As a key player in Woopra development, Shane has a rare insider's view of how Woopra works and how WordPress and Woopra can work together better. Over the past year, he's worked hard to bring the Woopra WordPress Plugin into compliance with future versions of WordPress as well as expand it's capabilities and functions.
I recently talked with Shane about his involvement and why Woopra is important to him.
Shane has multiple degrees in politics and history with two years studying IT at RIT. He lives in New York and, like so many, has had a long, unsatisfying experience playing around with various stats packages. He is a "self-credited PhD in Geekology" and one of Woopra's favorite geeks. And trust me, don't get him near Flash. He's obsessed with Flash design.
Here is his story.
Woopra, WordPress, and vBulletin: A Perfect Match
Originally, I used a program that most people used for stats AWSTATS that comes standard on most website administration packages. However, I was not fond of the fact that it updated live. You could run a cron file to run the update script every hour, but that takes resources away from the server.
Loving the real-time feel but bogged down with the overwhelming data, I read about Woopra from all the chatter at WordCamp Dallas 2008. Woopra looked like a logical choice to switch to, and a better choice once I found that the Woopra script could could be used for any site!
While I had an idea of how to interpret stats from other stats programs and packages, Woopra changed everything. It's high visual presentation of the data helped me understand better on how to tailor my website to get the most traffic.
I learned more about the importance of keywords and search terms on my site. I can laugh and learn about why I'm still getting hits on posts from "dell xps 1530 media direct" and "nasa space photos" rated 11.02% of the queries from bing.com and Google, which tells me that interest in older problematic computers and NASA "cloud" pictures are still hot topics.
I also have a clearer picture of what my readers want to read: WordPress, jQuery Development, and PHP. Woopra helps me stay on focus while serving them what they want and need.
Developing Woopra Plugins for vBulletin and WordPress
I've been working with WordPress since 2005 at version 1.5. Just like Woopra, I'd been researching CMS and publishing systems and WordPress was the best idea. Blogging was just coming into play. I'd created Bug's Site in 2002 from scratch, including the backend. WordPress solved all my problems, including making the process of customizing the look easier. Using WordPress, I was able to create my first web design in March 2005, and wrote my first WordPress Plugin, too.
My very first WordPress Plugin was called the Quick Pic Hack. It simply linked images from the image directory with a shortcut code. This was before any serious media and image handling was added to WordPress.
This encouraged me to get more into the code development of WordPress, with my first main contribution to the SSH2 transfer protocol in 2008. DD32 now takes care of this part of WordPress. I am still working with the development team and community helping design and code the next major media update system.
So, it was really important to me to get the Woopra WordPress Plugin up-to-date with the changes in WordPress. I developed the XML class that allowed easier parsing of the API XML file. I fully recoded the entire Woopra Plugin 1.4.1 and took over as the main developer with Elie's input and 'evil plans' for Woopra.
The biggest challenge I found is really all the PHP versions. I love to use code that is new, though backwards compatibility is always a challenge. For example, I might need to add back some of the PHP 5.2.x+ functions for only those with that version installed. Keeping up with those who don't update makes it tough to maintain code across versions.
The next big challenge with Woopra is its cross server nature. Woopra works across many servers as well as many different types of servers. Tracking down bugs is challenging as we can can easily see what works and doesn't work on one server and one install, but trying to figure it out across many servers and installations - it's time consuming and seriously challenging. But I like the struggle. I feel like Sherlock Holmes, code detective.
One of the biggest problems we have, which causes the biggest delays in tracking these things down, is how people report issues on the Woopra Forums. "The Woopra WordPress Plugin doesn't work," doesn't help us determine what is really wrong. Sometimes the error code helps, but we need to know the behavior of it and what is really going on. Is it the Plugin, WordPress, your WordPress, the Theme, the server, or something else?
I recommend people report the following:
- Search first. If already reported, add your input.
- A copy of the error code (if more than a few lines, use pastebin and link to it. Please, remove private information from code.).
- If the code includes references to a specific Plugin or file reference, include that information.
- Your site's domain name/address so we can check it directly.
- Provide the version of WordPress and the Woopra WordPress Plugin.
- Share any specific warning messages (php or WordPress).
- Describe how the WordPress Administration Panels are affected. Is it the installation, a specific tab like Globals, Countries, Visitors, etc.?
- Describe the impact on your site? Is it visible or within the source code (validation error)?
- Provide screenshots if necessary.
- If you have any unusual setups with WordPress or your WordPress installation, please share those.
The more specific the information, the faster we can track down the bug and squash it, updating the Plugin to make it work for everyone.
The Future of the Woopra WordPress Plugin
Looking forward, I'm eager for the Woopra WordPress Plugin 1.5 version. We're working on it now, but waiting on the new WordPress Media features to be fully updated for WordPress 2.9. The new version of the Woopra Plugin will include the API which allows third party Plugins to add their own events to the system which will show up in the Woopra desktop client.
Here are some other highlights I'm working on for the next version of the Woopra WordPress Plugin:
- A Woopra Quick Updated Stats feature for the WordPress Dashboard Panel.
- Improvements to the customization features on the Woopra Options Panel.
- Additional Woopra features added to the Woopra Panel.
I continue to update the vBulletin Plugin as well and will be adding more features over time as vBulletin and Woopra improve. We're also exploring various mobile platform apps for Woopra so you can check your Woopra stats on the road.
I loved the team spirit and camaraderie of working on a big project. I worked with Tribe 2 as a beta tester in 2001 and love working with the WordPress Community and development team. Working with Woopra is exciting for me as it is two-fold. I get to continue as a supporter of the WordPress Community in more than one way, and I get to work with one of the most exciting web apps in the world, Woopra!
While it's fun to search for those using GaMerz's WP-PluginsUsed WordPress Plugin and finding my Plugins on those lists, I'm glad to know people are using something I'm a part of, especially when it comes to Woopra. I'm glad to know that Woopra can give them the joy when people are visiting their site and they can see it in real-time live action. I also love that they are learning how to retain visitors rather than just being a "looker."