Creating a Digital Identity with OpenID and WordPress

Posted by: TomS on April 16, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

OpenIDOpenID is an open standard for a distributed system that allows users to authenticate with a single identifier on sites across the internet.  For a while now, OpenID has promised to become the tool that lets internet users login to all sites using a single account, and recently, with many of the big web comapnies (Google, AOL, Yahoo, MyOpenID) becoming OpenID providers, and many smaller sites starting to support OpenID authentication, OpenID is coming into its own.  Yes, its still fragmented, yes there’s many sites that still don’t use it, but things are getting better, and for me, there’s enough value in it now, that I want to use my blog as my OpenID for my internet persona.

I have a couple unique requirements for what I’m trying to do, so let me set that up first.  I have a public online persona that I use for this blog and other sites online related to running and technology.  I have no illusions of privacy.  I am sure anyone who is determined enough can find out plenty of personal information from my activity, but in general, most people that come to this site are looking for content about the information I post.  I would rather not broadcast my personal information to all those people so I try and keep my public online accounts separate from my personal ones.

That being said, its a pain to manage multiple logins and passwords, log in and out of sites, and so on.  OpenID can be really useful with this task, and that’s what I’m trying to do: use my WordPress blog at as my digital identity for public web activity and convert as many accounts over to it as possible.  BUT, I don’t always want to remember a second password for my public persona, so I’d still like to be able to login with my private personal OpenID, without broadcasting it to the world.

So here are my requirements:

  • Set up my blog as an OpenID provider.
  • When authenticating at my blog, be able to login using OpenID authentication from another provider (i.e the OpenID I use for my personal activity).
    • I don’t necessarily want to do OpenID delegation here, since it will publicly broadcast my other OpenID.
  • Be able to manage my user account settings on my blog, so I can switch between other OpenID providers I use to authenticate.
    • This gives me portability in the future if I decide to switch OpenID providers.

As usual, WordPress already has all the tools I need available in its extensive plugin library.  Here are the steps I followed to get this up and running.

Adding a Dynamic Sidebar and Dynamic Menus to a WordPress Theme

Posted by: TomS on July 14, 2010 @ 10:42 pm

In a previous post, I covered creating a simple WordPress theme, which forms the basis for the theme I use on this site.  That theme creation guide covered only the very basics of setting up a WordPress theme.  I’ve since upgraded to WordPress 3.0 which introduces a number of new features including Dynamic Menus.  In this post, I’ll cover taking advantage of the dynamic menus api, as well as “widgetizing” my theme, which allows me to configure which widgets will show up on sidebars in my site.

My updated theme is available below for reference.


WordPress 3.0 Took the Plunge

Posted by: TomS on July 8, 2010 @ 7:57 am

My backup system(s) for my WordPress blog have been running for well over a week now, and the upgrade notice in WordPress finally got the better of me.  I went ahead and took the plunge, running the automated upgrade to WordPress 3.0.

The upgrade was easier than can be expected.  One click to start the upgrade, and a few more to confirm that I REALLY wanted to upgrade, and then the process was underway.  Grand total, I think it took me maybe a minute and a half.

Everything seems stable (I did try it out first on my home test machine) so far.  I’m not taking advantage of any of the new features yet, other than the improved interface.  Pretty soon, I’ll update my WordPress theme to take advantage of the new dynamic menu API as well as catching up with older feature sets by widgetizing my theme.  Further down the road, I may look into some custom post types, especially for putting together race reports and recaps.  Expects some new posts sometime soon detailing how I rolled those feature sets into my theme.

The other big feature in WordPress 3.0 is the MU multi-user setup, where multiple blogs can be run from one installation.  I don’t have a huge need for that these days, but it’s a great accomplishment that WordPress now has that in the core.

Other than that, its just business as usual here.  Anyone reading the blog really shouldn’t see any changes, but WordPress 3.0 does look like a solid, polished release, and it looks like it’ll be a solid platform for the WordPress team to continue improving their app.  I’ll leave you with’s video detailing the new features in WordPress 3.0.

Backing up WordPress Two Ways

Posted by: TomS on June 27, 2010 @ 9:03 pm

WordPress 3.0 is out and seems to be picking up quite a few downloads.  I’m about ready to take the plunge, but up till now, I’ve neglected the backup side of my site, so now seems like as good a time as any to get an automated backup tool running.  It’ll give me a little piece of mind when I perform the upgrade to WordPress 3.0 and will give me a frequent snapshot of the site should I ever need to restore it for other reasons (moving hosting providers, recovering from a site attack, etc.)

I’ve seen quite a few ways that one can backup their WordPress site, and specifically, I’ve decided to implement two methods.  The first will be a purely command-line method using Linux/Unix shell scripts that will copy backups of the site down to my home machine from my hosting provider.  For my second approach, I’ll use one of the WordPress Backup Plugins to store my backups on an internet based storage provider.

Creating a Simple WordPress Theme

Posted by: TomS on March 28, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

In my previous post, I got the latest version of WordPress up and running on one of my home test servers. So what was the point of that whole ordeal? To set up a sandbox where I could try out WordPress customizations and features without impacting my live site. Once I had my test WordPress up and running, the first thing I tried out was creating my own custom theme.

In this post, I’ll run through the high level steps I went through to get the basics of this site up and running, including detailed code snippets along the way. I’m assuming the reader has some familiarity with XHTML and CSS, so I won’t dive too deep into the details; there are plenty of tutorials and documentation out on the web for that.

If you’d like to look at my final theme as reference while reading through this post, you can download a snapshot below.



Installing WordPress 2.9.2 on Ubuntu 9.10

Posted by: TomS on March 14, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

I will be posting a series of articles on my experience with getting up and running with WordPress. In this post, I’ll outline the steps I went through to get WordPress up and running on my Ubuntu Web Server, but first a bit of background about why I’d even want to do this.


I’m setting up a blog to document some of my interests and various activities I’m involved in (you may have already guessed that since you’re already reading my blog). I have a hosting provider that allows me to setup and use WordPress fairly easily via a simple cPanel installation. Setup was pretty much a breeze and I was up and running with WordPress 2.9.2 in less than a minute or so.

One of the things I’ve always liked to have though is a sandbox environment. I’ve got a home network that consists of various salvaged and cobbled together machines, most of which run Ubuntu’s server distribution, and one of them is a “web server” set aside just for this type of thing.