WordPress Plugin Pack: Real Estate

We continue our WordPress plugin pack series that we started yesterday with the Photography pack, by announcing the Real Estate Pack. While I am not a real estate professional, I do know that real estate folks need as much help as they can get right now. Fortunately for you folks, you do not need to manage a mortgage to get these plugins. As usual, Akismet is included by default as the recommended anti-spam plugin. Keep in mind commercial licensing (you do have to pay, but it’s not much. Go to Akismet.com for more info) and the All in One SEO pack is necessary for marketing and search engine reasons.

Aside from that, here are five plugins you might consider grabbing if you’re in real estate:

  • Great Real Estate – turn WordPress into a full featured Real Estate management center.
  • Insights – Allows quick additions of photos, videos and other “bling” for posts.
  • Lightbox Plus – Similar to the Lightbox 2 plugin listed in the Photography pack.
  • WordPress Word of Mouth Marketing – adds the ability to “share” content across a variety of mediums. Personally, I prefer AddThis but AddThis is not GPL compatible so cannot be bundled in this pack. We use AddThis on Technosailor.com and it can be seen in the “Bookmark” button below this post.
  • WP-Realty – Useful for integrating listings into WordPress

Download the Entire Pack

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WordPress Plugin Pack: Photography

Every day, I get emails, IMs and other questions asking me “What plugins do I have to have in WordPress?” My answer is always the same – depends on what you do or want to accomplish. There are two plugins that are absolutely required, in my opinion, for any WordPress blog – Akismet to combat blog spam and All in One SEO Pack to handle all the basic search engine marketing stuff that most of us forget (or maybe don’t even know how to do) every day.

I will be releasing these “plugin packs” regularly so feel free to request (by email) packs you’d like to see. All plugins released are GPL and publicly available – but I will provide a zip that includes all the plugins for one easy download.

The first plugin pack is for photographers.

  • Lightbox 2 – frames photos in an aesthetically, pleasing frame over a darkened screen.
  • WordPress Flickr Manager – provides controls for managing your Flickr library and inserting Flickr content into posts.
  • Yet Another Photoblog – allows you to turn a WordPress install into a Photoblog
  • SlidePress – Turn your photos into slideshows.
  • NextyGEN Gallery – built on the Gallery software, leveraging WordPress functionality.

Download the Entire Pack

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MobilePress Allows Readers to Read On the Go

As a fan of all things mobile, I have been continually frustrated by websites that do not render a mobile friendly version of their sites. Let’s be honest, I’ve been frustrated by me not rendering a mobile friendly version. As a Blackberry user, I’ve been tormented by the inadequacy of the mobile browser that has been supplied on handsets for a long time. Each new iteration of the Blackberry OS improves the browser, but nothing has been breakout. (That said, I hear the new OS 4.6 which is shipping with Blackberry Bolds and Blackberry Storms is quite nice, but I have not been able to independently confirm).

Captured with Safari 3 Simulating the iPhone

Captured with Safari 3 Simulating the iPhone

Fortunately, now you can read this site on most mobile web browsers including the iPhone (with iPhone bling!), Opera Mini, Internet Explorer for Windows Mobile as well as Blackberry and generic mobile browsers. This thanks to a WordPress plugin called MobilePress. I highly recommend it as a must have for every blogger who wants or needs their blog accessible to mobile users (they are becoming fairly common place).

The only hitch seems to be on the Blackberry browser (<=OS 4.5). You must disable javascript support in your Blackberry Browser configuration. Failing to do this will cause most sites that load javascript/AJAX libraries to spin unendingly and eat up your device memory. The only way to solve this is to pop the battery.

3 More Blog Optimization Routines

Last month, Darren Rowse asked me to contribute a post to Problogger about methods to increase page loads. He gets a lot of questions from his community and he wanted someone who had some experience in the area to help out. I obliged.

Please read it.

I wanted to follow up that article with a few page load and other optimization techniques, largely because, as I surf around the internetz, I’m noticing an increasing number of blogs that are very weighed down.

The golden rule here is that if a page takes longer than 2 seconds to load, it’s too heavy. Realistically, you want to shoot for a page load of under a second. In an era where broadband is ubiquitous, there is no excuse.

Images

While I talked about images in the post at Darren’s blog, I really want to hammer this home. Kill the background images. The textured backgrounds, though they look good, are sucking your bandwidth. The same can be said for full-size banner headers. The only image that really should be in your header is a logo and it should be cropped to the size it actually is. Unless there is just some aspect of your branding that has to be fit into a full 750 or 1000px wide header image, you’re wasting your users bandwidth and slowing down your site.

Google Analytics

This is not really a page load issue, but it is a highly valuable point that at the time of writing the Problogger article, I was unaware of. Duncan Riley actually had a fantastic pointer about Google Analytics code that suggested going against the conventional wisdom (and Google recommended) approach of inserting the code in the footer and instead placing it in the head of the page.

Google recommends (and it is standard practice for most tracking code) that the code be placed in the footer as it will end up being the last thing to load, allowing the rest of the page to render and give the appearance of a quicker load. Duncan notes, however, that sometimes readers move on before that Analytics code is loaded preventing a registration of a pageview.

Since reading that article, I moved my GA code to the header and have experienced only a miniscule reduction in load time, but have increased the number of pageview. It’s important to note, though, that the pageviews are not changing, just the perception. If you run ads, it is the perception of pageviews that advertisers are buying ads based on – so you do want this to be perceived closer to the actual pageview number.

WordPress users, reduce your plugins!

Some people love using every plugin under the sun for WordPress. It’s as bad as those people that install every Facebook app around (Love you both, Lorelle and Cathryn!). The end result is slower load time.

This could be for a number of reasons. Plugins don’t necessarily go through the same QA and optimization process as the core WordPress code therefore, the activation of a plugin could introduce inefficient code or load unnecessary PHP processes into memory. Also, plugins that provide configuration options may also expose uncertain conditions when configured in certain way. The Google Sitemaps plugin is a great example of a plugin that, when misconfigured, can cause detrimental effects on a server which directly affects load time.

As always, my recommendation is always to run a tight ship, lean and mean is the best policy, and only use what you actually need. And if you stop using a plugin, make sure you deactivate it. There’s a security aspect to this as well.

Just a few more tips from experience. Feel free to add your own in comments.

Twitter Pitching

Yesterday, I released the WP-Twitterpitch plugin which has already gotten a few good writeups. The response is moderate. Some people don’t want pitches in their direct message box. Others think that TwitPitches should follow the Stowe Boyd model of public pitches. Still others could see the plugin being used as a contact form.

Sure. Yes, yes and yes. The application of the plugin is completely subjective so get creative with it! :)

As a sidenote, I’ve gotten a handful of “pitches” so far. Only one real pitch. Everyone else is kicking the tires – which is fun. I like getting anonymous tweets to my direct message box.

In the words of Instapundit… heh.

Examples of such entertainment include:

  • You should only post about Erin, Queen of Spain, forever. Why? Um…’cause she said so. I think I need this. stupid PR can pitch me here
  • Hey Aaron, great idea. Much better than the tons of spam we’re now gettting via the technosailor tips hotline. Congrats! Editorial Note: this person must be a technosailor.com writer getting general emails to the tips@technosailor.com – we like real tips, not spam, by the way.
  • Sorry, just testing your plugin.
  • So does this go direct to you as a dm or something? Cool.
  • Hello God! Editorial Note: this one is my favorite.

Good times. I imagine real pitching will happen over time and I’ll suffer the anonymous stuff for awhile. :-)

WordPress Plugin: WP-Twitterpitch

Obviously, there’s been a lot of talk about PR pitches gone bad. Stowe Boyd coined the word Twit Pitches last month. The concept is to force PR firms to use the economy of words (characters?) to pitch bloggers. It’s a reality in life, and I fight with my wife on this regularly, that no one cares about your “thing” as much as you do and so are less likely to want to give you the time to “pitch” the story or idea. You need to be quick, succinct and use compelling hooks.

Thus, the Twitter Pitch was born.

I’m releasing a new plugin that I hacked together over the weekend called WP-Twitterpitch that I’m also running here at Technosailor. Check out the navigation for a demo.

WP-TwitterPitch is all about getting the pitch delivered to you in the form you want to get it delivered – in other words in Twitter format. If you’re like me, then your Twitter direct message box is a lot like your email inbox. Personally, I don’t want to get pitches from PR companies in certain email inboxes. For whatever reason, I may not check them or they are personal, etc.

Twitter, however, provides the ultimate quick-messaging system. This plugin provides a template tag that you can drop anywhere in your theme. Clicking the link provides lightbox-like functionality for a “pitch form”. Using the form does not require a Twitter account (but does require that you have a secondary Twitter account you can use for this purpose, since you can’t send Direct Messages to yourself via Twitter). Note: Your WP-TwitterPitch Twitter account must follow the account that is being pitched and vica versa. This is a one-off action (hopefully, depending on Twitter) and only needs to be done when setting up WP-TwitterPitch.

Messages sent from the form are DMmed to the account getting the pitch and the form is limited to 140 characters or less. The beauty of linguistic efficiency.

Installation

  1. Upload the
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    wp-twitterpitch

    folder to the

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    /wp-content/plugins/

    directory

  2. Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress
  3. Edit Admin options to include Twitter ID to pitch, Twitter ID and Password to send Twitter pitches
  4. as, as well as a message to “pitchers” that will be displayed in the form after the pitch has been sent.

    Place wherever you want the link to appear

Direct Download Link

WordPress FAQ: What's up with the Amazon Plugin with WP 2.1.x?

How do I use the new version of the Amazon plugin? It never brings up what I am looking for and its very annoying. I want to be able to use it the way it was before the WP upgrade.

This question comes from Shannon Nelson who is complaining about the new version of WP-Amazon. Many of the blogs at b5 are product based or have a strong connection to products and so the WP-Amazon plugin is a favorite among affiliate bloggers.

The problem is that the new version of WP-Amazon, though still beta, leaves a large chunk of the less technical population behind. Based on the plugin site, I’m confident that the issues will be resolved by the time this version comes out of beta, however until then we’re stuck with it. The stable version of the plugin does not work on any of the WP 2.1.x branch and the beta preview version is only compati ble with Firefox 2, Opera 9 and (I think) Safari. Internet Explorer users are the big losers here.

Stay tuned tot he plugin page for news on future releases and we’ll be proactively monitoring and upgrading here at b5media.

Timecapsule Plugin 1.0.3

A few of you have been asking me about when Timecapsule (initially released on Problogger) would be WordPress 2.1 compliant. The time is now and not yet.

For those who wish to download and test (please do!), you can do so via SVN:

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svn co http://svn.b5media.com/svn/timecapsule/trunk

Or download the nightly.

I am looking to take this plugin to the next level and build features so speak up if you want features. Hart, this means you. And anyone else. :-)