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Since July 2011 I have been working for the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors providing technical support and helping to develop MyCouncillor, a network of websites for Liberal Democrat councillors and campaigners that is based on a multi-site installation of WordPress. The network has over 2,000 sites and around 1,400 registered users. While those currently active are a smaller proportion of that, there are at least several hundred live sites and an active user base. The network has a set of its own unique themes and a range of customisations designed to meet the specific needs of its users and audience.

As well as providing technical support, ensuring WordPress is updated and maintained, and that the site operates efficiently I have also been working through a development programme of improvements and new features. This has included:

  • Improving code standards and technical performance across the network and its plugins
  • Implementing domain mapping so that users can have an alternative choice of domain names for their site
  • Introducing greater customisation to the administration user interface
  • Installing and configuring (and in some cases customising) new plugins
  • Creating custom plugins to add additional functionality
  • Running database operations to fix issues, export data or generate reports

Some of the more significant examples of additional functionality I have created for MyCouncillor have included:

The MyCouncillor Directory

We needed to find a way to group and categorise the sites in the MyCouncillor network by their connection to the relevant local authority, ward and elected representative. I did this by building, mostly from scratch, a new directory system. This required the creation of an additional set of database tables and a whole new section in the network administration area of WordPress. It also included additional methods of creating and managing sites within the multi-site installation. Building this required programming complex processes, creating a range of custom PHP functions, and working with several of the WordPress API’s.

MyCouncillor Social Sharing plugin

This plugin provides a standard set of social sharing buttons for inclusion in posts across the MyCouncillor network. It included integrating the relevant HTML and JavaScript code from the main social networking services, providing an admin UI to allow site owners to choose whether to include it or not, and integrating the plugin within several of the themes.

MyCouncillor Twitter Plugin

This plugin provides MyCouncillor with its own native integration with Twitter. It provides site owners with a way to connect their site to a specific Twitter account using OAuth. Once connected they can make use of a widget that displays their twitter timeline, and which is configurable from within the admin. They can also make use of a “Follow Me on Twitter” widget and a “Tweet this post” option on the post page. Creating this plugin required me to develop a good working understanding of the Twitter API.

 Some example MyCouncillor sites