Scripts for a WordPress Weblog Farm [en]

A first step to WordPress-farming: a shell script and a PHP script which allow you to easily install a whole lot of WordPress weblogs in only a few minutes (I installed over 30 in less than 5 minutes). Scripts require adapting to your environment, of course.

Update 03.11.06: Batiste made me realise I should point the many people landing here in the search of multi-user WordPress to WordPress MU. All that I describe in this post is very pretty, but nowadays completely obsolete.

Here is the best solution I’ve managed to come up with in half a day to finally install over 30 WordPress weblogs in under 5 minutes (once the preparation work was done).

A shell script copies the image of a WordPress install to multiple directories and installs them. A PHP script then changes a certain number of options and settings in each weblog. It can be used later to run as a “patch” on all installed weblog if a setting needs modifying globally.

Here are the details of what I did.

I first downloaded and unzipped WordPress into a directory.

tar -xzvf latest.tar.gz
mv wordpress wp-farm-image

I cleaned up the install (removing wp-comments-popup.php and the import*.php files, for example), added a language directory (as I’m wp-farming in French) and modified index.php to my liking; in particular, I edited the import statement for the stylesheet so that it looked like this:

@import url( );

The styles directory is a directory in which I place a bunch of WordPress styles. I don’t need the style switcher capability, but I do need to styles. Later, users will be able to change styles simply by editing that line in their index.php (or I can do it for them).

Another very important thing I did was rename wp-config-sample.php to config-sample and fill in the database and language information. I replaced wp_ by xxx_ so that I had $table_prefix = 'xxx_';.

To make it easier to install plugins for everyone, correct the language files, and edit whatever may be in wp-images, I moved these three directories out of the image install and replaced them with symbolic links, taking inspiration from Shelley’s method for installing multiple WordPress weblogs.

mv image/wp-content common
mv image/wp-images common
mv image/wp-includes/languages common
ln -s common/wp-content image/wp-content
ln -s common/wp-images image/wp-images
ln -s common/languages image/wp-includes/languages

I also added an .htaccess file (after some painful tweaking on a test install).

Once my image was ready, I compiled a list of all the users I had to open weblogs for (one username per line) in a file named names.txt, which I placed in the root directory all the weblog subfolders were going to go in.

I then ran this shell script (many thanks to all those of you who helped me with it — you saved my life):

for x in `cat names.txt`
cp -rv /home/edublogs/wp-farm/image/ $x
cat $x/wp-config.php | sed "s/xxx/${x}/" > config.tmp
mv config.tmp $x/wp-config.php

This assumes that my WordPress install image was located in /home/edublogs/wp-farm/image/ and that the weblog addresses were of the form

This script copies the image to a directory named after the user, edits wp-config to set the table prefix to the username, and then successively wgets the install URLs to save me from loading them all in my browser.

After this step, I had a bunch of installed but badly configured weblogs (amongst other things, as I short-circuited the form before the third install step, they all think their siteurl is

Entered the PHP patch which tweaks settings directly in the database. I spent some time with a test install and PHPMyAdmin to figure out which fields I wanted to change and which values I wanted to give them, but overall it wasn’t too complicated to do. You’ll certainly need to heavily edit this file before using it if you try and duplicate what I did, but the basic structure and queries should remain the same.

I edited the user list at the top of the file, loaded it in my browser, and within less than a few seconds all my weblogs were correctly configured. I’ll use modified versions of this script later on when I need to change settings for all the weblogs in one go (for example, if I want to quickly install a plugin for everyone).

In summary:

  1. compile list of users
  2. prepare image install
  3. run shell script
  4. run PHP script

If you try to do this, I suggest you start by putting only two users in your user list, and checking thoroughly that everything installs and works correctly before doing it for 30 users. I had to tweak the PHP script quite a bit until I had all my settings correctly configured.

Hope this can be useful to some!

Update 29.09.2005: WARNING! Hacking WordPress installs to build a farm like this one is neat, but it gets much less neat when your weblog farm is spammed with animal porn comments. You then realise (oh, horror!) that none of the anti-spam plugins work on your beautiful construction, so you weed them out by hand as you can, armed with many a MySQL query. And then the journalist steps in — because, frankly, “sex with dogs” on a school website is just too good to be true. And then you can spend half a day writing an angry reaction to the shitty badly-researched article.

My apologies for the bad language. Think of how you’re going to deal with spam beforehand when you’re setting up a school blog project.

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Collaborative BlogTalk Notes on Wiki [en]

Collaborative notes taken during the BlogTalk conference are online on Joi’s wiki.

The conferences are interesting. Even more exciting is being a Mac user, playing with Rendez-Vous and SubEthaEdit.

One of the results of this is that notes some of us are taking at the conference are already available on BlogTalkViennaNotes.

As the notes are on wiki pages (after having been composed with SubEthaEdit, it was kind of a logical, step — thanks Suw), please don’t hesitate to complete them with your own if you were at the conference.

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Batch Category Editing For WordPress [en]

I put together an admin screen for WordPress today which allows changing multiple categories of multiple posts at the same time. Code available, no guarantees.

[fr] J'ai codé une extension à  WordPress qui permet d'éditer les catégories de nombreux billets en un coup. L'écran liste par exemple tous les billets d'une catégorie, accompagnés d'un certain nombre de selects. On effectue les modifications que l'on désire et on soumet le formulaire entier en une fois.

Update 13.07: A more recent version is out!

I had planned to give you a write-up of the beginning of my WordPress experience today. Unfortunately, I decided to clean up my categories somewhat before I did that, and I managed to badly mess things up.

The result is that I spent most of my day writing a Batch Categories admin screen to help me clean things up. It was something I had planned to do, and I suppose it will also be useful to other people.

If you want to play around: copy the code above into a file named batch-categories.php in your wp-admin directory. I highly recommend that you back up your wp_post2cat table before you get going. This script works for me, but hasn’t been tested much, and comes with no guarantees. It is not optimised either, so depending on how many posts and categories you list, the screen can very well take over half a minute to load!

There are still a few functionalities I want to add, in particular: assigning all listed posts to a category in one go (or removing them).

If you want pretty integration with the other screens of the Edit menu, you’ll have to tweak the navigation bar in edit.php, edit-comments.php, and moderation.php.

Update 24.06.04: I’ve uploaded a screenshot of the admin screen so you can see what it could look like.

Update II 24.06.04: Instead of hacking the Edit menu bars, you can also access the Batch Categories screen from the Plugins page: create a file called batch-access.php (e.g.) in your plugins directory. (Beware not to leave any whitespace after the ?>, though, or you’ll get errors. Promised, zips and more detailed documentation will follow.

Update 04.07.04: I tried using the script this morning, and it seems nastily broken (removed all categories for some posts). Use with caution, and get back to me if ever you hack it or modify it, I’m interested! I’ll look into this once I get back home from Vienna.

Update 12.07.04: The script now works as it should! Thanks to Ben and MooKitty for helping me nail the big nasty bug which was driving me bonkers! Two improvements I’m working on right now: making the code more efficient by using the category cache, and adding a “add all listed posts to category X” option.

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Delicious! A Great Bookmarks Manager [en]

Delicious is an online bookmark manager. It makes it very easy to add and categorize bookmarks, as well as share them with other users. You can also extract your bookmarks from delicious and integrate them in your blog to create a linklog. When I say ‘easy’, I really mean it!

Now, why on earth didn’t I start using delicious ages ago, when I first stumbled upon it? Maybe it didn’t look pretty enough, and didn’t flaunt its features loudly enough for me?

A couple of days ago I paid delicious another visit. See, somebody on #joiito mentioned my Keeping the Flat Clean post, and I suddenly found there was a bunch of people from delicious visiting that article. I thought: “My, people are actually using this thing!” and signed up for an account.

So… what does delicious do? It allows you to easily add pages you visit to your bookmarks, using intelligent bookmarklets (two clicks and no typing to add a link if you want to be minimalist). This is already easier than what I have to do to add links to my LinkBall.

You can categorize your bookmarks very easily by typing words in the “tag” field of the bookmarklet. No need to define categories — delicious takes care of it all for you. You can then view your bookmarks by category or (and this is where it gets interesting) all the bookmarks marked with a same tag. Each bookmark in your list is one-click editable, and each bookmark in somebody else’s list is one-click copyable. For each link, you can also view a list of all the users who have bookmarked it.

Does it stop there? No. All the bookmark lists (by user or by tag) are available in RSS and can be subscribed to within delicious. As a user, you have an Inbox which aggregates the feeds you have subscribed to. You may subscribe to a “user feed” or a “tag (category) feed”. On top of that, bookmark lists are available in plain html, and many users have contributed various hacks which can help you integrate your bookmarks with your weblog. (Update 02.06.04: one thing you shouldn’t do, though, is simply include that HTML feed with a PHP include or an iframe, as this will cause the delicious server to be hit each time somebody views your page.)

If you aren’t a user of delicious yet, you need to go and register right now.

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