MonthApril 2006

Fighting comment spam with Akismet

Every web 2.0 builder is most likely exposed to comment spam because of the social nature of this generation’s web applications. This requires considerable effort in building a system that is not easily gamed by spammers, to avoid it being rendered useless by nonsense content.

Aside from email, comment spam is the next most prevalent form of spamming. This is largely because of the nature how google ranks pages through its PageRank algorithm.

Automattic’s Akismet has been one good weapon against comment spam since its inception as WordPress’s spam blocking mechanism. Thanks to its useful API, you can now use Akismet to check your comments against their spam–fighting magic from any PHP4–based system, using this PHP class from Pablotron.org.

WordPress’s query_posts() function

The growth of WordPress has been overwhelming, and now almost everyone is blogging using WP as their platform of choice, or writing on WordPress.com. The upsurge in usage and interest has spawned the development of various themes and plugins, allowing for use of WP in an entirely different form.

The query_posts() function is one you’re very likely to encounter when heavily playing with the application’s themes and pages. This function is essential in your arsenal in customizing your WP install and making it behave just the way you want it to.

AjaxAMP

This may not be entirely related to web 2.0 developers, though its use of ajax and the resulting functionality justifies an entry here on builder2. AjaxAMP is a Winamp plugin that allows you to control a Winamp player in a remote PC, and more importantly, access your music library from anywhere on the web!

Basically, this is music remoting and shoutcasting taken to a higher level. This is not about music piracy or illegal copying of music, but rather listening to your library whenever you need it. I’ve tried the plugin and it works like a charm, though there is still room for improvements. You’ve got to actually try it to appreciate its usefulness.

Free Ruby on Rails hosting

Everyone has been happy to jump in on the Ruby on Rails craze, with its rapid development benefits converting many developers from other web development platforms. However, not all web hosts provide RoR in their list of services. Only the big guys like Dreamhost come with Rails.

For someone just trying out RoR development, you can always deploy a local server on your desktop for coding and debugging. However, at some point the need for testing your code in the wild is a must. Hosting Rails allows you to just that, providing free rails hosting along with their affordable web hosting packages. If you’re evaluating RoR, their free hosting plan will be good enough for your needs.

Re-introduction to Javascript

Many of us have been doing web design for several years now, and have probably mastered XHTML markup and CSS–based designs. In fact, some of us have gone through all the approaches in web design, including the spacer gif days from not too long ago.

Of all the related technologies, Javascript has probably been the least understood. We would use readily available scripts and slightly modify them to our needs, though rarely do we code them from the ground up. With the varied browser implementations and compatibility issues, learning Javascript has never been an easy task — but it’s never too late. Simon Willison’s aptly titled article “A (Re)-Introduction to JavaScript” is very informative and should help you get up and running with client–side scripting. I’ve been reading it for several times now and understanding Javascript has been a somewhat easier task.

10 PHP frameworks

This quick overview of ten of the more popular PHP development frameworks should help you in choosing the right one for your next project, based on your requirements. With the emergence of new methodologies and techniques, PHP frameworks continue to grow in number and complexity. This list can narrow down your choices to a lesser number, allowing you to evaluate your candidates more effectively.

Honestly though, I’m not a fan of frameworks for every type of development. There are PHP applications better done in a hack-and-slash way, especially those of the single–page, throwaway type. For small–scale apps, utilizing templating and database abstraction does the job, more often than not. Coupled with your favorite PHP classes and code libraries, development can be much faster and easier with careful planning, and application of simple “getting real” concepts popularized by 37signals.

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