4 stars, broken

WordPress Rating Plugins Chaos

Recently I have been searching for a WordPress plugin that allows me to rate (to record a rating as part of a voting jury) a venue described in a post I’ve published – and also allows the readers of my post to cast their votes.

I would like to use such a plugin on Hallo Boekarest and display the results in an aggregated manner that is meaningful to the visitors:

Required features:

  • Allow content publishers to record their vote within the post administration page.
  • Display the publisher’s vote in a highlighted way (eg: Editor’s Rating)
  • Allow readers to record their votes within the comment section
  • Display the vote in the comment
  • Allow readers to record their votes anonymously within the post page
  • Display the aggregated vote value (total score) and maybe allow custom weight of votes within the aggregation formula.

Existing plugins:

To my surprise, there are not that many choices!

The closest plugin to my requirements is Rating-Widget but the unacceptable downsides are that it is a paid service and that the ratings are stored on their server. A big NO!

The GD Star Ratings plugin that I used for years is abandoned, no longer under active development since 2012 and unusable with recent versions of WordPress. I can’t blame the author for not wanting to maintain this product any more. It became a mammoth and the ground-up second version was a flop. The configuration was complicated, the documentation was not free and people stopped using it.

I really feel sorry for GDSR because it had everything! Some bloggers still recommend it, but I advise you not to use it unless you want to start hacking it.

Another plugin that I tried was KK Star Ratings, but I couldn’t find a way to associate votes with comments. And the plugin has not been updated since mid 2013. It looks like a good contender, but there’s a lot of development still to be done.

What’s next?

It seems like all the good WordPress stuff is having a price now. The Rating-Widget plugin looks good but it is quite expensive on the long run ($9/month or $84/year). Because I don’t want to spend this money and thinking I can do better, there’s only one thing left to do: write my own WordPress rating plugin!

german eszett book cover

A bug in the German language

Today I received a bug report that the name of a German colleague, Haunß, is not displayed consistently on one of the webpages.

In one part of the page, his name is displayed correctly – Haunß, and a bit more down his name has two SS-es instead of the ß umlaut – Haunß.

If you’re frequently dealing with code written by others, you may have learned that the reverse engineer, step by step bug hunt may take a lot of time and you’d be very tempted to chop at the base – Chuck Norris style.

Fortunately, Firebug saved me this time by displaying the correct name in the HTML tab. This ringed a bell that there’s something wrong with the browser’s rendering of the character.

Apparently, up until recently the German ß character did not have an capital representation because it never appears at the beginning of a word. So the convention was to write two SS-es instead.

Here’s what happens:

Output: Haunß, Haunß

If it were not for Firebug to show me the real data behind the scenes, I would have looked if the data source is the same for both places where the name is displayed, or the jQuote templating engine inner workings.

In the end I had to close the issue with one of my favorite quotes: “It’s not a bug, it’s a featutre.”

A weblog by Stefan Ghiata, a programmer working in Bucharest, about web development