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Ecommerce in WordPress

Dear Reader,

The Problem

Regular readers know that back in November I put on a one day virtual conference titled Day Camp 4 Developers. Part of the deal was that all ticket holders got free copies of the recordings. It sounds like such a simple thing; just put them up for download, right? Not really. Let’s look at the actual requirements.

  1. Shopping cart to allow me to eventually sell the videos.
  2. A way to let my existing ticket holders “buy” them for free. (Coupon codes)
  3. A way to keep the real location of the files hidden so people don’t just go download them.

Those were the biggest items. Beyond that I was willing to either sacrifice or code it myself.

The Solution

I looked at a lot of shopping cart solutions ranging from the horrible to the expensive. I really wanted to go the open source route, not because I’m cheap or don’t believe in paying people for their work but I knew there would be needs I had that I would have to code myself. In that case, I wanted to be able to contribute back to the project. (Assuming they wanted the code, I wrote)

I ended up with eShop. It’s good, not great. It meets all 3 requirements, although I did have to help it along in a couple of places. I looked at the code, again, good, not great. It amazes me that after watching the PHP community scream “filter input, escape output!” so much that some developers still don’t. I had to add some filtering and a lot of escaping to get the results I wanted.

In the end though, it did the job. Like the other tools I used for DC4D, I could have written a more tailored solution myself, however, it would have take me a lot longer to get the job done and get the video’s up.

Side Note: I am so used to community projects being the norm that it surprises me when I find a project that is not community based. eShop is a single developer building a project. There is no repo for eShop and no way to submit patches other than just email them to the author. He has a forum for the project and it’s active enough to let me know people are using the product but there is no developer community working with him to mantain and enhance the project. It makes me sad. For those interested, no, he did not accept my patches but only because he didn’t want to take the project in that direction. I eventually forked it for my own use because I’ve modified it enough now that upgrading to future versions is a pain.


WordPress (“The word press” as one of the lovely and talented Kathy’s bosses used to call it) was never designed for ecommerce. Any solution is a bolt-on and feels like it. However, eShop is a good solution if your needs are modest.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

WordPress Training. Who needs it?

Dear Reader,

[DISCLOSURE: I work with php|architect. php|architect has a WordPress Essentials class]

I’ve been using WordPress since 2005 when I started blogging. I used to write plugins for it back in the 1.5/1.6 days and just recently stepped back into that role and wrote a plugin that should be announced soon. (Super secret, can’t talk about it yet, etc.) As a side note, writing a plugin has come a long way! the new way hooks and options page stuff is pretty cool and once you understand it, makes simple plugins real easy.

Is training on WordPress necessary?

Has WordPress become so simple that it requires no training? Honestly, if you are a PHP developer already, yes, it is that simple. Ok, so the code isn’t OO and that drives a lot of purists up the wall but at the end of the day, it’s functional and that’s what is important. Like PHP itself, WordPress is a tool that lets you get the job done.

In 5 years of blogging I can’t remember not being able to bend WordPress to my will. The problem I have as a developer these days is that there are so many plugins for it that it’s hard to come up with an idea that has not been done and done well. (Again, I just finished one that I’m real proud of but can’t talk about it yet…squeeeeeeeeee)

However, I do have a lot of friends who blog but are not PHP programmers. Answering for those people, I would say, yes, it does require a bit of training and assistance to really get the most out of WordPress. As I mentioned before there are a lot of extensions to choose from. Currently lists 8,792 plugins available and not all authors put their plugins in that repository. For any given idea, a developer should be able to easily flip through the available plugins, select one or two, review the code and make sure it’s well written and get the best extension for the job up and running. Non-developers however, don’t always have the knowledge to select the best. tries to help with ratings and telling you what version it was developed for and tested on but those don’t always ensure a smooth install.

So where do you get help with WordPress?

Even though I’ve had my hands deep insides the bowels of WordPress many times in the past five years, even so, there are times I still have to turn to people for help. There are also times when people I know turn to me for help and I just don’t have the bandwidth to help. In both of these situations, I usually end up turning to a short list of friends.

Mitch Canter
Mitch “studionashvegas” Canter has been my WordPress go-to guy for a few years now for non-coding issues. He’s a wealth of knowledge on things like the best plugins to use, themeing issues and jsut about anything WordPress related.
Aaron Brazell
I will admit that Aaron and I only know each other online and have only recently met. However, his depth of technical knowledge on WordPress is fast making him one of my regulars to bug with questions. He is also the author of WordPress Bible, an essential tome if you are serious about programming for WordPress.

What about WordPress training courses?

Honestly, there are only two places I can recommend for training. Which one you choose depends largely on how you learn.

If you learn best by watching videos, you will want to check out I’ve never used them but the lovely and talented Kathy has had an account there for a while and likes their content. Their courses are well put together and informative.

If you learn best by live instruction, php|architect has a course, “WordPress Essentials” taught by Steve Fisher. I helped design this course so I am partial to it. It’s for non-PHP developers who want to squeeze the most out of their blogs.

Wrapping it up

So to answer the question I started with, is training on WordPress really necessary, the answer has to be “It depends”. WordPress is a great platform and for the most part, a forgiving platform. So if you have the time and are willing to make the mistakes and recover, no training is not necessary. However, if your passion is your blog and not tinkering with your blog then yes, a training course will help you get going quickly, avoid the potholes and spend more time on what is important to you.

Until next time,
I <3 |<


Upgrading WordPress

Dear Reader,

This is really a note for me because I keep forgetting things.

  1. Unpack latest copy of wordpress in a work directory
  2. Rename wordpress directory to blog
  3. Rename blog directory to blog.original
  4. Move work/blog to main directory
  5. Copy blog.original/wp-content/plugins to blog/wp-content/plugins
  6. Copy blog.original/wp-content/themes to blog/wp-content/themes
  7. Copy blog.original/wp-content/uploads to blog/wp-content/uploads
  8. Copy blog.original/wp-config.php to blog/wp-config.php
  9. Copy blog.original/.htaccess to blog/.htaccess (this is the step I keep forgetting
  10. Go to blog admin page and check for database upgrade
  11. Check site for working theme and internal links

Until next time,

Join me on Small Business Trends Radio

Dear Reader,

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008 at 12:30 CT, I will be the guest on Small Business Trends Radio. You can listen live or download the episode for later listening.

I’ll be discussion all things WordPress.

It should be a rocking good time and I’d love to see both of my readers tune in. So drop by and give us a listen.


Complicated WordPress Upgrade

Dear Reader,

Ok, I took the plunge and moved “Postcards From My Life” to WordPress 2.5. I was hesitant because over the years I’ve hacked plug ins and themes so I was worried that something would break along the way. This has really grown to a pretty complex WordPress install; but then again, I like pushing the envelop.

I know I’ve said it before but huge props to the WordPress development team. Upgrading the core went exactly as they said it would.

Most of the plug ins I use worked fine because I usually keep them up to date anyhow.

Here are the exceptions:

  • aLinks 1.0rc1
    Throws a fatal error on activation. No automatic upgrade. Have not checked the site for a manual upgrade.
  • Extended Comment Options 2.0
    Throws a fatal error on activation. No automatic upgrade. Have not checked the site for a manual upgrade.
  • Popularity Contest 1.3b3
    Throws a fatal error on activation. No automatic upgrade. Have not checked the site for a manual upgrade.
  • NAVT 1.0.16
    I have a love/hate relationship with this plug in. On the one hand, it gives me control over the order of my menu items and some other cool features. The downside is the admin is so ajax heavy that it’s almost impossible to work with. It has gotten better, the previous version used to throw a dialog box in FF telling me the script was taking to long to load. The new version is nicer but there is no “Save”, “Publish” or “Commit”. I guess changes are immediate which I don’t really like but I’ll put up with. Oh and when I upgraded to the current version, it forgot all my menus I had built. Lucky for me, I only had 1 but that could be a pain if you have a lot.

That’s all I have to report. Everything went smoothly, which is why I’m constantly recommending WordPress to anyone who needs a quick but powerful Website. If you are waiting to see if there are problems, I’d say the water is fine, come on in.

Until next time,