Looking ahead to 2012, I'm excited for the prospects that lie ahead for my blogging. I want to build upon my successes and I also want to help those who want to leverage the power of blogging for their personal brand and don't know where to start.
In April 2011, my startup (IndyGeek) was winding down and I was looking for a creative way to keep on producing content outside of my venture. I wanted to keep writing about the topic I love - technology - and have a fun time doing it. I wanted to continue the conversation and maintain the creator/audience relationship that can be greatly rewarding at times.
I use Wordpress for my blogging platform and the best thing about WP is its library of plugins by third-party developers. I wanted to take a moment and showcase the plugins I use regularly and explain a bit about them (in no particular order).
Atom Default Feed - This handy plugin will switch the default RSS feed found in Wordpress to the Atom format.
Bit.ly Shortlinks - Developed by popular WP plugin developer Joost de Valk, this awesome plugin will allow you to generate bit.ly URLs using your Bit.ly API key. The saver here is that you don't have to load bit.ly in a separate tab (I hate tab switching in my browser with a passion), you can generate it all from a tab link in your Wordpress 3 admin panel.
Disqus Comment System - This plugin brings the extensibility and social sharing capabilities of the Disqus comment platform to your blog. Also, since Disqus offers Akismet capabilities, I was able to eliminate the default Akismet plugin in Wordpress (since Disqus has Akismet capabilities built-in) and gain a much richer set of tools for my blog audience.
Markdown Extra - I believe I've plugged this plugin before, but I'll do it again because I just love it so damned much. Markdown Extra brings the ease of blogging in markdown to PHP-based blogging platforms (like Wordpress). Markdown was created and developed by John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame. It's because of this plugin that I am able to focus more on my content then concerning myself with stylizing it using markup.
Minty - This is a lightweight plugin to allow the Mint analytics platform to function. In addition to being hosted on the Wordpress repository, Minty is also hosted on Github to the joy of you social coders.
W3 Total Cache - This awesome plugin does more than I can describe. The biggest advantage to having this in your plugin arsenal is the speed boost it gives you by placing all of your content (images, attachments, etc) in the capable hands of your content delivery network (CDN). I use Amazon S3 as my CDN and it integrates nicely, although you can use a wide variety of other content hosts seamlessly. The plugin also minifies your code for faster loading of your site and offers CloudFlare which is handy if you're on a pay-per-GB bandwidth plan with your hosting provider (usually found with VPS hosting and the like). It will separate the good traffic from the bad and keep potential threats from clogging your pipes.
Wordpress SEO - Also developed by Joost de Valk, WP SEO is by far the best SEO plugin out there and has replaced my need for the All-In-One SEO Pack.
WP-Piwik - As my backup analytics platform, I use open-source Piwik. This plugin integrates the tracking code into my WP installation.
I hope I've been able to help you with some selections on Wordpress plugins. My entire site is powered with 8 simple plugins. It's important to note that too many plugins can really bog down your site, so it's important to make sure that you use the best one for your needs without duplicating functionalities between them.
Happy blogging in 2012!