We rolled out a fairly modest enhancement to the DFID Bloggers website this week: probably unnoticed by most users, but one I’m quite proud of. At its heart, the DFID site is a group blog; but we do a few things to present it as a network of individual blogs by individual bloggers. Then the question came – ‘could we do a group blog?’
What we’ve done is effectively hijack WordPress’s category functionality, turning it into a grouping function. We’ve created categories corresponding to the various ‘group blogs’ we want to run; and with the help of another custom plugin, we’ve added the ability to give each category its own ‘user image’, same as we’ve done with individuals. The WordPress category archive template then becomes, effectively, a ‘group homepage’ template.
Then, with another plugin, we’ve added a function to give each individual user a ‘default category’. So when they go to write a post, the appropriate category is already ticked – or to put it another way, it’s already identified as being for the appropriate ‘group’. But as with any WordPress categorisation, you have the option to tick other categories, adding the post to multiple group blogs; or you can untick your default category, if you want to blog in an individual capacity for a change.
Finally, we’ve changed the homepage code to handle both individual and group blogs. It took a while to get the logic right – but now, you should only ever see one entry per group blog, same as you only see one entry per individual blogger; and it all gets sorted together into reverse chronological order.
The result is a remarkably flexible blogging platform, with the ability to do solo blogs, group blogs, or any combination thereof. And as with the previous DFID work, we’re releasing the plugins to the world: the Default Categories plugin should prove particularly useful for people running group blogs.
Once again, it’s been a pleasure to work with Simon Wheatley: the man who makes my WordPress dreams come true. And the DFID guys have been great again too, giving us a general steer and letting us work out the best way to do it. I love this project.