In the past I’ve mentioned a very complex plugin named “WidgetPress”, which I built and is the underlying foundation of the Sears Community and Kmart Community sites. What WidgetPress does is complex, and the short time I had did not allow me to really clean it up the way I would have liked to. This is why I have not released it publicly.
However, the lessons learned from WidgetPress are many, and some of the ideas and solutions that led to its completion can be feathered out of the bulky plugin into their own stand-alone plugins. Thats exactly what I am trying to do now. The specific functionality I’m working on right now is the idea of using custom post types and taxonomies in such a way that they are no longer independent. It will take some explaining to show how this is useful so I will start by explaining how it is used in WidgetPress.
WidgetPress, at the end of the day just lets admin’s create “Section Fronts” based on category or a Page – define their layout, and drop widgets into them to determine the entire contents of that layout. The widgets themselves make up as much of the page as the theme developer likes – for our purposes, everything between the top navigation and the button navigation is entirely composed of widgets on almost every single page on the site.
For WidgetPress to work, I actually had to completely deconstruct and reengineer the way WordPress handles widgets internally. I completely bypass WP_Widget_Factory, I ignore all those horrible global arrays, and hijack the whole widget registration process. I built my own entire structure for handling widgets, while still allowing (most) normal WordPress widgets to function without a hitch. I could write a whole book about the reasons I had to rebuilt all this but I’ll skip that. In my implementation Widgets are actually a post type, and sidebars are constructed using a custom post type AND a custom taxonomy working together – not in the typical way posts and categories work together – instead the post type and taxonomy function as a single entity. When an admin creates a sidebar, in the background it creates a new post of that post type, and a new term for that taxonomy.
The flexibility this allows is not immediately obvious. Widgets being a post type mean that they exist independent of their actual sidebar. Sidebars being a taxonomy means widgets can be placed into any number of sidebars, and sidebars can be associated with any number of “Pages”, “Posts” or other post types registered for that taxonomy. Sidebars, being a taxonomy and a post type, means that although they are used primarily as a taxonomy – each term can actually store meta data! This is the functionality that today I am building into a separate component.
The project I’m doing this is completely different from WidgetPress, its actually for an in-house products plugin – the intention being that any bit of data about each product can easily be made to be meta data and/or a taxonomy term.
The working name for this is WP_Node. I realize “node” has all sorts of existing meanings and connotations. However, given the way this merges content and relationships, blending them into a single idea – I find it difficult to think of a term that fits it better while remaining as abstract as it should be.
Hopefully in the coming months I’ll be able to release WP_Node (or whatever I end up calling it), as an independent library or plugin. There are also several other very interesting things I’d like to pull out of WidgetPress – maybe at the end of all this I can rebuild WidgetPress using the separate components (each of which will be better thought out and better written).
A user of the Incorrect Datetime Bug Fix plugin submitted a bug report last week. While the plugin was turned on the user was getting an error about improper usage of wpdb::prepare() in WordPress 3.5.
Warning: Missing argument 2 for wpdb::prepare()
This threw me for a loop, since its such a simple plugin that I’ve never had to change, I assumed that something changed in the new version of WordPress 3.5. I was all ready to submit a new trac ticket. As it turns out, it was my usage of wpdb::prepare() that had always been incorrect, if you are a developer and are interested in knowing more about the problem, read Andrew Nacin’s article on the subject. In the past WordPress simply wasn’t throwing out an error and that’s what was changed in WordPress 3.5. I found this by using git’s “bisect” feature, which is really great and I might write a blog post about it in the future.
As always I greatly appreciate but reports, idea submissions for my plugins, and any other feedback regarding the plugins I maintain. It is whats great about Open Source and it helps me validate its usage in the corporate world. The new version is now available for download. Please update to avoid these errors from being reported.
Last week I finally released Media Categories 1.5, but I neglected to write a post about it. Most of the UI issues have been resolved with the Media Modal, however due tot time constraints I could only ensure the plugins compatibility as far back as WordPress 3.3. It doesn’t break the site earlier than that, but selected taxonomy terms dont save properly. As of now, I have no plans to extend support to 3.2.x or before.
I do intend however on adding a few more features that I think are missing from WordPress 3.5 as soon as I have the time. The most obvious of which I will also try to get committed to core. Said enhancements include:
- Fixing the counter on the right of the attachment table – its supposed to indicate the number of media items per category but it does not count accurately.
- Adding a taxonomy filter to the attachments page – for most post types with a taxonomy enabled, the post types admin page shows a ‘View all categories’ drop down. This is missing from media in WordPress 3.5. I would also try to work some similar filtering ability into the Media Modal.
- There seem to still be some UI issues in the Media Modal when multiple taxonomies are assigned to a post type.
- I may create an admin interface in the settings area to allow admins to simply check from a list of checkboxes, which taxonomies (of all available taxonomies) they would like to enable for media.
- I may also include some simple functions for retrieving attachments by taxonomy. Although these would essentially be a simple wrappers of WP_Query or one of its wrapper functions, I believe it would serve as an example to developers on how to get started.
Take a look at how great attachments with taxonomies look in WordPress 3.5 by downloading Media Categories 1.5. Look out for some of these improvements I mentioned above in the next version, Media Categories 1.6.
One additional note: At some point in the near future I will update the plugins pages on this site,… I promise. However, please understand that the pages on this site are meant to contain the same information as the WordPress plugin repository does, mostly in the ‘Other Notes’ tab.
I have solved the UI problem in the modal that was holding up the release of Media Categories 1.5. However due to an additional bug reported to me on GitHub Issues, I did not get a chance to test the plugin in earlier version of WordPress.
I believe Media Categories 1.5 should be fully functional for WordPress 3.5 at this point, but I wont release until I get a chance to test all aspects of it are backward compatible. If you would like to download Media Categories 1.5 Beta 2 ( zip / tar.gz ) now you can get by downloading the version specific tag in GitHub or you can get whatever is the most recent right off the master branch.
This week WordPress 3.5 was released, and the core team has made a some great improvements to the way media is handled in the UI. I managed to get my name in the credits for a measly few lines I contributed in a couple of patches - nonetheless I’m proud to be a part of it.
The reason I created the Media Categories plugin is because of how neglected the interface for media was. Especially with regard for anyone wanting to add support for taxonomy. In 3.5 media still comes without any taxonomy enabled out of the box (as it should be) – but for those who those who do the custom work of enabling one, the interface is now much improved.
In the past, if you simply enabled any taxonomy for media, the editor would get a simple text field into which users would need to manually enter the slugs from memory. The interface for media was unique from that of any other post type. What they’ve done in WordPress 3.5 is simply make the Media interface behave more like every other post type.
So now when a taxonomy is added to media, you automatically get a built-in metabox, you get a column on the Media Library listing the taxonomy terms applied to each item, and you get a taxonomy page specifically for media. They have also greatly improved the modal window for managing media – even adding the ability to edit the details (title, caption, description) right there in the modal.
So what good is the Media Categories plugin now?
On the surface it seems as though my plugin is mostly useless now. It could be stripped down to a few lines to just enable the taxonomy and be done. Thats not the case. First of all, 3.5 still doesn’t support filtering by taxonomy in the “Gallery” shortcode. Also, since a couple of weeks before WordPress 3.5 was released, I have been working to fill in the gaps where I see some room for improvement.
Whats new in Media Categories 1.5?
The new Media modal window has at once, made it easier for me to allow users to edit the taxonomy of an image from the modal screen, while also making the default behavior problematic enough that it merited an overhaul of my plugin to address this problem.
I’ve added a collapsible version of the metabox, along with the filterable search box to the modal media editor.
I’m not releasing it yet, because I’ve run up against a quirk in how the new modal saves data – it causes the collapsable section to immediately collapse when the auto-save kicks in. Getting the auto-save to work at all with checkboxes was a challenge.
When will Media Categories be released?
Once this auto-collapsing behavior is solved, I’ll probably be satisfied enough to release 1.5. However I do still need to test in 3.4.x and 3.3.x to make sure the plugin still works correctly in those versions. I have a vested interest in making it backward compatible because I use this plugin at work, and many of our sites are on several out dated version of WordPress (shh).
I will continue to work on it, and work with the core team to make this happen as soon as possible. However if you would like to take a look at this new version feel free to download it from the master branch on GitHub.
Update: Media Categories 1.5 Beta 2
For the last few months I’ve been neglecting this blog and my publicly available plugins. Thats because 200% of my time has been tied of in this very large projects – the mySears Community and myKmart Community for Sears Holdings Corporation. This matching pair of Q&A style customer service sites have been migrated from a third-party host known as Viewpoints, and onto a self-hosted WordPress Multi-Site installation.
Today I’m happy to say that we’ve launched both.
While I’ve taken part in countless migrations to WordPress from other systems, including one from Viewpoints – this project was truely like no other – not only in the number of hours worked, but also in its technical challenges. Due to fuzzy requirements at the start of the project, the end product turned out different from what we expected on day 1 of development. If I were able to solution this project over again knowing what I know now, I would have chosen a much simpler approach. However it resulted in the development of some very interesting tools.
Of the parts I got to work on, there are 3 plugins that I’m proud of and that I think will be useful to the WordPress community – Custom Comment Type, Section Fronts, and WidgetPress. I won’t go into too much detail in this post, but heres a brief description of those three.
- Custom Comment Type – create Custom Commeny Types much the same way developers already create Custom Post Types.
- Section Fronts – A custom post type called ‘section’ that can be chosen to represent a category, post type archive, or even an intersection between the two. Similar to the way admins can already select a ‘page’ to represent the front page.
- WidgetPress - A layout management tool based on the existing Widgets API infrastructure. Overhauled to work off two custom post types and a custom taxonomy – sidebars (referred to as dropzones) can be sized and created on the fly on a page-by-page basis leveraging a css grid framework on the front end. This – especially when used in conjunction with Section Fronts – has by far the greatest potential to make an impact, and opens up a whole host of possibiities for how WordPress is used.
I’ll try to write more about each plugin in the weeks to come. For now, none of them are clean enough for me to release them publicly. I’d like the opportunity to rewrite each one from scratch and do things the right way now that I know how it all needs to work – but I dont think I’ll have that much time so I’ll have to settle for something in the middle.
I’ll also throw up some screenshots for some of these, and at some point I’ll probably create a demo video of WidgetPress in action.
I didn’t have a chance to post about this, but last week I quietly released Media Categories 1.3.1, to workaround a problem which was reported to me on the support forums in the WordPress Plugin directory.
A user of the Media Categories plugin explained that some under certain circumstances, categorized media would not save properly. Here are the steps to reproduce the problem:
- Create two categories with the same name, but different slugs.
- Open up an attachment while Media Categories 1.3 or below are turned on. (download that version here)
- Select the two same-name categories, and click save. WordPress will take you back to the Media Library.
- Open the same attachment again, and click save, without having changed anything.
- Open that attachment once more. You will find that one of the categories that had a duplicate name, is no longer selected.
The first thing I did was turn off the styling on my plugin, which hides a text field that WordPress creates when an attachment has taxonomy support and watched what it did as I went through each of the steps above. This field will take term ID’s, slugs, and names – it can take any number of terms, each separated by commas – but requires the user to manually enter them from memory, which I why I built my plugin.
Once the user has selected and saved their terms, upon re-opening the attachment, that field will always be populated by the categories name. When names are used in that field, WordPress simply tried search for that category by name, which as we know can be non-unique. This results in WordPress chosing the first term with that name it comes across, for both instances of the name – resulting in the later on being lost. The next time you open that attachment, there’s only one instance because both were saved as the same term.
I figure this has gone unnoticed because WordPress does not natively support taxonomy for attachments, and few people use plugins that turn on that support. It’s easy to see how the original developer of the built-in text field would have thought that using the term name would be easier for end-users to deal with – however it clearly causes problems when in use.
I opened a ticket in WordPress Trac, and submitted a very modest patch that changes one line in core so that is spits out the slug instead of the name. However who knows when that ticket will be dealt with, and we are very close to WordPress 3.4 being released, so I don’t have much hope of it being part of that release.
With that in mind I developed a fairly simple workaround which accomplishes the same goal, but by effectively re-doing what WordPress does when saving an attachment. I released it last week over the holiday weekend as Media Categories 1.3.1, and I suggest anyone using this plugin upgrade, or risk losing some of their saved data.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for the bug reports.
Update: My patch was accepted and will be released in WordPress 3.5. As small and simple as it might be, and even though I’ve been working with WordPress professionally for over 3 years – this is the first time one of my contributions to core has been committed. Yay me.
On the heals of release of Media Categories 1.2, which added Gallery Shortcode support, I’m releasing Media Categories 1.3 which allows developers to change which taxonomy is being used. If you’re not a developer, this update won’t be of much use to you, as you won’t be able to write the necessary code to change the taxonomy. Thats not the case if you happen to be a developer making use of this plugin.
Developers can use the new ‘mc_taxonomy’ filter to change the taxonomy very easily. Take a look here, as I use this filter to change the plugin so that it used the Tags taxonomy rather than Categories.
Of course, your free to use any Taxonomy, including Custom Taxonomies. So that sort of means this plugin is no longer really ‘Media Categories’, but rather ‘Media Taxonomies’ would be more appropriate.
Please report any bugs you find with this. There are plenty if ways that people configure their custom taxonomies and some bugs may crop up under certain circumstances. If they do, please report it here or in the WordPress plugin directory forum for this plugin.
As a final note, I’d like to point out that just like the Gallery Shortcode feature in Media Categories 1.2, this new feature in 1.3 was suggested by a developer in the WordPress Plugin Directory forum for this plugin. I value the feedback I get from other developers and users, and so far I’ve received pretty much all positive, constructive feedback. Thanks to all.
A few months ago I received suggested it might be a good idea to allow the gallery shortcode to retrieve attachments from a category as part of my Media Categories plugin.
So here it is, Media Categories 1.2 extends the native WordPress Gallery Shortcode to allow you to select a category to display via a newly added ‘category’ parameter which can take either a term_id OR a slug.
Normally the gallery shortcode only shows you images that have been attached to the current post, or a post id passed as an argument. This normal behavior is preserved with Media Categories 1.2, however when invoking the ‘categories parameter, the current post is ignored, unless its id is explicitly passed.
[gallery category='slug' id='12']
In the example above, the gallery shortcode will create a gallery of any images that in the category called ‘slug’ AND are attached to post id 12. If the id is not explicitly passed, then it will simply return all images from the category.
As I’ve stated, if you don’t invoke the category parameter, the gallery shortcode will behave as normal, so this plugin will not interfere with how galleries already in use will behave.
I have a few additional updates coming soon for this plugin, per another request I received via the plugin directory forums, version 1.3 will include a filter so that developers can change the taxonomy at will.
Thanks for using the plugin, as always I appreciate bug reports and feature requests, I hope you find good use for this new feature.
This plugin has seen a flurry of bug fixes and updates since 1.3 was released and we’re now on version 184.108.40.206. I am really sorry for having so many updates back-to-back.
Everything since 1.3 is bug fixes, here is a summery of what was fixed.
- `category.php` templates were not being loaded (somewhere down the line I must have removed it by mistake)
- In cases where the current category was neither parent nor child, the plugin would fail to load anything from the hierarchy other
- Lastly, I screwed up a commit, and the changes for 1.3.2 didn’t go out, hence 220.127.116.11