super RSSSuper RSS Reader is a widget that can easily be placed in your sidebar to display up to five different feeds in a single area. Each feed appears as a tab, and you can easily control how many items are displayed.

What sets this widget off from the others we have installed on the Commons is it’s “ticker animation” feature. You can set the feed to refresh after a configurable number of seconds and control how many items in total you want to display. So for example, if you want to display 5 items at a time in your sidebar, and you want to include the last 15 items in your feed, and you set your screen to refresh after every 4 seconds, you will see three sets of items before they start repeating 12 seconds later.



Twitter feeds look nice when displayed using this method. (The url for a Twitter feed is – – where xxx is the Twittter user name.)

If you find the news ticker animation effect distracting, you can simply shut it off by de-selecting one check box in the configuration (see above).

Super RSS Reader is purely a widget and all settings are controlled from the widget configuration dialog shown above. If you are looking to display feeds in pages or posts, you can use WP-RSS Import which is also available on the Commons, and which comes with a lot of configurable attributes, and controlled with shortcodes.

Grab, Craft, and Publish

Anthologize is a powerful tool that lets you “grab” blog posts from your site or from an RSS feed, “craft” your content into a single document, with a title page, table of contents, and chapters, and “publish” it in one of five digital formats.

The plugin is easy to use, and very well documented. Here is the basic workflow: (1) create a project; (2) manage its “parts” by creating chapters, and dragging post content into each; (3) set up optional fields such as author(s), publish date, copyright type, edition, dedication, and acknowledgements; (4) pick a fontsize, a font family, an optional front page image, and whether or not to include the Anthologize “colophon” page; (5) pick an export format – either PDF, RTF, ePub, HTML, or Anthologize TEI; and (6) export your new anthology to a file on your computer.

You can always reorder your content by dragging items up or down. You can make changes to the title page and simply regenerate the export file until you get it right.

If you choose to grab content outside your blog, you will need to copy that content’s RSS feed URL and paste it into a text box. Then hit import and the external content will automatically appear with the rest of your content, and you can just drag and drop it into the chapters of your anthology. If you are using RSS feeds, please respect copyright. (RSS feed posts are copied in draft form into a new tab on your dashboard called “Imported Items” and can be edited, if needed.)

Images and links from your posts are preserved in your anthology.

History of the Project

Anthologize was a project of One Week | One Tool, “a unique summer institute … that aims to teach participants how to build an open source digital tool for humanities scholarship by actually building a tool, from inception to launch, in a week.” Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and hosted by the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University, the project brought together twelve digital humanists (including @boonebgorges) who collaborated to build Anthologize. Follow @anthologize.



Tips and Tweaks for WordPress Sites

Okay, you’ve created your site, and things are looking good. People are giving you the nod, but you’re wondering – did I get it all right? Did I miss some opportunities to connect up with my audience? How can I catapult my good site to a great site?

Join WordPress Help!

WordPress Help! is a public group on the Commons where you can post issues and find help from the Commons community.

Random Ideas To Improve Your Site

Twitter, Facebook, Google+, …

  • Set up social media accounts for your site. Configure so that your new content is automatically posted to them. (See Twitter Tools plugin, Facebook)
  • Add a “Follow us” section (maybe in the sidebar or footer) to display your site’s social presence. Each icon links to your home page on the respective social media site. Check out Subscription Options plugin for this or practice some HTML skills using the “Text” widget.
  • Be active on the social media sites you select. Re-direct interest back to your site by linking to cool content – events, posts, comments, etc.
  • Consider using the Twitter Mentions as Comments plugin to harvest tweets that mention your content, and post them as comments on your site.
  • Synchronize your brand – have a consistent logo on your site and your social media home pages.

RSS (outgoing)

  • If appropriate, ensure that you have a “Subscribe To RSS” icon or hyperlink. This lets users quickly add your RSS feed to their reader list.
  • Use Feedburner to “burn” your RSS feeds, get statistics, and track activity.
  • Check out Subscription Options or Subscribe2 plugins to manage your subscriptions.
  • Use Feedburner’s code snippet in your sidebar to give your readers a “Notify by Email” link, which they can use to receive new content when it is posted.

RSS (incoming)

Is there any dynamic content from other sites you would like to incorporate into your site? You can place RSS feeds in your sidebar, your pages, or into your blog stream.

  • Check out how you can add RSS feeds to your sidebars and pages.
  • Syndication – check out how the FeedWordPress plugin lets you add external RSS content directly into your blog post stream.

Be Sociable

Use the social “Sharing” plugin on JetPack to add social media icons to the bottom of your posts and/or pages. It is highly configurable, and makes it convenient for your readers to share your content to a wider audience.

Create Dynamic Headers

Most themes provide a fairly easy way to personalize their header image. But you might want your header image to be dynamic?

There are (at least) three approaches: (1) the header image changes each time you refresh the page (order may be random or preset); (2) the header image is specific to a certain page or post (a default image is displayed if no specific image is assigned); and (3), your home page has a “slider” that displays a rotating set of images that advertise and link to your content.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Dynamic Header images – check out themes that can be configured to display a different image in the header each time you refresh the screen (usually can be set to ordered or random).
  2. Install the EasyRotator for WordPress plugin, and add any number of distinct sliders in your pages and posts.
  3. Specific Images for Pages and Posts – themes that do this will often use the “Featured Image” option in the dashboard – if this is not entered, a default image will be used.
  4. Sliders – some themes let you create and design slides. Other themes select posts that are specifically categorized to appear in the slider, and provide a way to attach an image. Most provide settings for size, duration, image fade or slide, etc. You can also use plugins that provide slider functionality.

Other Ideas for Dynamic Images

  • Looking to display rotating images in a page or a post (slideshows, galleries, etc.)? Check out the plugin called “Post video players slideshow and photo galleries” that uses a service called Cincopa.
  • The Tagline rotator plugin is available on the Commons to let you vary your header tagline each time a user refreshes the screen.

Comment Management

  • Know how to recognize (and get rid of) spam.
  • Install and configure Askimet. CUNY has a license. Read more here


Start a group on the Commons and attach your blog to it. Gives you an added dimension of group forums, Docs, etc. Create content in both pages and posts. The Commons has built in functionality that notifies members when someone posts to the group blog (or to the group forum or creates a Doc or an announcement). Members can configure how they want to be notified. For more on this see: Staying in Touch with your Group.

Pages & Posts

  • Put static content in pages, timely content in posts.
  • Figure out your site: is it a blog, a website, or a website with a blog? If it serves a dual purpose, think about ways to both separate and integrate “Site” and “Blog” content.
  • Use categories and tags to organize content and make it easily retrievable.
  • Use WordPress’ built in Menu to organize your site’s navigation. You can find this in the dashboard under Appearance>>Menu.


  • Add users to your blog. Manage their permission levels. Invite guest bloggers to post interviews, thoughts, reviews…

Book Jackets and Metadata Links

  • Use the OpenBook plugin to embed book jackets from Open Library, and their metadata. Good if you’re reviewing a book, including it in a syllabus, or just want to talk about its author.

Analyze Your Audience

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Are you doing enough to ensure your content is found by search engines? See a great post recently published in the Emerging Tech in Libraries site on the Commons called Gentle SEO Reminders that covers some of the basics. Install the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin.

Consider using Responsive Themes

We now have responsive themes on the Commons. (To find our responsive themes, go to “Appearances >> Themes” on your blog dashboard and search our installed themes for “responsive.”) Responsive themes make your content look great on different size devices. A majority of themes now available on the Commons are responsive. We recently did a big cleanup to modernize our selection.

Popular Plugins Available on the Commons

  • Wiki Inc – add wiki content into your posts or pages
  • FeedWordPress – get syndicated content (RSS feeds) from external sources and integrate it into your blog stream
  • Page Links To – a convenient plugin to redirect pages and posts to different URL.
  • Twitter Tools – great tool to use for establishing a Twitter presence on your site, or simply embedding a specific Twitter feed.
  • OpenBook – Writing about a book or an author? Creating an online syllabus? Embed the book jacket and publishing metadata from Open Library.
  • Google Maps Embed – quick way to add a map to your post or page. Great for showing your readers where an event or meeting will take place.
  • Leaflet Maps Marker – a neat mapping plugin that lets you easily pin, annotate, organize, and share locations using maps from Google, Bing, and OpenStreetMap. An alternative to Google Maps Embed.
  • Subscription Options – Adds subscription option icons for RSS, Email, Twitter and Facebook page.
  • Subscribe2 – helps manage the way you communicate with your subscribers
  • Simpler IPaper – Neat plugin that lets you embed documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, etc. into your posts and pages
  • JetPack’s Embed Shortcodes – an alternative to Simplier IPaper that makes Scribd documents readable on IPads – no Adobe Flash needed. Many other shortcodes available.
  • WP-RSS-Import – Want to include an RSS feed in the text of one of your posts or pages? This highly configurable plugin lets you decide how much (if any) of the feed content to excerpt. Shortcodes make it easy to use.
  • Super RSS Reader – a widget to display RSS and Twitter feeds. Has an optional news ticker animation that can display several pages of feeds, with configurable refresh rates.
  • Category Posts – This plugin creates a useful sidebar widget that displays the posts in one category. Lots of configuration options, including excerpt length, thumbnail size, etc.
  • List Category Posts – If you like the Category Posts plugin (above), you’ll love this one. It allows you to add content from your categories into a page or post, as well as into a sidebar. Easy to use shortcodes let you determine what you want to extract from your list of category posts.
  • Google Analytics – Find detailed statistics about who is accessing your site. This is a site-side plugin, running for all blogs on the Commons. Follow instructions in the link to have your stats emailed to you. For Advanced Users, see this page.
  • JetPack Stats, Google Analytics, StatPress Visitors – These plugins provide powerful ways to collect and display statistics
  • News Announcement Scroll – If appropriate, highlight news on your site with a vertical scroll, either in your sidebar, or in pages or posts,
  • Timelines – Does your site deal with historical data? Learn how to use interactive Timelines via Google docs.
  • Google Calendar Events – Display events from various Google calendars as a list or in a calendar grid. Easy to use and highly configurable way to display an event calendar on your site.
  • Google Docs Embed – If you have Google docs, presentations, spreadsheets or forms, you can embed them into pages and posts. Your site’s content will dynamically relect changes made in Google Docs.
  • Anthologize – This plugin lets you craft an anthology of your posts, complete with a title page, table of contents, and chapters. You can even grab other posts via RSS feed. The final product can be exported to your computer as a pdf, or four other digital formats. Great for bundling up resources for classes.
  • Events Manager – This plugin lets you display and manage upcoming events (seminars, lectures, conferences, etc.). Widgets and shortcodes let you create interactive calendars of events or bulletted event listings. You can even let you readers make online reservations for events you are organizing.
  • Q&A – This plugin creates an easily manageable FAQ section for your site. If you need a Question and Answer dialog, this plugin is for you.
  • Regenerate Thumbnails – will save you a massive amount of time if you want to change the dimensions of your thumbnail images.
  • Pinterest Pinboard Widget – adds Pinterest content to your sidebars from any account you choose to pull from.
  • WP Google Fonts – add more fonts to your site.
  • Twitter Mentions As Comments – harvest tweets that mention your posts and display them as comments.
  • Constant Contact – integrates with your (proprietary) Constant Contact account to provide email marketing, online event management, social campaign management, etc. (Similar to Events Manager)
  • Edit Flow – if you’re using your site to publish a journal, newsletter, periodical or research results, this plugin provides a framework to collaborate with team members.
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast – this plugin adds configurable meta tags to your content to optimize search engine hits.
  • EasyRotator for WordPress – this plugin lets you create any number of sliders and put them on individual posts, pages, or in a widgetized area. Many templates let you customize appearance. A stellar plugin!
  • NextPage Buttons – divide your content into pages so readers do not need to scroll down and lose site of your sidebar widgets
  • Page Excerpt – Create summaries for your pages. Works great with List Pages Shortcode.
  • List Pages Shortcode – Got a lot of pages? This plugin is great for managing content. You can add customized lists of your pages and optionally, excerpts.
  • WP Post to PDF – creates an icon on your posts and pages which, when clicked, downloads your content to a pdf.
  • Column Shortcodes – provides an easy way to divide your content into columns and create interesting layouts.
  • ChartBoot for WordPress – provides an easy way to add charts to your site, using data from your spreadsheets. Great way to supplement and quantify research.



The Subscription Options plug-in is available to all Commons members from the dashboard of their blogs (just click on “Plugins” in the left-hand menu and search for “subscription options”). The plugin will help you create icons like this, which can be placed in the sidebar of your blog to give your readers various ways to subscribe to your blog.

The buttons there connect to 1) The blog RSS feed, which readers can subscribe to through their favorite RSS Reader; 2) An email notification option (more about this below); 3) A link to a blog twitter account (more about this below) 4) A link to a Facebook page (ours is a little out of date!).

Once you’ve activated the plugin, follow the directions on the plugin installation page under “setup” to add the widget to the sidebar of your blog and configure the settings.

Note that the email subscription option uses Google’s Feedburner to send out posts by email. You’ll have to set up an account on Feedburner to make this work, but it’s worth your time: Feedburner offers not just subscription options, but also statistical analysis and many other ways of connecting to your readers. Also nice is the fact that it sends out full posts via email. Also, once you’ve set up your account with google, the process of signing up is easy for your subscribers — they just need to click on the email icon, enter their address, and confirm it via email. After that, they’ll receive a daily digest email on every day that new content is posted to the blog. If you have questions about the setup process, check out Google’s Feedburner Email Subscription Help Page.

The options in the Subscription Options plugin allow one to control the size of the icons in the sidebar, which is a nice feature. I like the fact the the icons are big and bright, though I’ve resized them to 50 pixels on this and other blogs.