Category: Uncategorized

Stop your blog from commenting on itself (no self ping trackbacks)

link 5359581911_d07f15db17_zDid you WordPress lets you keep track of who is linking to your work?

When someone links to one of your WordPress posts, you’ll get an automatic comment on your post called a trackback. It’s kind of a cool way to see who is linking to your stuff.

(A better way to see who is linking to your site might be to do a Google search using the “link” operator. If you type in Google, you’ll see the webpages that link back to the search engine. Click here for more information about links to your site, including how to use Google Analytics to access referring sites.)

So, what’s the problem?

Well, if you link back to another post on your website, you get an instant comment on that post. This is called a self-ping. It’s funny the first few times, and then it just gets annoying because it clutters up your comments.

You can turn off the self pings with the free No Self Pings WordPress plugin. It hasn’t been updated in a few years, but it still works fine. Still works after all this time for me and these people as well.

Once you install this plugin, all of the comments and trackbacks you get on your site will be from other people. Nice.


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Converting Categories into Tags or other custom taxomonies (home made categories)

custom post typeSearch engines like a well organized site. Heck, people like a well organized site.

When you’re writing on your WordPress website, you can organize your “posts” using categories or tags. (Remember that “pages” don’t have categories or tags. Check out this post for more differences between posts and pages.)

  • Categories let you create a hierarchial list and you get checkboxes to choose an option.
  • Tags do not have any organization and you get a text input box to enter terms.
  • Find our more about the differences between categories and tags.

Sometimes things get messy and you want to reorganize your website. You want to convert posts into pages or you want to convert some of your categories into tags… or, vice-versa.

Recently on one of our websites, we wanted to do some house cleaning. Here are two free WordPress plugins that made our life easier. No messy coding involved.

[stextbox id=”warning”]Warning: It’s a good idea to backup your website before you change multiple posts.[/stextbox]

How to convert posts into pages (or other custom types)

There are two free wordpress plugins to let you change posts into pages (or other custom post types.) Both of these plugins work great to switch existing content between posts and pages or to change them into any new post types that you made. (We used the free Types plugin to create a bunch of new post types.)

Convert Post Types lets you change a whole bunch of pages into posts at one time. We had created a whole bunch of posts about different splash pads and needed an easy way to turn them into a custom post type that we made. Convert Post Types made life pretty easy.


We’ve also used the free Post Type Switcher wordpress plugin in the past. This plugin lets you change the post type one-by-one when you are editing the post directly.

[stextbox id=”warning”]WARNING: Do not use the Post Type Switcher plugin if you are using the Views plugin to create custom views. See Advanced Notes below.[/stextbox]


How to convert categories into tags (or other custom taxonomies)

Term Management Tools is a free plugin that lets you reogranize your categories and tags. This plugin also worked with custom categories and tags (custom taxonomies) that we’ve made.

Click on the post menu and then either categories or tags.


By default, WordPress doesn’t give you a lot of “bulk actions.” Basically, all you can do is delete a whole bunch of categories at once.


The Terms Management Tools plugin lets you do three cool things.

  1. Set Parent: Normally, WordPress lets you set the parent for one of your categories one at a time. With this plugin, you can set the parent for a whole bunch at once.
  2. Merge: You can merge two separate categories or tags into a single category (or tag)
  3. Change Taxonomy: You can move categories into tags or tags into a custom category taxonomy that you’ve made, etc.

change categories

Advanced “Do It Yourself” stuff to know about converting tags into categories

Why did we need this plugin? Right now, we’re using the premium Views plugin on our splash pad website. Originally, we had a bunch of parent-child hierarchial categories.

  • For example, we had region as a parent category, and then a bunch of locations as child categories.
  • Then, we had hours of operations, and then a bunch of different sub categories (i.e. all day, weekends only, etc)

The Views plugin lets you add a pretty cool search engine to your website so that visitors can filter information from your site based on set criteria. For example, if you’re visiting a real-estate website, you might want to find houses in a certain area, with a certain number of rooms and for a certain price.

The problem with having everything in one category is that it shows up as one very long, messy list in your search bar. The other problem is that you can’t find posts that any criteria from one parent set of categories AND any criteria from a second parent set of categories.

When you search using the Views plugin, you can filter the results based on categories and you can choose whether user selected categories within the same taxonomy are filtered by finding posts with “Any of the following” categories, “NOT one of the following” categories, “ALL of the following” categories (or a few other options, including URL variables).

Unfortunately, with splash pad regions and hours of operations in the same category taxonomy, there didn’t seem to be a way to find splash pads from multiple geographic regions but only under certain hours of operation.

A user might want to find splashpads in region A or region B, but only those that are open 24 hours a day. If you set the Views Parametric search controls to filter “any of the following” categories, then you might get a splash pad that was open 24 hours a day, but not in region A or B.

Long story short, we used the free Types Custom Fields and Custom Post Types Management plugin to create custom categories (like Splashpad Hours of Operation.) We used the Terms Management Tools plugin to split up our parent hierarchial categories into separate taxonomies, and now we can make the search bar prettier AND have our search engine find splashpads from any of the user selected regions AND any of the user selected times.

[stextbox id=”warning”]post-type-switcher-views-errorWarning: Do not use the Post Type Switcher plugin if you are creating custom views with the Views plugin. There is a known issue on the wp-types forum where saving custom views suddenly became posts instead of views. (Unfortunately, you need to be members in order to see this forum post from March 28, 2013.)

My concern would be if this post accidentally got emailed out to subscribers. Jetpack only emails out new posts when they are first published. We made this mistake and created a few Views posts accidentally, but I didn’t see anything show up in my email. Still, it’s not a very comforting glitch and hopefully the compatibility issue gets fixed in a future wp-types update.[/stextbox]

Fixing the BuddyPress Who’s Online Avatar to show people horizontally instead of vertically

The cool thing about BuddyPress is that it lets you add a sidebar widget to show who is online right now as well. It works great if you’re using the default buddypress theme, but if you’re using a different theme, it may show your users in a single vertical list. Not very pretty.

Here’s the fix posted on the form that worked on our BuddyPress 1.6  network. We use the Thesis theme framework so you can simply copy and paste the css code into the custom file editor.

Good to know. We use Ron’s BP Multi Network plugin to create separate buddypress networks on the same WordPress install so now I just need to figure out how to make the Who’s Online buddypress widget only show users of a specific buddypress network (and not every single user in the entire installation.)

Using a WordPress Moderation plug-in to help cut down on inappropriate content on student blogs

If your students blog in the classroom, there are two basic ways to make sure their writing is appropriate. There are pros and cons to both methods.

Method #1: Students do not have publishing rights. The teacher moderates everything and nothing gets published without teacher approval.

This means the teacher is the bottleneck to the flow of conversation and creativity because the teacher has to check every single post before other students can see it. If you have 30 students in your class and they blog frequently, it quickly becomes overwhelming for the teacher to try to read everything. The benefit to this system is that nothing inappropriate gets online. The downside is that your students are getting bored waiting for you to approve their post, so it’s hard to build momentum in your student blogging network.

Method #2: Students have publishing rights. This means students can publish anything (gasp!), but are trusted to post responsibly. (Especially if they know that they have to login to post or comment, which means they can be held responsible.) The teacher monitors the website and takes down any inappropriate content.

The benefit to this approach is that students can publish their work and respond to their classmates at the speed of thought. The danger is that students might publish inappropriate content that can be viewed by others until it gets taken down (if it gets caught.)

Which method you choose is a personal choice. There’s no right or wrong answer. It all depends on your comfort level and the maturity of your students. Here’s how you can set up your student accounts if you use WordPress for your class (or student) blogs:

Setting up your student WordPress accounts

  1. Log into your class WordPress site and click on users.
  2. You can select multiple students and then change their role.
  3. If you want Method #1 and you want a teacher to moderate all content before it gets published, students need to be set up as contributors. This means students will be able to edit and delete their posts, but they won’t be able to publish their posts. (On the post writing screen, when they want to publish something, there will be a button that says “submit for review” instead of “publish.”) Students who are set up as “contributors” cannot publish or edit their own published posts. This means that if a teacher publishes their work and the student goes in and tries to change something, they will have to click the “submit for review” button. (This is a good thing because it means that students can’t go in and add inappropriate content once the teacher has approved their work.)
  4. If you want Method #2 and you want students to be able to publish their own work, student accounts need to be set up as authors. This means students can edit, and delete their own posts as well as publish their own posts. They can also delete and edit their own published work.
  5. If you want to give a trusted student (or another teacher) the power to publish or edit other people’s work, then their account needs to be set up as editors. Editors can do a lot, so be careful who you give this much power to. These people will be able to moderate, edit, change, delete and publish other students work, including both post and comments. When you click on the posts screen, there’s a new option that lets you see all of the posts that are pending approval.

Three WordPress Plug-Ins to Help You Monitor and Cut down Inappropriate Student Content on Your Class Websites

If you do decide to go with method #2 and give your students publishing rights, then you want to use some sort of WordPress plug-in to help monitor what your students are writing. Here are two of the plug-ins used on Educircles –online literature circle and student blogging network. (You need to run your own self hosted WordPress class website in order to install your own plug-ins.) Read more »