on community sites. A short clip is easy to watch even on a mobile phone and more engaging than any other form of content. Researchers have found that video promotions are 600 percent more effective than print and direct mail combined, and can generate purchase rates as high as 12 percent.

When you’re looking to improve engagement on your private social network, you need your members to share videos.

Tell them what kind of videos to share. Explain to them how to share. And teach them how to shoot simple videos that relate to the subject of your private social network and that people want to see.

Now that everyone carries a video camera in their pocket, there’s no reason that your members shouldn’t be filming all their community-related activity. Remind them to pull out their camera every time they climb on their mountain bike or bake a cake. You should find that, like Facebook, most of your community content is video too.

That’s all for now! In the next post, I’m talking money!

If some aspect of your member behavior is puzzling you, sending out a survey can clear up the mystery.

Surveying the members of your private social network

If some aspect of your member behavior is puzzling you, sending out a survey can clear up the mystery.

If some aspect of your member behavior is puzzling you, sending out a survey can clear up the mystery.

Your stats will tell you a great deal about the health of your private social network but it won’t tell you everything you need to know. Occasionally, you’ll need to dig a little deeper and talk to your members directly.

You need to send them a survey.

A survey will give you three kinds of information that stats can’t deliver.

Surveys Provide Explanations

Stats might show that users aren’t uploading videos or are engaging less with content but surveys will tell you why. If some aspect of your member behavior is puzzling you, sending out a survey can clear up the mystery.

Survey Predict Responses… And Prepare Them

Whenever Facebook makes a change to its platform, members always complain. Sometimes, those members are right; the changes make usability harder. (Facebook does that a lot.) Sometimes, they just need to get used to doing things a new way. A survey will tell you how users are likely to respond to a change, and as the rumors of an impending change spread they can prepare members for those changes too.

Surveys Supply Ideas

Many of the features you’ll see on PeepSo came directly from users. Ask your users what they’d like to see in the community and you’ll got a bunch of suggestions back. Not all of them will be usable but some of them will be fantastic and will massively improve your private social network.

Ask a mixture of open-ended questions and rating scale questions so that you get both qualitative and quantitative data back. And don’t forget to thank your members for their time! Their thoughts are valuable and they will make your community better.

That’s all for now! Next time, I’ll be talking about video content.

Most of your members will be like the chicken. They’ll contribute to the community, posting content and adding comments.

The difference between contribution and commitment in your private social network

Most of your members will be like the chicken. They’ll contribute to the community, posting content and adding comments.

Most of your members will be like the chicken. They’ll contribute to the , posting content and adding comments.

A chicken and a pig are walking through a farm together. The chicken turns to the pig and says, “Hey, we should open a restaurant together.”

“Sure,” says the pig. “What should we serve?”

“Ham and eggs,” says the chicken.

The pig thinks for a minute then shakes his head. “It won’t work. You’ll only contribute but I’ll be committed.”

Most of your members will be like the chicken. They’ll contribute to the private social network, posting content and adding comments.

A few, though, will be like the pig. They’ll feel committed to the community, keen to answer questions when new members post them, constantly posting new content and strongly identifying with the site. They’ll visit almost every day and feel obligated to it.

Your job is to foster that sense of commitment. The members of your site should compete to show the most commitment, the highest degrees of identity.

Reward them. Praise them. Recommend their content. Create a cost for them to pull back. Build your site around your most committed members, and you should find that it brings home the bacon.

That’s all for now! Next time, I’ll discuss the importance of surveying your members.

Why Your Online Course Needs a Private Social Network


Online education has its upsides and downsides. Two upsides: it allows people living in remote areas or who simply can’t commit to being on campus full time to gain tertiary qualifications; industry professionals are able to set up and deliver their own courses, on their own websites, without having to partner with an education provider. A major downside: students can miss out on the social, group learning aspects which make tertiary education such a great experience. Facebook groups are one option, but not everyone is going to want to hand out a link to their personal social networking profile (especially those running the course). Plus, if you’ve worked hard for months or even years to put together an engaging and comprehensive online course, you want to make sure that all your ideas and content are clearly and irrefutably owned by you, with no provisions for anyone else to use your posts or images.

online education

Students learn best when they have the opportunity to work through concepts with their teachers and others in their class; otherwise, they can just memorise answers and information instead of really getting stuck into what they’re learning. Having a private social network attached to the website you’re running your course on is the perfect way to facilitate this. You can set up events to remind them when assignments are due, or to schedule a group discussion. You can post important course updates, as they happen. You can hold digital office hours, chatting with students in real time (rather than resorting to lengthy email threads).

How much you use the social network is up to you; you can essentially run your course through it (delivering content via status updates, testing knowledge through discussion threads) or you can use it to supplement a more traditional mode of online content delivery (modules, readings etc). It’s one of the most flexible education tools on the market.

If you’d like to know more about integrating PeepSo into your online course, leave us a comment below or get in touch with us on Facebook – we’ve got a former university lecturer and online education guru on hand to answer any questions.

 

 

How We Develop PeepSo

To maintain the highest possible standard, minimize bugs and keep PeepSo improving steadily and quickly, development of the plugin follows a strict process.

Step 1: Planning

The first stage is planning. We discuss what the communities need, what additions would bring the most benefits and which features we should add to PeepSo next.

We then create a roadmap and produce mock-ups. These are interactive wireframes that let us play with the new features to see what works and what still needs work. When the mock-ups are ready, we write the documentation and list the requirements for the development team. Each task is broken down into a series of smaller tasks which can be prioritized and handed to our developers.

Step 2: Development & QA

As soon as we move into the development phase, we start the quality assurance. The QA work follows every step of the construction so that when a developer finishes a task, it passes straight to “peer review” where another developer looks at the code and tests it. If the task doesn’t yet meet our standards or doesn’t work exactly the way it should, it’s sent back to the developer for corrections. Only when the task meets our standards and works as it should will it move to the ‘testing’ phase.

PeepSo Tasks Board

PeepSo Tasks Board

We perform extensive testing both automated and by hand. First, the project manager checks and tests the task manually. Any failures and the task goes back to the original developer. If everything looks good, the task is passed on to the automation team.

The automation team also tests the task manually then creates a WebDriver script. WebDriver is a tool used for automating the testing of web applications. We currently have about 400 automated tests that cover most of PeepSo’s functions.

We run the automation tests during the development process and use the stable package created for a release. If the WebDriver catches any errors we fix them. Only when all the elements of a new version have passed through this process, including its several levels of testing, will that version be released.

PeepSo Webdriver Automated Testing Results

PeepSo Webdriver Automated Testing Results

That’s a very brief description of how we manage development, testing and quality assurance. In practice, it’s detailed and demanding but each stage is essential. PeepSo is here to stay but that’s only going to happen if the plugin works exactly the way it should. Code quality, standards and testing are all vital and they make future development much easier. Developing in a clean and well-maintained environment makes growth faster for us and results in a better PeepSo for you!

Comments? Questions?

Please leave them below.

Your community should feel exclusive and different. It should look exclusive and different.

Your private social network should feel exclusive and different

One of the most successful niche communities is for graphic designers. One of the reasons for its success is its strange appearance.

Dribbble.com was founded by Rich Thornett, a designer who had hoped to play pro basketball. His love of the sport permeates the community. Potential members are “prospects.” They’re “drafted” as “players” at which point they make their “debuts.” Uploads are “shots.” Follow-ups to those shots are called “rebounds” when they come from the same designer, and “playoffs” when they come from other designers.

It’s a quirky set-up which gives the community a unique identity. Coupled with the community’s exclusive membership system which turns older members into mentors of new members, the result is a community whose membership is valued.

Your community should feel exclusive and different. It should look exclusive and different.

People should understand that this isn’t a social network for everyone but only for people like them. When you see that conversations are drifting away from the core of your topic, break those members off into a sub-community.

Give your private social network a unique look and feel. It will make your members feel closer to you and to each other, and keep them engaged.

That’s all for now! In the next post, the difference between contribution and commitment.

More important are the engagement stats: how many pieces of content people post; how many shares they received; how many likes they won.

The right way to measure growth of your private social network

More important are the engagement stats: how many pieces of content people post; how many shares they received; how many likes they won.

More important are the engagement stats: how many pieces of content people post; how many shares they received; how many likes they won.

As you build your community, you’re going to be spending a lot of time looking at stats. One figure will catch your eye the most:

The number of members in your community.

That’s also the least important, at least when you’re starting out. (Sure, if you want to sell your site one day, telling buyers that you have a gazillion members will help to bump the price but in the first year or so membership numbers aren’t key.)

More important are the engagement stats: how many pieces of content people post; how many shares they received; how many likes they won.

Tot up those figures and divide them by the number of members on the site. That will give you a measure of engagement per user.

Do the same thing a month later.

Falling engagement per user will be a reason to worry. Veteran members may be becoming bored or you might be bringing in people with less commitment to the community. Either way, you’ve got work to do to raise that engagement.

When engagement per user is rising, though, you’re on the right track. Your community is growing in depth and you’re measuring growth the right way.

That’s all for now! Next time, I’ll talk about the importance of appearance.