Help and Support

New Plugin: AB Custom Post Meta

March 4, 2018 in progress by Matthew Brown

Author Buzz UK members can now get their hands on a new plugin – AB Custom Post Meta. For now, the plugin is exclusive to Author Buzz blogs.

AB Custom Post Meta is a simple plugin that adds a new widget to display custom post data.

chimp typingWhen you write a post on WordPress three is the option to define custom data. People often use it to add what they were reading, watching, feeling, etc. at the time they wrote the post. This sort of thing:

  • Reading: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
  • Listening to: AC/DC
  • Feeling: Happy but tired

Normally you need to make sure that you have a theme that supports custom fields. Otherwise, all that information remains hidden. Which is a pain because not so many themes do support custom field values.

Not anymore. Now if you want to add “Feeling: Happy” and “Reading: Good Omens” or whatever to your posts, then you can be sure that information will show up and be seen. Best of all, you get to decide where it will appear.

If you don’t define any fields then the AB Custom Post Meta widget is smart enough not to waste your readers time trying to show up. It will only produce something if (and only if) there is something to share from the post.

Additionally, because the custom field data is often used by other plugins, any data that starts with an underscore will be hidden. So “_my_secret” would be secret while “you should hear this” would be shown to everyone.

If you want to use the new widget, AB Custom Post Meta is available to install from your blog’s admin area.

If you have any questions about AB Custom Post Meta then you can get support on the Blogs and Blogging forum.

Fighting Spam

March 1, 2018 in spam by Matthew Brown

Spam – I knew that it would happen sooner or later; I would just have rather spam happened later (or never).

There are two significant areas of spam that we have to fight.

  1. User Registration Spam (and spam groups)
  2. Comment Spam

The user registration spam is pretty much just a problem for Author Buzz itself. For some reason, spammers like to make new spammy groups. We see an average of two a day at the moment.

Comment spam, on the other hand, has mostly been a problem with Thanet Star. Thanet Star came to us with a large social media reach so it was to be expected that they would draw more spammers. Also, as they identify as commercial, they cannot use the non-commercial tools for spam filtering.

Fortunately, comment spam gets caught in the moderation queue almost exclusively and so is just a minor irritation that has to be removed every few days.

It’s the user registration spam that has been the problem. Apparently, it is a widely acknowledged problem for buddy press users and there are a lot of good ideas bouncing about on how to deal with it.

For now, our approach has been to remove the users that abuse our hospitality as we find them. I’ve made that task a lot easier by refusing access from known abusive email addresses. I imagine, though, that this will just cause the spammers to change email domains.

If you have any ideas feel free to share them. I’m going to keep chipping away at the problem until it is under control.

Back to the grindstone for me.

Importing content from other platforms

January 20, 2018 in grumpy-dev-syndrome by Matthew Brown

Today I set myself the task of finalising the import process for a number of large blogs waiting to move into the Author Buzz family.

If only life was so simple.

It turns out that the last time anyone tried to import from the platforms in question was several major versions ago. There is 0% chance that the code used back then would still work on either end of things.

What was once a “just finish this one task” became “finish ten tasks and two entire other projects in order to start this task.”

There are four big blogs on NucleusCMS 3.x waiting to come and join us. Every last one of those has custom changes I have to factor in. That would not be so bad. I can code for that. What makes it so nightmarish is that I might as well start in on code I had been hoping to put off until the summer. While maintaining the existing workload.

Yeah, that ain’t happening.

So that means my entire schedule needs – once more – to be rethought as I factor in the increase in custom work I need to do.

There would be another answer – there is an agency that specialises in doing the import. If I had the budget, I’d pay them to make it happen.

Well, can’t even take the time to winge properly – too much to do. Back to the grindstone for me.

Simplify the menus

January 1, 2018 in progress by Matthew Brown

If the message from our beta testers said anything, it said, “simplify things some more”. Of course, life being what it was, simplifying also means more complicated.

The problem with putting everything you might want all within easy reach is that you pretty much end up putting everything within easy reach. So how do you pick what to take out without making some things more than three clicks away?

Our answer was simple. Write an entire page about the four things you might want from Author Buzz – social, promotion, discover, and help. Those four have become our only top level menu items. Sure, feed, site lists, members list, blogs, etc. they are all there, just tucked away a bit.

Despite all that work being (technically) more complex, the result is easier to use. Now, as a user, I simply have to ask “what do I want?” and then “how do I want it?”

If this teaches us anything it is that we listen to our beta testers. That and we wish they’d stop finding things to fix but we are so glad that we don’t get what we wish for.

Oh well, back to the grindstone for me.

No bug found (but some UI improvements would help)

December 14, 2017 in bugs by Matthew Brown

Time for a developer ramble about the state of things here at Author Buzz UK, bug tracking, progress, and article length.

Solving Bugs

We reported that a potential bug had been found with sign-ups. Thanks to some truly amazing beta testers we have found that there probably is no bug but that the UI could be better.

I think, to be honest, I’d have prefered to find a bug. Bugs are simply a case of problem-solving and are well within my skill set, whereas design, while not alien to me, is a lot harder.

I’ve added the issue to my mental list of things that I really need to sit down and tweak. If anyone with a background in CSS wants to join in, you’d be very, very welcome. Not least because the line height and other subtle readability things are begging to be tweaked.

Solved problems staying solved

Meanwhile, the panic that I got into when the whole system locked up, shows no sign of ever happening again (at least not like that). I rarely make the same mistake twice; I consistently find new ways to tress myself out.

What is left to do?

butterflyI’ve got two huge blogs to import neither of which are particularly suited to a direct one-to-one line up. So that is going to be “fun”. So with Christmas almost here, I think I am just going to take it easy, watch Star Wars with my dad and then spend a few weeks getting content written.

Up to now, I’ve focused on large two to three thousand word articles. Depth is good but it is also hard work to create. Depth is fine but sometimes one is in the mood for reading something quick. So, I have started to experiment with mixing it up – this, for example, is a short article with one point to make.

I am mindful of the fact that the “my books” feature is still pending. Honestly, that is really hard and I am still figuring things out. I am chipping away at the issue but very slowly. Again, any WordPress devs that want to join us, would be made very welcome.

It feels like we are emerging from a cocoon of bug lists, and features left to make and becoming what we will be. We are not quite there yet; we are on the way, though.

Let me know if anything needs fixing between now and the new year.

Back to the grindstone for me

I’ve rambled on for long enough. Back to the grindstone for me.

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