TRIPAWDS: Home to 22819 Members and 2143 Blogs.

We won! We won!

It is with extreme pleasure that we are proud to announce we won the WPMU Dev Lifetime Membership contest!

WPMU Dev WordPress Plugins Membership Winners

Our recent review of WPMU Dev Plugins that help power the Tripawds Blogs community was selected at random along with two others, so we now have continued access to the best WordPress Multisite pugins and themes available. This means we’ll be able continue to offering great functionality like network-wide user and blog Avatars, the searchable Members Directory of all Tripawds Users, and our our new Global Site Search for searching all Tripawds Blogs, and much more – forever, and all for free.

We would have gladly kept paying our WPMU Dev Premium subscription for the quick and helpful WordPress multisite technical support we receive in the WPMU Dev forums alone. And we’ll probably be keeping the developers just as busy answering our questions, but now with our lifetime membership we can ask for just a little less support for our efforts to maintain the this community.

WPMU DEV - The WordPress Experts

Consider this a big shout out to the entire WPMU Dev team for hosting this contest. Other winners included a site supporting home schooling in South Africa and a WordPress resources blog. Just goes to show you how the best WordPress plugins can be used in such a wide variety of ways.

How to get free WPMU Dev Membership

Any WordPress multisite network administrator looking for a free WPMU Dev membership is not out of luck because this awesome contest is over! Members can get a Free WPMU DEV Premium Membership by helping out in the support forums to accumulate reputation points. Reach 1,000 and they’ll give you a free lifetime membership! Like I said, great plugins, themes and support from a good bunch of folks.

What makes Tripawds run?

When we first started Jerry’s original three legged dog blog to share the news about his osteosarcoma treatment and recovery, we never in our wildest dreams expected to grow into such an incredible community of support for so many people facing a bone cancer diagnosis or amputation for their dogs.

While installing Simple:Press to power the Tripawds Discussion Forums was the first of many content enhancing improvements, it was our migration from WordPress to WPMU and subsequent transition to our current WordPress Multisite network that make the site such the valuable resource it has become.

Tripawds Three Legged Dog Blogs WordPress Multisite Network

In fact, Tripawds was recently added to the acclaimed WPMU Dev Showcase among some of the leading WordPress MultiSite communities online!

Best WordPress Multisite Plugins & Themes

So what exactly makes this network work? Simply said, it’s our WPMU Dev Premium subscription that enables us to offer such amazing functionality. Here’s a rundown of some of our favorite WPMU Dev plugins and themes that power the Tripawds community.

Admin Ads: We provide a row of dashboard “Quick Links” to many of our community’s most valuable resources using this simple plugin. It also allows us to notify bloggers of pending upgrades and other special announcements.

Admin Help Content: This provides a simple interface for creating the custom content we provide in users’ dashboard Help drop-down menu, instead of confusing them with the default WordPress support forum links.

Anti-Splog: This ultimate spam blog plugin and service stops nearly all splogs from even being created in our WordPress Multisite network. If a splog does get created, no posts are visible to the community, and an easy interface allows us to moderate or delete them.

Avatars: Ths is how we allows users to upload ‘user avatars’ and ‘blog avatars’ which then appear in blog / forum comments and blog / user listings throughout the Tripawds community.

Blogs Directory: This plugin provides a paginated, fully searchable, automatic and rather good looking directory of all of the blogs on our WordPress Multisite installation.

Members Directory: This creates and automatic directory of all Tripawds users, with avatars, pagination, and a built in search facility with extended customizable user profiles.

Invite: Allows all Tripawds bloggers to invite their friends and colleagues via email to check out their blog and register for a Tripawds account.

Recent Comments: This widget lets us display a list of recent comments from all Tripawds blogs throughout the News blog.

WPMU DEV - The WordPress ExpertsRecent Global Posts Widget: This widget shows recent posts from all Tripawds blogs, with user avatars.

Sitemaps and SEO: Automatically generates and submit Google sitemaps for all blogs on this network

Supporter: Lets us easily offer paid Tripawds Supporter Blog accounts with automatic upgrades including premium themes, premium plugins, extra storage space, the ability to instantly remove banner ads and more.

Terms Of Service: This plugin places the Tripawds  Terms of Service on the signup with an approval checkbox users must select in order to continue their registration.

The WordPress Popup Plugin: Allows us to display a simple ad directing new visitors to the valuable information in our first Tripawds e-book, Three Legs and a Spare – a Canine Amputation Handbook.

Update Notifications: This keeps us automatically updated of any WPMU Dev plugin and theme updates for best security and functionality!

WPMU Nelo: The custom homepage CMS WordPress theme we customized to improve navigation and address site performance issues.

What’s next?

I often turn to the WPMU Dev support forums for quick answers whenever I need help tweaking things behind the scenes here. I have requested development of a couple things that might help us continue enhancing the Tripawds experience. For instance, I’d like to have a Map plugin that would automatically generate a map page with member locations based on profile data.

With all this that we already offer in mind, what other new features might Tripawds members like to see?

An Overview of the New Tripawds

We did it! The long awaited theme overhaul for Jerry’s main Tripawds News blog is complete, and the votes are in. The majority of members agree that the site is easier on the eyes with a vast performance improvement.

WordPress, Multisite and BuddyPress Plugins, Themes and Support - WPMU DEVUpcoming posts here behind the scenes will detail the various new site enhancements, but here’s a brief rundown of the new and improved Tripawds Blogs community site:

Easily implementing all these new features were only possible with our WPMU Dev Premium membership. Most noticeable, however, is the site’s new look and feel.

We are now running WPMU Nelo as the active theme for the main site where we maintain the News Blog, discussion forums, chat room, galleries, videos and other health tips and resources.

With the help of WPMU Dev Premium developer richie_ks, I was able to customize Nelo to meet the needs of this community. Top concerns were an easier way to navigate the vast resources available, less clutter, and above all, better performance.

This makeover was a long overdue major undertaking. Over the past four years our original theme had become bloated and outdated, seriously impacting page load times. By customizing the already slim Nelo code-base, however, we were able to enhance the user experience while vastly improving overall performance.

While it is impossible to please everyone all the time, it seems at first glance that we have achieved the primary goal of this overhaul which was to speed up the forums. We look forward to hearing your feedback with a comment below or in this Tripawds site makeover feedback topic.

Stay tuned for complete details about all the new features, and how we did it. Or, read on if you’re a WordPress multisite administrator who may be interested in how we customized the Nelo CMS theme… though this project was yet another crash course in PHP and CSS for yours truly, below are just a few hacks I’m particularly proud of.

How to Add WordPress Site Stats to Theme Header

We liked how site statistics were displayed in some other WPMU Dev themes, but that wasn’t built into Nelo. With the get_sitestats function being native to WordPress, here’s how we added it the header.php template file to show the current members and users with links to each directory on every page.

<!-- stats -->
$stats = get_sitestats();
echo 'Currently home to <strong>'.$stats[ 'users' ].' <a href="" title="Active Tripawds Members Directory">members</a></strong> and <strong>'.$stats[ 'blogs' ].' <a href="" title="Active Tripawds Blogs Directory">blogs</a></strong>.'; ?></div>
<!-- stats -->

Easiest way to add Random Header Images

The WPMU Nelo theme allows for custom header image upload, but Tripawds members like to see the rotating photos. After searching far and wide for a random header image solution to match my programming skills, I found this simple random header image tutorial to keep these by disabling the theme’s header image options and editing header.php with this little bit of magic…

<!-- Random Headers -->
<img  width="900" height="200" alt="Tripawds Three Legged Dog Heroes" src="<?php echo(rand(1,24)); ?>.jpg" />
<!-- Random Headers -->

In this generated image url, the rand(x,x) echo will randomly show images titled header_x.jpg, where x is any number from 1 to 24. Name your header image files following this protocol and let the script do it’s magic.

Edit Nelo Profiles Panel for Easy Site Management

One of the best new features the Nelo Theme offers is an optional Login / Profile Panel above the sidebar. Editing the profiles.php template file will make your changes appear on every page showing the panel. And since the identified user’s name already appears as a link to his or her profile, I added a direct link to the user’s main dashboard screen.

A Bit about child themes

Finally, Nelo is constructed with a parent / child theme structure. This will facilitate future theme updates by preserving any customization edits.  By editing the child-style.css file for instance, I was able to add nice rounded corners and a soft shadow to the site container, which you will see in Firefox and Safari, but not if you’re still using Internet Exploder.

Here’s what I did to properly use my customized version of nelo, while preserving edits during future updates:

  1. Upload both Parent and Child theme folders to wp-content/themes
  2. Activate child theme for site*
  3. Copy any template files from parent to child directory and make desired edits.

For complete details and ongoing theme support, I highly recommend a WPMU Dev Premium membership.

*We will not be offering Nelo as an available theme to Tripawds Bloggers, so I activated the Child theme from the Edit Site tab as Super Admin. This keeps it hidden from the Themes tab on all sub-sites.

How did we do it?

Migrating Jerry’s regular ol’ WordPress blog to WordPress MU was no easy task. In fact, it was downright nerve-wracking at times. But one look at the growing community of Tripawds Bloggers makes it all worthwhile. Knowing that pawrents are using their Tripawds Blogs to share their stories and photos is heartwarming. And knowing they find it helpful and cathartic when coping with cancer or amputation for their pup is even better.

200x200-banner.pngIt is WPMU that makes the Tripawds Blogs community possible. And I couldn’t have developed this site without the help of many thoughtful experts in the WordPress MU support forums.

But it was our WPMU DEV Premium membership that really helped make it what it is.

Thanks to the premium wpmu plugins and support, we are able to offer all the functionality Tripawds blogs have to offer. This is also how we are able to offer WordPress tutorial videos to help users get started blogging.

Now if only we could figure out a way for this to pay for all our efforts! 😉 But that’s why we have banner ads on blogs and why we implemented Tripawds Supporters to automatically remove those ads upon upgrade. It’s also why we’ll most likely need to have annual fund raising campaigns and why we kindly accept any contributions. Thank you all for your continued support!

But I digress. This particular Tripawds Blog is intended purely for my own technical purposes. I’ll periodically share details about what’s going on behind the scenes here, or simply test new plugins and themes. So don’t expect frequent updates, and I won’t expect anyone to really care what I have to say here. :p

Behind the Scenes is brought to you by Tripawds.