Simple Tags WordPress Plugin

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The latest version of WordPress, (2.3), has tags built in to it. Many people think this will prompt a move away from categories to tags. For me I am not sure how it will play out in the end. I may keep only a few broad categories, using tags to really index my posts. I really thing of tags and categories as two very separate things.Γ‚ One issue I will have to figure out is how eliminating some of my categories might affect my existing permalinks and post titles. The custom permalink structure I use is: /%category%/%postname%/. If I eliminate a category, I might cause big trouble for posts published previous to the category change. I might have to leave existing categories as is and not display them. Or I could not display all the existing categories, only the ones that make the cut to my streamlined approach incorporating tags. Opinions and ideas on this issue are welcome in the comments. Thanks!

To help make better use of tags in WordPress 2.3, I am using a plugin called Simple Tags which was the only one I could find advertised as written specifically for WordPress 2.3. Simple Tags is the successor to the popular Simple Tagging plugin that was written for earlier versions of WordPress. I like the way Simple Tags makes adding tags to a post before you publish….. simple. But there are a few issues with the plugin that do cause me headaches.

I had posted a comment on the Simple Tags author’s page about a bug that arises when using Simple Tags to change the name of tags. I had noticed a few tags on my posts that had an initial capital letter even though I had entered the tags all lower case. When I used the Simple Tags option to “rename” a tag, I could not get the change to lower case to stick. Several people saw that comment and emailed me asking if I ever figured it out. I did and following is the explanation.

Simple Tags does not care how you capitalize, (or not), your tags. But for some reason if you have a category with the same name as a tag, AND that category name is capitalized, then the tag with the same name will always be capitalized, no matter what you do in Simple Tags. I have no clue why, code wise, but I like my tags to have all lower case and I like my categories to have an initial capital. So, I either have to make sure that I have no categories that are also tags, (I don’t like that option), OR I need to make my categories lower case also. For now I have compromised and, as you can see in my sidebar, I changed only the categories names that are also tags to lower case. I have not changed anything else in my categories and won’t until I find out how that might affect my permalinks. There are a few other issues in Simple Tags that are problems for me, but it is the only plugin I could find so far that plays nicely enough with WordPress 2.3.

My biggest problem with the plugin is the related posts function. It simply does not work as it is supposed to. If you try to use this function of the plugin, be careful not to be imbibing of your beverage of choice at the same time. The posts Simple Tags picks as related are often so unrelated that, when you see the results, it can cause you to blow the aforementioned beverage out your nose and on to your keyboard! So I don’t use that function. That is too bad because, for some blogs, relating posts is a very important navigation tool for readers. SK has posted on the Simple Tags thread a way that he hacked it to make it better. But, I am not sure even he has it working 100% as it should and I have not been able to follow his explanation well enough to make it work for me.

Amaury, the author of the Simple Tags plugin is not too active on the plugin’s home page comment thread, but he does drop in occasionally and has indicted that he does plan another release to try and address some of the issues. I am sure the problem for him is the one common to most Word Press plugins. They require a lot of work and time to develop and maintain and there is very little, if any, compensation to be had for the effort. There are a few plugins that are meticulously developed and maintained where their author’s might earn back a little from their efforts. When I run across a plugin like that, I make a point to make a donation to help fund the effort. Perhaps the best example of this is the All In One SEO plugin by uberdose. AIOSEO is continuously updated, sometimes daily! And uberdose is on his comment threads everyday, making it a point to politely answer every question. He is a real first class supporter of his plugin. If you want some SEO love for your site, I suggest checking out his site. I was one of the earlier users of the plugin and one of the first contributors via PayPal. His support has been so great, that I think I am ready to make a second contribution!

Sometimes, when determining relationships between things, appearances are not always what they seem. On the issue of a related posts plugin, what I would really like is the following. First and foremost, I would want to have the ability to choose what posts to show as related. The plugin would provide me with a list of suggestions based on my tags and I would choose from this list which post titles to display as links to related posts. Let the plugin generate a list using whatever logic it can on the tags, then let me choose from that list the 3 or 4 posts I actually want shown as related. Seems pretty simple, but then what do I know about php and coding! Not much, or I would do it myself. Oh well……………

I did receive a suggestion to check out the In Series WordPress plugin for related posts functionality. I have not been able to see how that plugin can do it, and am thinking it can not, but if I do discover it is possible, I’ll post a comment here explaining how.

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Will Sig
1 kristarella

Thanks for the post Will!

That is an oddity – using the same format as the category. I too wanted to have lower case tags and capitalised categories. I guess I’ll have to decide which one is more important.

I wonder, if you change the categories to lower case just so you can create the tag, perhaps once it’s made it will stay lower case and you can change the category back? I might try that since I’m only at the beginning of my organising stint. Or just go with caps for the tags too – it actually doesn’t look too bad on the author’s site.

I was using a related posts plugin that was doing a good job, but it broke with WP2.3 – there is this one. Don’t know how it works, looks good though.

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2 Will

That is is a good idea about changing back, Kristella. Let me know if it works!

Last week I saw the codex page for the plugin you link to, but when I visit the author’s page or the plugin’s home page the sites display nothing but question marks for me. Do the sites display OK for you?

-Will

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3 kristarella

Don’t change the categories back! It doesn’t work πŸ™ Although since my tags spontaneously changed to have caps, maybe it will switch with the categories, even after tag creation.
It’s a pretty lame bug. I think I’m going to make all my tags capitalised until the bug is fixed and then hopefully the renaming feature will be case-sensitive too.

Yes, the website is ok for me – a lot of it is in chinese. Your computer mustn’t have a suitable chinese font installed to view it. There is some English there that should be ok though. Anywho, just thought I’d mention it. It’s a shame that its based of tags – the old one I had actually searched the titles and post content as well.

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4 Will

JD at Techfun sent me a screen shot of the page and I found out that all the “???????” I see are where others see Chinese. I like to be able to read all comments before I try a plugin to see what I am getting into.

And thanks Kristarella, for letting us know that changing the categories back does not work.

All I really want is a plugin that offers me up a list of maybe a dozen posts the plugin chooses as related. Then I can tick a box or something on the 3 or 4 I think are best and then only those would show up on the current post. It does not matter to me if the plugin bases its choice on tags or titles or full text content. I have seen them work all ways in earlier versions of WordPress and I have never seen a plugin that can actually make a good choice as to what posts are related.

The latest one I tried attempted to relate an article I wrote on recycling batteries (which had the words, mercury, chemicals, etc. in it), to other articles. It ignored the two most closely related articles, (also on recycling and batteries), and chose 3 articles as related that really were not. The three it chose did have chemicals, mercury, and a few other things in common, but were about not eating farmed fish and chemicals on produce.

I would even be happy with a plugin that made me manually choose related posts with a simple tick box or something, as long as it then automatically inserted those posts at the end of the current article.

-Will

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5 Brad Nay

Hey will, Your translation widget is working good!

Thanks for tuning in!

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6 Anna

Will, I digg your turkey story, and it worked, I will try others. Thanks for the tips, it is always good to know how things work around the world wide web. Anna πŸ™‚

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7 Will

Thanks Anna! I saw the link on your site in your Happy Thanksgiving post. I really appreciate it.

-Will

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8 Anna

Will I tell you the truth that I didn’t know what I was doing, and I amlost deleted (actually I did), at exactly same time you posted to the post, so cool – I recovered and reworded the title, you can check it out. I better go and hunt for some organic turkey photos, lol. Thanks again for helping me find out more about digg, and other cool stuff. Happy Thanksgiving :)))))))))

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9 Quandary

Hi Will,

As far as In Series goes: the behavior I think you’re looking for (linking posts to an arbitrary number of related posts, with each post getting a different list of outgoing links) is not what the plugin was meant to do. It’s really tuned towards grouping a sequence of related posts.

You can take off the numbered formatting, and put your explicitly related posts together into a series, but the “related post” list will be identical for every post in the series. That might work for you for now, but I can imagine that eventually your “related posts” lists will probably start to get unpleasantly long, and contain more and more tangentially related things.

I appreciate the mention in any case — I’m glad to hear my plugin is getting suggested. You might try out the Cross References Plugin instead — it looks like it’s closer to what you want. πŸ™‚

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10 Will

Thanks Travis! I’ll take an in-depth look at at the Cross References plugin to see if it will do what I want. I did go over to the authors page and it does seem to be an up-to-date and well supported plugin, (like yours), so that is a good sign. Thanks again.

-Will

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11 Francesc

Hello Will,

with my cross-references plugin you can do “what” you want to, but not “the way” you want to. You can define that post A is related to post B, and you get A and B at each others list of “related posts”. The related posts lists are not automatically but manually generated, you have total control over them.

When you edit A you set a reference to B appending “[ cref.from B ]” to the text. But you cannot choose B from a list of suggestions (as you would like to), you must write the post ID number. You can get the ID for a given post at the dashboard under manage / posts.

Someone with PHP programming skills could extend my plugin in order to choose the related posts from a list the way you propose. I do not plan to do this myself. If someone wants to do that, she or he can contact me to discuss the technical details.

What I plan to do is this: 1. extend my plugin to work not only with the post ID but also with the post slug, for example you could relate to this post with [ cref.from simple-tags-wordpress-plugin ]. 2. show a list of a few last visited posts, so that one could set a reference to it with copy paste. The development has already begun (if you are a programmer you can check the development version of the plugin at the wordpress.org plugin home), it will be ready probably on the next few months.

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12 Will

Thanks Francesc! I’ll try it out and see how it goes.

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13 Amaury

I am sorry but for me, release 10 new versions a week is not the best approach for a plugin.

After, many bugs of Simple Tags result from limitation of the API Taxonomy…

It is easy to criticize… I prefer people who submit bugs and patchs, has people who writes crap post…

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14 kristarella

Ehem, seems to me someone has an attitude problem…

Yes, the API can be limited and difficult to understand, but no one said anything about multiple new releases per week. In fact, the post was fairly understanding about the difficulties of writing and maintaining a plugin.

I prefer people who submit bugs

Apparently not, since Will did submit the bug and he wrote this post in response to emails he received after submitting it.

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15 Will

Hey Amaury – Kristarella said it well. (Thanks K!) But let me just add that I think the language differences make it hard to always get exactly what is being said. I have noticed this in the comments on your site also. But as your English is MUCH better than my mastery of any other language, I applaud your English support of the plugin.

I like Simple Tags. I still use it. The stuff in the above post only alerts people to my experience using it.

By the way – I have since come to realize that the related posts problems are not unique to Simple Tags. Relating posts is basically impossible to do well. I have tried many plugins and they all fail. I even tried to help a programmer write one that would work correctly. That was not successful either.

The only “Related Posts” plugin that I think would work correctly is one that simply provides a form in the WP admin write post panel that displays a suggested list of related posts, but then allows you to choose which of them you want to attach. Any that rely on automatic relating of tags, keywords, or even full text scans, are doomed to fail most of the time. There are just too many completely unrelated posts on any blog that have in common some of the same tags, keywords, or words in the post text.

-Will

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16 Medical Oddities

I use just /%postname% in my blogs, it seems very SEO friendly. The All-In-One SEO plugin is also installed on every blog I make. πŸ˜›

Medical Odditiess last blog post..Liberty Medical Supplies

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17 Martin Lapietra

The Cantarell font doesn’t show very well for my screen.

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