Archive for the 'WordPress' Category

POPS Site Launch

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Last week we launched a new site that maps Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) in NYC.  The unveiling took place at the Municipal Arts Society Summit.  A POPS is a plaza, arcade, or other outdoor or indoor space for public use provided by a private owner in return for a zoning concession.  Zuccotti Park is the POPS that everyone knows about, but there are 500 or so other POPS in NYC.

The goal of the site is to publicize this little-known public resource for NYC residents and visitors and to serve as a resource for urban-planning enthusiasts.  People can find out information about the various POPS, can rate, comment, post photos, post announcements about a POPS and can also voice complaints when a particular POPS isn’t meeting regulations.

We built the site using WordPress.  The theme is fully responsive so works well in all devices.  We have plans for further improvements and ideas as to how to hook this site into Google Maps to make it the canonical resource on NYC POPS.  So check it out and let us know your comments.

Jerold Kayden and Alexis Taylor of APOPS presenting the site

GeoJSON Maps

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

I’ve just uploaded a new plugin to WordPress.  GeoJSON Maps facilitates displaying multiple GeoJSON feeds on a map. It has a custom legend to toggle on/off each data layer. The map can be displayed on a WordPress post or page via a short code. All you need is some GeoJSON feeds (both json and jsonp) and some styling markup. See here for a demo.

This plugin is a result of work we have been doing with the NYC Dept. of Transportation.  It allows city administration to easily publish data on a map in a WordPress blog without the need of any custom programming.  Here is an an example of where this type of map is used, in showing the results of a study of the Jackson Heights neighborhood.

Street View Comments v. 0.2 released!

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Today I release v. 0.2 of the Street View Comments plugin.  This release fixes a few bugs and also allows for running multiple concurrent Street View Comments tools on one WordPress site.  All you need to do is tag the intersections and then specify that tag in the short code.

The DOT is currently using the tool to get feedback on 4th Ave in Brooklyn.  They are now able to run additional instance of the tool on the other sections of 4th Ave.

Street View Comments

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

I just uploaded a new plugin to WordPress that we’ve been working on over the last few weeks called Street View Comments. It’s really quite a simple and brilliant tool to gather feedback on a street, to ask questions like “What do you like about your street?” or “How would you change Canal Street to improve pedestrian safety?”

Anyone can post a comment associated with a particular view. Comments can be moderated in the back-end.  Check out the demo. 

Street View Comments was built by Aaron Ogle, Andy Cochran and myself. The standalone non-Wordpress version is here.

Looking for a WordPress developer

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I’m looking for an experienced and versatile web developer/producer to develop and modernize the digital presence of the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism.

The Mountains and Rivers Order and its mainhouse, Zen Mountain Monastery, is one of the more significant Zen Buddhist training centers in the West. Ranked first on Google for searches such as “Zen buddhism” and “Zen meditation,” the Order also maintains a strong presence on the web with large archives of teaching material, web radio, an online journal, and an online store.

This is an excellent opportunity for the right candidate with the technical knowledge and project managerial skills to coordinate a team of designers and content editors who will be working closely with a religious organization. See the full RFP and please contact me for further details.

WordPress 3.3.1 Upgrade Fail on Lighttpd

Monday, February 20th, 2012

We run all of our blogs using WordPress. releases updates to their software on a regular basis, adding new features, making it more secure, faster etc.  Normally upgrading is just a matter of downloading the new source code, testing it out on a dev server, then deploying it on our live servers.

Just recently when we upgraded to version 3.3.1 this process didn’t go as smoothly as it normally does and I’d like to briefly document here what the issue was for the benefit of other people and to remind myself of what happened here for future reference.

After deploying the new version, things looked fine.  Over the next few days, however, problems started to arise.  Scheduled posts were not getting published on time and the local comment sync from Disqus was not working automatically.  This only was occurring on the Streetsblogs, however, and not on GothamSchools. (more…)

The Ultimate WordPress Search

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

If you’ve been following the story thus far, I’ve been working at refining our search on Streetsblog.  The standard WordPress search only returns results ordered by date, so my first step was to integrate Google Custom Search with Streetsblog.  This works beautifully and should meet the needs of most readers, but soon our editors realized that they’d also like the option of sorting by date.

I played around with biasing the Google search results by date.  This worked fine but, unfortunately, Google searches all site content, including sidebar content and category drop-down lists, when returning results.  So, if you searched for something like a category name, you would essentially end up with a list of all blog posts in reverse chronological order, which is quite useless.

What our editors really wanted was to be able to revert back to the original WordPress search which only searches blog post content.  So I spent some time integrating it with the Google Custom Search interface.  I ended up producing an almost exact replica of the styles and behavior used by Google.  I managed to pull in post thumbnails, to highlight the search term in results, etc.

So now we can search for “bike lanes” by date or by relevance and get useful results for both.  And for anyone else who wants to do this, here’s the code.


Better WordPress Search

Monday, November 28th, 2011

One of WordPress’ weak points is its search.  Whenever you search for a phrase, it will just return all posts with that word in reverse chronological order.  People are used to the power of Google searches, these days seemingly having the ability to guess exactly where you want to go before you even finish entering the search query.  So, prompted by our Streetsblog editors, I set about to try and improve upon the WordPress default search.

Each time I look into this problem, the landscape is different.  Different plugins are available and Google offers different ways to hook into its API.  This time I was pleased to find a perfect way to offer Google search results on our blogs.  Using Google Custom Search, I created a search engine for each of our sites that restricts its results to just those from the site.  I then customized its look and feel via css in the Streetsblog style sheet.

I ended up with a solution that integrates closely into our blogs:


The Great Disqus Deployment

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Several weeks ago I deployed the Disqus commenting system on  The editors there are happy with this new system.  So this week I deployed Disqus on StreetsblogNYC, StreetsblogLA, StreetsblogDC, StreetsblogSF, and Streetfilms.

Technically, it was a pretty straightforward process. I had to strip out our old commenting system on these sites, which integrates with, and then install and style the Disqus system.  This will allow us to shut down for good, something we’ve been wanting to do for some time.

I did run into some problems exporting our existing comments to Disqus.  For some reason, the built-in exporter kept hitting errors and failing.  The Disqus engineers were responsive to my complaints and said that they’re building a command-line tool for large exports to be in the next release. (more…)

Measuring Community Activity on a Blog

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

I’ve been thinking about how to measure community activity on our blogs.  This would be useful so that we can judge our effectiveness over time at enabling conversation and participation among the communities we are trying to serve.

People interact with our blogs at varying depths.  It would be interesting to measure statistics at each level.  First, people simply navigate to a single blog posts, then they might browse other blog posts, then they might “like” a comment or leave a comment, or several comments, and finally they may share the blog post on a social network via one of our sharing widgets.

Looking at the statistics for each of these levels would show us how shallow or deep typical blog visitors go in interacting with the blog.

For example, on GothamSchools in Feb 2011 we can gather these statistics:

127533 visits to the blog
77795 visits viewed more than one page
1449 comments were left by
390 commenters
117 shares to social networks using the sharethis widget

You can see how activity dropped off at deeper levels of participation. (more…)