Statamic plugins

I’ve recently been playing around with the Statamic CMS for a project and generally I’m impressed. It is a nicely put together CMS that comes without the need for a database.

One thing I have noticed though is that as a developer you can tell this is a relatively new CMS and doesn’t have the maturity and features of something such as WordPress. That said I don’t think it’s planning to emulate the likes of WordPress and wants to be a much simpler system. There is great support via twitter etc and it seems to be growing a community. Which is the key and strength of platforms such as WordPress. So in the spirit of this I’ve shared a couple of plugins I’ve created myself to solve a few little niggles I’ve come across so far.

The first two are related, when using an excerpt there is a truncate feature but the application of it for using a word count leaves an issue of open tags in HTML content and can cause some problems. I’ve put together a basic close tags add on which you can find on github here – Statamic-Close-Tags. However that doesn’t quite work within the truncate function as it is applied.

{{ truncate:words limit="20" }} {{ content|close_tags }} {{ /truncate:words }}

Using close tags there applies the modifier before the truncation. So I’ve created a new words truncate modifier which also closes tags, that one is at statamic-word-truncate and you can apply it quite easily onto the content tag.

{{ content|word_truncate:100 }}

The second issue I’ve had is using the Redactor WYSIWYG editor as it sometimes has issues with smart quotes and Unicode characters (see my post here). So I’ve stuck together a plugin to convert some common trouble makers to unicode characters so they display properly and you’ll find that one here Statamic-kill-quotes.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the upcoming new version of Statamic is capable of but in the meantime I’ll happily use and recommend the current version and hopefully these little plugins can help some other people out.

Taking out the trash – unset and wp_cache_flush to free up memory

I’ve been working on a third party API plugin for WordPress that requires a script that auto updates from the API. It consists of pulling a big list of items from the API and checking them against the local site entries, often adding new items or updating existing entries.
The problem was with a number of memory allocation errors with PHP as the script went on, often about half way through the execution. Memory exhausted and Fatal Allowed memory issues popping up. A memory limit change would fix the problem to a point, it would still leave issues though – to work through the full list of items would need a very high PHP memory limit and also what happens if the list gets bigger in future? When 64Mb stops being enough do we simply up it to 128Mb what about when that isn’t enough do we carry on upping it? That still leaves a period where errors are being thrown and updates are missed until it is picked up and the memory limit is upped.

I made sure I called wordpress without themes to reduce a little bit of load and a quick check through to make sure unset() was being used as it should be – I’ll admit my code discipline has been lax in the past with regards to this but as ever we are always learning and making sure that we can improve our techniques. Unsetting things properly to free up the memory is one of those things I now make sure I’m doing rather than just overwriting old variables.
So the script was unsetting as it should and with diligent debugging with php memory usage outputs it became apparent that it was around WordPress functions that the memory usage was going up and not being unset, gradually leading to the errors. Plenty of looking around and eventually I stumbled upon wp_cache_flush and it worked a treat – every time I went around a processing loop or finished a process I called the cache flush and it removed all the stuff WordPress had been storing. I’m sure this wouldn’t be the best fix all for every situation but it’s certainly something to be well aware of.

Where to keep up with the web and continue learning

In my last proper post I introduced a couple of resources I recommend to those getting started on the web.
But where do you go from there to keep up to date and continue learning? Apart from browsing these hallowed pages of course.

Here are a few of the resources I regularly use to keep track and reference, I have plenty more in my RSS reader (Google reader! I’ll be looking for an update) but these are the ones I regularly end up visiting and reading from. They offer a variety of levels of interest and difficulties.

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Getting started learning on the web

How do you get started with web design and development? It’s something I get asked a bit, often by people not necessarily looking at a career but looking to get to grips with the online world a bit better and start to do things for themselves.
There are two resources I point them at every time – Don’t fear the internet and Treehouse. So here’s a quick summary of what they are and why I recommend them.
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A quick CSS based “Back to top” link

You see these in plenty of places, especially with popular single page sites. A page where the menu is at the top in the header and as you scroll down a small “Back to top” link appears that whizzes you back to the top of the page and therefore back to the menu. Here’s a quick way I do it just using a bit of CSS, it might not work in every circumstance but it’s easy to do and can be modified quite easily. Continue reading