Updating WordPress – Summary of Changes

Today has been a big blog update day – not necessarily for content, but more for general code and structure of my site. I’m still running on the standard “Twenty Eleven” theme for WordPress.org, but I’ve updated a few things. Updates today include:

  • oEmbed flickr photo embed size tweaks – I figured out the optimal media embed default dimentions necessary to make Flickr photos look as good as possible. Example at the bottom. Unfortunately, it looks like Flickr is still only serving 640px photos via the oEmbed API hook. Ideally I’d like embedded photos to track the content area width, going all the way up to something like 1024px or 2048px, however it appears that currently Flickr limits the size. I also experimented with oEmbed’s ability to embed different link types from flickr. If  pasting in a normal link to the flickr photo page, the resulting embedded photo will hyperlink back to the normal flickr photo page. However, if you append /lightbox, as is the standard url for the lightbox photo view, WordPress and oEmbed will handle it correctly, and hyperlink the embedded photo to the corresponding lightbox layout. Much better in my opinion. Finally,  links to the flash-based Flickr slideshow will be properly handled, and appear on browsers with Flash as an inline slideshow. However, unfortunately nothing shows up on non-flash browsers (like Safari on iOS). Ideally, the oEmbed should recognize this, and provide a text hyperlink to the original URL, in the case that the Flash cannot be displayed. In the case of the flickr slideshow, if a mobile device without Flash visits the link, Flickr will inteligently route over to a lightbox view, instead of the flash slideshow. Good.
  • Cleaned up and deleted a bunch of plugins. There were at least 10 plugins that I wasn’t using, and those have now been both deactivated and deleted. This includes PubStubHubub, NextGenGallery, AddThis Social Sharing, Flickr Easy Embed, and a number of others. This should make my WordPress installation a bit more lean and fast, and should reduce my reliance on plugins to provide basic site functionality. In the interest of futureproofing my site, I’m very much trying to keep site functionality restricted to built in features. This should reduce the amount of future maintenance needed to keep the site up and working well into the future.
  • Installed and setup the Facebook WordPress Plugin. This is the official plugin from Facebook, and allows me to integrate not only “likes” into my blog, but also comments, shares, etc. It goes both ways too, so that when people comment on my blog posts on my blog, the comments flow to facebook, and vice versa. I’m sure it will still take a bit of tuning to get everything right, but based on my experience with other 3rd party Facebook plugins, this one seems to be the best.
  • Rearrange a few of my Twitter follow me buttons. I also played around with embedding the official Twitter widget, which is much more slick and full featured than the WordPress Jetpack Twitter widget. However, the official Twitter widget’s code would not run correctly in a text widget area, and I abandoned the project.
  • Updated the site background. Yep, now it’s a linen texture, similar to many Apple setup screens and backgrounds. I like the look, although I’m a bit concerned that the 11kb background tile might be slowing down page load more than I’d like.
  • Activated WordPress Jetpack sharing buttons. I wanted to use as few plugins as possible, and since I was already using Jetpack for a number of tasks, I thought it would be more streamlined to use the Jetpack sharing buttons, rather than the Add This sharing buttons.

That’s about it for today’s updates. Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any more suggestions or comments. Also, I’ll be looking forward to updating my site with the Twenty Twelve theme, when it’s finally released – hopefully soon.

Misc - DSC02083.jpg