facebook connect

Switching to Disqus and Facebook Social Plugins

Switching to Disqus and Facebook Social Plugins

I recently gave my blog’s social interaction mechanisms a complete overhaul – again. I watched Facebook’s F8 conference live on Facebook and was immediately inspired to add the new Like Button on my blog. See Zuckerburg’s presentation if you missed it.

First I deactivated the outdated plugins, Facebook Connect, I Like This, and Sociable. I tried a number of new comment systems and plugins using Facebook’s new Open Graph Protocol, which intertwines Facebook connections with almost any content on the web and easily enables sharing the content with your friends through Facebook’s news feed. This doesn’t displace the need for Facebook Connect, but Connect didn’t improve my comment system’s interface like I hoped. There’s more interesting info about the Open Graph concept at opengraphprotocol.org.

I was surprised by how difficult it was to find blogs referring me to the best Open Graph plugins, so I had to experiment on my own. My first attempt was Sprout Venture’s Facebook Social Widgets. I installed and activated the plugins, moved the modules into my sidebar and nothing displayed so I scrapped it for Facebook Social Plugins. This plugin works like a charm. It is missing one feature that I haven’t found a replacement for yet: the ability to like my blog itself. But without any post-install work, the Like button appears below all content on my blog and shows you which of your Facebook friends liked the content. It works perfectly and I recommend it to anyone with a WordPress blog.

Next I experimented with a couple of new comment systems before deciding on Disqus. It was surprisingly easy to install and customize: Register an account at Disqus, use WordPress’s dashboard’s plugin search to find “Disqus Comment System,” install and link it with your Disqus account in its settings page. On second thought, that may not be very easy for beginners, but it provides a much better result for a lot less technical knowledge than the alternatives. I’ve set up Discuss to enable my visitors to comment using their Facebook or Twitter credentials and quickly share on the mother sites. In addition to taking out the Facebook Connect and @Anywhere integration, Disqus replaced WordPress’s ugly comment system with a much more attractive one. Hey, if my favorite blog Mashable really likes it and uses it, it’s good enough for me!

How to Enable Facebook Connect on a WordPress Blog

How to Enable Facebook Connect on a WordPress Blog

Do you ever find yourself excited to respond to a news or blog post, but dread the registration process? I often begin the process and then leave the site when I discover how much info it wants from me, or when I remember that I’ll have to verify my email address and log in after I fill out 10 forms of ID.

Facebook Connect solves this problem. With it I can log in to more than 80,000 websites simply using my Facebook login credentials. It’s safe, fast and very easy to use, and apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. More than 60 million Facebook users engage with Facebook Connect on external websites every month. According to Facebook’s Developers Wiki, you can expect a 30-200% increase in user registrations after enabling Facebook Connect, and see a 15-100% increase in reviews and other user generated content. The web developer can set up Facebook Connect to prompt a user to cross-post his comment on Facebook after posting to the site, encouraging viral activity. Business Insider speculates that for each story published in Facebook, a site can expect an average of 3 clicks back to the site. The website also gains access to more user demographics, and it can provide a personalized experience by pulling users’ profile pictures and other data to the front end.

Knowing its many benefits, I had to set up Facebook Connect on my own blog. The setup is a little advanced but I figured I’d write a guide to help my fellow APOC students set it up on their blog. The procedure varies depending on your platform but my guide will assume that you’re hosting a WordPress 2.9.2 install through GoDaddy.

First, make sure your server is configured to run PHP5 rather than PHP4.

  • If you can access your server files via FTP, open “.htaccess” under the root directory with Notepad. If you see “AddHandler application/x-httpd-php5 .php” and nothing referring to php4, skip to the next paragraph. Otherwise follow next bullet point.
  • Log in to GoDaddy Hosting Control Center, and see “PHP Version” under Account Summary. If it already reads PHP 5.x, skip to the next paragraph. If it says PHP 4.x, click on Content, then Add-On Languages. Next to PHP Version, select PHP 5.x, click Continue, and confirm the warning. Click update. Then navigate to Settings > File Extension. If the change to 5.x has been completed, you’ll see at the bottom of the available extensions list, “Extension -> .php | Runs Under -> PHP 5.x” If it’s not there, stop here and come back in an hour or so, and when it is there, you’re ready to proceed. Thanks to ardamis for some of this info.

Log in to your blog’s Admin Dashboard. Click Plugins in the left navigation panel, and click Add New near the top. Search for “WP-FacebookConnect,” and make sure you install the one by Adam Hupp (who works for Facebook and quickly responds to emails, to my pleasant surprise). Install and Activate plugin.

Register a new Facebook application here: http://www.facebook.com/developers/createapp.php?version=new. In your blog’s Admin Dashboard, navigate to Settings > Facebook Connect, and copy your Facebook application’s API Key and Secret into the proper fields and Update Options.

To test whether everything works, log out of your blog, attempt to comment on a post, connect with Facebook Connect and post a comment on your own story. Allow Facebook to publish the comment “story” to your Facebook wall, and then check your Facebook wall to make sure the comment published everywhere it’s supposed to.  Configure more Application settings here: http://www.facebook.com/developers/apps.php.