Visual Mashup Maker MashupMania Reviewed

MashupMania Logo

Not a code monkey? MashupMania tries to make it as easy as pie to create a mashup using visual elements that are more like puzzle pieces. No coding required. I’ll come right out and say that the first time I tried to load this site, FireFox almost vomited all over itself. Thankfully, it didn’t crash.

The Site Design:

One of the first things you should notice is the Web 1.0 design elements. White background, web 1.0 button links, scroll bars and weird design elements. However, I have to give these folks credit for adding the beta logo in the top left hand corner and the blue TRY NOW badge. Not to mention, the black content bars have rounded corners. Let’s call the design, Web 1.5.

Upon visiting the homepage, I was knocked to the floor by the WTF do I do feeling. After taking a few wild guesses, I found out that the link to the MashupMaker was called ‘Widgeteria‘. Either I’m dumb or that’s not the greatest piece of text you could use to label that section of the site.

The Nitty Gritty:

I did manage to check out the tutorial thats posted on the front page of the site. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have any audio attached to it. It would of been much nicer if the tutorial was actually a walkthrough of the site and offered up audio that described what it was the Widgeteria did. You do however, get a taste of how the site works.

MashupMania Is A Mess

This is a small sample of what you’ll be greeted with once you enter the Widgeteria. In all honesty, it’s a mess, with draggable windows all over the place and no real starting point. Thank god their is a CLEAR button on the top options bar.

Once the area was cleared off, I decided to take a look at the Library. The library contains a list of pre-made widgets that can be customized to suit your needs without having to start from scratch. For the purpose of this review, I selected the RSS FEED 2 option.

Widget Library

After selecting RSS FEED 2, a box popped up which allowed me to type in an RSS feed URL. After putting in my FeedBurner address, the parser on the right hand side of the site was filled up with my blog posts. Not knowing what to do with the widget now, I choose to save it. Clicking the SAVE button opens up a new dialog box that gives me the options of giving the widget a name, and then a short description. After saving my Widget, I noticed it shows up in the library for anyone else to use.

When your finished tinkering around with your widget, click on the EXPORT button. The dialog box lets you know that before you can export your work, you have to save the widget. MashupMania then provides you a block of code which you then have to embed into your site. In my case, it was a block of javascript code within an Iframe.

I tried posting the code that MashupMania gave to me into the WordPress Text editor in CODE View and for whatever reason, everything in the WordPress text editor disappeared. I had to refresh the page a few times while constantly clicking on the CODE tab in order to delete the javascript. I did mange to see what the widget looked like on the page before it borked and it wasn’t pretty. In fact, I’m not even sure what it was I posted.

Final Thoughts:

This is one of those reviews that I couldn’t wait to get over with.

The Good:

  • Great Idea/Concept
  • For those that can figure it out, it could be one hell of a service for you
  • The FAQ section of the site

The Bad:

  • The site makes FireFox crap on itself
  • The site design is not user-friendly
  • Messing around in the widget area is a SLOW process
  • The video tutorial on the front page does little to help a noob.
  • Knowing what the hell your doing is almost impossible
  • The first visit to the Widgeteria greets you with a ton of crap you don’t need

At times, I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. Making the creation of a widget as a step by step process with an explanation as to what THIS or THAT does might of made for a better experience. I think the idea of being able to create a widget without touching any code is great, but doing it the way MashupMania has it setup is a painstaking process that made me wish I knew how to code. This is my opinion and your experience and opinions may vary. If you decide to give this site a try, let me know how it went.

Use WordPress Like Tumblr

QuickPost Plugin LogoWhile browsing around the plugin database for something completely different, I happen to stumble upon a plugin that was inspired by the Tumblr bookmarklet. It doesn’t have every feature of the Tumblr bookmarklet, but it doesn’t have to.

The plugin is called QuickPost and was developed by a company called Twelve Horses. After downloading, installing, then activating the plugin, you’ll have to go into the QuickPost options area and select a default category for each bookmarklet tab.

Setting Default Categories

The bookmarklet supports the following types of posts: Quotes, Text/Links, Photos, and Videos.

QuickPost Tabs

For those that are using FireFox, installing the bookmarklet is as simple as dragging a button to your bookmark toolbar. The process is a little more complicated if your using Internet Explorer.

Dear Internet Explorer Users: Yours is a harder path to walk.. Right click the bookmarklet below and select “Add to favourites”. Your IE will probably tell you that this is an “Unsafe bookmark to add”. Ignore your smart arse browser and click OK. The setup will thus be completed.

Although the bookmarklet doesn’t support every thing the Tumblr version does, I don’t feel as if it needs to. I think this bookmarklet covers the majority of content most people post to their Tumblr blog or regular blog. One thing about this plugin is that it does not allow you to preview the post before it’s published.

There is a checkbox that is part of the plugin options that allows you to use the WYSIWYG text editor but I ‘d rather see the option of choosing between both when making a post. The reason being is that, it’s pretty difficult to post YouTube Embed HTML codes into the WYSIWYG editor without it screwing up. I get around this by switching to the CODE view of the post and making sure that embedding the video is the last thing I do when creating the post.

Thanks to this plugin, I’m seriously considering disbanding my Tumblr account and using this blog as my Tumbelog and everything else blog. After all, lifestreaming seems to be where everything is headed so perhaps setting the site up this way allows me to get a head start on the trend.

P.S. The blog post before this one was actually me testing the QUOTE function of the QuickPost plugin. Apparently, it works.

AskApache And Google XML Updates

I finally got the chance to upgrade the AskApache Google 404 Ajax Search plugin along with the Google XML Sitemap plugin. I’m still trying to determine what is new in the Ajax plugin which I’m sure AskApache will probably stop by and let us know. As for the Google XML Sitemap plugin, here is a short list of changes that occurred.

  • Changed HTTP client for ping requests to Snoopy
  • Added “safemode” for SQL which doesn’t use unbuffered results
  • Added option to run the building process in background using wp-cron
  • Added links to test the ping if it failed

Make sure you head to AskApache Google 404 and Google XML Sitemaps to download the updated plugins and install them on your blog if you’re using them.

One special note for those who use the AskApache plugin. I noticed the directory that houses the plugin files had it’s name changed. When you upload this plugin, make sure to delete the old AskApache directory so they don’t conflict.

List Of WordPress Plugins I Use

Wordpress PluginsOver the past few weeks, I have had a number of individuals ask me questions regarding the plugins I use on this site. I thought I would take the time today to tell you every plugin installed and in use on this blog. This article took 2 hours to write and I hope it answers most of your questions. If not, ask away within the commenting section of the article. At the end of this list, let us know which plugins you suggest to use. Enjoy!


AddThis Sidebar Widget 1.2 – AddThis is an awesome plugin that gives users the ability to bookmark a specific page to one of any number of bookmarking services such as Digg, Delicious, Technorati, ect. Instead of having a ton of icons or badges for each service, I can use one image which makes it easy to implement and use. You can see this plugin in action by clicking on addthis plugin at work

Akismet 2.02 – I don’t think enough can be said about Akismet. Akismet was created by Automattic as an anti spam application. It’s one of the best around and without it, I would of had to manually delete 2,500 entries which have been detected as spam. If you are running WordPress, make sure this plugin is activated.

AskApache Google 404 2.2 – This plugin has turned my WordPress 404 Page into something useful. I wrote a detailed review of this plugin here ( Add Google Ajax To Your WP 404 Page ) and it has become the second most viewed article on this blog. Google 404 adds an Ajax powered search into your 404 page. When someone ends up on a 404 page, the terms that generated the error are automatically plugged into the search bar which generates a Google search amongst your own blog, the internet, images ect. To see it in action, visit

Dagon Design Sitemap Generator 3.1.2 – This is one of two sitemap generator plugins that I use. This plugin is highly customizable and gives me the options of how I would like to display my sitemap to the public. When you visit the output comes from this plugin. Works seamlessly in combination with my Google XML Sitemap generator.

Digg This 1.0.2 – There are many WordPress plugins that center around Digg but this one is still one of my favorites. When anyone submits one of my blog posts to, I am notified by email and a Digg button is automatically placed on the right side of the post. The plugin works by detecting a referral url from Digg. You can customize where the digg button shows up within your post as well as a few other options. To see the plugin in action, visit ( Migratr – Backup And Migrate Your Online Photos )

Dofollow 2.1 – I covered this plugin more in depth here ( You Comment I Follow ) Essentially, this plugin strips the “REL=NoFollow” attribute from a commenter’s URL. This is good for Google juice to be applied to those that comment on your blog. It’s also a good showing of appreciation to those that engage in the conversation through comments.

FeedBurner FeedSmith 2.3 – This plugin finds all the ways to subscribe to your blog and consolidates them into one feed using FeedBurner. This ensures accurate feed reader statistics. It’s one of the first plugins you should install when you begin a WordPress blog so that it’s as accurate as possible.

Get Recent Comments 2.0.2 – This displays the most recent comments/trackbacks on the sidebar. I have implemented this plugin near the top center of the page called MOST RECENT COMMENTs by adding the hook into it’s own div container. There are a number of different formatting options to display this plugin which make it highly customizable for your situation.

Google XML Sitemaps 3.0 – This is purely a Google only sitemap plugin. What I like most about this plugin is that it creates compatible sitemaps which are supported by, Google, MSN and Yahoo. This plugin combined with my other sitemap plugin covers my blog at all angles.

JS Toggle Boxes 1.4 – Js Toggle Boxes provides a means to add a plus symbol or a minus symbol to a div element that contains an unordered list. Using a combination of Javascript, CSS and cookies, readers of this site can now show or hide at least 6 different content blocks.

Live 0.4.1 – Wrote about here ( WordPress Real Time Browsing Stats ) Live gives WordPress admins the chance to see who is browsing what in real-time. The plugin provides information such as IP address, whether the user is on a page, comment, or a hit from an RSS aggregator, and referral URL. This is probably one of the most used plugins I have installed to monitor what’s going on. I’ve been anxiously awaiting a new version which promises additional functionality.

Live Comment Preview 1.7 – I came across this plugin while reading a blog post on how to make your WordPress blog Web 2.0ish. Powered by Ajax, this plugin gives readers a chance to preview their comment in real-time before it’s published. You can use the provided preview function to add a PREVIEW area anywhere on your site. It’s nice to know what your comment will look like before it’s published.

Most Viewed Widget 1.0 – This is an addon for another plugin called WP-Postviews which I’ll get to later. This widget will take the posts with the most number of views and display them as a widget or wherever you place the hook. You can modify the plugin code to determine how many articles are shown in the widget.

MyAvatars 0.2b – I covered MyAvatars here ( MyBlogLog And Gravatar Support ) in light of the recent Gravatar acquisition. MyAvatars displays avatars from both MyBlogLog and Gravatar. The best of both worlds it would seem.

MyBlogLog Widget 2.0 – In order to use a MyBlogLog widget, you first have to visit and create one. Once you get the code for the widget, paste it into a TEXT based widget. This is essentially how you add any 3rd party widget to your site.

Optimal Title 3.0 – One of the first plugins I’ve ever installed, Optimal Title mirrors the function of wp_title() exactly, but moves the position of the ’separator’ to after the title rather than before. This is what enables me to have links within the title bar of your browser that look like this

Optimal Title

Notice how the name of the post comes before the actual title of my page. I read this was supposed to help with SEO but I’m not sure if it has or not.

Related Posts 2.04 – This plugin returns a list of related entries based on active/passive keyword matches. The relation happens automatically and so far, it has worked out pretty well. This plugin becomes more accurate as you publish more posts. Not a good plugin to use if you have under 30-50 posts.

SezWho WP1.2 – SezWho is a comment rating/reputation based service. Users rate on comments for a given post which can in turn, leverage ratings of a commenter on other blogs. Replace the concepts of Gravatar with comment rating and user reputation and you should get the idea behind the service.

Share This 1.4 – Another awesome plugin that consolidates what would be a number of different images or badges into one easy to access control panel. ShareThis gives your users the oppurtunity to share a post with others through social bookmarking or by email. This is one of my favorite plugins as it provides so much functionality in such a tidy, neat package.

Subscribe To Comments 2.1.1 – This plugin adds a check box to a comment form which gives users the chance to subscribe to a particular page and it’s comments. After you subscribe to a post, each time a user comments on that blog entry, an email will be sent to your account letting you know someone has carried on the conversation. In my opinion, this is a function that should be supported out of the box.

What Would Seth Godin Do 1.3 – This plugin gives me the chance to configure a default welcome message to brand new visitors of the site. It uses cookies so that after a configured amount of times, the welcome message disappears. The welcome message contains the text “Welcome to my blog, if you enjoyed reading this, perhaps you would like to subscribe for more RSSLINK” Not sure if this has contributed to my RSS subscriber count but I haven’t had any complaints.

wp-cache 2.1.2 – The oh so infamous Wp-Cache. You almost have to use this plugin if your using WordPress. Wp-Cache is a very fast caching module that is actually modules within modules. This plugin has been known to withstand the Digg effect as well as the Slashdot effect. How’s that for noteworthy. I have quite a few issues with WP-Cache that I can’t seem to figure out but I’ll post about those some other day.

WP-PageNavi 2.20 – If you scroll to the bottom of this blog’s home page, you should see the numbers 1, 2, 3, ect in little squares. That is actually the PageNavi plugin in action. This plugin is just an advanced version of pagination which gives users more control over the navigation of the blog.

WP-Polls 2.21 – What good is a blog or website without a poll? This plugin is pretty much the defacto standard for polls within WordPress based sites. The poll is powered by Ajax, can be customized to match your template, supports multiple selections for answers, and the ability to use more than one poll at a time. There is also a Poll Archive page that be added to your site if you so choose.

WP-Polls Widget 2.21 – This widget works along side WP-Polls and displays the actual polls as a widget within your WordPress Template.

WP-PostViews 1.20 – This plugin provides a way for you to see how many views a particular blog post has. You can configure this plugin to show guest views, registered member views or both. I use this plugin just to provide me with “at a glance” statistics for posts. It’s a good feeling to be reassured that people are reading what I write.

WP-Print 2.20 – WP-Print adds the ability for users to print specific articles. The plugin contains options to allow users to print comments, posts, pages, or a combination of everything. I’ve added this functionality to my blog just in case someone feels to the need to print out a tutorial or something.

WP-Stats 2.20 – Displays your WordPress blog statistics. This plugin ranges from general blog statistics to plugin statistics. The plugin statistics are actually stats from a number of other plugins created by Lester Chan that you may have installed on your blog.

WP-UserOnline 2.20 – This plugin gives you and your user’s a chance to see who is currently browsing your blog. The plugin shows which registered members, guests and search engine bots are on your site and which URL they are currently browsing. It also provides a referral url to see where that user came from.

WP AJAX Edit Comments – Reviewed here ( Digg Like Comment Editor For WordPress ) is a plugin written by Ronald Huereca of the Readers Appreciation Project. This plugin gives administrators and regular users the ability to edit their own comments within a given time frame. The plugin pretty much works in the same way that the Digg commenting system works. As I have always said, every blog should provide some sort of way for a user to edit their comments. This plugin is a nice solution to that problem.

WP_EasyReply 1.0 – It becomes tiring typing out something like @whoever each time you want to reply to someones comment. This plugin does that task for you, albeit with a little bit of help. Out of the box, EasyReply provides a link which automatically puts each user account name that has commented since your last reply into the comment box. With a little bit of hacking, I was able to get this plugin to perform the mundane task of typing out @username which is a time saver and a blessing for my fingers. To read how I hacked this plugin for my own purpose, please read ( WordPress Comment Reply Plugin )


Wow. Can’t believe I’m finally finished with this article, 2 hours later. At any rate, I hope this article answers everyone’s questions as to which plugins I’m using. Installing and configuring the plugin is one thing, how you implement the plugin into your template is a different ballgame. I’ve used a bit of creativity on my blog but it shouldn’t be too hard to discover which content blocks are using which plugin.

Please share your experiences and or implementations of the plugins above if you use them. If not, please tell us which plugins you use and why.

Comment Rating Within WordPress

James Mowery of got in touch with me a few weeks ago and wondered which plugin sites like Engadget and Autoblogs were using that allowed for comment rating. I digged into the source code for those websites and couldn’t figure it out. Today, I have finally discovered which plugin those guys are using and figured I would share it here.

Its called, Comment Karma. Comment Karma is a plugin you can use to allow your visitors to rate each others comments. Like Digg, you can click a thumbs up or thumbs down icon which will give that comment either a positive or negative number.

Comment rating

This plugin was created in 2006 so I’m not sure how it will work with WordPress 2.3 but it’s worth a shot. One thing worth noting is that, the rating cache is set to 120 seconds.

If you’re using WP-Cache or similar the icons will not show up gray, nor will the numbers be updated if you reload the page until the page expires. However if a user votes again it will throw them an error. I’ve worked around this by setting the cache for 120 seconds. That way the server doesn’t get hammered with SQL queries, but you still see the comments being moderated in almost real time.

There is a similar service in SezWho, but by using this plugin, you can keep the comment ratings local to your WordPress install which may improve loading times for your site. I may install this plugin in place of SezWho just for that reason alone. If you’re interested in using this plugin, check out the official Comment Karma plugin page for directions on how to install it into your blog.

WordPress Comment Reply Plugin

East Reply Plugin

One of the greatest things about blogging, especially on your own blog is the discussion that takes place through comments. Here at we have taken the approach of manually typing in <strong>@CommentAuthorName</strong> as our means of typing out a reply. After typing this in time and time again, it begins to become irritating.

While searching the plugin database on, I came across WP-EasyReply. This plugin when activated presents a REPLYNEW link near the commenting text area. When you click this link, all of the comments that came before yours are automatically entered into the comment form along with a blockquoted version of their comment. This is similar in how a forum works when you want to reply to specific person and it automatically quotes their comment.

WP EasyReply In Action

I thought this was great. However, I didn’t see the need of appending the same comment over and over again throughout the discussion so I went inside the plugin code and deleted a few things. Now when you click the link, it automatically outputs the @AuthorName in bold which is what the user’s of this blog and myself have been doing for quite some time now.

The only problem with this plugin is that the link only appears for me and no one else. I am currently working with the plugin author to see if the reply link can be manipulated so that it is displayed for the general public to use. I’m also trying to talk the plugin author into wrapping up his plugin into a one line php function like so many other plugins. This way, users would be able to place that line of code anywhere they wanted to within the comments.php file giving blog owners the chance to display the REPLY NEW link anywhere they see fit.

If you want the same results here is the code change:
Original Code:
$posters.="@$com->comment_author - < blockquote >".htmlentities(@$com->comment_content)."< /blockquote >$lf$lf";

Changed Code:
$posters.="< strong >@$com->comment_author < /strong >

I See Your WordPress Plugins LogoSimonne of has posted a helpful tip for WordPress users. By default, the permissions for your WordPress directory are set up in such a way to allow the public viewing access. Like Simonne, I’m not sure what the practicality would be except for those snooping around or those trying to figure out which plugins you have installed in which they can then look for vulnerabilities or exploits in those plugins to hack your site.

The fix is quite simple. You can do one of two things, change the permissions of that directory from 0755 to 0750 or, you can upload a blank index.html file. When I set my plugin folder to 0750, some of my plugins decided to stop working. So I opted for option two. In fact, I added a redirect within my index.html page that redirects the browser to my homepage.

Here is the code I used in my index.html file if you would like to do the same.

Redirect Code I Used In My Index.html File

UPDATE -Thanks to LGR for adding this in via the comments. You can simply add Options -Indexes to your .htaccess file. This will redirect anyone who is trying to view a folder index to your 404 error page without the need of creating empty index.html files. Thanks again LGR.

Icon Based Social Bookmarking Plugin

m Logo

Aaron over at has published his first ever WordPress Plugin entitled ‘I Love Social Bookmarking‘. I love social bookmarking gives your readers a chance to submit your site/articles to various social bookmarking services via a tidy drop-down list.

Screenshot of the plugin in action:

Screenshot Of The Plugin

Version 0.1b is a pre-release trial version released to eliminate bugs and identify popular feature requests before a general public release. If you’d like to help me test this version please install it and let me know of any problems you encounter or additional features you’d like to see included.

Personally, I enjoy using the ShareThis plugin as it provides many more options than Milienzo’s plugin, including the option of emailing the post. However, this is his first ever plugin so it will be interesting to see where he takes this. Milienzio, my advice is to look at what ShareThis has to offer and see if you can improve upon that.

FeedSmith Plugin Security Update LogoThe FeedBurner Feedsmith plugin for WordPress which consolidates all of your WordPress RSS Feeds into one, has undergone a small security update. According to Feedburner, older versions of FeedSmith, can be vulnerable to what is called a “cross-site request forgery.” This permits someone to change WordPress plugin settings on your system without you noticing during the time you are signed into your WordPress control panel.

Feedburner recommends downloading the latest version of the plugin, FeedSmith V2.3 as this version ensures that the only person who can change FeedSmith settings is the administrative account that is signed into your WordPress account.

Here are the directions to update your plugin.

  1. Download version 2.3 of the plugin.
  2. Sign in to your WordPress admin control panel.
  3. Under Plugins, locate the current FeedSmith plugin, and click “Deactivate.”
  4. Copy the plugin file, FeedBurner_FeedSmith_Plugin.php into your default WordPress plugin directory, wp-content/plugins/
  5. Reactivate the plugin by logging in to your WordPress administration area, clicking Plugins, then clicking Activate at the end of the “FeedBurner FeedSmith” row.

At the end of this process, v2.3 will be active and will use your existing feed redirection settings; there is no need to re-enter them. You will also be protected against any potential request forgery attack.

AskApache 404 Google Fix Logo

For those of you who are using the ajax powered Google search plugin for your WordPress 404 page that I featured here Add Google Ajax To Your WP 404 Page, you may have noticed after upgrading to WordPress 2.3 that the search results have stopped displaying. A number of others including myself have experienced this problem and the fix is relatively simple.

In your WordPress admin panel, click on the OPTIONS link. Now click on the AA Google 404 link which will load the options for this specific plugin. Where it says Google API Key, click on the GET ONE link. Type in your URL to Google and they will provide you with a new API key. Replace the plugins current API key with the newly acquired one and click the save button. Your 404 search results should reappear.