First Anniversary: Useful WordPress plugins and some non-IT courses


It’s been a while since I posted on this blog, so much so that when I came to do this post, I had 8 WordPress plugins to update. It’s also a year today since I started the blog linked to courses I was studying (first post). So I felt a post today was in order.

It isn’t that I haven’t been doing anything, I’ve just had my attentions diverted elsewhere. In particular I have been working on a book project Manchester 1984.

WordPress Plugins

Manchester 1984 is a WordPress website using the hueman theme, as this blog is, but I hope you can see the flexibility of the theme, since the site has quite a different look, not just the colour scheme. There are also three WordPress plugins that I use on that site that I really rate highly:

  1. Facebook Open Graph, Google+ and Twitter Card Tags
  2. Shortcodes Ultimate
  3. Simple Custom CSS

I’ve written about Shortcodes Ultimate and Simple Custom CSS plugins before.

The Facebook Open Graph, Google+ and Twitter Card Tags plugin is really useful for the promotion side of things, or rather controlling what ends up being previewed if you or someone else shares a link somewhere else. Probably most people are familiar that when you put a link into a post on Facebook suddenly a photo and some text appears, but maybe you are not so familiar with where does that come from. That is the Facebook Open Graph data. What I particularly like is that you can see if you change things that the Open Graph data has been updated successfully or not (sometimes there is an error message but if you update again you get success).

There is nothing worse than correcting something on a post (like a spelling mistake) and then the mistake still persisting when it is shared. This plugin also allows you to add a ‘sharing image’ is different to the feature image, which means you can add an image that is more ‘click bait’ (including words) than the one you want to use to illustrate on your own blog. I see this often on Facebook and elsewhere when the image you click on isn’t anywhere on the post. If you make use of the excerpt option on posts and pages you can also control the sentence of text that appears with the preview picture rather than it being just the opening words including any titles.

I’d also like to mention another plugin – Print Friendly and PDF. I have mixed feelings about this one, so it is a recommendation with a health warning. On the positive side it is a very flexible printing option that allows the reader to convert the page into a print friendly PDF, with a button that you can customise and place where you want. It even has some editing options in the process, in that you can choose which sections to include or leave out of the print. For my experiments it has worked well. The down side is it has advertising, which is fair enough as why should plugins be free. But I think I’d like the option of paying for the service and not having the adverts, and also with advertising you can never be sure if the advertising is appropriate or sensitive to your audience and it looks a bit tacky. One option I have thought of for this plugin is not to have it viewable to readers, but have it in an admin only menu and use it to make PDFs of pages once they are complete, then upload the PDF and link to it. I am still pondering that – the downside of that method is if you edit anything you have to remember to redo and replace the PDF.


The two courses I have done since I last posted have not been technology related, so I didn’t feel they were appropriate to feature in detail on this blog, but I thought I would mention them as I’ve found both very enlightening. Both are from Coursera.

Gut Check: Exploring Your Microbiome
This is a six-week course that you can join at any time and is really fascinating about the latest research into how the bacteria that lives in our bodies contributes to our health. I like that this course explains how the research is done as well as what the findings are and there is a lot of recommended further reading. I didn’t like the food log design and need to find a better one. The final week covers the American Gut project which is a crowd funded open data project where you can get results of your own gut bacteria. There is a sister project, The British Gut project,  if you are in the UK.

Ancient Philosophy: Plato & His Predecessors
This four-week course has repeated presentations and covers what is philosophy and how does it differ from science, religion, and other modes of human discourse? The course traces the origins of philosophy in the Western tradition in the thinkers of Ancient Greece. I have found the delivery to be very clear and thoughtful and I am surprised how relevant the questions that ancient philosophers considered are to modern life. I have slipped behind with this one but hope to complete it soon.

Image on home page list credit: ‘cake’ CC-BY-NC poppet with a camera

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