Thank You Silahsiz Kuvvetler for Showing Me the Light
I would like to take a moment to publicly thank Silahsiz Kuvvetler, the Turkish Hacker, for bringing down my withering Pligg site, Writer River.
I initially created Writer River using Pligg, a Digg clone that provides voting options to move posts from one tab to another as the votes hit a threshold. Pligg seemed like a good idea, but it turns out Pligg wasn't so good at combating spam. On average 2-3 spam posts a day appeared, with links to bogus sites (like hand wrinkle cream). Deleting these posts required several clicks, rather than one. The spam posts got to be such a hassle that I changed the register.php file name so neither spam nor legitimate users could register.
Spam in comments isn't nearly as problematic as spam posts, because the posts go out in the RSS feed, which devalues the legitimacy of the feed. A lot of crap floating down Writer River makes the whole river smell.
With the rise of spam, I lost some interest in the social news site. You'd think Pligg would offer better filtering through user registration or confirmation, or allow a site admin to first approve new posts, but no. In fact, Pligg itself is a bit clunky. Creating pages, adding new sections to the sidebar -- it's not very intuitive. The documentation is skimpy and often nonexistent. Worse, it seems there are only one or two half-active developers for Pligg, and a flailing, non-communicative community. There's no momentum.
So when Silahsiz Kuvvetler (whoever you are) hacked the site through a security vulnerability and brought it down, I almost felt a sigh of relief. Now I had good cause for abandoning Pligg to try something else.
But what? Another Digg clone? Like Mixx.com? I didn't want an inflexible hosted option. And the whole voting thing -- it wasn't really catching on. I think voting itself is a hassle. All I want to do is skim and read.
I'd heard about a Twitteresque WordPress theme called Prologue, which might provide an alternative. Coincidentally, Prologue was coded by Joseph Scott, a bug exorcist for Automattic who happens to live nearby and who I often talk with at local blogger dinners in Salt Lake.
Unlike other themes, Prologue is intended for groups of people to add updates from the main page through a quick submission form, rather than logging in to the Dashboard to post. Here's the quick post form I'm referring to.
So I turned from Pligg to WordPress and uploaded the Prologue theme. I also put the new WordPress 2.6 Press It bookmarklet under the title. It turns out, this bookmarklet is nothing short of amazing. You drag it to your browser's link toolbar, and then when you're on any Internet page, all you do is click the bookmarklet link -- and up pops a little post window to Writer River with the link already inserted.
So now I point you to Writer River version 2.0, more Twitter-like than Digg-like, powered by WordPress rather than Pligg. More detailed author profiles appear, there shouldn't be any spam or hackers, and you don't need to worry about all the voting.
One last note. If you already registered on Pligg, sorry, but you'll have to re-register for the new Writer River site. They use entirely different databases. But also, when you register this time, you can type a description of yourself, which will appear on your author page.
And if you have a gravatar, you can also pull that in. If you want to repost some of the links you posted before, feel free. But I don't mind just wiping the slate clean and starting fresh.
On a final note, it feels good to come home to WordPress for this type of site. I know my previous post about WordPress' documentation came across as harsh, but compared to other open source software, WordPress is miles above in functionality and documentation. And most importantly, the WordPress community is vibrant. That same vibrant community is what I hope Writer River will one day attract.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer based in the San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.