Monthly Archives: April 2011

Introducing Blip Slideshow: A WordPress/SmugMug plugin

It’s been two weeks since I started using WordPress and I absolutely love it. I recently blogged about my experience using Super-Slider Show to get my photography website, Ambient Photography, up and running quickly. My website and Super-Slider show both used the excellent Slideshow2 so migrating my complex set-up was relatively painless.

But I needed a way to keep my slideshow up-to-date and so I turned my attention back to the media RSS-reading slideshow plugins for WordPress. RSS feeds from photo sharing sites like Flickr contain all the most recent information about the photos you’ve already uploaded online, bypassing the need to upload the pics again to WordPress. Only one of the plugins I found was a close fit to what I needed for Ambient Photography, so I set about creating my own.

WordPress, and thus PHP is completely new to me. I am a J2EE programmer by trade and always considered PHP/Javascript a poor man’s language. Well what a poor man’s language it is! In less than four days I had learned MooTools, written my PHP plugin, debugged it for three major browsers and got it published! Introducing Blip, a Javascript slideshow WordPress plugin that reads image data from RSS feeds. Now when I update my photos on SmugMug, I can be sure that the latest pictures are appearing on my website.

Finding a WordPress/SmugMug slideshow plug-in

Today I’m working on a new website that focuses on my wedding photography. And I want to pull in SmugMug images via RSS feeds and display them on the WordPress site. I am looking for the following:

  • (Must Have) pull images from RSS feed
  • (Must Have) display in a Javascript Slideshow via a post tag and/or widget
  • (Must Have) display multiple slideshows per page
  • (Nice to Have) caching of the feed itself
  • (Nice to Have) caching of the images downloaded (for those times when a request to SmugMug just hangs)

So begins my search. Using the Add New Plugin on my WordPress blog, I search for “Smugmug”.

The first one I try is Anyfeed Slideshow and it seems to work as advertised. Configured as a widget, it has loaded the RSS feed and shows the images in a nice jQuery slideshow. It even has a couple options for tweaking the size. Nice. This should be easy!

The next one that comes up is Lifestream, but it appears to be a general Facebook news feed-like thing and not specific enough for my use. Skip.

Next is Viewzi Site Search for WordPress, but whatever Viewzi is, it closed in 2010. Next.

I try Smuggery, but after I enter my SmugMug alias (not the RSS way, but hopefully it will let me choose an album from all my albums) it just hangs at “downloading 107 albums”. Well that IS 50 megs or so of data. Not to mention the plugin homepage is AWOL. Next.

Next up is SmugPress. Again this asks for a SmugMug alias, which I enter, and then a smart feature is shown where the album data it downloads is cached. Nice. It’s configured as a widget and I go ahead and add it to the sidebar. Then it simply fails with a useless “[ Feed Read Error ]”. And the plugin homepage is literally 404. Next.

Next up is PhotoXhibit, like SmugPress asking for a SmugMug alias AND an album ID, which I enter, and nothing happens. :p

Then I install fdsPhotoFeed, and I enter the code they have as an example and check the post. Hey! I got somethumbnails displayed! But it’s not a slideshow. The docs say I also need wp-lightbox2. De-coupled code. Nice, I approve. Except wp-lightbox2 is a Lightbox, not a slideshow. And not only that but it doesn’t Lightbox the large images. I think because for some bizarre reason, fdsPhotoFeed has removed characters from the image filename?? 1162373008_wCp7L-M.jpg has become 1162373008_wCp7-M.jpg. Now that’s just crazy. Next.

Next on the list is PhotographerConnections. It wants my alias AND my password. Well my SmugMug account IS my life so I don’t really feel like giving my password out to third-parties. I change the alias field but not the password field, maybe it will work without authentication. Wrong. Now I can’t even get back to the Plugins page because the plugin is crashing at authentication. Isn’t WordPress supposed to automatically disable misbehaving plugins? This one is crashing so spectacularly, I have to connect over WebDAV and delete the plug-in manually. Next.

SmugMug Photo sidebar widget. This Widget successfully pulled my photos from SmugMug. It links to the SmugMug album instead of just the photo, cool. But there is no slideshow. And it has added quite a significant delay to the loading of the page. Obviously pulling the RSS feed is done on the server, as opposed to in the browser. And the plug-in’s homepage is MIA. Next.

WP-SmugMug is the last one to try. Install is okay, I create a new post with its short code including my RSS feed URL and perfect! It pulls my images and nice and quick too. Unfortunately, no slideshow.

So, to summarize. Those that worked as advertised:

  • WP-SmugMug
  • SmugMug Photo sidebar widget
  • fdsPhotoFeed (sort of, kind of)
  • AnyFeed Slideshow

The winner (for me) is clearly AnyFeed Slideshow, as it is the only one that actually builds a Javascript slideshow. Unfortunately I don’t particularly like the animation of the jQuery slideshow. One image is faded in, and when that is done, the previous image fades out. It’s fine if your images are all the same dimension, but looks odd when a portrait image is replaced by a landscape image or vice versa. It also waits for all images to be read before beginning the slideshow, which is quite a long pause on my page. And it seems to support only one slideshow per page. But at least it is a beginning! Time to hack.