Widgets, WordPress.com, and Limits

There’s an enthustiastic article in USA Today about widgets. It concludes with a quote from Adam Rifkin: “There’s no limit to what widgets can do.” Joe Wickert, in linking to the article, states that “widgets are the future.”

The above quotes do not seem to bode well for WordPress.com. Blogs hosted there (such as this one) cannot include javascript and the like; such code is stripped out. Hence the support forums frequently see the lament: My code has gone from my widget.

There are a few specific widgets to which WordPress.com allows access. For example, I’ve embedded media from Youtube, Sonific, and other services on this blog. I specify the service and the URI (e.g., Youtube and the URI of the video), and WordPress.com fills in the details.

The more intense “widget-mania” becomes, the less acceptable the restriction on widgets at WordPress.com will seem. It’ll be interesting to see how Automattic, the people running WordPress.com, handle this. Options include:

  • Stay on the current course. Widget-mania may be a passing fad. There may be enough bloggers not afflicted by it. More and more services may provide javascript-free versions of their widgets.
  • Make a wide variety of widgets available. Partnering with a trusted “widget broker might be the best way to do this.
  • Allow javascript and the like. I consider this unlikely.

Some notes on terms, reserved for this point to avoid complicating the above:

Ads on WordPress.com: Intrusive or Elusive?

Pascal van Hecke recently used WordPress.com as a case study in making money with AdSense without annoying your users. I found his post via that girl again, a WordPress.com user annoyed by, among other things, the way it uses AdSense.

Pascal’s post is mainly about “the hoops you have to jump through, in order to enjoy the privilege of being served ads on WordPress.com.” He identifies many such hoops; I have no reason to suppose that he does so inaccurately. Despite the hoops, I still feel that my purchase of the WordPress.com CSS upgrade should entitle me to an ad-free blog.

WordPress.com, Quantcasted

Matt reports that WordPress.com is 22nd on Quantcast’s ranking of sites by US monthly uniques. Congratulations to Automattic on the ranking, and on the score that achieved it: 21 million.

Quantcast’s page about WordPress.com provides further data:

  • 75 million global monthly uniques.
  • In terms of ethnicity of US visitors, Asian is first, with Hispanic and Other tied for second, ahead of Caucasian and of African-American.
  • It’s a “no advertising” site. I think that’s inaccurate, given that: You may see some advertising on the domain.

Ads on WordPress.com

On the support forums, Matt gave an insight into how ads are served at WordPress.com. The same approach is used in the Who Sees Ads plugin for WordPress Classic.

I’m glad to know about the plugin, which seems rather neat. But I’m still not a lot wiser about WordPress.com ads. The plugin allows you to specific a set of conditions under which ads will be displayed to someone who visits your blog. It’s not clear to me what conditions are in place at WordPress.com.

But, as I understand it, there will soon be a paid upgrade to WordPress.com allowing you to serve AdSense. I understand that the upgrade can be used to make your blog an ad-free zone. I wish the ad suppression was available as part of the CSS upgrade; after all, we CSSers at WordPress.com are already paying for control over how our site looks.

WordPress Tags: Soaring Promise, and…

Quote of the day so far: Why, WordPress? Why? Why thrill us with the soaring promise of tags, only to cruelly dash our tag dreams against the rocks of error?

That’s the eloquent euphrosyne1115 on the WordPress.com support forum. Her earlier tags are in the sidebar tag cloud but don’t lead anywhere. It is indeed deeply disappointing to click on a tag such as shenanigans and get a 404. And it’s not just because the tag in the URI gets replaced by category.

Tags are It Right Now

Of those blogging about, as well as at, WordPress.com, few are as forthright as “that girl again.” Her view of our host’s implementation of tagging is a mess.

There is however one aspect of the tagging implementation she likes more than I do, or did. It’s the fact that tags at the end of posts are linked to global tag pages. So, for example, the tag “wordpress.com” at the end of this post will link to a list of posts so tagged at any and all WordPress.com blogs.

[M]ost of us would define a tag as an external, mob-folksonomical term which you use in order to connect with what other people have had to say on the same subject, whilst a category is a recurring topic within your own blog. I have no problem with my TAG links sending people to global TAGS.

Put like that, the links from posts to global tags make more sense. One of the things that seems strange to me is that global means WordPress.com. Our host includes a huge and diverse collection of blogs, while being a lot smaller than the blogosphere. If the host in question were a more focused WordPress Multi-User site (e.g. edublogs.org), links to global tag pages would be more intuitive to me.

There are at least two plausible reasons for global meaning WordPress.com. The primary reason is that having lots of blogs link to the WordPress.com-wide tag page attracts the attention of search engines to that page.

A secondary reason might be the difficulty in finding a suitable blogosphere-wide tag page. engtech remarked in a comment on that girl’s post that Technorati doesn’t matter anymore. By the way, there’s an excellent article, maybe even book, to be written on how Technorati, which once appeared to be central to a rapidly-growing blogosphere, managed to find itself marginalized.

Coming back to that girl again, again, she remarks that “tags aren’t showing up in themes,” meaning that some themes do not display tags attached to posts. I’ve started a topic in the support forum to capture information on which themes seem to be “tag-aware.”

Tag Cloud Widget at WordPress.com

The previous post was about the implementation of tags in WordPress.com. The bad news was in the last paragraph of the post. I still think it’s bad news.

However, there is a way in which WordPress.com will give you links to your tag pages. It’s the Tag Cloud widget, which I’ve just put on the sidebar of this blog. I think that it works in much the same way as does the Category Cloud widget (which I’ve never used). I’m not sure that I’ll keep the cloud widget, since I like my sidebars sparse these days.

I’m using the Simpla theme for this blog. The version of it at WordPress.com is tag-aware, in that it displays tags for posts that have them, and it includes Tag Cloud among the sidebar widgets available. I’m haven’t checked out any other themes for tag-awareness.

Update: the tag cloud has not updated since I published this post. That’s strange since the post does have tags, some of which are new to the blog.

Up-update: the tag cloud did update, although it took (more than 10) hours to do so.